Another Yarmouth Cat

Many folks enjoy looking at pictures of rich people’s homes. So maybe you would be interested in a couple of photos of an opulent house interior in Yarmouth (actually Milton) taken in the late 1880s.

Fir Bank was the home of lawyer Robert Caie and his wife Sophia Killam. The two photos are well known, but how we ended up with original prints is a bit of a mystery. There was a distant family connection; something like my great grandfather’s sister was married to Robert Caie’s brother. Maybe the Caies included the photos with their Christmas letter.

In one image the Caies are sitting in a parlour. She has her sewing basket open and is doing some handwork while looking straight at the camera. He is examining pictures in a photo album.

04-04-2012 02;42;46PM

There is perhaps no finer photograph of a high-Victorian interior in Nova Scotia.

The companion image appears to be another view of the same parlour with a glimpse into a library beyond. The second room has a masculine character with mounted bird specimens and a large print of a stag brought down by hunting dogs.


You get the sense that every element in the rooms has been carefully selected. I’ve gone over it all with a magnifying glass and realized there is nothing I’d want in my home today, with one exception. A stuffed, toy cat sitting at Mr Caie’s feet.


The design for such cats was printed on cotton. Perhaps Mrs Caie, sitting in that bay window, cut out, sewed and stuffed the cat.

The cat discovery gave me great pleasure because it suggested that the Caies were telegraphing that they were more lighthearted and informal than the interior suggests. This idea was reinforced when I realized that the cat also appeared in the second photo, now sitting beside the ornate fireplace. The photos were taken by George Parker the best known Yarmouth photographer of the time.

04-04-2012 02;45;11PM

You can see pictures of the exterior of the house and its amazing gardens on this page. The house was demolished in the 1960s, but the cat is preserved in the collections of the Yarmouth County Museum. I’d like to see it some day.


  • Surprise! We have a pug dog (dated 1892) ready to be cut and sewn. This gives you an idea of how the Caies’ cat started out.


I particularly like the bottom panel with the sweet little feet.


  • It is not in great condition but we do have the cat that Sheila had as a child. Need to start including it in photographs. Watch out.


About the author

Stephen Archibald

It’s Stephen Archibald doing the noticing. I’m a huge fan of Nova Scotia’s material culture and cultural landscapes. Twitter (@Cove17 ) made me realize I could share what attracted my attention (perfect for my very short attention) and I’m gratified when folks enjoy my content. Pleased to meet you on the internet.