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LA Confidential: Vintage crime photographs from the LAPD archives
11:56 am



Morgue, man with floral tattoo, 1945
Back in 2001, photographer Merrick Morton—who also happens to be a reserve LAPD officer—came upon a massive archive of Los Angeles Police Department crime scene and evidence photos which had been hidden for decades in a huge storage facility in downtown LA. The photos were buried among 150 years of police records in cardboard boxes.

When it was discovered that some of the boxes contained decomposing cellulose nitrate negatives, a serious fire hazard, the Fire Department recommended that all the negatives be destroyed. The team lobbied for the archive to be only selectively destroyed and their efforts paid off; some boxes of images were determined to be unsalvageable and destroyed, while the remaining images were sent to a cold storage facility where they reside today.

Around one million photos have been unearthed so far and choice selections, presented by Fototeka, will be exhibited at Paramount Pictures Studios from April 25-27 in Los Angeles.

Detail of two bullet holes in car window, 1942

Shoes, arm, and knife, 1950

Victim’s feet hanging off bed, 1934

Detail of bullet holes in screen, 1930

Onion field reenactment, 1963

Bank robbery note, 1965
Via Feature Shoot

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Fly the friendly skies of ‘Uniform Freak’

I blogged about Cliff Muskiet’s world of stewardess uniforms back in 2009. Shamefully, I haven’t visited it in a few years, but I did today and completely forgot what a treasure trove this site is! Muskiet has collected every single flight attendant uniform that has ever existed on the face of the planet. (Okay maybe not all of ‘em, but it’s pretty damned close!)

Ever since my early childhood, I have been interested and fascinated by the world of aviation. I used to collect everything that wore an airline name or logo, such as posters, postcards, stickers, timetables, safety cards and airplane models.

Sometime in 1980 I was given my first uniform by one of my mother’s friends. I was so excited and I wanted to have more uniforms. In 1982 I heard that two charter airlines were introducing new uniforms. I wasted no time, I called these airlines and as a result I was invited to pick up a set of old uniforms. Between 1982 and 1993 I didn’t do much to obtain any more uniforms, something I really regret now as I could have had many many more! Most of my uniforms were obtained between 1993 and today. At the moment my collection contains 1246 different uniforms from 469 airlines worldwide.

Uniform Freak—the name of Muskiet’s site—is truly a labor of love. And some serious eye candy if you’re a fashion designer or just someone who likes cool threads.

You’ll get lost there. I did. It’s an endless goldmine.

Air West / USA 1968 - 1971

Allegheny Airlines / USA 1969 - 1979

American Airlines / USA 1950 - 1979

Delta Airlines / USA 1958 - 1978


Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Things that go bump in the night: Vintage 1920s stereoview images of ghouls and goblins
08:48 am



These vintage stereoview images from 1923 of a little girl sleeping while goblins and boogeyman creep around her bed and hover over her are a little silly looking, yes. But, they’re still psychologically disturbing, tapping into the primordial fear of something under the bed like some kind of proto-David Lynch type imagery.

I’d imagine these scared the shit out of plenty of children—and probably some adults, too—back in the day. Heck, I’m a little a-scared of ‘em right now!

Wake up! Wake up!


More Boogymen after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Small Town Noir: Mugshots and true crime stories from New Castle, Pennsylvania, 1930-60
08:33 am



The small town of New Castle, in western Pennsylvania, was once a boom town way back at the start of the twentieth century. Its population had tripled between 1890 and 1900, as immigrants from across Europe and America came to the town in search of employment in its tin plate mills, steel factories, ceramics works, foundries and paper mills.

The 1930’s Depression hit New Castle hard, but its manufacturing base was kept going by WWII and the Korean war. The population peaked in 1950 at 48,834. Since then it’s dropped to around 28,000 today. The boom years are long gone and the unemployment average in New Castle is twice America’s national jobless rate.

The site Small Town Noir curates the mugshots of petty criminals whose lives unraveled in sad, tragic, grim, bizarre and often disturbing ways within the boundaries of New Castle’s borders. Each entry is well-written and the biographical information has been painstakingly researched from various sources.

Small Town Noir is a fascinating place to visit, to while-away a few hours, as you get to know its citizens.

James Dagres, “B & E”, 28 April 1934

James Dagres was sixteen, when he was arrested for breaking an entering. Dagres, together with two chool friends James Cook, LeRoy Shoaff, removed various items from the house—tables, chairs, a gas heater, a clock, a world atlas—and sold them to second-hand dealers in town. They were caught when the owner of the house, a local teacher, passed by and saw them carrying furniture out of the place. All three boys were minors. There is no record of any sentence. When James left school, he got a job at American Cyanamid & Chemical. LeRoy Shoaff went on to become a colonel in the US army. There is no further record of Jack Cook.


Homer Chrisner, “Bank Holdup”, 7 Feb 1935

Homer Chrisner lost his business during the Depression. A respected figure, borough councilman and pigeon fancier, Chrisner decided to rob a bank in New Castle, as he reckoned it would be the easiest place to rob.

With his his accomplice Edward Scales, aka Jack of Diamonds, a Youngstown barman and numbers writer who had recently been released from prison after serving a sentence for the attempted rape of a minor. Together, they planned the details of the hold-up and enlisted the help of a woman called Nellie Sellers who would act as their getaway driver.

In February, 1935, Chrisner and Scales walked into the bank and held it up. Chrisner lost his nerve and the bank teller pulled his own gun on the pair. Chrisner and Scales absconded in a car driven by Sellers. They were chased and soon arrested. Homwer was jailed for five years.


David Clemons, “Dis. Cond”, 20 Sep 1936

David Clemons was a 28-year-old was arrested for disorderly behavior in 1936. Eight-years later Clemons murdered his father, Wilson Clemons, a minister in the Church of God in Christ, with an axe.

David had a mental age of nine and had recently been discharged from the army in the build-up to the D-Day Landings. Clemons killed his father after an argument over an alarm clock. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, but was moved to Fairview state hospital for the criminally insane, where he remained for the rest of his life.

More tales of New Castle’s criminals, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Did the Illuminati build a secret defense pyramid in North Dakota?
03:32 pm


Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex

I don’t believe in the Illuminati, but if I did then I’m sure that I would feel that my pet conspiracy theories about a secret cabal running the world would be bolstered by these incredible photographs of a secret pyramid built by the US government in the middle of North Dakota, one of America’s least populated states.

These pictures are of the Nekoma Pyramid, which was part of the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex, named after the former U.S. Army Air Defense Commanding General. Construction started in the early seventies and was completed in 1975. The Nekoma Pyramid was a missile site radar complex, used to locate missiles fired from foreign powers at the USA so that they could be destroyed. The base was armed with 30 Spartan anti-ballistic missiles and sixteen short-range Sprint missiles.

Firstly, why build a pyramid? The pyramid is one of the key symbols associated with the Illuminati, so was the architect “one of them” or was it just a coincidence? Who suggested a pyramid? Was it a more functional geometry for an all-seeing eye?

Secondly, who knew this base even existed out there in the wilderness? Not many, I’d guess.

The Mickelsen Safeguard Complex was deactivated on February 10th, 1976, less than a year after it had become operational and after tens of millions of dollar had been spent there. The reason was an arms limitation treaty that had been signed with the Soviet Union in 1972 limiting each side to only one such base.

A set of pictures taken for the government by photographer Benjammin Halpern, are available for viewing at the Library of Congress.
More photographs of the Nekoma, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Meet Dan Leno, ‘The Funniest Man on Earth’
01:34 pm


Dan Leno

I consider myself to be a world class comedy nerd, but the limits of my otakudom were exposed when I was recently made aware of the name of Dan Leno.

Dan Leno. Does that ring a bell at all for you? Probably not, but as a comic performer, Leno was considered without peer in the British music hall of the late 19th century. He was a huge, huge massive star, both for his appearances in the “dame” role of panto comedies like Mother Goose and for his one man shows where he muttered surreal musings and observations about the mundanities of life. He is, in a sense, the actual “inventor” of stand-up comedy.

He would do a little bit of a song and then carry on, speaking in character, like in “Mrs. Kelly” which he recorded in 1901:

“You know Mrs. Kelly?... You know Mrs. Kelly?... don’t you know Mrs. Kelly? Her husband’s that little stout man, always at the corner of the street in a greasy waistcoat… good life, don’t look so stupid, don’t - you must know Mrs. Kelly!... Don’t you know Mrs. Kelly?... Well of course, if you don’t, you don’t - but I thought you did, because I thought everybody knew Mrs. Kelly. Oh, and what a woman - perhaps it’s just as well you don’t know her… oh, she’s a mean woman. Greedy. I know for a fact - her little boy, who’s got the sore eyes, he came over and told me - she had half a dozen oysters, and she ate them in front of the looking-glass, to make them look a dozen. Now that’ll give you an idea what she is.”

Leno appeared every Christmas as the star the of the panto production of the Drury Lane Theatre (where both Monty Python’s Flying Circus and The League of Gentlemen would later perform) from 1888 to 1903 and he topped the bill when he toured the American Vaudeville circuit. He was touted as “The Funniest Man on Earth” and possessed one of those faces that just caused people to laugh uncontrollably the minute he walked onstage. Up to 4000 people a night would line up to see him perform.

Leno appeared onstage before Charles Dickens (who told him “you’ll make headway!”), King Edward VII (earning him the title of “the King’s jester”) and the great British caricaturist Max Beerbohm, who was an unabashed fan. He was the young Charlie Chaplin’s hero and Stan Laurel absolutely worshipped him (and allegedly appropriated his famous dopey grin from Dan Leno as well.) “Dan Leno Walk,” in London is named for him and Peter Sellers claimed he was possessed by Dan Leno, or at least Leno was his spirit guide. Sellers based his performance in The Optimist of Nine Elms on his knowledge of Leno.

Sadly, there is very, very little we have today—save mostly for news clippings, photographs, some memorabilia and a few primitive voice recordings—that would indicate what exactly it was that made Dan Leno so beloved to audiences of the late Victorian era. Everyone who ever saw the man perform—along with their memories—is long dead. However, in the years before his death (in 1904, probably of a brain tumor), Dan Leno made several “Mutoscopes,” which were coin-operated hand-cranked animation flipbooks where metal or glass frames were rotated like a Rolodex for one person to watch at a time. (The Mutoscope was colloquially known as “What the Butler Saw” machines and could be found in British seaside resort towns until the 1960s.) Two of Leno’s Mutoscope performances—out of thirteen—have been located and are undergoing restoration in greater than HD quality due to the efforts of The Dan Leno Project of Studio 1919.

They’re hoping that by getting the word out, that Mutoscope collectors would be able to tell if they’ve got a Dan Leno short in their possession and the complete set could be assembled and a documentary eventually made about “The Funniest Man on Earth.”

Below, Dan Leno, his wife, kids and their dog in “Dessert at Dan Leno’s House” as restored by Studio 1919’s The Dan Leno Project.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Berlin youth hostel decorated entirely with Communist stuff
09:20 am


East Germany

Liking stuff is perilous and fraught with moral implications. For example, if one expresses a fondness for an artistic or design movement created under a corrupt or otherwise undemocratic political regime, one is accused of endorsing said regime, or at the very least, making light of the atrocities committed in its name. (“Nazi chic” is the exception. I don’t care how “cool” you think their uniforms were.) It should be noted that these accusations are never levied upon the good ole US of A—no one has ever been declared a bourgeois closet segregationist, for example, because one enjoys the “countrypolitan” sounds of Tammy Wynette, but it’s not like Tammy was singing “Stand By Your Man” in front of a Confederate flag at Klan rallies, was it? I think we’re perfectly capable of engaging with aesthetics without either divorcing them from their historical context, or moralizing like a shrieking rabble of inquisitors,

So let’s all enjoy some crazy cool vintage East German design, shall we?

The Ostel Hostel in Berlin has been painstakingly decorated in the style of 70s and 80s East Germany—even the wallpaper is vintage. And the building itself is a former East German “Plattenbauwohnung”—the modern, prefabricated concrete architecture that came to symbolize East German infrastructure. Should you be under the impression that The Ostel is merely a kitschy tourist trap, it actually receives a lot of guests who lived under the GDR. After the wall fell, many people were quick to toss out any reminder of communist life in favor of freer Western aesthetics. Now the nostalgia for East Germany is significant enough to garner its own term—“eastalgia,”’ or “ostalgie.”

The Ostel isn’t a totally earnest homage either. You might notice some cheekily staged bananas in one of the photos, a reference to ad nauseam anecdotes of trade embargoes on East Germany—many East Germans had never had a banana. In fact the website explicitly jokes, “Nobody needs bananas.” And if you’re looking for some sort of vulgar irony, no, the rooms are not absurdly expensive. Yes, you too can sleep under the benevolent gaze of former East German Prime Minister Horst Sindermann, with single rooms going for about $40!









Via Messy Nessy Chic

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Nailed it!: Fashions of the future as imagined in 1893



Here are some amusing illustrations of what fashion might’ve looked like “in the future” according to W. Cade Gall from the January 1893 issue of The Strand magazine.

Oddly, the fashion styles really don’t evolve much from decade to decade. The change is nearly nonexistent. Everyone seems stuck in a Wizard of Oz meets Hieronymus Bosch mode throughout the 20th century.

Personally, I think fashion has gone tits-up since the late 80s. I studied fashion design and today the topic just bores me to tears. There’s nothing “new” anymore. I get that fashion trends usually just recycle old designs from yesteryear and add a “new” spin on ‘em, but honestly, recycling 90s fashion in the year 2014 is not very interesting. Neo-grunge??? Gimme a break! It was boring then, and it’s boring now. I’d far prefer to see W. Cade Gall’s idea of what the fashionistas of 1993 would be wearing on the streets of LA or NYC in 2014, now that would be interesting. Perhaps slightly uncomfortable and a bit stifling, but interesting nonetheless…
























Via Public Domain Review and h/t WFMU

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Dead Zeppelin: Hindenburg disaster coverage was as tacky as today’s never-ending Flight 370 ‘news’
07:41 am



Everyone always forgets what the backend looked like, but what did you expect? It was a Nazi airship!
Lately, it almost feels like public disgust with cable TV news coverage has reached some sort of critical mass—I can literally think of no one who didn’t find coverage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 idiotically sensationalized (the anchors probably feel that way, too, because, hey, this bullshit is coming out of their smiling faces all day). And while Fox News certainly went predictably batshit crazy with irresponsible insinuations of Islamic terrorism, it wasn’t just the right-wingers who went crackers. CNN’s Don Lemon went all Twilight Zone—literally, he name-dropped The Twilight Zone—floating theories of black holes and supernatural forces by a panel of adult human beings, on national television, as if it were a totally appropriate thing for a news show to speculate about. This entire charade has the public left wondering, “When is the the real news coming back on?”

But weep not for the long-gone days of American journalistic dignity, dear reader, because that era has never existed! If you’re under the impression that tragic disasters used to be held in a respectable reverence in this country, please refer to the vintage bit of newstainment below, a 1937 Universal Studios newsreel on the Hindenburg explosion. From the Hollywood sturm und drang musical accompaniment to the announcer (who feels freshly picked from a radio soap opera) this little five-minute news reel is pure spectacle There’s an explosion sound effect, studio-recorded screams and a police siren added, apparently to “recreate” the story. It’s at least as vulgar as anything on cable news today, and they didn’t even have the benefit of CNN’s holograms!

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Rats with wings: Surveillance drones of the early 20th century?
08:05 am



Julius Gustav Neubronner with carrier pigeon and camera
While the reality of drone surveillance (not to mention warfare) often feels like the very cutting edge of a new dystopia, it’s fascinating to remember all the clever (if disturbing) little spy ideas that came before. Julius Gustav Neubronner was a German pharmacist born in 1852, but he’s most famous for his innovations in camera technology—Neubronner was the world’s first pigeon photographer.

He began taking pictures in 1865, around the tender age of 13, when he bought a camera on credit after attempts to take pictures with his father’s old broken one failed. As an adult, he used carrier pigeons to deliver medical supplies to clients, but when one disappeared for nearly a month before returning, he decided to track it’s movements with a small, timed camera. He built, tested, and scrapped a few different camera/pigeon harness rigs before settling on the perfect design, and by 1908, he received a patent. You can see some rigged pigeons below, along with three panoramic pictures from Neubronner’s birds—one even has wings in the shot. The groundbreaking aerial photography won awards and was printed up on postcards, but never managed to make him any money.

Around the first World War, Neubronner’s work was further developed for military use. A Swiss clock-maker tweaked his design for the Swiss Army’s carrier pigeon program, and later, the CIA created a battery-powered pigeon camera for spying. It’s never been confirmed that pigeon photography has been used by the US for espionage, but we do know “war pigeons” were used for communication by the French during World War One, and by the UK and US during World War Two. In fact, in Britain, 34 pigeons have been awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal for their service in war! Not bad for “rats with wings.”






Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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