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 July, 2014

Adorable Kittens of 1902

Nothing meaningful or insightful, just some very, very cute kittens from 1902. 

These photographs come from the Canadian Copyright Collection of the British Library (which the BL put on the Wikimedia Commons). From 1895 to 1924, to register copyright in Canada you had to send one copy of the relevant work to Canada, and one to the British Library. So whoever took this pictures copyrighted them--why isn't known, although I suspect it was for use on postcards, as lots of similar kitten photo postcards can be found. No other information is known (including why they are called "The Globe Kittens"), although pretty much every site mentioning the Canadian Copyright Collection on the Wikimedia Commons has shared at least one image of the set (I haven't found any posts with all, though! and all are just so darn cute). 

British Library

British Library

British Library

18 July, 2014

Everywhere a Sign

Photographic evidence of the long history of being told to do this and don't do that....

George Eastman House

Take a Kodak with you! Autochrome, ca. 1917. Source

State Library of New South Wales

Keep your feet off the walls. Australia, 1947. Source

National Library of Scotland

Two WWI soldiers at a village sign, coming with the quietly devastating caption, "Owing to modern artillery, captured villages have to be marked with a sign board." Source

15 July, 2014

(Terrible) Cigarette Card Puns

Another jaunt into the cigarette card collections of the New York Public Library. We've seen animal-illustrated phrases and flapper butterflies; today we've got some wonderfully awful visual puns. They don't come with a date, but appear to be about 1890-1910 by the clothing, and British. These are selected from a set of 50. With language change a couple have lost their double meanings, such as"decorated flat"--flat, of course, still means apartment many places, but the term 'flat' to refer to a dull person has gone out (many thanks to the reader who noted that meaning!) Others are very British (googling "5 years with the colors" in its American spelling, gets you only the record of that card!), Most of them,  however,  will still get groans a century on. 

New York Public Library

New York Public Library

New York Public Library

10 July, 2014

1950s Banff, in Colour

About this time last year I posted photographs of Banff, in the Canadian Rockies, from the late 19th to early 20th centuries. Now, Banff is one of my favourite places in the whole world, so here's another lot-- this time from the 1950s, and in full colour!

Note: I previously identified these photographs as shot on Kodachrome (albeit Kodachrome in unusually bad condition) but it's since been pointed out to me they can't be--not just the fading and bits of colour shift, very rare in Kodachrome, but even the square format in this time period. They're in fact non-Kodachrome film in unusually good condition. Thanks to those who pointed that out!

National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque / Library and Archives Canad

A man photographs two women in a canoe on the Bow River, 1952. Source

National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque / Library and Archives Canada

Women clambering over rocks at Lake Minnewanka [mis-identified in the LAC caption as "Morraine Lake"--thanks to a commenter for pointing this out!], 1951. Source

National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque / Library and Archives Canada

Art students painting hoodoos, 1957. Source

08 July, 2014

Going for a Swim

Folks going for a swim!

Canada. Dept. of Interior / Library and Archives Canada

The swimming pool at Chateau Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada, 1930s. Source

George Eastman House

An autochrome of people swimming in Silver Lake, 1907-1932. Source

University of Washington Libraries

Tourists swimming at Sunrise Lake, Washington, despite the presence of snow, ca. 1927. Source

05 July, 2014

A 1920s Party of the 1950s

1920s parties seem to be especially popular lately, which, of course, as a wannabee flapper I couldn't be happier about. The look and popular culture of the era hold a strong appeal-- distant enough to romanticize but close enough to relate to. The idea of Prohibition is easily turned into pretend naughty fun. And who doesn't love sparkly dresses, stripey jackets, boater hats, and pearls? 

In fact, the 1920s party potential was already being seen by the 1950s. In these photos from 1954, partygoers have gone all out in their costumes (which, considering the decade only ended 24 years ago, are more than likely actually from it). Drinks are being sipped from teacups (though eventually many of the people give up and turn to cans of beer), a bathtub is used as a decoration/liquor holder, the ladies roll down their stockings and the men wear spats. I find it especially interesting to see considering that most of the people there were probably born in the 1920s, or slightly earlier.... it's the equivalent of a 1980s or even 90s party today!

Wallace Kirkland, LIFE © Time Inc.

Wallace Kirkland, LIFE © Time Inc.

Wallace Kirkland, LIFE © Time Inc.

02 July, 2014

Motels in Technicolour

The other month I discovered the Boston Public Library's amazing collection of over 25,000 linen postcards of the United States from the 1930s and 40s. Of course I dove right in, sharing a postcard each from the 48 states represented. Though the majority of those were scenic view cards, the view cards are only a portion of the postcards in the collection. A very large number are postcards that double as advertisements, for businesses, restaurants, and motels. Especially motels. The motel cards go on and on.

I think these kinds of superficially boring cards (or photos) can be amazing. They all look the same, and they all look different. Their sheer quantity and repetitiveness bear testament to their roles as objects of popular culture. These cards especially are so earnest, their bright colours cheerful and optimistic. This was the age of motels, the period when highways were flourishing and Americans were just discovering the fun of the road trip. The postcards promote the appeal of this new pastime with a touching sincerity.

Boston Public Library

Coquille, Oregon. Source

Boston Public Library

Seneca Falls, New York. Source

Boston Public Library

Newman, Illinois. Source

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