This Hidden Camera Captured Remarkable Candid Images of Everyday Life in the 1800s

Share on Facebook

Carl Størmer was a Norwegian mathematician and physicist from the 19th century who accomplished all kinds of super impressive stuff throughout his life.

For example, when he was only 18 years old, he published his first mathematical paper on trigonometric series generalizing the Taylor expansion of the arcsine function. (No, we have no idea what that means. We got it from his Wikipedia page. But it sounds pretty impressive, right?)

However, it wasn’t all math and science for ol’ Carl. He was also super interested in photography. In fact, it’s thanks to him that we have some of the most captivating photographs of life in the late 19th century.

It’s this brand of ingenuity that makes you scratch your head and mutter, “this kid is going places.” Størmer then took his camera/clothing contraption outside into 19th-century Norway.  

It was there that he was able to capture photographs of everyday life in Norway during the 1890s. You won’t see any cars in the photographs; just a good old-fashioned carriage.

The photos also provide a fascinating glimpse of Norwegian architecture as it was in the 1890s. Amazingly, many of the buildings photographed by Størmer still look very similar today.

It’s especially amazing to see people smiling in Størmers photos. In most of the photos we see of people from this time period, they’re looking particularly solemn. But these photos show some incredible smiles!

Many people assume the glum looks of most Victorian portraiture is because the technology of the time required people to sit still for a long time in order to capture the image. In reality, people usually just looked solemn because they didn’t often have their picture taken, so when they did, it was treated as a solemn occasion. It might surprise you to know that photography became pretty much instantaneous in the 1850s (well before Størmer took these images). Størmer even managed to capture some photos of famous people! Check them out…

He was a major Norwegian playwright and poet. His mutton chops were pretty major, too, as you can see.

He was a Norwegian scientist who studied the aurora borealis. He was nominated for a Nobel Prize seven times! If you’re Norwegian, you might recognize him from the 200 Kroner note.

Most of Størmer’s photographs appear to be taken while he was walking around town, but a few were taken on a sailboat. Looks like a great time!

Although we do have to wonder how hot it was on this particular day. Imagine being out on a boat wearing all those layers!

Here’s a picture of a guy using what appears to be a sextant. It’s a tool used by astronomers to measure the angle between something in the sky and the horizon. It makes sense that Størmer would have hung out with scientists like the one pictured above. We can only imagine what their conversations were like! Størmer didn’t just take pictures of adults within his own industry, though. Some of the most fascinating photos we found were of children…

Like this little fellow! It seems like this baby might be the only person Størmer photographed who wasn’t wearing a hat. Apparently, the wardrobe expectations weren’t quite as strict for kids.

We don’t know who this young girl is, but she appears in at least two of Størmer’s photographs. We’d love to know what the books she’s carrying are.

She looks a little skeptical, here. And look! There’s another wheeled cart in the background.

The women’s fashion of the time is particularly striking. High-waisted skirts, puffy sleeves…they wouldn’t look too out of place on the street today. And now for the most important subjects of Størmer’s photographs — animals!

Here’s a photo of a man and his young son with their (slightly blurry) dog. It looks like they were enjoying a lovely day in the park when Størmer came across them.

And here’s another photo of the trio lounging in the sun. Parenting hasn’t changed a lot over the years, after all.

How about cats? Do you like cats? These people sure did. That cat is decidedly not into having its photo taken. Apparently, cats haven’t changed much over the years either.

It’s also pretty spectacular how wide of an angle the lens of Størmer’s camera had. In this photo, you’re able to see a good distance down the street, even though the camera lens itself was small enough to be hidden in a buttonhole.

Whoops! A little bit of double exposure in this one. We kind of dig it, though. We’re choosing to accept it as an artistic choice.

We’re so thrilled that Størmer was able to provide such an incredibly unique glimpse into the past. They remind us of how much has changed over the past 100 years — and how much has stayed the same, too.