Among the same set of lantern slides which I have featured previously in two previous Sepia Saturday posts (A Return Trip to Dovedale and Ready with the Bulls-Eye) is this pair of group images. I estimated the other photographs in the collection to have been taken c.1900 to 1910, and identified at least one, and possibly two, of them as having been taken in Derbyshire.
The first is a semi-formal group portrait of 17 women who appear to be dressed as maids or house servants. However something about the uniformity of their mob caps suggests to me that they may be dressed for some kind of play, pantomime or variety performance, rather than being employees in a very grand house. I guess that the house would have to be a lot bigger than Downton Abbey to have that number of youngish female servants in residence.
Whether these 34 children and their teacher (top right) have just attended a pantomime performance or a party is not clear, but the presence of a visitor from the North Pole (top left) places the event very firmly in December. The development of Santa's image as a plump, jovial, white-haired and bearded elderly man dressed in red with white fur trim largely happened in North America in the late 1800s (with the not inconsiderable help of caricaturist Thomas Nast), and then underwent a reverse migration back to Europe. Given that this image was probably taken in the United Kingdom in the first decade of the twentieth century, I think it must be a very early representation of Father Christmas. He wears a mob cap, rather than the now standard long, floppy pointed cap, but is otherwise much as we see him today.
"Merry Old Santa Claus," by Thomas Nast
from Harper's Weekly, 1 Jan 1881
That's all I have for Saturday Sepians this week. Have a great Christmas holiday and we'll see you again in the New Year. In the interim, if you're in need of some light entertainment, check out the other sepian contributions.