Ca. 1935. Oblong Folio album (ca. 28,5x38,5 cm). 50 card stock leaves with tissue guards. With ca. 660 mounted gelatin silver photographs (and two loosely inserted), mostly from ca. 6,5x11 cm (2 ½ x 4 ½ in) to ca. 6x8,5 cm (2 ¼ x 3 ¼ in); with six larger photos ca. 12x17 cm (4 ¾ x 6 ¾ in). Most photos with period white ink captions on the mounts. With two mounted printed business cards from Chefoo brothels, ca. 8x11 cm (3 x 4 ¼ in). First leaf with a custom-printed preface, titled “My Oriental Album” and signed by the compiler underneath (“Sgt. J.G. Polk”). Period black full calf album fastened with metal bolts. The front cover is decorated with an elaborate blind-stamped scene with stereotypical Chinese motifs and a blind-stamped name of the binder in the left lower corner. Gilt-lettered title “J.G. Polk. Philippine Islands. 1935” on the lower margin. A few images mildly faded, seven photos have been previously removed, but overall a very good album of strong interesting photos.
Historically interesting extensive collection of original photos illustrating the life in the American-administrated Philippines and China during the pre-WW2 years. The photos were taken by one J.G. Polk, who apparently served in the US Navy Asiatic Fleet in 1935 and at times visited Chefoo (Yantai), Shanghai, Beijing, Manila, Los Banos, La Trinidad, Baguio, Guam, etc. The album was most likely custom-made for Polk by a Chefoo binder, whose blind stamp is placed in the left lower corner of the front cover. Based on the captions and the selection of photos, with a number of graphic images of Chinese tortures, bold examination of Igorot burial grounds and several portraits of Chinese prostitutes and bare-breasted native Filipino women, the compiler was not culturally sensitive or particularly respectful by modern standards. Nevertheless, the album includes many noteworthy ethnographic images, showing his clear interest in the people of Southeast Asia. Moreover, the first leaf bears a special printed “preface,” warning the future viewer about the disturbing nature of some of the images.
The album includes over 420 photos taken in the Philippines. Among them are lively street views of Manila, photos of La Trinidad city and valley, “engine, Del Carmen sugar estate,” interior of a church in Paranaque, Filipino funeral procession, etc. Over twenty photos show Baguio - city streets and market, airfield, Lourdes Church, “Governor’s mansion,” graveyard, sundial, “earthquake registering instrument,” interior of a curio shop, a wooden building with a sign “Under Govt. Sto. Tomas resthouse, Baguio, Mount. Prov.,” etc. Three interesting scenes show workers cleaning up a landslide next to a market in Baguio, apparently after an earthquake. About a dozen photos relate to the gold mining industry in the Mankayan province, showing Polk partying with the associates of the “Suyok mine,” Americans “looking for gold” in a mountain stream, and the interior of a mining facility “washing out gold.”
Over thirty photos show an Igorot village, scenes from a Canao ceremony, a “purity gate,” rice terraces, individual and group portraits of Igorot people, and Americans examining Igorot traditional “burial grounds in jungles” (the latter photos are not respectful by modern standards). Over thirty photos portray “Baluga” (Aeta) people from the Zambales province in Central Luzon (family groups, kids, a “Baluga village,” “two old bucks,” “policeman and wife”). At least three photos show Mangyan people (a policeman, a mother with a child, a group of two). There is also a series of photos of Filipino flagellants in procession on Good Friday. One of Polk’s captions reads "These Heathens are Flaganties [sic!]. On Good Friday they practice the crucficon [sic!] and whip themselves and carry the cross and use a crown made from thorns and what not. In plain English, 'Nuts.'" The other portraits depict native cooks, a “fisherwoman,” a “fish peddler,” an Albino native woman, a street cleaner, women washing laundry, peeling coconuts, Filipino girlfriends of the Americans (“Mona,” “Lolly Popsie,” “Ada”), et al.
There are also several views of American military and naval facilities, including photos of “Camp John Hay,” “Naval Post, Los Banos,” “Clark Field,” Del Carmen air field, “2nd Sqd. Nichols Filed”, “66-th Sqd. Nichols Field,” interior of a “squad room,” etc. An interesting photo documents the “First Landing of China Clipper” (flying boat of the Pan-American Airways, which performed the first commercial transpacific airmail flight from San Francisco to Manila on November 22, 1935). Two photos show the inauguration of the second president of the Philippines Manuel L. Quezon (1878-1944) in November 1935. Seven photos show the victims of the wreck of a British freighter “Silverhazel” which sank during a typhoon off the coast of Luzon Island in November 1935; the survivors were rescued by USS “Peary” and USS “Bulmer” a few days later. Several photos show USS “Grant” – “the boat I came over on.” Numerous photos portray Polk, his co-servicemen, friends and acquaintances, posing during parties, picnics, countryside trips, with their bicycles and motorcycles, dressed in Igorot native dress, etc.
About 230 photos were taken in China. Interesting images include over a dozen photos of the Red Light district in Chefoo (entrances to the “whore houses,” girls posing with American sailors, a “sing song girl,” local beggars). Two printed business cards advertise brothels “No. 6” and “No. 7” in English and Chinese. Other photos show Chefoo (streets, city gates, temples and shrines), Shanghai (vibrant street views, portraits of street sellers, children, peddlers, people “making char coal,” divers for coins), Beijing (the Marble Boat), Great Wall of China, US naval ships in the “mouth of Yangze River,” “rail road station,” a “thieves market,” “Government building,” “Bank of China,” “Chink funeral procession,” a series of views of sampan boats and portraits of their inhabitants, etc. Several photos show the YMCA building and gardens in Shanghai, including a portrait of a group of American sailors “going on patrol duty.” There are also views of the “American Colony,” a photo of an entrance to the US navy grounds with the sign “US Navy, for Naval Personnel Only,” a general view of the YMCA building in “Ching Mong Fow,” etc. The Chinese section also has twenty-six commercially produced graphic (if grainy) photos of torture and executions.
From the custom-printed preface: “To You who are about to open these pages and glance thru the contents, the following warning is issued. Within this pages are collected thru months of service in China various pictures to kept in mind bygone days and rekindle anew old memories of the Asiatic Station. Perhaps some people may not approve of the contents and it is with the warning that though there is nothing in these pages that should not in the mind of the owner be there, nevertheless, you are cautioned that you do so at your own free will and risk. Hoping that you might find this both of interest and entertainment and at the same time instructive I bey to remain,
Overall an interesting extensive collection of original photos of the Philippines and China in the mid-1930s.
Price: $3,250.00 USD