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

26 June, 2011

Food Will Win the War

Wartime posters don’t exactly mince words. Whether it’s implying a soldier died because you didn’t buy a war bond today, or that every time you waste food a ship sinks (consider that a preview of the future sequel to this post), government designers never hesitated to use hyperbole. And, just like you could be the one to end the war just by lending a bit of money to the government, you could also help win it just by using less bread.

American posters from the First World War (and from the collections of the Library of Congress.)

24 June, 2011

Celebrating the Armistice

On the evening of November 10, 1918, rumours started to spread that an armistice was imminent, but no one was quite ready to let themselves believe it could be over until 11 o’clock the next morning when it was signed by both parties and the First World War was (essentially) over after four miserable years for the men fighting it. Nothing much had been accomplished either way, but it was over. This set of photographs includes formal parades and informal celebrations of the end of war-- and most striking, the joy and relief of the men at the front.

Celebrating soldiers. Source

Canadian soldiers marching through the streets of Mons, Belgium, on November 11, led by pipers and accompanied by children and flags. Source

A celebratory crowd at Ludgate Circus, London (you'll recognize this photo...). Source

Post-war parade of captured German planes, London. Source

Crowds in Glen Innes, Australia, after hearing the news. Source

Massive celebration in Philadelphia, at the feet of a replica Statue of Liberty. Source

A formal parade in Washington DC. Source

Cheering crowds in Sydney, Australia. Source

Parading tanks in London. Source

Smiling soldiers cheering the end. Source

22 June, 2011

Art Promoting Art

Today it’s easy to look at the posters of the past and see how fantastic they are, how special their design and amazing their creation -- but the thing about the very best posters of the past, is that their contemporaries thought so too. WPA posters were an art form and considered as such, and indeed during the period of their creation there were regular exhibitions of them. These were advertised, naturally, by other WPA posters, as were the loads of other art exhibitions funded by the program, from photography to modern art to children’s drawings. I don’t know about you, but these posters sure convince me it’s worth going. 

21 June, 2011


Another set of postcard messages from the past ( the first set is here). These are older-- two of them, in fact are over a hundred years old-- and some of them rather cheesier, the Hallmark cards of their day. Apparently sending postcards for birthdays was something people did quite often; I didn’t select for it, but three out of five are birthday postcards. I love old things always, but what’s best to me about postcards is the glimpses they give you of a person and a relationship. I think about who they are and what they’re saying under what they’re saying, and how they know each other and what they think about each other, and what part this note played in their lives. It’s all very exciting, isn’t it?

These are from my own collection, so no sources (hooray!). I bought them at an antiques market in Oxford, England, and despite the prices noted on them I think I got all of them for about two pounds. 

I love this one because it’s lovely, and also because the son is so artful in covering up that he only got her a postcard by being sentimental about it in a way mothers can’t resist. 1908.

I can’t read the date on this one, but clearly it’s not as old as the others because of the felt pen (well, I think-- they didn’t have them in the 30s, did they?).  It interests me because I think the card is rather older than the message, and also the message reminds me of something you’d write in a quick email today. 19--?

I find it interesting she (or he; Evelyn at the time could be either) calls him Ernest when his first initial is W. Also, as in all of these, I like the lack of postal codes. 1933. 

A card wonderfully dripping with sentiminataly, and a message that rather intrigues me.  I’ve no real idea what “Just a card to say I sent on the registered by last post” means exactly, but more than that, I wonder what the subtext is. My guess is that it’s a man writing to his wife, because it’s written to an E. but addressed to an H., and signed with an H.(and a ‘love from‘ H.)-- but then he hasn’t heard from her in a long time, and what’s he doing in Scotland while she’s in Ireland during WWI? It could not be from a man at all, and/or could be between friends or family, and/or there could be no subtext… but I can’t help but hope there’s a story there. 1916.

I adore this one because it’s old. It’s hard to see the stamped date but I looked up the stamp once, and I believe it was 1906 (and it looks like that’s what it says, doesn’t it?) but that may be give or take a year or two. I’m not at all surprised it’s from one man to another, consisting of exactly six lines plus names, but it’s nice he sent a note at all.  1906 (ish).

17 June, 2011

Wartime Pets, Part Three

Many apologies to my wonderful wonderful blog followers-- I have a couple Internet complications right now but rest assured we are still in business! Loads of great stuff coming up, I promise!

Today, how about another great set of wartime pets? 

State Library of Queensland

An American lietentaunt with a koala in Australia, 1942. Source

State Library of Queensland

A pygmy flying phalanger (I don't know either!) named Ferdie, mascot for a RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) Spitfire Squadron, WW2. Source

Australian War Memorial

English ace Johnny Johnson with his dog, along with Australian and New Zealand commanders, WW2. Source

Australian War Memorial

RAAF squadron mascots, a joey and puppy, 1943. Source

Australian War Memorial

Staff Sergent Major Morgan and his dog (who is apparently also in the army), 1915. Source

Australian War Memorial

Australian soldiers with tracker dogs, Vietnam, 1967 (not quite pets, but almost). Source

Australian War Memorial

Captain and battalion mascot Tim the Turtle, 1940. Source

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