Monday, August 26

Movie Stars from WWII: Part 2

Her fur coat and outfit helped point me in the right dircetion

This is a follow up to an earlier post, which I’ll be referring to with the assumption that you’ve read it. If you haven’t, go here to get caught up. Then come on back for the surprising conclusion!

    After David (of The Errol Flynn Blog) confirmed that it was indeed Flynn, Martha O’Driscoll and Olivia De Havilland in the photos I sent to him, it was time to figure out where the pictures had been taken. In addition to those names, I also took clues from the land in the pictures. It was rocky, barren and coastal. And by looking at the heavy, fur coat Ms. De Havilland is wearing in her photo, it’s clear that it was also a cold place.

These four look dressed for cold weather as well

    My guess was somewhere in Alaska since it fit the physical description and I knew there were bases there during the war. So I searched for “Errol Flynn Martha O’Driscoll Alaska” and was happy to discover that the two had visited Dutch Harbor, Alaska on December 4th, 1943. 

Friday, August 2

Is this a Death Portrait?

  Something I always keep an eye out for when searching for old photographs are postmortem portraits. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept; back in the day if somebody died and the family didn't have any pictures of them, they would simply pose their deceased relative for a photo before burying them. Sometimes it would just be the dead person in the photo, sometimes the family would pose with them. But, no matter what, it was all really damn creepy. (Which, of course, makes it super cool.)

  I came across the above photo about a month ago and feel pretty sure that it's a death portrait. Look at her lifeless stare - out and above the camera with eyes that didn't move during the exposure. If this girl had been living, there would have been at least a little movement of her eyes and they wouldn't be so sharp in the photo.
  However a couple of my friends, to whom I have shown the photograph, disagree. They say that the girl was probably alive for the photo and that I'm willing myself to see it as a postmortem portrait because that's what I want it to be. But I just don't know about that.

  Please tell me what you think - Am I correct to think this is a death portrait? Or are my friends right when they say I'm just seeing what I want to see? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Wednesday, July 31

Mysterious Smoke Girl

  Here's another quick post while I finish up a some longer ones. This image was included in a stack of photos I bought a while back. My guess is that it was once part of some packaging for pipe tobacco because the backside has remnants of glue around the edges (as though it had been glued into a box at some point) and a serial number.

392653 - an outstanding vintage

  It's also on flimsier cardboard stock than you would normally see with an old photograph, which is another reason I think it's probably packaging. But beyond that I really don't have much information. My hope is that one of my many fine readers might be more knowledgeable about tobacciana than I. If that's you, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Monday, July 29

Ferdinand the Beach Bull

  Did a little digging and came up with this. It would seem our grandparents' generation was easily amused...
   "Ferdinand the Bull" was first published in 1938. Munro Leaf's story of the bull that preferred sniffing flowers in the shade of a cork tree to bashing heads with his buddies in the field became an instant classic.
   Perhaps to capitalize on the book, or maybe just because it seemed like a good idea at the time, in the 1940s, Ralph "Tex" Masden- a retired movie star appearing in such gems as "The Mighty Barnum" in 1934 and "Mama's Little Pirate" in 1934- brought a live bull to Daytona Beach.
   For 25 cents, tourists could climb up the wooden stepstool onto the beast's broad back and have a souvenir photo taken, guns a-blazin' (cowboy hat optional.)
Soon other critters horned in on the bull's business. By the 1950s, folks could choose between Ferdinand, a stuffed tiger, a stuffed bear reared up on its hind legs or a live donkey named Pedro - complete with sign asking, "Can you tell which is the real jackass?"


Friday, July 26

Movie Stars from WWII

  At Gas Lamp I found a Ziploc bag full of photos with a note saying they were a soldier’s entire private photo collection from World War Two. Needless to say, I was excited about the potential story the photos contained. This guy could have literally served anywhere in the world, faced any number of dangers, fought in one of the many famous encounters from the war. That almost limitless possibility is exactly why I’m drawn to old photographs. Each one is its own historical rabbit hole. They dictate the terms of the adventure, all I have to do is find and learn about them. It’s basically brain TV and I really wanted to watch this show…

Tuesday, June 25

Back in the Saddle


  I've been inactive on this blog for far too long but that's all about to change! Despite my silence, I've been busy digging up many, MANY interesting stories to share. So over the next few weeks, you can look forward to posts about...

-More on the story of the USS SC-1277
-J.M. Jarvis of the Tennessee Union Volunteer Cavalry
-Storm damage from the early-1900s
-A paddleboat on the Ohio River
-Looking for the owner of a WWII uniform
-Quaker schoolboys

  They're all in the works and will begin appearing here in the next few days. Come on back and learn something with me!

Thursday, January 10

Calling All French Speakers

Mr. Mustache
     Today I'm looking for help. 

     As you may recall, I received a REALLY cool old French photo album from my sister for Christmas and have begun trying to locate it's original owners. At the front of the album are a handful of loose photos that have managed to stay with it all this time. (The man above with the ridiculously awesome mustache, for example.) And many of those images have hand-written notes on them.
Back of the Mr. Mustache photo
     Unfortunately, I've shown these notes to a couple of French speakers that I know and they've only been able to make out individual words or phrases. Their basic response has been something along the lines of "this handwriting is so old school that I can't understand all of it."

Thursday, January 3

IDing a WWII Ship

     Longtime readers of this brand new blog will recall that I once promised a post about a World War II U.S. Navy submarine chaser. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on how you look at it) I was sidetracked by my encounter with Bill, then by an old photo album I received for Christmas. But today I hope to begin to right that long forgotten wrong.

     I'm still researching the history of the ship in this image (which I bought for $1 at a store called Cool Stuff Weird Things). But in order to get to that point, I had to first figure out the class (type) of ship using only the clues available in the image. Clearly the number "1277" jumps out as a potential lead, so that's where I decided to start my search...