Inside the Museum is a blog from the Wimbledon Museum cataloguers. This month, they've made a musical discovery...
A photograph album was an important keepsake in many Victorian homes. Following developments in photography in the latter part of the 1800s, portrait photographs had become readily available at a reasonable price and people often collected photographs of their loved ones in special albums. In design, many albums resembled a family bible, commonly with beautifully tooled leather covers and thick gold edged pages.
A good example of such an album is held in the Museum’s collection. Made circa 1890, the album is leather-bound with a stylised floral and scrollwork design in gold decorating the front cover. It has ten thick card pages designed to hold up to four cabinet photographs, each page decorated with printed colour illustrations depicting various sporting scenes. Lawn tennis is among the sports represented with an image showing a mixed doubles match in progress on a grass court, set in picturesque surroundings with a church spire in the background.
Moreover, in the spirit of Victorian invention, the album also contains a musical mechanism playing the tunes of two well-known Victorian songs. The musical box is set in the back of the album and creates sound by the use of a set of pins on a revolving brass cylinder pushing the tuned teeth of a steel comb. To play the music, the musical box is wound by a key and activated by a clasp mechanism on the binding.
The two songs played were popular tunes in the last decades of the nineteenth century and would most likely have been familiar to the Victorian listener. The first song is ‘The Lost Chord’, composed by the British composer Arthur Sullivan in 1877. Sullivan wrote the song at the bedside of his dying brother who passed away only five days after it was completed. The song became an immediate success and remained in fashion for many years. The second song is ‘The Song That Reached My Heart’. This was composed by the American composer Julian Jordan in 1887 and became well-liked in both America and Britain.