Thursday, March 31, 2022

the case of the mysterious uncle

Every picture tells a story No. 31

Adam Eberle, the baker at Lorsch, had eight brothers and sisters, according to his oldest granddaugher, but the details she could provide about some of them are very sketchy and difficult to align with the 5 brothers listed in GedBas.

Essentially both sources only provide specific info about boys, there may have been up to three sisters about whom we know nothing. One brother inherited the farm at Obermumbach (Michael, I assume), Nikolaus found moderate wealth as a merchant in Austria, but died suddenly at 32, Johannes became a butcher and married, and then there is the mysterious uncle from Mainz, who went to university and became a Vermessungsrat (an official in land survey matters, on a level comparable to a high school teacher, Studienrat). We have a beautiful portrait of him but don't know his name:

As the siblings listed in GedBas include one called Peter, like Adam's only son (our customs officer), I am wondering if this was him, and he wasn't referred to by his name as this would have led to confusion. This Peter was born January 1866, so he was just two years and a bit younger than Adam.

Anyhow, the nameless uncle had two daughters, one of whom may have been called Amalie. One of them is thought to have died together with her children in a bomb attack in WW2. And we don't know about the other, so there may or may not be living descendants of the uncle from Mainz, whose name may or may not have been Peter Eberle. Or indeed Friedrich Adam Eberle. Or anything else Eberle if he's one of the three unnamed siblings.

Stop press: It just dawned on me that this photo from a photography studio in Mainz probably shows his daughters. (The letter explaining the details mentioned above came with a photo, and this is probably it, especially as we don't know anybody else in Mainz.)

This photo is also on flickr.

Every picture tells a story series so far:

  1. string quartet Wuppertal Elberfeld 1927
  2. greetings from Adamsweiler
  3. Gastwirthschaft Ferd. Weirich
  4. quartet times three
  5. Neumühl 1923
  6. Tangermünde railway station 1889
  7. a singing lesson
  8. bei Wilhelm Geppert
  9. a bakery at Lorsch 1900
  10. Consumgeschäft von Julius Düsselmann
  11. Hanna and Ruth
  12. a young chemist
  13. school's out at Reichenstein, 1886
  14. a patchwork family in East Prussia
  15. the case of the missing grandmother
  16. checkpoint Glaner Brücke 1929(ish)
  17. finding Mimi
  18. five sisters, five decades
  19. happy at home
  20. gone milking
  21. steel workers
  22. field work
  23. what to wear at Porta Westfalica
  24. a classic convertible
  25. at the bottom of the steps
  26. a forester's family
  27. the Kaiser visits Allenburg
  28. teaching the 'deaf-mute'
  29. a guard dog called Schluck
  30. party like it's 1956
  31. the case of the mysterious uncle

Alternatively, you can use this twitter thread as an illustrated table of contents.

In a somewhat roundabout way, this series relates to my research for the family history music memoir I have now completed in a first version.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

a painted quartet

Back in February, I spotted a painting of a string quartet in the window of a charity shop and was almost tempted to buy it. It was a bit more expensive than the sort of stuff I might buy spontaneously, so I didn't and just took a few photos. There were other items blocking the view, so here's the best angle I could get:

I also took a separate photo of the artist's signature, which I only deciphered weeks later, it's Bernard Dunstan. Now it turns out Dunstan was a very prolific and successful painter who died in 2017, aged 97, see his obituary in the Guardian. Apparently he often painted musicians playing, along with the usual sujets such as nudes and Venice.

All of which means, assuming that this was an original painting rather than a print, I really should have bought it on the spot. It was too expensive for a print but would have been a very attractive price for a painting from a recognised artist. Even though his style reminds me of Bonnard, whose work I don't really like that much.

Another reason why this painting has been stuck in my brain for weeks now is that it made me think - using the three photos we have of Heinrich's string quartet, maybe an artist could create a vision of the quartet playing? Does anybody know any artists who might be up to the task?

Monday, March 28, 2022

antarctic under threat

Both Antarctic and Arctic temperatures were breaking records last week, and an Antarctic ice shelf collapsed - plenty of worrying news to underscore the point of my feature (prepared before these events), which is that Antarctica's frozen splendour is under threat from both climate change and invasive species.

Oh, and the discovery of the Endurance was reported the day before my copy deadline, I just about managaged to squeeze that in. Lots going on down there.

My feature is out now:

Pristine Antarctica exposed to change

Current Biology Volume 32, Issue 6, 28 March 2022, Pages R247-R249

Restricted access to full text and PDF download
(will become open access again one year after publication)

Magic link for free access
(first seven weeks only)

The arrival of ships from around the world raises the risk of non-native invasive species establishing populations in Antarctica. (Photo: Jason Auch/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0).)

See also my twitter thread with all this year's CB features.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

fusion and other challenges

As our civilisation is collectively failing every marshmallow test that presents itself, I am not very optimistic about our chances of averting catastrophic climate change. One tiny spark of hope comes from the fusion sector however. There are several startups that claim they can have their small fusion reactors ready to roll out in time to make a difference for climate change. They'd better pull their socks up, as this means they will have to start supplying electricity to the grid by the end of this decade, but part of me wants to believe that this might still be possible.

I rounded up some recent good news from the fusion startups in a new feature which is out now in C&I:

Fusion momentum

Chemistry & Industry Volume 86, Issue 3, March 2022, Pages 26-29

access via:

Wiley Online Library (paywalled)

SCI (members only)

Any access problems give me a shout and I can send a PDF file.

In the same issue, on page 34, you'll also find my review of the book Climate adaptations by the Arkbound foundation, which rounds up some very different responses to climate change from around the world (not involving fusion reactors).

Wiley Online Library (paywalled)

Also in this issue, in the news section on page 15, an update on the Earth Biogenome Project, which aims to sequence every eukaryotic species known to science within 10 years (see also the feature I wrote when it launched in 2018). As challenges go, this is similar in scale to getting fusion to work by 2030.

access via:

Wiley Online Library (paywalled)

SCI (members only)

I'm now running a twitter thread with this year's C&I features here.

On the cover of the magazine, a story about using metals as boosters for antibiotics, a new approach I wasn't aware of, so I should probably read the feature by Jasmin Fox-Skelly. Well, ahem, I would have shown that lovely cover if there was a decent image of it online, but as I can't find one, I'll have to show the first page of my feature instead:

Update 31.3. - here is the cover at last (or most of it):

Update 5.4.2022: Oxford spinout company First Light Fusion, whose unusual approach to fusion I mentioned briefly in this feature and discussed in more detail in the previous fusion feature in 2018, have today announced they have achieved fusion, a result that was independently verified. Press release here.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

party like it's 1956

Every picture tells a story No. 30

The series has so far been only about the generation of our grandparents and earlier ones, mostly because that's the visual memory at risk of extinction, as the people who know the stories behind the pictures are dying out and old photos are at risk of ending up in landfill or, stripped of their meaning, on fleamarkets.

Here, however, the generation of our parents makes an appearance, partying in the flat of Frieda the pianist (her piano is seen in the first two pictures on the right hand side), so apart from the young people's fashions and party games of the 1950s, these pictures also tell us something about how Frieda lived in the last decade of her life, although she doesn't appear:

I first found these photos as strays with no explanation, later also in an album dated to 15.9.1956. Which is nowhere near any relevant birthday, so I have no idea what the occasion was. It also means that both of Frieda's older daughters were already married (and off to France), leaving 17-year old Sigrid the run of the flat.

More party fun coming up:

I'm wondering if that's a fiddle case on the piano, behind the lamp. Leaning to it are two photos, the one on the right shows Sigrid as a toddler with her father who died in 1945 (I don't recognise the other photo). On the wall above the piano, a family portrait framed in the same style as the two we have seen in the piano-playing picture, No. 7. Another photo I'm not showing here because it isn't as good as the others reveals that the conspicuous door next to the piano doesn't lead to another room, but into a mostly empty cupboard.

Moving over to the food and drink side of things (the only item I recognise is the antler-framed barometer on the wall):

And a last one:

Photos taken by Jörg Groß.

This photo is also on flickr.

Every picture tells a story series so far:

  1. string quartet Wuppertal Elberfeld 1927
  2. greetings from Adamsweiler
  3. Gastwirthschaft Ferd. Weirich
  4. quartet times three
  5. Neumühl 1923
  6. Tangermünde railway station 1889
  7. a singing lesson
  8. bei Wilhelm Geppert
  9. a bakery at Lorsch 1900
  10. Consumgeschäft von Julius Düsselmann
  11. Hanna and Ruth
  12. a young chemist
  13. school's out at Reichenstein, 1886
  14. a patchwork family in East Prussia
  15. the case of the missing grandmother
  16. checkpoint Glaner Brücke 1929(ish)
  17. finding Mimi
  18. five sisters, five decades
  19. happy at home
  20. gone milking
  21. steel workers
  22. field work
  23. what to wear at Porta Westfalica
  24. a classic convertible
  25. at the bottom of the steps
  26. a forester's family
  27. the Kaiser visits Allenburg
  28. teaching the 'deaf-mute'
  29. a guard dog called Schluck
  30. party like it's 1956

Alternatively, you can use this twitter thread as an illustrated table of contents.

In a somewhat roundabout way, this series relates to my research for the family history music memoir I have now completed in a first version.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

the view from above

An aerial photo showing my house and dating from 1947 has become available from Historic England, and as the site doesn't let me steal it, I'll just have to embed it here:

That's Marston Road running alongside the right edge of the frame, and Parsons Pleasure near the middle of the left edge.

I've previously summarised what we know about the history of the house here (not much progress since then).

Friday, March 18, 2022

Latin without limits

Some thoughts on

Ad Infinitum – A biography of Latin
by Nicholas Ostler
Harper Press 2007

The remarkable thing about Latin is how little it changed in 2,500 years, so its CV could be told very quickly, as indeed the author does in the last two pages of the book. The exciting story in the rest of the book, however, is mostly about all the other languages that it touched upon or that developed interestingly different trajectories.

So, for instance:

* Etruscan – why don’t we know much about it? The author offers some explanations, and in the appendix a list of presumed Etruscan words that survived in Latin.

* Greek – it is intriguing how the two languages each claiming to represent civilisation co-existed for many centuries and divided the Mediterranean world between them.

* Arabic – fascinating how after the Norman conquest of Sicily from the Arabs and the gradual rollback of Arabic power in Iberia learned texts (including those originally in Greek) were translated from Arabic into Latin and thereby came to lay the foundations of the Renaissance in Europe. Mathematical terms like algorithm and algebra show their Arabic roots.

* Romance languages – by the late 8th century, Latin was a written elite language, coexisting with the local spoken vernaculars drifting away from it. In a similar situation, Arabic and Chinese maintained their unity through the shared written language even though speakers of distant dialects may fail to understand each other. Why did the dialects of Latin crystallise into new languages, even while the elite version was still widely used eg in church and legal texts? According to Ostler, it was kind of an own goal for Alcuin from York, who in 781 was appointed director of Charlemagne’s Palace School in Aachen. He drew up strict rules for standard Latin pronunciation. At the stroke of a pen, those versions spoken in France and Spain were no longer accepted as Latin, so they were free to become their own languages. An immediate practical problem: priests using the standard pronunciation prescribed by Alcuin were harder to understand for their flock, so had to cultivate both Latin and their local Romance language as bilinguals. Using Alcuin's pronunciation rules in the reverse direction, they could easily produce written versions of their local vernaculars. “Romance” interestingly became a word for the type of text typically written in these new languages (hence “roman” in French and German for novel), before being recruited to describe both the language family and the romantic entanglements.

* English – virtually all of the Western Roman Empire now speaks Romance languages, with the interesting exception of Britannia. There isn’t a simple explanation really, and quite a few open questions feed into this, so I can’t answer this here, but the author spends a few pages on this.

* Romanian – in the Eastern Roman Empire, the competition with old rival Greek meant that Latin didn’t stick, even though Roman rule persisted for many centuries longer. The one exception on that side of the map is Romanian.

* Native American languages - it was surprising to me to learn that the Spanish conquest of what we now call Latin America (coined in 1856!) brought quite a few interactions between Latin and the major indigenous languages such as Quechua and Nahuatl. The idea being that to get the approval of the Catholic Church the conquistadores had to create the impression that their endeavour was all about saving more souls for the Lord, which at one stage also required training native people to become Catholic priests, and learn Latin. It was at that stage, in the 16th century, that Latin had a truly global spread that the Romans could not have dreamed about.

* Spanish – in a shocking coincidence, the year 1492, when Columbus reached the Caribbean and the fall of Granada completed the reconquista, also saw the publication of the first grammar of a language that wasn’t Latin or Greek. It described Spanish and with remarkable foresight aimed to provide the language manual for a new empire, following after Rome. Scholars had long written about the classical languages as if they were the only ones worth bothering with. It is shocking in a way that it took until 1492 for people to realise that every language has its own grammar. (Related to this, the infinity of the title alludes to the Roman habit of mistaking their Latin-speaking bubble for the whole world.)

* Science – these days the binomial names introduced by Linnaeus are the kind of Latin I use most regularly. Although the Industrial Revolution coincided with the loss of Latin as a lingua franca across Europe, it has pervaded most of science and technology, often with pseudo-Latin neologisms. The author points out that it took until the mid-20th century before physicists started to call new elementary things by English names like quark, charm.

All in all fascinating stuff, and I am particularly pleased to have learned of a coherent explanation for the origin of Romance languages (even if the author refers to medieval Galician as “Portuguese” – long before Portugal even existed). A minor moan is his unquestioning support for the Christian church – expressions like “heroic missionaries” make me shiver. That aside, this is a compelling history not just of Latin but of Western Europe and its languages.

Cover of the hardback edition I found at a charity shop.

PS the author's Wikipedia entry in Latin is still a stub, you can help to expand it...

Now made another slow-moving thread: books read in 2022.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

a guard dog called Schluck

Every picture tells a story No. 29

Around 1930, Heinrich the cellist was put in charge of the city's Pfandleihhaus (a pawn shop, but run by the city administration) at Elberfeld, which around that time became part of Wuppertal. This episode ended swiftly after he launched an investigation into things gone missing - very mysterious as he and his wife Maria were living above the shop, their German shepherd called Schluck* guarded the property, and there was no sign of forced entry. It turned out that it was Maria who had helped herself to items. She got a psychiatric assessment and Heinrich was moved to a different department of the city administration. And they had to find a new flat (in Gronaustraße, shown here).

Here are Maria and Schluck from the set of Richard's negatives I processed in the 1980s.

Possibly from the same woodland walk, one of Richard with the dog.

* Note on the name: in comicbook language, schluck! would translate as gulp!, but that only emerged several decades later (the translator Erika Fuchs is widely credited for this addition to the German language). So at the time of these photos, the association of Schluck was a small quantity of drink (as much as you can swallow in one gulp), so similar to a sip but maybe a bit more generous.

This photo is also on flickr.

Every picture tells a story series so far:

  1. string quartet Wuppertal Elberfeld 1927
  2. greetings from Adamsweiler
  3. Gastwirthschaft Ferd. Weirich
  4. quartet times three
  5. Neumühl 1923
  6. Tangermünde railway station 1889
  7. a singing lesson
  8. bei Wilhelm Geppert
  9. a bakery at Lorsch 1900
  10. Consumgeschäft von Julius Düsselmann
  11. Hanna and Ruth
  12. a young chemist
  13. school's out at Reichenstein, 1886
  14. a patchwork family in East Prussia
  15. the case of the missing grandmother
  16. checkpoint Glaner Brücke 1929(ish)
  17. finding Mimi
  18. five sisters, five decades
  19. happy at home
  20. gone milking
  21. steel workers
  22. field work
  23. what to wear at Porta Westfalica
  24. a classic convertible
  25. at the bottom of the steps
  26. a forester's family
  27. the Kaiser visits Allenburg
  28. teaching the 'deaf-mute'
  29. a guard dog called Schluck

Alternatively, you can use this twitter thread as an illustrated table of contents.

In a somewhat roundabout way, this series relates to my research for the family history music memoir I have now completed in a first version.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

some notes on the cello suites

Some thoughts on:

Steven Isserlis, The Bach Cello Suites: A companion
Faber & Faber 2021

Considering the length of the work it covers, 6 suites, 36 movements, around two hours worth of music, this companion from star cellist Steven Isserlis is surprisingly slim, just under 200 pages (plus glossary, bibliography etc). More of a very short introduction.

What we get is: a very short potted biography of the composer - reminiscent of the author’s successful children’s books about composers, but with that extra bit of focus provided by the age old mystery of when, how and why Bach wrote six suites for unaccompanied cello, questions which he then addresses in a separate chapter. Then a chapter on the dance forms, one with playing tips, one looking for religious subtext, which I almost skipped, but then discovered it has also bits about numbers, which were more to my taste, and finally one going through the entire work at lightning speed, just dropping little hints here and there.

Isserlis always emphasizes the fun of playing (play like you would sing in the shower, he advises at one point) and apologises each time he goes into more technical questions like bowing patterns.

For me as a hopeless cellist having spent more than a year on the first three suites, this is just a little light reading, an enjoyable summary of many things I knew already, plus a few interesting thoughts that were new to me.

Sitting half way between proper cellists who can play the suites well and the lay audience who only know them from recordings, I may be well placed to appreciate the compromise that was attempted here. I fear the book may be too light for the former group and too heavy for the latter. But it does look nice in any musical book collection. And it certainly helped me get back into the mood for more suite work after the injury-related rest. So, as we go into Plague Year Three, watch this space for more Bach.

Image source

Monday, March 14, 2022

climate impacts and adaptations

The IPCC partial report on impact and adaptations came out on Monday 28th of February, but due to things happening in Ukraine, it only made a very short blip on the news cycle and disappeared again. Right now, several countries are discussing further fossil fuel subsidies and measures to support fossil fuel industries to buffer the effects of the ongoing war and resulting sanctions. Clearly not connecting the dots.

I had been preparing a feature on impacts and adaptations around the world independently of the report which was announced for the end of February, and was kind of expecting the report to be delayed to ensure that it can get some attention, but in the end it wasn't and I had to fit in a last minute paragraph to acknowledge its existence, which I'm sure by now everybody has forgotten about. My focus was on the impacts on Indigenous populations around the world, people who did nothing to cause climate change but are now suffering its most severe consequences.

The resulting feature is out now:

Climate adaptation around the world

Current Biology Volume 32, Issue 5, 14 March 2022, Pages R197-R200

Restricted access to full text and PDF download
(will become open access again one year after publication)

Magic link for free access
(first seven weeks only)

Mais où sont les neiges d'antan? - The lands of the Navajo Nation have suffered severe drought for several decades, caused by reduced rain and snow. (Photo: Chris English/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0).)

See also my twitter thread with all this year's CB features.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

teaching the 'deaf-mute'

Every picture tells a story No. 28

Here is a postcard of the Taubstummenanstalt (school for the deaf-mute) Wriezen, which was sent to our station master at Adamsweiler by some of his daughters and their cousin Hedwig Kauer on October 19, 1901:

The card reads (with a little help from my relatives):

Hrzl Gruß aus WRIEZEN und besten Dank senden euch Vater und Hede K.
auch Johanna und Kätha vielen Dank für Ihre Glückwünsche. Ich
schreibe Ihnen bald. Unsere Wohnung ….
… Auf dem Bilde rechts oben!

The story is, one of the station master's brothers, Friedrich Kauer, born 1849 in Simmern, desperately wanted to be a teacher but was also desperately amusical. As a 19th century teacher was expected to sing with the class, his affliction barred him from the profession. So he got interested in teaching the deaf, which was a new concern that the kingdom of Prussia and then the German Empire recognised. He arrived at the right time, because the Empire built specific schools for the deaf, including the Wilhelm-Augusta-Stift at Wriezen in 1879-81, of which our Friedrich became the headteacher. He may have been there from its foundation, I have been unable to find details of that, and the town administration of Wriezen, which now occupies this very building, didn't reply to my questions. It is a listed monument, but no detailed history there either.

Sadly I don't have any picture of Friedrich at work or even at his school, this studio portrait is the only photo we have of him:

He married Auguste Kaufmann from Marienburg a. d. Nogat:

and they had one daughter, Hedwig (who co-signed the card above). She married a medical doctor from Wriezen called Morgenstern, they also had one daughter. We believe he was Jewish, and unfortunately we don't know what happened to this family in the Holocaust, or if there are any descendants that made it through. The well-preserved Jewish cemetary in Wriezen does not have a record of anybody called Morgenstern or similar. All hints appreciated. (NB Friedrich and the station master Christoph Gottlieb had a Jewish-born great-grandfather, just remote enough so Christoph Gottlieb's five daughters and their children could conveniently forget about him in the Nazi era.)

Poor old Friedrich served as a scapegoat for generations of Kauer descendants claiming they were amusical. While I believe his affliction (seeing that he was highly motivated to teach, he would have found a way to learn music if he had the physical ability), most other cases are dubious. A physical inability to process musical sounds is much rarer than people think. Basically, if you can distinguish music from noise - which is a non-trivial task and requires a lot of hard work from your brain - you are able to learn to make music. Which is an important point I'm making with my musical memoir.

This photo is also on flickr.

Every picture tells a story series so far:

  1. string quartet Wuppertal Elberfeld 1927
  2. greetings from Adamsweiler
  3. Gastwirthschaft Ferd. Weirich
  4. quartet times three
  5. Neumühl 1923
  6. Tangermünde railway station 1889
  7. a singing lesson
  8. bei Wilhelm Geppert
  9. a bakery at Lorsch 1900
  10. Consumgeschäft von Julius Düsselmann
  11. Hanna and Ruth
  12. a young chemist
  13. school's out at Reichenstein, 1886
  14. a patchwork family in East Prussia
  15. the case of the missing grandmother
  16. checkpoint Glaner Brücke 1929(ish)
  17. finding Mimi
  18. five sisters, five decades
  19. happy at home
  20. gone milking
  21. steel workers
  22. field work
  23. what to wear at Porta Westfalica
  24. a classic convertible
  25. at the bottom of the steps
  26. a forester's family
  27. the Kaiser visits Allenburg
  28. teaching the 'deaf-mute'

Alternatively, you can use this twitter thread as an illustrated table of contents.

In a somewhat roundabout way, this series relates to my research for the family history music memoir I have now completed in a first version.

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

antibiotics to onions

The roundup of German pieces November 2021 to March 2022 has everything from the molecules of beer to the remote effects of supernovae, antibiotics to onions, not to forget IVF for rhinos:

Moleküle im Bier!
Nachrichten aus der Chemie Volume 69, Issue 11, November 2021, Page 98
restricted access via Wiley Online Library

Retortenbabys für Nashörner
Nachrichten aus der Chemie Volume 69, Issue 12, December 2021, Pages 62-64
FREE access via Wiley Online Library
related content in English: In vitro conservation

Chemie gegen Antibiotika-Resistenzen?
Nachrichten aus der Chemie Volume 70, Issue 1, Januar 2022, Pages 62-64
FREE access via Wiley Online Library
related content in English: How to avoid a post-antibiotic age

Ausgeforscht: Zum Verständnis der Zwiebel
Nachrichten aus der Chemie Volume 70, Issue 1, Januar 2022, Page 98
FREE access via Wiley Online Library
related content in English: All about allium

Ein Stammbaum aller Arten
Nachrichten aus der Chemie Volume 70, Issue 3, März 2022, Pages 71-73
restricted access via Wiley Online Library
related content in English: A family tree of everything alive

Ausgeforscht: Schuld war nur die Supernova
Nachrichten aus der Chemie Volume 70, Issue 3, März 2022, Page 106
restricted access via Wiley Online Library

have a beer - but be careful, there might be molecules in there, thousands of them.
image source

Thursday, March 03, 2022

the Kaiser visits Allenburg

Every picture tells a story No. 27

When I prepared the entry with young Auguste Faust posing outside the cooperative at Allenburg (Kreis Wehlau, East Prussia) where she worked around 1919, I went through a slideshow of 170 or so old photos of the town to identify the building, which I eventually did, it's right on the market square and appears in several postcards including this one.

In the process I got to see quite a few photos showing how badly the town including its historic church with the iconic tower featuring stepped gables was damaged during WW1, which was a surprise to me. There had been hardly any incursions of foreign troops onto German territory during that war (which was part of the reason the stab-in-the-back myth worked), but it turns out Allenburg was among the tiny number of exceptions. It was conquered by Russian forces in 1914 and suffered severe damage before it was taken back. (Here is a video linking some of these old photos in chronological order.)

Learning all this was a lightbulb moment in that it explained another old photo we have among Auguste's belongings, namely a postcard showing Kaiser Wilhelm II visiting Allenburg, with a backdrop of buildings in a less than presentable shape (although not completely destroyed). Not sure about the date, but a separate photo of the empress Auguste Victoria viewing the destroyed church at Allenburg is dated 30.7.1915, so I'd assume the Kaiser was in town on the same day or perhaps earlier. I had always wondered why on earth somebody would print a postcard of the Kaiser being driven past some derelict buildings. Now I know, and here it is:

One of Auguste's siblings sent her this card by mail in July 1925 (more than two years after she moved to Hamborn, and long after the Kaiser's empire had ceased to exist), just to say I'm ok how are you? and she kept the card among the photos of her young relatives who served in the war and may not have come back. So I gather it must have meant something to her beyond the trivial message. I wondered whether she actually saw the Kaiser visiting. Heck, as there may well be a hundred people in the photo, and the town had fewer than 2000 residents, there was a reasonable chance that she was in the crowd pictured.

So I did a high resolution scan (1200 dpi is the best I can do) and zoomed in, and I think the woman in the white blouse just behind the emperor's car, right in the centre of this crop:

fits quite well with the portraits we have of Auguste at that time. So unless somebody can prove me wrong, I'll just assume that's her in the picture and this is the reason why she treasured this otherwise not very presentable postcard.

I may be wrong of course, but it's just such a satisfying solution to a question that has troubled me for years - I'll just cling to it.

This photo is also on flickr.

Every picture tells a story series so far:

  1. string quartet Wuppertal Elberfeld 1927
  2. greetings from Adamsweiler
  3. Gastwirthschaft Ferd. Weirich
  4. quartet times three
  5. Neumühl 1923
  6. Tangermünde railway station 1889
  7. a singing lesson
  8. bei Wilhelm Geppert
  9. a bakery at Lorsch 1900
  10. Consumgeschäft von Julius Düsselmann
  11. Hanna and Ruth
  12. a young chemist
  13. school's out at Reichenstein, 1886
  14. a patchwork family in East Prussia
  15. the case of the missing grandmother
  16. checkpoint Glaner Brücke 1929(ish)
  17. finding Mimi
  18. five sisters, five decades
  19. happy at home
  20. gone milking
  21. steel workers
  22. field work
  23. what to wear at Porta Westfalica
  24. a classic convertible
  25. at the bottom of the steps
  26. a forester's family
  27. the Kaiser visits Allenburg

Alternatively, you can use this twitter thread as an illustrated table of contents.

In a somewhat roundabout way, this series relates to my research for the family history music memoir I have now completed in a first version.

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