Ice cream vendor, Havana, Cuba, c. 1890-1910. Detroit Publishing Company collection, Prints and Photographs Division.
This image of a long-ago Caribbean ice-cream vendor! You can taste the cool softness of the ice cream melting on your tongue, feel the pearl of sweat slipping down the nape of your neck, hear the bell from the nearest steeple. It’s enough to set you in mind of the dreamy opening sentence from “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s masterpiece: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice….”
True, our photo is from Cuba, not Marquez’s Colombia, and our unknown vendor is peddling ice cream, not just ice. But the picture, taken by an unknown photographer between 1890 and 1910 in Havana, evokes so much of the turn-of-the-century era, before electricity and ice became commonplace. The eye is drawn to the glasses used for ice cream (surely they tinkled or chimed together as he walked); the women in long dresses and bonnets, receding into the distance; the barred entryways to the doors on the street (was it Sunday afternoon, and stores were shuttered?); the direct gaze of the man whose features are hidden by his hat.
It’s our “Pic of the Week” this Friday, as we feature the Library’s “Free to Use and Reuse” sets — millions of copyright-free items like this one that you can download and use as you wish, be they photographs, prints, manuscripts, maps, musical scores, books, newspapers, prints, films, recordings and so on. The Library highlights a themed batch of photographs and prints on our homepage at the first of each month, and we’ll pick one to highlight here on the first Friday.
This month’s feature is ice cream, because summer, and there are dozens of fabulous pics. Here’s one from South Carolina, with a deep blue summer sky to die for:
Zesto ice cream sign, West Columbia, S.C. Photo: John Margolies. Prints and Photographs Division.
And nothing said early 20th-century small-town bling like a stained-glass Tiffany lamp at the local ice cream parlor. This beauty is from Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor in Columbus, Indiana, which opened in 1900 and is still around.
Stained-glass Tiffany lamp at Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor. Historic American Buildings Survey, Prints and Photographs Division.
Feel free to shuffle around on your own. There’s no rush. It’s the middle of summer, and we’re talking about ice cream.
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