web analytics

The gentle whimsy of days gone by


Sometimes the best way to appreciate the past is directly. Instead of reading a book about 1890, read a book from 1890. Only, they used such awfully big words and difficult sentences then. I’d rather look at the pictures.

Like this picture. Note how the creepy deaf person and his primitive finger-talking are kept safely behind iron gates. With his own kind. It’s just better that way (she looks like she smells a turd, doesn’t she?)

This and other adventures in the mind-bending iconography of our great-grandparents can be found at PennyPostcards.com. I’m not sure the site has been updated since I first found it, but I can always spend a happy hour flipping through its pages. I have a short memory.

The graphic arts of the Nineteenth Century are the spookiest; the category weird seems entirely superfluous. They’re all weird.

I’m having a hard time translating the captions (even adding Babelfish to my Tennessee High School French isn’t powerful enough, believe it or not), but there are odd themes emerging here. Gambling. Drunkenness. Vanity. If I’ve got my old timey symbolism right, these French people with antlers must be cuckolds.

What the hell? What happened to “having a wonderful time, wish you were here”? I have to assume people bought penny postcards to taunt each other through the mail, presumably anonymously. It must have been common, because there’s a whole range of unpleasant postcards.

Damn. That’s enough to make an onion cry.


Comment from jwpaine
Time: August 8, 2007, 6:35 pm

Come on, all they had were penny postcards to carry on their flame wars. Betcha if you look hard enough, you’ll find one calling the recipient a nazi.

Comment from winston
Time: August 8, 2007, 7:01 pm

You do have a real knack for finding the strange, unusual and disturbing. These are a few of my favorite things.
Oh crap, did I just wander into a musical? Save me!!

Unless it’s Cannibal the Musical. Best movie/ musical EVER. And whoo boy, is it ever strange, unusual and disturbing.

My keyboard is running off at the mouth like my mouth does when I drink. I’m a headed to the pub. Gotta get back in sync.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: August 8, 2007, 7:52 pm

Well spotted, Weasel. The picture portrays the instinctual fear of difference, which is innate in all creatures as a means of self-protection. It may be ‘unsophisticated’ it may be ‘ignorant’, ‘discriminatory’, ‘judgemental’ or any one of a hundred cut ‘n paste terms invented by the Left in its endless quest to pretend that what we are is wrong and that if we screwed our eyes up real tight and pretended ever so hard, why, the universe would become a magically different place, where the fwiendly lions lay down with the pwetty ickle lambs.

Umm… Sorry. Did I just get political?

Comment from winston
Time: August 8, 2007, 8:08 pm

Uncle Badger,
That is one impressive bunch of words you put together. My hat is off to you. Don’t know about political but it sure is fun to read. I am really serious about it being well written.

Now back to goofball mode. Well the pub called but there were three Guinesses in the fridge. They are now in me. And the Dewar’s is gone and the Bushmills has been gone for a long time. 2 blocks to the pub-this is called within crawling distance. But deer gawd it is 96 degrees out there
and humidity is the same as the temp. Maybe I will drive.

Comment from jwpaine
Time: August 8, 2007, 9:57 pm

Good thinking, Winston. You’re in no condition to crawl.

Comment from Dawn
Time: August 9, 2007, 12:15 am

I just learned what a gink was. Thank you PennyPostcards.com.

Comment from Beth
Time: August 9, 2007, 1:30 am

Visions of Acepalooza?

Comment from porkthebean
Time: August 9, 2007, 11:49 am

And now a word from your sponsor – Islamic Rage Boy merchandise –


Comment from Anonymous
Time: August 9, 2007, 1:59 pm

CS Lewis said wisely that we should read old books because not only are they often quite good, but because separate from that older culture, we’re able to see their mistakes and confusions more clearly. He believed that through this, we could learn to spot the problems in our culture that we’re often blind to.

Write a comment

(as if I cared)

(yeah. I'm going to write)

(oooo! you have a website?)

Beware: more than one link in a comment is apt to earn you a trip to the spam filter, where you will remain -- cold, frightened and alone -- until I remember to clean the trap. But, hey, without Akismet, we'd be up to our asses in...well, ass porn, mostly.

<< carry me back to ol' virginny