This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
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Winter Sports in old Austria

21 January 2022

 It's a universal trait
that humans like to go fast.
And sliding down an ice covered track
in a bobsled is certainly one way to achieve it.

This colorful postcard of a four man & one woman bobsleigh taking a dramatic downhill curve was produced by one of my favorite postcard artists, Fritz Schönpflug ( 1873 – 1951), an Austrian artist who created hundreds of clever, humorous caricatures of Viennese and Austrian life. Despite the wintry scene this card was mailed in the spring on 31 MAJ (May) 1920 from Hungary, and the writing is, I believe, in Hungarian. Notice that the fellow on the right is taking a picture of the sled with a box camera.

* * *

Schönpflug painted a similar picture of another bobsled with three men and a woman going to the other side. Again he has a man to one side trying to take a photo. I wouldn't expect that co-ed crews were very common in early 20th century Austria, but the woman's purple head scarf adds an appealing touch of excitement. Under Schönpflug's signature is 909, meaning 1909, which followed a common Austrian/Hungarian convention of leaving off the first numeral.

The postmark is dated 27 November 1910 from Bayreuth in northern Bavaria, Germany. It is the city best known for its annual Bayreuth Festival where the operas of German composer Richard Wagner are performed in its grand Festspielhaus.

* * *

Risking a tumble in a bobsled like the quartet in this next postcard is part of the thrill of going fast. But I'm not sure what it has to do with wishing someone Fröhliche Weihnachten! ~ Happy Christmas! Some things are best left lost in translation. 
This card was never mailed, but Schönpflug's distinctive crazy signature has (1)909 at the end. 

* * *

No matter the vehicle or sport, drinking and driving are never a good idea. But that rule doesn't seem to apply it you are just a passenger like the backseat rider on this two-man bobsled. The poor hapless driver, on the other hand, may need a drink when the two finally get down the slope.  

I can't work out where the card was sent from, as the postmark ROTTACH-E doesn't match any modern or old German place name, but it was posted to Berlin on 26 November 1908. I think the writer's language is French.


I first added Fritz Schönpflug's postcards to my collection because of his lighthearted depiction of Viennese musicians. But I've since acquired many more because, unlike the photographers of his time, his artist's eye could capture color, movement, and other peculiarities of the people of his time. Though he continued painting into the 1930s, the best of Schönpflug's postcards preserve a unique record of Austrian society just before the collapse of the Hapsburg royal dynasty in 1918. 
Click the following link to see more of my Schönpflug collection.

To demonstrate the thrill of bobsled speed,
here is a 1932 video
from the British Pathé archives.
It's entitled:
"America. The Sport ... Dangerous! 
Germany's crack Bobsled Team crashes at 65 mph
during tryout for Olympic Games."




This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where winter in a city park
can be fun too.


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