The Victorians loved to use descriptive, poetic language. Many of them who had the money for a really nice house even named their homes. They also named photographs, and the first picture here was taken by B.W. Kilburn.

He called it “The Surging Sea of Humanity“. This is a stereoscope, which is a really neat invention that was peculiar to the Victorian era. You need a stereoscope viewer to combine the two photos and get the full 3D effect.

The picture is an oddity for many reasons. Most photographs from this era are posed, formal, and serious.

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In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt went on a trip west, and he stopped in Sherman, Texas. This stereoscope image shows him speaking (from his horse!) to a sizable crowd.

But what is a stereoscope, you ask. Stereoscopes are two photographs of one scene taken at slightly different angles. They can be viewed as two ordinary pictures, but with a stereoscope viewer, they become one 3-D image! When stereoscopes were en vogue, it was customary to print a description of the picture on the cardboard mounting. Usually it was something bland like, “Three people waving, Washington, 1910”, but this one is charming. It says, “Square and streets filled with earnest people listening to President Roosevelt–Sherman, Texas.” Don’t you love it that someone looked at this big group and decided the best word to describe them was “earnest”?

Courtesy Library of Congress

Normally, the 1930s are far too modern for me, but these 1931 pictures of a Graf Zeppelin visiting the Great Pyramids perfectly capture the birth of the modern world, so they couldn’t be left out of this blog!



The first picture is of a man and a boy perched high above the city, watching the zeppelin leave Cairo to approach the Great Pyramids. I wonder if the little boy is still alive today, and if he remembers this moment. Fun detail: note the photographer’s shadow at the bottom of the image!

in the distance



Here, three men watch as the zeppelin draws closer. They seem to be transfixed by it.

three men watching



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