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, 2015

The San Francisco Earthquake, Tinted

The devastation of the great San Francisco Earthquake, on this day in 1906, is extensively photographically documented. There are thousands of monochrome photographs, some of which I've shared before, printed in newspapers or mass-produced as postcards. There are even a few true colour photographs, made with a rare early process. 

The images in this post are stereoviews of post-earthquake scenes, photographs translated into low-quality half-tones, and then hand-tinted for commercial sale. I find them fascinating as an insight into the desires of early 20th century consumers of photography--even in documentary photographs, and even for photographs of a tragedy, applied colour was a selling point. 

New York Public Library

Workmen taking down unstable walls. Source

New York Public Library

A cracked Van Ness Avenue. Source

New York Public Library

The wrecked synagogue, Powell and Sutter Streets. Source

07 April, 2015

Wartime Kangaroos

A special edition of the wartime pets series! As we've seen in past posts, soldiers are very, very fond of keeping pets and mascots of all kinds, from the expected dogs and cats to pigs, goats, and foxes. Out of all the unusual pets, perhaps the most surprisingly popular was the kangaroo (or wallaby). Australian soldiers played with them at home, then took them along on journeys to far-off fronts. Foreign troops stationed in Australia were also keen to seize their chance of kangaroo adoption. I don't know if they do make good pets, but these fellows certainly seem thought so!

An Australian soldier with a pet kangaroo near the Pyramids, Egypt, about 1915. Source

Soldiers with a kangaroo in Malaysa, 1941. Source

A soldier with "Joey" the kangaroo in Malaya, 1941. According to the caption, he was smuggled in a box labelled "Medical Supplies." Source

03 April, 2015

Friends Being Ridiculous, 1897

A quick, fun set! I don't have a tremendous amount of context for these photographs, which come from what appear to be two sets, in a collection held by a small Ontario museum. In one set, a bunch of male and female friends play around with bicycles, bonnets, and occasional musical instruments. In the other, a group of five fellows adopt silly poses in swimsuits, some of which are women's suits. All are taken in 1897, in Huron County, Ontario, by a professional photographer. What, exactly, is the story? Who knows, but they're great. 

Huron County Museum

Bicycles, instruments, bonnets... Source

Huron County Museum

Posing on Lake Huron. Source

Huron County Museum

A pile of friends and instruments in the park. Source

16 March, 2015


Today marks the fourth anniversary of The Passion of Former Days!

As usual, the occasion makes me go "wow." To be honest, I thought it would be something I dabbled with for a month or maybe two. The first time a post hit 100 views my jaw hit the floor. Now... four years, 462 posts, and 940,000 page views. The pace has slowed a bit from earlier days, but really that's been because of the blog's influence, too. Through this little endeavour I realized how much I love historical photographs, which led me to the decision to switch fields (from medieval history, of all places), which led me to a master's in Photographic Preservation at Collections Management, which itself exposed me to more amazing photographs that I ever could have believed I'd see (I've been inches away from the first daguerreotype!). I just accepted my offer of admission to do a PhD at Canada's top university, on snapshots. At the moment I'm working doing research with WWI images, which is very fitting, considering two of my first three blog posts were of WWI photographs. 

The moral is: you sure never know what decisions are going to be life-changing!

It's been absolutely wonderful to see this blog--and, of course, these pictures--get the feedback it has. There are so many great pictures out there, and after all these years and all this learning and all this experience I only feel that more. I love that there's people out there who love this too. Thank you for all the follows, and all the shares, and, most importantly, all the enjoyment!


© Crown copyright. IWM (RAF-T 6311)

Four planes of the RAF aerial display team the Red Pelicans, 1963-64.  Source

University of Washington Libraries

Four women in wood veneer bathing suits for a lumber promotion, ca. 1929, Washington (State). Source

© IWM (D 944)

Four Belgian children with jammy faces, London, 1940. Source

24 February, 2015

Road Tripping 1960s Norway

A delightful set of photo postcards made in Norway in the 1960s. Wonderfully, nearly all the cards in the set include a cheerful red car (of various makes), merrily making its way through the Norwegian countryside. The postcards thus evoke a series of personal snapshots of one person's road-trip (better snapshots than anyone could actually take!). Of course, in a sense, they are: the car(s) belonged to the photographer. 

Since the photos' captions are only in Norwegian, which I don't speak, I've pasted them in full, so as not to mix up place names and descriptions. 

Nasjonalbiblioteket / National Library of Norway

Lillehammer. Source

Nasjonalbiblioteket / National Library of Norway

Tvindefoss. Ruten Voss - Stalheim - Gudvangen. Source

Nasjonalbiblioteket / National Library of Norway

Vik i Sogn. I bakgrunnen Hella og Fjærlandsfjord. Source

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