Long before photo booths in shopping malls, there was Miller’s Portrait Saloon in St. Catharines, Ontario. The saloon operated from approximately 1865 to 1869, and its owners were listed in Photographers of the World as Mr. Chauncey Miller and Mrs. Miller, “wife’s name unk. [unknown].”
The Millers did a booming business in while-you-wait portraiture. They advertised “6 ferrotype Likenesses for 50 cents, made and delivered in 15 minutes” and used the phrase “made by machinery.” The machinery in question was a camera with six lenses, which could take six photos simultaneously. The Millers also produced stereographs, another photographic craze that began in the 1860s and lasted until the 1920s. The Millers created at least fifteen known stereographic images of St. Catharines, photographing churches, street scenes, and the Welland Canal.
The first name and maiden name of Mrs. Miller remain unknown, despite an exhaustive search of census records, newspapers, directories, city tax rolls, photographic publications, and civil marriage registrations. The mystery surrounding her identity illustrates the difficulty of uncovering biographical information about women who lived in a time when a woman’s name largely disappeared from the public record after marriage.