George Stephen's house - Mount Stephen Club

Left: Living room, Mrs. George Stephen's house, Montreal, QC. 1884

Right: Mount Stephen Club. Lounge room. Montreal, QC. After Notman (II-63825) Taken September 13th 2000 at 10:30 a.m.

Photographers: Left: William Notman, Right: Andrzej Maciejewski
McCord Museum of Canadian History

© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.


Date/Time: September 13, 2000, 10:30 a.m.

This is one of my favourite settings from the project. It’s a pleasure to examine all the incredible details in this outrageously ornate drawing room, especially through a magnifying glass. In some cases I think the objects were put on display just for the photograph, as with the portrait chair. The mirror reflected natural light that came from the window behind Notman, and more light came from another room on the left. Today the room is not as full, and quite dark. I spent three hours toing Polaroid tests to line up my camera because I couldn’t see anything on the groundglass.
Date/Time: September 13, 2000, 10:30 a.m.

This is one of my favourite settings from the project. It’s a pleasure to examine all the incredible details in this outrageously ornate drawing room, especially through a magnifying glass. In some cases I think the objects were put on display just for the photograph, as with the portrait chair. The mirror reflected natural light that came from the window behind Notman, and more light came from another room on the left. Today the room is not as full, and quite dark. I spent three hours toing Polaroid tests to line up my camera because I couldn’t see anything on the groundglass.

© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.

Map

This Map of Montreal depicts the location where the photographs by Notman and Maciejewski were taken.

McCord Museum of Canadian History

© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.


In the Victorian Era, the Montreal elite fled the pollution and noise of the business district. They took refuge on the heights overlooking the city, from Dorchester Street (today Rene-Levesque) to Mount Royal. In a large area of one square mile, later called the “Golden Mile”, big villas and elegant townhouses (houses built in rows), symbolized the success and wealth of well-to-do Montrealers. It was in this mainly Anglophone, Protestant world that rich tourists and official visitors were received.

There are many photographs that take us inside those wealthy homes. We can visit the social, public spaces – the ballroom, the living room and the drawing room; the men could also retire to the smoking room, which was forbidden to the ladies. We can also venture into the more private spaces, reserved for the family and their close friends: the sitting room, the dining room, the bedrooms and the nursery, where maids took care of the young children.
In the Victorian Era, the Montreal elite fled the pollution and noise of the business district. They took refuge on the heights overlooking the city, from Dorchester Street (today Rene-Levesque) to Mount Royal. In a large area of one square mile, later called the “Golden Mile”, big villas and elegant townhouses (houses built in rows), symbolized the success and wealth of well-to-do Montrealers. It was in this mainly Anglophone, Protestant world that rich tourists and official visitors were received.

There are many photographs that take us inside those wealthy homes. We can visit the social, public spaces – the ballroom, the living room and the drawing room; the men could also retire to the smoking room, which was forbidden to the ladies. We can also venture into the more private spaces, reserved for the family and their close friends: the sitting room, the dining room, the bedrooms and the nursery, where maids took care of the young children.
Printed Documents
  • Casgrain, Thérèse. 1971. Une femme chez les hommes. Montreal : Éditions du Jour.
  • Lovell's Montreal Directory. Various years. Montreal : John Lovell.
  • Rémillard, François, and Brian Merrett. 1986. Demeures bourgeoises de Montréal: le mille carré doré, 1850-1930. Montreal : Éditions du Méridien.
  • Westley, Margaret. 1990. Grandeur et déclin : l'élite anglo-protestante de Montréal, 1900-1950. Montreal : Libre Expression.

© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.

Mrs. Louis J. Forget's Dining Room

A broker and financier, Louis-Joseph Forget was one of the rare French Canadians whose success in business permitted him to enter the Montreal upper classes. Forget had ties with the economic, political and religious elite of the city and country, who were received in his sumptuous residence on Sherbrooke Street West. Members of his extended family would also take their places around the dining room table, including his grand-niece Thérèse Forget, the future Thérèse Casgrain.

Wm. Notman & Son
McCord Museum of Canadian History - Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
c. 1888
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
20 x 25 cm
II-87603
© McCord Museum of Canadian History


Ballroom

Only the most elegant homes of Montreal had ballrooms. In this photo from 1904, we can admire the home of Alfred Baumgarten, president of the St. Lawrence Sugar Refining Company. At the far end of the room, a staircase leads to the balcony where the musicians played during dances.

Wm. Notman & Son
McCord Museum of Canadian History - Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
c. 1904
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
20 x 25 cm
II-151888.B
© McCord Museum of Canadian History


Smoking room, Harrison Stephens house

In the 19th century, smoking was a male activity and the smoking room was reserved for men. While there were frequently smoking rooms in clubs, hotels and trains, there were far fewer in private residences. However, those who could afford it liked to reserve a room for this purpose, and decorate it with motifs reminiscent of the Middle East. Look at the features of the wallpaper in Harrison Stephens' smoking room.

Wm. Notman & Son
McCord Museum of Canadian History - Gift of Mr. Murray Ballantyne
c. 1904
Silver salts on paper (matt finish) mounted on paper - Gelatin silver process
25 x 20 cm
N-1977.88.8
© McCord Museum of Canadian History


The discrete charm of the bourgeoisie…

Entering the private sphere of the upper classes of the Victorian era, you step into a world of privilege. You leave your card at the door, prepared to be surprised by whatever spectacle awaits you. This type of house is often full of furniture and assorted objects carefully tended by a few servants. Moreover, some rooms in the house are reserved for specific occupants. The smoking room, for instance, is where the gentlemen retire, sporting hats and embroidered suspenders that are, at times, made by their wives.
The discrete charm of the bourgeoisie…

Entering the private sphere of the upper classes of the Victorian era, you step into a world of privilege. You leave your card at the door, prepared to be surprised by whatever spectacle awaits you. This type of house is often full of furniture and assorted objects carefully tended by a few servants. Moreover, some rooms in the house are reserved for specific occupants. The smoking room, for instance, is where the gentlemen retire, sporting hats and embroidered suspenders that are, at times, made by their wives.

© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.

Calling cards and case

The case is made from brown calfskin lined with blue leather, and embossed with the name of the store, C. Asprey - a very fine shop in London, England, well-known for its jewellery and accessories.

McCord Museum of Canadian History - Gift of Miss Mabel Molson
c. 1900-1910
8.5 x 4.4 cm
M19195
© McCord Museum of Canadian History


An important social ritual for the Victorians was the exchange of calling cards. The card was a way of issuing and responding to invitations, sending greetings and maintaining contacts by communicating changes in address.

The language of calling cards was very complicated but understood quite clearly by those who used it. Calling cards were always left in person and most often by women. Wives paid calls without their husbands, so they would leave their husbands’ card where they visited. If the lady of the house being visited was home, the guest left two of her husband’s cards, one for the lady visited and one for her husband. If the lady she intended to visit was not home, a woman left three cards: one of her own and two of her husband’s; however, only her card would be left for the lady of the house.

A man wishing to meet a certain woman had his card sent with a lady. If the sentiment was not mutual, the card was ignored.
An important social ritual for the Victorians was the exchange of calling cards. The card was a way of issuing and responding to invitations, sending greetings and maintaining contacts by communicating changes in address.

The language of calling cards was very complicated but understood quite clearly by those who used it. Calling cards were always left in person and most often by women. Wives paid calls without their husbands, so they would leave their husbands’ card where they visited. If the lady of the house being visited was home, the guest left two of her husband’s cards, one for the lady visited and one for her husband. If the lady she intended to visit was not home, a woman left three cards: one of her own and two of her husband’s; however, only her card would be left for the lady of the house.

A man wishing to meet a certain woman had his card sent with a lady. If the sentiment was not mutual, the card was ignored.

© McCord Museum of Canadian History

Smoking Cap and Suspenders

The smoking cap and suspenders are hand-embroidered in silk on silk satin.



Caps and accessories were used not only in smoking sessions, but also for travelling in public railway carriages and steamship cabins, where there might have been smoke, cinders and dirt.

McCord Museum of Canadian History - Gift of Mrs. Gordon Dorey
c. 1875-1900
M984.150.5.1-2
© McCord Museum of Canadian History


Smoking caps were among the most popular accessories embroidered by bourgeois women as gifts.

Women's magazines featured needlework patterns for caps, slippers and many other accessories. Colourful accessories, including patterned dressing gowns, had been worn by European men since the 16th century, when trade with the East brought exotic luxuries such as rich silks to Europe.

Most upper-class Victorian homes had a "smoking room" where men could relax and enjoy the pleasures of a cigar and a brandy without offending the ladies of the house. The smoking cap protected a man's hair from the lingering aroma of tobacco.
Smoking caps were among the most popular accessories embroidered by bourgeois women as gifts.

Women's magazines featured needlework patterns for caps, slippers and many other accessories. Colourful accessories, including patterned dressing gowns, had been worn by European men since the 16th century, when trade with the East brought exotic luxuries such as rich silks to Europe.

Most upper-class Victorian homes had a "smoking room" where men could relax and enjoy the pleasures of a cigar and a brandy without offending the ladies of the house. The smoking cap protected a man's hair from the lingering aroma of tobacco.

© McCord Museum of Canadian History

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Identify the changes that were operated within Canadian society over two decades (territory, population, economy, etc.);
  • Describe in details changes that he/she is able to observe;
  • Explain and speculate about the reasons that could justify these changes;
  • Make connections between the differences and similarities of the two eras.

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