Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today’s photo comes from the Midwest (it found its way to me via @missmollystlantiques who discovered her) and hails from the earlier decades of the 20th Century. I tried to date this photo by the Felix toy which is a Yes/NoFelix but couldn’t find anything definite. (However, I am pleased to say I have one of these little fellows and I have written about the acquisition of him for a birthday gift back in 2017 and that post can be found here.) I am going to put this photo at the late 1930’s, but I am open to the opinions and interpretations of you all as well.
The other toy is maddeningly hard to see. I think it is a monkey, a step up from a rag doll, but with very long arms and sporting a little uniform of sorts.
The age of the girl in the photo eludes me as well – dressed a bit childishly, how old or young is she? Of course I myself often pose with my beloved toys so I cast no aspersions if she is a bit older. Her gingham sunsuit and pigtails trimmed with ribbons seem young on her, but that could also just be by today’s fashion. One sandeled foot sporting a striped sock is barely visible. Although it could just be a wall of a building it feels like a rooftop to me, something about it says roof to me. A hot summer day at midday.
There is nothing written on the photo and the back is clean – it was not ripped from an album. I like the border of dots around the edge. That sort of border and the later scalloped edges were nice touches. A photo feels more like a finished product even without a frame with those added bits.
Her toy-pride has earned the photo a place in my collection. The impulse to pose with your toys is almost as strong as scooping up your kitty for a pic.
As an aside, for those Pictorama followers who know I recently broke two fingers, I am pleased to report that I was set free from my (somewhat hateful, hard plastic) splint yesterday by the good Dr. Mir, who also said I don’t need to see him for a month. (The post about my mishap on Memorial Day can be read here.) I am not allowed to run for three more weeks, but I suspect I will start gentle workouts on the other parts of my body this week, under the careful eye of the every vigilant Harris Cowan, my trainer. Physical therapy continues – three times a day at home and twice weekly at the facility on 87th Street.
I am actually typing this post, albeit slowly, with both hands. The word Felix is a tough reach for my ring finger, but I am pleased in general to see the wounded fingers respond to being put through their paces!
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: As some Pictorama followers know, I have long favored Instagram as my favored social media poison pick. Kim is devoted to tending the curation of his Facebook page, but I prefer to pleasantly lose myself scrolling through my iteration of the universe which skews heavily into vintage jewelry and clothing, antiques, cat doings (go @sadieanddottie!), the antics of some real world friends, and of course early photos.
The viewing world in return gets a version of me (@Deitchstudio) which includes these blog posts and related photos, the comings and goings of Cookie and Blackie lovingly chronicled, story vignettes of my morning runs along the East River (walks for since my great fall, see my post Busted, here, for that tale of woe), and in the before times my occasional travels with the Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra as the fund raiser for that organization. I try to avoid any whiff of politics and try to keep the chaos of our tiny abode visually within bounds admittedly. Photos of Kim only with his knowledge and permission. Selfies rarely, usually just with friends.
When I look back on this time I think I will mostly vividly remember scrolling through IG and watching home renovation tv.
You all over here at Pictorama get more insight into the inner life of Deitch Studio, but the folks over on Instagram get a daily visual account of me and mine. Obviously there is crossover and I know many of you follow me there and a few of the folks who I “know” only from IG wander over to Pictorama on occasion. (There are some triple crown folks who are FB friends too!) It is a happy day when these parallel Pictorama worlds collide and today (and likely tomorrow) will highlight some finds attributable to those folks.
Today’s splendid photo find (you were wondering if I would ever get to it I am sure) was purchased on eBay. The listing made no mention of the presence of Felix in their midst (nor cat costume photo) so I wouldn’t have found it without the tip from @the_antique_lens. I only know them by that moniker, no name on the account or bio information. Unlike many of the folks I interact with the_antique_lens is a collector, like me, not a merchant.
Their exquisitely presented account reveals what seems to me to be a remarkably similar visual taste in early photos to my own (Felix notwithstanding) to my own, although less specifically focused than my heavily cat/toy related collection. It is with thanks to them that this little beauty found its way to the Pictorama collection. A thank you to their eagle eye and generosity in the tip.
The photo is oddly mounted on pieces of paper that have resisted the glue applied resulting in ripples. It does not appear to be from a photo album – I think maybe framed at one time, but there are push pin holes in the top corners and one side so it spent some time displayed that way. There is a bit of black tape across the bottom mystifies me which Kim has edited out in this scan. Nothing is written or indicated on the back.
It is an interesting photograph. At first glance you might think was taken for Halloween, but the Christmas tree makes me think not. Perhaps a school play? Felix is especially curious in this case (hard to think of what that story line might be, but he is front and center), however given that several children wear similar costumes school play gets my vote. The costumes have a consistent quality too, all of the same quality. I am sure I cannot imagine a story that might incorporate the kid dressed as a gift box, an Indian, the little girl with a burlap bag over her head and the imaginatively rendered bear in the lower right. I am especially enamored of the teacher’s fairy costume, and as Felix the Cat costumes go, that is one I want!
The photographer had a good eye for framing this, especially if he or she arranged everyone. However I also feel that the photo maintains the aura of the stage presence of the kids – they do not mug, or even mostly smile much. There is a look of shared purpose and focus to them and they gaze directly at us. I am especially fond of the rifle bearing soldier and bear on all fours holding down the composition on the right, while the white fairy costume draws you back to the left.
A careful examination of the writing on the blackboard (a credit to that instructor’s neat hand which I am attempting to read more or less a hundred years later) appears to list three clubs. Furthest to the left (and easiest to decipher) states, The Right Club, Lois Dickason, President, and a list of names. The center reads, Our Writing Clubs, Gold Highest Honors, Blue Standard, Red Below Standard. (Underlined twice!) I can barely make out what it says on the board behind the teacher, but it appears to be, Gold Star Club,Ellen Montgomery, President, and a list of names too faint to decipher.
The Right Club and the Gold Star Club names listed have one or two stars after each name. (I would like to point out with girl Presidents of each, clearly the girls here were doing an excellent job representing for the fair sex.) The scrawny Christmas tree with its star is a poignant seasonal touch.
This is one of those photos that allows you to time travel and I think wall worthy – a tribute here in the cramped environs of Deitch Studio. Hope you enjoyed the trip.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today I get to combine my love of early photos with family. While I was visiting mom in New Jersey last week, my cousin Patti took out a huge basket of photos we went through together. Some folks remained unidentified, but a core group appeared throughout. (I wrote about this side of my family back in a post around a photo of a very early family wedding celebration. It can be found here.)
These are entirely my mother’s side of the family, the Italian immigrants who settled on the Jersey shore and ran a series of restaurants and food stands in what was a popular beach community. I apologize for the reproduction quality – I was just taking pictures of these photos on my phone.
As far as I can tell the genesis of these food enterprises was my great, great grandfather – last name Cittadino, first name not known to me. He is shown below in two photos, with car and bike.
I especially like the one of him with a bike. Regretfully no one knew who the two hotsy totsy looking, well dressed young women were. They showed up in some other photos. None of these photos were marked and had largely at one point been in an album, but we realized what everyone does when looking at family photos which is there are a lot of people who were friends or folks they worked with who were like family, but sadly no one remembers now.
The Deli, shown below, seems to have been the first restaurant incarnation of the family. I only recently learned of this earlier version of the family food establishments. As per an email from my mom below, I gather it was a place to eat as well as the take out sale of food. Sorry to say, these two fellows in the photo remain unidentified.
My grandfather had a deli and related food sale place in Long Branch on the Main Street Broadway. Every morning he walked to the bank for day cash on the way passed the owner of the bar getting to the bank. They struck up a conversation the fellow told him he was tired and wanted out. My grandfather then struck a deal walked on to the bank and got the loan went back and gave him the cash and that was it. He walked back to the deli told my grandmother and the customers eating there at the time and agreed all would help move down the street and that is how he moved down to the building with friends and customers helping shortly after when they did.
Norwood was the name of a street in Long Branch, in fact the street where my grandmother and the extended family had a home. (I wrote about that house in a post that can be found here). As per my mother’s email, the deli and the bar that followed, were actually on Broadway, the long main drag of what was once the thriving downtown which I believe ends at the ocean where the Boardwalk once thrived. The family home was within walking distance of the Deli and Bar, I think probably 15 or twenty minute walk, of it.
The family also seems to have two food concessions on the Long Branch Boardwalk as well, one I had always heard about, owned by my Aunt Ro. However, another turned up in these photos and I am not sure who owned this stand, but the general consensus was that this was not Ro’s but another. Not sure who is pictured here either, although he resembles my great uncle Frankie, but is too long ago to be him. Perhaps the Al mentioned on the awning boasting a Quick Lunch.
The family’s bar is what is remembered best by my mom, run by her grandparents, her mom and aunts. Mom would go to their apartment above the bar after school as a small child. Although much of the family worked there – not Mom’s father, Frank, who was an engineer for Bendix. While it is always referred to by family as The Bar, it served a lot of food as well. In addition to the daily fare special Sunday dinners were offered to steady customers, all prepared by the women of the extended family. Mom remembers them cooking non-stop between the restaurant and family.
The photo below is the aforementioned Frankie, father of my cousin Patti who stays with my mom these days and found these photos cleaning out her house. I believe this shot was at the bar although I would have voted for it being one of the beach concessions. (I wrote about my sectioned blue Willoware plates which were the Blue Plate Special plates at the bar and are our everyday dishes. You can find that post here.) My mom and uncle were too young to work there, although my mother used her restaurant background to waitress her way through college later in life.
The establishment remains today, at 591 Broadway in Long Branch – currently Johnny Piancone’s, ironically also an Italian bar restaurant. I have never been – although once my father and I had pizza in the place next door which I gathered from him had been there as long as he has known my mother.
My uncle ate at the restaurant several years back and they allowed him to visit the apartment upstairs which he also remembered vividly from afternoons there as a child. I have shown the bar today below which I found on the FB page. The bar pictured may be the originally one, although I believe my uncle said it had been cut down. The restaurant appears to have survived the pandemic with outdoor dining in a backyard and I would think doing take out. It’s nice to know that it is still there, still going in its own way.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It is an intensely foggy morning here in Manhattan and we can see nothing but a sheet of white out our 16th story window. It is a bit doom and gloom so I have dug into my photo archive for a jolly one and have come up with this calmly happy one of this full-on flapper and her canine friend on a porch swing.
It is printed on photo paper, not a photo postcard, and bears signs of black photo album paper on the back. It is a very good shot with those interesting shadows I couldn’t have resisted either and the porch railing, the swing she is on, and trees behind create a nice frame of geometric shapes. However, the printing is a bit disappointing, not enough contrast and the blacks sink together although a careful look indicates that there was information there. They have cheated a bit and there is a white line added behind the dog’s hind quarters which I can see on the original, but you probably cannot in reproduction of the photo above. Nonetheless, despite any flaws, she takes us right to a time and place and holds us there for a moment.
I don’t know why, but it is her shoes that interest me in particular. As a collector of vintage clothing and photographs, you rarely get to really see shoes and while these aren’t notable, I just find myself looking at them and thinking, well, hmmm that’s what women’s shoes really looked like.
Recently a seller on Instagram has had a few pairs of women’s shoes from this period (@witchyvintge or witchyvintage.com) and they are surprisingly modern. There was a pair with kitten heels – or perhaps really more French heels – from this period that I commented I could slip on today and happily wear – if of course I ever wore anything but sneakers and slippers these days. (As an aside, @witchyvintage posts and sells some of the most remarkable vintage clothing I have ever seen in my years of collecting it. There are everyday pieces from the 1800’s, everything from long calico work dresses to corsets and dress clothes, the likes I have never seen outside a museum exhibit. It is fascinating to see them and know there are collectors out there who are sourcing and purchasing such early pieces actively.)
Her hair is styled in the signature Louis Brooks bob of the day and it does a fair imitation. I wonder if it went up in the back the way Louis’s did. Her embroidered dress is perfectly of the time and so is the long strand of beads which was a length popular in the teens through the thirties, but not beyond.
This doggy is a large fellow to be even a partial lap dog, but canine affection knows no bounds. Dogs species are not well developed asset in my toolbox, but this seems to be an Airdale. I have never known one personally, but he seems very likable and clearly devoted to her. I remember when I was a kid our German Shepard couldn’t understand that she was no longer a puppy and would try to climb into bed with my parents, up between the headboard and their pillows. This of course was more possible for a pup than a seventy pound dog and caused some chaos – among the kids and cats that were also likely climbing on my folks at the time.
It’s hard to see the stages on the leaves on the trees, but I am going to gamble and call this an early spring photo, with the trees just starting to bud, about the same as where we are now in the process, maybe a week or two behind. Just warm enough to sit on the porch a bit in the sun without a coat and cuddled up with your dog.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I purchased these two photos on Instagram in a wave of ones from the same period and probably place. While I suspect I purchased them at the same time and from the same vendor, I do not remember for sure. Both are snapshots printed on thin, early paper and bear the black paper stuck to the back that is evidence that they came from a photo album. They were sold to me by someone in the Midwest and I think that is the area they depict as well.
I can only say there was a time last summer when images, mostly of women, from the turn of the century were attracting my attention and I purchased a pile. They are mostly in outdoor settings of the beach (see the one above), garden or yard and notably they show a persistent passion for being presented in a line – not just these photos, but many I didn’t or wasn’t able to purchase of women sitting on the ground in a line, or even finding ways to do a vertical with a ladder. (Some of my posts of these photos can be found here and here.)
In the smaller grouping, which is also the smaller photo, the women pose in what appears to be the lush side-yard garden. They peer at us above and through these leafy vines on this bright sunny day. You can almost feel the heat of the midday sun looking at the short shadows. I might hazard a guess that it is mother and four daughters. It is hard to see, but I think the daughters are in white cotton dresses; mom appears to be wearing a dark skirt. Their hair is piled up on their heads, although one has it wound in tight braids. The shadow of a ladder is in evidence in the doorway.
The larger photo is the one I favor a bit. There is something just wonderful about this group of young women in white, lined up behind this somewhat ramshackle fencing, covered in overgrowth – is it hay in front of and behind them? Hard to say how they managed to get back there without getting stuck by the barbed wire of the fence, but the photographer had a good eye and got them between the posts. Their long, white dresses are partially visible behind a layer of the plants. The white, cloudless sky is a tribute to the inability of early film to capture clouds at the time, however curiously it works to the favor of the picture. (The soiling and bend of the early paper creates an illusion of sky that is not really of the image.) The photo is very much of a specific time and place, but also has a timeless quality.
If you look carefully, they are all smiling and laughing. At first I thought it was a group of young, female friends but one or two women look older – second and third from the left. I wonder if it is a coincidence that my reading this year, young plucky girl stories such as Ruth Fielding and the Camp Fire Girls, (some of those posts here and here) take place in the same period during the halcyon days of the early and mid-teens of the last century.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This morning I dug into pile of photos next to my desk and came across this one which I have absolutely no memory of purchasing – none whatsoever. It does happen, although rarely and more frequently with unframed snapshots where I might purchase a lot of several. It must have come from an IG sale as I can’t imagine how I would have stumbled across it on eBay. The photo is framed with the back sealed so no idea if there is information on the back. Strangely, there is no way to hang it on the back, nor a way to prop it up.
Clearly the antique toy car appealed to me and these two kids seem to agree as they look mighty pleased with themselves. Really, what kid, boy or girl, wouldn’t feel like they were at the top of the world with such an item? This car is a bit battle scarred, but that does not diminish how wonderful it must have been to be driving it. These kids are clearly sister and brother; they could even be fraternal twins.
Without seeing much of the yard I suspect that they had plenty of room to take her around in as well. (I saw a kid with an impressive motorized car in a high rise driveway on 86th Street recently and thought that it must be frustrating to have such limited opportunity to drive such a great item. Also, it really is the ability to be independent and to get away from adults – right?)
The paint on this car is faded and streaked, but the steering wheel sits up proudly and there is some sort of a windshield as well. We can only see the back of them but there are headlights on the front, a grill along the side (as sporty cars would have had at the time), these nice wheels and we can see the pedal mechanism underneath. The boy is sitting on the back and looking carefully it appears that there was some sort of area without a seat which might have enabled hauling small loads or perhaps a second rider.
These kids are in what appears to be a backyard, wooden frame house and a bushy bit of garden are behind them. Further back a wooden fence and more bushy grasses behind some cinderblock edging or in planters, hard to tell, but the yard looks like a good one to ride such a car in.
Locomotion is a prized thing for a kid. I was the proud owner of a pink and white two-wheeler with a chipper basket, but was somewhat hampered by living near busy streets my folks didn’t want me on. Our neighbors have a little boy, Eliot, who currently sports a scooter with wheels that light up as it goes. He and his dad were taking it for a spin in the hall on their way to the laundry room the other day and Kim and I paused to share our real admiration of it. Scooters abound in New York City right now – those you push with your foot and a motorized variety that I think was largely nixed for safety, but you still see them. Kids and adults alike use them, sometimes together.
The pandemic more or less coincided with the rise of the motorized bike here in New York City. These are largely employed by food delivery people and I read an article recently that there is a problem with them being stolen. Kim and I agree that they are pretty great and I think we’d both like a try at one, although since our bike years are far behind us and neither of us really drives perhaps better if it doesn’t happen.
As kids though, from tricycles, to two-wheelers, wagons, skateboards, scooters and all the rest we are fascinated with those things that allow us to go, fast or slow, to haul or coast. And if you were lucky enough to have a fine ride such as this you are mighty lucky and you knew it.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I bought this photo from an IG sale, probably several months back. Apologies to the vendor, but I have forgotten who exactly I purchased it from. It doesn’t look like a photo postcard, however it is. It was never mailed, but on the back, in pen, Julia Severson, is written in a clear hand. I assume one of these women is Julia. Perhaps she is the one holding a box camera – was there another photo taken that day of the woman and the dog?
Most of these photo purchases hail from sellers in the Midwest, but I have no idea where this was taken. The outfits are from the teens I think, a period of clothing I am especially fond of as both attractive and yet comfortable looking. These women wear hats for the sun (and also probably because women, like men at the time, generally did wear hats) and they have this lovely, fluffly canine companion who seems to be enjoying himself immensely. The edges of the image are a bit diffuse (an effect I am also enamored of) as is often the case with photos from these early simple cameras.
This photo looks like a glorious spring day and we are hungry for those right now and that was why I plucked it from the pile today. In this year, which has the unusual distinction of having been a very strange one for pretty much everyone, the promise of spring seems more alluring than ever. As we start to contemplate, quite literally, coming back out of our homes as the weather turns warm and vaccines are on the move throughout the country and the world, we are like larvae that has been crystallizing for a year too long now.
This past Thursday marked the one-year mark for many of us to have started working from home here in New York City, as the pandemic began to rage, quietly at first and then quickly rising to a roar. Our assumption that this would be an inconvenience of a few weeks at most – I had envisioned myself running back to the office as needed and really didn’t pack up very much – gave way to the reality of a city that rapidly emptied out creating an enduring silence, broken it seemed only by the litany of ambulance sirens day and night.
As it turns out I have only been to my office four times in the past year and one visit was just this week. And of course it was a year filled with myriad loss and fear for everyone.
As it happens this past Thursday was one of those rare March days with temperatures rising into the 70’s and it delivered a walloping dose of spring fever, which in my case came in the window as I did not have a chance to leave the apartment. It had an intoxicating effect nonetheless.
I sat on the couch by the window on the phone most of the day and while conducting business part of my brain was also roaming over memories of spring visits to the beach growing up – especially as a teenager, the first few warm days, no matter when they came, planted the seeds of allure for upcoming beach weather and that bell rang in my head. I have not thought about stretching out on a beach in a very long time indeed, but my brain was on a loop toying with the thought. Suddenly a former world of wearing spring dresses and shoes that are not sneakers seemed real again. A haircut (I had one last summer) seems like a good idea and a coffee outside with colleagues or friends is a real possibility – let’s make dates and kick up our heels and frolic!
Of course, as it is only March, snow and cold rain are on the way for the coming week, the temperature has already dropped back into the 40’s. The reality of managing the return to our hall and offices along with rules and process to keep everyone safe is daunting and the next bit of slog ahead is still very real.
However, the glimpse gave me hope for resilience, like spring itself. The season of renewal is almost upon us. Easter and Passover are on the horizon and chocolate bunnies and matzohs dot the stores – the food harbingers of early spring. An idea for a vegan matzoh ball soup is playing around in my head and memories of homemade matzoh brie make my mouth water.
Like many people I think, I learned a lot over the past year and I am still mulling over what lessons are likely to stick going forward. (I hit my four year anniversary at Jazz at Lincoln Center this week as well – remarkable!) I have recently seen several colleagues opt for dramatic changes in their lives, impacted by this year at home.
I know I was weary from travel and late nights at work when I plunked down on my couch with a laptop a year ago. I do know I don’t want to be that tired again – maybe the only thing I know for sure. I may not make it home to make dinner every night, but I want it to be more the rule than the exception. I want time to run in the morning before work. I want to go spend a week in New Jersey with my mom. Somehow I need to figure out how not to work during all my waking hours.
Meanwhile, I know I am better at my job and find I am flexible in ways I had not imagined before which gives me some confidence that there is a path to be found. My reluctance to leave the house is likely to return with the bad weather (sometimes March can’t get its lamb and lion thing straight it seems), and a daily subway commute and days in an office in a mask remains a hurdle. But like the daffodils and crocuses in the park which are starting to poke up, it seems like the urge to do it will return on schedule if I look for the signs and go with it.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Tomorrow we will have our annual Deitch Studio Valentine reveal (one of the highlights of the Pictorama and Deitch Studio year – if you are new to Pictorama or just need to see a Kim Deitch Valentine right now, last year’s can be found here), but today we are back to a Felix photos. This 8″x10″ came to me via @missmollysantiques on Instagram (a fascinating source for things Halloween and exotica from our nation’s great Midwest), and although it was a rollicking good Halloween photo, I didn’t see the Felix at first.
This interior from the early decades of the 20th century is homey and nice. The window dressings form their own patterns in the background, and the piano on one side and mantel on the other frame the group nicely. There is no carpet on the floor, it is shining wood beneath the bent knees of one of the young Indians, but perhaps it has been rolled up and put aside for this shindig. It is hard to imagine that this well-appointed room didn’t have a carpet most days.
These folks have embraced the costume spirit with a fair amount of enthusiasm. If I was the judge for Best Costume I would likely hover around the gypsy fortune teller (second row, second from the left, holding a tambourine, sassy sash at her hips), or perhaps the clown in the back corner behind the piano – but I am a sucker for a period clown costume and her pointed hat has a nice Halloween pumpkin and black cat. (You can find an earlier rather splendid similar Halloween clown in the snow photo post here. It heralds from the same Midwestern source. Those folks really knew how to celebrate Halloween.)
The men have largely, although not entirely uniformly, embraced cross dressing as their fancy dress and I count four of those here. Others seem to have adopted funny suit clothes without a self-evident definition – comical hats and ties largely. One fellow got into the spirit fully and is in a sort of jester costume, although he looks a tad unhappy, sad jester – he holds something in his hands I can’t make out. Maybe being next to the flashy gypsy à la flapper has him put out.
If you look closely at the back row you spot several men and one elderly woman who are not in costume, tucked in among the more colorful celebrants. Dad and Mom as I think of them, are wedged between a straw hatted and bespectacled (not to mention jaunty) fellow striking a pose on the end and a well-dressed younger woman who may or may not be in costume. Dad is clad in vest and tie, mom with her hair up, eyes downcast, but wearing some lovely long beads, dressed up if not in costume.
Two other younger men who don’t appear to be in fancy dress are to the back. One with a loosened tie behind Dad and the other in a plaid flannel shirt is on the other end. Flannel shirt guy is taller than everyone else and good looking. Perhaps he is in costume but my guess is no. Meanwhile, he looks a bit grim at the prospect of this photo.
On the floor we have our small fry representing a sort of jester, the aforementioned Indian (feathers in her headdress vaguely askew), and a third little girl whose costume, if she is wearing one, is indistinct. She may be sporting something on her head that I can’t quite make out. It’s easy to imagine them running around wildly before and after this shot. I can almost, but not quite, assign them as siblings or offspring of the older generations in the photo. (Does our Indian look a bit like Dad? Does the jester look a bit look a little like the heavy set man with the huge, flowing tie in the middle row?)
Meanwhile, if you haven’t found him yet, Felix takes the form of a posable toy, likely of the Schoenhut variety held in the hand of the woman to the far right, perched on the piano. Although she is in party dress, she does not appear to be in costume either and perhaps grabbing Felix was her attempt to be more festive. Perhaps after this photo she sat down at that piano and started to bang out some tunes, apples were bobbed and the party got underway.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It is a cold gray February morning here in NYC as I write. Snow (I think of it as more snow), which just commenced, is expected throughout today. Somehow it seems like a good opportunity to consider these pretty young women in spring dresses taken in July of 1912.
They are wonderful and somehow that shines through the fact that this photo was an unusually ham-handed product. Perhaps it is the sheer number that these photographers took at fairs or seaside resorts, but they are usually of at least adequate execution, if occasionally showing signs of exhausted chemicals (dunked in a nearby bucket a few too many times) or an image not washed of developer properly and fading over time. This photo would be the exception to the rule – the bottom of the image is out of focus and the top physically cropped crudely – although reading it, that seems to have happened later. Maybe it was cut down slightly to fit in a frame – there is no evidence that it was in a photo album. Perhaps the slightly slovenly execution is why this card was actually sent rather than just saved as a memento as is most often the case with these, at least those which are generally seen and collected today.
For all of that these two are charmers. One grasps the nose of the moon – poking him right in the eye! And the two hold hands. They are both enjoying themselves mightily and smile broad, sincere grins from their moon-side perch. One looks at the other and she looks out, at us and into the future.
The notes are charming too though. Written at the bottom it says, This was taken in Muskogee. We had the finest of times there going to the parks & shows & most everywhere. On the back, also in pencil but lighter and very hard to read, it appears to say, Dear Ma, Say have you sent me any money? if you haven’t pls send some to AuntPearl’s for me. I’m leaving this afternoon for K.C. I sure had a grand time here especially…[arrow to the part about money] If you have sent it I will get it alright…will forward it for me. Jane. It is addressed to: Mr. Densel Brown, 2255 E Street, Granite City, Ill. (Yes, she has written to her mother but addressed the card to her father. Welcome to 1912 I guess.) In her hand it is dated 7/19/12.It was mailed from somewhere called Gibson and one wonders if these two are cousins.
I have collected a few of these cards. One of my very first posts was devoted to an early acquisition. (It can be found here. A post about the other photo below can be found here.) They are a competitive area of collecting however so I only dabble a bit. They are a special joy when excellent examples are pulled together and framed or shown collectively – more is more – something I have seen well executed a few times. Much like my beloved posing with Felix photo postcards these always seem to be joyful. As if to say, who wouldn’t get a grin on their face when, in the midst of a fine day at a fair or seaside resort, dressed in your spring togs, you got to sit on the moon or mug with a giant Felix?
As huge flakes of snow obliterate our view now (cartoon snow is how I think of these giant pieces, chunks really, floating and blowing around) accumulate outside my window, I am grateful to have spent an hour in July, 1912 in Muskogee, Oklahoma with Jane and her pal.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Ah, yes. A return to photos today and this recent acquisition which exceeded my expectations when I purchased it. I have discovered, the hard way, that purchasing photos off of Instagram sales is different than buying them on eBay. One must act very fast and can’t really study and consider a thing the way I like. Therefore, there’s been a fair amount of leaping and some purchases that have left me scratching my head when received. Such is the life of an online photo collector. Nonetheless, it has broadened my horizons and this example is a gem of the non-cat photo variety.
It is a smallish photo, the actual image is three and a half inches, square. It is permanently affixed to the white decorative cardboard mount. I am inclined to say it is a cabinet card, but I defer to some of my readers who are more specifically knowledgeable in this area to offer a correction or fine tune that assumption. On the back it reads, Brown’s house in pencil in one hand, and in pen below in another script, Medef’s Camera, Dec 16, ’01. I purchased it from a seller in the mid-west and I would make a guess that it depicts a scene there, but hard to tell of course. It was sold to me by a woman who runs two accounts, one for antique clothing and jewelry (@spakeasachildvintage) and another I first discovered her under, @_wherethewillowsgrow_, for old photographs. I frequent both.
What I find somewhat remarkable about this photo is both the subject matter and the ability of an early photograph to capture it so well. I not sure I envy the early photographer, perched on the shore, capturing this roaring and roiling body of water. It is winter, there is snow on the hillside on the other side of the water and if you look carefully you can also see the icy banks across from they stood to take the photo.
The moving water is in sharp focus meaning it was a pretty fast exposure for the day. The Brown’s house is presumably the pleasant looking house across the way, a bit hard to see but visible. Hard to say if their property was threatened by the rising, violent water. There appears to be a whirlpool, or perhaps just a deep cavity formed by the waves, to the right side of the photo. It is quite a maelstrom.
Pictorama readers know I grew up on the Jersey shore, on the Shrewsbury River and only a few minutes from the ocean. River flooding and occasionally violent hurricanes, were not uncommon and dot my childhood memories – mom picking us up early from school before moving the car to higher ground and walking home in advance of a storm; watching the river burst up over the bulkhead and into our yard and around the house; the cold feeling of the water rushing under the house during a flood; geese paddling by and peering in the back door.
Despite that, I don’t remember seeing our river in quite this state – perhaps because the Shrewsbury was not contained by the same sort of deep embankment as is shown here, maybe made yet more active by a nearby falls. (Hurricane Sandy was the first time my parents evacuated during a storm and after a lifetime there they moved not long after, being too elderly now to deal with the extremes of life on the water. Mom lives nearby but definitely inland now.)
As recent readers know, I have taken up running along the East River (attempting to anyway) as part of my pandemic exercise regime. (That post, Running Slowly can be found here.) The moods of the river remind me of my childhood and it is fascinating to watch its many moods each day. In general I am shocked by the current which almost always seems to be very strong and fast. Even without boats (and there are boats in winter, a more or less steady stream of ferries, tugs and cargo ships) small waves, sometimes eddies and whirlpools. On a very windy morning the water can slap the bulkhead and spray as I jog by. The extremely calm day is a rare exception. I find it irresistible to photograph in all its moods and record it ongoing, as seen here, often with the early morning sun playing on it. Being near it now reminds me of my childhood and endless days of watching the water out our windows.
Living by the water you are quick to learn that, much like life in general, one day it can be as calm and smooth as glass – and the next it can whip itself into a fury.