Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Post War European Trip Collection-Luzern Lucerne 1

Time for some more of the Gloria Lee Bigewet archive.  So, part one of three, a postcard folder from Lucerne, Switzerland.  Click on The Post War European Trip Collection in labels to see more.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Copyright, Helen Bruce

This one has a very weird detail.  The first and third photos in the column have what looks like a homemade copyright on the border.  Why does someone feel the need to declare a copyright on family snapshots? 

Written on the back of the top photo, "Mother, Dorthy, & David July 1956."  The second, "David July 1956."  The bottom, "Cal, Carol & David July 1956." 

Note the small Kodak camera in the third photo.

Friday, June 15, 2018


The older I get the more I find myself explaining things to young people.  Most of them know what a land line is, even if they haven't seen one, but the idea of a rotary phone or a party line seems beyond them.  Yes, TV was once in black & white.  Carbon paper seems to be a head stumper, and so is the practice of sending picture postcards through the mail. 

So what is the lady on the right holding?  Is it a canning jar?  There was once a time when it was common for people, even people in cities, to have a backyard garden.  They'd grow a few vegetables and, in the fall, they would do some canning.  I can still remember the horrors of green beans, all pale and soft.   I was born in the mid 1950s, and when I was growing up fresh fruits and vegetables were still considered seasonal.  Chilean strawberries didn't show up in December. Frozen foods had become common, but if your family needed to save a few bucks, what could be found on the cellar shelf was cheaper.  Blow off the dust, unscrew the zinc lined lid, and flavorless green mush was dinner. 

Yes, it could be a canning jar, but I think it's far more likely a growler.  In our age of mass market and craft beers, it's hard to imagine that there was a time when people brought large metal bottles to the local beer garden and got a fill up of whatever was on tap.  If the local bartender knew your parents, he'd do a top off for the youngest child in the family.  Chores were expected, and what could be more important than fetching dad's evening libation.  But what really sold me on the growler interpretation was the goofy look on the two women's faces.  Who gets that happy over green beans?

Oh, and before I forget, they were called growlers because of the sound they made when they were first opened. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Aerotrain

What can I say?  I like trains.  The Aerotrain wasn't a very successful model.  Part of it was that the age of passenger rail was in the process of dying.  Part, despite the great styling, it wasn't a very good way to travel.  It was manufactured by General Motors and designed by their chief designer, Chuck Jordan.  The passenger cars were modified buses that ran on twin axles with air suspension.  The air suspension was supposed to give a smooth ride, sadly it did not. 

Only a few railroad lines bought the Aerotrain.  This postcard is from the Pennsylvania Railroad.  In 1956 the Aerotrain ran from New York City to Pittsburgh.  From 1956 to 1957, between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.  This particular shot was taken near Paoli, PA and dated 1956, which would put it on the Philadelphia to Pittsburgh route.  It's credited to photographer Clarence Cade.  I found a lot of photos of his, on line, but no biographical information.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Three Guys In Hats

Another real photo postcard.  Great Hats.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Dolores Del Rio and Her Hollywood Home

What can I say?  I love Dolores Del Rio.  She was born in Mexico, moved to Hollywood during the silent era and started working in the movies almost immediately.  She made a couple  of really good silents, especially What Price Glory and Ramona, and then, despite the accent, made an easy transition to sound films, making a few classics along the way.  Right of the top of my head, Madame Du Barry, Flying Down to Rio, In Caliente, and Journey Into Fear.  As the Hollywood parts became harder to get, she returned to Mexico and became a big star all over again, and when she was working, Mexican cinema was in a golden era.  As she aged out of lead actress territory, she came back to the United States and finished up her career with TV and smaller movie parts.  She died in 1983, aged 78. 

Next time I get to the Hollywood Walk of Fame with all the cheesy tourist shops I'll have to check if someone is still making postcards of star's homes.  I doubt it, but you never can tell.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Karsh of Ottawa

It's interesting to see what can be found on EBay.  I was just shuffling through old photographs when this image caught my eye.  It was, of course, a nice studio portrait, but what really drew me in was the printer's mark in the lower right hand corner.  "KARSH OTTAWA" refers to one of the most famous portraitists of the 20th century.

 Yousuf Karsh was born in 1908 in Turkey.  He was a survivor of the Armenian genocide.  In 1923, he arrived in Canada and was taken in by his uncle, a studio photographer who taught his nephew the trade.  In 1932, Karsh opened a studio in Ottawa, the capitol of Canada.  He would eventually land an important client.  Mackenzie King was the Prime Minister of Canada, and he not only sat for portraits of his own, but began arranging for Karsh to take portraits of visiting dignitaries.  In 1941 he took  a picture of Winston Churchill that would become the single most reproduced photographic portrait in history.  In 1945 Life magazine paid Karsh $100 for use of the Churchill portrait  on the cover.  After that, Karsh would receive a number of commissions from Life for other portraits of some of the most prominent people in the world.  Karsh died in 2002.

Take a look at the soldiers uniform and a patch can be seen identifying him as a member of the Dutch army.  The most obvious explanation is that he was in exile from the Nazi occupied Netherlands.  It was almost certainly taken after the Churchill portrait.