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An amazing World Fair in Tel Aviv 1934

Organised by the Trade and Industry Co, through a private init­iat­ive of three businessmen, a small Tel Aviv Fair did attract attention in the 1920s. It all began at the Zionist Club on Rothschild Boul­evard and then trav­el­led to sev­eral schools, to sell locally manufactured goods to local cust­om­ers. When they realised they were on to something special, the Trade and Industry Co came up with the idea of establishing a major trade show a la Barcelona.

But it was the hugely suc­cessful 1929 Barcelona World Fair that pro­moted a massive, international effort. After Barcelona finished, large advert­ising campaigns were launched in Europe that invited business own­ers to come to Tel Aviv. The response was satisfy­ing and continued growing.

By late 1932, the Tel Aviv Municipality understood they needed to build a proper home for a World Fair. The British Mandate authorit­ies were enthusias­tic and alloc­ated 25 acres on the very attractive Yarkon Penin­sula at the far end of Tel Aviv. And they extended assistance to the project.

The Levant Fair was planned as the largest public event ever held during the British Mandate period. Beautiful, white Bauhaus buildings, built by German architects who had emigrated in 1933, were beginning to define the city.

The Italian pavilion

 British pavilion

  Gal­ina Coffee House

The Norwegian pavilion

Romanian pavilion
Credit for the photos: Levant World Fair in Tel Aviv.

Two of the most prominent architects in the country, Arieh Elhanani and Richard Kaufmann, were chosen to design the new World Fair com­plex. Kauf­mann was in charge of the urban master-plan and Elhanani designed some buildings and the outdoor scul­p­tures. The fair­grounds also feat­ured modern street lamps, benches, well-tended gardens and a main entrance square, Plumer Square.

This Levant Fair was the best model of a white, utopian city with a modernist palace, square, axes and Bauhaus flats. Note the Produce of the Land Palace with its original ship-like facade that became a source of local pride; it was the largest and most important structure of the Levant Fair. Designed by Richard Kaufmann in 1934, it too was in the In­ter­national or Bauhaus Style. The interior space soared to a height of 3 storeys, with an observation tower situated on one side and an apse on the other. Next to the entrance of the sparkling white fac­ade stretched a large public plaza with Arieh Elhanani’s sculpture.

Manuf­acturers and consumers flooded into Israel and many exhib­ited their wares in national pavilions – Britain, Soviet Union, Lebanon, Poland, Bulgaria, France, Cyprus, Italy, Belgium, Turkey, Greece, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Romania, Czechos­lov­akia etc. The best architects from Israel were recruited to build the pavilions. Each architect was resp­on­sible for design­ing one of the participating countries’ building, giving each pav­ilion a unique look, within the overall plan. Britain and its col­on­ies had an entire cluster of pavilions, designed by the respected architect, Yosef NeufeldGenia Averbuch, Aryeh Sharon and others provided Tel Aviv with one of the widest coll­ections of Bauhaus Style architecture. 

The ceremony marking the laying of the cornerstone was held in the presence of the British High Commissioners Herbert Samuel, Herbert Plumer, John Chancellor & Arthur Wauchope, plus Tel Aviv mayor Meir Dizengoff and the Arab mayors of Jaffa and Jerus­alem. The new fair covered 10 dunams and housed 1,225 exhib­itors, including 821 for­eign companies from 23 countries. Emerging nations in the Orient were particularly welcomed.  And Gal­ina Coffee House, built in the International or Bauhaus Style, was hugely popular.

Opening day crowds

So holding an occasional Fair seemed plausible in this growing city of Tel Aviv and another Levant Fair was held in 1936. 30 countries took part, drawing c600,000 visitors in the 6 weeks it was open.

Now it was possible to combine commercial promotion with en­t­ertainment and culture; the Tel Aviv Municipality was quick to grasp the importance of the Levant Fair as a strong attraction in pre-State Israel and in the Diaspora. The first concert of the Palestine Philharm­on­ic Orchestra started its concert tour in Dec 1936, led by the greatest conductor in Europe, Arturo Toscanini (1867–1957). Golda Meir, David Ben Gurion and every other communal figure in Palestine were at the first concert, held in the Italian Pavilion.

Those were imp­res­sive numb­ers given that the Arab Revolt was about to begin, shut­ting down Jaffa port. But the fair's organisers suffered financial losses and after the 1936 Fair closed, it stayed closed till after the state was established.

However the spaces were later put to good use. During the Jaffa dock workers’ strike, the Brit­ish Government approved the construction of a jetty on the Tel Aviv seashore, on a beach just south of the Levant Fair-grounds. Pavilions in the fair grounds were initially used as temporary st­or­age space for the Tel Aviv port, built in 1938. Later, they were appropriated for British Army use, and after 1948, for the Israel Defence Forces.

World Fair facilities all over the world were accidentally or intentionally torn down, except for Melbourne's. Even in Tel Aviv, the pavilions fell apart and the works of art moved. So the Levant Fair project was re-launched in June 2013 at the orig­inal location, now offering restaur­ants, shopping, exhibits, sports activities, playgrounds for children, and performances at the amphitheatre.



Dr William Palmer - did he use strychnine in his mass murders?

Propelled by the bizarre murder story of Burke and Hare, I became interested in the equally bizarre story of William Palmer (1824-56) who studied medicine in London, and qualif­ied in Aug 1846. He returned to his Midlands home town of Rugeley to pract­ice as a doctor, and married Ann Thornton in Oct 1847. His new mother-in-law had inherited great wealth from her late husband, but died in Jan 1849 from apoplexy, two weeks after coming living with the Palmers. But the gambler Dr Palmer was disappointed with the inher­it­ance he and his wife gained from the death, having expected much more.

There were many other unexpected deaths in the Palmer family. After just one premium was paid on her life insurance, his 27 year old wife Annie sick­ened from cholera and died in 1854. Only the first child of the Palmers’ five babies survived inf­an­cy, and outlived his father. The next four babies died of convul­s­ions.

Soon after William bought a new life policy for his alcoh­olic older brother Walter, Walter also died. But the insurance com­p­any refused to pay out, threatening a crim­in­al investigation (which they failed to pursue). It is uncertain how many of William Palmer’s illegitimate babies also took ill and died unexpectedly.

In Nov 1855, close friends 31-year-old surgeon William Palmer and rich 28-year-old horse-owner John Cook went to the Shrews­bury races. Cook’s horse won the huge sum of £3,000, at the same time that Pal­mer’s failures pushed him deep­er into debt. When John Cook went into con­vul­sions while celebrat­ing, Dr Palmer supervised the medical care.

Back in Rugeley, John Cook’s stepfather William Stevens already dist­rust­ed Palmer, especially once he found his stepson’s betting papers were miss­ing. The housemaid said Pal­mer had given Cook pills and had also sent him a poisoned broth. After suffering a week of excruciating pain, Cook accused Palmer of poisoning him, then died. No one yet knew that Palmer was already cl­aiming Cook’s recent winnings as his own, but people were already gossiping.

William Stevens requested that his stepson's body be exhumed, due to the long list of earlier deaths, Pal­mer’s large debts, angry creditors and Cook's stolen horse-money.

The autopsy was performed by local pathologists, with Palmer pres­ent as a colleague, not as a suspect. During the examin­at­ion, Palmer tampered with Cook's stomach by “accid­entally” bump­ing into a physician as he was lift­ing out the stomach. The remain­ing mat­er­ial was placed in a sealed jar, but Palmer slit open the seal as well. Then a pharmacist admitted selling Palmer strychnine the week before. As sus­picion bloomed, wife Annie and brother Walter’s bodies were also exhumed.

In Dec 1855, Dr Palmer was arrested and charged with Wilful Pois­oning. The 1856 trial was held at Old Bailey.

Drs Alfred Taylor (L) and Rees, testing for traces of poison. 
Engraving, in The Times report of the trial of William Palmer 
National Library of Medicine

At the 12 days trial, the coroner called toxicologist Dr Alfred Taylor who tested the small remaining sample of Cook's stomach contents. He found only a small, non-lethal amount of antimony, the act­ive ing­redient of normal medicines. But on the basis of reported sym­p­toms prior to death, Dr Taylor concluded that Cook had been poisoned by strychnine. Taylor was already renowned as a great authority on forensic medicine, so he was not afraid to make grand claims for toxicology in his textbooks and in court. 

The prosecution noted that Dr Palmer's tampering at the autopsy made thorough chemical analysis impossible. Furthermore Palmer's medical expertise made him a very devious poisoner, cap­able of mur­dering with minimal doses of strychnine, a hard-to-trace poison. 

The defence put toxic­ol­ogy expertise on trial. Palmer's law­yers put opposing toxicological experts on the stand, and claimed that arrogant Dr Taylor had made damaging statements to the press.

Trial of William Palmer 
In the Illustrated Times, May 27 1856

Dr Palmer was found guilty and sentenced to be hang­ed. Dr Taylor was be­sieged by public criticism, but he maintained his standing as an auth­or­ity. In his 1859 book On Poisons in Relation to Medical Jur­is­pru­d­ence and Medicine, he justified himself in the Palmer trial.

Palmer’s trial had been one of the great Victorian legal shows, publicised in Britain & out. Scrutiny of the case was all the more intense because a public fear of poisoning had grown into a national paranoia by mid-century. Remember that the doctor had purchased large amounts of it, so strychnine was recorded as his favourite murder technique.

Dr Palmer was sus­pected of poisoning more than a doz­en other people before Cook, but he was only ever tried for one murder. The jury found him guilty of Cook’s murder and he was quickly returned to Stafford to hang.

In 1856, 30,000 people gathered in a festive atmosphere outside Staf­ford prison, to watch the execution of the local town doctor. This Rugeley Poisoner was one of the last people to be publicly hanged in Britain.

Murder pamphlet

In the excellent book The Poisoner: Life and Crimes of Victorian England’s Most Notorious DoctorStephen Bates provided a broader portrait of Victorian England, the minimal training and often dangerous influence of doctors, the chaotic legal system and the class-spanning tug of horse racing. Alongside these came the emergence of new finan­cial products such as life insurance, which featured centrally in some of Palmer’s plots. But without DNA analysis or detailed toxicology reports, what was it all worth?

In the C19th were respectable, middle class, person­able and educated men ever believed to be murderers? Were doctors particularly prot­ected from public scrutiny by their status and income? 4 out of the 5 Palmer babies died – was this normal? Why did the in­surance com­panies sensibly not pay Dr Palmer out, yet the hospital and police did nothing? How did the Poison Panic influence the popul­at­ion in 1855-56?


Anni Albers at the Tate: Bauhaus and American textile designer

Annelise Fleischmann (1899-1994) started studying at the Bauhaus School of Art and Design in 1922. Bauhaus was a newly opened educational institution in Germany, combatting the despair and unemployment that followed WWI with youthful energy and training. During her first year, Anni did the same preparatory course that all Bauhaus students did, under Georg Muche and Johannes Itten.

Director Walter Gropius, his staff and students worked to unify the fine arts and the applied arts. In the elective workshops at that time, men were taught whichever art form they chose, while women were largely directed to the craft disciplines. Anni was reluctant to go into weaving, but at least it brought her under the tutelage of the quality weaver Gunta Stölzl, assisted by theoretical lessons from artists Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee.

Here she met Josef Albers, head of Bauhaus’ glass studio. Fleischmann and Albers came from very different back­grounds. Albers was the son of a Catholic house painter, living in a coal-producing town in Germany’s industrial northwest. Fleisch­mann came from two cultivated Jewish families. Her father was a prosperous business­man who manufactured furnit­ure sold in classy Berlin showrooms. Her maternal grand­father, Leopold Ullstein, had been the founder of what was the largest pub­lishing company in Germany and my all-time favourite Jewish pub­lish­er. Leopold’s sons operated the business, em­pl­oying thousands of workers and managing an enormous printing empire.

Anni Albers. Design for Smyrna Rug, 1925.
Compare with Klee's series of works called Fire in the Evening, 1929

In 1930 Anni graduated from Bauhaus and presented a work that was installed in the auditorium of the ADGB Trade Union School in Bern­au. It was a textile that combined transparent cellophane and a velvety chenille, in order to reflect light and simultaneously absorb sound. Throughout her career, she was excited to design textiles while analysing how materials respond to heat and cold, light, air flow and architectural mat­er­ials. And to design abstract geometric patterning. Then she taught at Bauhaus.

In 1933, the Nazi Party came to power and Bauhaus Acad­emy was swiftly shut down by the regime. Although her family had already converted to Christianity in her youth, Anni and Josef got out of Germany as soon as their American visas arrived. Philip Johnson had helped them find teaching positions at Black Mountain Coll­ege in North Carolina. In the meantime, as soon as Hitler came to power, propaganda was directed against the publisher Ullstein Verlag. By 1934 the company was seized and Aryanised.

In the USA Anni Albers spent more time in academe and developed a knowledge base that led her to write two key books on weaving.

Dallas Synagogue, 1965
Albers' curtain in front of the ark.

Albers’ journey to Mexico in 1936 was a pivotal moment in her dev­elopment as an artist. Here, she visited the tombs at Monte Albán, where she was struck by the patterns of the ancient inscrip­tions. In the 1950s, Albers made several trips to Peru, where she collected textile fragments. 

Albers, Six Prayers 1966, 
commissioned by the Jewish Museum in New York 
to memorialise the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust.

Gradually, she and Josef built up a collection of textiles and small-scale but energetic art objects. Anni thought of the intricate hand-woven patterns as a language; the threads were carriers of meaning. When she incorporated these studies into her modern hand-weaving the results were often very impressive. 

Albers’ artistic legacy was entwined with Jewish institutions that commissioned her most monumental works, but she apparently never entered a synagogue, in Germany or in the USA. When the generation of her grandparents underwent a group conversion, they were probably demonstrating their assimilation and patriot­ism to Germany rather than religious persuasion. Anni was herself baptised and confirmed as a Lutheran back in her youth.

So what do we make of Anni's synagogue commissions? When American Jewish commun­it­ies were growing and spreading out in the post war era, synagogue boards often turned to émigré architects and artists with modernist training, advocates of functional design and geometric abstraction. Nonetheless Albers’ relationship to her old religious legacy must have felt strange to her.

The first major survey of Anni Albers in the UK will look at how the Bauhaus-trained artist was inspired by cultures to develop forms of weaving that transformed a domestic craft into an art form that expressed modernism. The exhibition called "Anni Albers" is now at the Tate Modern London, until the end of Jan. 2019; it is part of a world­wide commem­oration of the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus. The Tate show brings together Albers’ work, from the Bauhaus years to her USA era. It showcases the looms she used and her seminal texts on design and weaving as well as her historical collection of textiles from around the world. Anni Albers was a pioneer both of weaving and modern design, as she experimented with architectural app­lications and materials.

I haven’t seen the exhibition so I am relying the Tablet's recommendations. Designed at Bauhaus Dessau in 1926, examine Black White Yellow, a work conceived as a simple geometric sequence with over­lapping strips of cotton and silk; this patterned textile created the imp­ression of stairs. Six Prayers, commissioned by New York’s Jewish Museum, is the most complex at the Tate. One can assume that its design developed out of the woven ark coverings Albers did for Temple Emanu-El in Dallas in 1957 and Temple B’nai Israel in Woon­socket, Rhode Island, in 1961. For Dallas she produced a machine-woven fabric panel, patterned with silver, gold, green and lapis lazuli in zigzagging bands. For Woonsocket she used a brocade-like technique, floating black, white and gold Lurex threads along the weft. 

I recommend reading "Anni Albers weaves her magic at the Tate Modern" in Apollo.


Some British women got the vote in 1918! Thank you, New Zealand and Australia!

The dates re suffrage across Europe are telling. Switzer­land introduced universal male suf­f­rage in 1848, the same year as it came to France. Danish voting rights came to men 30+ of good reputation in 1849. The North German Confederation enacted suffrage for all adult males in 1867. Suffrage came to all men aged 25+ in Belgium in 1893 and in Austria in 1896. Full male suffrage in Norway arrived in 1898.

The women's suffrage campaign in New Zealand began as part of a late C19th movement for women’s rights that spread through Britain & its Empire, USA & Europe. The movement gathered momentum from the early 1880s, especially following the establish­ment of a New Zealand Women’s Christian Temperance Union. This movement was shaped by two main themes: a] equal political rights for women a la John Stuart Mill and b] a desire for the moral reform of society!

Invigorated by the New Zealand suffrage victory in 1893, many NZWCTU activists travelled across the South Australian colony to obtain signatures for a suffrage petition. The NZWCTU suffragists were crit­ically important in this state campaign; women were able to vote in the South Austral­ia state el­ection as early as 1894! In a few years, Australian women could vote in both state and, post Federation (1901), in national elections as well.

So why did women in Britain have to battle for decades for equal votes? Perhaps the British government had never granted ANY reform without pain and conflict. So let us look right back into C19th history. Formal legislation was easy to track but Prof Pat Thane provided information on the events that happened outside Parliament.

The Great (1st) Reform Act of 1832 gave the vote to men meet­ing property qualification and redistributed Parliam­entary seats to represent urban areas properly. Alas the Act specified that only males could vote, excluding women with property who had been able to vote before then.

Procession to the 'Monster Meeting' in Hyde Park, 1908
Suffragettes holding a banner referring to Prime Minister Herbert Asquith. 
Evening Standard

Chartism was a working-class movement for political reform across Brit­ain. The movement gained particular support in parts of Britain where workers were most egregiously exploited. The movement was strongest in 1838-48 when three Chartist petitions, signed by millions of workers, were presented to the Commons.

In Britain the issue of parliamentary reform deteriorated as the Chartists deteriorated. John Stuart Mill stood for office, supp­ort­ing female suffrage in 1865, but his 2nd Reform Bill to Parl­iam­ent failed. The National Society for Women's Suffrage was formed in 1867 and in that same year, Repres­ent­ation of the People (2nd Reform) Act extend­ed the vote to urban working men who met property qualifications. The secret ballot was introduced in 1872.

The very important Married Women's Property Act, passed in 1882, allowed married women to own their own property instead of it being automatically transferred to their new hus­b­ands. This Act would eventually change one crisis in women’s voting rights.

Representation of the People (3rd Reform) Act of 1884 successfully addressed the imbalance between men's votes across the electoral districts. But an amendment to this 3rd Reform Bill, to give women the vote, failed.

The National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies/NUWSS, formed in London by Mil­licent Fawcett, was still trying to build legal supp­ort for the women’s movement in 1897. The NUWSS had 20+ national societies supporting its agenda.

But drastic action was increasingly needed. In 1903 Emmeline Pankhurst, long associated with the militants’ campaign, founded the Women's Social and Political Union/WSPU. With her daughters Christ­abel and Sylvia Pankhurst, the WSPU’s tactics heated up and started to include hunger strikes, smashing win­dows and arson of unoccupied churches. Arrests followed.

Suffragette demonstration in London, 1910

In 1906 suffragettes carried banners during a demonstration in the House of Commons’ Ladies Gallery. The Prime Minister and many of the MPs were in favour of women's suffrage, but nothing chan­g­ed and des­p­eration set in. 500,000 supporters attend a mass rally in Hyde Park, but the new Prime Minister Herbert Asquith wouldn’t face the women. Not for the first time, the suffragettes smashed windows in the PM’s residence in Downing St and chained themselves to railings.

Shame, Asquith, shame :(  The Conciliation Bill of 1910, which would have given women the vote, was supported by a majority of MPs but the Prime Minister decided to block the legis­lation. Suffragette marches by the National Feder­at­ion of Women Workers continued and always ended up in court.

From 1910, the Labour Party boomed. It supported education and medical care for children, work for the unemployed, eight-hour workdays, fair wages for local authority employees, municipal hous­ing, slum clearance schemes and assistance for aged paupers. And Labour was the only party comm­it­ted to votes for all adults. Not all women supported the Suffragettes, but a fear of feminism and of worker power terrified the Conservatives.

Many Australian & New Zealand women found themselves in Britain between 1903-14, and offered their British sisters help, guidance and advice. Vida Goldstein exemplified this support when she visited England in 1911 as a guest of the militant Women’s Social & Political Union. Other Antipodean women gave rousing speeches across Britain.

The 1913 Prisoners Temporary Discharge for Ill Health Act was an attempt to stop suffragettes from becom­ing martyrs, by dying in custody. Sadly Emily Davison was knocked down by the king’s horse at the Epsom Derby, and died from her injuries!

Campaigning was muted during WW1 because national priorities chang­ed. In 1916-1917, the House of Commons Speaker chaired a con­fer­ence on electoral reform that recommended a war-time comprom­ise. This Represent­ation of the People Act was finally passed in 1918, all­ow­ing “women over 30 who met a property qualification” to vote. The Act also gave the vote to ALL males over 21, abolished property restrictions for men, and extended the vote to military-men who were 19. Yes there was still inequality between women and men, but for the first time since 1832, some British women could now vote. The granddaughters of the original New Zealand voters were joyous.

The Daily Mail campaigned against increased women’s suffrage be­cause, they said, “it may bring down the British Empire in ruins”. Cons­erv­ative PM Stanley Baldwin promised the vote to all women after the 1924 election, but he lied. Baldwin only allowed the Equal Franch­ise Act in 1928. Afraid that Labour would win the next election, the Act provided that women over 21 could now vote. Gender equality in voting at last!


Women's domestic labour, in Edwardian art

Frances Vida Lahey (1882-1968) studied painting at the Brisbane Technical College. In her early 20s (1905–09), she travelled south to Melbourne and studied at the National Gallery School with Bernard Hall. It was conventional training for a young Australian artist in the Edwardian era. And like everyone else, Vida Lahey travelled to Europe in 1915 where she spent four years, studying art in Paris at the Académie Colarossi and doing her bit during WW1. But her stay in Paris came after the painting I want to discuss.

Lahey, Monday Morning, 1912, 
153 x 123cm, 
Queensland Art Gallery

The Queensland Art Gallery says that the painting Monday Morning 1912 launched Vida Lahey's career when it was exhibited at the annual exhibition of the Queensland Art Society in Brisbane, in 1912. Monday Morning was apparently following the tradition established at the National Gallery of Victoria School in Melbourne, where students were encouraged to produce a large narrative painting to compete for the triennial travelling art scholarship.

Esme, Vida’s younger sister, was the model for the woman at the wash tub. She worked alongside Flora Campbell, a family friend, doing the washing at the Lahey family home in Indooroopilly in Brisbane. The painting depicted the women doing the weekly wash with copper tubs and bar soap ― once a common sight in Australian households. But if it was such a common sight, why was it a rare subject in Australian art? Why were women's lives generally depicted in art in a more genteel fashion and how was it that their hard labour in and around the house disappeared from public discussion?

My assumption is that male artists were at work during the day and never saw laundry being done. As far as they were concerned, the laundry washed and dried itself, ironed itself and miraculously entered itself into the linen cupboard. Was it hard labour? Any viewer of this painting could see the relentless steam and the heavy, wet loads, but only Queenslanders would have recognised the unbearable sub-tropical heat and humidity.

World War One changed everything for Vida Lahey (and everyone else). Though there is a suggestion that in England she was romantically involved with a friend of one of her brothers who was subsequently killed in action, there is no evidence to suggest that Vida ever considered marriage. Back in Australia, Lahey maintained her strong commitment to painting as a professional career.

This painting was a fine work by the artist and remains her only surviving large-scale work. What can we compare it to?  Not C17th Dutch interiors where that the women were well dressed, elegant and totally removed from the day to day grime of running a household. Dutch servants helped the mistress of the house but were not labouring in the paintings. 17th century Dutch paintings idealised the domestic sphere and saw it as a place for teaching the values of the Dutch Protestant Church - cleanliness, order, how to handle staff, how to model good behaviour for children, female virtue.  How different Lahey's Monday Morning was; less sentimental and more gritty.

Southern, The Old Bee Farm, 1900
69 × 112 cms

Southern, The Country Washhouse, c1905,
39 x 60 cm
private collection

If I had to compare Lahey's theme with that of other Australian artists, I would select Clara Southern (1860-1940). Southern's small works, The Old Bee Farm 1900 and The Country Washhouse c1905 depicted women at work in the bush landscape, not inside in a laundry shed. Southern specifically painted in a range of colours that hel­ped the models blend in, almost as a natural part of their rural landscape. Was it heavy work? Were the women lonely?

When South­ern first moved to War­r­an­d­yte, the country washhouse was a common sight, with the hot water boiled over an open fire & copper tubs full of clothes. It might not have been an epic national task, like shearing sheep, but it was a quiet and laborious task. And like her colleague & close friend Frederick McCubbin, Southern painted women at work inside the home eg The Kitchen 1912. By the time this tiny painting was painted, Southern was living in her beloved Warrandyte, on the rural fringes of pre-WW1 Melbourne.

Rutherston, The Laundry Girls, 1906
Oil, 92 x 117cm 

British artist Albert Rutherston’s early scenes of domestic life used sharply contrasting outlines to de­scribe the positions the young women worked in and the draped fabrics they dealt with. In Laundry Girls 1906, the Tate said the two women in this paint­ing were shown marking laundry with thread, before it was sent out to be clean­ed.  The laundry of a middle class Edwardian household would either have been done at home by young working-class domestic servants. Or it could be sorted by the servants and sent out to a local washerwoman. It showed none of Clara Southern's women working outside in the bush landscape, but at least the women in this painting laboured in company.

Orpen, The Wash House, 1905
Oil, 91 x 73 cm, 
National Gallery Ireland.

Irishman William Orpen met Lottie Stafford, the model for the main figure in this 1904 painting while she was working as a washerwoman in slum cottages in Chelsea. Lottie, the working class model, might have shown confidence and naturalness but I bet she was bored witless with the tasks. This painting, The Wash House, 1905 drew universal acclaim when exhibited in London in 1906 to middle class audiences.

I recommend you examine a painting by the Belgian artist Georges van Zevenberghen called La repasseuse, 1907. The ironing work was long and repetitive, but the view through the window to the cityscape outside was a delight. I will ask Art Contrarian which gallery has the painting now.


Budapest was called the spa capital of the world.

It wasn’t until the Turkish occupation of Buda in the C16th that the ancient Roman springs were brought back to their former glory. In the Turkish era, three thermal baths were re-developed, connected to Pasha Sokollu. He led Buda for 12 years and wanted to make the city a stable military centre and a liveable Turkish city. These well-known springs were used for bathing, or for hospitals.

Massages and the use of different creams and oils were an essential part of Turkish baths, and eventually Hungarians were happy to enjoy the same treatments. But because only the Turks were allowed to use the baths in the day, Hungarians could visit only after hours.

I have selected just one baths complex. From 1868 it took 10 years for Vilmos Zsigmondy (1821-88), the Hungarian engineer who specialised in geo-thermal well drilling, to find the waters under the City Park! The hot spring water supply came from the artesian well which was drilled 970 ms deep. Thus the underground waters rich in minerals could flow spontaneously from the great pressure, like a fountain.

Thermal baths

Front entrance, main building with three domed pavilions

Once the deep hot spring wells were drilled under the Her­oes’ Square, Budapest became the spa capital of Eur­ope. The first late C19th baths were not spectac­ular, but were very popular. The old Artesian Baths’ stone walled facility was built in 1881, along with marble baths and pools.

Artesian Baths were the first hot spring bath palace in Pest and the largest, with 15 indoor pools and three large outdoor ones, were surrounded by yellow and white neo-baroque buildings. Inside the vaulted ceilings were mosaic tiles, statues and painted windows.

The bath building was so popular that by the late 1880s the city councillors wanted a bigger, better  facility. The palace of Szechenyi Bath was designed by Gyozo Czigler (1850-1905) . He presented his plans at the nat­ion­al exhibition in 1896, when Hungary celebrated its 1000th birthday and when the Hung­arian Millennium Monument on Heroes’ Square and Vajdahunyad Castle were built. This Professor from Budapest Tech­nical Univ­ersity had also designed Gozsdu Court and Hunyadi Square Market.

It took 7 years to get the designs officially accepted by the General Meeting. Alas Gyozo Czigler had died by the time the con­st­ruction began in May 1909. So the work was comp­leted by architects Ede Dvorak and Kalman Gerster. At the opening in 1913, the baths were already renamed now called the Szechenyi Baths, after the Count Istvan Szechenyi.

The 1913 version of Szechenyi Baths was con­sid­er­ably smaller than today’s version. The popularity of the baths was increasing year by year, providing both relaxation and medical benefits. While in 1913 200,000 people visited Szechenyi Bath, by 1919 890,000 bath guests used the pools. But despite the Thermal Baths’ huge suc­c­ess, the facility was not profitable. WWI presented a tough econ­om­ic situation in Europe and the planned Szechenyi Bath Spa Hotel didn’t happen.

In 1924 Budapest’s city council voted for the Bath’s expansion. The outdoor thermal baths and the long open air swimming pool were added and opened in 1927, based on the design of Imre Francsek. At that time the pools were surrounded by sand, bringing the beach into the city. Since 1985, however, the pool sides have been made of hard stone pavements.

From 1936-8 the new wells’ geo-thermal water came from the depth of 1256 ms. The hot spring waters, at 77c, were cooled with fresh cold water, to provide an ideal temperate in the thermal baths. By 1938 it was so successful that the mayor of Budapest recom­mended build­ing a fountain and a drinking well in Szechenyi Baths, to promote tourism. These buildings were added in 1939, as my Czech mother-in-law delightedly found on her regular visits to Budapest.

As Szechenyi Bath was originally planned for separate male and female pools, the structure of the building was symmetrical: men on the right side could use the same sort of pools and bath facilities as women could on the left side.

The Siege of Budapest was one of the worst city sieges during WW2 and parts of Szechenyi Baths were severely damaged. In March 1945, the male baths were used by the liberating Soviet sold­iers, while the former female baths were used by the local Budapesters.

Changes happened. It was only in 1963 that Szechenyi Baths remained open for the winter season. And the Szechenyi Bath Hospital later opened, taking care of daily 178 patients.

Interior pool

Main hall, the pump room and massage rooms

Hungary became a member of the Warsaw Pact in 1955. During the Comm­unist era (which ended in 1991), the Szechenyi Baths were somewhat neglected. Thanks to the detailed restorations after the Soviets left, Szechenyi Bath has become beautiful again. The pools and thermal baths have been restored since 1997 and restoration work is still creating luxurious medicinal baths with modern treatments.

The hot spring waters of Szechenyi Baths used thermal waters that were channelled into the artificial lake in City Park. This lake was used as a boating lake in summer months, and a skating rink in winter months.

The architecture and decoration of the Szechenyi Thermal Bath palace reflected Neo-Baroque and Neo-Renaissance taste. There were many painted windows, statues related to water mythologies and water gods, fish, swans, shells, clams and mermaids. Statues of dolphins, detailed cupola and lamppost mosaics, reliefs on the walls and art deco metalwork shone. Tiles on the walls were made in the Zsolnay Majolica Tile Factory. The bust of Zsigmondy is in front of the baths.

In 2009 Szechenyi Bath gained a rooftop spa oasis called Palm House. It has exotic trees that love the heat of the thermal baths and the endless sunshine and light coming through the glass roof. 


Avery Brundage: president of the American Olympic Committee

Avery Brundage (1887-1975) grad­uated civil engineering from the University of Ill­in­ois in 1909. His links to anti-Semitism were first seen in his university days, where he was pres­id­ent of a fraternity chapter who would accept any Aryan male who did not have a Jewish parent.

Brundage was a fine athlete who won the American National dec­athlon three times. He competed in the 1912 Summer Olymp­ics in Stockholm, where he represented the USA in both pentath­l­on and decathlon, but did not win any medals.

He began to involve himself in sports administration, event­ually at the American Olympic Committee level. In 1928, Brundage was elected AOC president.

Many sports administrators disliked women’s involvement at the top level. So the anti-woman movement was not pleased when, in July 1932, American athlete Babe Didrikson did brilliantly to win two Olympic gold medals in javelin and 80m hurdles. Didrikson was charged with “professionalism” because she had appeared in an advertisement for milk. This was enough for Brundage to vigorously advocate suspension, and thus the poor woman was suspended by the Amateur Athletic Union.

Jesse Owens won the gold medal and saluted the American flag.
German Lutz Long won the silver medal and gave the Nazi salute.

Meanwhile, in 1931, Berlin was awarded the right to host the 1936 Olympics, signalling the country’s return to the glob­al stage after years as an international outsider since WWI.

But soon after Hitler took power in 1933, international pro­tests focused on Germany’s official anti-Semitic policies. Countries feared that the German organisers would prohibit Jewish athletes from participating in the Olympic Games.

In 1934 the AOC president Avery Brundage visited Berlin where his frat­er­nisation with the Nazis was infamous. After a brief, tightly managed inspection of German sports facilities in 1934, Brundage stated publicly that Jewish athletes were being treated fairly and that the Games should continue, as planned. In fact as the Olympics controversy heated up in 1935, Brundage alleged the existence of a Jewish-Communist conspiracy to exclude the USA! But the pro-boycott side said that Brundage was already an anti-Semite who, on his trip to Berlin, took no notice of the oppression of Jew­s.

Avery Brundage was arguing that politics had no place in sport; that the Olympic Games belong to the athletes and not to the polit­icians. He wrote in the AOC's pamphlet Fair Play for American Ath­letes that American athletes should not be­come involved in the Jewish issue. As the Olym­pics controversy heated up in 1935, Brundage alleged the existence of a "Jewish-Communist conspiracy" to keep the USA out of the Games. Jewish community groups in the USA, he said, planned a militant campaign to prevent athletic organisations from permitting their athletes to participate.

Why didn’t all the other countries simply disregard Brundage and go ahead with their own boycott? Because other than the home nation, Germany, the USA had the biggest and most influential selection of athletes. Once the USA voted to participate in Dec 1935, 49 other countries fell in line. 

Avery Brundage and the American athletes passed through the gate into the Olympic Village for the 1936 Games. The German military officers welcomed the group.

In what people saw as an anti-woman move, Avery threw swimmer El­eanor Holm off the 1936 American Olympic team in mid-ocean, app­ar­ently for sipping champagne. Brundage said that it was the Olympic Committee threw her off; there were 20 men on the comm­it­tee and they voted unanimously to do it. He was the chairman of the committee, and it was his duty to announce the decision, which he made clear he approved of 100%.

But even worse was to come. The brilliant black athlete Jesse Owens won four gold medals for the USA, foiling Hitler’s intended demons­t­ration of Aryan supremacy. Yet Brundage ruthlessly declared the im­poverished Jesse Owens a professional and suspended Owens from the AAU. This act barred Owens from competing in any sanctioned sporting events in the USA forever. 

The two best American relay runners (Stoller & Glickman) in Berlin happened to be Jewish but were excluded from the race at the last moment. Stoller laid the blame with the American Athletics chief Brundage, who he believed bowed to pressure from Hitler to drop the two Jewish runners.

Two years after Brundage played such a key role in preventing an American boycott of the Berlin games, his construction company was awarded the building contract for the German Embassy in the USA, in grateful thanks.

American Tommie Smith won gold and his teammate John Carlos, who won bronze in the 200-meter race, in 1968. Australian silver medalist Peter Norman is at left.
In 1949, International Olympic Committee vice president Brundage returned to his anti-woman commitment. “I think it is quite well known that I am lukewarm on most of the Olympic events for women ... I think women’s events should be confined to those appropriate for women: swimming, tennis, figure skating and fencing.”

In 1952 Brundage became president of the IOC, a hugely powerful organisation. Yet only one year later he was arguing for the elimination of women from all Olympic competition, or from those sports that looked butch. His letter to IOC members that year said: “Many still believe that events for women should be eliminated from the Games, but this group is now a minority. But there is still a well-grounded protest against events which are not truly feminine, like putting a shot, or those too strenuous for most of the opposite sex, such as distance runs.”

From the biography of the Australian athlete Peter Norman (which I’ll review in 2019), Brundage clearly reacted with anger to brilliant black athletes, John Carlos & Tommie Smith. These gold and bronze medal winners both rais­ed their fists at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968, in solidarity with other oppressed black athletes in the USA. Brund­age and the IOC ordered the suspension of Carlos and Smith, and threatened publicly to strip them of their medals.

The lack of equality for black athletes remained an issue for the IOC. The committee extracted rock-solid promises of an integrated South African team, before it rein­stated that nation for the 1968 games. However South Africa’s apartheid policy at home remained unchanged, prompting African nations and others to boycott the 1968 games. None­the­less Brundage continued to support South Africa.

In the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Brundage horrified the IOC. Only a short time after the 11 Jewish ath­letes in the Israeli team and 6 others were massacred by Palest­in­ian terr­or­ists, Brundage ordered that the Games must go on. He drew parallels between the Israeli murders and an IOC decision to bar Rhodesia from Munich. Despite Rhodesia’s racist policies, Brundage supported Rhodesia’s inclusion in the Games and took the IOC’s ruling as a personal attack. People were stunned by Brundage’s cruelty.

Brundage retired as IOC president after the 1972 Olympic Games.


Endell St Military Hospital, London - run by women during WW1

WW1 hospitals were tough, partially because the conditions in which the medical staff had to tend to the terrible injuries were too crowded and poorly equipped.

But necessity was the mother of invention; the wounds inflicted on millions of soldiers drove the search for new medical tech­niqu­es. Technological innovations had a massive impact on survival rates. The Thomas splint, for example, secured a broken leg. In 1914, 80% of all soldiers with a broken femur died. By 1916, 80% of such soldiers survived.

The British Army began the routine use of blood transfusion in treating wounded soldiers, where blood was transferred directly from one person to another. That was until a US Army Dr Captain Robertson realised the need to stockpile blood; he established the first blood bank on the Western Front in 1917, using sodium citrate to prevent coagulation. Blood was kept on ice for up to 28 days and then transported to casualty clearing stat­ions for use in life-saving surgery.

But professional hospitals were needed. In Aug 1914 two women, Dr Flora Murray and Dr Louisa Garrett And­erson, founded the Women's Hospital Corps/WHC whose medical staff was entirely composed of graduates from the London School of Medicine for Women. Because the women anticipated a demeaning reaction from the War Off­ice, Drs Murray and Garrett Anderson applied to the more liberal French Red Cross. The French did allocate the newly built Hotel Claridge in Paris for the women to use as a military hospital! It opened in Sept 1914. 

The Red Cross brought wounded soldiers on stretchers
and the hospital staff took them in via external lifts.

Many wounded soldiers needed surgery as soon as they arrived at the hospital

British teaching hospitals had refused to appoint women to training posts. Yet despite their limited surgical experience, the hospital was successful; French and British authorities' scepticism reduced. Britain’s Royal Army Medical Corps­-RAMC began to treat the hospital as if it were an auxiliary to the British Army, rather than to the French Army.

Then the two doctors were asked to open another hospital at Wimereux, near Boulogne. The Women's Hospital Corps ran both hospitals successfully.

In Jan 1915, a change of policy meant British casualties were evacuated back to the UK, rather than remaining in France. Drs Murray and Garrett Anderson offered the services of the WHC to the British Army. Fortunately the War Office had received favour­able reports of the Corps' achievements. So the two women were per­sonally invited by the Army Medical Servic­es’ director to run a large military hospital in central London, under RAMC auspices. The WHC closed down its two  hospitals in France and returned home.

The Endell St Military Hospital in Covent Gardens opened in May 1915 in the form­er St Giles workhouse, previously used by the Met­rop­olitan Asylums Board to house destitute enemy aliens and Cont­inental refugees. The hospital blocks were 5 storeys high, linked by a glass-covered passageway. Part of the workhouse was C18th, but the children's home behind the main buildings was modern.

To prepare the buildings for use as a hospital, extensive struct­ural alterations were needed. External lifts capable of carrying stretchers, electric lighting, ward kitchens and bathrooms were ins­talled on each floor, and operating theatres, X-ray rooms, laborat­ories, dispensaries, mortuary and storerooms were created. The Hospital had 520 beds.

Established to treat only male patients, it was almost entirely staffed by women - 15 doctors, including visiting specialists. Dr Murray was the Doctor-in-Charge, while Dr Garrett Anderson was the Chief Surgeon. The nursing staff comprised a Matron lent by the New Hospital for Women, Assistant Matron, 28 Sisters and 60 female nursing ord­erlies. The sisters' uniform was of a blue-grey washable material with scarlet shoulder straps and the orderlies wore white.

Other staff included a dispenser, two masseuses, transport officer, stew­ard, quartermaster, clerks, storekeepers, cooks, cleaners and a male orderly on each floor.

The RAMC was convinced that the Hospital would soon close. But be­cause of its proximity to major railway termini, casualties poured in via ambulance trains. 30-80 casualties would be received daily, often late at night. Soon the number of beds had to be increased to 573.

Officially an Army hospital, new military admissions were operated on immediately; surgeons sometimes performed 20+ operat­ions a day! Many patients needed major abdom­in­al surgery, some with head injuries required craniotomy and a great proportion were orthopaedic cases with compound fractures of long bones. As the war progressed, specialist units were estab­lish­ed by the War Office, and patients with head injuries or femoral fract­ures were diverted to the specialist units. However, a large number of amputees were still admitted to the Endell St Hospital.

The 17 wards were wide and bright for up to 40 beds each, with windows on either side. The walls had colour, and the bedcovers could be warm, striped Army blankets. Additional luxuries eg reading lamps provided more comfort. The wards were also decorated with flowers, replaced daily by volunteers, who also brightened the courtyard with displays of flowers in window boxes. The women had created a soft, home-like atmosphere.

While most military hospitals had volunteers who ar­ranged books, games and ent­er­tainments for their patients, many professionals in central London prov­ided free entertainment on this hosp­it­al’s stage. Sports days, the library and needlework classes were popular. In Jan 1917 Queen Alexandra visited.

Dr Flora Murray and Dr Louisa Garrett Anderson in the centre 
plus dog

Ward rounds

The Hospital was a great success. In fact in Aug 1917 another new section was opened, with 60 beds set aside for women. And the timing was perfect. In 1918 new legislation gave the vote to women over 30. The Hospital staff celebrated this event by raising the Women's Social and Political Union flag in the Hospital courtyard.

Orig­in­ally intended as a temporary measure, the section for female patients finally closed in Jan 1919, by which time c2,000 women had been admitted for surgical or medical treatment. In December 1919,  the remaining parts of the hospital closed and later demolished.

Photo credits: BBC


Australian soldiers in WW1 with their dogs etc

Animals made an important contribution to Australia’s mil­itary history during WW1. Homing pigeons were used as a comm­unication tool: they were silent, difficult to intercept and not greatly affected by gas or noise. They could carry messages over long distances, from the Front Line back to Britain [and in turn, the Germans trained hawks to kill any carrier pigeons they saw].

Early in WWI, cavalry horses were considered essential offensive elements of a military force. But over the course of the war, horses’ vulnerab­il­ity to modern machine gun and artillery fire reduced their ability on the battlefield. Thereafter they were mainly used for logistical support as better suited than mechanised vehicles to travelling though deep mud and over rough terrain. Light draught horses were used to pull light artil­l­ery, wagons and ambulances and to carry supplies and munit­ions. Heavy draught horses of a sturdier type were teamed together to pull the larger artillery pieces. Don­k­eys, camels and mules were used to transport sold­iers, weapons, ammunition and food.

Simpson walking alongside his donkey,
bearing a wounded soldier, 1915.

Austral­ian soldiers also adopted a variety of familiar animals as mas­cots and pets. Far from home, the men shipped in wallabies, kang­ar­oos, rabbits, possums, cockatoos and kookaburras, all dependable comrades.

But from my perspective, dogs were always the most important an­im­al- both personally and medically! British families gave their pet dogs to the army so they could carry messages in special tubes on their collars. And dogs could track the enemy and locate injured soldiers. They were fast, diff­icult to shoot at, and they also caught rats!

The Germans also made extensive use of messenger dogs, who were considered almost as valuable as men and equally vulnerable to poison gases. Respirators for dogs were therefore created from ersatz fabric which could be soaked in a protective solution. Most dogs would have been reluctant to have the mask put over their muz­z­les, so the rabbit fur lining may have served as an encouragement.

As the network of trenches spread throughout the Western Front during WWI, so did the number of dogs. Many different breeds of dog were utilised but the most popular were medium-sized breeds such as Doberman Pinschers and German Shepherds because of their superior strength, agility, terr­itorial nature and trainability. Other breeds associated with WWI were Terriers, often employed as ratters, trained to hunt and kill rats in the trenches.

Military dogs fulfilled a variety of roles, depending on their size, intelligence and training. Working dogs were first used by the Royal Australian Engineers in 1918, as messengers in the trenches of France for Aus­tralian sappers. Their soldier-controllers were called Military Working Dog Handlers.

Sentry dogs were trained to bark loudly when they perceived an unknown or suspect presence in a secure area eg a camp or military base. Scout dogs, on the other hand, were highly trained and possessed a quiet and discip­lined nature. They were used on foot patrol, and utilised their keen sense of smell to detect the enemy, often up to a kilometre away. Unlike sentry dogs, scout dogs were trained to be silent; to stiffen their bodies, raise their hackles and point their tail if the enemy was in the vicinity.

Casualty dogs were trained to locate the wounded on battle fields. Equipped with medical supplies for those soldiers able to tend their own injuries, mercy dogs would remain with severely wounded soldiers, accompanying them as they died. Messenger dogs proved to be highly dependable in the dangerous job of conveying mes­sages. Running more quickly than a person, particularly over rough terrain, dogs were less visible a target for enemy snipers.

Animals generally endured worse conditions than the soldiers, often exposed to weather with inadequate shelter. 1916 was Europe's worst winter for more than 30 years, yet horses were not even issued with rugs. Like their carers, animals were subjected to artillery fire and gas attacks. Special nose plugs for horses were developed to enable them to breathe dur­ing a gas attack; gas masks were later developed for both dogs and horses.

The dogs’ vital roles included sniffing out enemies, carrying supplies, finding the wounded, delivering messages and first aid supplies. So of course anim­als served & died, with the nation’s soldiers. Some 9+ million animals (c8 million horses and 1 million dogs) perished or were wounded in the Great War, said Nigel Allsopp in his book, Animals At War

Pozieres dog and handler 
Photo credit 

Modern memorials
In Nov 2004 the Animals in War Memorial was unveiled in London’s Hyde Park. The inscription says: “This monument is ded­ic­ated to all the animals that served and died along side British and allied forces in wars and campaigns throughout time. They had no choice.”

The Australian Soldier Park, established in 2008 in Beersheba is dedicated to the memory of the Australian Light Horsemen in Israel as part of General Allenby's conquest of Palestine. The memorial statue of  the light horseman and his brave horse is surrounded by documents on aluminum boards

As a project for the centenary of ANZAC in Pozieres France, a Memorial Park was built. Pozieres was part of the land that Charles Bean desc­rib­ed as “a site more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth’”. The Park provided a suitable memorial to those soldiers, and inc­l­uded a small sandstone with a war animal bronze plaque and a poem.

In 2014, Ewen Coates made a commemorative sculpture showing an Explosive Detection Dog/EDD and his handler in the Australian Defence Forces. The resulting sculpture at Canberra’s Aust­ral­ian War Memorial commemorates the service and experience of all EDDs and their handlers involved in  Australia’s military conflict.

Explosive Detection Dog sculpture
in Australian War Memorial Canberra

Australian Soldier Park in Beersheba Israel
dedicated to the Australian Light Horse regiments and their horses



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