Vintage photo of a horsecar, New York City 1910s-1920s

Vintage Photo Wednesday, Vol. 35: New York Horsecar Scene, 1910s-1920s

I’ll admit that this one has me a bit puzzled. What I can gather is that this is a shot of a horsecar in front of a building owned by the Hartford and New York Transportation Company. The company operated steamboats, barges, skiffs, tugboats, and other water craft and carried passengers between New York and Connecticut — making frequent stops along the Connecticut River. In 1906 the company was taken over by the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad.

All this is to say that I can’t really nail down a date for this very nice photo. Click for the full-size version.

Vintage photo of a horsecar, New York City 1910s-1920s

The main clue for dating offered here is the horsecar in the foreground of the photo. Horsecars — which differed slightly from horse-drawn trolleys — were pretty much phased out of New York City by 1917 or so, which leads me to believe this image is pre-1920. But there may have been a few still left as late as the early ’20s I suppose.

Regardless, this is a great shot.

For more Vintage Photo Wednesday entries, click here.

Vintage World's Fair postcard - New York (1939)

Vintage 20th Century World’s Fair Postcards (1900 – 1940)

Getting to a World’s Fair is definitely one of the items on my bucket list. But until I can attend one in person, I guess the next best thing will have to be to look at some vintage World’s Fair postcards. The selection I present here spans every officially sanctioned and recognized fair and exposition from the first half of the 20th century. Due to the outbreak of World War II, there were no fairs held between 1941 and 1957. The next part of this overview (to be published later) will pick up with Expo 58 and run through Expo ’98.

Exposition Universelle (Paris, 1900)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Paris (1900)

Petit Palais


Pan-American Exposition (Buffalo, 1901)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Buffalo (1901)

The Stadium

Louisiana Purchase Exposition (St. Louis, 1904)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - St. Louis (1904)

Varied Industries Building

(via Brenda)

Liège International (Belgium, 1905)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Liège (1905)

The Munich Building

(via alanp_photo)

Milan International (1906)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Milan (1906)

Irish International Exhibition (Dublin, 1907)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Dublin (1907)


Jamestown Exposition (Norfolk, 1907)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Jamestown Exposition (1907)

History and Historic Arts. Auditorium. Education and Social Economy Building.

Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (Seattle, 1909)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Alaska–Yukon–Pacific Exposition (1909)

United States Government and Hawaiian Building

 Brussels International 1910

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Brussels (1910)

Visit from the King and Queen of Belgium

Turin International (1911)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Turin (1911)

Monumental Bridge and the Pavilion of Paris


Exposition Universelle et Internationale (Ghent, 1913)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Ghent (1913)

La Section Française‎ (The French Section)

Panama–Pacific International Exposition (San Francisco, 1915)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - San Francisco (1915)

Great South Gardens


Panama–California Exposition (San Diego, 1915)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - San Diego (1915)

Downtown Plaza and U.S. Grant Hotel


Independence Centenary International Exposition (Rio de Janeiro, 1922-23)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Rio de Janeiro (1922)

Ibero-American Exposition of 1929 (Seville, Spain)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Seville (1929)

Mexican Pavilion

1929 Barcelona International Exposition

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Barcelona (1929)

Exposition of 1930 (Liège)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Liège (1930)

Entrance Doors, North Sector

International Colonial Exposition, Maritime and Flemish Art (Antwerp, 1930)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Antwerp (1930)

Pavilion of the French Colonies

A Century of Progress International Exposition (Chicago, 1933-34)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Chicago (1933/34)

General Motors Building

Brussels International Exposition (1935)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Brussels (1935)

International Exposition Dedicated to Art and Technology in Modern Life (Paris, 1937)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Paris (1937)

1939 New York World’s Fair

Vintage World's Fair postcard - New York (1939)

The 14-Ton Giant Underwood Master (Typewriter) Operating Daily


1939 International Exposition (Liège)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - Liège (1939)

The Palace of Germany


Golden Gate International Exposition (San Francisco, 1939-40)

Vintage World's Fair postcard - San Francisco (1939/40)

Night View of Treasure Island, Magic City of Golden Gate International Exposition on San Francisco Bay

(via Shook Photos)
View-Master reel packet envelope

A How-To Guide for Scanning View-Master Reels

Recently a visitor to my View-Master gallery wrote in and asked how I scan my reels and get them ready for publication. So as a public service I’ll go through the steps I take to get an image from a reel to you. Note that I don’t profess to be an expert in this area, and by no means do I claim to have the best technique. I also tend to make things much more complicated than necessary, so keep that in mind.

So here is my humble guide to scanning View-Master reels and getting them cleaned up.

The Hardware

For my reel scanning I use an Epson Perfection 1660 Photo Scanner. It’s a rather old model — at least a decade — but does the job. If memory serves it came with plastic photo scan adapters, but they have long since been lost.

Epson Perfection 1660 Photo Scanner

See that opaque strip in the middle of the lid’s underside? That’s the reflective section that enables scanning of the View-Master reel images. I’m sure there are dozens of models that have the same thing and that don’t cost a lot of money.

The Software

I use Photoshop for scanning and post-processing, just because that’s what I’ve used for years and that’s what I’m comfortable with. But as with the scanner itself, there are a ton of choices out there. For this how-to I’m using screenshots of Photoshop CS4.

Let’s go through a scan using one of my New York City reels, a project that’s still in progress as of this posting.

The Steps

1. Place the reel on the scanner bed, so that some of the pictures are lined up under the opaque filmstrip adapter. Unless you have a larger adapter you won’t be able to fit all of them. It shouldn’t matter if the reel is facing up or down, but I always have mine print side down out of habit.

2. In Photoshop initiate a scan/import process. Here’s what it looks like in CS4 (selecting the installed Epson software):

A How-To Guide for Scanning View-Master Reels

3. From the Epson scanner interface, I use the following settings:

  • Document source: TPU: Pos. Film
  • Image Type: Color Photo
  • Destination: Screen/Web
  • Resolution: 1200 dpi

A How-To Guide for Scanning View-Master Reels

Remember that View-Master images are not film negatives, but transparent film prints. As for the resolution, I find that 1200 dpi allows me to get a large enough image to be useful. Anything more and the file size becomes a bit unwieldy. But if you want to blow up an image you’ll want to go higher.

Note in this preview window that I only got three distinct pictures (remember that a View-Master picture is made up of two separate pieces of film). So to capture all seven on a reel you’ll need to repeat this process.

4. Now into post-processing! Align and crop the scanned images to your liking. I’m not going to tell you how to use your image processing software, but I will note that you may want to apply some curve leveling to account for your scanner. Also watch out for proper alignment. It’s easy to work on a slide only to discover it’s backwards — this can happen in slides without lettering in the picture — so remember to compare to the original reel as seen through a viewer.

Here are two scans from a New York slide (Coney Island beach). The first has no processing applied, and the second had adjustments made in the levels and shadow/highlights. I also added a sharpening filter. Remember that this is half-century old picture less than an inch wide, so don’t expect to be wowed.

View-Master reel scan example


View-Master reel scan example


And that’s pretty much it!

New York City Blizzard, 1947

Time Capsule: New York City Blizzard, 1947

New York City Blizzard, 1947

The Christmas of 1947 was certainly a white one for residents of the U.S. northeast and the New York City metro area in particular. Too white in fact. From December 25 through the 26th, a surprise storm dumped more than two feet of snow in areas. The highest recorded amount was 26.4 inches in Central Park. 77 people died as a result of the blizzard.

Life photographer Mark Kauffman captured some of the storm and a lot of the cleanup in a series of outstanding photographs covering what would become known as the Great Blizzard of 1947. In this photo gallery you can see the snow falling, streets piled with the white stuff, stranded commuters, and of course some vintage period signs and vehicles. You can also see what famous Gotham locations like Central Park, Rockefeller Center and the Waldorf-Astoria look like after a major snowstorm.

For more capsules and galleries, click here.

New York Christmas Santa

Vintage Photo Wednesday, Vol. 21: New York Santa & Mobile Xmas Post Office

Sorry for the dearth of activity around these parts lately, it’s been a hectic holiday season. To make it up to you I’m doubling your vintage photograph pleasure this week!

Up first is a familiar site — Santa Claus collecting donations for the less fortunate on a street corner, circa the early 1910s. This is from the Library of Congress’s Bain News Service collection. Click for a larger version.

New York Christmas Santa

The sign on the faux chimney reads, in part, “Volunteers of America — Ballington Booth Christmas Dinners.” According to Wikipedia, Ballington Booth was an officer in the Salvation Army. His parents, William and Catherine Booth, founded the Salvation Army in 1865.

Booth and his wife Maud left the Salvation Army in the late 19th century and started their own charity organization — God’s American Volunteers — in March 1896. That group soon took the name of Volunteers of America. Volunteers of America is active today and claims to help roughly 2.5 million people per year.

Our second image is one that I don’t think we’ll ever see again. It’s a mobile post office rolling through the streets of Washington D.C. with Santa in tow, from 1921.

The Christmas post office "A la carte" has made its appearance on national capitol streets

The Christmas post office “A la carte” has made its appearance on national capitol streets

I just love this one. Long before the Postal Service was teetering on the brink of collapse, they had the wherewithal to campaign for early Christmas mailing. The greenery they slapped on that rickety old truck looks less like a Christmas scene and more like they drove it through the woods first. I love that this quaint little scene is frozen forever.

Puck Magazine Thanksgiving

Time Capsule: Puck Magazine Thanksgiving Political Covers, 1894-1913

Puck Magazine Thanksgiving

Published from 1871 until 1918, Puck magazine was America’s first successful humor magazine featuring cartoons and political satire. Their Thanksgiving covers, while not always political, usually were and are still fun to look at today even if the relevance has been lost to time. Their choice of makes sense when you know that they were based out of New York City. Tammany Hall, which we all heard about in history class but have since forgotten, figures prominently.

Here’s a selection of Puck‘s Thanksgiving covers from around the turn of the 20th century, courtesy the Library of Congress.

Puck magazine Thanksgiving cover - 1894


That’s prominent New York politician David B. Hall, who we’ll see again in 1902. He lost the NY gubernatorial race in 1894 to Levi P. Morton.

Puck magazine Thanksgiving cover - 1895


Tammany Hall was a frequent target for Puck‘s cartoons.

Puck magazine Thanksgiving cover - 1896


That’s newly elected President William McKinley, getting ready to enjoy a turkey carved by Mark Hanna, Republican Senator from Ohio and McKinley’s campaign manager in 1896 and 1900. The “Sound Money” reference had to do with a fierce debate at the time regarding what would back U.S. currency. Proponents of “sound money” wanted currency to be backed by gold, as opposed to backing by either silver or silver and gold.

Read More

Idlewild Airport (JFK), 1961

Time Capsule: Idlewild Airport, 1961

The mammoth facility now known as John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) was once known as Idlewild Airport. Idlewild, officially designated as New York International Airport, Anderson Field, received its first commercial flight on July 1, 1948. It was renamed after the late President Kennedy on December 24, 1963, just one month after he was assassinated in Dallas.

Life magazine photographer Dmitri Kessel traveled to Idlewild in 1961 to capture some outstanding photographs of the facility for their September 22 issue. What he found — especially with the interiors — was a marvel of mid-century decor and airlines gone by. To look at this photo gallery is to walk right into an episode of Mad Men. So grab your fedora and your suitcase, and let’s go to Idlewild!

(And for more time capsules, click here.)

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Alice Austen's Street Views of New York City, 1896 - Automobiles

Vintage Photo Wednesday, Vol. 2 — New York City Street Views, 1896

This week’s collection of vintage photographs comes from the New York Public Library’s digital gallery site. These street scenes from New York City were taken by Alice Austen in 1896. That’s the 19th century to you and me!

Alice Austen's 1896 New York City Street Scenes - Messenger Boy

Messenger Boy

Alice Austen's Street Views of New York City, 1896 - Organ Grinder

Organ Grinder

Alice Austen's Street Views of New York City, 1896 - Bootblacks


Alice Austen's Street Views of New York City, 1896 - Pretzel Vendor

Pretzel Vendor

Alice Austen's Street Views of New York City, 1896 - Postman


Alice Austen's Street Views of New York City, 1896 - Double-Decker Bus

Double-Decker Bus

Alice Austen's Street Views of New York City, 1896 - Policeman and Street Sweeper

Policeman and Street Sweeper

Alice Austen's Street Views of New York City, 1896 - Railroads


Alice Austen's Street Views of New York City, 1896 - Parade


Alice Austen's Street Views of New York City, 1896 - Newsboys


Alice Austen's Street Views of New York City, 1896 - Automobiles


Alice Austen's Street Views of New York City, 1896 - Ash Cart

Ash Cart

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The Naked City (1948) movie poster

GFS Home Movies: The Naked City

The Naked City (1948) movie posterCompletely by chance, I was perusing the March 22, 1948 edition of Life magazine on Google Books — hey, I never claimed to lead an exciting or glamorous existence — and stumbled across an article on The Naked City. I had heard of it before, but never really made an effort to seek it out. But the internet being the wonder it is, I was on YouTube and watching it within minutes.

And the internet being the pain in the ass it is, the fifth part of the movie was missing. I was already invested in things by then, so after a brief delay I managed to find an alternative source. Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more.

I’m always wary of watching these old movies. They so rarely hold up well. Something about the acting or directing back then just seems so stuffy now. Not sure why that is, but 9 times out of 10 when I watch mid-century entertainment it’s as if every line, every move screams, “LOOK AT US, WE’RE ACTING!” (Then again I did get lucky with The Third Man.)

And yes, some of that rigid style is present in The Naked City. But not enough to sink the film. There’s a few reasons why. First and foremost, producer Mark Hellinger wisely chose to film the entire movie on location in New York City. That means instead of painfully apparent set pieces we get the Real Gotham of 1947. Which means that tucked away among the already formidable cityscape are long-gone scenes like these:

The Naked City (1948) screenshot

Yup, that's a milkman on his rounds, with a horse-drawn delivery carriage.

The Naked City (1948) screenshot

Oooh, I see a Rheingold delivery truck!

There’s also a scene with a bunch of kids swimming in the East River. Yeah, I know. But they do find a dead body, so that seems about right.

What also saves the film is Barry Fitzgerald as Detective Lt. Dan Muldoon. Yup, an Irish cop. But Fitzgerald is a gas. Just the right mixture of gravitas, acerbic wit, and a been-there-seen-that-body attitude. In a way he is the prototype for characters like Law & Order‘s Lennie Briscoe. You know he cares about his job, but is smart enough to not get too tightly wound up about it.

His fresh-faced partner, Detective Jimmy Halloran (Don Taylor) is decent but unremarkable. He’s in some painfully wooden scenes but he’s not too much of a distraction.

The story is Crime Drama 101. A pretty blonde dame gets iced in the beginning of the film.

(Well, nearly 10 minutes in. First we get several minutes of setup and narration from Hellinger himself, who I read died after reviewing a final cut of the film. Sad.)

Anyway, the girl gets it and Fitzgerald heads up the investigation with Halloran in tow. Don’t expect to ever see a scene-for-scene remake of this movie. It’s got waaaay too much dialogue. I admire the fact that The Naked City doesn’t attempt to offer up a glamorized vision of police detective work. In between bursts of action are long periods of tedium and dead ends. This is a crime procedural with heavy emphasis on the procedure.

(I also came away with an admiration for detectives in general. How they were able to solve anything back then without the ability to magnify license plates from 200 yards away amazes me.)

So what makes this a good film other than the lead actor and the locations? Well, the cinematography is outstanding in spots. There’s a scene with the detectives and the dead girl’s parents in the morgue that is beautifully shot. There’s a nighttime shootout that actually looks dark and confusing — you know, like in real life.

And then there’s the climactic final chase scene, right out of the Alfred Hitchcock playbook. Because hey, if you’re going to imitate someone, imitate the best. I suppose there’s a reason this is considered one of the prime examples of film noir.

Maybe I’m grading The Naked City on a curve, but I think a B+ is not unmerited. I’ve seen much worse movies from the period, and much worse ones from the modern era. You’ll need to get past sometimes obtrusive Hellinger’s narration, which leaves no doubt that the man was raised in a Jewish Noo Yawk family. I actually grew to enjoy it as the film went on. The same goes for the film itself.

The Naked City (1948) screenshot

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