Two early "Selfie" photographs

Sunday, 28 June 2020



Apparently, the first selfie has been credited to one of the American pioneers of photography, Robert Cornelius, who produced a daguerreotype of himself in 1839. It was not known as a selfie at the time of course, the name has been credited to an unknown Australian:

The first use of the term was on a public forum in September 2002. An Australian man took a photo of his torn lip after a drunken night out and was seeking advice about the stitches that he had just received. The man’s identity has remained a mystery, and he is surely missing out on much fame or notoriety. Many linguists have analyzed the term and believe that it is very typical of the Australian language to shorten words and end them with (ie); other examples include barbie for barbecue, firie for firefighter, postie for postman and tinnie for a can of beer.

The two photographs here certainly do not date back to 1839, but they are still interesting as they were taken with an extremely long bulb shutter release mechanism. Early cameras had a "B" setting which referred to "Bulb" or sometimes "Brief" exposure. The bulb was a detachable rubber pneumatic shutter release as shown in this illustration from Wikipedia. When the shutter was set to "B", the pneumatic release kept the shutter open for as long as the photographer squeezed the bulb.

In the second photograph below, the bulb is clearly visible in the man's hand, and also the very long line to the camera. Sadly, there is no information written on the photograph as to who the people are. 

Unfortunately there was obviously a fault with my time machine as I have no idea when or where I have been! If you have any idea as to the location or time period, please do get in touch.







Ruahine III in Clydebank, Scotland

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

The fantastic photograph below, from my collection, was taken at the John Brown Shipyard, Clydebank, Scotland, c.1949. Thank you to Herb Ford, author of Pitcairn Island as a Port of Call for the following information:

This would have been Ruahine III (both I and II were built at a different yard – Wm. Denny & Bros, Dumbarton) and she was launched on December 11, 1950, so the photo would most likely have been taken in 1949, given the degree of completeness shown; can’t get closer to an exact date for you than that. 
Ruahine III made her maiden voyage from London to Wellington on May 22, 1951, after having been handed over to the New Zealand Shipping Company (which was then actually the New Zealand Shipping and Federal Steam Navigation Company) on May 3, 1951.
In 1968, after having been transferred to Federal ownership in 1967, she was sold to C. Y. Tung’s Orient Overseas Line, Hong Kong.  She was renamed Oriental Rio.  In 1969 she left Hong Kong on the Round the World Service. 
This great ship arrived at Kaohsiung for scrapping on December 31, 1973.







External link: The story of the Clyde Bank Shipyard

Two superb locomotive photographs

Thursday, 16 April 2020


The two photographs on this post are from two different countries, with rather different style steam locomotives, but with two proud crews posing in a similar way beside their machines.

In the first photograph, from the United States, this old Cabinet photograph shows the crew of the Pennsylvania Railroad's locomotive number 3117, circa 1920.


The photograph is 6 inches by 8 inches in size, and mounted on a large 8 inch by 11 inch card suitable for framing. It would seem strange to witness this kind of photograph being taken today beside a modern railway engine, but this quote, from the book Northwestern Pacific Railroad by Fred Codoni (Arcadia Publishing, ISBN 978-0738531212) explains the story behind my photographs rather well:

"… at a time when crews posing beside their iron steeds was not considered loafing. That was also an age when engineers and firemen were regularly assigned to one engine, and the men and "their" locomotives became very close."

I have found another copy of the American photograph online – click here – so I would imagine copies were made available to the crew.

My second photograph, from the UK's London Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) was taken in Brighton in 1909 according to a hand written date on the back of this real photo postcard.


I was particularly taken with this Brighton photograph when I noticed that, with typical British humour, one of the crew is holding his oil can so that it would empty into the pocket of the unsuspecting man next to him!




Close look at an iceberg in 1915

Saturday, 11 April 2020

This remarkable photograph of an iceberg in the South Pacific Ocean was taken from the New Zealand Shipping Company's S.S. Remuera in July 1915. Considering that most passengers would have had vivid memories of the tragic sinking of the Titanic, which took place just three years earlier, it is rather surprising, and perhaps even foolhardy, that the Remuera steamed so close to this iceberg.


The above image has been scanned from a glass lantern slide, which could be projected using a 'Magic Lantern' projector. Magic Lanterns were the forerunners of 35mm slide projectors, and were in use from as early as the 17th century, up until the mid-20th century.



Icebergs were also very popular subjects for many of the real photo postcards that were sold to passengers making the journey to New Zealand from the UK. I have one such card, which was also photographed from the Remuera, in December 1913, less than two years after the Titanic disaster.

Several iceberg photo postcards are illustrated in my 2018 printed book, X8 - early New Zealand Shipping Company postcards and their photographers, which is available to purchase from this website: www.printerspie.co.uk/Books/Printed-Books/X8/X8.html

You can read more about the New Zealand Shipping Company on my other website: New Zealand Shipping Company records for genealogy
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