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

30 December, 2013

Skiing in Norway

Photographs of people skiing in Norway in the 1910s and 1920s, taken by Kristian Berge, the same amateur photographer whose landscape photographs were featured in this post

Fylkesarkivet i Sogn og Fjordane

Skiers ready to set out, ca. 1918-1920. Source

Fylkesarkivet i Sogn og Fjordane

Skiers taking a rest, 1924. Source

Fylkesarkivet i Sogn og Fjordane

A cross-country ski race, 1924. Source

20 December, 2013

Christmas Seals of Former Days

You probably know the Christmas seals the Lung Association puts out every year as a fundraiser-- I seem to recall a time when they mailed them to you before asking you to pay, but now apparently you have to order them. They've been putting them out since 1907, and you can see a nifty gallery of seals since 1920 on their site. However, if you have ever experienced them live, you'll know they don't come one by one, as shown in the gallery--they come in massive sheets, usually in different designs, sometimes with designs spanning several seals. Also, they weren't just made in the United States-- different countries had their own designs. 

Luckily, I have a nice little collection of these, coming from my late grandmother. It is in no way complete, but it's fun to see the vintage sheets and international seals--and lots of great graphic design! 

personal collection


personal collection

personal collection


18 December, 2013

Stereographs of Christmas

Stereographs were the mass entertainment of their day, so it is little surprise that, like mass entertainment today, they hopped on the Christmas bandwagon this time of year (though their Santa was a bit thinner than ours!).

New York Public Library

H. Spears Christmas tree with toys, 1873. Source

New York Public Library

Toys set up in a Christmas-decorated room. Source

Library of Congress

"Something for all, I have something for all." c. 1897. Source

11 December, 2013

The First Batch of Christmas Postcards

It's been about a year now since the start of my addiction to the holiday postcard collection of the New York Public Library. It began with a heap of Christmas postcards, followed by postcards for most major holidays this year. Now we're back to Christmas--fortunately the Christmas category has over 700 postcards! Here's a sampling to start the season. 

New York Public Library

Written on verso: "Dear Cousin / Isn't this an appropriate message for the times-- [illegible] for you from Lizzie / I am trusting that two little girls won't scrap in taking their pick." Source

New York Public Library

No date on postmark. Source

New York Public Library

Written on verso: "Dear Laura, the hat pin and cushion are for you  the brush and comb handkerchief and hair ribbon for Anna. Please give Abram the tie and Charlie the suspenders. Wish you all a Happy Xmas. Your loving sister Lotty. Source

07 December, 2013

Snowmen of Former Days

Whatever time period they live in, people are pretty predictable. Whenever it snows, the first thing they do is have a snowball fight. The second thing is make a snowman. 

Today, over a century of those snowmen! 

State Library and Archives Florida

Students at Florida State University, Tallahassee, pose around their snowman, 1958. Source

Library of Congress

Snowman stereo, ca. 1888. Source

National Library of Wales

A snowman in 1853 (salt paper print). Source

04 December, 2013

"Outside" in the "Snow"

Having your photograph taken in a nineteenth century studio didn't necessarily mean you had to look like you were standing in a studio (at least, with a bit of imagination). Usually this was accomplished by backdrops, sometimes with the addition of props. Sometimes a bit of dress-up, too. 

For a while Montreal photographer William Notman (whose photographs of people "tobogganing" we've already seen) went one further. Notman was well-known for his composite photographs, where the figures from hundreds of individual photographs were carefully cut out and pasted onto a painted backdrop to create a group picture, which was then re-photographed to create the final product. However, the composite model wasn't restricted to group. A figure or two from a studio portrait could also be cut out, and pasted onto the backdrop the sitter desired. 

In very snowy Montreal, apparently a very snowy backdrop was popular. Sitters dressed up in their winter clothes, sometimes even with skates, snowshoes, or curling stones. Fake snow for clothing was also an option. 

Musee McCord Museum

Messrs Crake, 1876. Source

Musee McCord Museum

Mrs. Davidson, 1876. Source

Musee McCord Museum

J. Wilson, 1876. Source

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