1948: After the Windrush

Above: Men and women gather in the bows of their tender prior to stepping ashore at Southampton to undergo routine checks by Passport and Customs officials, 1954. A one-way ticket cost £100, and the original press caption for this image ran: "Their assets are a few pounds in their pockets and a touching faith in Great Britain." 

Despite having paid £100 for a one-way ticket on the Empire Windrush - and the other vessels that were to follow in its metaphorical wake - the 492 people arriving at Tilbury, England were to find their journey had yet to be concluded.

They had come to England at the invitation of a British Government eager to replenish its national workforce - more than 380,000 United Kingdom's population had been killed during the Second World War. In 1948, in order for mass immigration from the British Empire to occur, British citizenship was hurriedly provided to all in the British Empire through the parliamentary British Nationality Act.

The Empire Windrush, a troopship, had itself docked in Jamaica merely as a stopping point on its voyage from Australia to England, collecting troops then on leave. Simultaneously, a Jamaican newspaper ran an advert offering low-cost berth for up to 300 people who desired employment in Britain. The ship departed Jamaica on May 24th.  Not only were all 300 berths filled, but a further 192 men travelled on the deck of the ship.

Many of those travelling had been servicemen fighting for the Allied forces during the War.  Ex-servicemen in particular were drawn to rejoining the RAF in which they had served during the conflict.

Just under a month later, on June 21st, the Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury. Ivor Cummings, a black officer was sent by the British Civil Service to greet the voyagers. It become immediately apparent that while the Government had actively solicited the immigrants, no accommodation had been prepared for them. 

The Government's Colonial Office resorted to removing 230 of the Windrush immigrants to a bomb shelter - Clapham Deep.  The shelter, built during the war, was one of eight extremely deep underground shelters across the capital.  This subterranean network of tunnels was to be their first home in the "mother country", and many remained housed there for a month, eating in giant canvas marquees on neighboring Clapham Common.

A Labour Exchange was set-up within Clapham Deep shelter itself.  Beyond that, the new arrivals were directed to the nearest external Labour Exchange, in nearby Brixton.  Over time, this area was to become the heart of a thriving Caribbean community within London.

By 1955, more than 18,000 people had made the same journey from Jamaica to Britain, and it was not until 1962 that the rate of Caribbean migration began to slow. All had been actively encouraged by the British Government to leave their homes and begin new lives working in Britain. Yet, while many did find employment, and in particular in public services such as the Post Office, the railways, and hospitals, they also encountered a public which could be deeply hostile not only to the service which they provided, but even to their very presence. 

Above: The Empire Windrush berthed at Tilbury Docks with more than 400 people on board. Most had come to England in search of jobs after being unemployed on returning to Jamaica after the Second World War.

Above: Men and women are were welcomed by officials from the Colonial office. Here, they listen to an RAF recruiting officer.

Above: 23rd June 1948 - Leslie Wight tells a Ministry of Labour official his qualifications in the Labour Exchange at Clapham Deep.

Above: 22 June 1948 - Men and women arriving from Jamaica were fed in huge marquees on Clapham Common, such as this one.

Above: 22 June 1948 - Jamaican men in "Clapham Deep".

Above: Around 1,000 West Indian people arrive on the Ascania when the liner docked at Southampton, April 4th 1961.

All pictures: Topfoto


1970: Laboratory Technicians

A set of 12 portraits of lab technicians at the Technician at the Government of Alberta Dairy and Food Laboratory, taken in June 1970.


1918: The Dazzle Ship Mauretania

Launched in 1906 by the Duchess of Roxburghe, the British RMS Mauretania was, for five years, the largest ship in the world - and, until 1929, the fastest.

Her lavish interiors utilised marble, tapestry, and some twenty-eight separate types of wood - her grand staircase was made of entirely walnut. Yet the ship had a serious design flaw - at maximum speed, vibrations from her four steam turbines were so extreme as to render the Second and Third Class sections completely unfit for use.

During the First World War, the Mauretania transported British troops to Gallipoli, and became a hospital ship. But when the United States joined the conflict in 1917, the vessel was deployed to carry many thousands of US troops to Europe until the conclusion of the conflict in November 1918. 

It was during this period, from March 1918, that the Mauretania was provided with two types of "dazzle" camouflage. Dazzle camouflage used jarring shapes and colours with the intention of disorientating observing enemy craft. These pictures taken in New York City, with American aviators and other troops returning from Europe after the war on December 2, 1918, show the Mauretania in full dazzle - the colors used were olive, black, grey and various blues.

After the War, the Mauretania remained in service until 1934 when Cunard White Star retired the ship. In 1935, she was scrapped.

"You will find the Mauretania at the quay,

Till her captain turns the lever 'neath his hand,

And the monstrous nine-decked city goes to sea."

The Secret of the Machines, Rudyard Kipling


All pictures: Retronaut / Bain Collection, Library of Congress


c. 1957-1962: Colorado Kodachromes

Leadville & the Hotel Vendome

A set of Kodachromes by the wonderfully names Chalmers Butterfield, who also took these pictures of London.

Garden of the Gods Park

Aspen, 1962

Cripple Creek, 1957

All pictures: Retronaut / Chalmers Butterfield


1970: Ski Party

c. 1865: Five Stages of Inebriation

This set of five prints was produced by the Sydney studio of Charles Percy Pickering (1825-1908), and date from the period of Pickering's location at 612 George Street. 

The printed studio mark on reverse reads "Photographic Artist. C. Pickering, 612 George Street, near Wilshire's Buildings, Sydney"

It is possible that the photographs were commissioned by a local temperance group for educative purposes, and mayalso have been used by an engraver for illustrations. The frame of the drunk in a wheelbarrow resembles S.T. Gill's watercolour 'Ease without Opulence'.



1905-1915: Colors of the Tsar

1910: A group of laborers sitting in front of a pile of logs, being transported as lumber for the smelting of iron ore

On the Registan

Men posed on steps of a mosque, Samarkand.

1909: A group of women haying at the Leushinskii Monastery

These photographs, twenty of which are presented restored for the first time, show the Russian Empire before the Revolution, in color.

The photographs are the work of Sergey Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944). After taking a color portrait of Tolstoy, Prokudin-Gorskii became known to the then-Tsar Nicholas II.  Commissioned and funded by the Tsar, he was to travel the span of the empire, capturing it in color. In total, Prokudin-Gorskii took more than 10,000.  He utilised a railroad car as a darkroom, remodelled to suit his requirements. 

Prokudin-Gorsky's color photographic, process, never commercialised, employed three individual black-and-white exposures, through a red, green or blue filter. Brought together, the three filtered exposures revealed the full color image.

Not all the photographs have a specific date, but all were taken in the decade between 1905 and 1915.

Prokudin-Gorsky left Russia in 1918 after the Communist Revolution and ultimately came to settle with his family in Paris. Approximately half of his own negatives were confiscated by the Russian authorities on his departure.

In 1948, the remaining images - just over 2,600 - were bought by the Library of Congress from Prokudin-Gorskii's sons. 

"The Russian Empire at this time stretched 7,000 miles from west to east and 3,000 miles from north to south and comprised one-sixth of the earth's land mass. It was the largest empire in history"

- Library of Congress

A forest road

Houses and a poppy field

1910: A Bashkir dog, Ekhir

1910: A young Bashkir man, Ekhir

A woman spinning yarn in the village of Izvedovo

A Ukrainian woman

Settlers in Grafovka

Ethnic Russian settlers to the Mugan Steppe region established a small settlement named Grafovka, immediately north of the border with Persia. Settlement of Russians in non-European parts of the empire, and particularly in border regions, was encouraged by the government and accounts for much of the Russian migration to Siberia, the Far East and the Caucasus regions.

A Migrant farmstead

In the settlement of Nadezhdinsk, with a group of peasants. Golodnaia Steppe.

1915: Prokudin-Gorskii on the Murmansk Railroad

Prokudin-Gorskii, right front, and others ride the Murmansk Railroad in a handcar along the shores of Lake Onega near Petrozavodsk. From the beginning of Russian railroad construction in the 1850s, rails were laid using a wider gauge (5 feet, 3.5 inches) than the standard European one.

1915: Railroad and foot bridge across the Onda River near Soroki Station

1910: A Bashkir switch operator

Taken by the main line of the railroad, near the town of Ust-Katav on the Yuryuzan River between Ufa and Chelyabinsk in the Ural Mountains of European Russia.

Chinese foreman

A Chinese foreman poses with established tea plants and new plantings at a tea farm and processing plant in Chakva, a small town just north of Batumi on the Black Sea.


Cotton Field in Sukhumi Botanical Garden

The moderate, Mediterranean-like climate of the Black Sea region allowed cultivation of crops that would not grow in most parts of the empire, such as tea and cotton. Sukhumi, on the east coast of the Black Sea in what is now the northwestern part of the Republic of Georgia, had an important botanical garden and experimentation station. Shown here is a stand of cotton plants at the Sukhumi Botanical Gardens.

1910: Monks planting potatoes

The fields were reclaimed from the dense conifer forest at the Gethsemane Hermitage on Lake Seliger near the headwaters of the Volga River.

Workers harvesting tea

Workers, identified by Prokudin-Gorskii as Greeks, pose while harvesting tea from plants spreading over rolling hills near Chakva, on the east coast of the Black Sea. This region of the Russian Empire, in present day Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, had a significant Greek minority.

1909: Haymaking

An early autumn scenes hows farmers taking a short break from their work to pose for their photograph. The location, though unidentified, is probably near the town of Cherepovets in north central European Russia.

Evgenievsky spring, Borzhom

A group of people stand near a natural spring at the health resort of Evgenievsky; some are drinking the water.

1912: Constructing a dam

Workers and supervisors pause for a photograph amid preparations for pouring concrete foundations for a dam across the Oka River southeast of Moscow, near the small town of Dedinovo.

1910: Molding of an artistic casement

Founded in 1747, the Kasli Iron Works, was located in the heart of the Ural Mountains between the cities of Ekaterinburg and Cheliabinsk—a region rich in iron ore. The plant was known for the high quality of its cast iron products and for its highly-skilled work force, which numbered over three thousand persons at the time this photograph was taken.

September 4th, 1911: View from the bell tower, Belgorod

A view from the bell tower of the Trinity cathedral (of the Trinity Monastery) on Cathedral Square, Belgorod, during the celebration of the canonization of Ioasaf of Belgorod.

1909: A fire brigade

The fire squad in the city of Vytegra.

A group of laborers 

1911: A Rabbi and students

Samarkand, an ancient commercial, intellectual, and spiritual center on the Silk Road from Europe to China, developed a remarkably diverse population, including Tajiks, Persians, Uzbeks, Arabs, Jews and Russians. Samarkand, and all of West Turkestan, was incorporated into the Russian Empire in the middle of the 19th century and has retained its ethnic diversity. Here, Jewish boys in traditional dress study with their teacher.

1911: An elderly man and his catch,

In a photograph taken near Samarkand, an elderly man, probably an ethnic Tajik, holds birds he has just caught. Samarkand and its region were noted for wide diversity in ethnic groups, including Uzbeks, Tajiks, Persians and Arabs as well as the more recently arrived Russians.

 A man on horseback

Next to an adobe structure with a dog and another horse nearby. Nazar Magomet, Golodnaia Steppe.

Baĭga, Samarkand

A large group of men, most on horseback, assembled on a hillside, probably for a traditional game of horsemanship called bayga.

Two prisoners in shackles

Inmates in a zindan

A Sunni Muslim man

Dagestan, meaning “land of mountains” in the Turkic languages, contains a population consisting of many nationalities, including Avars, Lezgi, Noghay, Kumuck and Tabasarans. Pictured here is a Sunni Muslim man of undetermined nationality wearing traditional dress and headgear, with a sheathed dagger at his side.

Dagestan men and women

Men and women pose in traditional dress for portraits in the mountainous interior region of Gunib on the north slope of the Caucasus Mountains in what is today the Dagestan Republic of the Russian Federation.

An Uzbek woman

Prokudin-Gorksii captures the traditional dress, jewelry and hairstyle of an Uzbek woman standing on a richly decorated carpet at the entrance to a yurt, a portable tent used for housing by the nomadic peoples of Central Asia. After conquering Turkestan in the mid-1800s, the Russian government exerted strong pressure on the nomadic peoples to settle permanently in villages, towns and cities.

A Surt woman

A woman in purdah, standing near a wooden door, Samarkand

A Georgian woman

A street scene with vendors and a child

In the background, a minaret.

1911: Melon vendor

Dressed in traditional Central Asian attire, a vendor of locally grown melons poses at his stand in the marketplace of Samarkand in present-day Uzbekistan.

A fruit stand, Samarkand

Men seated on steps under archway of the main entrance into Shakh-i Zindeh mosque, Samarkand

1911: A Bukhara bureaucra, Bukhara




1911: The Emir of Bukhara, Alim Khan (1880-1944)

The Emir of Bukhara, Alim Khan (1880-1944), poses solemnly for his portrait, taken in 1911 shortly after his accession. As ruler of an autonomous city-state in Islamic Central Asia, the Emir presided over the internal affairs of his emirate as absolute monarch, although since the mid-1800s Bukhara had been a vassal state of the Russian Empire. With the establishment of Soviet power in Bukhara in 1920, the Emir fled to Afghanistan where he died in 1944.

1909: Children on the side of a hill

Near a church and bell-tower in the countryside near White Lake, in the north of European Russia.

January 1st, 1907

Observing a solar eclipse on January 1, 1907, near the Cherniaevo Station in the Tian-Shan mountains above the Saliuktin mines. Golodnaia Steppe.

Sunset in Gagra

This capsule takes as its starting point the Library Congress' physical and online exhibition "The Empire That Was Russia".

Without this exhibition, and the work of the Library of Congress, it would not have been possible to create this capsule.


Exhibition Team: 

Lynn Brooks, Information Technology Services; Irene Chambers, Chief, Interpretive Programs Office; Kimberli Curry, Exhibition Director, Interpretive Programs Office; Verna Curtis, Prints and Photographs Division; Harry Katz, Prints and Photographs Division; Harry Leich, European Division; Betsy Nahum-Miller, Interpretive Programs Office; John Van Oudenaren, Chief, European Division; Deborah Durbeck, Giulia Adelfio, Denise Agee, Margaret Brown, Tambra Johnson, Martha Hopkins, Antonio La Greca, Susan Mordan, Christopher O'Connor, David Haywood, and Gwynn Wilhelm; Interpretive Programs Office.

Special thanks:

Helena Zinkham, Sarah Rouse, Cathy Hoban, Philip Michel, Timberly Wuester, Mary Jane Appel, Peggy Gardner, Emily MacKinnon, Jeanne Korda, Tracy Meehleib, DeAnna Evans, Prints and Photographs Division; Jan Lancaster, National Digital Library Program; Jurij Dobczansky, Yelena Margolina, Robert Morgan, Social Sciences Cataloging Directorate; Christopher Murphy, African and Middle Eastern Division; Rikki Condon, Conservation Office; Norma Baker and Susan Siegel, Development Office; Kim Moden and Nancy Mitchell, Special Events Office; Jill Brett and Helen Dalrymple, Public Affairs Office; Domenic Sergi, Karl Rogers, Herbert Becker, and Judy Stork, Information Technology Services; Winston Tabb, Diane Kresh, Julianne Mangin, Elizabeth Miller, Sandy Bostian, Library Services; Gene Roberts, Geography and Map Division; Stanley Bandong, Graphics Service Unit; Jeffrey Anderson and Onnetta Benoit, Printing Management Section; Debra Murphy and Christopher Hansen, Office of Contracts and Logistics.

Assistance and expertise:

Svetlana Garanina, Ksenia Volkova

Walt Frankhauser, of WalterStudio™ Photography, Monrovia, Maryland. Mr. Frankhauser developed the complex digital process (called digichromatography) for rendering Prokudin-Gorskii's photographs in color.

William Craft Brumfield, Professor of Slavic Languages at Tulane University, for assistance with the Prokudin-Gorskii collection. Professor Brumfield was the curator of an exhibition of Prokudin-Gorskii photographs held at the Library from November 1986 through May 1987; this exhibition subsequently traveled to several venues across the United States.


All pictures: Retronaut / Library of Congress


1968: Wonderland

Photographs of Wonderland Arcade, 12th and Grand, Kansas City, Missouri.

The photographs were  taken as evidence in a case brought against the arcade around penny bingo taxatioon.











c.1910: Ellis Island Immigrants

These photographs show a tiny handful of the more than 12 million immigrants who entered the United States through the immigration station at New York's Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954. The men and women portrayed are wearing their finest clothes, often their national dress, brought with them from their homeland to America.Around 5,000 immigrants entered the country every day at the height of Ellis Island's activity.

The photographs were taken by Augustus Francis Sherman, the chief registry clerk at Ellis Island and an avid amateur photographer. They were captioned only with the subject's country of origin, and in 1907, the portraits were published in National Geographic.

It is estimated that today more than a third of all Americans have an ancestor who came through Ellis Island.

The photographs are part of the collection of the New York Public Library.

Left: 'Romanian piper' (c. 1910)   Right: 'Norwegian woman' (c. 19190)

Left: 'Algerian man' (c. 1910)   Right: 'Albanian Soldier' (c. 1910)

Left: 'Danish man' (1909)   Right: "Dutch woman" (1910)

Left: 'Romanian woman' (c. 1910)   Right: 'Bavarian man' (c. 1910)

“We came by steerage on a steamship in a very dark place that smelt dreadfully. There were hundreds of other people packed in with us, men, women and children, and almost all of them were sick. It took us twelve days to cross the sea, and we thought we should die, but at last the voyage was over, and we came up and saw the beautiful bay and the big woman with the spikes on her head and the lamp that is lighted at night in her hand.”



- Sadie Frowne, immigrated from Poland aged 10 in 1903 with her mother


Left: 'Cossack man from the steppes of Russia' (c. 1910)   Right: 'Hindoo boy' (1911)

Left: 'Romanian shepherd' (1906)   Right: 'Ruthenian woman' (1906)

Left: "Guadeloupean Woman" (1911)   Right: "Alsace Lorraine girl" (1906)

Left: 'Rev. Joseph Vasilon, Greek-Orthodox priest' (1910)   Right: 'German stowaway' (1911)

“When I got on the boat, I was only five and this little, this gentleman who had been back and forth several times, and well my mother took a liking to him because he was so knowledgeable about it. He spoke Italian.

"And he said, "You know what? When you get over to Ellis Island they're going to be examining your eyes with a hook," and he says, "Don't let them do it because you know what? They did it to me one eye fell in my pocket."  So we get over there and everybody has to pass and I'm on the floor screaming. I passed without a physical, because the other seven passed."



- Elda Del Bino Willitts; immigrated from Lucca, Italy at Age 5 in 1916


Left: 'Italian woman' (c.1910)   Right: 'Italian girl' (1906)

All pictures: Retronaut / Augustus Sherman / New York Public Library


1858: Napoleonic Veterans


Monsieur Loria, 24th Mounted Chasseur, Regiment Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. Monsieur Loria has lost his right eye.

Meet the Emperor's Men.

The 15 studio portraits shown here, each 12"x10"and mounted on card, are the only known surviving photographs of veterans of Napoleon's Grande Armée and Guard dressed in their uniforms and regalia. In other words, these are photographs of men who fought with Napoleon. 

The pictures are part of the Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection at Brown University Library. 


Monsieur Verlinde –2nd Guard Lancers 1815 or Trooper/ Lancer 2nd Chevau-legers-Lanciers de la Garde Imperiale


Monsieur Vitry, Departmental Guard


Monsieur Dreuse of 2nd Light Horse Lancers of the Guard, c. 1813-14

The photographer is unknown. It is clear, however, that the pictures were taken after 1857. Each man is wearing the Saint Helene medal, issued on August 12th, 1857 to French veterans of the wars of the Revolution and the Empire. 


Monsieur Schmit, 2nd Mounted Chasseur Regiment, 1813-14


Monsieur Dupont, Fourier for the 1st Hussar


Quartermaster Sergeant Delignon, in the uniform of a Mounted Chasseur of the Guard, 1809-1815

While the exact date on which the photographs were taken is uncertain, it is highly likely to have been Wednesday May 5th, 1858.  Napoleon Bonaparte died on May 5th, 1821, and each year on the anniversary of his death, veterans gathered and paraded through Paris to his tomb.


Monsieur Lefebre, Sergeant 2nd Regiment of Engineers, 1815


Monsieur Maire, 7th Hussars, c. 1809-15

The event was described in The Times of London, in 1855:

"The base and railings of the column of the Place Vendôme appear this day decked out with the annual offerings to the memory of the man whose statue adorns the summit. The display of garlands of immortelles, and other tributes of the kind, is greater than usual...the old soldiers of the Empire performed their usual homage yesterday at the same place."


     Monsieur Mauban, 8th Dragoon Regiment, 1815


Monsieur Ducel Mameluke de la Garde, 1813-1815


Sergeant Taria, Grenadiere de la Garde, 1809-1815

In 1858, the veterans were in their seventies and eighties.  Some of the portraits suggest that the men have had their uniforms retailored over the decades to accommodate their changing body shapes.


Monsieur Moret, 2nd Regiment, 1814-15

Grenadier Burg, 24th Regiment of the Guard, 1815

The photographs belong to the Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, the foremost American collection of material devoted to the history and iconography of soldiers and soldiering. The collection is one of the world's largest collections devoted to the study of military and naval uniforms and was formed over a period of forty years by the late Mrs. John Nicholas Brown (1906-1985) of Providence, Rhode Island.


Quartermaster Fabry, 1st Hussars

All images: Retronaut / the Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University, Rhode Island.


1949: London Kodachromes

Looking up Shaftesbury Avenue from Piccadilly Circus

The four Kodachrome pictures shown here were taken by a man called Chalmers Butterfield. Although color photography dates back to the end of the nineteenth century, it is rare to see Kodachrome images of London from the 1940s. Black and white photography was very much still the predominant photographic process, and Kodachrome - the leading color process, created in America by Kodak - remained elusive in Britain, particularly in the era of immediate post-war austerity.


Looking up Shaftesbury Avenue from Piccadilly Circus

"It was the sign advertising Brylcreem that got me. It can be seen in one of Chalmers Butterfield's colour photographs of Piccadilly Circus in 1949. Why did it move me? Brylcreem's range of hair styling products for men is still very much with us. Personally, though, it always means the red plastic pot of the stuff my dad kept ever-ready in the bathroom of our home in the 1970s. It spoke then, and does now, of his youth in austerity Britain, skiffle-board Britain, Teddy Boy Britain."

- Jonathon Jones, Guardian


Sloane Street

Aldford Street.

All pictures: Retronaut / Chalmers Butterfield

More Capsules:

1909: Concept of a police-woman

"Suffragette posed in police uniform to illustrate woman police concept, Cincinnati, Ohio"

Why these pictures were taken is currently not known.  They show - according to their captions - a suffragette (and possibly two) demonstrating what the novel concept of a "police-woman" might be like, somewhere in Cincinatti.

In 1909, there were no women police officers in the USA. However the following year Alice Stebbins Wells, 37, was to be the very first woman to become a police office, in the Los Angeles Police Department. In 1916, she would be also be the first president of the International Association of Women Police. 

"This is serious work and I do hope the newspapers will not try to make fun of it."

- Alice Stebbins Wells

"How woman policeman would look making an arrest"

All pictures: Retronaut / Bain Collection, Library of Congress


1909: Duelling with wax bullets

"Friday February 26th. Wax bullets were used last night in a duel at the New York Athletic Club."


"The combatants Eugene Pitou and Dr. Edward Fowler, standing 60 feet apart, each were hit just below the shoulder, but neither, of course, was injured, although the marks of the little pellets were plainly visible on the gowns specially worn for the contest."

"The bullets which are the first importations to this country from France, were fired from the regulation French duelling pistol of .44 calibre."

"Considerable interest was taken in the novel spectacle, and the new sport promises to be popular."

- The Morning Astorian, February 27th, 1909.

All pictures and newspaper text: Retronaut / Bain Collection, Library of Congress