I only want to have my picture taken. Where’s the photographer?
Imagine being dressed in your best finery. You open the door to the photography studio and hear an evil dentist say, “Bwaaa haaa. Sit in my chair and have some gas.”
Worse yet, imagine it is 1884 in the new state of Colorado and the dentist has a four-foot-tall drill mechanism which is powered by a foot petal.
I was perusing the January 4, 1884 Leadville Daily Herald . . . because I write historical fiction and that’s how I spend my free time. I call it research.
I noticed advertisements for two businesses both located above the post office. A photography studio and a dentist office. Whose brilliant idea was that?
The ads weren’t next to each other, as I have placed them here, but they were in the same newspaper. So, they had to be very near each other. How big could the space Over the Postoffice be?
I imagine a lot of screaming and noise from the dentist’s office. Not a civilized affair like in modern times. The dentist’s ad offers gas for painless extracting, and artificial teeth are guaranteed to fit. Doesn’t say what kind of gas. This is a time when ads for children’s cough syrup explicitly state that morphine is not an ingredient. Because it could be the active ingredient.
Perhaps the gas calmed the patient enough to ignore the giant dental drill. It could keep everything quiet.
Even without a dentist next door, a photography session could be a frightening ordeal.
No one ever smiles in old-time photos. A museum guide told me that’s because it is hard to hold a smile during the long exposure time. The person could end up with a blurry mouth or face. People were told not to smile and to hold as still as possible. Some photographers even had wire stands to hold the subject’s head still.
And who knew what a camera pointed in your direction would actually do? That camera looks like a mini-canon. Maybe I’d be better off with the dentist and his gas.
And, how much noise and commotion carried to the post office below? It could be enough to keep patrons from visiting either establishment.
In fairness, I’ll note that by 1884, Kodak cameras were available, and photography had become more common. So, the dentist might be the more frightening of the two.
I researched the dentist and photographer in the advertisements further to look for other interesting tidbits.
In 1888, the photographer was in a legal dispute with Laura LeClair. The Leadville Evening Chronical says, “he had an agreement with Laura to take pictures of her girls ‘with’ and ‘without tights,’ whatever that may mean.” And, “Miss LeClair claims that the photographs were ‘improperly taken’ and were not meritorious.”
In modern times, Judge Judy would have heard this lawsuit. Mrs. LeClair promised it would be “spicy.”
I wonder if the dentist office was still next door during this photography session.
All of this speculation gives me an idea for a novel. Plenty of potential for conflict.