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, 2013

Banff in Former Days

Especially with the terrible flooding in Alberta, and especially because I'm originally from there, I thought it would be a good time for some beautiful pictures from the province.

Banff, in the Rocky Mountains, has been a tourist destination since the 1880s. The incredible Banff Springs Hotel has been around almost as long, going through a few renovations in the progress. I've put these in mostly chronological order, because I think it's fantastic to see how the landscapes (and the views photographed) stay the same, while the hotel and town change.

(By the way, that river going through the valley is the one that's currently on top of Calgary...)

Musée McCord Museum

The Banff Springs Hotel, about 1887. Source

Musée McCord Museum

The Bow River Valley from the Hotel, 1887. Source

Musée McCord Museum

The Bow River Falls, 1887. Source

21 June, 2013


Scrambling, in WW2, was the order for pilots to get to their planes and in the air right away, because approaching enemy aircraft had been detected. Of course, as soon as you know enemy aircraft are on their way you want to be after them really, really fast, so pilots trained to scramble really, really fast. One moment you'd be chilling at the base (in your gear, of course), the next you'd be off to risk your life in the skies.

© IWM (CL 570)

A pilot of 175 Squadron RAF scrambles to his plane, Britain,  1944. Source

William Vandivert, LIFE © Time Inc.

Pilots to scramble to their planes, Britain, 1940. Source

© IWM (D 9521)

American pilots of the RAF scramble to their planes, Britain, 1942.  Source

18 June, 2013

Amateur Tinting

We've looked at hand-tinting before, in nineteenth century Japanese albumen prints as well as portraits of the Civil War. There's a lot of exquisite portrait tinting (and some pretty awful stuff too), but colouring of monochrome prints went even more popular than that. For the sixty or so years between the invention of snapshots and the rise of colour snapshots, loads of people went out, bought paints specifically designed for colouring prints, and added their own colour. These can range from garish and tacky to really very nice, depending on the person and their skill and care (I have to admit, I live the garish tacky ones just as much as the nice ones).

Unfortunately most institutions with online collections don't have a lot of snapshots, and/or don't upload the coloured ones much. At the moment I'm working at a photographic collection with heaps of snapshots and heaps of tacky coloured ones... but they aren't available for sharing. So, while this mix is wonderful, I've expanded the definition of "snapshot". Many of these are in fact coloured lantern slides (glass precursors to film slides) from the visual teaching collections at Oregon State University (though I don't know what they would have used most of them to illustrate), but they capture the aesthetic I'm looking for. Many thanks to the wonderful people at OSU, who share my tastes! (their collection on the Flickr Commons is pretty great all around, really).

Oregon State University

ca. 1910. Source

Oregon State University

Along Crater Lake. Source

Oregon State University

Garden, ca. 1930. Source

12 June, 2013

At the Zoo

This blog already has a few zoo posts, but, well, old photos of animals are a weakness of mine. An assortment of zoos, their animals, their visitors, and their keepers. 

From the 1850s-1960s. 

National Media Museum

A sea lion and keeper, 1898. Source

Library of Congress

Feeding a hippo at the Central Park Zoo, ca. 1910. Source

Nina Leen, LIFE © Time Inc.

An elephant stretches for a visitor's food at the Bronx Zoo, 1956. Source

09 June, 2013

Birthdays by Postcard

Since we don't have a holiday for a while, let's dip into the New York Public Library holiday postcard collection with something for all seasons!

Also--this is a two-month overdue birthday post for my sister. Happy birthday!

Many of these are unwritten, or the message on the back is just another "happy birthday" or "many returns", which I haven't reproduced. If you follow the link to the NYPL site you can look at all the backs, too.

From the 1900s-1910s, with one exception. 

New York Public Library

Just signed "From Mother." Source

New York Public Library

Postmarked 1908. Source

New York Public Library

08 June, 2013

New Blog: Mille Baisers

You may remember a couple posts I've done on these romantic postcards from France in the 1920s, the first actually called Romance Postcards of the 1920s, the second The Romance of Robert and Raymonde. The cards look like this:

personal collection

personal collection

personal collection

If you liked these, great news! I've started a blog dedicated to them, Mille Baisers (the French equivalent of ending a a letter "with love" or "xoxoxo".

In this blog I'm not only going to share postcards from my rapidly expanding collection, but discuss various aspects of their characteristics and creation. This is my original research; no other photo historians have looked at these, nor has anyone else, really. So, if you're interested, do stop by! 

The Passion of Former Days, of course, will continue as is, don't worry. 

06 June, 2013

A Time of War

Photographs taken in London in the days right before and after the declaration of World War Two, late August and early September 1939. 

By William Vandivert for LIFE, although they don't seem to have been published in it. 

William Vandivert, LIFE © Time Inc.

Headlines of the days leading up to the war's outbreak. Source

William Vandivert, LIFE © Time Inc.

Soldiers filling sand bags for air raid protection. Source

William Vandivert, LIFE © Time Inc.

Putting masks on a traffic light (so they can't be seen in a blackout). Source

03 June, 2013


This isn't perhaps the most suitable post for early June, but I just came across these and they are far too wonderful to wait until it snows again. 

So it's the 1860s and you live in Quebec, and since you live in Quebec you really love to toboggan. You love it so much that you really want your picture taken while doing it. However, it's the 1860s and cameras are far too slow to capture motion, as well as very cumbersome to take outdoors, especially when it's minus three hundred degrees. What do you do?

The answer, of course, is obvious. You go to the photographer William Notman in Montreal, who provides the fake slope, fake snow, and fake sleds in his studio. All you have to do is dress up in your toboggan clothes and maybe pretend to crash now and again.

Dates range from 1866-1892, with a particular surge in 1869-70. All by William Notman or his studio. 

Musee McCord Museum

Musee McCord Museum

Musee McCord Museum

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Search This Blog