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 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

15 July, 2014

(Terrible) Cigarette Card Puns

Another jaunt into the cigarette card collections of the New York Public Library. We've seen animal-illustrated phrases and flapper butterflies; today we've got some wonderfully awful visual puns. They don't come with a date, but appear to be about 1890-1910 by the clothing, and British. These are selected from a set of 50--with language change a couple have lost their double meanings (how does "decorated flat" describe this fellow?) and some are pretty British (googling "5 years with the colors" in its American spelling, gets you only the record of that card!), but most of them will still get groans a century on. 


New York Public Library





New York Public Library





New York Public Library


10 July, 2014

Banff in Kodachrome

About this time last year I posted photographs of Banff, in the Canadian Rockies, from the late 19th to early 20th centuries. Now, Banff is one of my favourite places in the whole world, so here's another lot-- this time from the 1950s, and in full colour!

National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque / Library and Archives Canad

A man photographs two women in a canoe on the Bow River, 1952. Source




National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque / Library and Archives Canada

Women clambering over rocks near Morraine Lake, 1951. Source




National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque / Library and Archives Canada

Art students painting hoodoos, 1957. Source

08 July, 2014

Going for a Swim

Folks going for a swim!


Canada. Dept. of Interior / Library and Archives Canada

The swimming pool at Chateau Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada, 1930s. Source




George Eastman House

An autochrome of people swimming in Silver Lake, 1907-1932. Source




University of Washington Libraries

Tourists swimming at Sunrise Lake, Washington, despite the presence of snow, ca. 1927. Source


05 July, 2014

A 1920s Party of the 1950s

1920s parties seem to be especially popular lately, which, of course, as a wannabee flapper I couldn't be happier about. The look and popular culture of the era hold a strong appeal-- distant enough to romanticize but close enough to relate to. The idea of Prohibition is easily turned into pretend naughty fun. And who doesn't love sparkly dresses, stripey jackets, boater hats, and pearls? 

In fact, the 1920s party potential was already being seen by the 1950s. In these photos from 1954, partygoers have gone all out in their costumes (which, considering the decade only ended 24 years ago, are more than likely actually from it). Drinks are being sipped from teacups (though eventually many of the people give up and turn to cans of beer), a bathtub is used as a decoration/liquor holder, the ladies roll down their stockings and the men wear spats. I find it especially interesting to see considering that most of the people there were probably born in the 1920s, or slightly earlier.... it's the equivalent of a 1980s or even 90s party today!


Wallace Kirkland, LIFE © Time Inc.





Wallace Kirkland, LIFE © Time Inc.





Wallace Kirkland, LIFE © Time Inc.



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