vintage

Posted by Ellen

There's laundry in the yard here at the old Savage house, but only a few items; most of the clotheslines hold only empty clothespins. So we'll call it a Tuesday instead of a Monday.

The house was built in 1861, only two years after discovery of the Comstock Lode, which set off a silver rush to Nevada, much like the gold rush to California a decade earlier. Administrative offices of the Savage Mining Company occupied the first floor; a succession of mine superintendents and their families lived above the offices, on the second and third floors.

The office and house were on D Street in the very young town of Virginia City, Nevada. The first Savage mine shaft was on B Street. Although the town was barely a year old in 1861, it already contained 42 saloons, 42 stores, 9 restaurants, 6 hotels, and a couple of thousand miners, many of whom had already spent years prospecting in California.

All the trees for miles around were already cut down, mostly for use as mine timbers.

The Savage mansion had 21 rooms and was probably the largest structure in town. The company provided a housekeeper for the superintendents in residence, and for many years the housekeepr was a Mrs. Monoghan, whose husband had died in one of the Savage mines. 

In 1918, when Savage shut down its operations in Virginia City, after years in which mines thereabouts produced less and less good ore, the house, furnishings, and D Street property were deeded to Mrs. Monaghan. By the time this photographer happened by in 1940,  the silver bonanza that built the house and the city had been over for a long, long time.

Recently, Virginia City is gentrifying, attracting tourists. The Savage Mansion is now completely restored and painted yellow. The building is still privately owned and serves as office space.

Posted by Ellen

Skiing behind a horse–the ancient Norwegian art of skijoring–in Northampton, England, 1908.

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 . . . ?