Thursday, May 17, 2012

Another Mystery Picture: Who, What, Where and When?

The "family" in this undated stereographic photo. (Two of the
men appear to be blind. Four of the men are smoking or
holding cigarettes.)
The Library of Congress' vast collection of the American Colony's photographs includes these stereographic pictures. 

The caption reads "Family," and the date of the photo is sometime between "1898 and 1946."  That certainly doesn't provide much information.
PEF picture, apparently with
some of the same people

A similar picture published by the Palestine Exploration Fund identifies the group as Yemenite Jews -- taken by the American Colony photographers, but apparently not included in the Library of Congress collection.  According to the PEF, the picture appeared in a 1911 catalogue.

The two pictures produced by the stereo photo actually provide some additional answers.

19th century stereo camera

Anyone who has used a "View-Master" toy will recognize the 3D illusion created by the stereo camera. Already in the 19th century photographers were taking stereo pictures which were viewed on a special device. In effect, the two camera lenses captured the view and the slight angle differences of the right eye and the left eye.

The left picture shows an object on the wall behind the "family" -- after enlarging the picture it's clearly a German postal box.
The German mailbox
100 years ago

But why would the Yemenite Jews be standing near a German post office?

In fact, several European countries maintained post offices in Palestine under the "capitulations" agreements between the Ottoman Empire and European countries.  Formulated to guarantee the welfare of Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land, the capitulations, some dating back to the 16th century, established privileges for European subjects in Palestine.
More modern German mailbox 

Many members of Palestine's Jewish community were granted protection by European leaders such as Austrian Emperor Franz Josef or German Kaiser Wilhelm II.

European man in
white suit
The right photo of the stereo picture shows a European inside the door next to the Yemenite Jews. 

The American Colony collection includes photographs of the Russian, Italian, Austrian, French, and German post offices in Jerusalem.
German post office in Jerusalem

 Today's posting is dedicated in memory
of Dov Arye ben Chaim Menachem
who loved solving puzzles.

The capitulations ended in 1914 with the
outbreak of World War I. "Removing
French post box at the time of
abrogation of foreign capitulations."

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