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

18 April, 2014

Postcards from America, Part One

I recently discovered the Boston Public Library on Flickr, and it was instant love. They have over 90,000 images in 380 sets, from photographs to posters to trade cards to produce crate labels. Though they're not on the Flickr Commons, most if not all of their images are available to share under an attribution Creative Commons license. I am very excited to explore, and if anyone on the Boston Public Library team ever happens to read this, thank you!

One of the highlights of the collection (at least in my eyes) is a collection of over 25,000 postcards from the United States in the 1930s and 1940s. These are proofs of postcards that were sold by the Boston-based Tichnor company. Every state (at the time) is represented, although some are represented much better than others. As well as a wide variety of views there are huge numbers of advertising postcards depicting roadside motels, diners, and other businesses; total old-school Americana. I plan on sharing some of these fellows in the future, but I thought I'd start a journey through the collection with a journey through the states. For this post and the next, I've picked one card from each state (with no deep thought; just ones I think are great). Hawaii and Alaska, of course, weren't states at the time; there is a single postcard of Alaska but it's just a map so I skipped it. For some reason Minnesota and Kansas are hardly represented at all; there are a few business-related cards but none of the nice view cards every other state has. So sorry, Minnesotans and folks from Kansas (Kansasians?)--no offense is intended by the cards I chose! 

These are in alphabetical order. For each state I've linked to the corrosponding state set on Flickr, so you can have a look at the rest of the ones you like-- some states have over a thousand!


Boston Public Library





Boston Public Library





Boston Public Library


15 April, 2014

Magic Splendour of Electric Blaze

A variety of terrific sterographs depicting the illuminations at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, published bey several different stereo companies. Like the buildings created for the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, the St. Louis Fair's buildings were not designed to last more than a year or two. All but one of these buildings were demolished shortly after the event ended.

By the way, if you can free-view (look at stereos the right way to get the 3-D effect without a viewer) or would like to try (it's like magic eye)-- these really are just incredible in stereo. 


Library of Congress

The Festival Hall. Source




Library of Congress

Another view of the Festival Hall. Source




Library of Congress

Palaces of Electricity and Machinery. Source

12 April, 2014

Cat Eats Corn

Another look at the fluffy side of LIFE magazine. This is one of my favourite examples of "fluff"-- photographs of a cat that apparently likes to eat corn on the cob. I'm sure that only one of these pictures was actually published, possibly on the last page which for a while was reserved for a light-hearted picture (I haven't yet found it, but still looking), but of course, an actual real-life photojournalist was dispatched to do this so as per the course he shot a range of pictures to get the best one/one that would best fit the page. So the LIFE archives, as well as containing some of the defining photographs of our era, includes a whole bunch of photos of a cat eating corn. 

1951, by Allan Grant. 


Allan Grant, LIFE © Time Inc.





Allan Grant, LIFE © Time Inc.





Allan Grant, LIFE © Time Inc.



09 April, 2014

Happy Birthday Postcards!

A batch of early twentieth century birthday postcards, for my sister's 23rd birthday!


New York Public Library

Postmarked 1910. Source




New York Public Library

"Congratulations on your birthday" just isn't something we say anymore... Unwritten. Source




New York Public Library

Postmarked 1907. Source

07 April, 2014

Wartime Tea Breaks

When I first posted on soldiers drinking tea ("Tea, the Soldier's Drink"), I noted that this theme was so common in British wartime photographs that it would need two parts. Finally, almost two years later, here is that part two!


© IWM (NA 11770)

A British and an American soldier share tea in a dugout in Anzio, Italy, 1944. Source




© IWM (MH 32677)

British and Australian officers have an end of the day cup of tea in Korea, 1950-1953. Source




© IWM (NA 14569)

Soldiers get tea from a YMCA tea car, Anzio, Italy, 1944. Source

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