Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Through The Viewfinder

This photograph comes from a collection of old photos bought as a job lot on eBay for less than the price of a pint. I am a great fan of the novel "Sweet Caress" by William Boyd, and as soon as I saw this photograph I thought of Amory Clay, the heroine of that fine book. Boyd himself is an enthusiastic collector of anonymous photographs and "Sweet Caress" is richly illustrated with them. If there is ever a second edition of the book, I will be happy to contribute this fine photograph.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

A Question Of Sport

This is an old, real photographic postcard that must date from the first part of the twentieth century, and is full of questions. I can not be certain about the date, the place, the sport or the team. There are eleven players so I am immediately drawn to a football team (soccer team). The only real clue is a name and address on the reverse of the card:-

W Bate, 43, Shroggs Terrace, Shroggs Road, Halifax

The only W Bate I have been able to track down in Halifax at about the right time was a prominent member of the Independent Order of Oddfellows (a PPGM  which might mean Past Provincial Grand Master).  I might, however, be barking up the wrong sporting tree. If any of my Halifax contacts recognises any of these sportsmen, they are welcome to the card.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

A Paper Portal To The Past

If there is one thing you would have needed in 1919, it is a bit of a tonic. The memories of the carnage on the fields of Flanders are still raw, and the influenza epidemic is now picking off many of the people who survived. So this old photographic postcard from exactly 100 years ago seems most appropriate.

Someone has usefully identified this group of young people as "The Tonics Concert Party" of Birds Royd Mission in Brighouse, West Yorkshire.  These days, the Birds Royd area of Brighouse - which is just down the road from where I live - is mainly a bustling business and industrial estate, but 100 years ago it was still a crowded residential area, with street after street of terraced housing. Where there were nineteenth century houses in the industrial north of England, there were Methodist churches and chapels and missions of every possible variety; and in Birds Royd there was a thriving Mission Church - with its own Concert Party to provide entertainment for the congregation.

This old postcard, which I seem to recall I acquired from an Antique Centre, is a unique paper portal to a different age, albeit only 100 years ago. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the number of young men in the Concert Party is half that of young women. The Great War still cast a cloud over areas such as Birds Royd. Any kind of tonic was most welcome.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

A Decorative Basket Of Fruit

This decorative basket of fruit is non other than Olive Prosser. Who, you might well ask? This theatre postcard is signed by an actress called Olive Prosser and is dated 1931. On the reverse has been written "Robinson Crusoe. Liverpool Empire, 1931". That is enough information to track down an old newspaper advert from the Liverpool Echo from January 1931, which shows that Olive's co-stars included the slightly more famous Dorothy Ward and her husband Shaun Glenville. I have managed to track down a variety artist called Olive Prosser who was in the Broadway performance of Chou Chin Chow in 1919, but whether that was the same lady, I do not know. There is even mention of a young actress called Olive Prosser doing the circuit of Australian variety theatres at the start of the twentieth century, but that would mean that - if it was the same lady - she would have been well into middle age by the time of her performance at the Liverpool Empire. Perhaps all that fruit she carried around kept her young!

A postcard signed in 1931 by the variety and pantomime performer, Olive Prosser. We know that in January of that year she was one of the stars of Robinson Crusoe in the Empire Theatre, Liverpool; but before then or after then - who knows?

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Panel Portraits

This rather unusually shaped portrait of a studious young boy is described on the reverse as a "Panel Portrait" and is by the Blackpool photographer J Bamber of 69, Church Street. The only other reference I can find online to a "panel portrait" is by the same photographer and dates from the 1920s, so we can assume that Mr Bamber was experimenting with different shapes for his studio output in this period.  The name may have been derived from the panel paintings of the medieval and renaissance period, which would be long portraits painted on wooden panels. The style obviously never caught on and is out of keeping with the modern trend towards wide-angle landscape formats. 

A somewhat unusually shaped portrait of a studious young boy from the 1920s, which was described by the photographer - J Bamber of Blackpool - as a "panel portrait". It's a term and a shape that Mr Bamber seems to have invented ... and which never caught on.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

With Love From Hilda And Leo

There is something rather joyous about this little sepia print. The caption on the reverse simply says "With love from Hilda and Leo", and it is the smile on Hilda's face that is so striking. The photograph must have been taken during the mid 1920s, which suggests that Leo might have been one of those lucky men to have survived the Great War - or even luckier ones to have been too young to sacrifice. That smile is a smile of the times, the kind of smile you never got in the tight-knit confines of an Edwardian studio. The previous generation can just be made out at that back of the shot; half there, looking on from an earlier, sadder era. Hilda and Leo are happy and in love ... and alive.

There is something rather joyous about this sepia print from the 1920s, which carries the message "With love from Hilda & Leo". It's the smile on Hilda's face - a smile of the 1920s, a smile of the times.