The “Buddha” Foxtrot by Pollack and Rose (Visual Literacy of Buddhism)

Listen to the Victor Record’s 1920 recording of Pollack and Rose’s “Buddha” here: 

What is the sound of the “Orient”? As Edward Said has shown, the “Orient” is more of an imaginary idea than a physical location. Because of this, several musical tropes have emerged in American consciousness that create an “Oriental atmosphere,” perhaps none more famous than the nine-note “Oriental riff” (da-da-da-da dah-dah, dah-dah daah). This simple tune became widely popular in the 1910s and was utilized, for example, in numerous racially stereotyped cartoons of the 1930’s through the 1950’s[1].

It should be remembered, however, that before the widespread popularity of the phonograph, music still had to be played live to be heard. The publishing and selling of sheet music for home use was still widely practiced in the early twentieth century and because the American working class still clamored for the exotic Orient, musicians continued to compose “yellowvoice” Orientalist music.[2]

Early in his career, the composer and Vaudeville accompanist, Lew Pollack (1895-1946), started to experiment with Orientalist musical tropes, including a prototype of the Oriental riff. In 1918, he composed a piece entitled “Buddha” for an act performed by the singing and dancing “Mellette Sisters,” Helen and Rosalie (he would go on to marry Helen in 1921).[3] Lyrics were added to the musical composition by Ed Rose (1875-1935) and the work was published in 1919 by McCarthy & Fisher, Inc. [Figure 1].

Figure 1

01 cover.jpg

  • Title: Buddha [Operatic Edition]
  • Date: 1920 (date on reverse)[4]
  • Cover Artist: Unknown
  • Composer: Lew Pollack (1895-1946)
  • Lyricist: Ed Rose (1875-1935)
  • Publisher: McCarthy & Fisher Inc. (NY)

Given the title of the composition and the accompanying lyrics, it is not surprising to see that a Buddhist figure graced the cover of the sheet music. The cover depicts a scene of religious devotion, as a woman in traditional Japanese dress is positioned kneeling with her arms outstretched praying to the Buddhist image. A pair of incense burners beside the supplicant cast fragrant smoke trails into the air, while the background is festooned with decorative Asian motifs and ornamental lanterns. The overall golden hue of the scene is punctuated by the vibrant purple garment, focusing the viewer’s eye on the woman. The unknown artist employed these visual tropes to establish a setting of exoticism, femininity, and sensuousness – all established visual cues of the Orient.   

This illustration does not represent an authentic scene of Asian Buddhist worship, but the Western idea of Oriental religiosity. The Buddhist image only mimics traditional Asian art forms. The arms are folded atop one another, unlike the traditional joining of the hands in various meditative mudra positions, and the head appears to wear a crown or tiara, more like the vogue of early twentieth century American woman’s fashion than traditional Asian headwear. Even though the artist was not attempting to draw a particular Buddhist image, it is clear that the Kamakura Daibutsu was the iconic model. The overall style is definitively East Asian, but the open, draped robe exposing the chest and simple positioning of the arms in the lap closely mirror that of the Daibutsu. In addition, the frontward-facing, symmetrical composition would have echoed the numerous photographic images of the Kamakura colossus that had circulated for decades.  

What is likely the original cover for this piece was illustrated by André De Takacs (1880-1919), an artist known for his strong graphic style [Figure 2]. It is possible that De Takacs copied this image of the Kamakura Daibutsu from figural domestic bottles sold in department stores in the United States. The scene on the cover is spartan, but the whisps of smoke from the small fires suggest religious practice and the burning of incense. By examining the details of the image, it seems as if the unknown artist of the variant cover modified the origianal illustration of De Takacs, who died suddently in 1919. 

07cover28detackas29

Figure 2

  • Title: Buddha Fox Trot
  • Date: 1919 (date on reverse)
  • Cover Artist: André De Takacs (1880-1919)
  • Composer: Lew Pollack (1895-1946)
  • Lyricist: Ed Rose (1875-1935)
  • Publisher: McCarthy & Fisher Inc. (NY)

The small yellow phonograph icon on the lower left is inscribed with the words, “This Number is to be had on all Phonographic Records and Music Rolls. Ask your Dealer.” “Buddha” was recorded and published by several record companies, including the Lyraphone Company of America (as played by the Jazzarimba Orchestra; catalogue number 4204), Aeolian Company (Aeolian Dance Orchestra, 12166), Pathé Frères Phonograph Company (The Tuxedo Syncopaters, 22209; Peerless Quartet, 22334), Columbia Graphophone Company (Columbia Saxophone Sextette, A2876), and Victor Records (Sterling Trio and Peerless Quartet, 18653)[Figure 3].

Figure 3

MBVR.png

  • Title: Buddha
  • Date: 1920
  • Vocals: Peerless Quartet (Frank Croxton , John H. Meyer, Albert Campbell , Henry Burr)
  • Composer: Lew Pollack (1895-1946)
  • Lyricist: Ed Rose (1875-1935)
  • Publisher: Victor Talking Machine Company
  • Catalogue Number: 18653-A

The full musical score and lyrics of “Buddha” can be found here. The song opens with these lyrics: “In an oriental clime, seated on a mystic shrine, Buddha dwells, and dispels hate.” The lyrics of Ed Rose do not identity Japan or Kamakura as the setting for this song, but a more mystical “Oriental” location. The rest of the song sadly describes a woman who prays to the Buddha, pleading for her lover to return to her. This is not a novel melodic narrative. It clearly refelcts a story made famous by Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madame Buttefly, first performed in America in 1906. Even though neither of these musical pieces directly refers to the Kamakura Daibutsu, by the early twentieth century, the Kamakura colossus was the icon of the imaginary Orient for American audiences, thus the choice of cover illustration remains fitting.

Notes:

*This is part of a series of posts devoted to exploring the development of a visual literacy for Buddhist imagery in America. All items (except otherwise noted) are part of my personal collection of Buddhist-themed ephemera.

[1] This rhythmic device is discussed in Lancefield 2004: 730-35. The most popular recent use of this riff (in what might be its most iconic form) is found in Carl Douglas’ 1974 hit, Kung Fu Fighting.

[2] As coined by Robert Lancefield, “yellowvoice” refers to the ways in which Orientality was evoked through sound and music, see especially Lancefield 2004: 599-768. A rather exhaustive list of popular American songs with Chinese subjects or themes is found in Appendix A of Moon 2005.

[3] See the Vaudeville program information noted in Lancefield 2004: 604n.13. Pollack would compose another Asian themed piece, “Oh Sing-a-Loo, Whad’Ya Do with Your Que?” (1922).

[4] The song on the back cover is “Daddy, You’ve Been a Mother to Me” by Fred Fisher, with copyright date of 1920. Other prints have “While Others are Building Castles in the Air,” also by Fred Fisher, but copyrighted in 1919.

References:

  • Lancefield, Robert Charles. 2004. “Hearing Orientality in (White) America, 1900-1930.” Ph.D. dissertation, Wesleyan Universoty.  
  • Franceschina, John. 2017. Incidental and Dance Music in the American Theatre from 1786 to 1923 [Volume 3]. Albany: BearManor Media.
  • Moon, Krystyn. 2005. Yellowface: Creating the Chinese in American Popular Music and Performance, 1850’s – 1920’s. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
  • Selth, Andrew. 2016. Burma, Kipling and Western Music: The Riff from Mandalay. London: Routledge.

Kōzaburō’s Undivided Back Postcard (Visual Literacy of Buddhism)

Many early Japanese turn-of-the century postcards were colorful illustrations, cartoons, or woodblock prints, some of which were made by famed Japanese artists, but these traditional arts forms would soon lose favor to the photograph. One of the shifts that ushered in the visual dominance of photographic postcards was the introduction of private company postcards 私製はがき, which had been illegal to print until new postal regulations were introduced in 1900. In addition, the adoption of a new photomechanical printing technique, called the collotype, allowed for the wide availability of inexpensive photographic images of Japan.

Many early photographic postcards first circulated as albumen or silver gelatin prints sold by commercial photography studios. Early postcard publishers experimented with the orientation of the old images on the new format. By placing the image on the top half of a vertically oriented card, the bottom half could be reserved for the message [Figure 1]. Strategically designed areas or blank spots were necessary on the front of the card, because the reverse of the card was reserved solely for the name and address of the recipient until 1907. The regulations were determined by the Union postale universelle, the body which oversaw the postal system worldwide. These postcards, known today as “undivided back” cards, were replaced by “divided back” cards in 1907 in Japan, where the message could be included on the reverse of the card.

Figure 1

pckd002tk(o)pckd002tk(r)

  • Title/Caption: NA
  • Year: 1900-1907
  • Photographer: Tamamura Kōzaburō 玉村康三郎 (1856-1923?)[?]
  • Medium: collotype print on cardstock, hand tinted
  • Dimensions: 5.5 in X 3.5 in
  • Inscription: Union Postale Universelle. CARTE POSTALE, 萬國郵便聯合端書

The image depicts a wide angle view of the Daibutsu taken from the third landing. The positioning of the camera shows the rustic, yet landscaped grounds surrounding the Daibutsu statue. Lacking the presence of people, this bucolic setting exhibits a more quiet moment of the famous tourist destination.  On the right, the supports and roof of the ablution pavilion stick out from under an evergreen tree. The water basin (chōzubachi 手水鉢) for washing hands is found underneath (dating from 1749).

The photographer of this image is debated. Older studio albumen prints of this image are imprinted with “661 Daibuthu [sic] at Kamakura.” This numbering is consistent with the studio catalogue of Tamamura Kōzaburō 玉村康三郎 (1856-1923?)(See Bennett 2006: 152), but other sources attribute this image to Ogawa Kazumasa 小川 一眞 (1860-1929). (A similar, but not exact, photo has been identified in an Ogawa studio album). This exemplifies the difficulty in determining the correct attribution and age of old Daibutsu photographs, and more research still needs to be done.

Moreover, because the publishers of the postcard did not imprint their name on the back, it is difficult to tell who printed this tourist souvenir. The reverse of this card is bordered by an ornamental filigree-like design in umber brown ink. This card is an example of an “undivided back,” since no line appears separating the sections on the back where the correspondence and address would later come to be written. This functions now as an easy identifier for dating old postcards, with this exemplar dating between 1900 and 1907. (The photograph was probably taken in the mid-to-late 1890s). In addition, a small scalloped square appears in the top right corner, indicating the location to affix the necessary postage.

*This is part of a series of posts devoted to exploring the development of a visual literacy for Buddhist imagery in America. All items (except otherwise noted) are part of my personal collection of Buddhist-themed ephemera.

Ueda’s Daibutsu and Dog Postcard (Visual Literacy of Buddhism)

Collecting postcards became a national craze in Japan in the first decade of the twentieth century – and caused at least one riot. Yokohama, home to many of the oldest and most important Japanese tourist photography studios, became a major center of postcard production and the Ueda Photographic Prints Corporation 上田写真版合資会社, founded by Ueda Yoshizō上田義三 in the famed city port, was one of a handful of premier Japanese picture postcard publishers. Ueda’s early sets of cards included photographs of the Kamakura Daibutsu, but they and their business rivals continued to produce new views of this ancient colossus.

Professional and amateur photographs had long shot the Daibutsu frontally from long and medium distances. A few took photographs from the southwest corner, or even from behind, but images of the Daibutsu from the southeast were uncommon (although not unknown) likely because the temple landscaping did not easily allow for a person to position himself. The grounds of Kōtoku-in 高徳院, the temple where the Daibutsu resides, had continuously undergone  renovations since Western tourists discovered it in the 1860’s, slowly opening up the areas around the statue and providing better “picturesque” viewing. One unknown photographer from Ueda was able to take a position in the southeast corner and take a photograph [Figure 1] – one of the very few from this angle.

Figure 1

pckd007u(o)pckd007u(r)

  • Title/Caption: Daibutsu, Kamakura. 佛大倉鎌
  • Year: c. 1912 [postally unused]
  • Publisher: Ueda Photographic Prints Corp. 上田写真版合資会社
  • Medium: collotype print on cardstock
  • Dimensions: 5.5 in X 3.5 in
  • Reverse Imprint: Carte postale – Postkarte – Post Card [Type 5], Made in Japan, 郵便はかき

This postcard image is also one of the few photographs that does not incorporate any people in its composition, a technique which typically assisted the viewer in gauging and appreciating the sheer size of the statue. Only the most astute observer would note that the photograph is not devoid of all beings – there is a dog resting at the stone base of the statue [Figure 2]. The dog’s distinctive head patterning and white body suggests this may be the same dog photographed in two older stereoview cards, who is seen mingling with temple visitors and tourists. Serene and relaxed, both the Daibutsu and dog appear to be enjoying the relative quiet of the scene.

Figure 2

PCKD007u(o) dog.jpg

The Ueda crest on the reverse along with the distinctive multilingual printing clearly reveals this card to be part of the Ueda Corp. stock published after 1907, possibly around 1912. It is difficult to determine when the photograph was taken, but the presence of the dog suggests it was taken sometime after the first few years of the turn of the century, when the stereoviews were taken. While this is one among a dozen or more Japanese picture postcards produced of the Daibutsu before 1923 (when the Kantō earthquake destabilized the Japanese postcard industry), it remains one of the most unique.

*This is part of a series of posts devoted to exploring the development of a visual literacy for Buddhist imagery in America. All items (except otherwise noted) are part of my personal collection of Buddhist-themed ephemera.

 

 

Ueda’s Hand-Colored Cerulean Letterpress Postcards (Visual Literacy of Buddhism)

In early 1904, Japan formally declared war on Russia after nearly a decade of rising tensions. Military attachés and journalists from around the world traveled to the front with photographers to chronicle the gruesome affair. This use of wartime photography propelled a surge in popularity of Japanese picture postcards (ehagaki 絵はかき), resulting in a spike of mass-produced, inexpensive postcards depicting Japan’s military might. The swell in Japanese nationalism and interest in seeing images of a modernized state helped create a Japanese postcard boom in the middle of the first decade of the twentieth century.[1] New private postcard publishing houses, such as Ueda Photographic Prints Corporation 上田写真版合資会社, Hoshinoya 星野屋, and Tonboya トンボヤ, grew in number as did their inventory of photographic postcards. Consequently, during this period numerous new images of the Kamakura Daibutsu were taken and sold to a ready market of Japanese and foreign travelers [Figure 1].

 Figure 1

pckd004u(o)

PCKD004u(r).jpg

  • Title/Caption: Daibutsu, Kamakura. 佛大倉鎌
  • Year: c. 1907 [postally used 1910]
  • Publisher: Ueda Photographic Prints Corp. 上田写真版合資会社
  • Medium: collotype print on cardstock, hand tinted
  • Dimensions: 5.5 in X 3.5 in
  • Reverse Imprint: Postkarte [Type 1], 郵便はかき

The unknown photographer of this postcard image set the camera on the second landing of the paved walkway and framed the Daibutsu frontally and symmetrically, similar to  numerous Yokohama port studios and foreign stereo-photographers of earlier years. The standard size ratio of the postcard allowed for a slightly larger panoramic sweep than that of older albumen prints, thus more of the foliage surrounding the site is visible. The mise-en-scène is natural and casual, unlike the highly choreographed images of piety taken by Herbert Ponting around the same period. The viewers eyes are eventually drawn to the group of people on the lower left, perhaps a family, that walks away from the Daibutsu. Except for the adolescent boy on the far left dressed in an oversized coat, no one makes eye contact with the photographer. This leaves the viewer with a sense of casual observation, as if seeing the normal daily activities of the temple grounds. The outfits of the family suggest a bricolage of cultures, as traditional flowing (and brightly colored) Japanese garments are mixed with Western attire, including a narrow brimmed hat worn by the older man and military school outfits (gakuran 学ラン) worn by the young boys (officially adopted in Japan in the 1880’s[2]). Another man sits on the far right, also wearing a brimmed hat, trousers, and vented jacket. To a Japanese viewer, these sartorial elements would be clear indications of a modern, militaristic, and “Westernized” Japan. Reading deeper, the lone kimono-wearing figure in the rear, closest to the Daibutsu, might symbolize the traditional and religious past being left behind by the more progressive present.

This collotype print on card stock was hand tinted with water color, but unlike the more conservative hues of older albumen prints sold at established port photography studios, postcards more frequently have a splash of bright color, especially the warm vibrant hues of orange, scarlet, and pink. The early colorists of Daibutsu postcards often included a patch of pink behind the statue, suggesting spring cherry blossoms, even though this was not the tradition of older Yokohama studios and – as far as I can discern – not botanically accurate [although this image may suggest otherwise].

In addition to this card, a vertical format of a similarly dated Daibutsu picture postcard [Figure 2] shows the same patch of tree foliage to the right of the Daibutsu also painted in cherry blossom pink.[3] Images such as these may function as the origins of the painting tradition for Daibutsu postcards which continued for several decades, effectively ending when color photography was introduced. More curiously, in the horizontal image above, the colorist also included a red-leaved maple tree (just above the man in the short-brimmed hat), inaccurately suggesting that spring cherry blossoms and red autumn foliage appear in the same season! Of course, these decisions were not motivated by a fidelity to reality, but by a consumer market with idealized visions of a bright and polychromatic Japanese landscape.

Figure 2

pckd005u1(o)pckd005u1(r)

  • Title/Caption: Daibutsu, Kamakura. 佛大倉鎌
  • Year: c. 1907 [postally unused]
  • Publisher: Ueda Photographic Prints Corp. 上田写真版合資会社
  • Medium: collotype print on cardstock, hand tinted
  • Dimensions: 5.5 in X 3.5 in
  • Reverse Imprint: Postkarte [Type 1], 郵便はかき

These two postcards were not only sold by the same publisher (the printing on the reverse is identical on both), but clues in these photographs suggest they were taken at the same time. Most tellingly, the shadows are sharp, indicating a clear afternoon, and fall across the face and shoulders of the Daibutsu in precisely the same way, indicating they was taken on the same exact time of day.[4]

For both the horizontally and vertically formatted postcards, the photographic image bleeds to the edges, except on the bottom where an unprinted border leaves space for a caption, here both in English and Japanese. Identifying the location of the site, the cerulean colored letterpress is simple and succinct: “Daibutsu, Kamakura,” (or “Kamakura Daibutsu” 鎌倉大佛 in Japanese).[5] Unlike older postcards, no blank space needed to be reserved on the front of the card because new postal regulations allowed correspondence to be written on the back in addition to the recipient’s name and address. The evidence for this change is the narrow umber (or orange-cinnamon) colored dividing line separating the message from the address space on the reverse.[6] The new regulations for “divided back” postcards were passed in March 1907, but took effect in October of the same year, thus providing a terminus post quem of 1907 for both cards above.

The reverse of these cards also clearly indicates the intended international audience for this expanding postal medium. “Postkarte” (postcard) is written in German along the long edge, followed by French, Italian, and Russian translations, as well as Japanese (yūbin hakaki 郵便はかき [sic]) along the short edge. Unfortunately, as is common for older cards, the reverse sides do not provide information pertaining to the publisher. I feel there is solid evidence, however, to believe these were published by the Ueda Photographic Prints Corporation, founded by Ueda Yoshizō上田義三 in the bustling port of Yokohama. This company was known for its prolific production of early Japanese postcards.[7] If we examine other similar hand colored collotype postcards with cerulean captions and umber printing on the reverse – hereafter I refer to this scheme as the Ueda “cerulean-umber” design – we find a clear relationship between our cards and later cards imprinted with the Udea Corp. trademark. If we examine another horizontal postcard [Figure 3] with the same image (even with the same coloring, down to the red spot on the child’s pink jacket), we can observe the printing on the reverse is different, suggesting it comes from a different print run.

Figure 3

PCKD005u(o).jpgpckd005u(r)

  • Title/Caption: Daibutsu, Kamakura. 佛大倉鎌
  • Year: c. 1910 [postally unused]
  • Publisher: Ueda Photographic Prints Corp. 上田写真版合資会社
  • Medium: collotype print on cardstock, hand tinted
  • Dimensions: 5.5 in X 3.5 in
  • Reverse Imprint: Carte postale – Postkarte – Post Card [Type 3], MADE IN JAPAN, 郵便はかき

Within a short period between 1907 and 1912, the design on the reverse of Ueda postcards changes several times [Figure 4], following a discernable progression, until the dividing line was capped by a heavily stylized Ueda crest in the last phase [Figure 5].[8] Please consult my working notes for an outline of these chronological changes.

Figure 4:

pckd004u5(o)pckd004u5(r)

  • Title/Caption: Daibutsu, Kamakura. 佛大倉鎌
  • Year: c. 1912 [postally unused]
  • Publisher: Ueda Photographic Prints Corp. 上田写真版合資会社
  • Medium: collotype print on cardstock, hand tinted
  • Dimensions: 5.5 in X 3.5 in
  • Reverse Imprint: Carte postale – Postkarte – Post Card [Type 5], MADE IN JAPAN, 郵便はかき

Figure 5: The Ueda Photographic Prints Corp. trademark/crest.

PCKD004u5(r) crest.jpg

These Ueda Corp. postcards were domestically produced (later editions cearly say “Made in Japan”), but had a worldwide circulation. The cards were not only purchased as inexpensive souvenirs or mailed to lucky recipients around the world, the premier commercial importer of Asian goods into America, A.A. Vantine & Co., also sold Ueda postcards at its flagship store in New York City and through it’s widely distributed mail order catalogue. Coincidentally, Vantine’s heavily illustrated 1914 catalogue [Figure 5] highlights the horizontal Daibutsu postcard along with pictures of geisha and pagoda, all well-worn visual motifs of the exotic Orient. Affordably priced, Vantine’s sold a dozen of these Ueda published postcards for 25 cents.  The copy of Vantine’s catalogue three years later [Figure 6] informs its prospective buyers about the value of these inexpensive items: “To one interested in ‘things Japanese,” or as a gift to a friend making a collection, nothing is more appropriate than a set of Japanese souvenir postcards.” [10]

Figures 5 (left) & Figure 6 (right) [not part of Archive]

 

Figure 7

IMG_9312

 

In addition, Vantine’s used Ueda postcards to confirm orders placed by customers [Figure 7], thus diffusing the idealized imagery of Japan, and notably that of the Kamakura colossus, to people who never left the confines of their living rooms. From this vantage point, a postcard of the Daibutsu was no longer a momento of a trip, but one verification among many of the cultural difference and strange Otherness of the Orient.

Notes:

*This is part of a series of posts devoted to exploring the development of a visual literacy for Buddhist imagery in America. All items (except otherwise noted) are part of my personal collection of Buddhist-themed ephemera.**This post is in honor of Josh Harris, thanks for all the postcards!

[1] See for example:  https://visualizingcultures.mit.edu/asia_rising/ar_essay01.html and https://visualizingcultures.mit.edu/yellow_promise_yellow_peril/yp_essay01.html

[2] The development of Japanese school uniforms are detailed here: http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/1041

[3] Uncolored versions of this vertical format postcard also exist [in Archive].

[4] This is in addition to the era clues supplied by the fenced and gable-roofed coin donation box and small placard by the right leg of the statue. These environmental elements can be confidently dated, minimally, to between 1896 and 1905, but may extend a few years beyond this range. While the printed postcard must postdate October 1907 (see below) the photograph may have been taken several years earlier, although I would assign it to a time between 1904 and 1907.

[5] It is difficult to tell if a caption is printed or letterpress, but on some samples there is slight embossing of the letters on the back – a telltale sign of letterpress printing. Visually, some postcards will have slight soiling where the caption pushes through on the reverse.

[6] It should be noted that an older undivided back version of this postcard exists which is not in the Archive, it is rather astutely analyzed here: http://celio-barreto.strikingly.com/blog/about-a-photo-postcard-version-2-0.

[7] Preliminary information of Yokohama postcard publishers can be found here: http://www.kaikou.city.yokohama.jp/journal/images/kaikouno-hiroba_12.pdf. And here: http://tamayochankankousya.seesaa.net/article/420534147.html. For more scattered informaiton on Japanese publishers, see here: http://www.ikjeld.com/japannews/00000551.php. Of the three most important publishers in Yokohama, Ueda started his business in 1897, Hoshinoya was started in 1904 (Meiji 37), and Tonboya in 1905/7 (Meiji 38, some sources claim Meiji 40).

[8] The Ueda Co. crest/trademark is comprised of the two characters of the Ueda family name: ue 上 repeated rotationally four times around da 田. Is should be remembered that earlier printed cards could remain unsold for several years before being purchased or mailed. It is worth noting that both the horizontal and vertical format card [in the Archive] depicted above were also produced in black and white.

[9] The U.S. Stamp Act of 1894 required the country of origin to be printed on all foreign imports to the US, but this stipulation was not fastidiously practiced. In addition, this act was amended in 1919 so the words, “Made in,” be included on all imports, but clearly this practices was already established before 1919.

[10] Scanned versions of several of the Vantine’s catalogues can be found here: https://archive.org/search.php?query=creator%3A%22A.A.+Vantine+and+Company+%28New+York%2C+N.Y.%29%22

Bibliography:

  • Morita Tadayoshi 森田忠吉, ed. 1910. Yokohama seikō meiyo kan: Kaikō go jū-nen kinen 横浜成功名誉鑑: 開港五十年紀念. Yokohama: Yokohama shō kyōshin byōsha 横浜商况新報社. [Digital version here: https://www.lib.city.yokohama.lg.jp/Archive/DTRP0320?SHIRYO_ID=2235%5D
  • Itō Izumi 伊藤泉美. 2001. “Tsuioku no Yokohama e hagaki ni miru 100-nen mae hitobito to fūkei 追憶の横浜繪葉書にみる100年前人びとと風景,” Kaikō no hiroba 開港のひろば, No. 71, p. 1.
  • Saitō Takio 斎藤多喜夫. 1985. “Yomigaeru shinsaizen no Yokohama fūkei よみがえる震災前の横浜風景,” Kaikō no hiroba 開港のひろば, No. 12, pp. 1, 4.
  • Yokohama Archives of History 横浜開港資料館, ed. 1999. Nen mae no Yokohama Kanagawa ehagaki de miru fūkei 年前の横浜・神奈川―絵葉書でみる風景. Tokyo: Yurindo 有隣堂.

 

 

Strohmeyer’s “Faithful at the Shrine of the Daibutsu” (Visual Literacy of Buddhism)

In early 1896, photographer and publisher Henry A. Strohmeyer (1858-1943) set off for an around the world photographic tour to capture images from Japan, China, and India and various locations in the Middle East and Europe. Arriving in Japan in the Spring of 1896, Strohmeyer probably took around 300-400 negatives which were curated into a set of 72 images, thus establishing the first dedicated box set of Japan views sold in the world. This 72-view set was distributed exclusively by Underwood & Underwood, the largest producers of stereographic cards globally, making – and presumably selling – nearly 30,000 stereocards and 900 stereoviewers per day by 1900.[1] The Underwood & Underwood empire had perfected door-to-door canvassing, employing enterprising college students to directly market their stock to the public. The catalogue and publishing operation of Strohmeyer and business partner Nehemiah Dwight Wyman (1861-1934) was acquired by Underwood & Underwood in 1901, and the 72-view Japan set continued to be published under the Underwood & Underwood imprint until 1904 when it was replaced by the new “Ponting Set.” For eight years between 1896 and 1904, Strohmeyer’s photographs of Japan remained the premier set of Japanese imagery for the American mass public.[2]

IMG_E5822.jpg

  • Title/Caption: The Faithful at the Shrine of Dai Butsu, Japan’s Greatest Idol, Kamakura, Japan
  • Year: 1896
  • Photographer: Henry A. Strohmeyer (1858-1943)
  • Publisher: Strohmeyer & Wyman, distributed by Underwood & Underwood (out of a set of 72 views)
  • Medium: sliver gelatin print; mounted on curved buff/tan-colored card
  • Dimensions: 7 in X 3.5 in

Strohmeyer’s image of the Daibutsu produces a rather stilted mise-en-scène. Two pairs of Japanese onlookers, with the formally dressed women placed several paces behind the men, stand stoically facing the grand Buddhist image. The viewer enters the scene through the two well-groomed women in the lower right foreground, a visual pathway enhanced through the three-dimensional effect produced by stereoscopic viewing. The visual weight given to these two Japanese women immediately calls to mind the motif of the hypersexualized Orient, often signaled through the appearance of alluring geisha. Cultural difference is highlighted not only through the clothing of the worshippers, but also throught the magnititude of the object of reverence. In contrast to William Henry Metcalf’s stereoview which elided a human presence, Strohmeyer’s incorporation of people allows for a better sense of scale of the towering bronze statue. In addition, by placing the women on the landing before the stairs, there is an apparent greater verticle destance between them and the head of the Daibutsu, which crowns the very top of the image. This creates an illusion of the statue being taller than it really is.[3] Yet the wooden posturing of the onlookers makes the size of the Daibutsu appear more menacing then contemplative. Due to the artificial parallel placement and awkward stances, more attention is drawn to the awe-struck worshippers, casting the entire scene under an unnatural and ominous shadow. The caption to the photograph also focuses the viewer’s attention on the pious “faithful,” making this image less about the artistic virtue of the Daibutsu, and more about the foreign and unfamiliar religiosity that inspires such creations

IMG_E5817.jpg

  • Title: The Faithful at the Shrine of Dai Butsu, Japan’s Greatest Idol, Kamakura, Japan
  • Year: 1901
  • Photographer: Henry A. Strohmeyer (1858-1943)
  • Publisher: Underwood & Underwood (#54 of 72)
  • Medium: sliver gelatin print; mounted on curved buff/tan-colored card
  • Dimensions: 7 in X 3.5 in

In 1901, after the acquisition of Strohmeyer and Wyman’s catalogue, Underwood & Underwood re-issued the 72-card set, now listed as both publisher and distributer on the mount. The cards were numbered sequentially and the reverse reprinted the caption in English along with five foreign language translations (French, German, Spanish, Swedish, and Russian) suggesting the international popularity of the series. The series would be re-issued one more time around 1902/3 on slate-colored mounts.

Strohmeyer UU print

  • Title: None (dated on reverse September 11, 1923)
  • Photographer: Henry A. Strohmeyer (1858-1943)
  • Publisher: Underwood & Underwood (#54 of 72)
  • Medium: sliver gelatin print
  • Dimensions: 7 in X 3.5 in

Around the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, Underwood & Underwood expanded into news photography, slowing their production of stereoviews through World War I until fully selling off their stock and rights to Keystone Viewing Company in 1921. They apparently continued to hold the non-stereographic rights to numerous photographs, however, including Strohmeyer’s 1896 image of the Great Buddha of Kamakura. This above photograph, dated September 11, 1923 on the reverse, was originally owned by the Baltimore Sun and was likely procured in response to the Great Kantō earthquake of September 1, 1923. The Kamakura Daibutsu was easily recognized as one of the most famous monuments of Japan by international audiences and numerous papers reported on the damage of the statue. I have been unable to locate this image among the published papers of the Baltimore Sun, however. It is the left side of Strohmeyer’s original stereoscopic image, photographed more than two decades earlier.

Notes

*This is part of a series of posts devoted to exploring the development of a visual literacy for Buddhist imagery in America. All items (except otherwise noted) are part of my personal collection of Buddhist-themed ephemera. I have also published my working notes on identifying publishers of Meiji and early Taishō postcards and establishing a sequential chronology for Kamakura Daibutsu photographs.

[1] For estimates on card production at the turn of the century, see Darrah 1977: 47. Brey  also discusses production and the scripted sales pitch that made the Underwoods’ enterprise highly successful, see Brey 1990.

[2] For more information on Strohmeyer and the publishers Underwood & Underwood, see Bennett 2006.

[3] Most photographers would position their camera on this second landing, an optimal distance to fill a majority of the frame with the Daibutsu. Only a hand of photographers would position themselves further back, on the first landing, which minimizes the visual significance of the Daibutsu, but also opens the possibility for more visually compelling compositions.

References

  • Bennett, Terry. 2006. Old Japanese Photographs Collector’s Data Guide. London: Bernard Quaritch Ltd.
  • Brey, William. 1990. “Ten Million Stereo Views a Year,” Stereo World, Vol. 16, No. 6, pp. 6-12. [Conveniently digitized by the National Stereoscopic Association, www.stereoworld.org.]
  • Darrah, William C. 1977. The World of Stereographs. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: W.C. Darrah.
  • [For a comparison between Strohmeyer and Herbert Ponting’s photograph styles, see here]

Metcalf & Bennet’s “A Summer In Japan” (Visual Literacy of Buddhism)

Although professional photography studios already crowded the Japanese treaty port of Yokohama by the 1870s, William Henry Metcalf (1821-1892) was one of the first intrepid amateur photographers who brought his own camera on his trans-Pacific trip to Japan.[1] More than a decade before portable Kodak cameras ushered in a new era of amateur photography, Metcalf commissioned his friend and fellow photographer Henry Hamilton Bennet (1843-1908) to construct a portable travel camera, equipped with both photographic and stereoscopic lenses. Arriving in Yokohama in June 1877 with the pioneering “Japanologist” Edward Sylvester Morse (1838-1925), Metcalf set out on a four-month tour photographing the Japanese landscape. More than two dozen of his stereographic photographs were consigned for publication by Bennet under the title “A Summer in Japan” and promoted to a ready market in the US hungry for imagery of the exotic Orient.

IMG_E5813.jpg

  • Title/Caption: Bronze Image of Buddha at Kammakura [sic]
  • Year: 1877
  • Photographer: William Henry Metcalf (1821-1892)
  • Publisher: Henry Hamilton Bennett (1843–1908), “A Summer in Japan” (#346)
  • Medium: albumen print, mounted on yellow-orange card
  • Dimensions: 7 in x 3.5 in

Metcalf’s image of the Daibutsu (Great Buddha) of Kamakura was not the first published stereoview card of this popular tourist attraction, yet it remains an early attempt at capturing the ancient bronze behemoth with this new and increasingly popular photographic technique.[2] It also presages the immense popularity of this subject for the stereographic trade of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when it became a staple image among the sets of Japan views issued by the larger publishers, such as Underwood, Graves, and White. Metcalf’s image is uncommon among contemporary photographs of the Daibutsu in that it captures the scene devoid of people, casting visual focus on the serene countenance of the statue and its rustic setting. More typically, people, oftentimes children, would be included in the shot to establish the sheer grandeur of the statue, but here the viewer is left to his or her own devices to estimate the size and dimensions. Moreover, by removing visitors from the scene, Metcalf was able to facilitate a more immediate encounter between the viewer and religious icon, creating a silent space to ponder the meaning of such a picturesque portrait.

Notes

*This post was incorporated into the article, “William H. Metcalf: Iconic pictures of 1870s Japan were taken by an amateur Milwaukee photographer,” published online in the Milwuakee Independent.

*This is part of a series of posts devoted to exploring the development of a visual literacy for Buddhist imagery in America. All items (except otherwise noted) are part of my personal collection of Buddhist-themed ephemera. I have also published my working notes on identifying publishers of Meiji and early Taishō postcards and establishing a sequential chronology for Kamakura Daibutsu photographs.

[1] For more on Metcalf’s travels and photography see Gartlin 2010.

[2] I am aware of at least two older stereoview cards bearing the image of the Kamakura Daibutsu, one photographed by Charles Weed and published in San Francisco by Thomas Houseworth & Co. in 1869, and one published internationally under several titles by Wilhelm Burger, also in 1869. (A image of Burger’s stereoview card can be found in the Database of Old Japanese Photographs in the Nagasaki University Library Collection.) For more informaiton on these sets, see Bennett 2006.

References

  • Bennett, Terry. 2006. Old Japanese Photographs Collector’s Data Guide. London: Bernard Quaritch Ltd.
  • Gartlan, Luke. 2010. “Japan Day by Day? William Henry Metcalf, Edward Sylvester Morse and Early Tourist Photography in Japan,” Early Popular Visual Culture, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 125–146.