ThrowbackThursday: Class Photos, Eltham State School No. 209, c.1891

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to school, Eltham State School No. 209 on Dalton Street, more commonly known today as Eltham Primary. It is 1891 and the children of Grades 3 & 4  and Grade 5 are lined up on this special occasion to have their photographs taken. It is a clunky affair taking a photograph back then. The photographer has to set up his big polished wooden box on to a tripod usually made of wood and brass. He has a large black cape which he covers the rear of the box. He pops his head under the cape to peer through the lens at the front of the box. Everything he sees is upside down. He fusses around to get the children lined up in the right spots, checks his composition once more, places the lens cover back on and then inserts a cassette containing the glass plate negative into the rear of the box. Upon commanding everyone’s attention one more time, reminding them to remain perfectly still till he says they can move again, he removes the lens cap and counts; 1, 2, 3, 4, …….

No one knows how it will turn out until he has processed it that night, but he knows; it is perfect.

And the children will be able to share something very special with their fathers by the weekend. But shush now, that’s a surprise.

3rd and 4th Grade, Eltham State School No. 209, Headmaster David Clark and assistant teachers, c.1891. Bottom seated row, right side end, Alex and Alfred (Tommy) Smart.
(Digital restoration, from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)
5th Grade, Eltham State School No. 209, Headmaster David Clark and assistant teachers, c.1891.
(From the Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection No. 642, donated by Miss E. McColl, held in partnership between Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory and Yarra Plenty Regional Library (Eltham Library) @YarraPlentyRegionalLibrary @the realelthamlibrary)

The children of Grades 3, 4 and 5 in 1891 want to wish all their father’s a very special day this weekend but also all of the fathers that have come after them a very special Happy Father’s Day this weekend also.

Side Note:

Father’s Day did not actually exist in 1891. It was initially founded in the United States in Spokane, Washington at the YMCA in 1910 by Sonora Smart Dodd, who was born in Arkansas. Its first celebration was in the Spokane YMCA on June 19, 1910. Her father, a Civil War veteran, William Jackson Smart, was a single parent who raised his six children there. We wonder if William Jackson Smart was in any way connected to the Smart family children attending Eltham State School in 1891.

3rd and 4th Grade, Eltham State School No. 209, c.1891. The original postcard photograph was donated to the Society by May Smart, who was a student at Eltham State School 1915-1923. May was the daughter of Alex Smart, 2nd from the right in the seated row. His brother Alfred (Tommy) Smart seated at the end of the row on his immediate left.
Photo used on the cover of “We did open a school in Little Eltham”, Eltham Primary School (2006)


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