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

12 January, 2015

Take a Kodak With You

It seems a distant memory now, but for most of the twentieth century, Kodak dominated the amateur photography market in North America. The cameras, the film, the very culture of snapshooting--Kodak. And they worked very hard at it. As well as their products, they put out a variety of publications, aimed variously at snapshooters (Kodakery), professional photographers (Studio Light), dealers of Kodak products (Kodak Salesman, Kodak Dealer News), and photo-finishers (aptly, The Photo Finisher). These periodicals are fascinating insights into the various approaches Kodak took to their market, and it is my hope to study them properly one day, in my professional capacity. On top of that, they're a lot of fun. I spent many many hours going through them for my master's thesis (now online!) and often got distracted by pictures and articles having nothing to do with my topic of study. Kodak was constantly coming up with new angles for selling--new campaigns, new displays, new themes--always copiously illustrated, of course. They also frequently highlighted ideas and displays from Kodak dealers themselves.... bringing us, finally, to this actual post. 

The following images come from Kodak's periodical for dealers of their products, Kodak Salesman, which regularly sought out and reproduced creative window displays from their sellers. These come from the early 1920s, and many tie in to Kodak's main ad campaign at the time, expressed by the slogans "take a Kodak with you" and "Kodak as you go." This was a period when Kodak was actively encouraging people to record all their activities on film (something we've taken for granted ever since). Others focus on eye-catching composition. 

I must admit these images are not the highest quality. They come from the Flickr collection of the Internet Archive, which consists of images automatically excerpted from the many books on the Internet Archive's site. The digitization of books is done differently than that of images specifically, resulting in a lower resolution and higher contrast. The images in the original periodical are already half-tone photographic reproductions. So, these don't exactly look terrific. However, I feel the original striking designs and creativity shine through nonetheless!

The issues of the Kodak Salesman from which these come are held by the Special Collections at Ryerson University, my alma mater. The Internet Archive holds the complete runs of several years of the periodical, as well as many years of Kodakery and Studio Light

Internet Archive Book Images/Ryerson University Special Collections

August 1921. Source 

Internet Archive Book Images/Ryerson University Special Collections

Illustrating the motto, "Kodak on Land and Sea." The model ship, apparently, was valued at $500. October 1920. Source

Internet Archive Book Images/Ryerson University Special Collections

January, 1921. Source

19 December, 2014

Christmas Greetings from the Trenches

Embroidered silk postcards soldiers at the Western Front sent to their families back home, for Christmas. These kinds of embroidered postcards were very popular among soldiers of World War One, and were made in large numbers by French and Belgian women during the conflict. The Australian War Memorial collection holds over 600, which I intend to return to. The themes are mostly floral and/or patriotic, their reassuring prettiness belying the conditions lived by the men who sent them. 

These postcards are especially poignant this year--one hundred years since that first Christmas in the trenches. 

A postcard with the same pattern, but a non-Christmas greeting, can be seen hereSource

16 December, 2014

"Coming Attractions," Tinted

A couple months ago, Slate's wonderful history blog, The Vault, posted on the earliest "coming soon" advertisements on cinematic screens. These were hand-tinted lantern slides which would be projected before and between films. The post reproduces a number of these slides from an extensive collection held by the Cleveland Public Library. With my love of both hand-tinting and the 1920s, I was terrifically excited to discover this trend, and even more to discover the library's digitized collection of the slides exceeds 700. So I just had to share a few more, with many thanks to Rebecca Onion of The Vault. Some are for movies that are still known; others are delightfully obscure. All are very, very colourful. 

Cleveland Public Library

Orphans of the Storm (with Lilian Gish and her sister Dorothy), 1921. Source

Cleveland Public Library

Strictly Confidential, 1919. Source

Cleveland Public Library

The Runaway, with Clara Bow, 1926. Source

14 December, 2014

Australian Soldiers Playing in the Snow

Though it certainly does snow in Australia, and the country even has ski hills, the majority of Australians don't grow up with snow. Particularly in the days before long-distance travel was commonplace, a lot of Australians never even saw snow. So when Australian soldiers were posted abroad to places like Northern Europe, Canada, and Korea, they tended to have an awful lot of fun with it. 

Snowball-armed soldiers and their prizewinning kangaroo snowman at a Convalescent Camp in England, 1917. Source

Australian soldiers having a snowball fight at a camp in southern England, 1916. Source

Nurses and convalescent Australian soldiers have a snowball fight at a hospital in southern England, WWI. Source

11 December, 2014

Brilliant Luna Park at Night

Photographs of the fanciful nighttime illuminations at Luna Park, one of the two major early twentieth century amusement parks on on Coney Island, shortly after it opened in 1903. 

Library of Congress

New York Public Library

Library of Congress

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