Snowed in…and a trip around the world

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A post-Christmas blizzard! What a perfect excuse to stay in pajamas all day and play with Christmas gifts (or in my case, antiques). All of the snow coming down outside made me think of a winter postcard I have. 

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“A lovely couple, no????”

This beautiful postcard is handwritten in German. Unfortunately, I could only translate the first line of it, as the cursive is too hard to read. If you can read any more of it, you’re welcome to help me out! 

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The postcard is part of a very big story. It was addressed to Walter Krueck by a woman named Clara and postmarked on February 16, 1909 in Ludenscheid, Germany. Walter was a crew member aboard the U.S.S. New Jersey

President Theodore Roosevelt, Uncle Sam, and Miss Columbia wave goodbye to the Great White Fleet.
Online Library of Selected Images: Naval Historical Foundation, Washington, D.C. Collection of Rear Admiral Harold M. Bemis. U.S. Naval Historical Center Image.

The U.S.S. New Jersey was part of the Great White Fleet, which consisted of sixteen battleships painted in white and spar (golden tan) to represent peacetime. In December 1907, the fleet began a journey around the world as an exercise of American “strategic mobility.” By May 1908, the fleet arrived in San Francisco for a large celebration. The entire cruise took a year and two months to complete. At the end of February 1909, the fleet entered Hampton Roads, Virginia. Teddy Roosevelt greeted the ships (just as he had seen them off in 1907), as did passenger ships and excursion vessels.

It seems that Clara timed the mailing of this postcard to coincide with the end of Walter’s voyage around the world.

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Newspaper clipping from the Spokane Press. February 20, 1909. NavSource Online.

The Great White Fleet was manned by a crew of approximately 14,000 and covered a distance close to 43,000 miles. After the journey around the world, the U.S.S. New Jersey was updated and went on to become a training vessel for the Navy during World War I. It was decommissioned in 1920 and sunk off Cape Hatteras in 1923. To see the full list of crew members aboard the U.S.S. New Jersey in 1908, click hereIf you’re interested in seeing postcards and photos that feature the Great White Fleet, check out the writeup by Jack Daly and The Cruise of the Great White Fleet.

That does it for this post. Happy snow day!

Christmas Greetings!

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Merry Christmas, everyone! Hope your holiday is full of fun, food, and family. Santa was certainly good to me this year. I couldn’t wait to share my presents with you!

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This is a vintage jewelry casket with beveled edges. I got it to display my new portrait miniature!

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I’m guessing it is from the late nineteenth century and is most likely French. It has a nice little brass frame and open back. I don’t think it was ever a brooch, but maybe a cabochon that was mounted to something else.

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What did Santa bring you for Christmas?

“My Trip to the Big Town”

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I love scrapbooks. Unfortunately, I never have time to make my own. What’s the next best thing? Collect vintage scrapbooks! I recently found this one in the dank basement of a shady antique shop (in a godforsaken Upstate New York city that shall remain nameless). 

From what I can tell, this scrapbook was owned by a woman in her early twenties. In it, she chronicled her adventures with her significant other, Joe. The album covers her travels to New York City, Washington D.C., Pittsburgh, and New Orleans. It seems that Joe went to war mid-way through the album, as evidenced by a postcard he sent her from Paris. Meanwhile, the woman went away to college in Pittsburgh.

I want to focus on her trip to New York City in June, 1942. I had a lot of fun flipping through those pages, as the photographs reminded me of my own trip to the city last April. Below are a few comparisons: On the left are photos from the scrapbook. On the right are some of my photos. 

The photographs in the scrapbook were not snapped by the young woman. Rather, they were purchased as a souvenir set and later pasted into the book. Souvenir photo sets were common in the WWII era. These particular images were taken by William Frange. It seems that Frange took several photographs of Coney Island and famous New York City sites from the 1920s to the 1940s. His work appeared in New York Times publications. If you know anything else about Frange, I’d love to hear it. He’s a difficult man to track down!

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My favorite New York City photograph in the scrapbook might be this one, the Chrysler Building. The young woman’s caption, “A monument to industry,” says it all. Not only is the skyscraper a fabulous example of the Art Deco style, but it is a symbol of the manufacturing and infrastructure America was known for. The caption seems to validate the concept of the American Century.

In closing, here is the 1921 film by Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler called Manhatta. I’ve been hooked on the film for a while now, and I think it really brings the photos in the scrapbook to life. Enjoy!

The Curious Case of Mr. Armsbury

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Anytime I buy an encased photograph, I’m tempted to take the photo out of the case. I’ll admit, this is not always the best thing to do. If the photo is wedged in too tightly, I won’t risk damaging it. But if I think I can get it out, I usually go for it. You never know what you’ll find behind a photograph. Sometimes it pays off. 

This tintype depicts a stern, distinguished man with a severe case of strabismus. The photograph is not exceptional in quality. It’s a very basic headshot with a blank background. Furthermore, the blue cloudy patches in the emulsion are evidence of solarization, meaning the plate was overexposed. But what makes this photo especially interesting is the information behind it. 

Stiles P. Armsbury, Artist.

Adams, NY. Oct. 22, 1863

A bit of research reveals that Stiles is not the man in the tintype, but the man behind the camera. Stiles P. Armsbury was born in 1825 in Petersburg, New York. He moved to Adams, New York and set up a photography studio, the Excelsior Gallery, in the Dodge Block. The Northern New York Business Directory lists him as a photographer in 1867-68. The date on my tintype shows that he worked as a photographer in Adams even earlier. As of August, 1874, the Jefferson County Journal lists two daguerrean galleries in the village, one belonging to Armsbury, the other to Mr. H.H. Hose. It’s interesting that the photography studios are referred to as daguerrean galleries. By the 1870s, daguerreotypes were long considered passé. Tintypes would have been the most popular medium for encased photographs at that time. I suppose this speaks to how long the studios had been in operation. 

I especially love the fact that Armsbury labeled himself an artist in my photograph case. With so much historical debate as to whether photography is an art or a science, it is valuable to see what photographers of the period considered themselves. Armsbury’s photo finishes also contribute to this idea. One could purchase a photo varnished in “German,” “Italian,” “Grecian,” or “Rembrandt” style. 

Advertisement from the Adams New York Herald, 1877.

Stiles P. Armsbury was quite the character. He claimed to patent “Armsbury’s Improved Background,” which supposedly enabled him to take a picture without taking the background. I’m not entirely sure what this means, let alone if it was possible. Maybe that is why the background in my photo looks so plain. However, I do know that I was unable to find any evidence of Armsbury’s patent application or approved patent. He was involved in a legal suit at one point. Perhaps someone tried to infringe upon his non-existent patent!

Nevertheless, Stiles seemed like a man with big ideas. An 1880 City and Vicinity snippet in the Watertown Daily Times mentioned that he “contemplate[d] writing a book.” He was also the local agent for selling monuments.

Stiles P. Armsbury died on August 25, 1895 after failing health from a paralytic stroke seven months prior. His obituary is the most telling piece of evidence about his character. It states that Armsbury was “possessed of many bright qualities of mind, yet there seemed to be a lack of application or connection which unfitted him to take the position in the world which his talents really merited.” Ouch!

Although there is little credited to Armsbury’s name today, at least his signature remains behind my photograph.  

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Or, Happy Turkey Day! Here are a few postcards from my collection that commemorate Thanksgiving. As you can see, food and family were marketable components of the holiday, even in the early twentieth century. Interestingly, patriotism also seems to have played a big part. This is something we can probably identify with today.

When you scroll through, you might notice that people didn’t always use their holiday postcards during the correct season. They used what they had on hand; a good reminder for us today to be grateful for the things we have.

Hope you enjoy the day!

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“Anna” handwritten in the address portion. Unmailed.

Ser. 5705.
“Friday, March 10, 1911
Dear Mama,
I will drop you a card so you will know how I am. Ear is still aching. I thought once this morning maybe it had broke as I had a most terrible headache this morning, and was trying to vomit[e]. Will go up town and see the Dr. tomorrow. Am weak, only 90 degrees yesterday so you know how one felt. Orlie has gone up town with a pair of pigs, $25 and one male pig $10; ship them into Texas. Hope all are well.
-Flora”
Addressed to Mrs. L.A. Wait of Crofton, NE. Postmarked March 10, 1911.

Printed in Germany. Painting only copyrighted by S. Garre, 1908.
“Oct. 15, ’09
Friend James,
Rec’d your card. Many thanks. Say Jim, it isn’t Thanksgiving yet, but thought I would put you in the mind of such a feast. I didn’t see you at the fair. Heard you were there though. I certainly had a fine time. This is all. Hoping you are well.
I remain your friend,
Eva Hockenbraugh”
Addressed to Mr. James Buser of Fresno, Ohio, R.F.D. #3. Postmarked October 15, 1909.

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