The Early Cinema Queuing Nuisance

The Queen’s Theatre, Manchester in 1891. Source: arthurlloyd.co.uk

Snippets 193.  Looking at old newspaper articles, one thing that is often quite striking is how much resistance can be found to an idea that we now consider commonplace, but was unusual at the time.  One such example comes from the 4th February 1909 issue of The Bioscope, in which the journalist pours scorn on the practicalities of introducing ticket booking systems in cinemas, instead of just making people queue in the street on a first-come-first-served basis:

There is an association in Manchester which calls itself the Theatre Reform League. We offer no apology for calling our readers’ attention to this organisation because it is seeking to effect a series of fatuous reforms by means of injunctions against managers, and other legal means. The first theatrical institution to be attacked is the theatre queue, and although the action in question is directed against an ordinary dramatic house, the bioscope theatre manager will obviously be affected should Mr. John Hart, of the Queen’s Theatre, be injuncted for permitting the so-called nuisance. We fail to see how the queue can be a nuisance to any member of the Theatre Reform League unless he happens to be a tradesman in front of whose shop the people waiting for the theatre stand. And the number of theatres in the country where the queues impede the entrance to adjoining shops is very small, so that the action of the league seems to be a gratuitous piece of interference organised by some busybody in search of notoriety. The queue system is absolutely imperative in the case of most bioscope theatres, for the introduction of the booking system would entail considerable extra expense, and for 3d. and 6d. seats it is extremely unlikely that people would take the trouble to book seats in advance.

An early name for a film camera was a “bioscope”, and the name was chosen for a film journal during the silent era of film, published in London. It ran from 1908 to 1932. The Bioscope was aimed at the trade rather than the general public, but it still carried a range of articles that are absolutely fascinating from an historical perspective.


If you enjoyed this “snippet” please consider sharing on Facebook or Twitter, to help other people find and enjoy Windows into History. You can keep updated each time I post a new entry by clicking on the follow button on the right of the screen. I welcome any comments or suggestions, and will consider guest posts.

Advertisements
Posted in 20th Century, Britain, History, Law, Magazines, News, Newspapers, Snippets | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Watch out for Lizards!

onofrio

View from Sant’Onofrio on Rome by Rudolf von Alt (1812-1905)

Snippets 192.  In 1900 American writer Laura G Collins published a collection of letters from her various travels around Europe, titled By-gone Tourist Days: Letters of Travel.  Although many of them are relatively dry descriptions of tourist destinations, at times she has a knack of really bringing a place to life.  In the following example she writes to her friend about a day trip in Rome, but writes as if her friend is there with her, involving her in the narrative of her day.

Are you in the mood for a tramp? Come, let’s be off. There is an old church – S. Onofrio, on the slope of the Janiculus we ought to see. It is off to the west, no great distance from St. Peter’s. The Salita. (or ascent) is steep. It is a warm, relaxing day – do not go too fast; you will get into a perspiration if you do, and then you will have to take care of a breeze or a draught, and maybe catch cold, after all. Best not hurry. What is there up there, anyhow ? Why – ever so many things you would not miss for – anything. The quaintest old structure dating from 1439 — ahead of America!

… There is a garden attached, with a riven oak, the remains of that under which Tasso used to sit. We must go and sit there too. The walk lies between large beds of growing vegetables. You see ahead your goal – a sharp little rise, from the side of which, half-way up, leans out remains of the tree. On one side is an old wall, rather a fragment; on the other, some steep, high steps, up which you know you will have to toil “for the view.” Almost in a breath you are doing it, and – ugh I at every step a swarm of glancing lizards! I cry: “Look out for the lizards!” A lady ahead of me, already at the top, seated on a part of the wall, says coolly, if encouragingly: “You know they are harmless. Why are you afraid?” I protest: “I am not afraid; but a lady carried one home with her yesterday in the folds of her skirts, and it was there ever so long, I know. I do not wish the experience of a lizard for a vade mecum.” So I gather my skirts close and above my boot-tops, and do not miss the view indeed; but neither do I those legions in their brilliant uniform of green spotted with gold. And the view! St. Peter’s on the left, still farther west; the city to the east, with its innumerable domes and spires; and far beyond, the beautiful mountains, some of their tops lost in the blue mist; and overhead, the broad arms of the oak, with their budding sprays. The warm air makes you feel a curious languor. You too sit down, feeling as if you were swooning into that noontide. Only a moment, though — those lizards!

It is time to go. You make the circuit of the gnarled roots; try to break off a bit of the riven edges, to find them as hard as adamant; look up and sigh to find the leaves quite beyond reach; then turn away for good and all. After a step or so, you find you are still clutching at your skirts! And as you reach the walk again, the other lady looks back and says meekly and deprecatingly, “I feel as if I had a thousand lizards on me.” One can forgive the answering peal of laughter; it is meriment only, not triumph. Then both gave wings to their feet! Can you keep up I lay a wager you think you can!

A “vade mecum” is an indispensable guidebook that you keep with you wherever you go on your travels.

onofrio

View from Sant’Onofrio on Rome by Rudolf von Alt (1812-1905)


If you enjoyed this “snippet” please consider sharing on Facebook or Twitter, to help other people find and enjoy Windows into History. You can keep updated each time I post a new entry by clicking on the follow button on the right of the screen. I welcome any comments or suggestions, and will consider guest posts.

Posted in 19th Century, 20th Century, Books, History, Inspiration, Snippets, Travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Not Worth Stealing

Great Canyon of the Sierra Yosemite, by Thomas Hill (1829 – 1908)

Quick Quotes 23.  John Muir (1838-1914) was a celebrated naturalist known as “John of the Mountains”, a key figure in the push for the establishment of National Parks in the USA.  The following quote is taken from his account of A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf, from the 1916 edition edited by William Frederic Bade:

I had climbed but a short distance when I was overtaken by a young man on horse back, who soon showed that he intended to rob me if he should find the job worth while. After he had inquired where I came from, and where I was going, he offered to carry my bag. I told him that it was so light that I did not feel it at all a burden; but he insisted and coaxed until I allowed him to carry it. As soon as he had gained possession I noticed that he gradually increased his speed, evidently trying to get far enough ahead of me to examine the contents without being observed. But I was too good a walker and runner for him to get far. At a turn of the road, after trotting his horse for about half an hour, and when he thought he was out of sight, I caught him rummaging my poor bag. Finding there only a comb, brush, towel, soap, a change of underclothing, a copy of Burns’s poems, Milton’s Paradise Lost, and a small New Testament, he waited for me, handed back my bag, and returned down the hill, saying that he had forgotten something.

Great Canyon of the Sierra Yosemite, by Thomas Hill (1829 – 1908)


“Quick Quotes” are some bonus content for the blog. Each time I find an interesting or amusing little quote from and old (verging on forgotten) book, that does not really need any further explanation or background information, it will appear on Windows into History under this heading. You can keep updated each time I post a new entry by clicking on the follow button on the right of the screen. I welcome any comments or suggestions, and will consider guest posts.

Posted in 19th Century, Books, Crime, History, Nature, Quick Quotes, Travel, USA | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Flirtation: an English Pastime

vintage-victorian-woman-fashionMax of the Month 1.  I have often quoted from the works of Max O’Rell over the last few years, one of my favourite travel writers from the 19th Century, now virtually forgotten.  His books are so packed with fascinating and entertaining social history that I have barely scratched the surface so far, so let’s make looking at his writing a monthly feature for a while.  We’ll start with one of his books that I haven’t quoted from at all so far: John Bull’s Womankind, published in 1884, which focusses on women in England at the time.  O’Rell was from France, so this was an outsider’s perspective.

Seeing that the word flirtation seems to have been definitely received into the French vocabulary, it is natural to suppose that our language contained no equivalent for it, or that the thing itself never existed in France.

Flirtation is, in fact, an essentially English pastime. No one flirts in France: we are more serious than that in love affairs…

Flirtation is a very innocent little pastime. I have read in the confession albums of young ladies of good society, “What is your favourite occupation? Flirting.” The answer is not in exquisite taste, even from the English point of view, I admit; but no one would think of taking it amiss. … all the more so, I should add, because these confessions are not meant to be taken very seriously.

Young girls who at a ball had made themselves specially agreeable to certain of their partners, and succeeded in drawing a few compliments from them, might say, “We had such flirtation.”

To flirt, then, is to make a young fellow believe that ”on l’a remarqué, distingué,” as the Grande Duchesse de Gerolstein says; it is to encourage him by sweet smiles and tender wiles, to quit his reserve and carry his gallantry almost so far as to declare himself. This kind of thing would be very dangerous with a young Frenchman; it leads to no bad consequences with the young Englishman, for flirtation is “attention without intention,” as some one – I forget whom – has very aptly put it; and an Englishman is able to pay a lady attentions without harbouring any intentions. I compliment him upon it.

A woman who flirted would pass in France for giddy, even fast: she knows her countrymen well, and is aware, when she coquettes with them, what she is exposing herself to. A young girl would never even think of it. But, in England, men are not so inflammable, and in flirting, a woman does not play with fire.

The Grand-Duchess of Gerolstein is an Opera by Offenbach, and O’Rell is referring to a passage where the Duchess’s flirtations go unnoticed.


If you enjoyed this blog post, please consider sharing on Facebook or Twitter, to help other people find and enjoy Windows into History. You can keep updated each time I post a new entry by clicking on the follow button on the right of the screen. I welcome any comments or suggestions, and will consider guest posts.

Posted in 19th Century, Books, Britain, England, History, Max of the Month | Tagged , | Leave a comment

A pony, or some bricks for a church?

Immanuel_Church_Mayville,_late_19th_centurySnippets 191.  The following quote is taken from Notes of a Nomad, by Canadian author Lady Harriet Julia Jephson, published just over a hundred years ago in 1918.  For the most part it is a journal of her travels, but it starts in autobiographical fashion, and here we find some interesting snippets of social history, particularly her childhood in 19th Century Canada.  It was by and large a happy childhood, but the following incident, though insignificant in the grand scheme of things, illustrates how a small unjustice can leave a lasting impression on the mind of a child.

But my precocity and thirst for knowledge was once a source of pride to my mother and ultimate sorrow to me. I was staying with her in Montreal, and we went to see an old cousin, who, being a man of most cultivated taste and also of means, continually bought works of art, either in London or in New York. He had lately acquired a bronze statuette which represented a strong youth carrying on his back an old man. There were several ladies vaguely looking at this when we appeared, and none hazarded a guess as to its meaning. Our old cousin turned to me, patting my cheek, and said, “You, my dear, don’t know what this bronze represents, do you?” “Oh, yes!” I said. “It is Aeneas bearing the aged Anchises on his shoulders.” “Quite right!” said our astonished old cousin. “Now, as you are such a well-informed little girl, I shall give you as a reward a gold dollar to buy what you like with, and here it is.”

My mother was very pleased and proud of her infant prodigy, and I was simply overwhelmed with the prospect of such riches. To me they seemed boundless. I clasped the wonderful little coin and tried to make up my mind what I should buy with it. For nights I could scarcely sleep, the burden of wealth was so great. Should I invest in a pony, or a new sleigh, a toboggan or a library of books? I could not decide, so I kept my little gold dollar, taking it out at intervals to look at the Queen’s head and admire it.

One day a clergyman called to see my mother. He was on begging intent, and explained that he was building a church. “Every shilling you give,” said he, “provides a brick towards its construction.” My mother looked at me with an interrogative eye. “My child, don’t you want to give five bricks to Mr. Jones’s church?” I was inarticulate from horror, feeling that danger menaced my beloved little gold dollar. “My small daughter,” said mamma, “will be delighted to give you a dollar she has towards it.” Nearly heart-broken, I parted with the adored little coin which meant so much to me and so little to the parson. I don’t think I have ever much liked clergymen since.

Was the mother teaching an important lesson in charity, or taking things too far by donating the child’s gold coin?  Let me know what you think in the comments section!


If you enjoyed this “snippet” please consider sharing on Facebook or Twitter, to help other people find and enjoy Windows into History. You can keep updated each time I post a new entry by clicking on the follow button on the right of the screen. I welcome any comments or suggestions, and will consider guest posts.

Posted in 20th Century, Books, History, Memoirs, People, Snippets | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Wardrobe Malfunctions

640px-Sadlers_Wells_Theatre_editedQuick Quotes 22. The following quote is taken from Memoirs of Joseph Shepherd Munden, a biography of a well-known actor during the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, famed for his comedy performances. His biography was written by his son Thomas.

The great butt of the actors was Mrs. Webb, a very fat woman, a contrast to Mrs. Mattocks, as she was as coarse and vulgar as the other was genteel. One sultry night, Mrs. Webb, sitting in the green room waiting to be called, had powdered her face profusely to allay the perspiration that flowed down her cheeks. This being observed, the call boy was bribed to wait till the last moment, when he rushed in and exclaimed, “Mrs. Webb, the stage waits for you.” “My God!” said Mrs. Webb; and forgetting altogether her dishabille, hastened, as fast as her corpulency would allow her, to present herself before the audience, who received her, in her mottled state, with shouts of laughter. Another time, standing by the side scenes, a string was fastened to her dress, which only allowed her to step in view of the audience, when her progress was suddenly arrested. J. Aikin was a very nervous man, and it was Munden’s amusement, when Aikin was engaged in the serious business of the stage, to catch his eye with an expression of countenance seeming to signify that his dress was disarranged, or that some other mishap had occurred, which kept poor Aikin in an agony of suspense until the scene was over.


“Quick Quotes” are some bonus content for the blog. Each time I find an interesting or amusing little quote from and old (verging on forgotten) book, that does not really need any further explanation or background information, it will appear on Windows into History under this heading. You can keep updated each time I post a new entry by clicking on the follow button on the right of the screen. I welcome any comments or suggestions, and will consider guest posts.

Posted in 18th Century, 19th Century, Books, History, Humor, Humour, Memoirs, People, Quick Quotes | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Chocolate Records

patentSnippets 190.  The early 20th Century was a time of great innovation in technology, but not all good ideas are born equal.  Sometimes just because you can make something, it doesn’t mean you should.  From one of innovation’s blind alleys, step forward…. the chocolate record.

The following quote is taken from the March 1904 issue of The Talking Machine News, a monthly magazine for “users and makers of talking machines”; in other words, phonographs, or what we would now term “record players”.

Wax records we know, celluloid records, compo records, but it was not until the other day that we heard of chocolate records. There was some excuse; as we understand they have not yet been introduced over here. They are, or were, “made in Germany” by a famous firm of chocolate manufacturers. The chocolate disc was, we are given to understand, coated with gelatine or some other protective envelope, – why not sugar, and if not why not? – so as to resist the action of the needle for at least a while. We confess to some misgivings from the adult point of view, as to the desirability of eating a used record even though of chocolate. Doubtless, however it was keenly appreciated in the nursery where, when its music – perchance wedded to immortal verse – had first served to soothe the savage breast of the enfant terrible, its edible qualities were to the full as keenly appreciated.

Which naturally leads us to a story which is going the rounds to the effect that we are to have a metallic disc record before long. A metal disc would be even more indigestible, we should imagine, than the ordinary compo one. Neither would compete with a chocolate record in point of view of edibility. But to be serious. We await further news of the promised metal record with great interest. What metal, or alloy of metals, for example will the new disc be composed of? And then the needle. We should have thought that a steel needle, however highly tempered, would lose its point, and therefore its value, almost directly it came into contact with a metal record. These are, of course, speculations in the dark; it is all mere surmise at present. Perhaps, however, we ought to say, that the tale of a new metallic disc record is not altogether a mere canard coming from no-one and no-where in particular. It came to us – at second-hand, it is true, – as on the authority of a gentleman high in the confidence of one of the leading firms in the talking. machine trade. And though, of course, he may be mistaken as to the possibilities of a metal disc, there is no doubt that at present he has good grounds, as he thinks, for believing in those possibilities.

The prediction of metal records did actually prove correct.  From the late 1920s, aluminium discs became available for purchase, and their use continued through the 1930s into the early 40s.  However, during the war metal was too important to the war effort to be used for entertainment purposes, and very few aluminium records survived the need to recycle metal for the war effort.

As for chocolate records, I suppose they were a bit more useful than a chocolate teapot.  But not a lot.


If you enjoyed this “snippet” please consider sharing on Facebook or Twitter, to help other people find and enjoy Windows into History. You can keep updated each time I post a new entry by clicking on the follow button on the right of the screen. I welcome any comments or suggestions, and will consider guest posts.

Posted in 20th Century, Britain, History, Magazines, Newspapers, Science, Snippets | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment