Clothes Make the Man
Dr. William Bell Malloch, photographer, Montreal, QC, 1869-70
William Notman (1826-1891)
About 1869-1870, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process
17 x 12 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords: male (26812) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
Keys to History
During the 19th century, increasing economic prosperity began to erode the obvious distinctions between men of different social and economic status.
Canadian men enthusiastically adopted the outward signs of prosperity, including clothing that marked them as affluent gentlemen rather than working men. Increasingly cheap and available ready-made clothing helped to erase obvious social distinctions. In 1865 one English visitor, George Tuthill Borrett, observed in some astonishment that in Canada: "Uniforms, liveries, and such-like frivolities of a bloated aristocracy, are alike discarded. The railway guard is dressed as yourself, the porters better; the captain and the coachmen and grooms as private gentlemen."
As men's clothing became increasingly restrained and homogeneous, it also became a less reliable indicator of social status and wealth. In an effort to preserve their social exclusivity, wealthy men distinguished themselves by adhering to complex rules of propriety in dress.
George Tuthill Borrett, Letters from Canada and the Colonies (London: J. E. Adlard, 1865).
The clothing worn by William Bell Malloch gives little clue to his profession or social status. Wealthy industrialist? Politician? In fact, he was a medical doctor.
Montreal men were reputedly fashionable in the late 19th century and followed both English and American styles.
This photograph of Dr. William Bell Malloch was taken around 1870, when rapid improvements to ready-to-wear clothes made them an attractive alternative to tailor-made garments.
William Bell Malloch was a medical doctor stationed at Moose Factory, a trading post on Hudson Bay. He was also an amateur photographer.