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 April, 2014

Children's Tea Parties

Kids have been enjoying miniature tea parties with their friends and dolls for a long time!

Library of Congress

Girls having a tea party with their dolls, ca. 1900. Source

State Library of Queensland

A little girl pouring tea for her doll, 1918, Queensland, Australia. Source

UA Archives - Upper Arlington Public Library 

Two girls and two boys have tea on a front lawn, 1918. Source

27 April, 2014

Through Biplane Rigging

I'm extremely fascinated by snapshot photos taken from the cockpits of WWI biplanes, as I've posted several times. I love the fact that a lot of these guys really wanted to take pictures up there, just for fun (these are all from training, when this was possible). Often you can tell from the position that it's the pilot taking the pictures, too-- not as easy with a Vest Pocket Kodak as with an iphone or even a Leica, especially when you're flying what is essentially a kite with an engine. But some of these fellows just loved doing it, and filled albums with their photos (a couple favourite examples). 

One of the things I love to see in these pictures is the unintentional aesthetic created by the limited position of the photographer. Wings and rigging are caught in shots of the landscape or other planes, crisscrossing the scene, cutting it up or sometimes framing it. I think the rigging and wing interference shots are amazing both for the way they ground us in the place of the photographer, and for simply looking cool.

All but one from two albums by different pilots at training air fields in Texas during World War One. 

San Diego Air and Space Museum

This one fellow often captions the photos in his albums--thanks to SDASM for including these! Source

San Diego Air and Space Museum

San Diego Air and Space Museum

The Grand Canyon, 1931. Source

24 April, 2014

The Great Ferris Wheel

I've always found it just crazy that they (ie,  George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. and the folks who liked his idea) decided to build the first Ferris Wheel, they didn't stop to test small-scale versions of the idea or anything. No, they tried the idea of a giant spinning wheel by building it 264 feet tall with 36 40-seat cars. It blows my find that this actually had a happy ending. 

Photographs from the Ferris wheel's start and its happily ever after. 

Library of Congress

That original, at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Source

State Library and Archives Florida

Taos, New Mexico, ca. 1945. Source

State Library of Queensland

A Ferris wheel in Brisbane, Australia, ca. 1918. Source

21 April, 2014

Postcards from America, Part Two

Continuing our postcard journey through the United States, thanks to the collections of the Boston Public Library. Nebraska to Wyoming!

Boston Public Library

Boston Public Library

This little Nevada town... is Las Vegas. Source

Boston Public Library

20 April, 2014

Exhibition: Curious Anarchy

In my day job I'm a master's student of Photographic Preservation and Collections Management at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada (though I generally change that full title to a simple "degree in Working With Photographs."). My master's class has been working on the creation of an exhibition of photographs (entitled Curious Anarchy) from the private collection of a local curator, and it's amazing. A crazy variety of really, really cool stuff. 

While the exhibition itself, of course, is in Toronto, my group and I have worked on a website containing images of all the images included, plus lots more from the collection, so it can be explored by people all over the world (like you folks!). There's also a blog, which I've (unsurprisingly) been in charge of. New posts are going to be coming out from next week all through May (the month of the exhibition), talking more about various objects from the collection. I'm writing about half myself, with the rest written by my very interesting, intelligent, and wonderful colleagues. I'm also the boss of the exhibition's Twitter and Facebook, which feature great objects from the collection on a regular basis. So really the conclusion is inescapable-- if you like The Passion of Former Days, you will like Curious Anarchy!!

Have a look, and have fun!

Laura Margaret Ramsey, 2014

Curious Anarchy

18 April, 2014

Postcards from America, Part One

I recently discovered the Boston Public Library on Flickr, and it was instant love. They have over 90,000 images in 380 sets, from photographs to posters to trade cards to produce crate labels. Though they're not on the Flickr Commons, most if not all of their images are available to share under an attribution Creative Commons license. I am very excited to explore, and if anyone on the Boston Public Library team ever happens to read this, thank you!

One of the highlights of the collection (at least in my eyes) is a collection of over 25,000 postcards from the United States in the 1930s and 1940s. These are proofs of postcards that were sold by the Boston-based Tichnor company. Every state (at the time) is represented, although some are represented much better than others. As well as a wide variety of views there are huge numbers of advertising postcards depicting roadside motels, diners, and other businesses; total old-school Americana. I plan on sharing some of these fellows in the future, but I thought I'd start a journey through the collection with a journey through the states. For this post and the next, I've picked one card from each state (with no deep thought; just ones I think are great). Hawaii and Alaska, of course, weren't states at the time; there is a single postcard of Alaska but it's just a map so I skipped it. For some reason Minnesota and Kansas are hardly represented at all; there are a few business-related cards but none of the nice view cards every other state has. So sorry, Minnesotans and folks from Kansas (Kansasians?)--no offense is intended by the cards I chose! 

These are in alphabetical order. For each state I've linked to the corrosponding state set on Flickr, so you can have a look at the rest of the ones you like-- some states have over a thousand!

Boston Public Library

Boston Public Library

Boston Public Library

15 April, 2014

Magic Splendour of Electric Blaze

A variety of terrific sterographs depicting the illuminations at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, published bey several different stereo companies. Like the buildings created for the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, the St. Louis Fair's buildings were not designed to last more than a year or two. All but one of these buildings were demolished shortly after the event ended.

By the way, if you can free-view (look at stereos the right way to get the 3-D effect without a viewer) or would like to try (it's like magic eye)-- these really are just incredible in stereo. 

Library of Congress

The Festival Hall. Source

Library of Congress

Another view of the Festival Hall. Source

Library of Congress

Palaces of Electricity and Machinery. Source

12 April, 2014

Cat Eats Corn

Another look at the fluffy side of LIFE magazine. This is one of my favourite examples of "fluff"-- photographs of a cat that apparently likes to eat corn on the cob. I'm sure that only one of these pictures was actually published, possibly on the last page which for a while was reserved for a light-hearted picture (I haven't yet found it, but still looking), but of course, an actual real-life photojournalist was dispatched to do this so as per the course he shot a range of pictures to get the best one/one that would best fit the page. So the LIFE archives, as well as containing some of the defining photographs of our era, includes a whole bunch of photos of a cat eating corn. 

1951, by Allan Grant. 

Allan Grant, LIFE © Time Inc.

Allan Grant, LIFE © Time Inc.

Allan Grant, LIFE © Time Inc.

09 April, 2014

Happy Birthday Postcards!

A batch of early twentieth century birthday postcards, for my sister's 23rd birthday!

New York Public Library

Postmarked 1910. Source

New York Public Library

"Congratulations on your birthday" just isn't something we say anymore... Unwritten. Source

New York Public Library

Postmarked 1907. Source

07 April, 2014

Wartime Tea Breaks

When I first posted on soldiers drinking tea ("Tea, the Soldier's Drink"), I noted that this theme was so common in British wartime photographs that it would need two parts. Finally, almost two years later, here is that part two!

© IWM (NA 11770)

A British and an American soldier share tea in a dugout in Anzio, Italy, 1944. Source

© IWM (MH 32677)

British and Australian officers have an end of the day cup of tea in Korea, 1950-1953. Source

© IWM (NA 14569)

Soldiers get tea from a YMCA tea car, Anzio, Italy, 1944. Source

03 April, 2014

Hand-Tinted Gardens

Hand-tinting of lantern slides tends to be garish at best, and toe-curling at worst (though also, in my opinion, almost always enjoyable!). However, there is nothing inherent about that process that dictates this result. These slides are a beautiful illustration of this fact. They come from a collection of more than 1000 held by the Library of Congress, taken by photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston from the 1890s to 1930s. The slides were projected at lectures promoting gardening. The tinting is just exquisite, bringing the best of painting to already-fine photography. 

There is apparently a book on these slides entitled Gardens for a Beautiful America, 1895-1935 by Sam Watters; I haven't seen it in person (and my graduate budget sadly precludes buying it at the moment) but it looks terrific!

Library of Congress

"Chatham," Colonel Daniel Bradford Devore house, Fredericksburg, Virginia, 1927. Source

Library of Congress

"Newmar," Senator George Almer Newhall house, 1761 Manor Drive, Hillsborough, California, 1917. Source

Library of Congress

"Armsea Hall," Charles Frederick Hoffman Jr. house, Narragansett Bay, Newport, Rhode Island, 1914.  Source

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