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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • VINTAGE ALASKA, c. 1920s

Boy on a Bike: 1900

Boy on a Bike: 1900

"Boy on bicycle ca. 1895-1916" is the improvised title of this 5x7 dry plate from the C.M. Bell portrait studio in Washington, D.C., whose legacy is a collection of some 30,000 glass negatives recently digitized and catalogued by the Library of Congress after spending the better part of a century in "a succession of basements and farm buildings." View full size.

 

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Little Lord Fauntleroy?

Without the curly hair, but the same winsome smile.

Oil?

There seems to be a long springy bracket on the front lamp and, together with the vent, suggests to me that there is paraffin (kerosene?) in the bottom tank. Without good springing the flame would go out when shaken on a bumpy road.
The valve on the rear tyre looks shorter than the UK one used at that time; would it have a tubular rubber insert?

Digitization

True, it doesn't get moldy, but I wonder if a flash drive stored in a damp basement for 100 years would yield any images?

He grew to be...

TV Tommy Ivo before he got his 4 engine dragster.

Posh

A well-dressed kid and a well-appointed bicycle (headlight!)plus, of course, his presence in a photo studio suggests that this is a child of privilege. Who did he grow up to be?

Background Fungus?

The background was a bit of a puzzle until I recalled something I learned right here on Shorpy: Old negatives can be attacked by fungus. I surmise this is a severe case of fungal attack.

(Makes one realize how much of a blessing digitization is.)

[The culprit here is most likely mold resulting from water damage. -Dave]

The headlight is interesting. It might be a carbide/acetylene lamp like some underground miner's headlamps, or it might be an early dry cell electric.

Many years ago, I saw a British-made bicycle headlamp that used a rectangular 3-volt battery which was two cylindrical zinc-carbon cells in a single enclosure. It had brass contact strips on the top and front. I believe these batteries have been obsolete since circa WW2.

Judging by the apparent size of this lamp, it might be an electric lamp which takes one of these 3v. batteries. But, the top looks somewhat like a vent, so acetylene still seems like a good guess.

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