“Killing turkey” by Reuben R. Sallows, Huron County, Ontario (Canada), 1912.

The Reuben R. Sallows Digital Library: “Killing turkey” by Reuben R. Sallows, Huron County, Ontario (Canada), 1912. Image number: 0580-rrs-ogu-ph. Rights: see Reproduction Notes. The same image can be found at the Univesity of Guelph website.

Description offered by The Reuben R. Sallows Digital Library:

Two men chopping head off turkey with small girl covering eyes with hands; man on left, kneeling, faces right, holds turkey, wears long-sleeved striped shirt, dark pants, black cap; older man in centre wears dark coat, pants, cap, white beard; small girl on right stands, head bent down, hands over eyes, wears white dress, dark stocking, black hat; turkey and stump in foreground; rail fence in background; writing in ink on back identifies subjects and location: ‘William Elliott, father Robert Elliott and Verna Sallows, Goderich Township’; image used in National Geographic Magazine; notes at OTAR: ‘Thanksgiving is approaching and Mr. Gobbler has to pay the price. Sis closes her eyes but won’t be so timid when the bird comes out of the oven.’

In her 1988 essay “R.R. Sallows Landscape and Portrait Photographer” S. Lynn Campbell, from the Ontario Agricultural Museum, explains how the turkey photo was purposefully staged:

Another type of photograph in the Sallows collection might simply be described as sight gags. These are carefully staged photographs which are a form of visible joke. For example, illustration # 6 shows a little girl covering her eyes as she watches a turkey about to be killed. The humour is very obvious and the staging equally artificial.

In a footnote pertaining to the same photo, Campbell added this contextual detail:

This photograph was released during World War I with the caption Turkey and the allies. Goderich Signal – Star, July 17, 1975.

For more information about the Reuben Sallows Collection, see also Michelle Lamb’s essay “Historical Imagining: The Photographs of Reuben Sallows”:

There are about 413 photos in the Reuben Sallows Collection. No one is quite sure how or why these photographs ended up in the safe. Each photograph was stamped with “R.R. Sallows Landscape and Portrait Photographer” on the back. From this information, Ministry officials were able to secure the reproduction rights from the Sallows family in Goderich, Ontario.

Reuben Sallows was born in 1855 in Huron County, close to Goderich. His love of rural Ontario began early, as he was born and raised on a farm. He left the farm in 1876 in pursuit of employment, and he was offered a job with a Goderich photographer, R.R. Thompson. By 1878 Sallows had accepted a three-year apprenticeship and subsequently bought the entire business in 1881. (read more)

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