History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days. ~Winston Churchill

06 September, 2014

An Air-Ship Built For Two: Songs of the 1910s

Before there were records, there was sheet music. Popular songs could be enjoyed over and over again at home, if only you had someone who could play the piano and sing all right. Thanks to the New York Public Library's collection of popular American sheet music, we can still enjoy these songs over and over again. Or at least the titles and covers, which are pretty great. 

In February we had a look at love songs of the 1890s; this time around the decade is the 1910s. By then, of course, there were also records, and of course, by now, there's Youtube, so, amazingly, a few of the selections below come with the chance to listen, too. 

So what did people like in their songs in the 1910s? Apparently rags, romance, and air travel. 



New York Public Library

Published 1910. Source




New York Public Library

Published 1913. This one actually stayed popular for a long time, at least into the 1950s. You can listen to a 1913 recording, although it doesn't have the words. Source




New York Public Library

Published 1912, and apparently a classic rag. On YoutubeSource

25 August, 2014

Soldiers Peeling Potatoes

Armies, unsurprisingly, used lots of  potatoes in their cooking, and soldiers, unsurprisingly, were often set the task of peeling them. What is rather surprising is just how regularly photographers captured this event on film....


© IWM (SE 2022)

British soldiers peeling potatoes, Burma, 1945. Source




Library and Archives Canada

Canadian soldiers peeling potatoes, 1916. Source




Library and Archives Canada

Canadian soldiers peeling potatoes, 1916. Source

21 August, 2014

Studio Portraits with Bicycles

The other month we had a look at people and their bicycles--outdoors, riding, or posed close to a ride. This natural look, however, isn't the only one in the history of cyclist photographry. Particularly in the 19th century, people with an affection for their bicycles have used them as props in professional studio portraits as well. 



State Library of Queensland

A young man in a studio with a penny-farthing, Queensland, Australia, 19th C. Source




Smithsonian Institution

Artist Elihu Vedder in the studio with his bicycle, ca. 1910. Source




State Library of New South Wales

Schoolteacher Miss Marley, Narraburra, New South Wales, Australia, ca. 1910. Source

30 July, 2014

Adorable Kittens of 1902

Nothing meaningful or insightful, just some very, very cute kittens from 1902. 

These photographs come from the Canadian Copyright Collection of the British Library (which the BL put on the Wikimedia Commons). From 1895 to 1924, to register copyright in Canada you had to send one copy of the relevant work to Canada, and one to the British Library. So whoever took this pictures copyrighted them--why isn't known, although I suspect it was for use on postcards, as lots of similar kitten photo postcards can be found. No other information is known (including why they are called "The Globe Kittens"), although pretty much every site mentioning the Canadian Copyright Collection on the Wikimedia Commons has shared at least one image of the set (I haven't found any posts with all, though! and all are just so darn cute). 


British Library





British Library





British Library


18 July, 2014

Everywhere a Sign

Photographic evidence of the long history of being told to do this and don't do that....


George Eastman House

Take a Kodak with you! Autochrome, ca. 1917. Source




State Library of New South Wales

Keep your feet off the walls. Australia, 1947. Source




National Library of Scotland

Two WWI soldiers at a village sign, coming with the quietly devastating caption, "Owing to modern artillery, captured villages have to be marked with a sign board." Source

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