Edwardian Photoblogging

Kensington and Chelsea Libraries in London, England, uncovered a series of images suggesting that the Edwardians might have been the world’s first photobloggers.

Amateur photographer Edward Linley Sambourne (1844 – 1910) was the chief cartoonist for the British satirical magazine “Punch” which was first published in 1841.

He captured a slice of Edwardian life in these amazing candid photographs.

Sambourne’s hobby gave us glimpses into a past that looks oddly familiar.

It was 1905.

What is this woman thinking as she walks to work?

She had similar worries to most of us today—a to-do list as long as your arm, what to make for dinner, helping her little sister with her homework, whether to accept the advances of a work colleague who seemed like a true gentleman …

Apart from her hat, the practicality and style of her clothing wouldn’t change much for decades to come.

A young woman in Cromwell Road, London on July 12, 1905 in a stylish striped shirt with a belt and an ankle-length skirt
A young woman in Cromwell Road, London on July 12, 1905 in a stylish striped shirt with a belt and an ankle-length skirt

We thought the Internet generation was the first to truly embrace mobile multi-tasking.

Glued to a book on the walk to work in London, this woman reminds us of how glued we are to our mobile device screens today.

A woman in a formal white dress with black handbag walks along the street in Kensington on June 15, 1908
A woman in a formal white dress with black handbag walks along the street in Kensington on June 15, 1908
A woman in a formal white dress with black handbag walks along the street in Kensington on June 15, 1908
A woman in a formal white dress with black handbag walks along the street in Kensington on June 15, 1908

No need to look where we’re going—other people will simply adapt and move around us.

As long as we don’t walk into a lamppost, we’re good to go.

This woman is a shop salesperson, walking along Kensington Church Street, on September 8, 1906
This woman is a shop salesperson, walking along Kensington Church Street, on September 8, 1906

Big hats with giant bows and cycling may not go together well today, but Edwardians made it work.

Cycling was in vogue as the way to get around, but to be without one’s hat was sacrilegious.

Hats could be hazardous to one's cycling, 1908
Hats could be hazardous to one’s cycling, 1908
Two women engaged in conversation as they walk, 1908
Two women engaged in conversation as they walk, 1908

Sambourne used a concealed camera to capture candid moments.

But it looks like this woman has an inkling that something is going on.

Is that a camera in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me, 1908
Is that a camera in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me, 1908

Few things in the Edwardian era were worse than being out-hatted.

One had to keep a close eye on the competition.

On the lookout for photographers, 1908
On the lookout for photographers, 1908

Edwardians too had to suffer the inescapable feeling of incredulity at the various scandals of politicians and celebrities.

Shocking news
Shocking news

Imagine this woman is checking her iPhone.

The little dog doesn’t seem too impressed.

A young woman carrying something. Can't be an iPhone, can it
A young woman carrying something. Can’t be an iPhone, can it
Two women talking carrying books, 1908
Two women talking carrying books, 1908

Mr Sambourne, me thinks you’ve been spotted again?

You've been spotted again, Mr Photoblogger. Kensington, 1906
You’ve been spotted again, Mr Photoblogger. Kensington, 1906
You've been spotted again, Mr Photoblogger. Kensington, 1906
You’ve been spotted again, Mr Photoblogger. Kensington, 1906

At last! Some willing portrait subjects.

And just look at those smiles—almost unheard of in more formal portraiture.

Escorting the boys down tree-lined Cromwell Road
Escorting the boys down tree-lined Cromwell Road
The wonderful thing about candid photography is capturing people smiling, which they didn't do for portraits, 1907
The wonderful thing about candid photography is capturing people smiling, which they didn’t do for portraits, 1907

Can you see the freedom of movement in the clothing that allows these women to put their best foot forward?

The brisker the walk, the better
The brisker the walk, the better

Be careful!

Having a good sense of balance was important for wearing Edwardian hats.

A young woman on Kensington High Street with horse-drawn buses in the background
A young woman on Kensington High Street with horse-drawn buses in the background
A little more formally attired, 1906
A little more formally attired, 1906

Whistle while you walk to school with Mother.

A charming picture of a happy moment in time, captured forever.

The wonderful thjg about candid photography is capturing people smiling, which they didn't do for portraits, 1907
The wonderful thjg about candid photography is capturing people smiling, which they didn’t do for portraits, 1907
Putting your best foot forward, 1906
Putting your best foot forward, 1906

Confidence.

Perhaps for the first time in history, Edwardian women were free to project confidence and begin determining their own future.

What is this young lady carrying - a tablet
What is this young lady carrying – a tablet

Ah, oui!

We move to Paris.

Higher hemlines were a feature of Edwardian skirts that afforded women greater freedom of movement, but at least one of these ladies prefers to lift her skirt to clear the puddles just in case.

3 women walk the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, 1906
3 women walk the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, 1906

Arm-in-arm.

What could be more perfect than an afternoon stroll around the Tuileries Garden?

A group of young women and children walking in the Tuileries Garden, Paris, 1906
A group of young women and children walking in the Tuileries Garden, Paris, 1906

Black mourning dress worn for months or years was a convention carried over from the Victorian era and still widely practiced.

Two ladies in mourning dress, Paris, 1906
Two ladies in mourning dress, Paris, 1906
A fashionable woman in the Tuileries Garden, Paris, 1906
A fashionable woman in the Tuileries Garden, Paris, 1906
Two ladies climb the steps to Rue de Rivoli, Paris, 1906
Two ladies climb the steps to Rue de Rivoli, Paris, 1906
A parasol looks the part on the Boulevard des Italiens, Paris, 1906
A parasol looks the part on the Boulevard des Italiens, Paris, 1906

Notice the wheels on the horse-drawn cab.

Inspired by the wheels of bicycles?

These were interesting times—a transition from horses to automobiles was underway.

Paris in the Spring, 1906
Paris in the Spring, 1906
Coming down the steps to Rue de Rivoli, Paris, 1906
Coming down the steps to Rue de Rivoli, Paris, 1906

Time to see and be seen at the Place du Louvres.

Fashionable Parisians at Place du Louvres, Paris, 1906
Fashionable Parisians at Place du Louvres, Paris, 1906
Crossing the boulevard, Paris, 1906
Crossing the boulevard, Paris, 1906
A family walking in the Tuileries Garden, Paris, 1906
A family walking in the Tuileries Garden, Paris, 1906

A brisk breeze, sea air, and steam power.

This lady is aboard a steamer—a ship propelled by steam—crossing the English Channel to visit Ostende in Belgium.

Invented by Victorians, the steamship enabled the upper classes to see the world and as prices fell, the middle class were able to enjoy the occasional weekend getaway.

On board a steamer ship to Ostende, Belgium, 1906
On board a steamer ship to Ostende, Belgium, 1906
Best to wrap up warm for the bracing trip across the English Channel, 1906
Best to wrap up warm for the bracing trip across the English Channel, 1906

Looks like this woman found a nice spot on the ship that was sheltered from the wind.

A respite from the wind on the bracing trip across the English Channel, 1906
A respite from the wind on the bracing trip across the English Channel, 1906
Best to wrap up warm for the bracing trip across the English Channel, 1906
Best to wrap up warm for the bracing trip across the English Channel, 1906

Hitting the beach in Edwardian times was a very formal affair.

Getting a tan was still many decades away from becoming a fashionable or even desirous thing.

On the beach in Ostende, Belgium, 1906
On the beach in Ostende, Belgium, 1906
Dressing for he occasion. Beachwear, 1906
Dressing for he occasion. Beachwear, 1906

Hidden from gazing eyes, this woman enters a Victorian bathing machine to change out of her modesty.

Better get inside the bathing machine to change out of my modesty
Better get inside the bathing machine to change out of my modesty

Hats and coats against the wind.

No weather could prevent one wearing one’s hat.

That sea breeze can be quite bracing. Folkestone, Kent, 1906
That sea breeze can be quite bracing. Folkestone, Kent, 1906

Hold onto your hats, ladies!

Hold onto your hats! Holidaying in Folkestone, Kent, 1906
Hold onto your hats! Holidaying in Folkestone, Kent, 1906
You didn't see Dad anywhere, did you. Folkestone, Kent, 1906
You didn’t see Dad anywhere, did you. Folkestone, Kent, 1906

How do we get rid of that pesky photographer, Mr Sambourne?

How about we ask him to fetch a bucket of water and a brush and help us clean the steps!

You going to just stand there watching or fetch me some more water
You going to just stand there watching or fetch me some more water

And he’s off …

Thought that would do the trick.

Bye bye Mr Sambourne, and thank you for this incredible journey into the Edwardian era.

One step at a time. The tedious job of cleaning the porch steps, 1906
One step at a time. The tedious job of cleaning the porch steps, 1906

Read more:
Mr Darcy’s Shirt

Parasols—the Essential Accessory for a Lady

Lafayette—the Hero of Two Worlds

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