A christmas Carol

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  1. Do Now:  Write down anything that you associate with “A Christmas Carol”  (The words, or the play)

2) A Christmas Carol Anticipation Guide
Instructions:  The purpose of this anticipation guide is to jump start your thinking about the big ideas, issues, and themes you’ll be encountering in our upcoming unit.
For each statement, mark Agree or Disagree.  Then, write 1-2 sentences explaining WHY you answered the way you did.  






1. Money is the root of all evil.

2.  Money can buy happiness.

3.  The older you are, the harder it is to change.

4. Money makes the world go round.

5. You can be happy without a family.

6.  Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile. –Albert Einstein

7.  It is the responsibility of wealthy people to help those less fortunate than themselves.

8. Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. –Albert Schweitzer

9.  People can choose to be happy.

Group Article Notes

1) Read through your article 2) Be prepared to teach the class about your specific article relating to “A Christmas Carol” 3) When making your decisions about what to teach, address the following,... Be prepared to talk for 2-3 minutes. I WILL TIME YOU!

  1. What are the most important parts of your article that the class needs to know in order to better understand “A Christmas Carol”?

  1. What are 3 quotes that best summarize your article? Why?

Group Presentation Notes

Charles Dickens Bio

Dickens Era London-Part 1

Dickens Era London-Part 2

Economics during Dickens’ Time

Marriage during the Victorian Era

Why we still read “A Christmas Carol”

Victorian Era Fashion


A Closer Look at the Poverty that Inspired Dickens Ignorance and Want

Edited from Ignorance and Want in the New Millennium By Dr. Vicki Medland.

“’They are Man’s,’ said the Spirit, looking down upon them. ‘And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!’ cried the Spirit…

Have they no refuge or resource?’ cried Scrooge.

Are there no prisons?’ said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. ‘Are there no workhouses?’”- Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, 1843

These two allegorical orphans were just one manifestation of Dickens’ observations of the poverty in London two centuries ago. In 1840s London, over half of all deaths occurred in children. Dickens’ London was created by the Industrial Revolution, where conditions created a great increase in wealth and the growth of the middle classes and also drew thousands to work in the new factories. By mid-century 2.3 million people lived in London. It also resulted in the largest, most polluted, overcrowded and economically polarized city in the world.

In 1843 most people would have identified with Tiny Tim’s father Bob Cratchit, rather than his employer, Ebenezer Scrooge. Over 80% of London’s population were working poor, like Cratchit, living hand-to-mouth on just a few shillings a week. … After the creation of the “New Poor Law” in 1834 many indebted families, including children were sent to labor in prison workhouses where children were separated from their parents. The Christmas Carol orphans were meant to illustrate the idea that only education would release the working poor from the vicious circle of poverty and ignorance. It wasn’t until some 40 years later that the first government run public schools were established in London.

Dickens’ Scrooge most certainly represents that disregard of the plight of others when it interferes with the accumulation of wealth. But what is not obvious in Dickens account is that it is not only the wealthiest people who were ignoring the needs of the majority poor, it was the new and burgeoning middle class who ignored and were not compelled to even consider the plight of their poorer neighbors, as long as they were out of sight.

People moved into the western suburbs of London to escape the filth and problems of the city and Urban sprawl began and spread quickly with the increase in railway stations in the city’s outskirts. The nouveau riche of the Industrial Age spent huge amounts of money on ostentatious displays of wealth. Excess in everything from wallpaper design to exterior architecture was a hallmark of the Victorian Age. And the middle classes were not content with their lot. They aspired to live the life-style of the wealthiest classes. Industrialization allowed the styles of the rich to be cheaply copied and mass-produced. Mass consumption among the middle classes has not abated since.

But who do we identify with today? For any of us living in wealthy developed countries it would be Scrooge of course. The tables have turned and 20% or less of our citizens are classified as working poor. Basic education is free in the developed countries. Are the prisons and workhouses still with us? Today, there are more men of African descent in Europe and the United States in prison than are in college. Are there still workhouses? Yes, but they are far out of sight of the middle classes in non-unionized sweatshops and Free Zone factories in the developing world.

Economic development has also left Man’s Children with an unfortunate legacy, probably unforeseen by Dickens. We still have Dickens’ orphans, but now we have their wealthy, educated descendents as well. Want from poverty and Ignorance from lack of education have become Want from desire and Ignorance from resistance to learning. We have become so wealthy we no longer understand the difference between want and need. Our children have left the workhouses for the shopping malls. We have become educated and no longer value literacy, science, or the arts. Our children attend school but basic test scores are declining and what are perceived as non-essential programs like music and science are being dropped from the curricula. And behind them poverty rates are slowly increasing everywhere, including the wealthiest countries in the world

Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth, England, on February 7, 1812, to John and Elizabeth Dickens. He was the second of eight children. His mother had been in service to Lord Crew, and his father worked as a clerk for the Naval Pay office. John Dickens was imprisoned for debt when Charles was young. Charles Dickens went to work at a blacking warehouse, managed by a relative of his mother, when he was twelve, and his brush with hard times and poverty affected him deeply. He later recounted these experiences in the semi-autobiographical novel David Copperfield. Similarly, the concern for social justice and reform which surfaced later in his writings grew out of the harsh conditions he experienced in the warehouse.

As a young boy, Charles Dickens was exposed to many artistic and literary works that allowed his imagination to grow and develop considerably. He was greatly influenced by the stories his nursemaid used to tell him and by his many visits to the theater. Additionally, Dickens loved to read. Among his favorite works were Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, Tom Jones by Henry Fielding, andArabian Nights, all of which were picaresque novels composed of a series of loosely linked adventures. This format no doubt played a part in Dickens' idea to serialize his future works.

Dickens was able to leave the blacking factory after his father's release from prison, and he continued his education at the Wellington House Academy. Although he had little formal schooling, Dickens was able to teach himself shorthand and launch a career as a journalist. At the age of sixteen, Dickens got himself a job as a court reporter, and shortly thereafter he joined the staff of A Mirror of Parliament, a newspaper that reported on the decisions of Parliament. During this time Charles continued to read voraciously at the British Library, and he experimented with acting and stage-managing amateur theatricals. His experience acting would affect his work throughout his life--he was known to act out characters he was writing in the mirror and then describe himself as the character in prose in his novels.

Fast becoming disillusioned with politics, Dickens developed an interest in social reform and began contributing to the True Sun, a radical newspaper. Although his main avenue of work would consist of writing novels, Dickens continued his journalistic work until the end of his life, editing The Daily News, Household Words, and All the Year Round. His connections to various magazines and newspapers as a political journalist gave him the opportunity to begin publishing his own fiction at the beginning of his career. He would go on to write fifteen novels. (A final one, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, was left unfinished upon his death.)

While he published several sketches in magazines, it was not until he serialized The Pickwick Papers over 1836-37 that he experienced true success. A publishing phenomenon, The Pickwick Papers was published in monthly installments and sold over forty thousand copies of each issue. Dickens was the first person to make this serialization of novels profitable and was able to expand his audience to include those who could not normally afford such literary works.

Within a few years, he was regarded as one of the most successful authors of his time, with approximately one out of every ten people in Victorian England avidly reading and following his writings. In 1836 Dickens also married Catherine Hogarth, the daughter of a fellow co-worker at his newspaper. The couple had ten children before their separation in 1858.

Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby followed in monthly installments, and both reflected Dickens' understanding of the lower classes as well as his comic genius. In 1843, Dickens published one of his most famous works, A Christmas Carol. His disenchantment with the world's economic drives is clear in this work; he blames much of society's ills on people's obsession with earning money and acquiring status based on money.

His travels abroad in the 1840s, first to America and then through Europe, marked the beginning of a new stage in Dickens' life. His writings became longer and more serious. In David Copperfield (1849-50), readers find the same flawed world that Dickens discovered as a young boy. Dickens published some of his best-known novels including A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations in his own weekly periodicals.

The inspiration to write a novel set during the French Revolution came from Dickens' faithful annual habit of reading Thomas Carlyle's book The French Revolution, first published in 1839. When Dickens acted in Wilkie Collins' play The Frozen Deep in 1857, he was inspired by his own role as a self-sacrificing lover. He eventually decided to place his own sacrificing lover in the revolutionary period, a period of great social upheaval. A year later, Dickens went through his own form of social change as he was writing A Tale of Two Cities: he separated from his wife, and he revitalized his career by making plans for a new weekly literary journal called All the Year Round. In 1859, A Tale of Two Cities premiered in parts in this journal. Its popularity was based not only on the fame of its author, but also on its short length and radical (for Dickens' time) subject matter.

Dickens' health began to deteriorate in the 1860s. In 1858, in response to his increasing fame, he had begun public readings of his works. These exacted a great physical toll on him. An immensely profitable but physically shattering series of readings in America in 1867-68 sped his decline, and he collapsed during a "farewell" series in England.

On June 9, 1870, Charles Dickens died. He was buried in Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey. Though he left The Mystery of Edwin Drood unfinished, he had already written fifteen substantial novels and countless shorter pieces. His legacy is clear. In a whimsical and unique fashion, Dickens pointed out society's flaws in terms of its blinding greed for money and its neglect of the lower classes of society. Through his books, we come to understand the virtues of a loving heart and the pleasures of home in a flawed, cruelly indifferent world. Among English writers, in terms of his fame and of the public's recognition of his characters and stories, he is second only to William Shakespeare.
  The main feature of the Victorian epoch was the mix of the best of other styles. Victorian Era was a lively style of ornamentation.

Clothes on the Victorian Era were very elaborated and restrictived on the bodies of those who wore them. The Victorian Era was a time period between 1830 to the end of the XXth century. Queen Victoria  ruled England. The rise of the economy allowed to make more elaborated clothes. Cloth making was made easier and cheaper during the industrial boom of this time. Victorian fashion created by Queen Victoria in England clocked a time completely austere in dress, almost in funeral dresses because since the death of her husband she remained in mourning the rest of her life. She established very strict rules in mourning which can be clearly seen in movies and in texts.

The women’s dress was very elaborated. Their dresses affected the way  they walked, sat or moved  her arms. Women wore a variety of colours for their stockings and dresses. Dresses and stockings undergarments were cut in a style to show off the figure in a modest way. The undergarments had whale-bones or flexible steel to make it more confortable. Here we can see what a woman of that time had to wear:
Other important accessory were hats. Hats were primarily used as a protection from the sun, to avoid an injury... However, in the later years, hats became a symbol of style statement and authority. The kind of hats worn by women and men were different. Hats formed an essential part of a woman’s appearance and as a result, they always wear a hat when they went out. The hats were layered on a wire base covered with straw braids or twisted fabric and was made from velvet, satin or cotton. Birds were used as decorating piece on the hats and this was a fashion in the last half of the XIXth century.                                                                                                                        The most romantic looking hat of the 1850s was a leghorn straw with a wide brim dipped down at the back and slightly at the front. In the early 1900s, hats had wider-brim and were worn high on the head.
Shawls, cloaks, mantles, scarves and little aprons were also accessories. Gloves and parasols were popular. Large brooches were worn at the throat and large and small earrings were also worn. The use of fans was also very common. Boas made of feathers or fur were also very big.
About the makeup of this time, women wanted to look like as fragile ladies. They compared themselves to delicate flowers and emphasized their delicacy and femininity. They always wanted to look pale and interesting. Paleness could be induced by drinking vinegar and avoiding fresh air. Sometimes ladies discreetly used a little rouge on the cheeks, but make-up was not seen very good, especially during the 1870s when social etiquette became more rigid.

  Actresses, however were allowed to use makeup. Most cosmetic products available were still either chemically or homemade with kitchen colourings like berries and beetroot.

 A pale skin was a mark of gentility. It meant that a upper-class lady did not work in the country so she was not dark-skinned . Parasols were very popular and used to protect the skin from the sun. Rooms were shuttered with dark heavy velvet curtains to keep out the sun's rays. Fine blue lines were painted on the skin to increase the appearance of delicate translucent skin and to look like veins.

 During this time it was thought that women's hair was the most valued thing on them. It was rarely cut, usually only in severe illness. It was also supplemented by false hair depending on the current fashion.

Written 170 years ago, Charles Dickens' classic novella "A Christmas Story" still resonates with people today, according to two literature experts at Kansas State University.

The latest example of Dickens' enduring popularity will also be a nod to one of his most enduring works. A new film about Dickens' life, "The Invisible Woman," starring Ralph Fiennes, will be released on Christmas day.

"A Christmas Carol" features the penny-pinching, Christmas-hating Ebenezer Scrooge and his dramatic transformation after a timely visit from the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come.

Naomi Wood is a Kansas State University professor of English who specializes in children's and Victorian literature and culture. She says that "A Christmas Carol"has remained popular because of its observations about the holiday and its central theme that a person can always change.

"'A Christmas Carol' is a compelling story about the Christmas holiday not as a religious observance, but as an aspect of the social contract: the time when those who 'have' experience joy in sharing with those who 'have not,'" Wood said. "It's also a story of transformation. Scrooge's story offers the possibility that one can change for the better, become a better person and grow a bigger heart."

Dan Hoyt is a Kansas State University assistant professor of English who teaches Dickens' work. He said that "A Christmas Carol" also accurately captures sentiments that many people feel around the holidays, and gives a refreshing message amidst the commercialism that surrounds Christmas today.

"Much of Dickens' work, including 'A Christmas Carol,' has comic touches and is intensely sentimental. Just about everyone can appreciate those qualities during the holiday season," Hoyt said. "It champions generosity and compassion, and when Christmas feels commercialized in so many ways, that message is powerful and comforting."

Wood said that its compelling characters, as well as elements of the spooky and supernatural, add to the intrigue of "A Christmas Carol."

"The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come are wonderful devices for thinking about our lives and what we want our legacy to be," Wood said. "The story also features a sweet and pathetic kid in Tiny Tim, as well as both a happy and unhappy ending. The double ending helps emphasize that we have a choice in how we affect the lives of others for better or worse."

"A Christmas Carol" has been adapted to many film versions, which Wood says would have pleased the author.

"Dickens was an avid theatergoer and was quite used to his novels being dramatized -- sometimes even before they were finished," she said. "He enjoyed seeing his work come to life on the stage, and I think if he would have lived long enough, he would have loved movies. He adapted his own work for public performance, and was renowned for his effective readings."

"Dickens' work still speaks to us on an emotional level," Hoyt said of the author's enduring popularity. "That's evident from the continual retellings and resurrections and re-imaginings of his fiction. 'A Christmas Carol,' for example, has been turned into everything from a ballet to a Broadway musical."

While many screen and stage versions of "A Christmas Carol" are quality adaptations of the novella, Wood said the one thing they sometimes leave out is the social criticism that is a prominent theme in the novella.

"The story is a feel-good parable about the joys of individual charity, but the book also demands its readers look at the vast economic system that produces 'want' and 'ignorance,' which Dickens personifies as society's hideous and starving children," she said. "Dickens wanted his readers to care about the 99 percent, and even more for the 47 percent -- the people who aren't served by the moneyed and privileged 1 percent."

"A Christmas Carol" was Dickens' first Christmas story. He made sure the book was published in time to sell for the holiday season in 1843, the year it was written. He would go on to write four more Christmas-themed novellas, as well as numerous shorter Christmas stories for magazines. Wood said Dickens was a big fan of the Christmas holiday and loved hosting parties with plenty of food, drinks, dancing and magic tricks.

"Dickens delighted in Christmas and having a big and roistering celebration with lots to eat and drink," she said. "He would have a big party for both kids and adults, and danced wildly with as many guests as possible. He was an enthusiastic amateur magician and loved to amaze his guests in made-up characters, such as 'The Unparalleled Necromancer Rhia Rhama Roos.'"


Dickens applied his unique power of observation to the city in which he spent most of his life. He routinely walked the city streets, 10 or 20 miles at a time, and his descriptions of nineteenth century London allow readers to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of the

fleet streetregent street

old city. This ability to immerse the reader into time and place sets the perfect stage for Dickens to weave his fiction.

Victorian London was the largest, most spectacular city in the world. While Britain was experiencing the Industrial Revolution, its capital was both reaping the benefits and suffering the consequences. In 1800 the population of London was around a million souls. That number would swell to 4.5 million by 1880. While fashionable areas like Regent and Oxford streets were growing in the west, new docks supporting the city's place as the world's trade center were being built in the east. Perhaps the biggest impact on the growth of London was the coming of the railroad in the 1830s which displaced thousands and accelerated the expansion of the city.

The price of this explosive growth and domination of world trade was untold squalor and filth. In his excellent biography, Dickens, Peter Ackroyd notes that "If a late twentieth-century person were suddenly to find himself in a tavern or house of the period, he would be literally sick - sick with the smells, sick with the food, sick with the atmosphere around him."

Imagine yourself in the London of the early 19th century. The homes of the upper and middle class exist in close proximity to areas of unbelievable poverty and filth. Rich and poor alike are thrown together in the crowded city streets. Street sweepers attempt to keep the streets clean of manure, the result of thousands of horse-drawn vehicles.The city's thousands of chimney pots are belching coal smoke, resulting in soot which seems to settle everywhere. In many parts of the city raw sewage flows in gutters that empty into the Thames. Street vendors hawking their wares add to the cacophony of street noises. Pick-pockets, prostitutes, drunks, beggars, and vagabonds of every description add to the colorful multitude.

Personal cleanliness is not a big priority, nor is clean laundry. In close, crowded rooms the smell of unwashed bodies is stifling. It is unbearably hot by the fire, numbingly cold away from it.

At night the major streets are lit with feeble gas lamps. Side and secondary streets may not be lit at all and link bearers are hired to guide the traveler to his destination. Inside, a candle or oil lamp struggles against the darkness and blacken the ceilings.

In Little Dorrit Dickens describes a London rain storm:

In the country, the rain would have developed a thousand fresh scents, and every drop would have had its bright association with some beautiful form of growth or life. In the city, it developed only foul stale smells, and was a sickly, lukewarm, dirt- stained, wretched addition to the gutters.

Sanitation and Disease

Until the second half of the 19th century London residents were still drinking water from the very same portions of the Thames that the open sewers were discharging into.Several outbreaks of Cholera in the mid 19th century, along with The Great Stink of 1858, when the stench of the Thames caused Parliament to recess, brought a cry for action. Until 1854 it was widely thought that disease was spread through foul air or miasma. It seemed obvious to the Victorians, even the learned ones, that if it stinks, it must be causing disease.

When cholera broke out in the Soho area in 1854 Dr. John Snow teamed with Rev. Henry Whitehead to prove that the disease was spread, not through foul odors and bad air, but by contaminated water. Cholera is spread simply by one human digesting the bacteria in the excrement of other infected humans. Snow and Whitehead solved this riddle, not by direct study of the bacteria, but by spatially projecting pedestrian patterns of where residents got their drinking water. By this method they were able to show that all of the cholera victims in the area drank from the same Broad Street pump. The well had been contaminated with raw sewage coming from the homes of cholera sufferers. The pump handle was removed, and the epidemic ended. Read more about this fascinating story in Steven Johnson's The Ghost Map.

Sir Joseph Bazalgette, chief engineer of the new Metropolitan Board of Works (1855), put into effect a plan, completed in 1875, which finally provided adequate sewers to serve the city. In addition, laws were put in effect which prevented companies supplying drinking water from drawing water from the most heavily tainted parts of the Thames and required them to provide some type of filtration.


In the Streets

After the Stage Carriages Act of 1832 the hackney cab was gradually replaced by the omnibus as a means of moving about the city. By 1900, 3000 horse-drawn buses were carrying 500 million passengers a year. A traffic count in Cheapside and London Bridgein 1850 showed a thousand vehicles an hour passing through these areas during the day. All of this added up to an incredible amount of manure which had to be removed from the streets. In wet weather straw was scattered in walkways, storefronts, and in carriages to try to soak up the mud and wet.

Cattle were driven through the streets until the mid 19th century. In an article for Household Words in March 1851 Dickens, with characteristic sarcasm, describes the environmental impact of having live cattle markets and slaughterhouses in the city:

london omnibus 1855

What was it like to ride in a London Omnibus during Dickens' time? Read this hilarious short sketch,Omnibuses, written by Dickens for the Morning Chronicle on September 26, 1834. It was later included in Sketches by Boz. Also read Henry Mayhew's interview with an omnibus driver.

"In half a quarter of a mile's length of Whitechapel, at one time, there shall be six hundred newly slaughtered oxen hanging up, and seven hundred sheep but, the more the merrier proof of prosperity. Hard by Snow Hill and Warwick Lane, you shall see the little children, inured to sights of brutality from their birth, trotting along the alleys, mingled with troops of horribly busy pigs, up to their ankles in blood but it makes the young rascals hardy. Into the imperfect sewers of this overgrown city, you shall have the immense mass of corruption, engendered by these practices, lazily thrown out of sight, to rise, in poisonous gases, into your house at night, when your sleeping children will most readily absorb them, and to find its languid way, at last, into the river that you drink."
In Oliver Twist, Dickens describes the scene as Oliver and Bill Sikes travel through the Smithfield live-cattle market on their way to burglarize the Maylie home: "It was market-morning. The ground was covered, nearly ankle-deep, with filth and mire; a thick steam, perpetually rising from the reeking bodies of the cattle, and mingling with the fog, which seemed to rest upon the chimney-tops, hung heavily above. All the pens in the centre of the large area, and as many temporary pens as could be crowded into the vacant space, were filled with sheep; tied up to posts by the gutter side were longlines of beasts and oxen, three or four deep. Countrymen, butchers, drovers, hawkers, boys, thieves, idlers, and vagabonds of every low grade, were mingled together in a mass; the whistling of drovers, the barking dogs, the bellowing and plunging of the oxen, the bleating of sheep, the grunting and squeaking of pigs, the cries of hawkers, the shouts, oaths, and quarrelling on all sides; the ringing of bells and roar of voices, that issued from every public-house; the crowding, pushing, driving, beating, whooping and yelling; the hideous and discordant dim that resounded from every corner of the market; and the unwashed, unshaven, squalid, and dirty figures constantly running to and fro, and bursting in and out of the throng; rendered it a stunning and bewildering scene, which quite confounded the senses."

The Smithfield live-cattle market was finally moved out of the city to slaughterhouses in Islington in 1855.

Henry Mayhew estimated that in the 1850s there were 12,000 costermongers (street sellers) making their living in the London streets. These sellers sold fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish, pies, muffins, and a variety of other goods. Generally the costers would go out early in the morning and buy their goods from the London markets such as Billingsgate fish market, Covent Garden, or Borough Market, bartering for the cheapest price with what they called their "stock money". These goods were then pushed through the streets in rented barrows. Mayhew detailed the lives of these street sellers in hisLondon Labour and the London Poor (1851). Read Mayhew's description of Covent Garden Market.

The Law

The Metropolitan Police, London's first police force, was created by Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel (hence the name Peelers and, eventually, Bobbies) in 1829 with headquarters in what would become known as Scotland Yard. The old London watch system, in effect since Elizabethan times, was eventually abolished.

The Poor

The Victorian answer to dealing with the poor and indigent was the New Poor Law, enacted in 1834. Previously it had been the burden of the parishes to take care of the poor.
The new law required parishes to band together and create regional workhouses where aid could be applied for. The workhouse was little more than a prison for the poor. Civil liberties were denied, families were separated, and human dignity was destroyed. The true poor often went to great lengths to avoid this relief.

Dickens, because of the childhood trauma caused by his father's imprisonment for debt and his consignment to the blacking factory to help support his family, was a true champion to the poor. He repeatedly pointed out the atrocities of the system through his novels.

Journalist Henry Mayhew chronicled the plight of the London poor in articles originally written for theMorning Chronicle and later collected in London Labour and the London Poor(1851).

With the turn of the century and Queen Victoria's death in 1901 the Victorian period came to a close. Many of the ills of the 19th century were remedied through education, technology and social reform... and by the social consciousness raised by the immensely popular novels of Dickens.


Hold That Pose!

Ever wonder why the subjects of all those portraits taken in the early days of photography sport such grim expressions? It had more to do with the limits of the technology than of the somber nature of the subject. Smiles are more spontaneous, and harder to hold naturally for the long exposure times required by the photographic equipment of the day.

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