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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.

August 8, 2007 — 6:18 pm
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