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

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

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


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