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© McCord Museum
Skating Carnival, Montreal, QC, composite, 1881
Notman & Sandham
1881, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process, composite photograph
12 x 17 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

Where's Waldo? He can be found among the throng of individuals portrayed in this composite photograph, created by cutting out many individual portraits and gluing them to a painted background. This composite records a skating carnival held in Montreal, March 5, 1881. Like most carnivals commemorated with a composite, this one was attended by a dignitary, in this case the Governor General, the Marquis of Lorne.

In the background is the ice grotto, which was lit from the inside by gas jets giving off coloured flames. Newspaper articles indicate that it was not quite as impressive as it appears here. The pillars of ice had melted a fair bit, and plaster of Paris had been added to the roof to look like a covering of snow.

The bright lighting from the overhead electric light and the colourful costumes provided a very stark contrast to regular social gatherings, which made fancy dress balls so memorable to those who participated. "Kaleidoscopic" was a term frequently used in the lengthy newspaper reports of these events.

Montreal Herald, 7 March 1881.


This composite photograph by Notman and Sandham documents some of the hundreds of individuals who attended the 1881 skating carnival, photographed individually in the following weeks.


The carnival was held at the Victoria Rink in Montreal. Many other Canadian towns and cities also had a Victoria Rink, named after the Queen.


In 1881 the lengthy exposure times required for photography made it almost impossible to photograph a big group successfully. Composites were a means of commemorating an event attended by large numbers of people.


The Marquis of Lorne, Canada's governor general, can be seen in regular sombre winter dress in the lower right-hand portion of the photograph, next to a young woman with a drum.

© Musée McCord Museum