Pictures of People Smiling

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Jun 20, 2011
IMHO, they are far and few between as the photographic process back then was very time consuming and the shutter remained open for an extended period of time. Due to this, any slight motion by the subject would cause a blur in the photo. Can you imagine trying to hold a huge grin / smile and remain perfectly still for 30 seconds to a minute? There would have been a lot of blurry mouths in those photos if they smiled.

Many times the subject was even supported by a brace placed behind the head to keep the subject perfectly still.

Also, having a photo taken was a very formal occasion, and one where you did not smile. Besides, dental care was not as it is today and I imagine there were a lot of gap toothed grins back then!

Brian M


2nd Lieutenant
Apr 6, 2011
Pittsburgh, Pa.
Smiling was outlawed by the federal government (and many state governments) until the turn of the century, I believe it had to do with lack of dental hygiene. The British also tried to enact this law into the mid 1940s. (tongue firmly planted in cheek, sorry I had to do it)

Seriously, KiltedOne probably hit the nail on the head with this.
Sep 24, 2006
Columbus, Ohio
I notice most of these photos are somewhat scandalous, if you get my point. :smile: I guess that made them happy folks?
Yea and Nay!

The tightrope walker was a famous performer (forgot her name). Legs were always a naughty thing to display but walking a high wire in full skirts would be suicide. *This would be a good case for wearing whole drawers.

Ladies at the opera - typical dresses - nothing to see here (at least in the 19th century mindset).

Ladies playing cards - unless they are card sharks - no big deal.

Harem girls - this is actually a group of Sanitary Fair workers from Brooklyn. The Harem was a popular booth.

Guys making hooch - now THAT'S something to smile about :smile:

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