Sunday, June 23, 2013

Before the fire

A view of Bar Harbor, Maine in the early years of the twentieth century, when it was already a popular tourist destination, especially for the wealthy. This image was probably captured from one of the islands in Frenchman Bay. Much of this terrain was altered in 1947, when a wildfire wiped out much of the forest cover on Mt. Desert Island, along with a large number of hotels and private homes in and around Bar Harbor.

The recipient of this card was William B. Chase, music critic for the Evening Sun, and it was mailed to his office in New York City on August 14, 1906; Chase later moved on to the New York Times. At a party for his seventy-first birthday, in 1943, he was serenaded by a composition written in his honor by the composer Nikolai Lopatnikoff, entitled "Arietta on the Name C-H-A-S-E." Chase's father, Austin C. Chase, was a farmer, piano manufacturer, postmaster of Syracuse, real estate developer, and lieutenant-colonel in the National Guard; the Encyclopedia of Biography of New York notes that among his many other accomplishments in 1882 he became president of the Chilled Plow Company, "when that institution was in very straightened circumstances and its affairs in a very unsatisfactory condition," and quickly put it to rights.

The unidentified sender of the card was staying a few miles away in Seal Harbor at the Seaside Inn, which escaped the 1947 fire but was later torn down.

Monday, June 17, 2013


Similar in manner to the images in my previous post, these snowy rustic landscapes all depict unidentified (though in some cases perhaps not unidentifiable) locations. Only the first features human figures (a woman and child to the right, and another, very blurry child just to the left of center), though many include buildings or other structures. Some show the faint bluish coloration of Rotograph's "Delft" line, others have a reddish hue, and two bear a bit of crudely applied glitter. Most are marked on the back with the words "Winter Serie" [sic] followed by the letters A, B, or C (multiple scenes correspond to the same letter); two have a numerical code beginning with D (for Delft.)

Some kind of shed or tipi-like structure is visible behind the trees in this one:

The next, which is one of only two in this particular group that were ever addressed and mailed, has some added doodles, perhaps meant to suggest footprints or snowshoes:

As far as I know, whatever records that may have once existed that could identify the photographer or photographers who captured these images were destroyed long ago.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


The muted aesthetic of these Rotographs sets them apart from the multicolored scenic view cards. Except for the first, which reads "Picturesque Lake Geneva NY" in a partially cropped-off caption at the bottom, none of the locations are identified. Most have a slight bluish cast, not entirely captured in these scans, that Rotograph compared, rather optimistically, to Delft china. Three have markings on the back indicating that they were included in Rotograph's "Landscape View Serie [sic] A."

It's hard to believe that these subtle images were ever able to compete with all the livelier and more colorful postcards on the market, but at the height of the postcard bubble no doubt some companies felt free to experiment a bit with alternative approaches. At least when grouped together, they still provoke an appealing mood of quiet respite.