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The Victorian era gave us many great inventions that we still use today - bicycles, Morse code, ice cream as we know it, and even the telephone. The era of Queen Victoria's reign, though, had some pretty bizarre happenings too. Such as ladies getting stuck in doorways because of their extra big dress skirts and constantly fainting as a result of very tight corsets. Also, the London fog did exist, and it comprised of nothing else than heavy pollution from coal mines and the city being in regular fires. Victorians were oddly obsessed with Egyptology and makeup, especially lipstick, which was compared to witchcraft. To add even more fun to the mix, the social rules and behavior codes were amazingly strict.

With life this pleasant, it's no wonder that nobody was smiling in the creepy pictures taken in the Victorian era. Everybody looks so severe that it seems as if people in the 1800s just didn't have the time, or strength to have fun. But as these rare vintage photos prove, that wasn't always the case.

There are many theories as to why Victorians always look so dour in pictures. Long exposure times made smiling difficult (and by long we mean several hours. Seriously. Ever tried smiling for several hours? It hurts) and the high cost of portraits gave people very little to smile about. Poor dental hygiene made people reluctant to show their teeth (or whatever teeth they had left), and let's not forget that many Victorians simply had it too rough a life to take funny pictures. But as you can see from the vintage photography exemplars below, some still found something to smile about. From gentlemen cross-dressing as fair ladies of the times, to probably the first awkward family photos in history, the few Victorians, who managed to have some fun, are all here. (h/t: whizzpast)

#1

A Victorian Couple Trying Not To Laugh While Getting Their Portraits Done, 1890s

A Victorian Couple Trying Not To Laugh While Getting Their Portraits Done, 1890s

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Natalia Sanchez
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8 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

There was a journalist / comedian called Jorge Ginsburg here in Argentina who looked just like this fellow.

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#3

A Unique Tea Setting For Two

A Unique Tea Setting For Two

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#5

Unusual Portrait Of A Victorian Lady, 1840

Unusual Portrait Of A Victorian Lady, 1840

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#6

Three Fashionable Young Men At Yale, 1883

Three Fashionable Young Men At Yale, 1883

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#7

Awkward Family Photo, Victorian Edition

Awkward Family Photo, Victorian Edition

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#11

Men And Women Cross Dress In This Silly Victorian Snap, 1880-1900

Men And Women Cross Dress In This Silly Victorian Snap, 1880-1900

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#12

Say That Again, And I'll Dip You In, 1897

Say That Again, And I'll Dip You In, 1897

James M. Davis Report

#14

Vacation Sports At The Seaside

Vacation Sports At The Seaside

Strohmeyer and Wyman Report

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Lena Hunter
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8 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

if this wasn't their normal beach attire, i'd say it was actually rather fashionable.

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#15

Richard Freiherr Von Krafft-Ebing

Richard Freiherr Von Krafft-Ebing

Krafft-Ebing Report

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Ramon Burnet
Community Member
8 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

He came op with the words sadism and masochism. And made a very popular book about sexual behaviors, partly in Latin so not every one could read it.. quote wiki: Krafft-Ebing's principal work is Psychopathia Sexualis: eine Klinisch-Forensische Studie (Sexual Psychopathy: A Clinical-Forensic Study), which was first published in 1886 and expanded in subsequent editions. The last edition from the hand of the author (the twelfth) contained a total of 238 case histories of human sexual behaviour.

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#16

The Victorians From France

The Victorians From France

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#18

This Is As Close To A Victorian Selfie As It's Going To Get

This Is As Close To A Victorian Selfie As It's Going To Get

S. Ray Report

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Kati Alyssa
Community Member
7 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I have found actual selfies from the early 1910s. They were by college girls and were preserved in a scrapbook I found at an antique store.

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#19

Tsar Nicholas II Goofing Around, 1899

Tsar Nicholas II Goofing Around, 1899

statearchive Report

#20

Smiling Victorians

Smiling Victorians

The Smiling Victorian Report

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Qwerty65
Community Member
8 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Looks like the poster advertisement for a good movie or TV show. "Smiling Victorians" sounds like a comedy or a drama, too.

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#24

Victorians, 1800s

Victorians, 1800s

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#26

Men Dressed In Drag In The Victorian Era

Men Dressed In Drag In The Victorian Era

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#27

Fashion Victorians Women, 19th Century

Fashion Victorians Women, 19th Century

19thcenturymodern Report

#30

Miss Barton Dressed In A Late Victorian Tennis Outfit

Miss Barton Dressed In A Late Victorian Tennis Outfit

London Stereoscopic Company Report

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Fate Demo
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4 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

She has the " I'm gonna to hurt you with this racket " face.

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#32

A Woman Riding A 'scorcher', A Victorian Bicycle, In St James' Park, London

A Woman Riding A 'scorcher', A Victorian Bicycle, In St James' Park, London

Hulton Collection Report

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Mary Paquette
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7 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

It is a photo, a woman on a bike in a photographer 's studio with an fake background.

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#33

Smiling Victorian Servants

Smiling Victorian Servants

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#36

Man Pulling A Comical Face, 1900

Man Pulling A Comical Face, 1900

Northumberland Archives Report

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Qwerty65
Community Member
8 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

If you were naughty in the classroom, you had to wear the dunce cap (a paper cone) and sit in a corner. Class clowns were frequent wearers of them, of course.

#37

A Group Of Women To Celebrate The Centenary Of The London Bus

A Group Of Women To Celebrate The Centenary Of The London Bus

Fox Photos Report

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Emily Bryant
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8 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I don't think this picture is actually from the victorian era. Its way to clear and sharp.

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#40

The 20th Century Victorian Man With Banishing Woman

The 20th Century Victorian Man With Banishing Woman

H. Armstrong Roberts Report

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#43

Smiling Victorians, 1900s

Smiling Victorians, 1900s

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Suzanne Bitterlich
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8 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Even then they had photo bombers. Lol. The man laying in the background.

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#45

Smiling Victorian, 1800s

Smiling Victorian, 1800s

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#47

A Young Couple A Photographed In Fancy Dress, 1880-1900

A Young Couple A Photographed In Fancy Dress, 1880-1900

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#49

Young Ladies

Young Ladies

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Daria B
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8 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I like lists like these, showing a more humane side of people of the past, making them feel closer to us, since we're thinking of them as just abstract characters usually. I bet the "dark middle ages" were really not as dark either.

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