All aboard. People I very much appreciate:

Friday, May 22, 2015

Geo.-Archival Enigma #3, Columbus 1893


I've been traveling, which confuses me, but not enough to launch a new post so I waited and fiddled around a few days and got into the stereoviews again. Got to thinking --especially after a phone confabulation with my sister this morning-- about forgetting, remembering and what makes us do one instead of the other. Let's begin with a view at Washington Park in Chicago from 1893.
We are looking at the world done up as an horticultural effect in a hand-colored view at the 1892 Columbia Exposition in commemoration of Christopher Columbus discovering the American continent. I should mention here that the 1892 Fair in Chicago didn't open until the middle of 1893. This was not due to negligence or indolence; it was because people were simply not so nervous about details as they are now. Colors are pretty but, even though --or perhaps because-- I was a career gardener, there is a feeling of inadequacy and forgetfulness in the photo. However...
...if you go round to a different topiarian hemisphere and arrange a family in front of it and don't charge anything extra, the world assumes a more memorable aspect. Color, then, would appear to be incidental to sentient composition. This group braving summer humidity in Sunday clothes impresses the viewer with convention and seriousness that was expected of people of all ages being photographed in 1893. Time to switch to a crowd shot, Opening Day!
And we do see a surging sea here of derbies and fruit-salad hats, but crowd-shots are not just about hats. They are about HER.

Oh, surely we might forget the demobbed soldier (#1.), the clerk in banking or mercantile (#2), the drover from a cattle-based kakistocracy that ruled west of the Mississippi (#3), a northeastern sheep rancher (#4), the athlete in sculling cap (#5), the farmer loosening his tie in crowded heat (#6), but surely the image that sends this crowd-shot into the future --that conforms to my sister's and my phone conclusion that forgetting bits of who we try to become is part of what we are-- is of one person laughing, delighted, as if suddenly materialized from cooler climes, or an air-conditioned wardrobe room, HER:
Hello Poppy!

Hello Geo.!
 

23 comments:

  1. Is that Little Egypt, the belly dancer? Have you read "The Devil in the White City" about the 1893 World's Fair?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haven't read "Devil" but thanks for the alert, Sage. Pretty girl laughing is overdressed for Little Egypt so I named her Poppy --after my time traveler. I do have a "Columbus and Columbia" (illustrated edition of the exposition) that I bought for $10 from a book peddler's bag --pub. Hunt&Eaton NY 1892-- in 1973. We're all time travelers, I guess.

      Delete
  2. Judging by the expression on the face of the dude behind the laughing woman, I'd say he just goosed her (I'm just trying to be funny, Geo - - sorry!).

    These are delightful stereoviews and your apt observations have made them even more fascinating. There is so much truth in the adage that a picture (photo) is worth a thousand words. Thanks for sharing these.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No "sorry" needed, Jon. I've long suspected the sloe-eyed fellow on her left of telling a joke but wouldn't rule out a goose. It's interactions and expressions like these that make old photos come alive.

      Delete
  3. I hope her day, and indeed her life, justified that smile. What a wonderful way to be captured and remembered for eternity. Or at least for a long time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I find myself admiring the old moment in quite a similar way, and imagine time-traveling with no machinery more complex than laughter.

      Delete
  4. Brilliant. It is fascinating to see a crowd scene so reconstructed. What an amazing array of personality. I wonder however about the unnumbered fellow, two hats in front of #1. Those eyes are a bit haunting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Tom. I see the fellow you mean, the only one looking directly at the camera --eye-contact.

      Delete
  5. I love old photos; they provide us with memories of things we've never even experienced. However, I do suspect that laughing lady must be somehow related to me. That's exactly what I look like in most group pictures. (My hubby says it's because I'm not paying attention...)

    Hmmm, I think I'll go out and "discover" and claim someplace today...

    Happy weekend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe good-natured people are kindred spirits, Susan. You do an excellent job of discovering America in your blog. I wouldn't object to you claiming it --and it's right there handy.

      Delete
  6. I agree that color is incidental to composition. But there is something wonderfully surreal about a hand-painted photo as must be the case with your first image.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It certainly was an ambitious topiary, Squid. I like both versions of it!

      Delete
    2. I thought at first that it was the big globe on the US Open grounds in Flushing Meadows until I realized it was all flowers. Impressive, indeed.

      Delete
    3. Squid, I was at the NY World's Fair in '64 and noted the similarity too. Thing is huge! Have no idea how a big openwork globe could be covered in flowers --but those old-time gardeners were very clever.

      Delete
  7. Interesting to see picture of that era from different parts of the country. Above, derby hats outnumber stetson-style umpteen to one, were it a 1,000 miles west it'd be the other way 'round.
    Yes, the laughing woman is delightful, and I'm guessing the woman in front of her is also doing the same; her eyes look like it I think.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do believe you're right, Mike, both about the hat-demographics and the idea of two women sharing a laugh --enjoying their day.

      Delete
  8. What was of glaring interest to me is in the second picture with the family all seated comfortably on the grass... except for the three young women. They were relegated to stand off to the side and out of the way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interested me too, Emma. Only thing I came up with was weather report for May 2, 1893. "Fair with westerly breezes". This meant humidity coming down from Lake Superior joined that of Lake Michigan in 80+ degree heat. Parents sat down in their coats and layers. Many people were rescued from crowds and audiences by the hospital corps. Younger people were the logical ones to stand and move around in photo-compositions. Mark Twain collapsed with a purported massive heart attack there but cooled off and lived another 17 years with no particular restrictions.

      Delete
  9. I note your weather forecast in your reply to Emma, above, and raise you an umbrella, as held by the gent on the right of that group photo. Was he being extra-prepared, or was he worried about getting too much sun, or was he time-travelling with that thing?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. After 10 Saturdays of going to see my grandson play T-Ball this warm spring, I can say with authority the umbrella was for shade --besides, I was in that photo (see next comment).

      Delete
  10. I need to quit coming back to posts that I've read.....anyway, in the 2nd picture going down, the fellow sitting cross legged on the ground on the left...bears a curious resemblance to you. Have you been screwing around with that time travel stuff, despite what Silverberg wrote??
    So, fess up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, I learned plenty from "Up The Line", what with all protagonist Jud Elliott's troubles with tourists. I always sat with people I resembled and minimized the Silverberg paradoxes. You're perceptive, and near the mark, but I'm sitting behind the umbrella guy in the other end of the photo.

      Delete

I value your comments. Say hello. Reach out a bit. I do.