Monthly Archives: December 2018

MFP : Smile For Heaven’s Sake

There is a wonderful Flickr Group I am a member of called “The Museum Of Found Photographs” and every so often I submit a new exhibit. My latest is this slightly lop-sided quartet from the 1930s. Where they were or what they were doing I am not sure: but it has to be said that they don’t seem very happy about it. “Smile for the camera … for heaven’s sake, smile

A Mesmeric Tea Party

There will be a slight change of format for my Random History posts this year. The random number generator will still pick the year (any year between 1850 and 1999), but the date will be as close as possible to the actual calendar date of the post. For the 1st of January we are going to a rather strange tea party in Bradford ….. in 1881.

Bradford Daily Telegraph Saturday 1st January 1881

If you were in Bradford on New Year’s Day in 1881 you could have entertained yourself by going to the Mechanic’s Institute to a “Mesmeric Tea Party”, courtesy of Professor Kershaw, Electrician, of Southport. “Mesmeric entertainments” used a combination of hypnotism, psychic demonstrations, and new-fangled electric tricks to entertain the general public. Performers such as Professors Kershaw, Smalley and others of their like used pseudo-science to entertain the general public.

Market Traders

This picture of my brother, Roger, and myself was taken in Maidstone Market in September 1969. I was about to go off to university and my brother was about to go off sailing around the canals of Europe. He funded his excursion by selling his drawings and paintings – he also had a side-line in sea urchin shells. I funded mine with a student grant! Those, indeed, were the days.

Bradford Market

This old vintage postcard has never been used, so there is no postmark to provide a clue as to the date. From the style of the card, it must date from the first decade of the twentieth century – when picture postcards were the social media of their age. Kirkgate Market was built in 1872 and was one of the most notable buildings of the city for a full century; before being demolished in 1973 to make way for an Arndale Centre. I can still remember the old market with its rows of stalls selling just about everything imagineable.

A Walk Up Thornhills Lane

This is an old postcard from my collection and it features a view of Thornhills Lane in Brighouse. Once the sun returns to the sky I will take a walk up the Lane and record what has changed in the last 110 years, but as far as I remember from the last time I was up that way, the answer will be not a lot.

The card was sent by Phebe to Tom Holland in Gorton, Manchester. As far as I can make out the message is as follows:-

Dear Tom, I hope you arrived home alright. I found all safe, also my rings. Came on to Brighouse yesterday with mother and I stayed overnight, but am going back to Halifax tonight. Kind regards to Mr Pickles,PhebePlease bring Scottish Song Book by request of Mr E Atkins.

Random News : Cameras, Coneys And Champion’s Vinegar

Our random date generating time machine has taken us back to Friday 31st August 1945 and given us a copy of the Yorkshire Post to read.

Just over three months ago the war in Europe came to an end, just under three weeks ago the war in the Far East also came to an end, so it is little wonder that the newspapers are still focusing on the impact of that horrendous world war and the prospects for the future. The Yorkshire Post leads with the first eye-witness reports of the situation in Tokyo – “a city of ashes”. “Most of the people are living in huts with thatched roofs on the outskirts Tokyo or crude dug-outs and air raid shelters in the ruined areas”, writes Robert Reuben, the Reuter correspondent. “The food situation is critical in some areas. A lorry filled with Japanese soldiers passed us, but only one drew his sword. None raised their guns”.  Another article tells us that in Germany, charcoal is now the main fuel of motor cars. 

Northerner II” in his “This World Of Ours” column, bemoans the shortage of cigarettes which has befallen on post-war England. The likely culprits, he informs us, are British troops in the Rhineland who are using cigarettes as a currency to buy cameras and watches from German civilians. Cameras are obviously in great demand because a camera shop in Leeds has just experienced its second smash and grab raid of the summer.

The rest of the newspaper is full of that meaningful minutia that is the stuff of social history. A farmer wins a new tractor in a raffle, and they are hay making down on the farm. You can buy a new fur coat (ocelot-coney, no less) for just 19 guineas – but you will still need 18 clothing coupons because rationing is still in place and will be for many years to come. If you can’t afford the coat you can always treat yourself to a night out at the cinema to see Johnny Weissmuller in “Tarzan and the Amazons”, or perhaps Penny Singleton in “Leave It To Blondie”. On the way home you can buy fish and chips – complemented by a liberal sprinkling of Champion’s Malt Vinegar.

A Gem At The Post Office Exhibition

A thing of beauty can be found in the most unlikely places. This tiny old print was found sticking to the side of an envelope that must have contained a collection of photographs of more supposed interest. It was lost and forgotten for all the reasons such tiny works of photographic art are lost and forgotten: it didn’t show Auntie Beth or Uncle Sam, it was a bit too black and white, and it wasn’t pretty. It is, however, a gem of both social and photographic imagery: packed full of movement and interesting shapes. At a guess it must date from the mid to late 1920s, and I suspect it was taken somewhere in London.

Throughout the photograph, people have been captured in mid motion; frozen in time as only photography can do. The lack of detail merely accentuates this, making it the movement that is important rather than personal details. I have no idea of was responsible for the original photograph, who printed it, who discarded it, who lost it. They created, however, a little masterpiece which I am happy to share with the rest of the world.

« Older Entries