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About the Photos

Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • EAT MORE FISH, 1917

Rice Bubbles: 1958

Rice Bubbles: 1958

New Zealand circa 1958. "U-Rect-It fittings in Hill Bros. grocery store." A peek through the grocery-wormhole into an alternate universe of "Weeties" and Kellogg's "Rice Bubbles." Photo by K.E. Niven & Co., Wellington. View full size.

 

Polythene

Most baby boomer Americans probably learned this word when the Beatles released "Polythene Pam" on the Abbey Road album. It took a few weeks for most Alternative radio jocks to stop introducing it as "Polyethylene Pam." Nothing obscures record labels like marijuana smoke.

I remember

This is how I remember all corner grocery stores looking when growing up in a small town in New Zealand. Also interesting to see the prices in the old pound, shilling and pence currency before the change over to dollars and cents in the 60's.

Laundry Day

I have just returned from a six week visit to Australia and New Zealand, and if you hunt around you can still find shops just like this. New Zealand cities and towns feature small butcher shops and bakeries, with hot meat pies ready to "take away" or sometimes to eat in the shop. Most people shop at large supermarkets now, and the selection of "bikkies" is just as huge as is shown here. Canadians could also buy Sunlight soap, a yellow laundry soap, as shown in the attached photo, until a few years ago. The new version is slightly smaller, a brighter yellow, and has a slight scent to it.

Schoolabanana

Found a clearer image on the intertubes. We'll see if the attachment works ...

Soviet Salmon

The Socra-branded cans are most likely salmon - as a kid I remember it being sold here in Australia as well as NZ.

KIWIBANANA?

Wondering about that poster. In the 50s Chiquita had ads headlined "____ABANANA". Such as HAVABANANA, SPLITABANANA, MASHABANANA. Maybe it is my imagination but it looks like one little chap in the front of the room is about to pitch a banana overhanded. There's an image of a banana on the left wall and ____ABANANA written on the poster bottom margin but can't make out the rest of the word.

Aulsebrooks - the Kiwi Nabisco/Keebler/Pepperidge Farm

Note that the whole shelf on the left is devoted to the products of just one bakery.

My aunt is a Kiwi war bride, and for years she used to get packages of Aulsebrooks biscuits and crackers sent from her family in Christchurch. Like to broke her heart when the company was bought out (late '80s, I think).

Times have not changed.

I live in Wellington and I must say that many of the items are still sold today and the packaging has changed very little.
Cheers for all the great photographs.

Substitute Teacher

Can anyone make out the poster on the door? It looks to me like a potato (or a peanut?) writing on a chalkboard in front of a classroom filled with children.

Socra

Could be tea, or chai as they say in Russian. That was about the only thing the Soviet Union did well, other than caviar.

Knisper, Knasper, Knusper

Kellogg's NZ has a cute little history on Snap, Crackle and Pop. Snap, the first born of the trio was born in 1933 as a tiny gnome wearing a baker's hat and carrying a spoon and was featured on a box of "Rice Bubbles". Crackle and Pop followed six years later in 1939.

Kellogg's NZ notes that Snap, Crackle and Pop sound different in different countries:

Sweden: Piff, Paff, Puff
Germany: Knisper, Knasper, Knusper
Mexico: Pim, Pam, Pum

No matter the name we certainly all know the sound!!
It was a great time snooping around the store. Would love to know what the teacher in the cartoon on the door is writing on the board.

Kellogg's All-Bran

That may be an alternate universe in NZ, but I'm willing to bet All-Bran tastes like compressed cardboard pellets, just as it does in the Northern Hemisphere!

"Product of the USSR"

Socra Brand in lower right corner. Possibly caviar or other fishy item?

Maggi

That Maggi sign on the right brings back fond memories of our German maid when we lived in Frankfurt in 1951-52. She used Maggi flavoring in nearly everything she cooked.

Please colorize this one!

This photo begs being colorized!

What I really like about this photo is that it's old enough for the scene to look foreign compared to today's stores, yet contemporary enough for the brands and products to still be recognizable. I love the vintage Kellogg's cereal boxes, the exhibit racks, the sign promoting the virtues of polythene plastic as a convenient food wrapping -- all this speaks of an era very different to our own, and yet still very near to us.

Dave, risking being annoying, could you tell us what kind of film was used for this picture? Once again, I'm impressed with the grain texture and the balance of shadow and light. Thanks!

[I have no idea -- it's a medium format negative. As you can see below, not very contrasty until I fiddled with it in Photoshop. - Dave]

Surrealism 101

The best way to experience the illusion of travel to an alternative universe is to observe the details of quotidian life in a similar, but "not quite right" culture. Imagine an English-speaking civilization with car brands like Thermos and Celotex and snacks bearing labels like Lysol and Peterbilt. Kind of makes your clock melt, doesn't it?

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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