40 Goofy Photos From The Victorian Era That Show Humor Is TimelessBy Ana J
What do you think when someone says “the Victorian era?” For history buffs, so many things could come to mind, like the industrial revolution, the Irish potato famine, or the Opening of the Suez. For the economists, it might be the production of coal, iron, steel, and so on. For human rights lawyers, they might think of the abolishment of slavery. If you are a scientist, you might think – Charles frickin’ Darwin! But for most, it’s probably the crazy inventions, beauty standards, and fashion! None of these things sound particularly goofy. It’s been so long since the Victorian era that it’s hard to think of people living in it as regular people with senses of humor. We complied 40 pictures that might change the way you think about the people who lived over a century ago.
Love transcends time. Around the Victorian era, photography was invented. Well, it was developed almost a decade before Queen Victoria ascended the throne. However, the technological advancements did not come as fast as they have in this century.
This is why people in most photos tried to look as serious as possible, knowing they might not get another shot to take a picture for a long time. However, this couple could not keep it together! We wish they would tell us the joke too.
“Elsa? Do you wanna build a snowman? C’mon, let’s go and play! I never see you anymore. Come out the door; it’s like you’ve gone awaaaay!” Excuse us; we couldn’t resist. But all snow activities come with a theme song now.
This is a Victorian snow lady, not a snowman. Iconic Frozen songs aside, this detailed snow-woman is a work of art! How long did it take to make something like this? These women must have spent all day making this.
As we said, when we think of people living in the Victorian, we think of them as serious and dark because of industrial pollution. However, when you really think about it, people are just people across time and space. There will always be pranksters and goofballs.
And aren’t we happy about that? Most people tried to look as serious as possible, but not this woman! This is somebody’s great-grandma, and we’d guess her descendants probably have a great sense of humor. Growing up with this lady was probably a blast.
Tsar Nicholas II
Ok, so we discussed how even regular people seem serious if they are so far removed with time. But what about actual historical figures? Can you imagine a member of any royal family just being silly with their friends?
Well, now you can! Here’s Tsar Nicholas II just being silly with his buddies. And who are his buddies, you might ask? Surely, they are regular people. Wrong! His pals pictured here are the Prince of Greece and Prince of Denmark!
Another goofy lady
There is a famous item we associate with the Victorian Era that we did not mention. We are only on our 6th photo, so cut us some slack! But how could we forget the corset?! This next photo is impressive because of three reasons.
First, look at that resolution! You can almost imagine being in front of that house. Wow. Second, look at that corset. That thing looks tight! When you are in a tight spot, humor is the best way to get out of it!
Remember the “duck face” trend? Like a decade ago when everyone on social media had the same selfie pose? At first, people thought it was cool and trendy, then people started cringing at it, and it gave them “the ick.”
Well, how about a Victorian woman doing a piggy nose face? Somehow because we know this pose was this old, it looks fabulous. Making faces is pretty funny when you remove social media and selfies from the equation. These people had limited film!
Today, dressing up as somebody else is reserved for specific dates or events. Such as Halloween or conventions like ComiCon and others where you can come dressed as your favorite video game character, anime, or comic book character – or whoever you want, really.
However, dressing up is, of course, not something new. People loved to do it throughout history. Isn’t it fun being someone else for a few hours? Trying on an alternative life just for a while? These Victorians totally understood the assignment.
Have you ever seen the size of old cameras? They were not always something conveniently located on the back of your phone! Or something that can just go in your pocket without a problem. Seriously, the Victorian-era cameras were not for the weak.
Now that you know that the cameras were not as portable as they are today, imagine what it took to take this photo. Imagine! This is really impressive. Portraits are one thing but catching someone mid-jump and having the photo turn out perfect? The skill!
Girl’s day out
Do you know that most fashion trends are not new but are just nods to the past? Like, flared jeans were a thing in the 70s, then early 2000s, and now they are back again. That being said, should we bring back these things?
Victorian-era bathing suits? Look at them! They are like fancy sports dresses! Swimming and looking like you are on a catwalk? Yes, please. Anyway, look at these girls enjoying themselves. Do you feel major FOMO, or is it just us?
Ok, buckle up. Here’s a wild story. This next photo is a part of a collection from a book about sexuality written by a German philosopher with a long name. His full name was Richard Fridolin Joseph Freiherr Krafft von Festenberg auf Frohnberg, genannt von Ebing.
If his full name made your head spin, look at this photo! Now, imagine the dedication necessary to set this photoshoot up. What a vision. Keep in mind these photos didn’t have color. You had to know what colors pop in black and white.
Speaking of compositions, how about portraits in nature? The colors are not popping as much in this next photo, but their personalities are. If you were a part of the Victorian-era friend squad, and you saw a photographer in the park, what would you do?
Is it something like this? This would definitely be our choice. By the way, the two ladies are giving us major Mary Poppins vibes. The outfits, the umbrellas, it’s all there. Maybe that’s why the gentleman on the right is preparing to fly.
Since social media became a thing, everybody’s selfie game has become important. This next self-portrait seems like it was ahead of its time. We went from duck face selfies to elaborate influencer-inspired setups to take selfies. Like, a flower bed.
This lady understood the assignment almost 200 years ago! She’s smiling, check. She has a great neutral background, check. Her outfit is on point, check. That hat? Amazing. Apparently, taking selfies like this one was very popular with college girls.
Remember Tsar Nicholas II and his cousins? That was not the only photo taken that day. The Tsar loved to have fun on camera. Unlike most commoners, he could afford to take plenty of pictures. If you google his name, you’ll find a treasure trove.
Just add the word “funny,” and you will see a whole compilation of photos such as this one! Which Prince do you think is in this photo? Prince of Denmark or Greece? Also, what do you think they would think of the song “Royals” by Lorde?
There are tons of fun group pictures from this era that looked like a modern girl sleepover or a scene from Dua Lipa’s “New Rules” video. Here’s another fun group portrait. This one has one man in it, so it’s not a girls night out.
However, it could be a poster for a sitcom! Can you see it? We are thinking of a friend group navigating life and relationships in the Victorian era. Discussing new technological developments, using new forms of transportation, having jobs no one had before.
We’ve seen a few funny faces on this list. Knowing how hard it was to develop a photo back in the day, it’s pretty hilarious they would use their once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity to pull a funny face! But we are certainly grateful they did.
However, we think this one might be a mid-sneeze photo! What do you think? Is it a funny face, or did the photographer catch her off guard? We don’t have a lot of evidence, and we can’t ask the lady, but it looks like it.
Mother and daughter?
When we saw this one, we instantly thought, mother and daughter! Also, if it’s true, they must have had a special bond because their outfits match. How else do you express being close in photos if not with matching outfits?
What’s your favorite part of the outfit? For us, it’s the hats. They are very elaborate, and keep in mind clothing was not mass-produced at the time! This had to be handcrafted. Such detail! They must have cost a fortune.
This group portrait is not goofy and out there like the others. However, the guy in the middle kind of looks like KFC’s Colonel Sanders. Don’t you think? Anyway, that resemblance aside, who are the girls? Are they his daughters?
We tried to get to the bottom of the 1800s Colonel Sanders story, and we couldn’t find anything. Do you have any info? All that we could find is that it was indeed taken in the 1800s and probably in America.
Ah, here are more pictures from the Tsar Nicholas II collection. We told you he has a few! But what’s interesting about this one is that the lady making faces from one of our earlier photos is a part of his entourage.
Remember her? The one where we talked about the corsets. It’s the same house! Now, we couldn’t find the names of everybody in the pictures, but maybe we didn’t dig deep enough. Who is she? If anyone knows, let us know.
We already talked about dressing up and how that was definitely not invented recently; it’s always been there. But did you know the first recorded use of drag in reference to actors who dressed as women were from the Victorian era?
Yeah! That’s right. The first person who described himself as “the queen of drag” was William Dorsey Swann from Hancock, Maryland, who started hosting drag balls around the 1880s. Swann was a formerly enslaved person and made balls a safe space for all who like to crossdress.
Our next photo is of some fashionable ladies again. What we noticed first was the fashion, of course. Look at that big hair! The highly detailed embroidery on the dresses! Wow. Imagine putting all of that on today. People would think you’re a bit extra.
Or that you walked out in the streets straight from the catwalk! This was just a Tuesday for these ladies. Well, we wouldn’t trade modern amenities and rights, but we could take a few fashion advice. Now, the gesture with their hands. Why are they doing that?
Speaking of fashion, take a look at this gown! Wow. We talked about how most pictures from this time show people who are very serious, and when you think of times they lived in, there was a lot to be worried about.
But this woman seems carefree. She’s smiling. And why wouldn’t she be smiling when she looks so completely stunning in that dress? Honestly, modern bridal shops would charge you a lot for such a dress. And she is rocking it!
If you thought your dad was embarrassing, let us tell you, dads across time loved embarrassing their children. This man, for example, took a few silly photos of himself that just have the aura of dad jokes written all over them.
Do you see it? Anyway, we were looking into it, and it seems like Victorian dads loved to send weird Christmas cards. Seriously, look it up. Some of them are hilarious. Victorian Christmas cards might include a frog or a human beetroot.
Speaking of regular family dynamics, if you have a brother, you must have heard some form of the phrase “boys will be boys.” Well, across time, this has been true. Try getting a kid to stand still in the photos even today!
When we think about it a little bit, maybe he got it from his dad! Perhaps the man from the silly photo above is his dad, and this is how they chose to do the family album. Or do you think it’s unrelated?
We saw a few smiling folks, people making faces, but this might be the first spontaneously smiling group of people! Other than fashion, this could be a modern family gathering. Well, it’s also the dental hygiene that makes it look old.
Those things aside, how would they not smile when someone is trying to photobomb them with a little kitten? They might not know the term photobomb yet, but we are glad to know that 100 years ago, it was as amusing as it is now.
A paper cone
Remember our kid making a goofy face and the man being an embarrassing dad? So, listen, our theory is that this is the funny uncle. Apparently, when you were naughty in the classroom back in the day, you had to wear a cone!
It was also called a dunce cap or hat. A dunce was a mild insult for a person who was slow at learning. Sometimes, these caps were painted with the letter D. These days, you can only see them in movies.
We found this photo with the caption “Gibson girls,” and our first thought was to find out more about these sisters. Turns out, these girls are not some Gibson sisters, but they are girls who followed a beauty standard of the time!
Well, you learn for as long as you live. Apparently, the artist Charles Dana Gibson took these photographs that represented beautiful and independent Euro-American women. The women of the time loved and tried to replicate the causal beach style you see here.
Lady at the beach
The lady at the beach in the following picture is a mystery to us. If anyone has more info, we encourage them to come forward. We found this picture with the caption “Evelyn Winchester.” We thought, cool, let’s find out more.
We are captivated by her happy eyes. In one of the comment sections sharing this photo, someone theorized she might be the great aunt of the Winchester brothers from Supernatural. Well, she is mysterious enough! Someone take her shoes so she can run free!
Ok, hear us out. The picture below is adorable. But we are storytellers over here. So, listen. If you look closely, you will notice they switched their hats for the photo. Now, rom-coms were not around at the time, but there was plenty of entertainment.
Well, there was Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, which was their equivalent. But, we want to believe that these two are long-lost childhood friends who meet later in life when they are both in college and rekindle their flame. Netflix, are you following?
Ok, we gushed over Victorian fashion before, but how can we not? It’s definitely not even close to what you see today. In defense of our modern style, we don’t have time for these outfits. But they are more adorable.
Can you imagine how long it took to put this outfit together? If we were taking all that time to put it together, we would be smiling in pictures too! There’s a little fashionable collar, and, ah, the layering! So fabulous.
Ok, we are seeing a bit of a pattern here. Taking pictures was not easy at the time, given the size of the camera. And while making this compilation, we found that in the early days, exposure took hours! But still, they knew it was an art form.
And Victorians loved taking pictures at the beach! This might be the most popular spot on the list, followed by photos at the park. We invite you to take a closer look and note the gentlemen posing in the background. Iconic.
Have you ever seen a Russian Matryoshka? Or, as it is known in some parts of the world, Babushka. Apparently, the first Matryoshka doll was also made in the 1800s! In the last decade, but still technically during the Victorian era.
Maybe this is the first Matryoshka fan art? What do they say, art imitates life, or is it vice versa? Anyway, there must be a story behind this picture. We just don’t know it fully yet, so matryoshka it is.
Is it just us, or does this lady look a little bit like the mom from the mother-daughter duo from above? We’ve been looking at them one next to the other, and the more we look, the more we think it’s the same woman.
Do you see it? Well, if it is her, she has an affinity for hats, doesn’t she? Although this one is less elaborate. Whatever her coat is, it seems like it has a vibrant pattern. So, she was a fashion icon for sure.
Ah, young love. Speaking of elaborate outfits, wouldn’t you pose for a long time to capture putting that on? Now. We understand this is young love, but he is blocking our view of the outfit! Sir, kindly move that fan.
Well, when you think about it, the fact he has a manual fan in his hand makes the outfit even more impressive. If the weather required cooling, that lady put in the extra effort. Judging by how he’s looking at her, he likes what he sees.
Every group of ladies we had so far was adorable in their own way. This next group is no different. We know we talked about fashion a lot but come on, look at those dresses! Every single one is amazing.
It’s hard to tell, but we think they might have gotten matching hats for this photoshoot. This would be a great blog about how to style that hat in three ways in modern times. If anyone wants to steal that idea, send us a link.
Ok, we will try to move on from fashion at the end of this compilation. Did you know that Victorians used to put arsenic in their daily makeup routine? Pale skin was a beauty standard, and small quantities of arsenic helped keep skin light.
This lady in the photo looks healthy, but for some, following the beauty standard even meant looking like you suffer from tuberculosis. Some other ingredients in beauty products were lead, mercury, and even ammonia! We hope this woman referred a natural look.
These two look so modern! It’s hard to imagine they lived two centuries ago! A quick search will confirm they are indeed from the era. It’s just so hard when they look so lively. Their outfits can be found at Zara!
In their fall collection! Anyway, we don’t know the story of these adorable siblings. Still, we hope they had extraordinary lives and stayed close throughout it. And that they didn’t fall for arsenic and lead face creams later in life!
Doesn’t this look practically like a modern phot taken with the sepia filter? This little boy’s smile is so big and infectious, we can hear his laughter through the years. And it looks like he’s wearing his father’s top hat too!
It is so good to know some things never change, like the innocent joy of kids with their favorite toys. That does seem like a pretty sweet rocking horse, we have to say. We’re not we’ve even seen one so nice in the modern era!
Having a grand time
These ladies are clearly having the time of their lives, and we are just grateful we got to see a glimpse of it! We have been made well aware that not all Victorian photographs are dark and sullen.
We’re not sure if the woman on the bike (or “swiftwalker” as it was originally called when it was invented in 1817) knows how to ride or if her look of exhileration is because she is scared or simply posing. But it looks like her girls had her back.
A big party
Now, these are the people we would hang out with if we traveled back in time to the 1800s. They really knew how to parry. How could we have ever thought that just becasue people wore corsets they were all uptight and boring?
Of course, people haven’t changed. If we remember back to our history classes, archeologists discovered graffiti in ancient Rome. So a group of happy people dancing in the lake in the summer heat should come as no surprise at all.
Victorian ladies loved to take pictures, that much we can tell. They were trendsetters, and if they were alive now, we are sure they would not have a hard time adjusting to social media. Some of these ladies were ahead of their time.
Our last pair seem like a pair of sisters. And much like the siblings before, they look closer to our time. They both probably were born at the end of the 1800s, judging by clothing and hair. Anyway, that’s it! We hope you enjoyed and learned something about the Victorian era!