I tend to romanticize the past, particularly the turn of the last century. I love the clothes, the art, and the things people used to do. On occasion, however, I come across information or images that make me question whether it was really worth it to have those things, in place of modern conveniences. This time I came across four photographs that opened up all kinds of questions.

The first photograph is from 1906. First, for context, many (most?) autos didn’t provide much protection from the elements, so you would probably have to bundle up on days when the weather was harsh.

1905 auto


Bundling up is one thing. However, the picture depicts a woman named Blanche Ring, sporting a “driving outfit”. So what is a driving outfit? This poor woman is outfitted with an overcoat, thick gloves, and a chauffeur-style hat. The whole idea of needing separate clothes for driving gives me anxiety.

Blanche Ring, 1877-1961. Full length, standing by window, facing right; in driving outfit. Nov 2 1906. (LOC)


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Like everyone who will see this, I was born long after the Gilded Age ended. So how is it possible that I feel so nostalgic for these days of beauty and grace? I think I must be a ghost.

Today, I have for you pictures of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City at the turn of the century. There are also a few photos from the 1910s from a Senate inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic that was held at the hotel, and a couple of photos of women with their dogs from the first meeting of the American Pomeranian Club.

All photos courtesy the Library of Congress, except where marked.

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The Met Museum has posted some images from a book called the Album of Paris Crime Scenes, collected between 1901 – 1908.

Apparently, it belonged to Alphonse Bertillon, the fellow who invented modern mugshots. Actually, Bertillon’s mugshots are more detailed than a modern mugshot, with measurements of the body, evaluation of teeth, etc. This mugshot is from New Orleans in 1914 and is a good example of Bertillon’s method.

Back to the Album of Paris Crime Scenes. The photographs are interesting but most are quite gruesome so I’m not going to share those here. If you want to see them, you can view them here. I do think you might appreciate some of the criminal photos though. The Paris police arrested a lot of women, but today we’ll just look at the men– not just any men. There are several guys in the album who are obviously down on their luck, but it’s the well-dressed ones that I find most interesting.

One thing is clear. Bowler hats and elaborate mustaches were the trademark of the fashionable Parisian man. I didn’t realize at first that these were actually two separate people. 

A cruel face…


Missing the hat but the mustache is intact


You may have to zoom in to see it, but it’s worth it to see a guy who was so deadly serious about his mustache

My guess is, these aren’t the kind of guys who are thugs. They won’t break into your house or mug you in an alley.

But they might be the kind of guys who would take out a life insurance policy on you and then pay someone else to murder you. Confidence Men didn’t get their hands dirty. Instead, they got people to trust them and then swindled them.

What do you think? Do they look honest? Would you have trusted any of them to be your accountant?