Old Photographs of Havana and Cuba, circa 1880

City Hall, Havana

City Hall, Havana

There is surprisingly few 19th century photographs from Cuba, especially compared to Mexico or Brazil, or even countries further South like Chile or Argentina. It was therefore quite a nice surprise to find this group of decent prints dating probably from the late 1870’s or early 1880’s.

We don’t have much documentation on early Cuban photography, and would be grateful for any help in identifying the photographer.

These prints are mounted on a thick cardboard and captioned in ink in German. We translated the captions in English.

Cathedral of Havana

Cathedral of Havana

Plaza de India, Havana

Plaza de India, Havana

Street scene in Havana

Street scene in Havana

Hotel Telegrapho, Havana

Hotel Telegrapho, Havana

The Hotel Telegrapho is still in Operation in Havana, and is rumoured to be the oldest in town. It got its name by housing the first telegraph of Cuba.

The new Market, Havana

The new Market, Havana

Sugarcane fields, close to Havana

Sugarcane fields, close to Havana

The city of Matanzas

The city of Matanzas

The house of a sugar farm, Cuba

The house of a sugar farm, Cuba

An old slave

An old slave

An old slave

An old slave

A laundress in Havana

A laundress in Havana

Public carriage in Havana

Public carriage in Havana

Mexico in colour by William Henry Jackson, 1884-1885

Mexico in colour by William Henry Jackson, 1884-1885

Zocalo and Cathedral, Mexico City

Zocalo and Cathedral, Mexico City

We just acquired a group of twenty photochrom prints of Mexico taken by William Henry Jackson (1843-1942) in 1884-85 and listed in the catalog of the Detroit Photographic Company. Jackson took photographs of street scenes, buildings, markets, ranches, and other subjects in Mexico City, Amecameca, Aguascalientes, Chapultepec, Chihuahua, San Marcos and Tacubaya.

The Photochrom is a photomecanical printing process invented in Switzerland in the mid 1880’s.  The prints look deceptively like color photographs. But when viewed with a magnifying glass the small dots that comprise the ink-based photomechanical image are visible. The photomechanical process permitted mass production of the vivid color prints. Each color in the final print required a separate asphalt-coated lithographic stone, usually a minimum of six stones and often more than ten stones.

The Detroit Photographic Company was launched as a photographic publishing firm in the late 1890s by Detroit businessman and publisher William A. Livingstone, Jr. and photographer and photo-publisher Edwin H. Husher. They obtained the exclusive rights to use the Swiss “Photochrom” process for the Americas.

Chapultepec

Chapultepec

Xochimilco gardens

Xochimilco gardens

Shops in Tacubaya

Shops in Tacubaya

Lavanderas, Mexico City

Lavanderas, Mexico City

The market in Aguas Calientes

The market in Aguas Calientes

Popocatepelt, view from Amecameca

Popocatepelt, view from Amecameca

Amecameca and the Iztaccihuatl

Amecameca and the Iztaccihuatl

Popocatepelt and Amecameca

Popocatepelt and Amecameca

View of Orizaba

View of Orizaba

Aguas Calientes

Aguas Calientes

Cathedral of Lagos de Moreno

Cathedral of Lagos de Moreno

Arbol de la Noche Triste, Popotla

Arbol de la Noche Triste, Popotla

San Angel Inn, circa 1920

San Angel Inn, circa 1920

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn, circa 1920, viewed from where is today the Casa Estudio de Diego Rivera

We just found in Paris these charming photographs of the beloved San Angel Inn, and are happy to share them, especially with our chilango friends. Apparently, the place has not changed much in the last hundred years…

At the beginning of the XXth century, San Angel was still a mostly rural community, away from the limits of the City of Mexico. The hacienda Goicochea, originally built as a monastery in 1692, was turned into a restaurant in 1906, under the patronage of a Madame Roux – another instance of a successful French-Mexican collaboration.

E. Portilla is (barely) known as a photographer and postcard seller in San Angel Inn as early as 1908. These prints seem to date from the late 1910’s or early 1920’s.

On a more personal note, I’ll warn our non-mexican readers that San Angel Inn serves the best margaritas in the world – hands down – but also the meanest…

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

View from the roof of San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

According to legend, Pancho Villa’s and Zapata’s horses drank in this fountain while the two generals were dividing the country’s territory into North (Villa) and South (Zapata), during their triumphant arrival to the nation’s capital with the Conventionalist Army in 1914.

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

Une rue à Mexico

Une rue à Mexico

Eglise à Mexico

Eglise à Mexico

Plaza de Toro à Mexico

Plaza de Toro à Mexico

As a follow-up to our last post, we would like to share more information on the Lieutenant Riffault.

We knew thru the Archives of the Commission Scientifique du Mexique that, starting September 1864, Riffault was on secondment as a photographer under Colonel Doutrelaine, head of the Commission. A photographic view of the archeological site of Penon de los Banos by Riffault is sent to Paris on September 9th. Riffault will remain the head photographer in Mexico City for the Commission at least until August 1865. During that time, he was sent notably to Chapultepec, Teotihuacan, Iztapalapa and Chalco to take photographs. He was therefore obviously based in Mexico City and it’s almost certain that he took photographs of the city.

We checked his military records at the Fort de Vincennes and were able to identify this lieutenant Riffault as Henry Claude Albert Riffault, born in Blois in 1836 and deceased in 1892.

Henry Riffault graduated from military school in 1856. He participated in the Italian campaign in 1858 and 1859. He sailed to Mexico on June 23d 1863 and stayed there until May 1867. In March 26, 1864, he commanded the attack on a barrack in Ferez and was praised for his bravery.

He spoke good Spanish and had great skills in drawing and topography.

He is an obvious candidate as the author of the photographs from the Germiny collection that illustrate this and the previous post. We haven’t been able to locate any print, signed or without doubt attributed to Henry Riffault, in French public collections.

dossier militaire de Henry Riffault

dossier militaire de Henry Riffault

dossier militaire de Henry Riffault

dossier militaire de Henry Riffault

dossier militaire de Henry Riffault

dossier militaire de Henry Riffault

dossier militaire de Henry Riffault

dossier militaire de Henry Riffault

IMG_4055

 

Previously unknown views of Mexico, 1862-1867

The Aztec calendar

The Aztec calendar

In our previous post, we were able to attribute to Louis Edouard Roussel, a French soldier, eight photographic prints dated from 1863. Those prints were previously in the collection of Lieutenant Antoine Le Begue de Germiny, who served as a chief of staff officer in Mexico from early 1864 to early 1867. We bought, from the same provenance, a stunning album of over thirty albumen prints, in near perfect condition. Most of the images were previously unknown. They are obviously the work of a French soldier but more importantly of a skilled and talented photographer.

View of the Zocalo, Mexico city

View of the Zocalo, Mexico City

Palazzo de la MIneria, Mexico City

Palacio de la Minería, Mexico City

Palacio nacional, Mexico city

Palacio Nacional, Mexico City

Castle and park of Chapultepec

Castle and park of Chapultepec

Detail : soldier on the bridge in the park of Chapultepec

Detail : soldier on the bridge in the park of Chapultepec

The headquarter of the French army in Mexico City.

The headquarters of the French army in Mexico City

The garden of the headquarter of the French army in Mexico City.

The garden of the headquarters of the French army in Mexico City

Cathedral and Zocalo of Puebla

Cathedral and Zocalo of Puebla

Street view of Queretaro

Street view of Querétaro

Palacio de San Luis Potosi

Palacio de San Luis Potosí

The following photographs seem to indicate that our soldier was more than a skilled photographer. His view of the castle of Chapultepec, barely visible behind the lake of the park, is oddly reminiscent of some Barbizon views from the same time. With little documentary value, it looks more like an artistic attempt, a “délassement”.

We know, through the archives of the Commission Scientifique du Mexique, of two more officers who were asked to practice photography in Mexico. A lieutenant Riffault and a lieutenant Laure Henri Gaston Galard de Bearn. Both could be the author of these photographs.

The jury is still out, but we will keep you posted soon.

View of the castle of Chapultepec

View of the castle of Chapultepec

The park of Tehuantepec

The park of Tehuantepec

An antique shop set up for Good Friday

An antique shop set up for Good Friday