Old Found Photos: Meet Karl

I was recently in an antique store near here, browsing through boxes of old photographs looking for something interesting to post. (I’ve done this before here and here, should you like this sort of thing.) The problem with finding old photographs like this is that they’re often entirely devoid of context – no names, no dates, no explanations… no nothing. Sometimes you have to do a little bit of detective work to figure out who, or what, you’re looking at. Sometimes you have to do a lot of detective work…

And, sometimes, you come across something inexplicable that grabs your imagination. To that end… meet Karl.


(82x120mm fiber-based contact(?) print from a sheet film negative)

This photograph was taken – according to the paper folder it came mounted in – in Eksjo, Sweden, by “Hovfotograf Rylanders Eftr.”. An unclear pencil inscription says something like “Karl Richarson”, though the last name is pretty unclear. Just from looking at the photo, and the folder it came in, it’s pretty safe to date this to the teens or, more likely, early 1920s.

That’s where the imagination starts to get grabbed. 1920s + young man + vaguely uniform-ish outfit and cap + some sort of thing on his chest + walking cane = wounded WWI vet, right?

Alas, assuming young Karl was actually a Swede, that’s probably unlikely, given Sweden’s neutrality in The Great War. (And everything else between then and WWII.)

Still, it’s a picture that makes one wonder.

The hat looks very… aquatic… to me, which makes me wonder if we aren’t looking at a, say, crewmember of a Swedish cargo or passenger ship. (Many of which were sunk by Germany in WWI, after all.)

I know some of my readers are Swedes – anyone recognize the outfit? Or that huge wreath-and-ribbon on his chest?

Anyway, it’s an interesting photo, I think, even if we’ll probably never unravel the mystery of young Karl…

Published in: General, History | on May 3rd, 2011| 4 Comments »

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4 Comments Leave a comment.

  1. On 5/3/2011 at 3:24 pm CHK Said:

    That is presumably a student cap, issued on completion of what’s known as Gymnasium – you would call it high school.
    We use them in Denmark, they use them in Norway – could well be they use them in Sweden, too.

  2. On 5/3/2011 at 5:29 pm Nemo Said:

    If that’s the case, that’s one crazy fancy school portrait, then…

  3. On 5/4/2011 at 12:00 pm CHK Said:

    @Nemo:
    We have some crazy fancy school traditions over here. This wouldn’t be all that unusual.

  4. On 9/24/2012 at 6:47 pm CArl Esbensen Said:

    Hi. I am from Norway but with Swedish family. They say this picture is typical for a fellow that has passed his student examn and is ready for the university. This was a typical picture for up to 1960 with the student cap. The ribbon on his chest with the miniature student cap was common for both boys and girls. The walking stick is probably from his grandfather with a silver band engraved with his name.

    The width of the lapel may indicate the picture is from the 50′s. In 1960′s it was more narrow.

    Very nice picture !

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