The way I look at old photographs.

I love old photographs. I really, really do. Honestly I think its what intrigues me the most. I’m a history buff and old photographs are like time capsules to me. I like to warn you guys. There will be allot of letters down here! If you don’t like reading. Look at the pictures and click this away.


Robert Capa

Sometimes I can almost smell the atmosphere. For example. The famous photo by Robert Capa. The GI beeing dragged in with the waves on Omaha Beach. Imagining his situation yourself is almost imposible.

Place yourself in the mind of the photographer. You’re probably hidden behind a beach obstacle made by the Germans to rip open Allied landing craft. You’re soaking wet dredged in salt water while hiding for a hail of machine gun fire coming from a 400-meter open field in front of you. You’re surrounded by death. The feeling of fear must be raging trough your mind. Adrenaline is the only thing that keeps your mind clear enough to take the photos of all the horror surrounding you. Most of us probably wouldn’t even think about the photos anymore and be in full survival mode.

The most famous photo is out of focus. Personally I think that’s perfect. The man was on a beach of roughly 8 kilometres where 4200 people died in one day. Judging from where the photo is taken he just landed and probably swim ashore. His hands must be shaking of fear and cold. He got the job done, and his photo is one who made history.


Click on the image for a high res look!


Holland- Amerika line

Now lets jumping back to the image in question. My friend Frank has sends me two amazing historical photos from the Holland-Amerika Line (HAL) terminal in Hoboken, New Jersey. In the background you can see a very early Manhattan skyline. He didn’t know much about the images apart from that they are really high resolution and he thinks its New York. My plan was to date the image, and find out where it was before I Google the image caption. I saw the watermark so I think eventually somewhere I would find it anyways.


What I find out.

I love staring at old photographs so this high resolution was particular fun. The first thing I did was to find out which the skyscraper this was. If I wanted to find this out I need a rough position of where this image was taken. This brought me to a name; Cunard. (Yellow) Cunard lines are still one of the biggest Cruise ship company in the world. I know it was one of the company’s competing in the blue ribbon race. An epic race to cross the Atlantic before the age of flight. So After a quick search I found out Cunard was located at Chelsea pier Manhattan. So this meant this was the Hudson en this photo was made in New Jersey. The skyscraper should be the Metropolitan Life tower located at Madison Square. The building was completed in 1909 and at that times the tallest building in the world. The 8-meter big clock in the middle is unmistakable there. The tower looks completed so this photo is made after 1909. Moving forward to the ship: The SS Rotterdam. (Red) This ship made here maiden voyage to New York in 1909. In 1929 is got painted white. So we now have a period to look between. The ship was used for Mediterranean cruises during winter, and judging from the clothes this is high summer. The Ship in front: SS Noordam was sold in 1923 and didn’t return to NY. So this narrow downs dates.

Dramatic history

This image shows a location of many dramas.

From the Cunard lines pier in the background the RMS Lusitania left port in 1915 for a voyage to Liverpool. It carried passengers and weapons. On the 7the of May a German U-boot fired a torpedo, sinking here within 18 minutes. 1.198 of here 1.962 passengers died. After the sinking of this ship US declared war with Germany. The SS Rotterdam shown in these pictures also secretly brought supplies from the US to Great Britain. This was controversial since The Netherlands was neutral during the war and the ship sailed under Dutch flag.
The second big disaster was one we all know. The RMS Titanic. The Titanic was bound to arrive at the Cunard docks in the background of this image. The Ship in front (Green) is the SS. Noor dam. This ship was one of the ships that warned the Titanic of ice in the shipping lanes early in season.


My conclusion

The SS Noordam was building in 1902. And like mentioned before left service in 1923. The Metropolitan Life tower is not under construction, and the SS Rotterdam started service in 1909. Since there are no cars in the photo and the Ford model-T was already invented by that time, it got to be around 1909-1910. The Model-T production exploded, and millions where around in the early twenties. I assume someone who can afford a trip across the Atlantic can also afford a car. So it would make sense seeing one in this image.
After this whole search I found the capitation”
Hoboken, New Jersey, circa 1910. “S.S. Rotterdam at Holland America docks.” The full panorama made from three 8×10 inch glass negatives. Landmarks of the Manhattan skyline include the Metropolitan Life tower”


Nailed it! So as you guys can see I really enjoy a good old photo analysis. There is so much more to discover in this photo. Like the story of the ice cream horse cart (blue), the signs and there companies (purple). Or maybe even the part where it looks like someone is standing there with his pants down his ankles?! (right?!)

Thanks for reading! Next time more photos!





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