A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7000 images, 3.6 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, The Paris Review, Le Figaro, MENSA, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 3,000+ total posts
Both images are details from this lovely tintype, a piece of photographic Americana I picked up in an antique store, found while looking for odd bits like it to construct an imaginary mug book for people who committed imaginary crimes, crimes against teh imagination. But not this man--he held his imagination in his little hat, a hat too small for his head. The original is really rather small, only about an inch tall, but for all of its minor dimensions it has major visual attractions.
I'm not sure at what point during the War this image was made (though I suspect it was midway through the American experience) and shows what I think is the enlistment and draft numbers for U.S. soldiers. The progress of the growth of the Army is charted against German cities that were to be conquered or had already been engaged. The Doughboy in the graphic along with everything else looks clean and hopeful and determined--the end result of all of this determination was Victory and Defeat and people dead everywhere.
TO have been on the River Somme, in France, in the summer of 1916, and to be in uniform, and carrying a gun, was perhaps the worst place to be in the whole of World War I. More than one million soldiers were killed or wounded in that time, with millions more engaged. It was impossible.
This photograph tells part of the story. It was released September 27, 1918, by Underwood and Underwood, a news photo service agency that distributed sanctioned photographs of war action to newspapers and other periodicals.
The photograph was accompanied by a caption supplied by U & U (bottom) and tells the story of these captured German soldiers--dazed, starving, frightened, hungry, thirsty, and were part of a group of more than 100,000. They were offered water from a trough, and in spite of it all, they were so thirsty that they were desperate for whatever they could get.
For whatever reason, the entire trough was not filled with water--only limited sections were. The soldiers were holding their place in line with their hands on the empty trough, inching slowly forward. In my collection of these photographs it is rare to see faces in despair or pain like this, and these faces are definitely telling stories. (This is another example of the unusual display of emotion in WWI news service photographs.)
JF Ptak Science Books An earlier post (#1308) expanded
If I was in a time machine, stepping back through a wormhole and into another segment of another reality, one of the places I'd least want to step into would be a cramped, cold, wet, dirty and dangerous place. Like this American soldier, waiting for a German attack to begin so that he could launch a warning flare to the rest of the soldiers, hunkered down in a cold wet place in the front line along the Lorraine section in France, mid-way through 1918 and almost all-the-way-through WWI.
And even though this soldier looks far too clean, and his uniform far too spotless and pressed-ish, and his calf-skin gloves too calf-skinny, and his duffle too unmarred, and his helmet chinstrap too perfect for this man to actually have been fighting, the sensation of cold/bad/dangerous still gets through the whitewash.
There are of course much worse places to be, but I think if I limited my time travel to include what I would be on the other end--a U.S. soldier--one of the places at te top of te list would be a generic trench in the front line of a battle late in the fighting in WWI. Sitting there, watchful, waiting for the advance of thousands of German troops, charging over a ruined and sulfurous landscape, waiting for the ruination to begin as it churned its way through No Man's Land. Of course it could be worse--one could be going "over the top", charging across the Desolate Place towards a line of thousands of entrenched soldiers all of whom were trying to kill. you.
Or of course you could be in a blue coat marching in a straight line towards a series of long lines of men in red coats, everyone getting ready to get close enough to discharge an 69-calibre (or thereabouts) ball across an open plane of hundreds of feet into the ranks of the opponent. Or being in a Marine uniform in Tarawa, in the Gilberts, in November 1943. Or being in Butternut, crossing the Emmitsburg Road on the way up Cemetery Ridge on 3 July, or being in any uniform whatsoever at Antietam.
The places and times get worse I think once you allow yourself to be any other solider in any other uniform. A French soldier, for example, sitting in a similar spot in the same battle along a front line as our American Doughboy, above, would've been worse. A Belgian soldier virtually anywhere also would have fared worse, statistically, than just about anyone else in WWI. Being a newly-minted soldier wearing the uniform of the Soviet Socialist Republics in the Summer of 1941 would probably have been half-a-death-sentence. Of course the list goes on, and on.
Perhaps one of the worst inventions in the history of warfare was The Trench. Millions of men were wounded or met their ends while defending one, or attacking one, or being in-between two of them. Hundreds of thousands of troops spent months charging back and forth between opposing lines, the ground over which they fought made uninhabitable for almost any form of life. Cold, wet, bad.
Here's another original photograph made by the Western Newspaper Union Photo Service, as a "British Official Photograph" (with the "British" part penciled out and replaced by an unknown hand, "Italian"), The photo agency supplied a caption for the image (that was supposed to have been used by the newspaper or magazine that published the picture) as follows:
I've experimented a little in presenting photographic images on a slightly different medium, and the results are interesting, Take for example Arthur Rothstein's classic 1936 "Father and Son" (actually, the "son" should be a plural, as there are two little kids rushing in the photo): I've used a 25 meg file and printed (lasered) rather small on a piece of antique tissue-guard paper--the paper, from 1830, is fantastically light, yet very strong for its remarkable thinness. The result of the modern, small Rothstein printed on the 180-year-old paper looks "believable" in its own odd way.
JF Ptak Science Books [Continuing an earlier Post #1398]
This is what defeat looks like, or at least so it did in the Philippines in 1907, when the revolt against the Spanish and the Americans was finally at end, for the insurgents.
Ablen Faustino (fl. 1880-1907), Philippine religious and resistance leader, was still fighting against the American government seven years after the U.S. had claimed victory over the Spanish in the Philippines, and represented the last bit of Philippine resistance to American occupation and sovereignty.There are many stories regarding his final disposition—some of which having the man escape into the woods to die an old man—but from the look of Faustino in this picture it seems as though he was going nowhere, except for a short walk into the heart of darkness that would swallow him just after the photo was taken. (The original photo is available on our blog bookstore site, here.)
On the one Faustino was a terrorist; on the other he was a patriot and holyman fighting for his country.He had fought the Spanish occupiers in the 1880’s until he was captured and imprisoned.After his release and following the American victory, he founded a religious/insurgent group—the Pulahans--whose ultimate religious experience was to defeat the invaders or die trying.(From where I sit it seems as the requisite belief was death in battle for this struggle rather than the actual victory which was the benefit to the followers.) The Pulahans for the most part eschewed firearms and other “modern” weapons, launching themselves into battle with bolos, knives, and little else, hoping for hand-to-hand fighting.It is reported that there were 10,000-15,000 of these troops, making them a formidable army, frightening if you were one of the soldiers that they were going to attack.
These post-war Pulahan Wars lasted from 1902 to 1907, ending with their leader’s capture by Philippine Constabulary and the 8th U.S. Infantry.One of the few official reports on Faustino’s capture was recorded in a legal document regarding jurisprudence in the arrest of the others who were with him that day.In U.S. v. Espiridion Rota et al (found in the Supreme Court Reports of the Philippine Islands, volume IX, published in Manila in 1908), the unfortunate story of the application of law to the other five men is told, as is the mention of Faustino’s capture.It turns out that when the others were taken into custody and the wheels of justice began to turn, they all pleaded guilty, and charged with the crime of brigandage.Rota was sentenced to hanging and the others to imprisonment for 35 (+) years.Plus court costs.Their case was appealed because it was said the men had no idea what the guilty plea would get for them in the punishment phase; the Supreme Court upheld the conviction as well as the discipline, which was a little moot for Rota as he had already been hanged.
What one might infer from this, I think, is that Faustino’s date with his punishment was probably met right there by the hut in which this photo was taken; that his destiny was sealed; and that rather than martyr a religious leader, the troops merely took the severely wounded(and beaten?) man into the woods and disappeared him.
According to the historical sites which have used the other two photos of mine of this event (all done freely and without attribution, unfortunately), these are the only known photos of Faustino’s last times.
Another version of the capture of Faustino is less shining:
JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Part of the series on World War I
This wonderful, contemplative, lonely, sad, and ultimately draining photograph depicts a camouflaged road somewhere on the Western Front. That's rather a prosaic term for that atrocious line of battle that stretched from the North Sea to Switzerland, where hundreds/thousands of miles of trenches were dug and filled and fought over, where millions of shells were shot and exploded, and millions of soldiers and civilians killed and wounded.
The "Western Front" really doesn't quite do as a descriptor.
But here we are, just the same. And so the image above, with the man on a bicycle on a well-used road--he's moving along under a long canopy of netting designed to obscure/hide the road from telescopic viewing or eyes-in-the-sky. When this photo was made for the Western Newspaper Union, mid-1918, the war was nearly over. But still there was the fighting, and the supply lines for the millions of troops, right to the bitter end at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
And the full version:
The photograph itself is one from a collection of hundreds here from news photo service agencies, images made of the War from a pool of photographers who covered the action for American newspapers and magazines, and whose work was necessarily censored. The photographs would be selected/ordered by a news agency, and the caption of explanation would be provided by the news photo service (as seen above).
Michael Beschloss posted this remarkable photograph of the Lower East Side on Mulberry Street, a rare color photo made around 1900. There is a lot of life going on here--people posing for the photographer (standing on an elevated platform with a large view camera, no telling who or what he was imaging), people caught in their daily lives, people. Under the Paper Microscope the image reveals all sorts of sub-images, photos-within-photos, making it a fascinating exercise in exploration.
For example, the two men hiked-up on the back of a moving wagon on the bottom-right seem to be enjoying themselves in expectation, the man on the left about to toss something underhanded, the guy on the right in a bow tie getting ready with a smile to enjoy what was going to happen. To their right: a man with a sales platform draped from his neck, watching a girl rush by, his pocket stuffed with paper.
In my travels in and out of imagery and books, I've kept a small space allocated in what is left of my memory palace for images of the working poor and the laboring classes. Most of the world's population of course has been and still is composed chiefly of the daily (and not so) laborer, but if you were to measure images that were made of these folks while at work or with the tools of their trade, and compare it to the rest of the images of more-exalted people spending their time doing more-exalted things, I would guess that the images of the working classes would be vastly outweighed by the rest, at least in the ancinet to early-modern times (of say 1925)--that is why it is so very interesting to see third-quarter 19th century photographs of these people.
This image was made by William Carrick (1827-1878, born in Scotland but who spent his life chiefly in Russia) in the 1860's, and is found at the National Gallery of Scotland, here. Carrick made important contributions to the ethnography and the history of photogaphy, documenting the lifestyle and costume of Russian peasants in the country. It is probable that he made his series cartes de visite images of itinerant trades people as a sort of postcard to the tourist and taveling class--but what happened of course is that he recorded in great detail bits of everyday life that was in general invivible to the main sttream of people who were in the image-making class. And so Carrick produced images of knife sharpeners, and tool sellers, and milk haulsers, and woodcarvers and hackmen and chimney sweeps and so on, pictures of the people who made the city run. I was particularly struck by this image of a boy selling abacuses/abaci--Im not sure that I 've seen a photograph/engraving of a street vendor of this sort of instrument, but here one is--a boy in the 'tween years, wearing boots way too big, with a woven basket full of abacuses/abaci. (The varities here have two ranks of four beads--one for quarter-rubles and the other for quarter kopeks--while the other wires hold ten beads apiece.)
Maybe the boy isn't a 'tween--maybe he's younger than that. Maybe the boy is a girl. In any event, the basket looks heavy, and I'm sure the child returned home with a weary back at the end of the day.
In this stereographic photograph of a group of 3,000 U.S. soldiers (prepared to fight in Europe in WWI, ca. 1917/1918), there is a smaller contingent in two rows, in front, consierably removed from the rest of the formation. This is difficult to see in the first image. However, with a more concentrated view and deeper scan, this is a little more evident, below:
This view still shows the first row of soldiers; that more-distant third row differentiation is much more defined here--the depth of the mass of the formation is starting to really come into focus. The next image shows the heads of the men in the second row, but mostly concentrates on that third row, and beyond:
The final view is just above the heads of the sldiers in the third rank, and more clearly shows the those men in the rear of the formation, including that final rank, which is a profile of men marching. This enlargement represents a section in the original photograph that measures less than 10x6mm--60 square millimeters of great density, complexity, insight, and beauty.
Many years ago in D.C. I bought part of the estate library of Parmelee C. Daniels--the books had been passed down to the next generation, and after their passing some of those books came into my bookstore. Among them was this wonderful photograph, made by P.V. Reyes of Avalon California in 1923. But it wasn't until tonight that I could easily put together the history of the image. (And when I said "small mystery solved" I meant that it was a small mystery to me--no doubt there will be many others who will identify this instrument on first light).
I found that the photograph was made during the 1923 Solar Eclipse Expedition to Santa Catalina Island at Camp Wrigley, and was attended by Daniels and a host of the Big Names of astronomy of the 19-teens and 'twenties. Daniels was a professor at Drake University in Des Moines, and the school's telescope was packed up and made the trip to the Pacific. I do believe that this is the 8.5-inch refractor that was the gift to the school of General Drake in 1893, although I could be wrong.
Here's the image of the telescope (with Daniels standing on the box, President of Drake University and astronomy professor Dr. Morehouse, and Prof. Edwin B. Frost. The image comes from the University of Chicago:
[PC Daniels photo on the solar eclipse expedition of 1923 via the University of Chicago, http://storage.lib.uchicago.edu/ucpa/series6/derivatives_series6/apf6-03446-031r.jpg]
And so the story of this photograph gained some life tonight by me simply plumbing the intertubes for information. Unfortunately I do not know the identity of the boy in the sailor's suit.
8 1/4" Brashear/Warner&Swasey refractor, 1894. (Curiously, in a
dedicatory article in the 1922 issue of "Popular Astronomy" it is
described by the chief astronomer at Drake University, Daniel Morehouse
as a 9" telescope). According to Kirby-Smith (U.S. Observatories, Van
Nostrand Reinhold), it has an interchangeable front flint element for
visual or photographic work, and has a 5" doublet Brashear camera and a
polarizing solar eyepiece. Possibly also, a filar micrometer and a
This image shows one of the happy moments during the First World War--rather, a happy moment right before the end of the war, just a few days after the Armistice (11-11-1918, on the 11th minute of the 11th hour). The image shows the British army being welcomed into the city of Lille on October 17, 1918--the city had been occupied by the Germans right at the beginning of the war in the middle of October, 1914, and was severely punished for a deception perpetrated in its defense, with the German army burning down an entire section of the ancient city in revenge.
The picture was published on 15 November 1918, a few days after the end of the war. In the detail of this photo is revealed a small and unexpected kindness:
A bit of calm, or at least a bit of a place that could not be reached by shells or bullets, was found bellow ground in the cellars of Douaumont Fort, in Verdun. These images were made at the very end of 1916, and published in The Illustrated London News for 13 January 1917. These images show another side of that battle, of soldiers meeting for religious services and for medical attention in the cellars ("...the subterranean, vaulted, stone-built casements, deep underground beyond possibility of penetration by the heaviest bomb") of one of the barrier-forts surrounding Verdun, Douaumont.
This image stabbed me right in the eyeball. It popped out while I was grazing in a heavy lap-busting volume of The Illustrated London News for 26 March 1949--the yearly volume resists being held in just one hand. Anyway it was first a photo of new tanks in an American cavalry regiment; beneath that, though, was this image:
JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Part of the Zoomology series.
It would be easy to rhapsodize on the "quieter" or "simpler" lifestyles and demands of society from 90 years ago, especially when you compare this bathing beauty image (below) to the pupal-pulsating extravaganzas of the modern image-formulating beauty fairs. For people who were alive in this photo in 1925 I have no doubt that their life was just as complexified as any life situations as they exist today. One thing that has changed are the speeds at which societal inputs can be responded to--we can certainly achieve more-or-less instant satisfaction addressing a problem today than could have ever been dreampt of in 1925. The fluidity of thought and communication that are a given in 2012 were not even a scientific fiction possibility in 1925--as a matter of lexicograph record, the term "science fiction" didn't even exist in 1925, much less be a bucket for collecting rumblings of future possibilities. There were certainly fewer levels of things to deal with in 1925, but the time it took to deal with the dealables would have been far greater than today's timetables of answers, so perhaps the issue of the simple vs. the complex would be a wash/trade off so far as the actual amount of time was concerned in the global addressing of combined complexities. Anyway, that horrible sentence out of the way, the idea of the "simpler life" is highly relative, and relational.
That said, here is the line-up of contestants for a beauty contest at Huntington Beach, California, in 1925.
Everything seems interesting in this photo--the women themselves, their bathing attire, the men standing behind them, the footwear on the beach, and of course the girls peeking out through the legs of the contestants.
All images are found at the Library of Congress, here. All image are also greatly expandable.