December 03, 2013

ViewFinder Finds!

I've been ignoring my ThunderJournal in favor of Facebook for a long time. Years, in fact. But, occasionally, I like to re-purpose stuff I post on Facebook here on my trusty ThunderJournal.

At our store, Antiquity Furniture, we bring in some unusual items from time to time. About a month ago, we received an old viewfinder--originally called a "stereoscope"--dating from around 1895.


It's in remarkable condition, considering its age. Of course, these things were made in abundance, so it's only worth about $30 or so. But, it came with hundreds of 3-D slides, which provide an amazing historical record that's also often unintentionally hilarious. And also racist.

I've been scanning these images and posting my own personal commentary to my Facebook page for weeks now, and while it amuses me greatly, it amuses only about five of my Facebook "friends." So, I'm posting them again here on my trusty ThunderJournal, because my ThunderJournal is trusty.

We'll start with a fairly racist slide:


Here, Guinan from Star Trek TNG bursts forth from her shackled imprisonment in the cellar, much to the surprise of the two privileged white lads napping atop the doors. And what does Guinan have to say for herself, back in 1898?

"Deed Child's, I's Didn't Know You's Was Dare."


This slide is titled: "Mrs. Brown Returns; Unexpected."

Oh, snap! For his part, Mr. Brown doesn't seem too upset about having his infidelity discovered so abruptly. Then again, the combination of him draining the bottle of wine, and his mistress's absurdly hypnotic striped shirt (and socks), have probably dulled his reflexes a bit.


This is even more disturbing in 3-D, if you can imagine that. It's titled: "A Man! At Last, a Man!" You have to wonder what the hell this guy was doing under the bed, and why he chose such a hostile environment to begin with. The woman on one knee is about to really unleash a serious beatdown with that shoe, but the woman with the hairbrush, straddling the footboard is ready to act if that bastard dares to stand up. I would almost feel sorry for the guy, but then again he did voluntarily choose to hide under the bed of the Stygian witches.


"2 A.M. And He Rolls in Quite Early"

It takes some doing to remove a jacket sleeve while clutching a bottle of hooch, but this guy has talent. The look on his face just screams "I'm in so much damned trouble, but it was WORTH IT!" The wife just seems resigned to the whole routine, and will deal out punishment after he sleeps it all off.


I are serious cat. This is serious rat.

Actual slide title: "Rat on Toast--For Dinner."

Well, that's good. You don't want to eat rat for breakfast; it makes you sluggish and thick-headed. But, for dinner, rat is a great choice, provided you follow it up with a good nap.


Ah, the good old days, when Gabe Kotter would hoist you up by your jodhpurs and rap your ass with a red wooden board. And that was just for talkin' sass, by crackey. People don't wear jodhpurs as much as they should nowadays. I should invest in a pair and start a new jodhpurs trend.


This is even more racist in 3-D, which is saying something. But it's also just so darned funny. And adorable. When I was flipping through the slide stack and saw this one, I literally shot Diet Coke out my nose, and I'm here to tell you, that freakin' STINGS.

"Did You Say Watermelon Was No Good?"


"Help!; or, The Housemaid's Hard Luck."

How boring was life in 1898? Imagine loading a viewfinder with this image, focusing it just right, taking in the scene, and asking yourself "Gosh, I can't wait to see what happens next!"


So, you load up the viewfinder with the second image and OH NO, THINGS HAVE GONE DOWNHILL! Can't say I feel too bad for her predicament, honestly. Why did she go that far down the dock to fill those jugs? And why would you use a unmoored boat for stability. This girl is clearly dumb as a bag of hammers and so deserves her impending, watery fate. But, morbid curiosity dictates we must load the third image in the series into the viewfinder.


And you get the third image loaded up, focused in--by now you've invested ten minutes of your life into this nail-biting drama--and you see SHE DID INDEED FALL IN! I CAN'T BELIEVE IT! TOTALLY DIDN'T EXPECT THIS! And apparently a guillotine blade fell from the sky, cleaving her neatly in two.


Now we're segueing into the "Sportsman's Series" of viewfinder slides, which are both funny but also interesting historical snapshots from 1898.


He always knew it was just a matter of time before his son came out of the closet, but did he HAVE to announce it before THE RACE?!


This one surprised me at bit, for a couple of reasons. A) Why was this part of the "Sportsman's Series?" It would be like going into Dick's Sporting Goods today and seeing a noose for sale. B ) How was a lynching considered an appropriate subject for a viewfinder? "Gather around kids, and look at the dead man hanging from a tree. IN 3-D!"


"The Last Buffalo (Dead)."

It's a good thing they put in the parenthetical "dead," or I'd be thinking the buffalo was simply pining for the Badlands. What's cool about this image--besides the Russian hat--is the rifle looks to be an actual "buffalo rifle," or a Sharps model, which gave rise to the term "sharpshooter."


"A Yearling In Hard Luck."

Pretty accurate description. Not even a year old, and now it's dead and about to be slit from groin to thyroid. That's pretty hard luck.


"Sam Black Gets a Shot at 'Br'er Rabbit"

Segueing back to racist-ish-ness-y. Sam Black. Really? Sam BLACK?

If he misses the rabbit from that range, with the rabbit basically posing for him, he has no business being out hunting. Then again, his son is hoisting some other dead rabbits, so he must have at least some proficiency with a rifle. Right? Right?!


"Lordy, Dad! Be Yous Kilt?"

So, in answer to my previous question: No, he does not have proficiency with a rifle. Thus, I have no idea how he managed to bag all those other rabbits. Perhaps they were frozen in place, and he plucked them like carrots. Regardless, he's obviously pretty shitty with a rifle, getting knocked on his ass by the kick. As for his son's terrible grasp of turn of the century English, I can only chalk that up to Common Core.


"Oh! Golly, But Dat Ol' Gun Done Kick."

Again, why is he just discovering the gun's kick now? Has he never fired it before? How the HELL did he get those other rabbits? Did he run them down and tackle them? Now, the text itself can be construed as being slightly racist-ish, but there's actually more to these slides: the backs consist of explanatory paragraphs that are hilarious in their own way. This particular slide reads: "By the time he gets home, his cheek will be so swollen, mammy will think he is using it for a pouch to carry a rabbit in."

They actually did use the word "mammy" back in the day. That's just freakin' AWESOME!


"Reducing the Surplus. 'Now, Pull Hard!'"

Nowadays, we call this "scrunching up the fat." Okay, we don't actually say that, but we should. You know you're really pushing the limits of your corset when your best friend has to bury her foot in between your butt cheeks to scrunch in all that "surplus."


"What Did I Tell You If I Caught You Again?"

Huh. There's a lot going on here. For reasons that escape me entirely, somebody scraped the policeman's face off, so that's one disturbing component to this image. Another disturbing thing is "WHAT DID HE TELL HIM IF HE CAUGHT HIM AGAIN?" What perverted interplay is about to transpire? We'll never know, because this is the only image in the set. CURSES!


"Celebrating the Great and Glorious 4th of July"

Seems like an excessive reaction on her part. I mean, it appears to be a pretty wimpy looking cannon firework to me, especially compared to the half stick of dynamite by her right foot.


"The Day After the 4th of July Celebration"

What the hell, man? Did they send him off to war? The little cannon barely looks like anything happened to it, and there's no damage to the steps at all. More importantly, if this is the day after the celebration, why are they wearing the same clothes? That's a pretty nasty gash on his left shin. They can put an "X" bandage on his cheek boo-boo, but the exposed shin bone is left to the gangrene gods.


"Still There's No Place Like Home"

By 1909, viewfinder technology had advanced by leaps and bounds. The slides were now available in black & white images, which had to be a marvel of the time. Yes, now you could settle in with a viewfinder to see a domestic scene where children tinker with a proto-Erector Set and granny entertains herself with a . . . viewfinder! No doubt she has that 1898 image of the naked boy butt and the police officer focused in, so thus we know the true culprit who scraped the officer's face off.

Posted by Ryan at December 3, 2013 11:15 AM | TrackBack
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