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100 Years Ago: January 1923


This is the ninety-sixth installment of my rehashing of a one-hundred-year-old National Geographic Magazine.



The first article in this month’s issue is entitled “The Island of Sardinia and Its People” and was written by Prof. Guido Costa.  It has the internal subtitle, “Traces of Many Civilizations to Be Found in the Speech Customs, and Costumes of This Picturesque Land.”  The article contains sixty-three black-and-white photographs taken by Clifton Adams, Staff Photographer, National Geographic Magazine.  Eighteen of those photos are full-page in size.  It also contains sixteen colorized photographs to be discussed later.  Lastly, the article contains two sketch map, one almost full-page of the Island of Sardinia on page 4, and a small on of Italy on page 5, almost serving as an inset.  Note: this pseudo-inset is one of the few sketch maps that Philip Riviere missed in his effort to scan all things map related.

Sketch Map courtesy of Philip Riviere

Sardinia was the hub of the western Mediterranean.  Along the trade route spokes which bound that rocky island to surrounding lands, a thousand diverse influences came to flavor the life and color the character of the Sardinians.  From the time when Phoenician ships found in Sardinia a counterpart of their home port, the island west of Italy had been overrun by one race after another.  Three continents had left their impress on the life and features of the people.  While the island was open to outside influences, the mountains had segregated the various parts that, in 1923, each village had a flavor of its own.  Sardinia was unspoiled.  The banditry of the open road had become a mere tradition.  Hotels were few and trains were leisurely.  But the author felt that those discomforts were worth it.  He was able to share the life of the people, who were hospitable though poor.  Poor in worldly goods, Sardinia was rich in welcome for visitors.  European clothes were displacing the brilliant costumes for which Sardinia was rightly famous.  Cagliari, citadel-crowned, jangled with tram-cars, which served the lower town, with its steel-framed buildings beside wide thoroughfares.  Automobiles were disputing the roads with slow-paced oxcarts on crude wooden wheels.  Irrigation works were underway, and the author foresaw the turbulent streams being impounded in great inland lakes, with the country electrified, and vast regions reclaimed for agriculture.  But, in 1923, the things were still primitive in parts.  The diminutive donkey and the patient oxen slowly plodded the roads which the Romans built when Rome was mistress of the world.  The greater portion of the island was covered with low mountains, most of which had a round, smooth shape.  The southeast regions had peaks of Alpine grandeur, but the highest mountain on the island, the Gennargentu, was more imposing for its mass than for its altitude of 6,233 feet.  Its summit, which commanded a wonderfully extensive view, was easily reached on horseback.

Along the eastern coast of Sardinia ran a mountain chain which made the island difficult to access from that side.  No safe natural harbor or well-sheltered bay was to be found between Cape Carbonara and Aranci Bay.  On the western side, the mountains were gentler, and there were situated the most beautiful gulfs of all the island – the Gulf of Palmas and the Porto Conte near Alghero.  The most extensive Sardinia plain was that which stretched northwest from Cagliari to Oristano, called the Campidano.  In the spring, the uncultivated tracts of that plain were covered with the most beautiful wildflowers.  During the summer months, a pitiless sun dried and burnt everything, and the plain, covered with a yellow mantle of dried herbs, took on a desolate appearance.  From June to the end of October, no rain fell on the island.  Two other plains, less extensive, lied in the upper part of the island – the Plain of Nurra in the northeast and the Campo of Ozieri, near Chilivani.  Both had a different aspect from the Campinado.  With those exceptions, Sardinia was but a network of mountain ranges, an uninterrupted mass of round-topped, treeless hills, green and lovely in the spring, yellowish brown and desolate in the summer.  One would have expected many rivers in an island of many mountains, but that was not the case.  Owing to the lack of rain for several months, Sardinian streams hardly deserved the name rivers.  In winter, after drenching rain, they would become torrents; but in summer they would dry up into little rivulets of muddy water.  At places, four-arched iron bridges spanned a narrow ribbon of water, the width showing the span of the wet-season river.

The four main rivers affected the welfare and prosperity of the entire island.  The Tirso ran from the granite tableland of Budduso, for 84 miles, to the Oristano Bay.  The Flumendosa rose in the mountains of Barbagia and entered the Tyrrhenian Sea near Muravera, on Corallo Bay.  The Coghinas had its source in the mountains of the Marghine and emptied into the Asinara Gulf.  The Temo entered the sea near Bosa.  In the central part of the island an imposing dam, 235 feet high and 250 feet thick, had been constructed.  It was designed to collect the waters of the Tirso to form an artificial lake 12 miles long and 40 miles in circumference.  Electric turbines would supply current throughout a large part of the island.  The overflow was to be collected in a large reservoir near Fordongianus, and by means of three canals, the waters of the Tirso would flow through the plains, watering an extensive tract of cultivable ground.  The turbines were already producing electricity, in 1923, both for lighting and industrial purposes.  The Flumendosa, though shorter than the Tirso, was more impressive, in its volume of water and the picturesqueness of its banks.  It flowed between barren hills, but during the summer, its banks were covered with oleander shrubs.  The river retained a considerable volume of water even in the hottest months.  The landscape in that part of the island was typically Sardinian.  Villages were situated far apart.  Occasionally, a flock of sheep studded the side of a hill.  The highroad, in splendid condition for motoring despite numerous curves and hairpin turns, ran alone the side of the hills.  Another stream which entered the sea on the western coast was the Temo, on whose banks the town of Bosa was built.  It was more like a river than any other in Sardinia.  Boats with wide-spread sails could ascend the current for almost two miles.  The same firm that built the Tirso dam had been commissioned to build similar reservoirs for the Coghinas, Flumendosa, and Temo rivers.

Along the Sardinian coast, chiefly in the southern provinces, were considerable sheets of water, known as stagni di mare (sea pools).  Cagliari was surrounded by such pools, which contained salt water, so mosquito larvae could not live in them.  The lake of Santa Gilla, near Cagliari, formed a striking feature of the landscape, and hosted wild ducks and other waterfowl.  It was a favorite spot for flamingos that emigrated from Africa to spend the hottest months near Cagliari.  The stern Sardinian coast, with its spurs and cliffs, presented an abrupt eastern wall with few indentations.  On the western side, the shore had a gentle slope as far as the Gulf of Alghero and Porto Conte, the latter, however, was surrounded by high cliffs which formed the Cape Caccia, site of the famous Neptune Grotto.  The main island was surrounded by small isles, of which Sant’ Antioco was the largest.  A narrow tongue of land, with the aid of a short bridge built by the Romans, connected it with the mainland.  Next came the island of San Pietro, on which was Carloforte, center of the tuna fisheries in Sardinia.  Off the northeast corner there was a group of small islands, the most important being La Maddalena and Caprera, called the Sacred Island.  There lived and died the great Italian patriot, Garibaldi.  Many other unimportant islets were scattered around the Sardinian coast.  Sardinia was rich in prehistoric remains.  No part of the island was devoid of those quaint old monuments.  Those nuraghe were un-mortared megalithic constructions shaped like truncated cones.  They probably served as fortresses, watch towers, and homes for the tribal chiefs.  [See: “Little-Known Sardinia,” August 1916, National Geographic Magazine.]  There were more than 3,000 of those prehistoric structures on the island, many in an excellent state of preservation.  Other ancient ruins, from the bronze age, were the witches’ houses and the giants’ sepulchers which were tombs or temples to ancient deities.

The Roman occupation left interesting remains.  Both in the Northern and the Southern Province there were relics of bridges, temples, and aqueducts.  Cagliari boasted and amphitheater almost entirely excavated in the natural rock.  Called by the Romans, Carales, it was in ancient times, as it was in 1923, the principal town in the island.  Of such Roman towns a Nora, Sulci, Olbia, and Tharros, all situated on the coast, only a few remains could be traced.  The author was saddened by how desolate they were compared to Roman times, when they were full of life.  Such medieval monuments as Sardinia possessed were in complete ruin.  Of the castles, only a few moldering walls remained.  A ruin, a name, a legendary history of doubtful accuracy – those were all that remained of the castles which once held the summits of the Sardinian hills.  The age of Pisan domination was not a happy one for Sardinia.  The people were imposed upon and taxed.  Nevertheless, the island was indebted to that city for its art.  Many Pisan churches of exquisite Tuscan architecture were scattered throughout the island.  Two castles built in the Middle Ages were noteworthy.  Their owners were mentioned in Dante’s “Divine Comedy.”  The first was the Castle of Goceano, built in 1127 by Gonario.  The castle stood in a very picturesque position and commanded a splendid view of the whole district.  The other castle, situated near Iglesias, was called Aqua Fredda (cold water) and belonged to the powerful Pisan family of the Counts of Gherardeesca.  Other castles, such as that of Malaspina, overlooking Bosa, and Castle Doria, in the Northern Province, were in a state of utter neglect and desolation.  The Vandal invasions, the destruction of the monasteries, the lack of books, all made the history of Sardinia in the Middle Ages a cloudy one.  The history of Sardinia was one invasion after another – Phoenicians, Greeks, Africans, Carthage, Romans, Vandals, Moors, Pisa, Genoa, Aragon, and Spain.  She was French and German, but in 1923, she was Italian.

Sardinia would always be Italian.  Her sons had a strong attachment for their motherland.  In Sardinia, which was small in comparison with the countries by which it was surrounded, the author was impressed by the variety of scenery within a limited field.  Each village had different manners, habits, and dialects.  The infinite variety of manners, speech, and costumes enhanced the pleasure of his tour.  The town of Alghero resembled Catalonia, in Spain, from which its colony originated.  Sassari, the capital of the Northern Province, was surrounded by olive groves.  Rosello was long famous for its fountains.  It was founded as a Pisan colony.  La Maddalena was a Corsican colony.  Carloforte was a pure Genoese colony.  The Campidano villages were approach by long, dusty, sunburnt roads, widespread between hedges of prickly pear cactus.  The houses were built of sunbaked bricks.  The village streets were broad and sunny.  At short distances, the flanking walls were interrupted by arched gateways, with large doors.  Those doorways constituted one of the characteristic features of a Campidano village.  In an open space, on the outskirts of a village, was the noria, on a circular stone platform, where a blindfolded ass went round and round, yoked to a wooden bar which turned the water wheel.  The device was frequently used in Spain.  The courtyard of a Campidano home was always cluttered with quaint Sardinian carts.  In 1923, the oxcart was still found on all Sardinian roads.  The roads of Sardinia, once deserted and silent, were traversed by many motor busses.  Every part of the island was easily reached in a public automobile.  The oxcarts did not break down like the automobiles did.  In the central regions of the island the carts were smaller and had wheels of solid wood., just like the ones used in Roman times, twenty centuries prior.  The houses were almost always one-storied buildings, with no windows looking upon the street.

A visit to the villages situated in the northern part of Sardinia and a look at a Campidano house were sufficient to reveal the great differences which existed between the northern and southern parts of the island.  As soon as one quit the plain and ascended the first hills, the appearance of nature suddenly changed, and before reaching the highest summits, one had passed through so many diverse regions, had been charmed by so many different costumes, that he got the impression of having made a very long journey.  Here was Gallura, with its granite peaks and cork trees. With villages overhung by rocks.  There was Aggius, with its long range of saw-toothed peaks; Tempio, with its houses made of granite; and Nuoro, which combined modern comforts with ancient customs.  The mountain landscapes had incredible contrasts of color – rude valleys ad lovely glens, orchards and gardens, and long tracts of enclosures, limited by fences in the north and by cactus hedges in the south, with flocks of goats pasturing on barren slopes.  Then there were Oliena, with the resplendent costumes of its inhabitants, and Fonni, Orgosolo, and Desulo, the sad village lost in the solitude of woods, where dwelt the most beautiful women in Sardinia, all dressed in red.  In the district called Ogliastra were Lanusei, Arzana, and Villagrande, villages which commanded magnificent views – a series of hills as far as the sea.  On the western side was the marshy district of Oristano, and near at hand Cabras, a village situated on the shore of a large pool, rich in fisheries but unhealthy with malaria.  The villages in that part of Sardinia were almost all in miserable condition; but when the great irrigation works were finished, it was believed that the dreaded malaria would disappear.  One of the most important operations in Sardinian villages was making bread, for it was the chief food of the peasants.  From village to village, the shape in which the bread was fashioned varied considerably.

 In autumn, flies were a great nuisance in Sardinia.  They covered every inch of the kitchen tables and every particle of food.  In the villages, the people were rather inquisitive.  They gathered around the tourist and plied him with questions.  Desulo, particularly the women, were extremely curious.  Of a tourist carried a camera, he was swarmed by children.  Pretty girls often objected to having their picture taken; they feared they would appear on a picture postcard.  When asked to pose, they pretended to be shy, and giggle and cover their faces, and say no.  But they did not stir or run away, and almost always give in and pose.  In the mountain districts and in parts of the north, the cloth of which the peasants’ costumes were made was woven at home.  The spinning was done by the women.  The warp was stretched on the ground to prepare it for the loom, at which women and girls worked all day, singing their melancholy songs to accompanying click-click of the sley.  One variety of fabric so woven was called orbacia.  It was strong and nearly waterproof.  The Italian navy and sportsmen bought a great deal of it for suits and overcoats.  For women’s dresses, the cloth was dyed black, scarlet, or dark red.  The peasants used vegetable dyes from berries, and neither rain nor sun could fade the colors.  From varicolored wool, the Sardinian women weaved carpets and saddlebags which were wonderful in variety of pattern and combination of color.  From June to October, the Sardinian calendar contained many festivals.  Saints, both male and female, were held in high esteem.  Religion was the cause for releasing the flood of music, pageantry, and revelry.  Whole families thought of the feast two or three months in advance.  They hoarded every penny and endured great want just to spend, in one happy day, what they had accumulated during the weeks of glad discomfort.

They traveled from distant places in carts covered with tunnel-like awnings and drawn by bullocks or horses.  The furnishings were simple.  A pair of homemade chairs were securely fastened to the sides of the cart for the mistress and any other important personage of the household.  The others used mattresses or cushions.  The cart was cluttered with household treasures: saddlebags filled with cheeses, bread, potatoes, lambs or kids ready-slaughtered but not yet skinned, caldrons, cooking pots, and children of all ages, not to mention a lean, underfed cur, which was compelled to trot under the cart being tied by a short rope.  No springs deadened the violent jolts which bad roads imparted to the vehicle; but the travelers were enthusiastic and happy.  When the party finally arrived at the spot where the feast was to take place, they were in the best of spirits and eager for all the diversions the feast might offer.  Religious duties were not overlooked.  Wax candles were devotedly taken to the church and placed before the shrine by the housewives, who remained all morning on their knees before a picture or statue of the saint, while the rest of the party was busy preparing dinner.  All the cooking was done in the open air.  A fire was made and long wooden spits, on which entire kids were put to roast, were turned between two stones before the fire.  Casks of wine were put in the shade.  Cheese, bread, and vegetables were taken out of bags, and when, at noon, mass was over and the procession had taken the saint back to the church, the banqueting began and great merriment reigned.  After dinner, the music began.  The accordion was popular, so was a kind of pipe called the launedda.  Songs were heard everywhere.  In the late afternoon the people got ready for the dance.  The festivals took place in small churches a little distance from the village.  They were more or less picturesque depending on the costumes worn by the men and women, and the beauty of the surrounding scenery.

In the Ballo Tondo, or Duru Duru, the dancing partners joined hand in a circle and wind to the left.  That dance was but a memory of long-forgotten rites.  The dancers held their bodies erect, the feet moved continuously, and all performed on tiptoe.  In the two most important towns of Sardinia, some old religious festivals had survived and were still popular.  At Sassari, on August 14th, a great procession took place.  After the plague of 1582, the people made a solemn vow to carry huge wax candles in a procession to be placed, lighted, around the statue of the Madonna di Mezz Agosto.  Those candles proofed expensive, so cheaper wooden substitutes were used in 1923.  Every corporation and trade union had its own candle.  The participants held large silk ribbons attached to the head of the column.  It was a beautiful sight to see all those silk ribbons glittering in the last rays of sunset.  No priests were in the procession.  At the rear walked the mayor of the town, surrounded by council members and guards in full dress uniforms.  Another religious festival, the most renowned of all, was the festa of S. Eficio, the patron saint of the Province of Cagliari.  The ceremony took the form of a procession to and from Pula, a village on the Gulf of Cagliari, where legend said the saint was martyred.  A statue of the saint was carried in a coach drawn by a team of oxen.  The procession was escorted by a cavalcade in the costumes of the ancient militia.  The ceremony took place on the first of May, and the saint came back to Cagliari after sunset on the fourth.  Great efforts were made to maintain those festivals unaltered, but the once keen enthusiasm for them has become lukewarm.

In a land that did not possess many hotels or inns, the system of receiving travelers was more than custom; it was almost a law.  Hospitality was one of the strongest traits of the Sardinians.  A stranger was always received with the utmost cordiality.  Sardinian hospitality had always been spoken of in the highest terms by authors and travelers.  It had come down from Roman days, when a shrine to Jupiter Hospitalis was erected in every village.  If one reached a village on a feast day, they were never left alone.  Someone was sure to come and invite him over for dinner.  If he had a letter of introduction for someone of importance in the village, he was received almost regally.  Not accustomed to such treatment, foreigners wanted to pay.  They were forbidden because the guest was considered a sacred person.  In some villages, an inn was managed by a person who in most cases was not a native of the place.  In such places a stranger was sometimes overcharged, from a Sardinian point od view.  Guests were so rare and expenses so heavy that the business was not a profitable one.  If there was more tourism, inns and hotels would provide more modern comforts.  As it was, Sardinian inns were not good, and there were few hotels on the island.  The costumes wore by the women varied from village to village. The most artistic were found in the northern districts. The women of Osilo wore the riches dresses on the island.  In Nuoro, the women retained the old fashions unaltered.  At Oliena, Fonni, Desulo, and Aritzo the costumes varied greatly in both color and pattern, but Sardinian costumes were rapidly disappearing.  Everyone, especially the girls, wanted to dress in modern style.  Although costumes were a family heirloom, handed down from mother to daughter, they did not last forever.  A bride in 1923 could not afford to have one made.  Since the war, the prices for brocade, silk, and jewels had risen fivefold.  Moreover, the peasants in the villages sent their sons and daughters to the nearest town to attend secondary education, where they learn of Paris fashion.

A visit to Iglesias was interesting.  The visitor found himself in a Sardinia of which he had read nothing.  Mines dotted the region, tall chimneys streaked the sky with smoke, machines made the valleys echo with noise.  The country was crossed with electric wires fixed to iron towers.  The main road was traversed by a great number of modern vehicles.  This was industrial Sardinia, so little known abroad.  Cagliari had all the appearances of a modern continental city of the size of Pisa.  Near the harbor, a long, wide street lined with palaces looked out upon the sea.  Upon that street opened two broad thoroughfares which led up a steep ascent to the upper quarters.  The town had monuments, elegant shops, theaters, bars, clubs, a good school system, a university, and a public library.  Cagliari had a wonderful beach, which the people used in summer.  Cagliari’s towers, built by the Pisans in 1300, were still standing, perfectly preserved, in 1923.  The gates to the Castello quarters were worth visiting.  The town had industries, but they were quite modern.  Sassari, in its new quarters, was clean and lovely, an ordinary Italian town.  That city also had industries, most important of which were tanneries renowned through France and Italy.  Tempio manufactured the products of its oak forests into cork.  Home industries were also thriving.  At Bosa, the women made very beautiful lace after old patterns.  At Castel Sardo, in the north, and at Sinnai and Settino in the south, the industry of basket-making was well advanced.  At Isili, in the Province of Cagliari, fine carpets are woven on hand looms and sold everywhere.

The major portion of Sardinia was mountainous.  Once covered in forests, they were mainly barren and desolate.  Continental speculators cut down the forest and converted the wood into charcoal.  The Italian Government and the Sardinians were very slow to reforest the cut-over areas.  Only one-eighth of the land was under cultivation.  The cultivated ground was well tilled.  Mechanical implements were commonly used.  The old Sardinian handmade wooden plow was used only in the mountainous districts.  The large reservoir of the Tirso, and the other projected dams would supply necessary water in the dry season, and be a boon for agriculture.  Of livestock, sheep and goats constituted the majority, and left to pasture where nature provided food.  The main feature of a Sardinian landscape was its solitude.  The whole population of the island was less than that of Naples.  The few people were scattered over a large territory, with villages sometimes more than fifteen miles apart.  Only Cagliari had a comparatively dense population.  The lack of manpower was felt in all activities.  The islands population had been further diminished through the battlefield losses of the World War.  The Sardinians were united in their efforts to improve their land, especially since the World War.  The Sardinians knew the Americans, the Star-Spangled Banner was everywhere.  The American Red Cross gave assistance of every kind to Sardinia.  The author felt it was time (in 1923) for Americans to know the land of the nuraghe and learn to appreciate her.



As mentioned above, the first article contains a set of sixteen full-page colorized black-and-white photographs documented on the cover as “SIXTEEN PAGES OF ILLUSTRATIONS IN FULL COLOR” even though they were also counted in the first article’s “81 Illustration.”  These plates are numbered I through XVI in Roman numerals and represent page numbers 31 through 46.  The set has an internal title: “Sardinian Smiles.”

A list of the caption titles for the plates is as follows:

  • “A Village Beauty at the Foot of the Bruncu Spina”
  • “Men of the Dorgali Neighborhood on the East Coast of Sardinia”
  • “Making Flour in a Sardinian Home”
  • “A Young Merchant of Iglesias”
  • “A Sardinian Woman of Desulo”
  • “The Castle of Burgos in Northern Sardinia”
  • “A Village Hardware Store in Sardinia”
  • “The Level Gaze of a Woman of Desulo”
  • “An Old Sardinian in the Island’s Chief Mining District”
  • “A Mediterranean Pastoral Scene”
  • “Monday Morning at the Municipal Washing Place in Burgos”
  • “Bringing Mountain Water from the Fountain”
  • “Two Old Cronies of Iglesias”
  • “Three of the Famous Costumes of Osilo”
  • “A Sardinian Grandfather”
  • “Peasants of the Campidano at the Fiesta of Santa Greca”



The second article in this month’s issue is entitled “Vienna: A Capital Without a Nation” and was written by Solita Solano, author of “Constantinople To-day” in the National Geographic Magazine.  It has a slightly modified internal title with an “Em” dash (long dash) replacing the colon.  The article contains nineteen black-and-white photographs, of which four are full-page in size.  One of those full-page photos serves as the frontispiece for this article.  The article also contains eight full-page engravings, to be discussed later, embedded within the article, and included in the “27 Illustrations” documented on the cover for this article.

Bankrupt Vienna had nothing left except an incomparable geographic situation on the Danube.  Until recently one of the richest and gayest cities on the Continent and Center of Europe’s oldest empire, she was in 1923 the capital of a few mountains and rivers that occupied a small corner of her former domains.  The dissolution of an immense polyglot empire had brought ruin to Austria and put Vienna in pawn to the world.  On the edge of shriveled little republic of six million insolvents, Vienna had been waiting for a rescue party and living on alms.  While waiting, her currency had dropped until in 1923 it took many thousands of her twenty-cent pieces to make one American dollar.  Surrounded by countries that were nursing ancient grudges against her, dependent on them for nearly all her food and fuel, and with only worthless money with which to pay her bills – this was the fate which had brought almost unparalleled national misery upon a highly civilized people in a famous center of learning, art, and culture.  Despite her tragic atmosphere, Vienna was still a beautiful city, with the cosmopolitan charm of Paris.  In area, she could compete with London, for her limits embraced more than 105 square miles.  The city, however was not built up to its limits, but was surrounded by a belt of meadows and wooded hills known as the Wiener Wald.  Many of its trees had been cut down in the past three years of fuel shortage.  The Danube, which had given Vienna her important commercial position, divided into several arms after leaving the limestone hills above the city, and a picturesque winding canal diverted some of the water through the northwest part of the town to the warehouses, filled with foreign food for the hungry population.  No finer buildings could be found in Europe than in that city of the Hapsburgs.  Several races labored for more than a thousand years, and artistry of many peoples were represented there.  The buildings were a record of the changing taste of western civilization.

Baroque architecture, which came to grief in Rome and rose to perfection in Vienna, had many brilliant examples, particularly in the Inner City.  This was the oldest part of Vienna and was enclosed by the famous Ring-Strasse, a boulevard 187 feet wide, with double rows of trees.  Within or on the Ring were the imperial palace buildings, the great Gothic cathedral of St. Stephen, the University, the Parliament building – built like a Greek temple, the twin museums, the Exchange Building, the Opera, and the Hoffman Theater.  All the boulevards, avenues, and walkways in the parks were lined with horse-chestnut trees.  Outside the Ring were many palaces, embassies, chateaux, museums, hotels, and handsome stone apartment-houses.  In that splendid setting an economic upheaval had completely overturned every normal social condition and changed the destinies of all the classes of the population.  The workingman was now on top of the heap and would be provided for as long as the Social Democrats were able to keep the government running.  Next down the new economic scale came the titled aristocrats and other upper classes.  Many of those had spent their principal since the revolution and had come to bitter poverty.  Lowest on the scale was the middle class – the real tragedy of Vienna.  Forming a fourth of the population and including the intelligentsia, that entire class, to whom the city in large measure owed its greatness, was beggared, hopeless, and apparently doomed to extinction.  The plight of that middle class was the last thing the traveler saw.  He may even have left the city with the impression that all was going well.

There was nothing in the hotel district on the Ring to indicate that here was a city that was running along on mere hope.  He was served plenty of good food.  He saw many luxuries in the shop windows priced beyond his pocketbook.  Opera tickets were unobtainable.  Gay crowds that bet freely would surround him at the races.  He passed flower stands piled with roses and fruit vendors who had mounds of hothouse strawberries.  He saw drab corners blazing with oranges, the first to have come to Vienna in eight years. If he wished to take tea at a café, he had to get there early or he found all the tables filled.  Strolling around the Ring, he saw scarcely a person who was not well dressed, well fed, and carrying a large leather money satchel.  But all that was seen in the Vienna of the tourist, near the Ring.  Dollars, pounds, francs, and lire kept the hotels and shops running at a profit.  War profiteers went there to spend their money.  Crowds of shoppers from Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia came to convert their money to Austrian crowns and buy luxuries which they could not afford at home.  They hated the city that formerly ruled them, but it was their Paris and still set the fashion.  Some Austrians could be seen shopping, on their paydays.  Money kept losing value, so it was spent as soon as it was earned.  Clothing and food were worth something concrete; the Austrian money was without value.  Many bought dollars with crowns, but that only made the crown fall even faster.  Nevertheless, foreigners were begged to pay in dollars.

Travelers who stayed in the Ring district thought it was typical of the whole city.  But by motoring near the outskirts, they would see armies of ragged women and children combing the heaps of refuse for bits of food, metal, and glass.  Families carrying two or three chickens took their fowls from spot to spot, setting then down to peck, while a child was sent ahead to find the next prospective feeding ground.  On the edge of the city were little patches of gardens, each with a makeshift fence and a tiny wooded building.  Women and children weeded and carried water.  Blocks of scarlet poppies, raised for their delicious seeds, dotted the hillside.  Those garden homes surrounded the city like a ragged girdle, and were the result of a housing famine that drove thousands of families to live in huts, where they added to the city’s food supply by raising vegetables.  Those were the Schreber Gardens, modeled after the famous ones of Berlin, and were all that saved their owners from a diet of black bread and noodles year-round.  Each cluster of gardens had as a center a small delicatessen stand and an open-air beer hall, where the people refreshed themselves after a hard day’s gardening.  Even under those hardships, the Viennese enjoyed their holiday tramps through the Alps.  The housing crisis in Vienna was the worst in history, despite the best efforts to solve it.  All building activity had ceased during the war.  Population surged as war profiteers flocked to the capital, followed by thousands of recalled Officials.  To avoid riots, the city adopted forced billeting.  All dwellings were listed by number of rooms and number of people.  After the comparison, all available space was commandeered.  Baronesses and wives of workingmen alike were forced to take in lodgers.  Homeless thousands slept in barracks, parks, and freight cars.  No one could have a house in the city and another in the country.  He had to give up one and keep lodgers in the other.

The law passed at the beginning of the war to prevent the raising of rents prevented riots, but ruined the landlord; many received only a few cents a month from their properties while the tenants’ incomes increased many times.  In consequence, the buildings were in disrepair; the landlords unable to afford it.  A landlord could not sell his property without paying 55% of the sale price to the city.  Growing out of the housing shortage was the movement of the Land Settlement Societies, funded by the U. S. and England, which brought together 700,000 homeless throughout Austria.  They built garden cities by cooperative labor, and partly maintained themselves by keeping pigs and poultry and raising vegetables.  In payment, they gave 1,500 to 2,000 hours of free labor to the Land Societies in three years.  Thousands of women and children worked continually in settlements on the outskirts of Vienna, earning their future homes.  The first settlement was founded by war invalids, on the imperial hunting grounds.  Two thousand homes would stand where royalty once maintained its shooting-box.  While those settlements helped thousands of people, Vienna’s bigger problem was the half million perishing members of the middle class.  These were the lawyers, doctors, artists, scientists, teachers, etc. who made Vienna world renown.  While the wages of skilled labor had almost kept pace with the depreciation of the crown, the incomes of the middle class dwindled away to almost nothing.  The rent law held their home for them, where they hid away, coming out only to feed at the community kitchens.  They had long since pawned their jewelry, books, furniture, and clothing.  Every week, new prices were posted in the windows of food shops.  Meat was out of the question, having gone up 5,000 times; neither could sugar be afforded.  Noonday meals were provided by the American Relief Association.

The Health Department’s report stated that 90% of children under twelve had symptoms of rickets from malnourishment, and 50% of those between six and twelve had tubercular infections.  The American relief organizations established hospitals, dispensaries, and health centers for the children, while feeding and clothing thousands of adults.  A separate kitchen was maintained by the American Relief for the University Professors.  There, the most brilliant men of Vienna were fed every day at a cost of a cent and a half.  Famous scientists, archeologists, mathematicians, and historians gathered at noon for their one adequate meal of the day.  The hunger of many active persons was not satisfied with one meal a day.  Yet food prices had risen to where many could not afford.  Butter was 60 cents a pound, sugar 13 cents, coffee and tea were 50 cents, and milk was not obtainable at any price.  That was why thousands of the hungry walk great distances into the country, every Saturday and Sunday, with packs of goods on their backs to exchange for food.  They traded bolts of cloth, aprons, stockings, shirts, and jewelry for flour, lard, milk, wheat, eggs, potatoes, and butter, which was then carried back to the city in their knapsacks.  Due to the unstable currency, banking was the largest employment in the city.  Vienna had twenty incorporated institutions and more than two hundred private ones.  Besides the banks, there were hundreds of small wechselstuben where dollars and other currencies were exchanged for crowns according to the daily rate.  Those money-changers had made fortunes from the collapse of the crown.  Anxious Viennese surrounded the posted quotations and ask of news.  The daily value of the crown was an unfailing index.

Many members of the fallen aristocracy could not be convinced that the present state of things was to continue.  They met among themselves and talked vaguely of a new regime, a dictator of their own class, who would restore their lands and social position.  One titled family, whose money was in Italian lire, was living in comparative grandeur.  In another palace, a baroness was living surrounded by valuable paintings.  Last winter she had no money for coal, so she stayed in bed during cold weather.  Her maid brought her food. She could do without coal, but not a maid.  Knowing that second-hand dealers only paid a fraction of the real value of jewels and furs, curious methods were used to bring such articles to the attention of American and English travelers.  A hotel porter followed a guest into an elevator to ask if she would buy an emerald which must be sold by a titled relative.  A waiter brought a superb ermine cape with the breakfast tray to sell for an “unheard of bargain.”  A woman in a tobacco shop offered an Egyptian belt of silver for which her client asked but a few dollars.  The famous coffeehouses of Vienna, where the population went for newspaper reading, letter writing, chess, gossip, were well patronized.  The Austrian could not change his spots, even in calamity.  He still lounged half his time away, although his allowance for coffee and schnapps was cut down and he could no longer be generous to the waiters.

Vienna had always been to the south of Europe what Moscow was to the north – a great studio and market for art.  The magnificent galleries, filled by the Hapsburgs, drew students from all over the world.  The shop windows displayed luxurious whimsicalities of modern art.  Exquisite ceramics, dyed silks, wooden articles, and tooled leather were Viennese specialties.  The drama and the music had had the same exuberant quality as the art of the city.  Many light operas had made fortunes for American producers and Viennese composers.  The famous night life of Vienna which began a 7 o’clock, when the theaters and operas gave their performances, used to continue afterwards in the sidewalk cafes, culminating in a carriage ride around the Ring.  In 1923, it had lost its sparkle.  Cabs no longer rattled along with ordinary pleasure seekers.  Feed was so expensive that a carriage with two horses cost more than a motor.  One old feature of the old Hapsburg regime remained, in 1923, to tell of a former empire’s splendor.  This was the old Spanish Riding School, the only one of its kind in the world, which was housed in the stables of the old Hofburg Palace.  Founded in 1729, and kept for the pleasure of the royal family, the public was never admitted.  In 1923, there were only 28 horses left who went through their paces five or six times a year, while the newly rich of Vienna applauded from the royal boxes.  The Social Democrats were loathed to continue that tradition, but the chief rider-master convinced them that his institution was something like a museum and, therefore, came under the classification of art.  That argument won the day.

Austria was at its greatest when Maximilian I secured Spain, half of Italy, and the Netherlands.  In 1923, the nation’s territory was only twice that of Switzerland, and her population had been reduced from 55,000,000 in the dual-monarchy days to 6,000,000.  Moreover, 39% of her area was covered with forests.  Wood, therefore was the most important export and the only raw material, except magnesite and iron ore, that could have been sent out in bulk.  Before the war, the empire was one of the greatest wood producers in Europe.  In 1923, the largest hardwood forest lied beyond her borders, out of reach, like her former coal mines.  Austria had much available water power.  Her rivers could produce 4,000,000 horsepower if the development costs were raised.  Austria’s annual coal bill was $90,000,000, only about a third of what was needed.  That shortage had brought about stagnation and unemployment.  Ten percent of the population was supported by state funds.  Having to import most of her food, Austria continued to consume more than she produced, and made up the deficit by selling property to foreign countries.  Paper money had reached a total of billions of crowns, the presses were still turning, currency was falling, prices were rising, workers demanded more wages to meet the new condition, and the cycle went on.  The state railroads were run under a deficit of billions of crowns; yet 60% of passengers rode for free or at a reduced rate.  Despite Vienna’s precarious situation in 1923, she had one asset which nothing could destroy.  The city stood at a point where the trading route from the Baltic to the Adriatic crossed the Danube.  At that logical center of commerce and shipping, grain and cattle from the east passed industrial products of the west.  Seven great railroads converged that connected Vienna with all Central Europe.  Political change had not altered the city’s geographical situation, and the Danube still flowed to Vienna.  Vienna’s position on the map may prove in time to be her salvation.



Embedded within the second article is a set of eight full-page engravings.  These engravings, formerly known as photogravures, used acid-etched metal plates to transfer a special ink to paper.  The ink in this set has a slight brownish tint. The set, from page 87 through 94, has the internal title: “Vienna – A Capital Without a Nation.”

A list of caption titles from the engravings is as follows:

  • “The House of Parliaments in Vienna”
  • “The Stairs of the Capuchins at Salzberg”
  • “View Toward the Kaunser Tal, Tyrol”
  • “Girls from the Wachau District Near Vienna”
  • “Tongue-lashing in Tyrol”
  • “The Summit of Grossvenediger, in the Hohe Tauern, Tyrol”
  • “The Ruins of Aggstein, in the Wachau, on the Danube”
  • “A Medieval Building in Krems, on the Danube”


At the bottom of the last page of the second article in this issue (Page 102) there is a notice regarding change of address.  If a member wanted the magazine to be mailed somewhere else, the Society needed a month’s notice in advance, starting on the first of the month.  If a member wanted the March issue redirected, the Society needed to know by February first.


The third and final article in this month’s issue is entitled “The Magic Beauty of Snow and Dew” and was written by Wilson A. Bentley.  The article contains a set of eight full pages and one half-page black-and-white photographs of dozens of snowflakes, frost patterns, dew on spiderwebs, etc., set on a black background for contrast.  These photographic plates, reminiscent of the flags and medals issues or of the field guides, were taken by the author, and are embedded within a short, page-and-a-half article describing them.  Since the author references the pages throughout the short article, I guess this could be considered a field guide, albeit a small one.  [Note: While the author writes about “Water,” I get the definite impression that he was writing only about fresh water.]

Water played an all-important part in nature.  It was properly called the “life-giving fluid,” for life in any form was not possible without it.  As much as one was impressed by the many tasks water performs, in agriculture, ranching, electrical generation, industry, etc., one was even more impressed by the beauty of its many forms – in clouds, snow, frost, ice, dew, rain, rivers, waterfalls, lakes, and glaciers.  And they were not only beautiful in themselves, but many of them, as snow, frost, and dew, collected upon and beautified various natural objects.  Dew and hoarfrost added loveliness to vegetation and to various objects, while snowfall changed the aspect of Nature over vast areas, imparting chaste beauty to forests, mountains, and plains.  The form water assumed, whether fluid or solid, depended largely upon its temperature.  Water molecules possessed poles, negative and positive, which tended to draw them together in certain alignments forming solids (crystals).  A crystallographic law decreed that those crystals which grew rapidly – the branching snowflakes, for example – tended to assume branching forms; conversely, those that grew slowly tended to assume solid forms.  Dew was one of the most common forms of fluid water formation, though jointly with hoarfrost it was one of the least as regards to quantity (Pages 110 and 111).  It was largely a nighttime phenomenon, because only then could the water molecules in the air become quiet enough to gather and remain upon vegetal and other objects.  The dew formed in such a gentle way that it failed to impress the student, as did many other water forms.  Hoarfrost was, perhaps, the least, as regards to quantity, among the main divisions of water forms; yet it provided a world of beauty and diversity (pages 108 and 109).  It formed on cold, calm nights.  When the deposits were copious, all outdoor Nature was converted into a fairyland rivaling that produced by an ice storm.  Yet the real masterpieces of the frost were wrought indoors in winter, upon windowpanes in cold rooms, where all could see and admire them.

Of all the forms of water, however, the tiny six-pointed crystals of ice called snow, that formed in such quantities within the clouds during storms, were incomparably the most beautiful and varied.  Snow formation occurred usually, if not invariably, within all storms and in all climes; but in torrid zones, and in summer in the temperate zones, its formation was confined to the frigid upper parts of the storm-clouds.  It melted and was converted to rain when it fell below a certain altitude.  The wondrous beauty of the tiny individual crystals of snow attracted attention in very early times, for they had found references of them in many ancient writings.  In the Scriptures, in the Book of Job, they found the quotation, “Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?”  But it was only very recently [in 1923], since dry-plate photomicrography, that their beauty had been fully realized and portrayed.  Although many snow crystals, both of the same and of different storms, strangely resembled one another and possessed features in common, new and unique patterns were continually being wrought in Nature’s cloudland laboratory.  The greatest charm which that unique study possessed for those “entering into the treasures of the snow,” was that those treasures were absolutely inexhaustible.  For all time, that annual miracle would recur and the favored regions of the Earth would be showered with countless jewels of almost unbelievable beauty to delight and thrill the observer.  The marvelous beauty of the snow crystals had been revealed in more than 4,000 photomicrographs (no two alike), secured by the author during the last 37 years.  Jewelers, art craft shops, metal workers, silk manufacturers, and schools were using those exquisite snow crystals for designs and for objects for study.

Here is a list of the caption titles to the 8½ photos in this mini-field guide:

  • “Snow Jewels Collected by the Camera”
  • “The Treasures of the Snow”
  • “Solid and Branching Crystal Forms of Rare Loveliness”
  • “Unusual forms of Snow Crystals”
  • “Window Tracery of Jack Frost”
  • “Images Produced by Window Frost and Window Ice”
  • “Magic Wrought by Dew and Ice”
  • “Art Forms of Dew, Frost, and Hail”
  • “The Principal Type Forms of Snow Crystals”



Tom Wilson

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