Thursday, March 25, 2010

top hats

Ian Jack has researched a 1937 photograph for a mag called More Intelligent Life. The photo is notorious as a graphic demonstration of England's dishonorable class barriers. You may have seen it before. This version comes from Francis Bennion's photo pages:

The photo stands well on its own. It's good photojournalism and good photography period. As you'd expect its story isn't just about wealth and privilges, snobbery and distinction; there's a lot more to it. Each of the five boys it portrays has his own story. Sure, it does simplistically reveal a class division, but the two boys on left — Harrow students at the gate to Lord's Cricket Ground — are divided as much from the students of arch-rivals, Eton, whose eleven their team is about to play, as they are of the three boys on the right, not themselves street urchins, but urban kids likely to be cricketers themselves.

{impromptu open-field cricket in the late 1930s; source: as you can see}

{street cricket, also from the late 30s; source: getty}

Here's a link to Jack's article: FIVE BOYS: THE STORY OF A PICTURE. It's worth reading, through to the end.

These prints from late 19th-century weekly illustrated news magazines show the festive nature of the annual Harrow-Eton match. They show fashionable young folks of Imperial England enjoying themselves much as now do the crowds at collegiate homecoming games every fall in the US. In those times, only a tiny minority of the population could enjoy itself in this way — in England and the US alike. Although disparities of wealth persist or, in England's case, have reëmerged in our times, it seems unlikely that we'll ever again have among us so self-assured, energetic, and surprisingly creative a generation as were these Harrovians and Etonians, with all their prejudices and absurd traditions.


{source: Antique Prints of Cricket}

{caption: The Eton-Harrow Cricket Match by Sydney P. Hall. 1870. Wood-engraving, 3 1/2 x 3 1/4 inches. Recollections of Eton, p. 320. Scanned image and text by George P. Landow; source:}

This shot shows Eton boys arriving for the match, ca. 1930

{caption: Eton schoolboys arriving for the cricket match between the Eton and Harrow at Lord's cricket ground, London, ca. 1930; source: getty}


The US has its own bastions of educational privilege, as I'm sure we all already know.

The Ivy League - bastions of privilege instead of institutes of learning

Which College Grads Earn the Most?
graduates of prestigious institutions, especially Ivy League universities, earned the biggest salaries

Harvard Grad Details 'Privilege' of Ivy League Life

1 comment:

meyerprints said...