Sunday, February 12, 2012

Cape Tragabigzanda

Here are a series of Rotograph images of Gloucester, Massachusetts and the peninsula to which Captain John Smith once gave the outlandish name that is this post's title, in honor, he claimed, of a Greek woman who had aided him during his captivity in Turkey. Sadly, Smith's tongue-twisting onomastic flourish was overruled in favor of the more prosaic "Cape Ann."

The above images are relatively conservative in their coloring; not so the pair immediately below, for which the printer pulled out all the stops, creating a psychedelic seaside world as alluring as it was unreal. Brilliant streaks of orange and purple flare above the horizon. These are by no means "merely" documentary images; they are miniature, bizarre works of fantastic art.

The rock formation shown above, dubbed "Old Mother Ann" and sometimes compared to New Hampshire's now-fallen "Old Man of the Mountain," was the subject of an 1892 book by the formidable Ada C. Bowles, a Gloucester native who became a leading suffragist, temperance campaigner, and ordained Universalist minister. In a capsule biography written while she was still alive, we learn that
She was born in Gloucester, Mass., in 1836. She grew up with a passionate fondness for the sea and is, as she has always been, equally at home either in or on the water. She is an expert swimmer, and her undaunted courage and rare presence of mind have enabled her upon different occasions to rescue persons from drowning.

Nature gave her a sound mind in a sound body, and her early life among the rocks of Cape Ann gave her the well balanced physical development which resulted in a perfectly healthy womanhood.
Among her other talents, "Mrs. Bowles is possessed of remarkable mechanical dexterity and handles a hammer and saw as cleverly as a rolling pin."

The Colonial Arms, above, burned on New Year's Day, 1908. The other hotels shown on this page are also apparently long gone.

Sources: Tolles, Bryant Franklin, Summer by the Seaside: The Architecture of New England Coastal Resort Hotels 1820-1950, University Press of New England, 2008.

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