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December 1, 2023

30 Amazing Portrait Photos That Show Occupations in the Mid-Victorian Era

Many workers during Victorian era spent an entire day tending a machine in a large, crowded, noisy room. Others worked in coal mines, steel mills, railroads, slaughterhouses, and in other dangerous occupations. Most were not paid well, and the typical workday was 12 hours or more, six days per week.

Studio portrait photos that shows occupations in the 1850s and 1860s

Owners spent little money to improve the safety and comfort of its workers. Since there were no laws protecting workers, owners took no responsibility for employees who got hurt or sick on the job. Many of these workers were new immigrants who had limited skills, spoke little English, and could easily be taken advantage of business owners.

Here below is a set of amazing portrait photos that shows occupations in the 1850s and 1860s.

A carpenter stands with his tools of the trade: a saw, steel square and ruler

A fireman reenacts a scene as he prepares to climb a ladder

A harness maker poses with his tools of his trade with a bridle as a backdrop

A man poses with the tools of his craft as a colorist, including a box of paints, bottles of dye, brushes and a mortar and pestle

A man is dressed in the regalia of the Knights Templar, a masonic organization that thrived in 19th century America

A Mason grasps his gavel in front of a backdrop customized for his fraternal organization. The gavel its one of the ancient symbols of Freemasonry

A photographer with camera and soiled apron

A Roman Catholic Bishop

A seafarer in New Orleans

A young woman turns a wheel connected to a set of rollers. The sheet of paper suggests the hand-operated machine was used in some aspect of paper production or printing

An artist applies his paint brush to artwork depicting a child

Cleaning women

Colorist with mahlstick and brush

Delivering the news at Camp Chase, Ohio

Delivery man


Illinois inventor

Keeper of the faith

Medicine man


Police officer

The colorist

The harness maker

The man standing in front of a display cabinet full of photographic portraits is very likely the lensman who made them

The monocle, fake whiskers, neckerchief, handkerchief and plaid pants worn by this man points to his connection to the theater or a costume party

The nanny

The quintessential farrier

The wallpaper hanger

Two workers

Writing and sending a note


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