Soldiers Writing Letters During Wartime

“Tommy writing home after battle, 1917.”

With Veterans Day on Monday, I thought it would be nice to share some images of soldiers writing home during war time. Most of the images are from World War I, with a few from the horrific sequel, and one from 1908, before anyone knew what lay ahead.

I can’t help but wonder what these guys are writing – are they easing worried mothers’ minds, regaling a lover with tales of heroism real or imagined, or are they admitting their terror to a confidant? Whatever the subject of their letters, these images highlight  the deep need humans have to communicate and connect, even as the world crumbles around them.

For other related imagery, check out this gallery of the iconic  Tuskegee Airmen.

All images are, of course, Found in the LOC.

 

“Red Cross Worker Helps British Soldier, 1942.”

 

Image Links:

  1. “Tommy Writing Home After Battle, 1917.”
  2. “American Soldiers, Chateauroux, Oct. 1918.”
  3. “Soldiers in Texas Writing Home, April 1914.”
  4. “Military Hospital Tent, France, August 1918.”
  5. “British Soldiers with Bug Nets, Egypt, 1940.”
  6. “At ease / Signal Corps U.S.A., 1917.”
  7. “Red Cross, Chateauroux, October 31, 1918.”
  8. “Theodor Horydczak writing at desk, 1920.”
  9. “Nurse Writing for a Soldier, Neuilly, June 1918.”
  10. “A Letter Home, June 1918.”
  11. “YMCA Writing Room, Nice, 1915.”
  12. “Writing Home, Fort Hamilton, 1908.”
  13. “Writing a Letter Home, Greenville, SC, 1943.”
  14. “Red Cross Worker Helps British Soldier, 1942.”

Found in the LOC: Spooky “Spirit” Photos

“Double exposure ‘spirit’  photograph of girl standing, holding flowers, surrounded by spectral figures of three people],” G.S. Smallwood, 1905.

To celebrate Halloween, here are eight “spirit photographs” straight from the Library of Congress’ deepest, darkest crypt. Or, rather, their very convenient online database.

As Wendi Maloney explains at the Library’s blog, the general public was mystified by photography when it debuted in the mid-to-late-1800s. This meant unscrupulous rapscallions could dupe them into ghosts actually photo bombed in the afterlife. And these weren’t just gullible rubes who bought into the supernatural hype: respected folk like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were about it, too.

All this hoopla outraged Harry Houdini. The magician had made it his life’s mission to debunk spiritualist charlatans, and took a hands-on approach to the matter. Maloney writes:

“To demonstrate how easy it was to fake a photograph, Houdini had an image made in the 1920s, showing himself talking with Abraham Lincoln. He even based entire shows around debunking the claims of mediums and the entire idea of spiritualism.”

That image is included in this gallery. It did not, however, completely debunk the spirit photo business.

Related: Check out a NY Times piece I wrote a long time ago about Memento Mori: turn of the century pics people took of dead loved ones.

Found in the LOC: Vintage Posters Celebrating Books

 

Tuesday is traditionally the day book publishers release their latest titles. No one knows why they do this on Tuesdays. Literally no one.  Some say believe it’s about optimizing best-seller results; some say that it’s to make life easy for distributors. But whatever the reason, I’m celebrating this week’s new book day with FIVE sets of vintage posters celebrating the written word, all sourced from the Library of Congress.

The first gallery is perhaps the most relevant to today: created between 1935 and 1942 by the government-backed Works Progress Administration, they urge patriotic Americans to embrace books as democratic tools. “To speak up for democracy, read up on democracy,” reads one, while another insists “Books are Weapons.”

In an era defined by a famously anti-intellectual president’s existential threat to our nation’s most storied institutions and norms, these are important reminders.

The second set of posters, born from a World War I collaboration between the Society of Illustrators and the Committee on Public Information, implores Americans to send books “over there” for our troops.

Third up: A circa 1936-1940 series of really fun WPA PSAs from the “Be Kind to Books Club.” One piece of advice: don’t gum it up!

Similarly, the fourth gallery celebrates Book Weeks from between 1949 and 1964. It’s fascinating to see the aesthetic shift over the years – and keep your eyes peeled for a piece by Maurice Sendak.

Meanwhile, the fifth and final collection, created by the National Association of Booksellers way back in the 1920s, suggests you buy books as gifts – advice I endorse any day of the week!

Read up on Democracy:

See the rest AFTER THE JUMP!

Continue reading

Toni Frissell Broke The Fashion Mold: Gallery

Toni Frissell at one of her favorite places, a ski slope.

Happy New York Fashion Week to clothes horses everywhere! In honor of the sartorial splendor currently unfurling across the Big Apple, here’s a collection of images by Toni Frissell.

A groundbreaking photographer whose privileged upbringing garnered her access to the most famous faces and places, it was Frissell’s innate talent and innovative styling that made her a household name. Rather than taking typical fashion shots of static mannequin-esque models, Frissell brought her models into the world, showing that women were active participants in life, not mere observers. This approach earned her coveted features in Vogue, Harper’s, and Sports Illustrated, the latter of which also satisfied Frissell’s love of athletic endeavors.

Frissell also turned her lens beyond fashion: she worked for the American Red Cross and military during World War II to get front-line shots, as well as behind-the-scenes images, such as those glorious shots of Tuskegee Airmen preparing to defend democracy.

Described by Life magazine in 1966 as “The Patrician photographer of a vanishing age,” Frissell’s images are timeless.

Here, to get you in the NYFW mood, are 12 exceptional Frissell shots, all found at the Library of Congress.

See ’em all, AFTER THE JUMP!

Continue reading

Found in the LOC: 7 Augustus Washington Daguerreotypes

It’s unclear what ambitions Augustus Washington had growing up in Trenton, NJ, circa the 1820s and 1830s. It definitely wasn’t daguerreotypist. But a daguerreotypist he became – in 1843, to pay for his tuition at Dartmouth.

While growing student debt forced him from school one year later, daguerreotypes stuck, and became Washington’s bread and butter: He opened his own studio in Hartford, CT, in 1846, where he spent the next handful of years taking pictures of locals looking to experience his new-fangled technology.  Below you see an ad for said studio, with the caption, “Washington is at home, and daily executing beautiful and correct Miniatures, equal to any in this country, at his uncommonly cheap prices.”

But Washington was more than a talented artist. He was an activist. The son of a former slave father and an Asian mother, Washington fought racial injustice his whole life. But “that curious institution” of slavery was still extremely entrenched in the 1840s and 1850s; Washington was well aware he and his allies faced an uphill battle, and at times he felt hopeless, an emotion evident in this 1851 quote Washington gave the New York Tribune:

“Strange as it may appear, whatever may be a colored man’s natural capacity and literary attainments, I believe that, as soon as he leaves the academic halls to mingle in the only society he can find in the United States, unless he be a minister or lecturer, he must and will retrograde.”

Washington grew so frustrated with America’s intractable discrimination that in 1853 he moved his family – a wife and two children – to Liberia, where many like-minded black Americans were establishing their own nation.

Once there, Washington took his place behind the camera again, this time turning his lens to burgeoning Liberia’s political, military, and social elite. Below are a few of those images. In each and every one we see self-assuredness, independence and pride, all evidence of the subjects’ and Liberia’s determination to create something beautiful, a new world, from something grotesque, old hate.

These are some of Washington’s last professional images. He transitioned from daguerreotypes to the more lucrative sugar cane business in the late 1850s, and then to politics: He was both a congressman and senator in the 1860s, including a stint as speaker of Liberia’s House of Representatives, from 1865-1869. Washington died in 1875, having never again setting foot inside the States.

Here, in case you’re interested – and you should be – are lucky number 7 of Washington’s daguerreotypes, all taken during his early years in the then-new nation of Liberia, and all Found in the LOC.

Continue reading

Found in the LOC: 13 Woodcuts from 1720

For this week’s Found in the LOC, I present 13 gorgeous woodcuts by Tachibana Morikuni.

Information on Morikuni is few and far between, but I learned he was born in 1679 in Osaka, and was trained in the art of woodcutting by a man named Tsuruzawa Tanzan. I also discovered Morikuni published three books: 1714’s Ehon kojidan (Old Stories about Illustrated Picture Books), Ehon utsushi takarabukuro (A Treasure Pouch of Picture Book Sketches) in 1720, and Unpitsu soga (Strokes of the Brush and Rough Pictures), posthumously, in 1749, one year after his death.

His legacy, however, lived on his apprentice and son, Tachibana Yasukuni, whose work is also in the Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress dates the Morikuni images here circa 1720. Featuring foxes, rams,  horses, cats, and even boars, Morkikuni’s art is quite the menagerie. Above you see “Domestic cat nursing kittens.” Some beauty never goes out of style.

And click here for more Found in the LOC.

Continue reading

Found in the LOC: 13 Bill Perkins Costume Designs

For 2019’s first Found in the LOC, feast your eyes on these 13 thirties-era costume sketches by designer William Perkins.

I haven’t found too much  information about Perkins, but he clearly had a knack for the theatric and an eye for alluring style. Below, you’ll find costumes Perkins designed for a production of William Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale, as well as some for Jack Erman’s  The Mystery of the Broadwalk Asylum, a sci-fi tale that, if the notes are correct, starred Martha Wright before she became Broadway sensation.

Most notable are Perkins’ designs for the 1938 premiere of activist Arthur Arent’s One-Third of A Nation.

Produced by the New Deal-era Federal Theater Project, One-Third condemned political leaders for the affordable housing crisis in New York City and other urban areas. The general message: slums and other dilapidated dehumanized and endangered innocent people for capitalist gain. It drew 270,000 viewers in the city alone, and even more once it toured across major urban areas.

You can imagine how this went over in DC: Conservative lawmakers were so incensed that they rallied their forces against the Federal Theater Project and forced its closure the next year.

Above, Perkins’ 1937 sketch of Winter’s Tale‘s Antigonus, the poor schmuck who gets eaten by a bear while abandoning a baby on the king’s orders. But at least he was wearing a gorgeous robe before becoming the beast’s dinner!

See more of Perkins’ mesmerizing sketches AFTER THE JUMP.

And click here for more Found in the LOC.

Continue reading