Dating Old Photographs

Family photographs quickly became an important part of Victorian life; a tool for creating memories, legacies and identities.

How to Date Your Old Photos

All of these photographs come from the National Trust which looks after collections across its properties and provide a good example of how to date Victorian and Edwardian photographs. Do you want to find out more about how to care for the frames on your old family photographs?

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Rather than the family going to a studio, this photographer was called out to the family estate where sitters could be photographed on their land and with their belongings.

Animal skins on the floor were likely placed to convey worldliness.

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To our modern eyes, animal skins in Victorian photographs also suggest connections to colonial territories such as India. Gazes are not all directed straight to camera, in order to encourage movement and dynamism in the photograph. Animals here a pet dog were much loved members of the family, and are often included in Victorian photographs.

How to date Victorian and Edwardian photographs

Norfolk jackets were popular as were more casual clothes. Ladies wore tight fitting jackets, high white collars or ruffs a brooch at the neck, lots of buttons in rows, tight fitting sleeves, odd little hats, hair plain or curls usually pulled back. The back of the card is quite filled with print, with medals, famous customers, branches, and could be artistic. Gentlemen retained formal frock coats and top hats but many adopted loose lounging jackets and contrasting trousers, with the new round-crowned bowler hat.

From late-decade garments were layered, a shorter overdress being raised over a bustle projection behind the waist.

Dating Old Photographs

Hair was ornate, tresses drawn off the face and dressed higher on the head. From around mid-decade the silhouette slimmed down, prompting more fitted lounge jacket or coat with small, high lapels, the choice of top hat, bowler or other headwear reflecting the form of garments and occasion. Hairstyles were smoother, more discrete and headwear of moderate height.