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 December, 2012

New Year's Postcards

Another holiday, another set of holiday postcards! These New Year's ones are especially great-- lots of embossing and metallic gold paint, really lovely (the rest of the set is here). As before I've given some of the writing on the back-- many just say "Happy New Years" and I haven't transcribed those, but I've done most of the ones with longer messages. I've also included the dates they were postal-stamped, when legible-- it's amusing how many were sent a bit late. 

From the New York Public Library. 

New York Public Library

"Friend Messick, We acknowledge your kind greetings and heartily reciprocate. All at well at home and we trust same with you and yours. When are you coming to Washington to visit us. There is always welcome. Sincerely J [or F] Harrison." Mailed 1909. Source

New York Public Library

"Going home tonight for good. Wishing you all a Happy New Year". Written December 1914 but posted Jan. 1915 Source

New York Public Library

Posted 1908. Source

29 December, 2012

Mirror Images

Quite simply, photographs of people looking in mirrors.

Sam Hood, State Library of New South Wales

Film star Helen Twelvetrees with a mirror, Sydney, 1936. Source

Nina Leen, LIFE © Time Inc.

A mother applies make-up while her daughter watches, Oklahoma, 1947. Source

William Gottlieb; Library of Congress

Cab Calloway combs his hair, NYC, c. 1947. Source

25 December, 2012

Merry Christmas!

A selection of (not-previously-featured) Christmas photos! Wishing everyone a lovely day!

State Library and Archives Florida

Santa Claus in Florida, 1965. Source

The National Library of Wales

Boys with Christmas lanterns, Knighton, Wales, 1952. Source

Nationaal Archief

Kids regarding a Christmas tree, the Netherlands, no date. Source

24 December, 2012

Australian Christmas Postcards

We've had a look at some swell early twentieth century Christmas postcards already this month, including a few with images that seemed to have little do with Christmas. Well, the Australians of the 1890s-1910s took it one step farther and simply stamped Christmas wishes onto any random photograph to make holiday postcards (at least, it was pretty common; I don't have a representative sample, but there's certainly it was popular!). I suppose it makes some sense-- send a picture of the place you live along with your greetings, especially to someone living far away--but certainly it's a bit random, and delightful. 

And Merry Christmas to the Aussies, who get it before most of us, after all!

Selected from a larger Christmas card set by the State Library of Queensland (except two, from the Powerhouse Museum). Many thanks to Tania Schafer, curator of that set!

State Library of Queensland

Sutton's Beach, Redcliffe, c. 1908. Source

State Library of Queensland

Merry Christmas from Queensland, c. 1900. Source

State Library of Queensland

The post office at St. George, c. 1905. Source

22 December, 2012

The Start of Snapshots

In 1888 the first Kodak camera came out, allowing anyone (who could afford the initially high price) to take their own photographs, regardless of skill. The camera came pre-loaded with film, and after exposure you sent it to Eastman Kodak in Rochester. They sent you the camera back, re-loaded, along with your prints. All you had to do was press the button. The world of photography would never be the same.

Snapshots from the Kodak Number One and Number Two, 1888-1890. Those from the Library of Congress (taken in Washington DC) are all by Uriah Hunt Painter, an avid snapshooter. The original photographs aren't black and white, they're the same dark purple-brown and cream as the ones from the National Media Museum (gold-toned gelatin printing-out paper); they were photographed in black and white for reproduction.

Library of Congress

A man and boy in front of the treasury, Washington DC. Source

National Media Museum

Children wading in the sea. Source

Library of Congress

A little girl in riding clothes, Washington DC. Source

19 December, 2012

Nineteenth Century Views of India

By the 1850s, travel photographs were in. However, easy to operate hand cameras were still a couple decades in the future, as were photo postcards. Instead, photographers offered a variety of scenic views of popular places, to be purchased, taken home, and often put into albums. The new albumen paper, inexpensive and detailed, encouraged the business. Many of the tourist view photographers were highly skilled and produced beautiful pictures. One of the more famous is Samuel Bourne, a British photographer in India in the 1860s. Today, a series of his photographs.

From the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego. 

Museum of Photographic Arts

The Burning Ghat, Benares, 1865. Source

Museum of Photographic Arts

Mausoleum, Agra, 1865. Source

Museum of Photographic Arts

Nynee Tal, 1867. Source

06 December, 2012

Christmas Postcards

Going through my posts yesterday has got me feeling Christmas-y! Let's have our first new Christmas post of the year. 

In the early twentieth century, people were just crazy about sending postcards, especially for holidays and especially for Christmas. The New York Public Library has about seven hundred (here, if you want more after this post). The ones I've chosen stood out to me either because they're especially nice, especially ugly, and/or especially strange.... though I'll leave it to the viewer to decide which is which!

The NYPL terrifically reproduces the backs as well as the fronts; many are fairly simple, just the sender and reciever or a variant of "Merry Christmas", but a few are more interesting and I've reproduced them. Most, however, are written, so do follow the source links if you're interested!

New York Public Library

New York Public Library

Postmarked 1907. Source

New York Public Library

"It has quit raining. Have you read anything about what is liable to happen on Dec. 17 this year when the six greatest planets begin drawing on the sun. Some of the more radicals deem it will cause the end of the world, maybe." (seriously-- read it!)
Postmarked 1918. Source

05 December, 2012

Posts Of The Christmas Season

Last year, for most of December I had Christmas-themed posts; rather than repeat myself, as we come once again to the holiday season I've brought them all together here. A couple more shall be upcoming, as well as heaps of stuff I haven't been able to share yet, but for now, some Christmassy pics to unwrap!

27 November, 2012

The Civil War, Tinted

I haven't had a people of the civil war post in a long time, which is a shame as the photographs are striking to look at and started me into this blog in the first place. Fortunately I got sucked into the Library of Congress's collection for a few hours today (when I should have been studying for a photo history exam, ironically), so I have rather a lot of material now to draw from! Expect more of this in the coming months. 

Today's theme: hand-tinting. People were crazy about photography right away, but sad it didn't yet come in colour. So a market sprung up for the tinting of photographs with paints, aided by the fact that photography put many former painters of miniatures out of work. They tinted daguerreotypes (like this one), and when they moved on to tintypes, ambrotypes, and glass negative-paper photography, they tinted those even more. You almost always see some degree of tinting in ambrotypes and higher-end tintypes, especially the cheeks. Jewellery and buttons are also often painted with gold. (just glance through this post of civil war portraits!). However, it didn't always stop there. Parts of clothing, all the clothing, parts of the backdrop, tablecloths... all were potentially coloured. Sometimes this is a nice effect. Sometime it's.... not. (Though, granted, sometimes the different rates of deterioration in the imaging substance and the paints means the colour looks more drastic today than it did originally. Sometimes, though, it was just flat out badly done).

Portraits were done very widely in the civil war, as ambrotypes and tintypes, and there was a similar wide variety of tinting going on.

From the Library of Congress.

Library of Congress

A Confederate captain. Ambrotype. Source

Library of Congress

Union soldier with bayoneted musket. Ambrotype. Source

Library of Congress

Unidentified Confederate soldier. Ambrotype. Source

25 November, 2012

The Photographer Photographed

People's pictures of people taking pictures

 Gjon Mili, LIFE © Time Inc.

Composer Darius Milhaud taking a photo of photographer Gjon Mili, San Francisco, 1957. Source

Library of Congress. 

A little girl photographing her doll, c.1917. Source

State Library and Archives of Florida

Photographers taking pictures of a model, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, 1946. Source

16 November, 2012

More Life in Early Colour

I am off to George Eastman House today to look at early colour photographs, so it seemed like a good time to have another set of them here. These are autochromes, the first commercially viable means of photographing colour. Soon I hope to go back and add more information about processes and photographers to these posts, but for now, an autochrome is a colour positive on a glass slide, commerically produced from 1907-1932. And they're lovely. 

If you missed the earlier autochrome posts: The Art of Early Colour, Life in Early Colour, and World War One in Colour Part One and Two

Mostly from the George Eastman House, though a few from the Bibliotheque de Toulouse, and one each from the Swedish National Heritage Board, and the State Library of New South Wales. See source links for specifics. 

State Library of New South Wales

Sisters, c. 1909, Killara, Australia. Source

George Eastman House

A nurse and child, c. 1907-1932, by Charles C. Zoller. Source

George Eastman House

Nurses and "Uncle Sam" at a WWI support parade, US, c. 1917, by Charles C. Zoller. Source

11 November, 2012

Remembrance Day

Another in the series of portraits of soldiers of the First World War, for the 94th anniversary of Armistice Day. The Imperial War Museum is now doing their own "Faces of the First World War", posting one a day (here); these are all drawn from that collection. For an image focus I've kept captions minimal, but many contributors have added loads of information in the IWM posts, so do follow the links.

Imperial War Museum

Lieutenant William Hamo Vernon, from Kent, killed October 7, 1916, aged 21.  Source

Imperial War Museum

Captain W. M. L. Escombe, from Kent. Source

Imperial War Museum

Private Frank Joseph Butterworth of Queensland, Australia, killed August 4, 1916, aged 22. Source

06 November, 2012

Election Day

As you may have heard (even if you're outside of the United States), it's Election Day. As a break from voting, and/or checking the results, and/or trying to avoid election coverage, some elections of former days!

From various collections; see source links. 

Paul Schutzer, LIFE

Senator Robert F. Kennedy after voting (for his brother, the caption notes, though isn't that supposed to be confidential...?) 1960. Source

Woodrow Wilson Presidential  Library Archives

President Woodrow Wilson voting, 1916. Source

Nationaal Archief

Dutch women voting for the first time, Amsterdam, 1921. Source

03 November, 2012

California by Stereograph

A stereograph, for those who don't know, is two images (usually photographs, but not always) taken and printed a certain distance apart so that, when viewed though a proper viewer, they combine to create one, 3-D-looking image (a demonstration here). These were insanely popular throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, with hundreds of thousands of views created. 

These particular stereos are by Carleton Watkins, who travelled west with railroad companies to create a visual record and share images of the still-new (to white Americans) country. These images c. 1879. 

By the way, if you don't have a stereo viewer on you, it is possible to get the effect without one, by unfocusing and refocusing your eyes in the same way as a Magic Eye. Though I'm  not to blame for any headaches created in this attempt!

From the Library of Congress. 

Library of Congress

El Capitan mirror view, Yosemite. Source

Library of Congress

The Yosemite Falls. Source

Library of Congress

Cathedral spires, Yosemite. Source

29 October, 2012

The Zoo, 1900

A warning-- for a post featuring a lot of cute and beautiful animals, this is very depressing. Zoos in 1900 didn't quite have the animal standard of living we're used to...

The Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, from glass plate negatives. 

From the collection of the Field Museum Library, Chicago. 

The Field Museum Library

The Field Museum Library

The Field Museum Library

10 October, 2012

A Proper Send-off

When a ship sets sail, it's important to say goodbye properly. And how do you do that? With streamers, of course!

George Jackman, State Library of Queensland

The Stratheden, Hamilton, Australia, 1930s-50s. Source

Sam Hood, Australian National Maritime Museum

The S. S. Ceramic, Sydney, c. 1925. Source

Sam Hood, Australian National Maritime Museum

The S. S. Ceramic, Sydney, c. 1925. Source

08 October, 2012

St. Andrews in the 1840s

Photographs of St. Andrews, Scotland, a town that is dear to my heart. Not only that, but photographs from the 1840s, essentially the first decade of photography. You may remember Hill and Adamson for their portraits of the 1840s; if not, have a look, they are amazing. 

Notes on the images: Hill and Adamson were using Talbot's calotype process, creating paper negatives (calotypes) and making prints from them (salt paper prints). Some of the images in this postare original salted paper prints; these have experienced noticeably more deterioration  with colour shift and fading and losing detail and other fun stuff that happens when photos deteriorate. The others come from images of the negatives themselves, digitally transferred into positive images by the University of Glasgow Library (let us pause and thank them). Paper negatives are more stable than salt prints, and much of the original detail and contrast is preserved. Originally, the salted paper prints would have looked more like the digitally altered images. So, I thought I'd use both.

There are many more things to say, but enough with the text, let's look at the pictures!

From the special collections of the University of Glasgow. 

University of Glasgow

St. Andrews Cathedral and St. Rule's Tower. From negative. Source

University of Glasgow

The cathedral and tower, original salted paper print. Source

University of Glasgow

South Street, from negative. Source

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