World War I in Color: The Autochromes of Albert Kahn

31/01/2012 § 1 Comment

Color Autochromes — an early form of color photography — taken during WWI, from the collection of Albert Kahn.  It is an amazing real-life look into the world that Downton Abbey so elegantly recreated for Masterpiece Theatre.  Sidenote: I am completely obsessed with the show.  Are you?

Kahn was a French banker and philanthropist who attempted to collect a photographic record of the entire world between 1909 and 1931.  Amassing over 72,000 Autochromes, Kahn’s collection included historical records of 50 countries and was little-seen until recently.  Kahn’s archive formed the basis of a recent BBC miniseries and accompanying book, The Wonderful World of Albert Kahn: Colour Photographs from a Lost Age.  Find out more here.

**Update: Just found a place online where you can watch a bit of the documentary.  Find part 1 here and part 2 here, courtesy of Ovation.  Enjoy!

Rabbit Hole: Vintage Travel Posters

28/01/2012 § 1 Comment

In love!

A beautiful collection of vintage travel posters is currently available at Vintage Seekers.  To view and purchase these and more, head here.

The Arteries of New York City, 1941

26/01/2012 § 1 Comment

“Manhattan acts like a heart”

A lovely documentary by Encyclopedia Britannica Films on the myriad of transportation options to and from Manhattan available to the New Yorkers and New Jerseyans of 1941.  Great images of commuters, the subway, trains, buses, Grand Central, the New Jersey ferry system and — the very best part — my office building on Fifth Avenue at the 5.27 mark. 

As a native Californian, mass transit is still a relatively new development in my life, but come next rush hour I will definitely be thinking of the generations of Manhattan strap hangers that have come before me.  I only wish the commuters of today looked just as stylish.

Commuting Through Time: New York

26/01/2012 § 2 Comments

A few places I pass by every day on my daily commute…

Grand Central Terminal

Fifth Avenue.

The “hidden” City Hall stop…

Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The Wanderlust

16/12/2011 § Leave a comment

Image via National Library of Wales.

Islwyn Roberts of Llanbedr, Merionethshire, a Welshman who would hitchhike his way around the world and then return home to sit on a bench in town and read stories about his adventures to anyone who would listen.  A mostly deaf war veteran, Islwyn managed to get all the way to Algeria on £6 in 1949.  He returned home to Wales, but set out again in 1958 for a year-long trip that included stops in Egypt, South Africa, Patagonia (in South America) and Canada.

The Wanderlust
by Robert W. Service

The Wanderlust has lured me to the seven lonely seas,
Has dumped me on the tailing-piles of dearth;
The Wanderlust has haled me from the morris chairs of ease,
Has hurled me to the ends of all the earth.
How bitterly I’ve cursed it, oh, the Painted Desert knows,
The wraithlike heights that hug the pallid plain,
The all-but-fluid silence, — yet the longing grows and grows,
And I’ve got to glut the Wanderlust again.

Soldier, sailor, in what a plight I’ve been!
Tinker, tailor, oh what a sight I’ve seen!
And I’m hitting the trail in the morning, boys,
And you won’t see my heels for dust;
For it’s “all day” with you
When you answer the cue
Of the Wan-der-lust.

The Wanderlust has got me . . . by the belly-aching fire,
By the fever and the freezing and the pain;
By the darkness that just drowns you, by the wail of home desire,
I’ve tried to break the spell of it — in vain.
Life might have been a feast for me, now there are only crumbs;
In rags and tatters, beggar-wise I sit;
Yet there’s no rest or peace for me, imperious it drums,
The Wanderlust, and I must follow it.

Highway, by-way, many a mile I’ve done;
Rare way, fair way, many a height I’ve won;
But I’m pulling my freight in the morning, boys,
And it’s over the hills or bust;
For there’s never a cure
When you list to the lure
Of the Wan-der-lust.

The Wanderlust has taught me . . . it has whispered to my heart
Things all you stay-at-homes will never know.
The white man and the savage are but three short days apart,
Three days of cursing, crawling, doubt and woe.
Then it’s down to chewing muclucs, to the water you can eat,
To fish you bolt with nose held in your hand.
When you get right down to cases, it’s King’s Grub that rules the races,
And the Wanderlust will help you understand.

Haunting, taunting, that is the spell of it;
Mocking, baulking, that is the hell of it;
But I’ll shoulder my pack in the morning, boys,
And I’m going because I must;
For it’s so-long to all
When you answer the call
Of the Wan-der-lust.

The Wanderlust has blest me . . . in a ragged blanket curled,
I’ve watched the gulf of Heaven foam with stars;
I’ve walked with eyes wide open to the wonder of the world,
I’ve seen God’s flood of glory burst its bars.
I’ve seen the gold a-blinding in the riffles of the sky,
Till I fancied me a bloated plutocrat;
But I’m freedom’s happy bond-slave, and I will be till I die,
And I’ve got to thank the Wanderlust for that.

Wild heart, child heart, all of the world your home.
Glad heart, mad heart, what can you do but roam?
Oh, I’ll beat it once more in the morning, boys,
With a pinch of tea and a crust;
For you cannot deny
When you hark to the cry
Of the Wan-der-lust.

The Wanderlust will claim me at the finish for its own.
I’ll turn my back on men and face the Pole.
Beyond the Arctic outposts I will venture all alone;
Some Never-never Land will be my goal.
Thank God! there’s none will miss me, for I’ve been a bird of flight;
And in my moccasins I’ll take my call;
For the Wanderlust has ruled me,
And the Wanderlust has schooled me,
And I’m ready for the darkest trail of all.

Grim land, dim land, oh, how the vastness calls!
Far land, star land, oh, how the stillness falls!
For you never can tell if it’s heaven or hell,
And I’m taking the trail on trust;
But I haven’t a doubt
That my soul will leap out
On its Wan-der-lust.

Field Notes: Antiquing in Mercado de San Telmo

13/12/2011 § 5 Comments

Weekly on Sundays, the street Defensa in the neighborhood of San Telmo in Buenos Aires becomes a bustling marketplace where one can purchase almost anything.  Automobiles are prohibited, vendors set their stalls in the streets and enterprising young people rove the crowds carrying boxes of homemade empanadas for sale.  However, the most impressive attractions of the San Telmo market are the amazing antique shops and there are two in particular I wanted to share with you.

Gabriel del Campo (Defensa 1131 in San Telmo)

Gabriel del Campo was a rather surreal experience.  There were so many interesting and immaculate items — from dolls to furniture to fur rugs to an extensive collection of luggage and trunks — and they were staged so beautifully, it felt almost like a museum.  Albeit the kind of museum I wanted to live in.  And while the exchange rate is currently quite favorable, the shop is well aware of the high quality and value of their items.

For example, a diminutive woman with an accent that sounded like she was from Hong Kong was noisily admiring a Louis Vuitton steamer trunk that was almost as tall as she was.  When she asked the price, “18,000” was the answer.  “Pesos?” she asked, which would have been a little over $4,000.  “No, no.  American dollars.”

For those of us who are not on Ralph Lauren’s scouting team and find ourselves without their unlimited funds, rest assured that Gabriel del Campo is an inherently satisfying exercise in antique inspiration and it is definitely worth a look around.  Who knows, you might get lucky...

Antigüo Balcón (Defensa 961, Location 90, in Antiguo Mercado de San Telmo)

On the other hand, the tiny and adorable shop Antigüo Balcón, was a completely different — but much more lovely — experience.  Run by owner Abel Neira for over 20 years, the shop is a dizzying jumble of all sorts of odds and ends and hidden treasures.  Mr. Neira seems to somewhat specialize in a few types of items — namely cameras, musical instruments, fans and telephones — but truly, there is a little bit of everything crammed into this tiny space.

Mr. Neira was a delight to speak with.  As he pointed out small treasures my untrained eye might have missed, we chatted about my trip and the best places to go in the city — quite like visiting an old friend with an amazing collection.  At Antigüo Balcón, unlike at Gabriel del Campo, you can find amazing things that won’t require a second mortgage — or a first one for that matter — and you will consider your time with Mr. Neira as an added bonus.

Abel Neira, owner of Antigüo Balcón.

Related: Field Notes: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Rabbit Hole: The American Girl Magazine

16/10/2011 § 7 Comments

No, no, not that American Girl.*

From 1917 until 1979 Girl Scouts published a magazine, originally called “The Rally” (1917–1920) and then “The American Girl.”  At one time this magazine had the largest circulation of any magazine aimed at teen-aged girls.

I really love some of the covers from the 1930s.

Girl Shout Week.  Word.

For more, head over to How To Be A Retronaut.

*I did own one of those dolls, though.  Bonus points if you can guess which one.

Rabbit Hole: Vintage Sportswomen

07/10/2011 § Leave a comment

I figure…if these ladies can do all of this in a dress (and most likely a corset too)…

I really have no good reason for not taking myself to the gym, right?

Well, other than pure, unadulterated laziness.
Let’s keep it real.

For more images of vintage sportswomen,
head over to How To Be A Retronaut.

Auction: Doyle New York: The Estate of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

12/09/2011 § 1 Comment

Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. in 1938.
December 9, 1909 – May 7, 2000

Over the weekend, I dropped by Doyle New York on the Upper East Side to peruse the estate of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., due to be sold tomorrow morning, September 13, at 10am.  Fairbanks, son of screen legend Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. and his first wife Anna; and stepson to his father’s second wife — screen legend in her own right — Mary Pickford; was Hollywood royalty.  Encouraged by his father and stepmother, Fairbanks, Jr. began acting at a young age in silent films, eventually working in “talkies” and on the stage, and became quite the leading man.

During the second World War, Fairbanks, Jr. served as a reserve officer in the US Navy, where he trained with the British Royal Navy through an officer exchange program headed by Lord Mountbatten, a friend of his father, Fairbanks, Sr.  Fairbanks, Jr. returned to the states where he was instrumental in the creation of the Beach Jumper program, a special naval unit specializing in misinformation and deception.  After the war, he returned to acting.

Fairbanks, Jr. was married three times — once to Joan Crawford! — and had three daughters.  He was a rather acquisitive fellow who enjoyed the best of everything.  This auction of his estate contains more than 400 lots of jewelry, memorabilia, clothing, furniture and artwork.  I was most excited to see the clothing and personal effects and came away quite impressed…and also full of antique lust, but that’s to be expected.

Wearing the platinum, diamond and turquoise set pictured above.

Loved Fairbanks’ Rolodexes.

Decorated war hero, Hollywood star…fan of Lily Pulitzer resort wear?

Brook Club crest and lighter

Patek Philippe Gold Wristwatch
Grouped with below photo of Fairbanks wearing the watch, with Marlene Dietrich


Images via QC, LIFE and Doyle New York

Some of the lots are estimated to go as low as $100 – $200, like these ties pictured above.  So if old Hollywood, fine menswear and classic personal accessories appeals to you, you may want to mosey over to Doyle New York tomorrow morning and see what’s what.  Or perhaps place a bid from afar.  Just don’t you bid on anything that I have my eye on…

The Estate of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
Auctioned by Doyle New York
View the full catalog here

New Addition: Ivy League Pennants

26/05/2011 § 1 Comment

Was very excited to scoop up two Ivy League pennants on my trip to Brimfield.  Originally flown by knights in the middle ages and still used by warships today to connote their status as commissioned vessels, pennants are also associated with American sports — specifically professional baseball and collegiate teams.  I’m really looking forward to getting these dorm room staples up on the wall and adding a bit of school spirit around the house.

via Claremont Colleges Digital Library.
via Vassar College Archives.

via University North Carolina Greensboro Digital Projects.

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