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

31 March, 2011

See America with the WPA

Another set of WPA posters from the Library of Congress, this time telling us to get out and see America!

[Silly note-- the day after I posted this a Jeopardy question had a picture of this fountain and you had to identify the city! You see, this is good for something!]

30 March, 2011

What did YOU do in the Great War?

We've had a few World War One posts in a row, and we'll have a change tomorrow, but today's post follows very closely the theme of the last. This series concerns the various methods of coercion and propaganda governments used to get men to enlist for the military in the First World War. Poster designers employed a multi-faced approach, enlisting all kinds of arguments for the 'cause', whether or not they made logical sense. As usual this shall be an ongoing series and we shall explore various of these, but today's post concerns itself primarily with the tactic of guilt. It's amusing at first, now, with distance.... and then really quite awful. 

British poster, of course. Source

Australian poster, referring to Gallipoli. Source

British poster. Source

British poster. Source

Irish poster, naturally [though Ireland was under the British Government]. Source

29 March, 2011

Faces of World War One

As I've expanded on in the posts of Civil War and daguerreotype portraits [more to come on both of those fronts, by the way], it can be such a stirring experience to come face to face with people who lived a long time ago-- it's an instant erasure of all the time between us and them. This is the start of a third series of simple portraits, this time of the men (and occasional women) who served their countries in the First World War. These all come from the Great War Archive, an initiative of Oxford University to collect photographs, documents, and other memorabilia related to World War One from individuals and institutions. When possible these photographs include relevant information about the people they portray, but I've elected to include only their name. Many of these men, sadly, didn't make it back.


Chester Adams. Source

Evan Jones. Source

William Barber, 1917. Source

Ernest Powell. Source

Ivy Annison [served in the WAAF, Women's Auxiliary Air Force]. Source

Unknown RAF pilot. Source

28 March, 2011

Buy War Bonds

At least half the posters from World War One seem to involve War Bonds (or whatever term the country in question uses)-- reminding you to buy them, making it your duty to buy them, guilting you into buying them. We're going to be seeing plenty of these; today's War Bond post is rather a miscellaneous intro of sorts. 

These are all from World War One, and come from the collections of the Library of Congress and the Imperial War Museum.

Sometimes it's called a War Loan Bond. Source

In the United States, you buy Liberty Bonds. Source

In Canada after 1917, you buy Victory Bonds. Source

In Australia, they are Peace Bonds-- sort of strange, isn't it, how 'war bonds' and 'peace bonds' can be the same thing. Source

Well, did you? Source

27 March, 2011

Up in the Air, 1915

Today's photos don't actually feature people, but I feel these photographs bring one closer to the experience of being a pilot in the First World War than anything else could, and I find that experience fascinating. Half are from the National Library of Scotland's collections, while the others come from the Dutch National Archive [many thanks to the Flickr Commons for introducing us!]. I get quite a lot of feeling from these photographs, and I hope my readers will too.

A surveillance flight over the German lines. Source

And again. Source

Third in that series [I'm sure these were all the same flight]. Source

Biplane stuck in a tree, 1915. This photograph emphasizes how delicate these early planes were, almost kites! You can see the pilot getting out of the cockpit and another man climbing up to help him. Source

Take The Underground to Brightest London

I've found a wonderful new source of amazing materials-- The London Transport Museum's collection of posters from throughout the 20th century. These shall be another constant feature of this blog, without a doubt! Today a selection from the 1920s. Not that much else to say, except aren't they amazing?

More Posters and Artwork from the London Transport Museum here!

25 March, 2011

Wartime Christmases

It's not anywhere near Christmas, but I like these pictures too much to wait another nine months. It's the 25th, anyway! Here a few photographs from Christmases in World War Two, and then also Vietnam. It's great to see the happy faces and creativity in these, just brilliant.

Pictures again courtesy of the Australian War Memorial-- they really are quite great with featuring compelling photographs!

Christmas in Papua New Guinea, 1942. A group of American soldiers with a tree that looks like it's made out of palm tree leaves, and decorated with cigarette cartons and medical cotton wool. Source

Christmas in Italy, 1943-- RAAF [Australian Air Force] pilots on their way to post Christmas parcels. Source

Another Christmas in New Guinea, 1943, with a Santa Claus arriving at a field hospital with presents for the patients. Source

Christmas in Vietnam, 1967. Australian soldiers decorating a Christmas Rubber Tree. Source

Christmas in Vietnam, 1970. Young army cook sharpening knives to carve Christmas hams. Source

One more Vietnam Christmas, 1971. Soldier hanging Christmas puddings to mature. Apparently he'd spent his free time for weeks before Christmas working on them! Source

24 March, 2011

Important Reminders from the WPA

Today's post delves into the vast Library of Congress archives of WPA posters. The WPA, Work Progress Administration, was an agency established as part of the New Deal in the 1930s, for the purpose of public works projects and employment. A significant part of the work of the WPA were arts, literacy, media, and drama projects-- and a significant part of this was the creation of artistic posters of often exceptional graphic design. Some of these are quite serious, including important notices about health and wartime actions; others, however, are just very strikingly illustrated general public notices.

We'll start with some of the fun ones.






The government just doesn't remind us to unplug our irons anymore, do they?

To see more, the Library of Congress' collection of WPA posters is here; more shall be featured on this blog shortly!

23 March, 2011

Daguerreotype People

Going even farther back now, to the 1850s in fact, and the dawn of portrait photography. The 1850s seem so very long ago, don't they. On paper it seems like these people are so distant, and yet when you look into their faces... they aren't. The George Eastman House, a museum of photography, has a remarkable collection of daguerreotypes [the first type of photographic process, where metal plates are specially coated so they will react to the light from the lens]-- this shall rather be an ongoing series! 160 years ago, or so, and we can look at these people and get a sense of who they were. Incredible, isn't it?

Young woman with book. Daguerreotype, 1855. Source.

Unidentified young man. Daguerreotype, c. 1855. Source.

Portrait of man yawning-- or probably posing yawning, that is. Ambrotype, 1854.  Source.

Portrait of girl in scarf. Collodion positive on paper, c. 1855.  Source.

Portrait of man wearing weird hat. [Even the George Eastman House itself describes it as an unusual hat!] Dauguerreotype, c. 1855. Source.

Adorable little girl named Alice Mary Hawes. Source.
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