vintage

Posted by Ellen

All we know about this photo is that it was apparently taken in Calaveras County, California, about a hundred years ago. Looks like the boys in the band were family men.

Calaveras County is a famous place in the gold-mining country of the Sierra foothills, settled in a hurry by forty-niners and immortalized (sort of) by Mark Twain in his story about competitive frog-jumping. 

Calaveras is Spanish for skulls.

Posted by Ellen

In 1916, the Mountain Chief of the Piegan Blackfeet participated in a recording session with ethnologist Frances Densmore, who traveled the American West collecting Native music and reminiscences. The songs were recorded on wax cylinders and later pressed on vinyl.

In recent years, the Smithsonian has reissued much of the music, including a CD featuring a photo taken at the same time as this one. But the Blackfeet songs on the Smithsonian CD were all recorded no earlier than the 1930s. They are typical of Plains Indian songs, with elaborate vocalizations but very few words.

It is said that earlier Blackfeet songs, perhaps including the ones sung by this chief in 1916, had many more words and told long, complicated stories. Like so much of Native culture, it seems, the words are all gone now, and the singers have to try to sing without them.

Posted by Ellen

William Pinkerton, back in the day, hard at work at the dispatch desk at Bud Wood's taxi service in Rockland, Maine.

Posted by Ellen

If you believe the banners in this ca. 1885 chromolithograph,  the Standard Tip T.M. Harris & Co. boot comes with a double toe that is not only warranted and trade mark registered but also highest grade sole leather tip. It's not clear what the people frolicking in the ad have to do with double standard tip shoes, and it's not clear what a registered trade mark has to do with warranted highest quality, but what else is new. As my grandmother used to say: You believe that one and they'll tell you a bigger one.

The shoe factory in the background was a building on Cherry Street in Philadelphia that was originally built for manufacturing chandeliers.

Posted by Ellen

Somehow, Norman believes he can remember sitting in that chair and putting that balloon to his mouth, while Iris Quigley posed for the camera. The photo was probably taken in 1954, maybe 1955, in Iris's house, which was down the street from Norman's house in East Meadow, Long Island, New York. Great furniture, great dance moves, and we can hope those little baby teeth weren't too sharp.

Posted by Ellen

One evening in 1910, this man got off the train at the station in Ann Arbor, Michigan, picked up his coat and his briefcase, put on his hat, and headed up the hill toward home. It is possible, of course that what I referred to as the man's briefcase may actually be a salesman's sample case or a traveler's overnight case–but overall, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Posted by Ellen

 

The stereotypical Canadian self-effacement apparently did not play a large part in 1905 in the design of this vehicle, a joint venture between the Canadian Pacific Railway and the governments of the brand new provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The motor car was intended to travel the byways of England, promoting immigration to western Canada and, perhaps incidentally, ticket sales on the Canadian Pacific Railway and its trans-Atlantic steamship subsidiary.

The promotional message left out a few details. For one thing, although homesteaders could indeed claim 160 free acres of land, it cost $10 to file the claim, a sum many would-be homesteaders could not come up with after paying the Canadian Pacific for steamship and railway passage. Also, in the, um, bracing climate of the Canadian prairies, 160 acres was not nearly enough land to support a family. 

So although the promotional efforts succeeded quickly in populating the prairies--this round of Canadian homesteading was closed off by 1914--most of the homesteaders were ultimately unsuccessful at farming and ranching. Among those few who could stick it out long enough to prove up on their claims, drought years beginning in 1920 ultimately chased them away. Today the Canadian prairie provinces (like the U.S. prairie states) are littered with ghost towns and empty farmhouses.

The vehicle pictured here was a hybrid, powered by electric motors at each wheel and a gas engine that heated a steam boiler. It never did work properly and was abandoned in London.

Posted by Ellen

 

In 1905, when people went to the beach in Atlantic City, New Jersey, they wore funny clothes but had as good a time as beach-goers in 2010.

Many of the vacationers pictured here didn't own their own bathing clothes; they rented them from hotels or boardwalk establishments. If you click on this photo to see the enlarged version, you'll note that some of the bathing costumes are imprinted with the initials of the rental companies.

What about the boy and girl in the middle? Are they flirting? Or is he keeping her from fleeing the picture? Or . . . ?

Posted by Ellen

 

During the godawful heat wave of July 1901, nobody in New York was in a good mood, and everybody was mad at the ice companies. The reason was that hot summer weather was associated with both increased demand for ice and reduced supply of well water with which to make ice at the  big ice plants in Brooklyn and the Bronx. So the ice companies started using city water to supplement well water, and on the hottest days, they used so much municipal water that taps literally ran dry all over town. New Yorkers complained loudly to their elected officials, but the ice industry also had ways of "communicating" with politicians.

Giving away a little free ice--bring your own dishpan--was a public relations gesture on the part of the ice-makers. But note that a police presence was necessary at the ice lines.

The heat wave of July 1901, with temperatures near 100 degrees, killed thousands of people. The misery was compounded by the deaths of thousands of animals, including horses pulling ambulances and fire engines, who dropped dead in their traces while responding to emergencies. Sanitation crews fell far behind in removing carcasses from the streets. Anybody who could afford to get out of town got out of town.

 

Posted by Ellen

 

A man identified as "Canadian fishing guide" breaks for lunch on the shores of Lake of the Woods, Ontario, in 1952.