Sunday, November 27, 2011

Snapshot of Gisela, a little girl playing with a doll, Germany 1928

This is a snapshot of a little holding a doll in her lap.  There is writing on the back in German: "Gisela im September 1928 auf unserer Veranda".  To me it looks like she's sitting on an apartment balcony, so I translate this as "Gisela, September 192, on our balcony".  There is another building in the background.

This is a neat little photo (and I do mean little - a shade less than 2.5 x 3.5 inches), and the writing on back just makes it more interesting.  A little girl sitting side ways in a chair, with bows in her pig-tails, wearing a dress and knee socks, holding a good sized doll & doll sized umbrella, looks up and smiles for a quick photo.  An instant in time, gone forever.

When I looked at this picture, before I even looked at the writing on back, I immediately thought "European", and I'm not sure why.  I lived quite a while in central Europe, and there was just something that was familiar, can't really put my finger on it.

The writing on back is in German, and the date is 1928, so this little girl - though I'm positive she had no clue - was in for some hard times.  WWII would start in 1939, so she'd be in her late teens or early 20s, and no matter what her situation in life, things were going to be hard at best, very possibly life threatening.  This is like a picture of the calm before the storm.   Actually the calm between two very large storms.

Since this is dated 1928, I'd say she was born somewhere between 1918 & 1920 - which means if she survived WWII, she could still be alive.  She'd be very old, in her 90s.

Update:  Sold!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

An RPPC of St. Anthony's Catholic Church and Noviciate, Angola, Indiana

This is a Real Picture Postcard (RPPC) of St. Anthony's Catholic Church and Noviciate in Angola, Indiana. 

Postcards like this get me to thinking about what an RPPC really is.  Most postcards start off as photographs, after all, so why are some RPPCs and others aren't?   Its a good question and sometimes it almost falls into the "you know it when you see it" category.  That's very unsatisfactory though.  After all, there are lots of postcard views of things such as this that are not RPPCs.

I used to think that RPPCs were not massed produced, but then you get into the definition of mass produced.  Many RPPCs are picture of people that were just included in a set made by a studio, and these are definitely almost one of a kind.  Some are nothing more than snapshots that people took and had printed on postcard paper (I like those, btw), and they are obviously not massed produced.  Others, like this one, are not studio produced, but are quite professionally done, complete with the caption in white on the front (scratched on the negative, I think).  I don't know how many copies of this postcard were produced but it was most likely quite a few.

One thing that guides me in a case like this is the manufacturer's logo in the stamp box.  Certain of these logos are associated with RPPCs - one of the most common is AZO, but EKC and many others are also common.  You can use these logos to date the postcards (or a least get a date range).  So to me, if it has the look of an RPPC and it has a stamp box logo I know is associated with an RPPC - then it's an RPPC.

This one has an "EKC" stamp box on back, dating it to somewhere between 1930 & 1950.  It's a nice stark black and white photograph which documents a scene 60 to 80 years old.  I have no idea if it's still there.

I have this postcard listed on eBay - if you're interested in it click here.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Kansas City, MO. 50 years ago (from 1916)

This is an early 20th postcard showing "Kansas City 50 Years Ago".   It's almost certainly Kansas City, Missouri & not Kansas City, Kansas across the river.  I'm not 100% positive about that - I've only driven thru the cities on I-64 & that was a long time ago, and at least once it was as night.  But I'll bet anything it's Missouri. 

There is no indication of the actual date of the view in this postcard, but you can tell just by looking it was a while ago.  The city looks like a small to mid-sized town mostly crowded next to the water, and there are open fields behind it, and steamboats on the river in front of it.  I can tell just by looking at the front of the card that is early 20th century, made earlier than 1918 most likely.  But the biggest clue is that it has a postmark on back - it was mailed from Kansas City, MO. to Ipswich, South Dakota on April 9, 1916.  (To a Mr. Vick Olson, to be exact). So this card can be dated to 1916 at the latest, and probably a year or two earlier than that.   It's a divided back card, so I know it was created in 1907 or later.  So what we're looking at is an early 20th century rendition of a painting of the Kansas City skyline somewhere between the very late 1850s to mid 1860s.   In the 1860s, this would have been a major population center for that part of the country.

I get all giddy about stuff like this, can't help it. It's just cool.

I have this listed on eBay - if you want to go to the listing, click here.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Tintype Men & Women, Umbrellas, Cigars, Canes, Hats & a bag

This is a tintype photo of two women & two men, though in reality I'm pretty sure no tin is involved.  But it is a photograph printed on a piece of metal.  Tintypes and similar photographic processes were very popular from the 1850s till near the end of the 19th century.  There is a lot to know about tintypes - plate sizes for one thing.  The size of this one I think makes it a 1/6th plate, which I suppose means a full plate is 6 times as large. But 1/6th & 1/16th size seem to be the most common sizes of tintypes.  I'm no expert, don't quote me on anything.

I like this picture, it has a ton of detail.  Everybody's dressed kind of formally - perhaps a 19th century Sunday afternoon at the boardwalk.  Both men are wearing the same kind of hat, the one on the left has a cigar in his had, the one on the right appears to be resting his hand on top of a cane.   The women are wearing very long dresses, large hats with feathers/flowers, both are holding umbrellas (for the sun, not the rain), and there appears to be a bag of some kind of the floor next to the woman on the left.
My opinion is that this was not a planned photograph, where they made an appointment and so on.  I think they just walked in, and it was taken and developed in a hurry.  The backdrop of the photographer's studio is hung kind of carelessly, and everybody looks a little slanted.  I don't think the photographer took a lot of time with this photograph.   I've cropped the picture a bit, the actual tintype has uneven edges and is rounded on the top corners - it looks like it was trimmed hastily.  I think these people were just out for some late 19th century fun in the sun and ducked into a little studio to have their picture made.  It's pretty cool.

I have this listed in the eBay store, you can find it here, if you wish.  At least for awhile.

Update:  Sold!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cabinet Photo Native American Indian

This is a beautiful photograph of a Native American Indian.  His hair, face & clothing are very intricate and detailed.   This photograph is mounted on cardboard, with a photographer's printed name of Ellsworth Marks,  Clinton, Missouri.  The only problem is, this photo is almost certainly a reproduction.

This got me to thinking about what exactly is a reproduction, and how do you tell?  I'm certainly no expert, so these are very good questions for me.  And Cabinet Photos of American Indians seem to be prime reproduction material.  The originals are very expensive.

To me, a photo is original if it it is printed (in a non-digital manner) from the original negative.  So the original negative may be from the 1890s or so - if someone had that and took it to a dark room and printed the picture out yesterday, even on modern photographic paper, I would consider that original.  I suspect it would not be as valuable or collectible as something printed out in the 1890s with the technology & paper of the 1890s, but it would not be a reproduction. 

To me, a reproduction is a picture of a picture, whether that second picture was made with an old 35mm camera, or scanned into a computer.  Also if someone scanned an image of the negative into a computer then used photo shop to create a photo, that is obviously a reproduction. 

Someone went to the trouble to very carefully and skillfully mount this photograph on cardboard backing with photographer's information on it. It looks for all the world like a 19th century cabinet photo.If it was an original cabinet photo, a person may reasonably expect to receive hundreds of dollars for it - or more, depending.   But I've seen a lot of pictures like this (not this particular one, but cabinets of American Indians), and they're almost always considered reproductions.   The interesting thing is though, the people who say they are reproductions almost never say how they know that, so I'm left in the dark.

I'm familiar enough with late 19th century photographs to know that they are not black and white.  They are frequently very subtle shades of browns and grays, which are very hard to reproduce accurately in my eBay listings .  If a photo has a classic black and white look to it then it probably does not date from the 19th century. 

I also know that if a picture is printed off a computer, at some level you can see the pixels. Sometimes you can see it with the naked eye, sometimes you need a some magnification.  This one was definitely not printed from a computer.

Also, late 19th century photos are printed on very thin paper - this paper is not really thin, it looks to be a later vintage.  Maybe that's it, maybe that's how they tell, I'm not sure.

If I accept the fact that this is a repro, then at some point in the past someone used cardboard backing from Ellsworth Marks photography studio in Clinton, Missouri, and very skillfully mounted this photo on it, with an intent to deceive.   Maybe it was old Ellsworth himself, or maybe someone who came into possession of these items at a later time.  I don't know.  And I have no idea where the picture would have come from - did he get it from someone else?  Did he cut it out of a magazine (not likely).

This is probably a repro, if I am to believe stuff people say about photos like this.  Photos that are really too good to be true.  I just wish the people who seem so certain about these things would be a bit more open about how they know for sure. 

Even though this is most likely a reproduction, it is beautiful.  Chances are someone would like to have it.  I've scheduled it and others for sale in the eBay store, starting at about 10 PM tonight.  I'll be listing others throughout the week.

Update:  Sold!  (this one was a safe bet)