Nightmare On Main Street

I know it is a little early to be posting this sort of thing, but I thought it was imperative that I give all you good little girls and boys fair warning: if this is the Santa that is coming to your house, you can stop worrying about your behavior, tear up that wish list and save the postage – you’re wasting your time! If you have been bad it doesn't matter now.

This Santa doesn’t even have reindeer! Nope. His miserable, moth-eaten donkey has been dead for so long the hair is coming off in handfuls, and look at the tail (even the taxidermist responsible for the smirk on its face is probably expired and stuffed)!

Trusting little Evelyn, age four, doesn’t seem to realize she has been had by the department store! Whose idea was the donkey, anyway? Do you think maybe the regular Santa didn’t show up (can you blame him?) so someone dashed frantically into the alley behind the store, found this guy and offered him $15 to don the outfit and stand in for the day. You would have thought someone from the cosmetics counter could have done something! From the look on his face, you might guess this was already child #1426 just since the store opened at 10 and the sort of holiday spirit he has in mind isn’t in his heart!

I’m really sorry about this kiddies, but I thought you would want to know. And Happy Holidays!

I think this is early 1930s (talk about Depression!)


R. Dean's Raven Inn

Two things identify the geographic location of this photo: the little delivery van with Rugby Cooperative Society painted on the side (this is the Warwickshire town of Rugby's grocery cooperative founded in 1862 and continuing into the 1960s at least, which makes sense considering the basket on one boy's arm) and the advertising signage for Leamington Ales and Stout (also Warwickshire), a regional product sold at R. Dean's Raven Inn. I find numerous listings for The Raven Inn, Broad Street, Brinklow, Rugby, Warwickshire, on the internet, but no photographs, so I cannot conclusively say it is the same inn, yet it is likely. We can be sure most everything in this image would look drastically different today except perhaps the inn itself – though that may have been significantly altered as well.

A group of men and boys and one woman pose before the inn early in the last century. A bit of humor: to the far right before the gate is the motion blurred form of what I think is a little terrier posing for the camera in a sitting position, paws up, but no one is paying it any attention. Is it with one of the group or with the cameraman? One thing is certain, it knows what to do in front of a camera, bless its accommodating little soul!


Pennies For Your Thoughts

Sometimes you collect a photograph for the simple reason that it appeals to you. This girl knew her picture was being taken but the expression caught is one you see on any child's face from time to time, and you wonder what she or he is thinking. The portrait is small and it has wonderful tones, thanks to the skill of Ely of Duluth. About 1905. No identification.

You may notice that I often preserve the embossed borders of portrait cards when I can and when they suit the subject – that way you see it as it was when it was made.


In-Studio Weather Forecast: Snowy

Studio special effects, 1890s style. This Railroad Photo Car photograph, by it's very existence, means there had to be a significant number made for customers; though I have seen occasional snow scene backgrounds, this is the only one I have ever seen that had falling snowflakes. I assumed that (1) the flakes were blown onto the finished print, or (2) a second piece of glass with opaque speckles was sandwiched with the developed negative when the print was being exposed; the second option was both the safest and most practical method, and it turns out that was surely what they did, including a little extra effect with a snowball splatter on the skirt! Note that the subject was given a handful of white material to hold in her hand, and some fake snow was sprinkled on her hat, shoulder and sleeve – this was a classy bit of gimmickry all the way around.

The back of the card is inscribed: To Maurie, Dec. 14, 1887, so perhaps it was sent as a Christmas greeting. The photographers were Hutchings Bros. (I do not know what railroad line their studio car was allied with, but anything much before the 1890s is an early photo car example). The 4" x 5.5" cabinet card is in excellent condition and required only minor restoration.


May We Help You?

The photographer of this small grocery store (turn of the century) chose to shoot into the bright doorway and window which made for extreme light flares and poorly exposed areas, so much so that it is surprising that anyone ordered the large cabinet print; it also required considerable editing to make a presentable image for this posting, but perhaps it was worthwhile.

The result was also an image that has low resolution, making it difficult to read most of the product labels, but being a food label collector, I recognize shredded wheat, Ralston Cereal, Puffed Rice, Scotch Brand Barley, Quaker's Hominy Grits, Baker's Coconut and Chocolate, Karo Syrup, baking powder, French's pepper, ginger and other spices, Better Butter, Elastic Starch, Domino Sugar and Choice Lawn Seed, just what you would expect. There are some fresh vegetables on the counter, some packaged pastries in the glass-topped display, enormous loaves of bread, candy, crackers, and a seed display; I do not see any tobacco products which often would have been available in such an establishment. You visited the butcher for your meat.

If one of the two men is the proprietor, which seems likely, then I would opt for the older gent by the rocker, not the dandy behind the counter (who blinked his eyes and necessitated some cosmetic surgery on my part). Stores like these had a few things you could browse and choose for yourself, but for the most part you asked, or read out your list, and the employees got your selections, packed them up for you and probably passed the time of day while they were doing it – you could have a seat in the rocker and visit. Surely there would be a ladder for reaching items on the higher shelves, but perhaps it is to our left out of view.