Friday, May 09, 2014

Sepia Saturday 227: Down the rabbit hole...

Our theme photograph dates from around 1884 and is part of the National Library of Ireland stream on Flickr Commons. It's entitled "Young England's Floral Alphabet" and features sisters, Edith and Ethel Dillon who were around 6 and 4 years of age.  
Why didn't anyone tell these serious looking sisters to say "Cheese"?

You wouldn’t have had to worry so much about this cheesiness in the Victorian era (1837-1901). During this period, etiquette and beauty standards were much different than they are today. In Victorian times, a small, tightly controlled mouth was considered beautiful. In fact, photographers during this era elicited the desired portrait expression by having their subjects “say prunes”. Smiles during this time were only typically captured on children, peasants, and drunks. One of the most common culprits blamed for the neutral expressions on subjects during the Victorian era is the long exposure time for photographs to be taken. (From

Long exposure or not, these two little girls would probably have smiled if they'd heard Michael Jackson's song "ABC" playing for them while they were learning their alphabet. 

From Wikipedia:

ABC is a 1970 number-one hit song by The Jackson 5. It was written with the same design as "I Want You Back", and was first heard on American Bandstand (on the ABC network) in February 1970. "ABC" knocked The Beatles' song "Let It Be" out of the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970 and was also number one on the soul singles chart for four weeks.

Once smiling, the girls might have been inspired to take off their high buttoned shoes and dance a little to Michael's song. If you google shoe buttons, you'll run into this interesting tidbit about "the Shoe Button Complex" from this essay about Education Reform.
Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, his long-time partner at Berkshire-Hathaway, also had a connection to shoe buttons. Munger’s grandfather had managed to corner the market on shoe buttons back around 1900. The grandfather exercised a virtual monopoly over their production and sale. Emboldened by his business acumen, the old man grew to believe that he not only knew more than anyone about shoe buttons but that he knew more than anyone about anything—and he preached and proclaimed at length on such. Munger and Buffett named the syndrome the Shoe Button Complex, and they encountered it frequently in their dealings with successful business practitioners. Now Buffett struggled assiduously to avoid developing the Shoe Button Complex. As one of the richest persons in the world, the temptation to succumb would surely have been great. He was careful to restrict his actions and speaking to what he called his Circle of Competence. He recognized that there were a limited number of things he could know well, and he did not presume to act as though he was expert of those things lying outside the Circle.

And so goes Sepia Saturday. Spiraling completely out of my Circle of Competence I've "gone down the rabbit hole" husband's term for the phenomenon of spending hours googling around from subject to subject. How he asks, can you begin with a photo of two little girls and end up with Warren Buffet???
Good question? Instead, I'll veer sharply back to the theme by ending with a photo of sister and myself as children. She would read to me as I was learning my own ABC's. I miss her. 

 Take a look at other's similar trips here: Sepia Saturday


  1. Plenty of smiles in that last cute pic of you and your sister - obviously caught giggling, it looks like. What fun.

  2. What a lovely memory to have of your sister.

  3. Love the way your mind works here, even though i can't quite imagine the reaction of those prim little misses to the Jackson Five.

  4. I learned a couple of interesting things from your post--saying "prunes" and the"shoe button complex."

  5. I rather like a serious expression now and then. Sometimes young children are told to smile and end up looking like angry primates with their teeth barred. Better a serious look.

  6. I completely "get" your transition from the photo to Warren Buffet. I call this process being sucked into the vortex of the internet...hours go by and what have I achieved? Certainly no housework. The last photo is very precious.

  7. I love Warren Buffet, the shoe button complex, your husband's "down the rabbit hole" expression and that cute photo of you and your sister. I know how much you must miss her. I can't imagine life without my sister.

  8. The internet is indeed an infinite rabbit warren with holes that lead to more places than Alice would ever have imagined. The photographer - dad? - has captured a fine spontaneous moment.

  9. That was a wild ride. Interesting old photos. I wonder why everyone today insists on a smile for a photograph and I rarely feel the need to comply.

  10. I completely get the connection - or lack thereof! That is so family history research - start on one track, go down a number of different paths and find something completely different yet still amazing. Thank goodness for pre-prepared foods.

  11. I enjoyed accompanying you down the rabbit hole and that picture of you and your sister is sure to hold a special place in your heart.