Sunday, February 27, 2011


How were the European colonial powers able to conquer millions of people with so few troops? I suspect this postcard from French Congo, also known as Brazzaville, was meant to be comic. The type at the bottom of the card roughly translates as Congolese in city clothes and would allow the French recipient of this card to laugh at the natives trying to look European. The reality is that the European powers occupied much of the third world by seeking out native allies, usually playing off a favored tribal, religious, or ethnic group against those considered traditional rivals. While these men may have been servants, or models dressed up for the camera, it's also possible that they were some of the local collaborators used to subdue the majority of the native population. While the British and the French were masters at using locals to control, and when necessary, slaughter native populations, it was across the river from Brazzaville in the Belgian Congo where slaughter was at it's most destructive. Leopold II, the second king of Belgium, unable to interest his own government in taking African colonies, established a private company, The International African Society, with himself as the head and sole owner, to subdue the Congo region as a private colony. At first, Leopold's interest was ivory. When that proved less profitable than expected, his interest moved to rubber. Using both European and native troops, Leopold took native women for forced prostitution, cut off the right hands of workers unable to meet quotas, and killed people in the millions. Low estimates run from several million to as high as fifteen million. Ten million dead is a probable best estimate. Eventually the Congo Free State became an embarrassment and Leopold was forced to relinquish control to the Belgian government. All this from a postcard? Researching an image can lead in many directions. Phototypie, in the type on the front side of the card is the French translation of collotype, a mechanical photographic process that allowed for the mass production of black & white prints. I assume that Meyrignac and Puydebois were the publishers of the card. Brive is a town in France. On the back, "La correspondance au recto n'est pas acceptee par tous les pays etrangers. (Se renseigner a la Poste.)" translates to Correspondence on the front is not accepted by all foreign countries. (Inquire at the post.) At least that's how I think it translates.

Friday, February 25, 2011


It's raining in Los Angeles. A massive storm is blowing in from the Pacific northwest and if forecasts hold, the snow level may drop down to 500 feet and fall in the San Fernando Valley. San Fransisco 7, Arizona 6 in Cactus League play. Spring season games have begun.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

See My Dress...

....or is it the shoes we're supposed to notice. And why are the ladies in the second picture so amused?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

True Color, Grayscale, and Silvering

Every time I scan in a photograph I have to make a decision whether I should use the grayscale or the true color setting. As a former professional black & white printer, I'm always tempted to go grayscale, but after some thought, I decided that, for this blog, I should do my best to duplicate the look of the original. That would be an easy decision for this image. The original is a mounted albumen print with a rich brown, sepia tone. But with many photographs the choice is far less obvious. Many of the old snapshots I have in the collection are in that zone between a nice black & white photo with blacks, whites, and gray mid-tones, and slightly yellowish-brown tones, caused by a less than successful, final, archival wash. When I worked at photo labs, one of my jobs was operating a copy camera. Sometimes our customers would bring in old family photos, and some of those would be leaching photographic silver and, of course, silver reflects light. When prints aren't washed or fixed properly, over time the residual silver will begin to show on the surface of the print. When making prints from copy negs, if the silvering wasn't too bad, we could always burn in backgrounds or print to a non matching contrast to hide the problem. When scanning a print into a computer the silver can make it almost impossible to get a decent scan. There is a bit of silvering on this print, seen in the uneven tones in the bottom third of the print. Mounted on cardboard, labeled, "Milton Loryea SPOKANE WASH." Written on the back, "Charles Butter."


Added: Milton Loryea Photo Studio was listed in the Spokane city directory from 1893 to 1909. He and his brother Archie, also a photographer moved to Spokane from San Jose, California in 1892. Archie died in 1900.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Chinatown, Los Angeles







A color postcard, printed in the front margins, "DETROIT PHOTOGRAPHIC CO., PUBLISHERS." and, "7343. ARE THE POLICE COMING?" The Detroit Photographic Company made it's first appearance in the city registry in 1888. It was a provider of photographic images for advertising and publishing purposes. In 1897, under the leadership of partners, William A. Livingston, Jr., and Edwin H. Husher, the Detroit Photographic Company acquired exclusive North American rights to the photochrom process, a photolithography method that allowed for mass printings of color postcards from original black and white photographs. In 1905, the company changed it's name to the Detroit Publishing Company. For more information on the company's acquisition of the photochrom process go to At I found an image from the Detroit Photographic Company catalog of children in Chinatown in Los Angeles that seems to be a different angle of the same location. The Detroit Photographic Company declared bankruptcy in 1924 and it's assets were liquidated in 1932.

Versailles 2

This is third of four from a collection of nightclub souvenir photo folders all from the same source. The only thing written on this one is a date, "Apr-28-49." On some of the other folders, from this group, there are notes addressed to Evelyn. I can't be 100% sure, but I think the woman on the right is Evelyn. The man can be seen, in uniform, in the Latin Quarter post (2/8/11) and the woman (Evelyn?) on the right can be seen in another post, with a different cover design, from Versailles. (2/14/11) Stamped on the back cover, "Versailles NEW YORK No. 7378. For extra copies write to: VERSAILLES 151 East 50th Street, New York 22, N.Y. Use Number on back of Print Stating date taken and name of Club along with description of Photo." It's still my dream to find the negative files from one of these old, out of business, nightclubs from the thirties, forties, and fifties. I've got a number of these old souvenir photo folders, most with an interesting cover design to go along with the photo. As usual, click on nightclubs, or souvenir photo folder in the labels section to bring them up.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Casper, Wyoming






Stamped on the back, "Made at The Picture Shop, Casper, Wyo." Hotel staff from the 1920's I would think. Anyone out there from Casper that can identify the hotel, or tell me it's something else, please leave a comment.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Oval Portrait

Well, someone took a razor blade to the card on which this photo was mounted. Too bad, the whole card might have had some info on it. Maybe a photographer's mark, studio logo, or subject's name. Nineteenth century, perhaps very early twentieth.

Scare Crows

Hand printed on postcard stock, but not printed well. The drop off on the right side of the print was either caused by the use of the wrong focal length lens or a variable condenser put in the wrong position. I've got several versions of this postcard, and of the three, this one is the one with the most image and strongest focus. One of the things that fascinates me about old photos is what they can show us about life so many years a ago. It's nice to see what kind of clothes people wore or what kind of cars they drove, but an image like this goes far beyond that. In a time before radio, television, and the Internet, if a person wasn't able to entertain him or herself, life could be very, very boring. People would get together and sing around parlor pianos, they'd form town bands, and amateur theatrical groups. I doubt that the Scare Crows were professional actors. These people probably did nothing more complex than getting together and working out some entertaining acts to amuse themselves. It looks like they preformed in a barn, and their audience was probably no larger than their own friends. Now, how did I entertain myself today? I surfed the web, watched TV, and listened to the radio. I really had no need to go out and interact with other people. And that brings us to the big question: Has our society, dominated by electronic communication mediums made us more isolated as people?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Old California 3

This is the third and last part of the old California estate collection. Again, this one seems to be a travel collection. There is a lot of emphasis on the ocean. The navel officer is the only picture in this group that is labeled, "P.S. himself." Post script or the initials of the person, and is he a friend of the photographer or the man himself? I've noted before that I love the mystery of old photos, and trying to make some sense of them, but other than service aboard a ship that was armed, there isn't much to learn here. All the harbor shots are more focused on commerce with an emphasis on tugs and harbor transport. Note that behind the steam launch photo, the masts of a sailing ship can be seen; the four masts of a clipper. The paddle wheeler is almost certainly on the Sacramento River, one of the few rivers in California that had commercial boat traffic. The shot from the beach has a flotilla of war ships. The Great White Fleet? The railroad picture is of a crane of the S.P.L.A.& S.L Railroad. That's the San Pedro, Los Angeles, & Salt Lake Railroad, whose main line connected the harbor at San Pedro, now part of Los Angeles to Salt Lake City in Utah. The company no longer exists, but the rail line built by the company is still used. The main visitor's center for the Mojave National Preserve in Kelso, California was a station for the line. While it operated under different names, the S.P.L.A.& S L. name was only used from 1901 to 1916. The antelope picture only made it because of my no editing policy. If a location had been written on the back I might have been able to find out when the last animal died there or if a few still survive, but no location, no research. The twenty mule team shot is interesting. The famous borax wagon teams carrying the mineral from Death Valley to the rail head at Mojave, California only operated from 1883 to 1889 and had two box wagons and a water tank. Same idea for the wagon depicted, but a different set-up. And the flood picture, my guess is the Sacramento delta.

Monday, February 14, 2011


I always assume, with these old souvenir photo folders, that if it's from New York City I'll be able to dig up something on the club. Imagine my surprise when nothing popped on Versailles. Of course, that could be because there are thousands of pages about the city in France, the treaty, and a nightclub of the same name, still in business, in Ohio. Dated "6-26-45," about seven weeks after VE-Day (Victory in Europe) and about seven weeks before VJ-Day. (Victory in Japan) I'm sure the celebrations were around the clock, and clubs like Versailles did turn away business. Printed on the back, "For extra copies write to: VERSAILLES 151 East 50th Street, New York 22, N.Y. Use Number on back of Print along with description of Photo. No. 6050." Well if nothing else, it gives us an address. This is the second post of nightclub folders from the same source. The first was published on 2/8/11. I think this lady may be Evelyn. As usual, click on nightclub, souvenir photo, or souvenir photo folder in the labels section to pull up lots of other classic nightclub related photos.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pre-Digital Fun

This one is for all those too young to remember a world without photo-shop. In olden times, if you wanted a photo of yourself with a better body or a nicer car, you went to someplace like the Atlantic City Boardwalk, stood behind a cardboard cut-out and stuck your head in the hole. Printed on postcard stock, this one has been scuffed up and dirtied. Not great condition, but still fun.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Foltz & Fowler Cabinet Card

Go back through the collection and there will be a lot of photographs that have a brown tone to them. Most are brown because the printer did not give the print an archival wash. Fix, or hypo, is the chemical used to harden the print emulsion. If the printer doesn't wash the print long enough, the hypo that remains behind leaches out of the print and turns a yellowish brown. An albumen print, a nineteenth century medium that used egg whites as a solution, mixed with the light sensitive salts and applied to the paper that was then used for printing had a natural rich brown tone. Sepia tone.

Tintype Dated (Sort of)

Unless you're an expert on nineteenth century clothing, dating a tintype is almost impossible. In this case though, we have a hint. Placed in a decorative paper frame, the photographer used a scrap of newspaper as backing. While there is no dateline, the bit of article refers to Maryland Governor Bowie. In nineteenth century Maryland there was only one Governor Bowie, Oden Bowie who served from 1869 to 1872. A sangerfest is a German song festival.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Old California 2

Part two of the old California estate collection, and while a baby picture, labeled "9 mos." managed to sneak in, this one is mostly about travels in California. And oh how things have changed. I've been to Tustin, and I would love to know exactly which "Highway near Tustin" is depicted in the third picture of this group. There is a huge open space with old hangers for pre- World War 2 dirigibles near the railroad station, but other than that, Tustin is tract houses, office buildings, and shopping centers. Tree lined lanes, not anymore. Laguna Beach is now an enclave of the wealthy with large, private homes on the highlands above the ocean. In this collection, those same bluffs are brush covered fields. Joaquin Miller was the poet of the High Sierra, even though he lived in Oakland, California, and his home is now a city park. The Miller house photo was printed on postcard stock and actually mailed to someone, post marked "OAKLAND, CAL JUN 9 12-M 1911," addressed to Mrs. N. Sherman, 241 East 31st Los Angeles, California." And the note, "Dear Aunt, Remember me to Aunt Hat and Nell. Just to say I am well as usual and trust you all are the same. What's the matter with spending your vacation in Oakland this year, There is lots of nice places to go here. Love and all, Sam." The building on the Mt. Tamalpais photo is a resteraunt and tavern, and was built in 1896. It burned down in 1923 and a smaller building was put up in it's place. It was removed in 1950.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Girl and Her Sax

Found inside a generic cardboard photo folder without a photographers name, studio mark, or date. Written on the outside of the folder in pencil, "Georgina Harriet Walker 4 yrs. old." Adolphe Sax, a Belgian instrument maker invented the Saxophone in 1841, one of the few instruments named after a person. The Sax in this photo seems to be sized for a child.

Big Sister, Little Brother

Printed on postcard stock, a studio portrait of two children, most likely brother and sister. The fur collar, hat and muff point to a certain amount of prosperity. Nothing written on the back of the card. No location, but with the winter clothes, it must be from a cold climate.

Bernard Pefferman, Worker

Printed on postcard stock and labeled, "Bernard Pefferman, 532 Grandview Ave. E.P." The E.P. stands for East Pittsburgh, a borough about ten miles or so from downtown Pittsburgh. On the Monongahela River, East Pittsburgh is where George Westinghouse built the factories that built the huge generators that provided power for, among other things, the New York Subway System. With his soft cap, and rough clothes, Mr. Pefferman was very probably a blue collar worker at the Westinghouse factory or in one of the steel mills or iron foundries in nearby Braddock. Late nineteenth or early twentieth century.


This is a message for Lauren. For some reason that baffles me, Blogger won't allow me to post a comment from my home computer. To answer your question, I've had this photo in my collection for at least thirty years. More than likely I purchased at a flea market or garage sale. If you've read this, leave another comment and anything you know about Bernard.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Old California 1

I picked up this small collection of California snapshots from an on-line estate sale. There are 33 images in the group, which I will be posting as three setts of 11. The photographer's life seems to have been centered around the bay area, both San Francisco and Oakland, and the Los Angeles area, for the first ten years or so of the twentieth century. The photo of the tower is easily recognizable as the ferry building in downtown San Francisco. It's still there and still in use. The Lyric Theater sign isn't much use in identifying a location. Lyric Theater was just too common a name for early music halls and Vaudeville theaters. The mansion on the hill photo is labeled, "Home on hill above Ocean at Santa Monica." For those who don't know California, Santa Monica is right next to Los Angeles. The house looks familiar to me, and the next time I'm in Santa Monica, I'll see if I can find it. Pacific palisades, I would think. The football statue from the Berkley Campus is printed on postcard stock, and while it could be a commercially produced card, the lack of patent and copyright info on the back makes me think it might have been printed in a home darkroom. The baby carriage photo is labeled, "Betty at 241 E-31 ST, Los Angeles." The ostrich pictures could have been shot at any of the farms in California that raised exotics for meat, and hides, but it looks like the sight of the commercial ostrich farm in South Pasadena. There is an apartment building on the sight now. The two children photo has a difficult to make out embossing, but under a magnifying glass it looks like, "Mushet Los Angeles." The two Asian gentlemen image has Chinese letters down the left margin, and in English, "Heap Good." And my favorite from this group; the Shriner's photo. California has always been a state that puts a value on boosterism. It's our real estate based economy, I think.