Sunday, December 09, 2012

photochroms -- Tunisia -- 1899

At the turn of the twentieth century the Detroit Photography Company sent its operatives to exotic locales to shoot black & white negatives that it could manipulate by a process called photochrom to make full color prints. The process was exacting, slow, meticulous, and its results could be breathtaking, or maybe banal, or even ghastly. The skill of the photographer mattered, but the success of the color print depended more on the skill of the artisans creating the intermediates by which the photochroms were worked up.

Much also depended on the availability of detailed information about the original coloration of the scene that was photographed. The man behind the camera had to name the colors present in his subject, record them accurately, and give enough context so that production workers could recreate what the photographer saw. On occasions when they lacked sufficient information the workers used their own judgment and sometimes, no matter what the photographer wrote, they gave color values and shadings that seemed right to them. Frequently they worked from hand-colored versions of black and white prints and the artists who did the coloring might themselves use artistic license to make what seemed to them to be an appealing result.[1]

The photochroms themselves could be mass-printed as inexpensive postcards (and in that time of penny-stamped cards millions of them were) or they could be produced as large high-resolution prints.

The photos which follow come from a Library of Congress collection of high-quality prints that the Detroit Publishing Co. produced in or near 1899. They show places and people in Tunisia.[2] Apart from the brief notes accompanying them there's nothing that can be found out them. A publisher's catalog calls them "Views of Architecture and People in Tunisia." I believe the absence of narrative takes little away from the prints. See if you agree. As usual, click an image to view full size and then hit the escape key to return to the blog post.

{Caption: Types of Arabs, Tunis, Tunisia}

{A mosque in the principal street, Kairwan, Tunisia}

{Moorish cafe, Tunis, Tunisia}

{Outside a Moorish cafe, Tunis, Tunisia}

Details of this image:



{Group before Bab Aleona, Tunis, Tunisia}

{Group of wandering Arabs, Tunis, Tunisia}

{Tresure Street, Tunis, Tunisia}

{Market, Kairwan, Tunisia}

{A street, Kairwan, Tunisia}

{A street, Kairwan, Tunisia}

{A traveling cook, Kairwan, Tunisia}

{Mosque of St. Catherine, Tunis, Tunisia}

Details from this image:




{Souc-el-Trouk, Tunis, Tunisia}

{Bab Suika-Suker Square, Tunis, Tunisia}

{Kasbah market, Tunis, Tunisia}


Some sources:

the American Photochrom Archive gallery on

Catalogue F. Scenic, architectural and marine views (Detroit Photographic Co., 1899)

About Photocroms on

The Photochrom process on

Photochrom in wikipedia

World Digital Library

Photochrom Prints on the Library of Congress web site

the Detroit Publishing Company Collection on the Library of Congress web site

Detroit Publishing Company Photographs on the Library of Congress web site

Detroit Publishing Co. in wikipedia

The Miracle of Photochrom on

Photochrom on



[1] See the list of sources for information about the Photochrom process and its history.

[2] The prints are from the Photochrom Prints collection of the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress. Click image to enlarge.

Friday, December 07, 2012


Last summer I joined a few other family members in a trip to the Netherlands and nearby areas in Germany — locales where our Dutch and German ancestors were born and raised. While in the Dutch province of Friesland we stayed in a tiny dorp called Ee. Our B&B was a reclaimed barn with a centuries-old pedigree and thick thatch roof.

Like other old Friesian villages Ee is built around a church and the church lies on the highest point of a man-made mound, both making it visible across the area's vast extent of flat farmland and also providing a place of refuge on black-swan occasions when the seas overwhelm the dikes and flood the countryside.

Ee still consists of the church and not many other structures (homes, sheds, barns, a few shops) surrounded by farmland. Most Friesian villages that have survived from the middle ages do not retain the compact configuration that you can see in this satellite view.

Country lanes encircle the church, not a bad track for a morning jog as I found on the second day of our stay. I took some photos during a final cooldown walk and they're visible in a gallery I put up here: 2012 Trip to Europe - St. Gangulfuskerk. This image shows our B&B in the foreground with the church behind.

On the evening we arrived we sought out a place to eat and quickly located the only one that was open: a café-pub attached to a gas station called "Eetcafe de Tukker." As you'd expect, an eetcafe is simply an eatery. Tukker refers to the inhabitants of Twente, an eastern, mostly rural part of the Netherlands. It's roughly the same as "hayseed," "hick," "redneck," or "rube" in America, and as have many other terms of abuse, it's been adopted as a badge of pride by the locals.

This satellite view shows the eetcafe as well as our B&B and the church.

Since "tuk" means pocket in the local dialect, the Dutch Wikipedia article on the subject says tukkers are guys who slouch around with their hands in their pockets. The article also says tukkers gained cred when their local (and very successful) pro football team, FC Twente, took "De Tukkers" as their nickname.

This is the logo from the website of the Eetcafe de Tukker.

You might think that Eetcafe de Tukker is owned and run by Tukkers and, indeed, we were told the guy behind the bar, Frank Duursma, comes from Twente. But on the other hand his name is definitely Friesian so there's some doubt as to how deep the Tukker blood runs.

The eetcafe has a web site, Eetcafe de Tukker, which gives some photos of the place, its menu, and information about its darts team. There are also some images of a German Night (Duitse Avond), a birthday celebration, and other events.

The web site shows the exterior of the little place and the table where we ate our Tukker meal.

And the German Night photos show our host dressed as a Duitse boer (that is to say as Frieslanders imagine the German version of Tukkers to look).

After discussion with the guy who had a bit of English (standing at the bar drinking Grolsch) I ordered the "Broodje Tukker" which turned out to be a big juicy burger with lots of toppings accompanied by fries and slaw.


All this came back to me on reading today that my favorite pro bike racer is retiring from the sport. In an interview he said he's not quitting because of the doping scandal that has brought down Lance Armstrong, most of his teammates, and a bunch of others. His reasons are three: He doesn't have a contract for the coming year, he's been enjoying the sport a lot less, and he wishes to spend more time at home with his young family.

This shows Joost at the 2011 Tour of Britain.

{Joost Posthuma in a photo from brassynn's photostream on Flickr}

Joost comes from the Twente city of Hengelo. He's a fan of the football club and he's proud to be a Tukker. You can read about him on his own web site and the sites I've sited in "sources" below. I have been following his career since 2006 when he won the best young riders' jersey in the prologue of the Tour de France. I've put below a list of my blog post in which Joost figures.

When a bike racer retires, the Dutch say he's hanging his bike on the willow (hangt fiets aan de wilgen" or as it says on Joost's web page, de fiets in de wilgen). I don't know why.

This video shows an afternoon of cyclocross racing in the Twente city of Enschede and ends with a ceremonial last kilometer. At the close, in addition to seeing Joost hang his bike on a willow, you get to see his son ring the last-lap bell and both the son and his daughter present him with bunches of flowers.


My blog posts in which Joost Posthuma figures:

July 03, 2006July 12, 2006July 13, 2006July 14, 2006September 02, 2006April 19, 2007June 20, 2007July 15, 2007July 29, 2007November 12, 2007July 03, 2008November 25, 2008April 01, 2009April 02, 2009November 25, 2008September 21, 2009July 25, 2009July 25, 2009July 24, 2009April 01, 2009April 02, 2009April 12, 2009April 13, 2009April 21, 2009April 27, 2009July 10, 2010July 16, 2010March 24, 2010


Some sources:

Joost Posthuma on Wikipedia (en)

Joost Posthuma on Wikipedia (nl)

Joost Posthuma from via the Wayback machine

Joost Posthuma from the Rabobank cycling team website via the Wayback machine

Advertisement Advertisement 2006 Tour de France prologue Joost Posthuma on Velonews

Posthuma hangt fiets aan de wilgen in De telegraaf

Posthuma hangt fiets aan de wilgen on

Gezocht op: joost posthuma on De Telegraaf news site

Ee in Noordelijk Oostergo, Dongeradelen, Staatsuitgeverij by Herma M. van den Berg (Den Haag 1983)

Kerk van Ee on Wikipedia

Nederlandsch Hervormde Kerk van Ee on the dorp-ee website

Thursday, December 06, 2012

bill of pains and penalties

I've been reading Macaulay's History of England from the Accession of James II.

Approaching the end of its twenty five hundred pages I'm beginning to suffer withdrawal symptoms. It's no help that the last volume is both posthumous and incomplete. My affection for this work comes late. I enjoyed the bits of Macaulay I read when too young to know better, but the history professors of my college years had no trouble convincing me that the man and his writings were both uncool. I learned that he wrote an unacceptable version of popular history: presentist, triumphalist, progressivist, and fundamentally flawed by biases, prejudices, and, summing it all, whiggish.

There's some truth in these accusations, but, as Macaulay himself said, any history that possesses significance — that is not a meaningless assemblage of facts — is biased, though not necessarily in a bad way, and history that lacks narrative drive — with all the potential for whiggishness which that entails — will not find readers.[1] Each generation has its favorite approach to history and the historians we treasure are those we can read with pleasure long after successive generations of critics are done with them. For me, somewhat late in life, Macaulay is one such.

I've lifted some paragraphs from two early chapters the final volume to show some of the things I like about his work.[2] Their subject is an attempt to use legislation, a Bill of Pains and Penalties, to punish a wealthy and well-connected Londoner who had accused a prominent politician of corruption and who in turn had been accused of the same. The attempt is not an event that gets discussed in other histories and its obscurity is typical of Macaulay: he made a habit of deploying colorful snippets to reinforce the broad conclusions he wished to make.

He uses this one to let us see the potential of political infighting and politicians' opportunism to cause lasting harm. He also, by the way, shows that the whiggishness of which he's often accused hasn't led him to paper over cases of venality by actual Whigs. It's the Whig majority in Commons which comes close to perverting the constitution for petty and self-serving purposes and the aristocratical Lords who prevent it from doing so. The piece also thus shows a respect for the unelected Upper House by a man whose work is supposed to (somewhat crassly) celebrate the measured and inevitable evolution of representative democracy.

This is not to say that Macaulay's history was free of whiggism. Far from it. He set out to show how came to be the things of which a British subject of his time could boast — the wealth and power of his country, the liberties of its subjects and the strength of its political, religious, and economic institutions.[3] The gradual advances which led to this state of affairs were not to him inevitable nor achieved without great drama. His history is full of contingency and the clash of opposing personalities, none untainted by disabling and sometimes tragic flaws.

He believed history had no meaning unless it told a story and he tells this story compellingly and with typical verve, but he does not pretend that the end result could have been foretold or that it was in any way intentionally produced. The motivation of individual leaders, their strengths of character and moral flaws are as interesting to Macaulay, and thus to the reader, as are the decisions they make, whether for good or, as often or more so, for ill.

Charles Duncombe, the man who's the subject of the Bill of Pains was well known in his time for his wealth and position, his humble origin and impolite diction, and his willingness to spend money — both charitably and as bribes — in order to curry favor with electors and influential leaders. He has not attracted the notice of historians. His life is little known and he is not infrequently confused with other Duncombes, particularly his cousin who worked in the Exchequer.[4]

Like many, I should say most, of the characters Macaulay puts on display Charles Duncombe was greedy, self-serving, and corrupt. He stands out, however, as the only miscreant who confesses to his misdeeds. I believe the extracts I quote below give enough of the story to convey its interest to us and its importance to Macaulay as an instance of constitutional myopia.

In the extracts the "persecuted minister" is Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax. The "bill against Fenwick" refers to the bill of attainder against the Jacobite traitor ,Sir John Fenwick, 3rd Baronet, which resulted in his beheading in 1697. Fairfax and Buckingham are well known historical figures. Rochester, Nottingham, Leeds, and other persons mentioned were peers and political leaders of the time.

The extracts bring out some of Macaulay's skill of composition. He seizes on dramatic confrontation, exults in paradox, and takes obvious pleasure in exposing the meanness of politicians. He wrote slowly, corrected much, and retained a vast memory store of facts which he checked and double-checked. Yet his writing has an immediacy and displays an almost poetic feel for pace and rhythm.

You can take a paragraph almost at random to illustrate the vigor and charm of his writing style. This passage comes in a section on the ill-fated Darien scheme of the late 1690s. It concerns the survivors of a botched attempt to establish a Scottish colony on the Isthmus of Panama. After most of the colonists succumbed to Yellow Fever or other endemic diseases a relatively small number managed to escape to New York. Macaulay writes[5]:
The voyage was horrible. Scarcely any Guinea slave ship has ever had such a middle passage. Of two hundred and fifty persons who were on board of the Saint Andrew, one hundred and fifty fed the sharks of the Atlantic before Sandy Hook was in sight. The Unicorn lost almost all its officers, and about a hundred and forty men. The Caledonia, the healthiest ship of the three, threw overboard a hundred corpses. The squalid survivors, as if they were not sufficiently miserable, raged fiercely against one another. Charges of incapacity, cruelty, brutal insolence, were hurled backward and forward. The rigid Presbyterians attributed the calamities of the colony to the wickedness of Jacobites, Prelatists, Sabbath-breakers, Atheists, who hated in others that image of God which was wanting in themselves. The accused malignants, on the other hand, complained bitterly of the impertinence of meddling fanatics and hypocrites.


Some sources:

The history of England from the accession of James II. Thomas Babington Macaulay, (Philadelphia, Porter & Coates, 1888)

Thomas Babington Macaulay on nndb (Notable Names Database)

The History of England from the Accession of James the Second on wikipedia

Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay
on wikipedia

Introduction to Selections from the prose of Macaulay by Lucius Hudson Holt (Ginn and company, 1916)
Macaulay was not only clear, but uniformly interesting. He was, in the first place, a natural-born story-teller, gifted with marvelous facility in the selection of the strikingly important facts in his narrative, and with the touch of genius in the selection of the phrases in which he presented these facts. And in the second place, he was a most careful artist in his writing, using all the devices of antithesis, balanced sentences, abrupt transitions, and climax to relieve the possible monotony of his prose. In a study of the English paragraph, Edwin H. Lewis writes: "The popular impression that Macaulay is the best of paragraphers is probably not far from the truth. ... He knows his principal point, and it is on this that he enlarges. ... He reveals very great variability in sentence-length, and drives home his main topic and his main conclusion in simple sentences. When he masses clauses it is to relieve each of emphasis and show the unity of the group as amplifying some previous terse generalization."

About Macaulay's Style, The Construction of His Sentences; How the Great Essayist Used the English Language — Some of His Homely Phrases by R.G.H. [i.e. Richard Grant White] (New York Times, August 17, 1879)
Note: The writer uses a stilted, overly-formal, and ungainly style in praising Macaulay's "simple, clear and impressive style." See the text of this article here.

Richard Grant White on wikipedia

Richard Grant White by Arnold Zwicky on Language Log

Whig history in wikipedia

Whig History Is Back by Michael Knox Beran on the GMU History News Network

"On History" by Thomas Babington Macaulay in Selections from the Edinburgh review, comprising the best articles in that journal, from its commencement to the present time. With a preliminary dissertation, and explanatory notes, edited by Maurice Cross (Baudry's European Library, 1835)

The Whig Interpretation of History by Herbert Butterfield (London, G. Bell and Sons, 1931)

A history of crime in England by Luke Owen Pike (Smith, Elder & co., 1876)

Studies in Administration and Finance 1558-1825 by Edward Hughes (Manchester University Press, 1934)

DUNCOMBE, Charles (1648-1711), of Lombard Street, London and Teddington, Mdx. on historyofparliamentonline

Duncombe, Charles in Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 16, on wikisource

Charles Duncombe (English banker) in wikipedia

John Duncombe in wikipedia

DUNCOMBE, Charles (1764-1841), of Duncombe Park, Helmsley, Yorks. in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher (Cambridge University Press, 2009)

A handbook of London bankers: with some account of their predecessors the early goldsmiths ; together with lists of bankers from 1670 (Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent, 1890)

April 17 The Death of the Duke of Buckingham by Alexander Pope (on
IN the worst inn’s room, with mat half-hung,
The floors of plaster, and the walls of dung,
On once a flock-bed, but repaired with straw,
With tape-tied curtains never meant to draw,
The George and Garter dangling from that bed
Where tawdry yellow strove with dirty red,
Great Villiers lies—alas! how changed from him,
That life of pleasure, and that soul of whim!
Gallant and gay, in Cliveden’s proud alcove,
The bower of wanton Shrewsbury and love;
Or just as gay at council, in a ring
Of mimic statesmen and their merry King,
No wit to flatter left of all his store!
No fool to laugh at, which he valued more.
There, victor of his health, of fortune, friends,
And fame, this lord of useless thousands ends.

Bill of attainder in wikipedia

The ROADS Family of Buckinghamshire, and 'One-Place-Studies' of Waddesdon, Grendon Underwood and Wotton Underwood on Charles Duncombe

"Defoe's True-Born Englishman" by A.C. Guthkelch in Essays and Studies by members of the English Association, Vol IV, collected by C.H. Herford (J. Murray, 1913)
This extract is from the first edition of the poem in which Duncombe is clearly identified. Subsequent editions treated the subject as a generalized grasping City banker.

Company of Scotland on wikipedia

Darien scheme on wikipedia



[1] On his attitude toward history and historians, see "On History" by Thomas Babington Macaulay in Selections from the Edinburgh review, comprising the best articles in that journal, from its commencement to the present time. With a preliminary dissertation, and explanatory notes, edited by Maurice Cross (Baudry's European Library, 1835)

[2] The paragraphs I've lifted come from Chapters XXI and XXIII.

[3] This is the first paragraph of the first chapter of the History:
I purpose to write the history of England from the accession of King James the Second down to a time which is within the memory of men still living. I shall recount the errors which, in a few months, alienated a loyal gentry and priesthood from the House of Stuart. I shall trace the course of that revolution which terminated the long struggle between our sovereigns and their parliaments, and bound up together the rights of the people and the title of the reigning dynasty. I shall relate how the new settlement was, during many troubled years, successfully defended against foreign and domestic enemies; how, under that settlement, the authority of law and the security of property were found to be compatible with a liberty of discussion and of individual action never before known; how, from the auspicious union of order and freedom, sprang a prosperity of which the annals of human affairs had furnished no example; how our country, from a state of ignominious vassalage, rapidly rose to the place of umpire among European powers; how her opulence and her martial glory grew together; how, by wise and resolute good faith, was gradually established a public credit fruitful of marvels which to the statesmen of any former age would have seemed incredible; how a gigantic commerce gave birth to a maritime power, compared with which every other maritime power, ancient or modern, sinks into insignificance; how Scotland, after ages of enmity, was at length united to England, not merely by legal bonds, but by indissoluble ties of interest and affection; how, in America, the British colonies rapidly became far mightier and wealthier than the realms which Cortes and Pizarro had added to the dominions of Charles the Fifth; how in Asia, British adventurers founded an empire not less splendid and more durable than that of Alexander.

[4] There are two good treatments of Duncombe's life and the parliamentary bill against him. The first is DUNCOMBE, Charles (1764-1841), of Duncombe Park, Helmsley, Yorks. in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher (Cambridge University Press, 2009) and the second is by a person named Heather: The ROADS Family of Buckinghamshire, and 'One-Place-Studies' of Waddesdon, Grendon Underwood and Wotton Underwood on rootsweb

[5] From the wikipedia article, Darien scheme:
The colonization project that became known as the Darien Scheme or Darien Disaster[1] was an unsuccessful attempt by the Kingdom of Scotland to become a world trading nation by establishing a colony called 'Caledonia' on the Isthmus of Panama in the late 1690s. From the outset, the undertaking was beset by poor planning and provision, weak leadership, lack of demand for trade goods, devastating epidemics of disease and increasing shortage of food; it was finally abandoned after a siege by Spanish forces in April, 1700. As the Darien company was backed by about a quarter of the money circulating in Scotland, its failure left the nobles and landowners – who had suffered a run of bad harvests – almost completely ruined and was an important factor in weakening their resistance to the Act of Union (finally consummated in 1707).

[8] The extract comes from Chapter XXIV of the History.