Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Rail Tunnel to Canada

For twenty years before Detroit was connected to Canada via a road tunnel, the only physical link was a rail tunnel built in 1909-10 by the Michigan Central Railroad. It was clearly a thing of wonder given the variety of postcards recording its scenic attractions.  There’s a certain spatial complexity with a tunnel portal located beneath an over bridge with busy tracks on either side, but hardly enough to make it a place of pilgrimage. Freight trains still run through the tunnel which is now owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway although the surrounding infrastructure has largely disappeared leaving a wasteland with even less to commend it.  According to Wikipedia the area is now extensively patrolled by Homeland Security, the Detroit Police and railroad security agents. More to follow on the city of Detroit.


Friday, 25 September 2020

Road Tunnel to Canada

There are two ways to drive from Detroit in the US to Windsor in Canada. The most favoured route is across the Ambassador Bridge (1929) that sails high above the Detroit River that separates the two nations. An alternative route is via the Detroit - Canada Tunnel (1930) - a southbound journey through an immersed tube just short of a mile in length.  Detroit is by far the larger of the two cities and some of these postcards underline the point. One shows the imposing Detroit skyline with a graphic representation of the tunnel approach while another depicts the tunnel in cross section with the humble cluster of low-rise buildings on the left, contrasted with the magnificence of Detroit on the right. Both postcards of the tunnel interior are focused on the mystical point where two countries meet at a subterranean border. Last is a dingy card view of the tunnel entrance on the Canadian side in a depressing setting between two barrack-like hotels. Not much improvement since by the look of the Streetview image.


Thursday, 17 September 2020

Parisian Sightlines - Boulevard de Bonne-Nouvelle

This tall and slender Parisian corner building is wedged into the space between rue de Cléry and rue de la Lune at the junction with Boulevard de Bonne-Nouvelle.  The photo was taken from the corner of rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis on the opposite side of the boulevard.  The lower floors of the corner building are visible in the vintage postcard view below - based on a photo taken from the same location at a slightly different angle.  The streetscape is little altered in over a hundred years although the proliferation of advertising (LU Biscuits being the most prominent) and signage has been much reduced.  The second photo was taken from rue de Cléry and offers a sidelong glimpse of the triumphal Porte de Saint-Denis hemmed in by surrounding building - it’s a great example of the visual pleasures to be found when exploring side streets of modest distinction but possessed of wonderful sightlines. The last two postcards reproduce the scene from the corner of rue de la Lune where the view of Porte Saint-Denis is uninterrupted.  Two decades separates the postcards, the monochrome example being the earlier.  Brioche de la Lune continued to be available from the Patisserie du Soleil but these formerly elegant premises today stand boarded up and empty.


Friday, 11 September 2020

Monocle Men

Monocle Men were never short of employment opportunities in the Universe of Brand Characters. Their association with good breeding and their foppish tendencies made them ideal product ambassadors. Rea Irvin’s creation for the New Yorker, Eustace Tilley, epitomised the air of effortless superiority that a monocle confers. The updated Tilley from 2018 was drawn by Malika Favre. Heinz, of soup and ketchup fame, chose a monocled tomato (known as Mr. Aristocrat) to spearhead their advertising campaigns in the 1930s.  Often deployed in multiple, the top hats were conventional class signifiers but the rubicund features sent out a very mixed message suggestive of short temper and irritability - not the qualities looked for in a brand mascot. The breezy monocled bonhomie of the Striding Man in red frock coat and polished black boots has been around since 1909, embodying the virtues of Johnnie Walker whisky to the present day.  Mr. Brandyman does the same job for Martell with a brandy glass for a head - hand drawn in cartoon form, his raffish demeanour is amplified by the cigar or cigarette that’s never far from his lips.  In 1919 Sharps Toffee introduced Sir Kreemy Knut (biography here) who, with bow tie, briefcase and swagger stick, launched his campaign to ruin the nation’s dental health with caramelised sugar.  A final mention for Mr. Peanut whose contribution to monocled marketing has been featured extensively on this blog, most recently here in 2012.