Family History

The cast of characters in Polly’s photographs centre on her own immediate family. Mary, or Polly as she was known, was born in 1871 and her first photographs that we know of date from 1889 when she was 18. Her father, Maxwell Hyslop Maxwell, was born a Hyslop but took the surname Maxwell as a condition of succeeding to his uncles’ Glengaber Estate (including the family home, The Grove). He married Phoebe Lyon, and they had six sons and two daughters surviving in the 1890s; Maxwell, Alexander, Charles (Cha), Wellwood, Lyon, Walter, Phoebe and Mary (Polly) herself. Members of the extended Maxwell, Hyslop and Lyon families are visitors or visited, and appear in both roles in the images. The sons’ wives and their families are also frequent subjects. Those of Bess Dudgeon of Cargen, who married Cha in 1893, and Wellwood’s wife Edith Eccles are particularly prominent. The full background on the families’ fascinating histories can be found in Stories, People, and Family Trees.

 

  

The Photographs and their Era

Polly’s photographs cover the period 1889-1900, although there are a few from the 1880s in the first of the eleven albums. Photographs have been removed or lost from some of the albums, although the captions usually survive to give an indication of the content. Also an unknown number of pages has been lost from albums where the binding has failed. Even with these omissions, an impressively full, almost month-by-month account of the family’s activities is revealed by the albums’ contents. Most of the captions on the album pages are by Polly, but those written with a blue ‘biro’ and mostly in upper case are by her son, Sir Kenneth Stoddart.

 

 

 

The Era

The activities of the family in the 1890s as recorded by Polly show little reflection of events taking place nationally and across the world.

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The Technology

We do not know which camera (or cameras) Polly used to take the photographs. From the few images of cameras in her photographs it would appear to have been a comparatively lightweight, portable model. Kodak’s famous ‘Box Brownie’ was not introduced until 1900, but the first Kodak box camera was for sale in 1888, and inspired a new vogue for photography amongst a wider range of users. There are a couple of box cameras in Polly’s images, but her own camera seems a larger (and more expensive) model. There were many ‘stand’ cameras for sale in the 1890s, for use with a tripod, and the few pictures of Polly with a camera show her with a tripod. ‘Hand and stand’ cameras, which could be used either with or without a tripod, became popular at the end of the century; Pollly’s later photographs may have been taken with a Sanderson (introduced in 1895) or similar camera. The images taken by such cameras were ‘negatives’, captured on glass plates covered in a light-sensitive emulsion. It is likely that Polly developed and printed the images that had been produced onto the glass negatives herself. More details about early camera technology generally can be found at www.earlyphotography.co.uk