Sunday, February 8, 2009

◌ Calcutta (1947)

I got a link to these photos from a friend of mine. I consider all of them treasures and fear that it will be lost in time. Already the links on the page (where i found these photos) are not working. I guess it wont be long before these pages get pulled down. So, I copied them all to flicker. The descriptions of the photos are the original words from the photographer himself. The next paragraph is from the original site where I found these photographs.

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The South Asia Section of the Van Pelt Library, University of Pennsylvania recently acquired from a book dealer a photograph album consisting of 60 photographs of Calcutta taken most likely between 1945-1946.

The photographer, Mr. Claude Weddell, also provided the interesting glosses accompanying each photograph. Several attested copies of this work has emerged including one with a 'title page' held by the Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana.

Mr. Weddell was a military photographer. Many of his captions sound like annotations that would be found in a typical military magazine.The album begins with several general long shots of Calcutta and ends with a picture of A mysterydhobi- s (washer men) washing clothes. The text accompanying the last photograph also sounds as if the author intended to finish with that picture of one of the "great mysteries of India.".

The annotations have been included because of their intrinsic interest not only to the photographs but to a 'typical' American impression of India at this time.

I have included below a few recent titles published on Calcutta which the reader may be interested in consulting and comparing with this collection of photographs. The call numbers are to the volumes held by the Van Pelt Library.

Howrah Bridge - Engineering Marvel

Calcutta boasts the third largest cantilever bridge in the world. Its real importance, however, lies in the fact that it serves as Calcutta's gateway to the wese, being the city's only bridge spanning the Hooghly. Taking 7 years to build, it cost $10,000,000. It towers 310 feet as the city's highes structure, is 2,150 feet long with a center span of 1,500 feet. It was completed in 1942, opened in February,1943.

Chowringhee Square
Calcutta's main thoroughfare, an amazing parade of fascinating sights and sounds. Every soldier who has trod its length retains memories of one of the most colorful and interesting streets in the world.

The Mohammddan mosque, Juma Masjid, is shown at left. This is actually one of the quiet moments when GI trucks, taxis, bicycles and other modes of transport can move with comparative freedom.


A bewildering mass of billboards at the corner of Harrison Street (Burra Bazar) and Strand Road. One of the oldest scions of Calcutta, at the foot of Howrah Bridge, it is a fine vantage point for photo-graphing the passing parade of oddly dressed natives and curious vehicles.
Calcutta's traffic is usually snarled. And the reasons are clearly shown. Shuffling coolies and pedestrians with little regard for their lives seem completely oblivious to the perils of automotive traffic.
This coconut market on Cornwallis stret is a sample of the haphazard way in which many basars are operated. The popular pauses for refreshment is indulged by Indian in central foreground drinking coconut milk.

Sidewalk tonsorial parlor. India probably has a greater proportion of barbers than any nation, for in addition to the many salons which cater to the European and higher type Indian trade, these sidewalk shavers seem to ply their trade in every other block.

Nightlife in Calcutta
Nightfall in Calcutta stirs the imagination and curiosity as to what goes on down dimly-lit alleys often leads an occasional soldier into the out-of-bounds areas. If you don't know the way, five rupees will buy a trip to the few still existent brothels in one of the garies shown here. (Warning: MP's take a poor view).
Reading stuff

Corner bookstalls, specializing in lurid novels, sec treatises, are fascinationg spots for British and American soldiers alike. Typical titles, "The Escapades of Erotic Edna", "Kama Sutra, The Hindu Art of Love".

New Market

Probably the largest market in the East is the New Market. Convering several blocks in the downtown area, the 2,000 stalls offer most anything you could ask for, wartime shortages excepted. In addition to all the items appealing to the local and tourist trade, the market contains giant food departments.

Waiting for the trains

An Indian family sweat out a train. Cooking vessels, clothes and beggin are surrounded by this group which is distinguished by the presence of one of India's wandering holy men, (at right with painted brow).

The mark of Snack
A group of GI's take a close look at the snake-wallah' s hooded cobra. Both the snake and his master are good specimens. The fangs, of course, have been removed so the reptile can strike at will, scaring no one.

Snake Charmer

This weird-looking snake charmer is doing his best to coax a balcony audience to toss down enough baksheesh to get his cobra nad mongoose in the mood to stage a fight to the finish. Actually the combatants always seem a bit bored with the act and after a few fierce snorts and lunges, decide it is better to live.

Old Court House Street

This buffalo herd's movements seem to be guided by whim alone and are typical of the complete indifference to traffic control by man and animal alike. This is Old Court House street, one of Calcutta's busiest. In left background is Great Eastern Hotel, Calcutta's best, used by U.S. Officers as a billet.

Young mothers

India has thousands of child brides. The unfortunate young waman shown here feeding the infant from the giant coconat in foreground has been seen on Calcutta's streets day after day with he child. Her misery is more than typical thousands of India's unfortunates.


Amazing Stuff, have any more of such nostalgia on Calcutta, do lemme know

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