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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 • PROTECT HER FROM TUBERCULOSIS

Through the Looking-Glass

Through the Looking-Glass

Self-portrait circa 1910. The only thing out of focus is the photographer. Does anyone know what kind of camera he's using? Scanned from the original 5x4 inch glass negative. View full size.

In Season

At least here in New Orleans, such fabric covers for the downrods of metal light fixtures used to be fairly common. (I imagine there used to be a term for such devices but I don't know it. Lighting fixture stocking?)

In the days before air-conditioning, the fashion was to redecorate the house twice a year for winter and summer style among the well-to-do and middle class who wished to emulate them. Different summer and winter carpets on the floor, etc. Much was clearly intended to lessen the southern summer heat, but some details seem obscure now. In summer you'd dress up the lighting poles and other shiny metal objects with fabric. Someone told me it was to keep away the bugs which would be attracted by the shine. For the majority of people who had bass fixtures (as opposed to the very rich who'd have them gilded) it would have the practical advantage of allowing you not to have to polish them for the whole summer.

Fern from nowhere

Where is that fern sprouting from ? It appears to be right on the buffet/sideboard/dresser but I don't see a vase and there is nothing in the glass globes hanging from the cherub thing. It is bugging me now.

[If the fern were on that table, the fronds wouldn't stop at the edge of the mirror. - Dave]

Thinks she can have it all, does she?

Well, the last laugh's on her. I'll take a photographic catalogue of everything in this house, by gum, when that judge says to split things right down the middle you can bet it'll be done with surgical precision! She gets the damned rococo wallpaper, I get the reindeer sno-globe!

"Double Exposure!"

What an interesting composition - the picture on the wall directly behind the man's head seems to be another picture of the same man! It's like he's looking in the mirror at his older self, and showing us what he sees.

Wallpaper

Gorgeous! I love it. Some things should come back in style.

The Camera

The knob at the top of the lens standard (below left in the photo, above and right in real life) suggests it is some version of a Korona Cycle Camera by Gundlach of Rochester, N.Y.

Christmastime?

I wonder if this was around Christmas, since there appears to be a reindeer in snow in the glass bell.

The fixture

Children, the light fixture is wrapped in muslin, from the chain down to the shades, because it's new, or the household is redecorating. Once everything was up and you were done painting and papering, you'd unwind the entire business. Nowadays it would of course be plastic.

-- Great-Great Grandma

Fly Speck Shield?

The fabric wrapping on the chain and arms of the chandelier looks very ad-hoc, not very well fitted and coarsely stitched. This could be a holdover from the 19th Century practice of covering gilded metal with gauze or other fabric during the summer months to prevent fly specks (an 1876 housekeeping manual I found suggests painting gilded picture frames with onion juice for the same reason). The mass-produced oak pier mirror and its gewgaws mostly date from the 1880s, while the bit of the chair seen at left is more like 1895-1905. The photographer also appears in the framed engagement or wedding photo on the wall behind him. He hasn't aged much from that portrait to the mirror image shot.

Profile Pic

The first MySpace photo!

Focus

Is he out of focus? Or is it a long exposure, and he's blurred because he moved? I suspect the latter.

[Either way, he's out of focus. - Dave]

What's With the Chandelier?

I didn't know people upholstered their ceiling fixtures! What's up with that? Look at how crisp the doily is - and how sharp and new the wallpaper is! I'll presume that all the decorations are his wife's. These days, just about the only "self-portraits" around are of the nude/porno-ish variety. Just like this gentleman, the new guys (and gals) are holding their little black shutter-thing between their fingers, too. Some things never change, do they?

Click.

Kodak Folding or Promette c. 1907 with a ball-bearing shutter.

Not sure about the camera...

... but that shutter is a "double-dashpot," considered to be a high-quality unit. There were several manufacturers including Kodak and Bausch & Lomb.

Shocking.

The arm of that chair is scandalously unembellished.

 
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