Friday Flashback #221

“Westport … A Special Place” is the gift that keeps on giving.

Written and compiled by Eve Potts, and designed by Howard Munce, the Westport Historical Society project is filled with amazing local photos from a time long gone.

Speaking of gifts: Here’s an image from the book. It’s Christmas 1888, “at the seaside estate that became Longshore.”


I have no idea who any of these people are. But all have stories.

What are their relationships with each other? Why is the plump guy at the lower left not looking at the camera? Is there an infant in the carriage? How come they all seem so solemn? (Even the “Merry Christmas” sign looks stern.) Are the kids on the top step planning something? Is the boy at the far left slyly pointing to the statute? Whose dog is it? Who knew that people in 1888 even had pets?

This is a wonderful look back at a Westport Christmas, 132 years ago. In 2152, when our descendants see an image of Christmas 2020, what will they think?

I know the first question: “Why did they all wear masks?!”

15 responses to “Friday Flashback #221

  1. Linda Sugarman

    Winter at the shore. No heat except for a small stove or fireplace in each room. Tough stuff!! But an attempt at Merry Christmas just like us!!
    And Merry Christmas to all and TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!!
    Hope you all have heat and food and loved ones somewhere waiting patiently for next Christmas and a real time HUG!!!


  2. Fantastic photo. It reminds me of an old The Band album cover. One of my old favorite bands.

  3. So great to see this vintage photo. As for why they aren’t smiling, I know that folks during the early days of photography had to sit still for a long period of time before the photograph could be taken so it’s very common to see people in images from bygone eras with serious expressions. I like to think this is the case here and that they were actually in a jovial mood and broke into gales of laughter once the shutter had closed.

    • Michael Calise

      Then….. that is a well trained Dog!

      • Well trained my ass…did you not even notice, Michael, that the dog looks more than half starved?

      • Russell Gontar

        In 1888, George Eastman introduced the “Kodak 1” box film camera. It came preloaded with enough film for 100 exposures, then one sent it back to Kodak for processing and reloading. Available exposure speeds were “B” and 1/50th of a second, more than adequate enough to clearly capture the dog and other minor subject movement.

  4. India Van Voorhees

    There may have been a recent death in the family. The wreaths on the windows and the garland around the “Merry Christmas” sign seem far too dark (even in black and white) to have been greenery. And given that it’s the holidays and all the women are in black during an era when women’s clothing was often colorful …

  5. Interesting…shutters for the door. Wisteria climbing up the porch. Mustaches mandatory

  6. Gloria Gouveia

    Looks like the inspiration for an Edward Gorey illustration.

  7. Pretty sure that’s me lower left. lol..Maybe they are not happy because the snow from the March blizzard just melted.

  8. Ellen Naftalin

    My Grandfather, Samuel DeMeo Sr. (an Italian immigrant) planted the trees which lined the driveway of the private estate. My mother never failed to mention it as we drove up that driveway when I was little. They have since mostly been replaced to make way for a wider driveway and because they were so old. I managed to save a slice of one of them.

  9. Wendy Crowther

    There are theories as to why people didn’t smile in old photos. They range from the long exposure times already mentioned above to the fact that smiles were quite gnarly prior to dentistry and orthodontia. But most experts believe that smiling for photos simply wasn’t the style at the time – if you smiled in a photo, you looked silly. Portraits were considered serious affairs rather than mean to entertain. Smiling in photos didn’t begin until the early 1900s.

    I went back to Eve Pott’s book to take a closer look at this wonderful photo. I noticed the smallest hints of a smile on some of the faces. Perhaps it’s better stated that a few of the faces looked “pleasantly relaxed” rather than stern.

    The end-notes claim that this photo, dated 1888, is of the Crawford and Laurence families. George Laurence, Mrs. Crawford and Mrs. Laurence appear in the book on other pages. If I had to make a guess, Mr. & Mrs. Laurence are the couple standing on the right. Mrs. Crawford may be the woman sitting with the baby on her lap on the left.

  10. The real reason why these former Westport residents didn’t smile in photos is quite easy to figure out. Rumor has it that they were disgruntled that there wasn’t a daily blog about Westport. If you’ll notice, anyone who reads Dan’s blog smiles broadly in pictures! Why am I always the one to point out the obvious?

  11. They may have been tired from shoveling all the snow dumped by the Blizzard of ’88.