In placing this collection of Character Studies before the public I hope that it will meet with the recognition and hearty appreciation of such as have daily and yearly noted these types in the crowded streets of our American cities.
To collect these studies in such shape and execution as to make the volume a desirable acquisition to every lover of art, it was not sufficient merely to take the kodak and start out to get a snapshot at a desired subject, but I was compelled for weeks and months to haunt the crowded thoroughfares, the fashionable avenues and the dingy alleys for such characters as seemed to suit my purpose; and when I had found them, persuasion, appeals to their vanity and very frequently pecuniary considerations had to be resorted to in order to induce them to visit a studio in the garb and equipments of their daily vocation.
The majority of my characters lacking the educational qualifications necessary to grasp my ideas, I had many failures, caused by their unnatural, awkward and stubborn behavior in front of the camera, before I had sufficient material to issue this collection.
I do not wish to speak about the many ludicrous and unpleasant experiences my self-imposed task has brought upon me; suffice it to say that after enduring frequent insults, escaping a fight with a courageous dude, being taken for a medical student in search of subjects for the dissecting-room, and barely avoiding arrest through a misunderstanding by a female Italian type, I am happy to present the ' 'STREET TYPES OF AMERICAN CITIES' ' to the favorable notice of the public, who I am sure will find the same pleasure in looking them over as I had — despite the many drawbacks — in finding them, for it is an eternal truth:.
"In arte voluptas."
The above quote is the introduction to the 1896 edition of Street Types of Great American Cities By Sigmund Krausz, originally published in 1892 as Street Types in Chicago. Krausz was a documentary photographer who was well-known for his photos and essays on his world travels and automobiles. (See WorldCat for a list of his books.) It is, however, his posed "character studies" of early Chicagoans that I find most interesting. Let's take a look at a few samples...
"The Street Sweeper" (Note the bottle of liquor)
"Out for a Stroll"
"One of the Finest" (This is turn-of-the-century Chicago. Is he kidding?!)
The above photo samples are from the American Experience, Chicago City of the Century website page titled, Faces in the Crowd. They selected 20 pictures and provide a little background information, but there are more pictures to explore on the Google Book Search page linked above. Here are a few more:
and, finally, this last little "character study" which begs the question: Which came first? The stereotype or the photo?
I haven't been able to find out much about Sigmund Krausz. According to the Illinois Historical Art Project page he was born on May 14, 1857 in Tolna, Hungary and is thought to have died sometime after 1927. I also discovered he was a member of the Chicago Coin Club (he was a charter member in 1919). It is obvious his pictures reinforced ethnic stereotypes and, at least from our 21st century perspective, made the ethnic Chicago poor a cliche. But, as in immigrant himself, why? Was Krausz simply recording what he saw on the streets - staged studio images though they were - or was there another purpose?
Whatever the purpose, these photos are an amazing look into the eyes of Chicago long ago.
I encourage you to explore the University of Illinois at Chicago website, In the Vicinity of the Maxwell Street Market: Chicago 1890-1930. Of particular note is the essay titled, "Victorian Stereotypes of Italian Street People" which mentions Krausz and his photographs.
In December, 2001, Chicago Magazine writer David Zivan wrote an article titled, "Street Life, 1892" but I have been unable to find the piece online. If anyone has a copy, please let me know. My guess it has more information on Krausz.
The 3Cities Project: Chicago Essays
Instantiating Urban Space: Forms of Representation and the Redefining of Chicago
at the Fin-de-Siecle and the Opening of the Millennium
Sigmund Krausz photo credit: DN-0005292, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago Historical Society.