Category Archives: Pictures From Nowhere

The Confidence Of Post-War Youth

My first thoughts about this studio photograph of an unknown young woman was that it might have been taken during the Great War. There is a confidence about her – the kind of confidence which came from women working in the factories and workshops, a confidence that somehow rose above the dangers of the workplace and the tragedy taking place in the trenches. On the reverse of the photograph is the name of the photographer: N.G. Woodhead of 27, Midland Road, Wellingborough. I have only found one reference to Mr Woodhead on-line, and that suggests that he didn’t take charge of the Wellingborough studio until 1918. So maybe that look is the confidence of post-war youth.

A Sinkhole In History Takes Us To A Missionary In China

This is an old photograph of a wedding party that must have been in a job lot of old photos I bought recently. Someone has kindly written some basic information on the reverse of the photograph: “Francis Henry and Alice Evangeline Mosse, Married at the Legation Church, Peking, November 8th 1921“. Thirty years ago that might have been a piece of mildly interesting but totally useless information. Now, however, I have the greatest research library ever known to mankind in front of me on my desk, and I am therefore able to travel back in time and expand on these minimal details. Dr, Francis Henry Mosse was born in Buckinghamshire in January 1885, the son of the Rev E H Mosse, vicar of St Paul’s, Covent Garden. He was educated at King’s School Canterbury and Trinity College Oxford, and he studied medicine at King’s College Hospital, qualifying in 1913. During the war he served as a temporary captain in the Royal Army Medical Corp in Egypt and Palestine, and was with General Allenby’s forces at the capture of Jerusalem. After the war he decided to dedicate his working life to being a medical missionary, and in 1920 he sailed for China to take up a post as a physician to the Cheloo Christian University, under the auspices of the Society For The Propagation Of The Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG) In 1921 he married Alice Evangeline Anderson, a young missionary from Duluth, Minnesota.

The couple stayed in China for twenty years and Francis Henry – who was always known as Robin – trained young Chinese men and women at Cheloo University. He fell ill with tuberculosis in 1941 and was evacuated to the USA for treatment, and he died there later that year. Alice never returned to China and died in America in 1979, aged 90. Thanks to the wonderful British Newspaper Archive, we are able to catch up with Robin Mosse in 1926, when he was on a lecture tour back in the United Kingdom. A cutting in the Warwick Advertiser & Leamington Gazette (Saturday 16 January 1926) tells of his attendance at a meeting of the SPG in Kenilworth, and his talk about his work in China. He is described as follows:

“Dr Robin Mosse, who is not a stranger to Kenilworth, and is known for his self-sacrificing work on the China Medical Missions, more than interested his hearers. His earnestness was impressive, and his personality charming, so the audience could quite understand how he and Mrs Mosse continued year after year to carry on the great work in a country where the presence of foreigners is resented”

Warwick & Warwickshire Advertiser & Leamington Gazette, Saturday 16 January 1926

This is what I really love about old photos: you can be walking along a path and suddenly fall through a sinkhole in history, and emerge in a world a long way away and a long time ago.

A Bedding To Dispose Of

Old Photograph Of Unknown Origins With Message On Reverse

You will see from the other side that Mother is keeping better. I sent a p.c. on Saturday week and mentioned having a bedding to dispose of, you have not said anything yet. We want to know as we want it out of the way before we finish the cleaning. It is better than the last. Mother says if you have an old one you could get rid of it.

Round Hats And Tightly Bobbed Hair

There is a short caption on the reverse of this small print, and it suggests that the photograph was taken in Ramsgate in July 1934. I am no expert on women’s fashion, but the 1934 date seems about right for this somewhat distinctive dress. Just looking at the heads on show and I might have thought that it dated from the previous decade: all those round hats and tightly bobbed hair. Some hair styles never seem to come back into fashion – thank goodness!

Oh Susanna – It’s Time To Go Back Home

On the reverse of this Victorian Cabinet Card is written the following:  “My Grandmother (Susanna), Dad in black velvet suit, Uncle Dewi next, Uncle Arthur on his Mother’s left, Uncle Tom leaning against her”. As so often with these Victorian studio cards, I have no idea who all these people are, and there is something rather sad about the fact that the photograph is in my collection rather than gracing the mantelpiece of one of Susanna’s relatives. The photograph comes from the studio of A. W. Sargent of Cardiff. If there is anyone out there who wants to claim these people as their own, just get in touch and I will be happy to re-unite them with their family.

A Doorstep-Thick Slice Of History

This is a wonderful old photograph, which, like so many wonderful old photographs, is of unknown people, in unknown places, at an unknown time. There is no need to have the genealogical satisfaction of knowing that Auntie Winnie is the one on the left, or Mabel Cuddlington is the one on the right: the image can be appreciated in its own right and as a slice of history. And what a slice it is: doorstep-thick and dripping with best butter. Were these four ladies just passing and keen to avail themselves of a photo opportunity, or was it their bike? We will never know.

E.M. At 17

I can find no record of any Victorian photographer called “A. Lowe” who was based in Melton – indeed I am not even sure where Melton is, unless it is a shortened form of Melton Mowbray. On the reverse of this little Carte De Visite is written, “E.M. 17 Yrs 1900”. As with all such old photographs of unknown subjects, one is left with the question – what happened to her, what life lay ahead?

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.

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