Yesterday, while looking for some more historical items to share with you, I came across a large shoe box. Imagine my amazement when I took off the lid and found it contained a couple of hundred very ornate In Memoriam cards dating from the 1850s to the 1950s. I will share a photograph with you of the box and its contents so you can appreciate the scale of the find, but that can wait for a later date. What was interesting was a large photograph that lay at the bottom of the box. It stirred a memory of a stall holder at a car boot sale - years ago - asking me if I was the person who collected funeral postcards? I said, yes and he offered me the photograph published here.
Some of you may have previously come across the Victorian custom of having photographs taken of their recently departed family members. Often, a family realised that they had no photographic record of the person who had passed on and sought out a professional photographer who specialised in the art of post mortem portrait photography. To have these photographs taken was quite expensive as it often involved the adult loved one, for example, being fixed to a supporting frame in the standing position or seated, surrounded by family members. The results were sometimes awful with open eyes being inked in by the photographer - on occasion, very amateurishly.
One photographer who did a consistently good job was the Australian portrait photographer, John Charles Garrood who had a studio in Sydney Road, Brunswick, Victoria. He took the photograph of this recently dead young girl, surrounded by flowers and lying in bed. The eye is remarkably clear, but it might be that Garrood cut out and inserted an open eye from someone else's portrait and re-took the shot? It is certainly a more tasteful portrait than some I have seen.