Bikes on Rails

Posted by admin | Posted in Still photographs | Posted on 09-01-2011

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Bikes on rails, how cool is that?  But uhhh… the baby?  Not exactly up to the safety standards of today.  From the “America on the Move” collection at the National Museum of American History (click the picture to go there)

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Harry Houdini, Debunking, Doyle and Pacts

Posted by admin | Posted in Still photographs | Posted on 18-10-2010

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The following is a post I made in a forum last year, for your halloween enjoyment!

Harry Houdini. We’ve all heard of him - he’s that magician. What many people don’t know is he had a passion for the paranormal and debunking.

Houdini was devastated by his mother’s death in 1920. He frequently visited her grave and was seen speaking to her. He soon began to seek communication with her through a spiritualist. He became frustrated when he realized the psychics and spiritualists he’d visited used techniques that Houdini himself had used in his shows. Thus began his personal crusade to debunk fraudulent spiritualists and photographers. He was always honest about his ‘magic’ simply being tricks, claimed he had an open mind, and wanted protect the people from charlatans only - not debunk the paranormal all together. Throughout this time, he continued to attend seances in a desperate attempt to communicate with his mother.

Following the Mumler fiasco, spirit photography came in vogue, and by the 1920′s was a booming business. Many tricksters were exposed, yet many, such as Mumler, used some techniques that were unknown to scientists and the skeptics. This, of course, was the perfect opportunity for someone with Houdini’s skills to expose people profiting off of the greif of others. He became a member of the Scientific American committee, which offered a reward for proof of the paranormal. The money was reportedly never collected. This challenge was the inspiration of James Randi’s challenge for a million dollars. Unrelated, but he also inspired Penn and Teller to debunk.

Enter Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. He befriended Houdini and contrasted his skeptical view nicely. Doyle was a true believer. The two remained friends through their good hearted arguments, though the relationship was later very stressed by the press. Despite Houdini’s obvious debunking of several tricksters, Doyle openly and publicly refused to believe, on most occasions, that any fakery had been exposed.

There were several methods used to expose spiritualists mediums at the time. Putting them in restraining boxes, moving animated objects where the spiritualists couldn’t interact with them, and attempting to direct the mystical interactions were just a few, and worked well to expose many. However, Doyle claimed Houdini was a “powerful spiritualist medium”, using his powers to block other mediums. He also stated that Houdini’s feats were actually paranormal in nature - a claim Houdini was hard pressed to deny as he refused to expose the methods behind his magic.

In one instance, Houdini had a private show to prove to Doyle he could do the impossible with only trickery. He set up a ball, paint, and a board and instructed Doyle to leave the residence, walk a few blocks using his own route, write something on a paper, put it in his pocket, and return. The ball was then dipped in paint and laid out upon the board, where it proceeded to spell out the exact message Doyle had written in his pocket. The show backfired when Houdini refused to expose how he had done it. The crowd that believed Houdini was a spiritualist medium, much to his displeasure, only grew.

Houdini’s popularity eventually became his demise. After a 1926 show, some students went backstage to meet Houdini. One asked if it was true he could withstand any blow to the stomach, to which Houdini said he could with proper preparation. The student took that to mean it was ok to punch him repeatedly in the stomach several times. Refusing to see a doctor, he continued to perform. He developed a fever and days later died from a ruptured appendix caused by the blows, on Halloween night.

Before he died, Houdini made a pact with his wife and friends, that whoever should die first would come back and make contact. He even gave his wife, Bess, a “secret code” only she knew so she could verify the validity of any contact. For ten years after his death, Bess held seances on Halloween night with no success. Declaring the tenth year the final seance, Bess reportedly said, “ten years is long enough to wait for any man”. Groups of magicians still hold yearly seances to try to contact Houdini.

The following is a photograph made by Houdini to disprove spiritual photography:

There is a lot more information out there, these are simply the highlights that I’ve remembered. He lead a very interesting and mysterious life, and I thought it was well worth sharing.

Some very interesting details on Houdini and Doyle here. More on Houdini here.

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1876 - The Widow’s Mite, Still Photo

Posted by admin | Posted in Still photographs | Posted on 18-10-2010

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1876 - The Widow's Mite

(Stereograph shows a woman placing coin in box for the poor at church graveyard as ghost of woman watches.)

So, my computer is haunted.  I was working on this great photo of this Civil War General that totally looks like Brad Pitt.  I was planning on offering it as a print on when it was complete, so I was working with a pretty big image.  This thing was damaged, pitted and stained.  I saved it a lot, because I know how bad it stinks to totally lose your work.  I got about 1/3 of the way through what would have eventually taken me about 5-6 hours, I click save and BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ nothing.  Computer totally frozen.  I rebooted, opened up the file and nothing… but… black.  BLACK!  So, instead of a hotsie totsie General tomorrow, you get a ghost tonight!  Happy Halloween!  I blame Microsoft.

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A variety of historically interesting stills

Posted by admin | Posted in Still photographs | Posted on 14-09-2010

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1921 (?) - New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach, right, watching agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of prohibition

1911 (?) - National Anti-Suffrage Association

1910 - Konopli︠a︡noe pole Title Translation: Hemp field

1882-1883 - Workmen constructing the Statue of Liberty in Bartholdi's Parisian warehouse workshop; first model; left hand; and quarter-size head--Winter 1882?

Little Rock, 1959. Rally at state capitol

March 4, 1861 - Inauguration of President Lincoln at U.S. Capitol

K.K.K. parade, 8/8/25

"The Awakening" - A James H. Hull production for Beaumont Klan No. 7 - KKK, Beaumont, Texas, May 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 1924 / photo by Reeves. Notice the actors in "black face".

1863 - A Virginia slave child in 1863 / Van Dorn, photograph artist, 285 Fulton St., Brooklyn.

Note that I am in no way supporting any of the subjects in these images.  They were chosen because they are historically interesting, and in some cases very sad.

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I guess even bloomers rode up…

Posted by admin | Posted in Still photographs | Posted on 15-10-2009

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1899 - On the Promenade, Brooklyn Bridge, New York.

Quite possibly the earliest spoiled shot photo…

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1904 - Photograph of Windmill Hill

Posted by admin | Posted in Still photographs | Posted on 02-10-2009

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1904 - Windmill Hill. Louisiana Purchase Exposition.

This was a stereo image, but only half was scanned in.  Wish I had the other side, might make a cool animation.

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Interesting Old Photographs

Posted by admin | Posted in Still photographs | Posted on 29-09-2009

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Here are some of my favorite old photographs, chosen because they are strange and unique.

No date given - Bathing Machines, Scheveningen

The bathing machine was a device, popular in the 19th century, to allow people to wade in the ocean at beaches without violating Victorian notions of modesty. Bathing machines were roofed and walled wooden carts rolled into the sea. Some had solid wooden walls; others had canvas walls over a wooden frame.

The bathing machine was part of sea-bathing etiquette more rigorously enforced upon women than men but to be observed by both sexes among those who wished to be “proper”.

Especially in Britain, men and women were usually segregated, so nobody of the opposite sex might catch sight of them in their bathing suits, which (although modest by modern standards) were not considered proper clothing to be seen in.

WIKI Source

between ca. 1910 and ca. 1915 - Lanander, Chi. - Sweden

I don’t think I’ve added any from this series.  Auto polo went on from about 1904 to about 1915, if I’m remembering my research correctly.  There were several matches, one in St. Louis, one in Madison Square Gardens.  There’s not much online about this, but there’s a great NY Times article here.  I strongly agree with the writer in that they would have a difficult time recruiting people for this sport….  Not to be outmatched, we come to:

Taken sometime in the 1910′s, this is an ice auto from Deluth.  Wonder what happens when they lean back?

“1910-1915 - Licking blocks of ice on a hot day.”  Refreshing, and sanitary!

Apparently used to listen for incoming planes.  And to make new recruits look silly.

1907 (?) - Tatoos or body ink

1911 - German stowaway.  This photo came from a Ellis Island collection.

The above image was taken in 1889 after the Johnstown Flood, and demonstrates that sarcasm is not a new thing.

Early waterboarding…. “1861-1872 - Man lies on cot under bed cover, his bandaged head rests in wooden apparatus with straps designed to elevate and cool head while allowing moisture from bandages to drip in basin below head”.

I daresay it would have worked on me.  “Oh, How I Love The Old Flag. Rebecca, A Slave Girl from New Orleans.  [Propaganda portrait of Rebecca, A Slave Girl from New Orlean...] (1864)”


I think all of these came from the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog from the Library of Congress.  Great stuff in there.  Mostly public domain.

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Aviette, The Bicycle Airplane

Posted by admin | Posted in Still photographs | Posted on 02-09-2009

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1910 - 1915 - Aviette Contest - France (Aviette means small aeroplane in French)

1910 - 1915 - Aviette Contest - France (Aviette means small aeroplane in French)

I think I would have to pass…

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A shop, a train, and a bit of sarcasm

Posted by admin | Posted in Still photographs, Wiggle Animations | Posted on 19-08-2009

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August 26, 1914 - The old curiosity shop of Dickens' story, Home of Little Nell London.

1904 - Railway in Central Park, New York City, U.S.A.

Apparently sarcasm isn't a new thing...

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Weird old Photos

Posted by admin | Posted in Still photographs, Wiggle Animations | Posted on 07-08-2009

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As you’ve probably figured out by now, whenever I get the chance I sit down and dig through archives of old photographs.  Auto polo you’ve seen, here’s a few more interesting and odd photographs:

1902 - caption says "Now ride the goat, and do it pretty." They get arrested for doing that around here.

Just plain disturbing

Probably 1860's - No wonder clowns freak people out


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