Year

2019

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American Love Story

 

“And I never saw that love did any harm anywhere or was complained about O my brothers when you understood it: 

For that’s about all life comes to anyhow—comes to the love we can put into it:

I just give you what I’ve got, dear comrades.”   -Horace Traubel

 

1-blog-horace-traubel“Horace Traubel: Roundel Portrait” : Allen Drew Cook, American (1871-1923): 1910: mounted platinum print contained within folder: 17.4” roundel on paper 23.7 x 19.6 cm; supports: 24.8 x 20.6 | 28.4 x 23.9 cm. Folder: 29.4 x 48.8 cm. This print dedicated to Gustave Percival Wiksell (1863-1940): “Wiksell” in upper left corner of print recto; signed “Horace Traubel 1910” at lower right. Best remembered as the literary executor and biographer extraordinaire of America’s first national poet Walt Whitman, this uncommon profile portrait features the American editor and poet Horace Logo Traubel. (1858-1919) Traubel, a magazine publisher and committed socialist who held Whitman’s hand on his deathbed and earlier compiled nearly two million words over the the last four years in daily conversations with the poet, later transcribed and ultimately published what would become the nine volume opus: “With Walt Whitman in Camden”. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

In this 200th anniversary year of American poet Walt Whitman’s birth, articles and exhibitions abound, celebrating the continuing relevance of America’s “Bard of Democracy”. But who was largely responsible for initially preserving, and thus memorializing for a larger audience this most important literary voice? A gentleman by the name of Horace Traubel. (1858-1919)

 

Three years ago I had the good fortune of purchasing a heraldic roundel portrait of Traubel, the one featured above taken by a fellow Philadelphian, pictorialist photographer Allen Drew Cook. (1871-1923) 

 

2-blog-horace-traubel-to-percival-wiksell-1910Lines addressed to Gustave Percival Wiksell (1863-1940) from the Horace Traubel poem “I Just Give You What I’ve Got” (from “Optimos”- 1910) in hand of author on inside front cover to folder containing photograph “Horace Traubel: Roundel Portrait”. Wiksell was a Boston dentist who served as president of the Walt Whitman Fellowship from 1903-1919. “You don't know me? I do not wonder: I dont know myself: I am at a loss about myself: You ask: who are you? and I shake my head : I look at you and say nothing: I come to you but I could not tell why: I have something for you but I could not tell what: Out of me some flower will blossom out of my seedthrow some harvest will come. - Horace Traubel”. Writing in the Mickle Street Review No. 16, (2004) U.S. scholar Michael Robertson’s article “The Gospel According To Horace: Horace Traubel And The Walt Whitman Fellowship” outlines Traubel’s and Wiksell’s relationship: “However, Traubel’s letters to Wiksell move beyond comradeship into physically explicit expressions of desire.  “I dream of … the little bed in your paradise and the two arms of a brother that accept me in their divine partnership,”(114) Traubel wrote shortly before traveling to Boston.  After his visit, he wrote longingly, “I sit here and write you a letter.  It is not a pen that is writing.  It is the lips that you have kissed.  It is the body that you have traversed over and over with your consecrating palm.  Do you not feel that body?  Do you not feel the return?”(115) These and other letters leave little doubt that the two men had a sexual love affair, an affair that seems to have been remarkably guilt-free.  Wiksell’s letters to Traubel refer to his own wife and child and mix heavy-breathing passion with cheery greetings to “Annie and Gertrude,”(116) Traubel’s wife and daughter.”(114-“I dream of”: Traubel to Wiksell, 3 Jan. 1904, WC.; 115-“I sit here”: Traubel to Wiksell, 12 May 1904, WC.; 116-“Annie and Gertrude”: Wiksell to Traubel, 30 Dec. 1901, TC.) From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

Best remembered as the literary executor and biographer extraordinaire of Walt Whitman, Horace Traubel was also a magazine publisher and committed socialist who held the poet’s hand on his deathbed and compiled nearly two million words over the last four years in daily conversations with him, later transcribing and publishing in his lifetime the first three volumes of what would become his nine volume opus: With Walt Whitman in Camden. (completed 1996)

 

Unlike Whitman, whom The Guardian newspaper notes in an article published this year “was also the 19th century’s most photographed American writer”, (1.) there are only a smattering of photographs featuring Traubel-most being credited to Cook. By and large, Horace Traubel is a figure in American letters most people have never heard of.

 

3-blog-horace-traubelLeft: “Gustave Percival Wiksell as Walt Whitman”: Undated gelatin-silver print by Emile Brunel Studio, Boston, ca. 1915-25?: Wearing similar clothing, Wiksell strikes a pose similar to one Whitman made from a lost daguerreotype by Gabriel Harrison later made into a steel engraving by Samuel Hollyer. Boston dentist Gustave Percival Wiksell was an ardent devotee to Walt Whitman and president of the Whitman Fellowship from 1903-19. Photograph © All rights reserved by tackyspoons/flickr. Middle: 1855 first edition title page to Leaves of Grass, Brooklyn, New York. Courtesy The Lilly Library, Indiana University. Right: Original Samuel Hollyer steel engraving of frontispiece portrait of Walt Whitman used for the 1855 and 1856 editions of Leaves of Grass.,Gabriel Harrison’s original 1854 daguerreotype showed the 35-year-old Whitman wearing laborer’s clothing. The Whitman Archive provides the following description of the original sitting: “Of the day the original daguerreotype was taken, Whitman remembered, "I was sauntering along the street: the day was hot: I was dressed just as you see me there. A friend of mine—”Gabriel Harrison (you know him? ah! yes!—”he has always been a good friend!)—”stood at the door of his place looking at the passers-by. He cried out to me at once: 'Old man!—”old man!—”come here: come right up stairs with me this minute'—”and when he noticed that I hesitated cried still more emphatically: 'Do come: come: I'm dying for something to do.' This picture was the result." Engraving courtesy Bayley Collection: Ohio Wesleyan via Walt Whitman Archive.

 

But concerning the roundel portrait of Traubel, what a difference between it and the staid portraits published during his lifetime! The seller described it thus: “Vintage Risque Photo Handsome Shirtless Man w/ Love Poem c. 1910 Gay Interest”. If you are a collector like me, the proverbial eye roll is something experienced practically every day in the course of searches for new treasure. To wit: if it’s a photo depicting two men together- or for that matter, two women- a seller might add the descriptor of “Gay Interest” to the listing. This is laughable on the face of it, as to my mind there is often a complete disconnect between reality often taking over the minds of sellers intent on rewriting photographic evidence for the sole purpose of making a quick buck.

 

But not always. Fortunately for me, and unbeknownst to the seller, I had a hunch who the sitter of this portrait was. My offer accepted, I only later determined “gay interest” was only the tip of the iceberg.

 

After some sleuthing, I discovered this portrait had seemingly been published only one time in 1919: as the dust-jacket illustration to a limited-edition posthumous work on Traubel written by his biographer David Karsner, a close friend who describes him as part Karl Marx and Jesus of Nazareth, andin possession of a point of view which issues a labor-conscious ‘warning and challenge.” (2.)

 

4-blog-horace-traubel-walt-whitman-photographiDetail: 1887: Walt Whitman-1819-1892 by George C. Cox: (portrait known as the "Laughing Philosopher") 23.9 x 18.8 cm | 45.2 x 33.3 cm: vintage large format, hand-pulled photogravure printed circa 1905-10 by the Photographische Gesellschaft in Berlin on Van Gelder Zonen plate paper. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

But unlike the aforementioned staid portraits, which always show him wearing a shirt or jacket- this profile view was unusual for the time in which it was made- 1910-bare-shouldered, and thus sans shirt. When I finally made out the signature of the person this particular print was dedicated to-personally inscribed by the sitter on the print surface recto to someone named “Wiksell” in the upper left corner, it all came together. For on the inside cover of the folder in which this portrait appears (when purchased it was framed) Traubel has inscribed several lines- a love poem, if you will, confirming the  sellers hunch, “For Percival Wiksell- 1910” :  

 

You don’t know me? I do not wonder: I dont know myself: I am at a loss about myself: 

You ask: who are you? and I shake my head : I look at you and say nothing:

I come to you but I could not tell why: I have something for you but I could not tell what:

Out of me some flower will blossom out of my seedthrow some harvest will come. - Horace Traubel

 

 (From Optimos:  “I Just Give You What I’ve Got”- 1910)

 

5-blog-horace-traubelLeft: “Frontispiece Portrait of Horace Traubel” (1909) from the book of poetry “Optimos”: Clarence H. White, American: 1910: photogravure: 11.4 x 8.7 | 18.7 x 12.5 cm. From scholar Anne McCauley’s 2017 volume “Clarence H. White and His World: the Art and Craft of Photography, 1895-1925 we learn” : “Reynold’s (Stephen Marion Reynolds (1854-1930) a lawyer who joined the Social Democratic Party in 1900-ed) and Traubel’s recognition of photography as a powerful tool in the class struggle, whether in the form of the dissemination of the fine arts or as a creative means of personal expression if transformed by hand manipulation, caused them to appreciate White’s skills as well as his openness to their political opinions.” (p. 178) Right: Front Cover of “Optimos”, the best-known volume of poetry by Horace Traubel: New York: 1910: B.W. Huebsch (8vo | olive green cloth) From the Walt Whitman Archive online resource, “His own books can be read as socialist refigurings of Whitman's work, each of his titles subtly adjusting Whitman's terminology: …Optimos (1910) redefined Whitman's "kosmos" as an optimized "cheerful whole" (qtd. in Bain 39). And although some in his day declared Traubel as a poet to be Whitman’s successor, there were plenty of critics. Writing in the pages of The Smart Set for July, 1911 under the heading “Novels for Hot Afternoons”, American critic H.L. Mencken, said of “Optimos”: “Horace Traubel fills the three hundred and more pages of his "optimos" (Huebsch) with dishwatery imitations of Walt Whitman, around whom Horace, in Walt's Camden days, revolved as an humble satellite. All of the faults of the master appear in the disciple. There is the same maudlin affection for the hewer of wood and drawer of water, the same frenzy for repeating banal ideas ad nauseam, the same inability to distinguish between a poem and a stump speech. Old Walt, for all his absurdities, was yet a poet at heart. Whenever he ceased, even for a brief moment, to emit his ethical and sociological rubbish, a strange beauty crept into his lines and his own deep emotion glorified them. But not so with Horace. His strophes have little more poetry in them than so many college yells, and the philosophy they voice is almost as bad as the English in which they are written.” From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

The recipient, Gustave Percival Wiksell, (1863-1940) was a Boston dentist who served as president of the Walt Whitman Fellowship from 1903-1919. So devoted was this disciple to the master that he went to the length of replicating the now famous pose Whitman took from a now lost 1854 daguerreotype by Gabriel Harrison made into an engraving and used as the frontispiece illustration for the 1855 & 1856 editions of Whitman’s masterpiece Leaves of Grass.

 

Wiksell’s papers are now in the Library of Congress in Washington and he was known to have eulogized Horace Traubell at his funeral in 1919. More than one Traubel scholar lays out the evidence that Wiksell and he were more than good friends, but I will leave that for your own further inquiries.  (further attribution can be found in a cutline with this post)

 

6-blog-horace-traubel“Ca. 1915 signed and mounted portraits of Horace Traubel” (unknown photographer) surrounding at center: “Horace Traubel: His Life And Work” by David Karsner (New York: Egmont Arens, 1919) with elusive dust-jacket reproducing bare-shouldered 1910 portrait “Horace Traubel: Roundel Portrait”. Commentary on Traubel by Karsner appeared in the online resource Poetrybay in the Fall of 2009: “On the other hand David Karsner, Traubel's biographer… called him “a poet and prophet of the new democracy.” Traubel, suggests Karsner, is part Karl Marx and part Jesus of Nazareth, and in possession of a point of view which issues a labor-conscious ‘warning and challenge.” From Wikipedia: David Fulton "Dave" Karsner (1889–1941) was an American journalist, writer, and socialist political activist. Karsner is best remembered as a key member of the editorial staff of the New York Call and as an early biographer of Socialist Party of America leader Eugene V. Debs. Photographic grouping courtesy The Library of William F. Gable Auction: Savo Auctioneers, Archbald, PA: January 3, 2015.

 

7-blog-horace-traubelLeft: Detail showing blind-stamp for photographer Allen Drew Cook on secondary mount to photograph “Horace Traubel: Roundel Portrait”: Allen Drew Cook, American (1871-1923): 1910: mounted platinum print contained within folder: 17.4” roundel on paper 23.7 x 19.6 cm; supports: 24.8 x 20.6 | 28.4 x 23.9 cm. In upper left of detail is seen graphite signature: “Cook”, underlined outside lower margin of roundel; the blind-stamp additionally lists his address as 1631 Chestnut St. in Philadelphia- the same as for the offices of the The Conservator, a monthly literary magazine edited and published by Horace Traubel beginning in October, 1910. (the magazine, which was started in 1890, previously lists its’ address as 1624 Walnut St. in Philadelphia.) Beginning In 1915 and running into 1916, an advertisement for “Photographic Portraits” by Allen Drew Cook of Eugene Debs, Clarence Darrow, J. William Lloyd and Traubel appeared on the back page of The Conservator. From: PhotoSeed Archive. Right: “Study of a Girl’s Head”, from around 1900, is an early example of a pictorialist photographic portrait entered by Cook in the Third Annual Philadelphia Photographic Salon and reproduced as a halftone in the Salon’s 1900 catalogue. Courtesy: Thomas J. Watson Library Digital Collections - The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

 

 

Five years ago on July 4th, America’s birthday, I published a post featuring several vintage likenesses of Walt Whitman- “Oh Say Can you See?” and his importance to capturing the enduring spirit of our country. In this, Traubel certainly will never be magically rediscovered as the good gray poet’s literary successor (none other than H.L. Mencken derided his  poetry as “dishwatery imitations of Walt Whitman, around whom Horace, in Walt’s Camden days, revolved as an humble satellite.”) (3.) But his ideals as one spreading love as written in the lines at the top of this post-a socialist ideal in the vein of Whitman- are surely honorable and needed in the fractured American present. Instead of cleaved partisan camps and tribes seemingly taking over our national conversation, how about a bit more love comrades? Socialism has nothing to do with that last word, by the way. Instead, let’s celebrate the ideals of our national melting pot, and give all her citizenry power to the truth of  her motto: “E Pluribus Unum” - Out of Many, One.

 

Just what Horace would have wanted.

 

 

Notes:

1. Excerpt: The Guardian (online): Julianne McShane:Walt Whitman: celebrating an extraordinary life in his bicentennial”: June 12, 2019. One hundred thirty photographic portraits of Walt Whitman have been identified to date.

2. Excerpt: Online resource Poetrybay: Fall, 2009:  commentary on Traubel by Karsner. 

3.  Excerpt: Review: “Optimos” : “Novels for Hot Afternoons”: H.L. Mencken: The Smart Set: July, 1911.

 

A Day for Rainbows

A Happy Fourth of July to All!

 

blog-washington-monument-by“Rainbow Pool Fountain & Washington Monument”(Washington, D.C.) : ca. 1925-30: Unknown Brooklyn photographer: vintage gelatin silver print: 11.4 x 8.9 cm | 17.7 x 12.6 cm. Designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., “the fountain for this pool was designated the “Rainbow Fountain” in October 1924, when during a trial run just before its dedication a rainbow formed above the fountain’s spray. Operating with 124 nozzles arranged in an elliptical pattern near the outer edge of the pool, and with two clusters of nine north and south of the center, the fountain made a “hazy vista”. (source: National Park Service: Cultural Landscape Report-Lincoln Memorial Grounds-undated pdf document-p. 35) Originally situated between the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool (to the west), and 17th Street NW, (to the east) the fountain and reflecting pool was integrated into the National World War II Memorial in 2001. With the original source negative for this photograph taken in daylight, the photographer has manipulated the image-darkening the sky to make the fountain jets stand out against the backdrop of the Washington Monument. From: PhotoSeed Archive

Summer Streams Wide & Small

 

Herein a summer interlude, if you will, of still, trickling and gushing streams from years past. And if they inspire and beckon for the present, find your own peace or wonderment in the mountains, valleys or pastures of summer wherever your own stream flows.

 

1-dorothy-at-stream-ca“Dorothy Tucker Gathering Ferns”: Charles Rollins Tucker, American (b. 1868): ca. 1910: mounted brown-toned platinum print: 9.4 x 7.7 cm | 31.2 x 16.0 cm. Born in August, 1899, Dorothy Tucker, a constant photographic subject for her father, then a high school physics teacher at Curtis High School on Staten Island, New York state, holds a spray of freshly-picked ferns while investigating the edge of a stream in the woods. From: PhotoSeed Archive2-prospect-park-colored-su“Stream or Pond at Prospect Park"(Brooklyn, New York): ca. 1910-20: Unknown Brooklyn photographer: hand-colored gelatin silver print: 11.7 x 8.9 cm | 12.4 x 9.3 cm: From: PhotoSeed Archive3-before-retiring-margaret“Before Retiring”: ca. 1910-20: Margaret Bauks, British- (possibly Margaret Florence Bauks: b. 1872?) : hand-colored gelatin silver print: 11.6 x 15.9 cm | 27.8 x 22.8 cm: From: PhotoSeed Archive4-frank-roy-fraprie-savoy-“A Stream of Savoy”: ca. 1927: this print exhibited 1935: Frank Roy Fraprie, American (1874-1951): vintage Bromide print: 24.0 x 18.6 cm | 30.5 x 25.4 cm: As noted in the 1946 American Annual of Photography, (p. 170) Fraprie had been taking photographs in June of 1926 in Eastern France. The area, located in the Haute-Savoie, or Upper Savoy, is a mountainous region of spectacular beauty which includes Lake Annecy, one of France’s largest freshwater lakes.  Photographic historian Christian Peterson’s biography of Fraprie gives some background on this important photographer and editor: “Fraprie was the most influential author/publisher of American pictorial photography during the period following the Photo-Secession. From the 1910s to the 1940s, he wrote books and countless articles on all aspects of pictorialism. He edited photographic monthlies and annuals for nearly the entire first half of the twentieth century. In addition, he created his own highly successful pictorial photographs and exhibited them extensively.” From: PhotoSeed Archive5-miss-doll-rabbit-streamDetail: “Les Fleurs Dans Le Bois” : Léopold-Émile Reutlinger: French (1863-1937): vintage Bromide photograph, ca. 1905. 22.3 x 14.1 | 34.0 x 24.2 cm. Featuring a painted backdrop and wood board placed over a “stream”, this studio photograph features a white rabbit investigating the Belle Epoque era model identified from other variants as “Miss Doll”.(proper identification of this model would be of interest as she has remained a popular subject seen in countless vintage postcards, many hand-tinted) This example was printed by the Milan atelier Maison Tensi and included as a full-page plate in the February, 1905 issue of “La Fotographia Artistica”, a French/Italian photographic journal. From: PhotoSeed Archive6-waterfall-stream-cyanoty“A Rocky Brook” (New England?) : ca. 1906: Unknown American photographer: vintage cyanotype rppc: 8.9 x 13.8 cm. This idyllic cascading waterfall may depict the Minnewawa Glen in Marlborough, New Hampshire. Signed on the recto: “Lovingly Helen” in the lower left corner, it’s postmarked November 15, 1906 from Marlboro, N.H. addressed to Miss Nettie A. Hastings of East Sullivan, N.H. From: PhotoSeed Archive7-jr-tucker-ca“John Robert Tucker Skinny Dipping”: Charles Rollins Tucker, American (b. 1868): ca. 1915: unmounted platinum print: 3.8 x 5.2 cm. Born in March, 1914, John Robert Tucker, was the second of three children born to the former Mary Carruthers and photographer Charles R. Tucker. Here, the young boy plays in a woodland stream, with the photograph most likely taken in New England. John, according to his 1941 marriage certificate, was an electrical engineer by training. He died in 1991 in La Habra, Orange County, CA. From: PhotoSeed Archive8-marriseux-1907-plate-26-“Brume après la Pluie”: (1906) 1908: Gustave Marissiaux, Belgian (1872-1929) Photogravure on Van Gelder Zonen laid paper: 13.4 x 17.6 | 28.4 x 39.9 cm. Plate XXVI from Marissiaux’s tour-de-force gravure folio “Visions D’Artiste” comprised of 30 plates dating 1899-1908. Translating to “Mist after the Rain”, two figures in the distance stand looking out over an enlarged pond or stream located in "La Terre Wallonne” as identified in the portfolio index: more commonly known today as Wallonia- the southern region of Belgium. From: PhotoSeed Archive9-moonlight-james-stodderDetail: “Moonlight”: James C. Stodder, American: (1838-1917). 1890. Hand-pulled photogravure published in periodical "Sun & Shade”, New York: November, 1890: whole #27: N.Y. Photogravure Co.: 18.3 x 11.9 | 35.0 x 27.4 cm. A crescent moon rises above a wooded landscape at dusk while a gentleman fishes from the banks of a pond or stream. Stodder graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1859 and moved to Bangor, Maine, where he first learned the wet-plate process of photography. A lawyer, he was son of a Boston jeweler, (obit) and financially well off. In 1876, he accompanied famed Hudson River School painter Frederic E. Church to the Mount Katahdin region of Maine. From: PhotoSeed Archive10-deer-at-night-george-sh“A Doe and Twin Fawns” (taken 1896) 1916: George Shiras 3rd, American (1859-1942) Vintage photogravure published by the National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C. : 21.2 x 30.3 | 40.5 x 50.8 cm. A pioneer of using flashlight photography to record wildlife in their natural environments at night, Shiras used the method of “Jacklighting”, a form of hunting using a fixed continuous light source mounted in the bow of a canoe to draw the attention of wildlife: in this case three deer, while then utilizing magnesium flash-powder to freeze the scene in-camera. His series of twelve midnight views, including “A Doe and Twin Fawns”-also known as “Innocents Abroad” would earn Shiras international acclaim and many important awards. A one-term Congressman for the state of Michigan, (his father George Shiras Sr. was a former Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court) he was also an important naturalist who helped placed migratory birds and fish under Federal control. (The eventual 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act had groundings in legislation Shiras introduced to Congress in 1903 as the first comprehensive migratory bird law not voted on.) For additional background, see article by Matthew Brower in the journal History of Photography, Summer,2008: “George Shiras and the Circulation of Wildlife Photography”. From: PhotoSeed Archive10a-a-corn-roast-opDetail: “A Corn Roast” Oliver Patterson Watts, American: (1865-1953). 1892. Hand-pulled photogravure published in periodical "Sun & Shade”, New York: June, 1892: whole #46: N.Y. Photogravure Co.: 14.7 x 23.2 | 34.6 x 27.4 cm. The index for the issue of Sun & Shade in which this photograph appears states: “Mr. Watts writes us that while wandering with his camera along “The Green,” a favorite picnic ground near Thomastown,(sic) Maine, he came upon this group of boys roasting corn and potatoes. At the sight of the camera they immediately grouped themselves, anxious to be “took.” The negative was made with a Scovill Favorite Camera, Waterbury lens, with an exposure of five seconds on a seed plate. It was developed with Pyro and Sodium Carbonate.” Dr. Oliver Patterson Watts was born in Thomaston, Maine, and graduated from Bowdoin College in 1889. Interestingly, in 1890, Potts and Dr. Julius Stieglitz, the brother of Alfred Stieglitz, were fellow scholars in chemistry at the newly opened Clark University in Worcester, MA. He later entered the University of Wisconsin in 1905 and took charge of the Carnegie Research on Electrolytic Iron under Dr. Charles F. Burgess. According to an Oct. 2009 article on Potts for the online resource Plating & Surface Finishing, the most important of his fifty-nine papers on plating and corrosion is probably “Rapid Nickel Plating,” presented before the Electrochemical Society in 1915. From: PhotoSeed Archive11-donald-mennie-chinese-r“Mutu Bridge”: Donald Mennie, Scottish (1875-1944) 1922: Vintage unmounted bromide print: 24.2 x 34.6 cm. This picturesque Chinese river scene first appeared as a full-page plate variant in the 1914 volume “My Lady of the Chinese Courtyard” (between pp. 254-5) by author Elizabeth Cooper and then as Plate #7 “Mutu Bridge” in the photographer’s ca. 1914 work “Picturesque China: A Series of Vandyck Photogravures illustrating Chinese Life and Surroundings”. From: PhotoSeed Archive12-george-b-woods-steppinDetail: “Stepping Stones” George Bacon Wood Jr., American: (1832-1909). 1894. Hand-pulled photogravure published in periodical "Sun & Shade”, New York: January, 1894: whole #65: N.Y. Photogravure Co.: 20.5 x 11.7 | 34.9 x 27.5 cm. The index for the issue of Sun & Shade in which this photograph appears states: “To the meditative woman crossing the brook with careful steps upon the projecting stones, Oliver Wendell Holmes’ words, in his “Professor at the Breakfast Table,” can be appropriately applied: “The wisest woman you talk with is ignorant of something that you know, but an elegant woman never forgets her elegance.” With no eye to see her, as she crosses the woodland stream, the figure in the picture appears reposeful, full of thought, and unconsciously elegant in pose. This is a charming photograph from nature, simple, truthful and artistic.” From: PhotoSeed Archive13-fotographica-artistica-“Derniers Rayons Dans la Forêt”: Guglielmo Oliaro, Italian: (1874 -1936) vintage Bromide photograph, ca. 1900? 1907: 16.6 x 22.5 | 23.5 x 32.7 cm. Translating to “Last Rays In The Forest”, this bucolic scene at dusk features a rushing stream and footbridge bisecting a a silhouetted line of Pollarded Willow trees. From Turin, amateur photographer Dr. Guglielmo Oliaro was very interested in the arts, founding a medical publishing house that survives to this day: From the InterFairs online resource: “Minerva Medica was the brainchild of a Turin GP (General Practitioner -ed.) Dr. Guglielmo Oliaro, a scientist with a passion for literature, art and music. It was on December 8 1925 that Dr. Oliaro got together with a small group of partners to set up the original company, Tipografia Editrice Minerva based in Turin. The creation of that company was a response to the growing success both in Italy and abroad, of Minerva Medica, a weekly journal for the general practitioner that first came out in 1909. Edizioni Minerva Medica S.p.A. was set up as a limited company by Dr. Guglielmo Oliaro on June 9 1934, for the purpose of supplying the Italian medical profession with text-books and scientific journals.” This example of Oliaro’s work was printed by the Milan atelier Maison Tensi and included as a full-page plate in the April, 1907 issue of “La Fotographia Artistica”, a French/Italian photographic journal. From: PhotoSeed Archive14-doris-ulmann-baptism-co“Baptismal Scene” : Doris Ulmann, American: (1882 –1934) 1933: Signed, hand-pulled photogravure included as additional loose plate from deluxe edition of “Roll, Jordan, Roll”: 21.3 x 16.4 | 28.3 x 20.7 cm. In a rather interesting coincidence, this particular example of a summer stream showing a well-known river baptism by Ulmann has been partially immersed by moisture along the lower margin. From p. 116 of the volume: “A candidate for admission into the church must first be baptized. The Methodists have water sprinkled on their heads, but Baptists must be publicly immersed. These “baptisms” attract large crowds of onlookers. The candidates all arrive at the “pool” dressed in long white robes, which are carefully put away after the ceremony to serve as their shrouds some day. When they are assembled, the preacher and the leader, also dressed in white robes, lead the first candidate down into the water, where he is dipped three times, once in the name of the Father, once in the name of the Son, and once in the name of the Holy Ghost. As he is lead up out of the water, all his sins are left behind, drowned and buried in a watery grave. His soul is cleansed white as snow and he is ready to be received into full church membership. Unless he “falls” into sin and gets “turned out” of the church, he will some day be received into fellowship with God’s holy angels up in heaven.” The following review of Roll, Jordon, Roll comes from Steve Watson and was included on the Amon Carter Museum of American Art website, first published in 2016: Photographer Doris Ulmann came from an affluent white New York City family. She took teacher training with photographer Lewis Hine at the Ethical Culture School and subsequently studied psychology and law at Columbia University. She also studied photography with Clarence H. White, a founding member of the Photo-Secession movement known for teaching the Pictorialist style. Ulmann collaborated with novelist Julia Peterkin on a book project titled Roll, Jordan, Roll(New York: R.O. Ballou, 1933). The book focuses on the lives of former slaves and their descendants on a plantation in the Gullah coastal region of South Carolina. Peterkin, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel Scarlet Sister Mary (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1928), was born in South Carolina and raised by a black nursemaid who taught her the Gullah dialect. She married the heir to Lang Syne, a 2,000-acre cotton plantation, which became the setting for Roll, Jordan, Roll. Ulmann began photographing there in 1929. Roll, Jordan, Roll is titled after the spiritual written by English Methodist leader Charles Wesley in the 18th century which became well-known among slaves in the United States during the 19th century. Appropriated as a coded message for escape, by the end of the American Civil War it had become known through much of the eastern United States. In the 20th century it helped inspire the blues, and it remains a staple in gospel music. Roll, Jordan, Roll was illustrated with 90 photogravure plates made from Ulmann’s large-format negatives. Although they comprise an amazing ethnographic study, today Ulmann’s Pictorialist aesthetic seems a strange choice for making documentary images. The hazy, soft-focus photographs lend a sentimental, nostalgic impression that belies the underlying exploitative history of her subjects. From: PhotoSeed Archive15-arthur-hammond-niagara-“Niagara Falls”: attributed to Arthur Hammond, American: born England: 1880-1962: hand-colored gelatin silver print mounted to album leaf, ca. 1930-1940: 19.2 x 24.2 | 25.0 x 32.7 cm. To conclude our post is a view of the ultimate Summer Stream: a view showing the Niagara River’s Horseshoe Falls from the Canadian side. From a personal album of nearly 100 photographs attributed to Hammond dating from around 1910-1940. Born in London, photographer Arthur Hammond arrived in America at Ellis Island in New York Harbor on July 31, 1909 and established himself with his own studio in Natick, MA outside Boston by 1912. In 1920, he authored the foundational book "Pictorial Composition in Photography" and became a leading voice for pictorialism in America through his position as associate editor of American Photography magazine that lasted 30 years from 1918-1949. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

 

By the Stream

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)

 

By the stream I dream in calm delight, and watch as in a glass,
How the clouds like crowds of snowy-hued and white-robed
maidens pass,

And the water into ripples breaks and sparkles as it spreads,
Like a host of armored knights with silver helmets on their heads.

And I deem the stream an emblem fit of human life may go,
For I find a mind may sparkle much and yet but shallows show,

And a soul may glow with myriad lights and wondrous mysteries,
When it only lies a dormant thing and mirrors what it sees.

 

 

Eternal Sunny Rest

I lost my mother-in-law this past Easter. Besides her strong faith, which made Maria Meek’s passing on the Christian day of renewal seem like destiny after a nearly 20-year battle with various cancers, her selfless devotion to cats will always remain with me.

 

new-blog-cat“The Cat” (Probably Tenney House, at Smith College in Northampton, MA) Unknown American photographer: Cyanotype: ca. 1900 (4.9 x 12.0 cm | 18.2 x 27.5 cm loosely inserted within thin, manilla album leaf)  In love and remembrance for Maria Meek: 1949-2019. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

Like this feline, who bear’s an uncanny resemblance to Maria’s beloved Oscar, one of her many rescues who went from cold factory floor to a home-life of pampered bliss, please consider a donation to your local Humane Society or pet shelter in remembrance to those whom you have loved.

 

 

New Year in New England

Happy New Year!

blog-new-year-greeting-2-photoseed-2019Detail: “White Mountains | New Hampshire”: By William Boyd Post, American (1857-1921): vintage platinum print ca. 1900-10 (12.7 x 23.7 | 16.0 x 25.9 cm) Showing a mountainside farmstead in foreground neatly framed by the peaks of New Hampshire’s White Mountains on the horizon, this landscape is believed to have been taken near Plymouth in the Granite State. W.B. Post specialized in snow scenes first beginning around 1895, and more so after he retired to his family’s summer home in Fryeburg, Maine permanently in 1898. Ornamental initials and hand lettered greeting on upper margin taken from 1933 folio of colored collotype views issued by an American tea merchant living in Japan. From: PhotoSeed Archive