One of the most surprising things I've found in recent months was a big stack of back issues of The Illustrated London News from 1924-25. They were in the estate of a Hollywood filmmaker who had been a pioneer in 3-D films. And as soon as I opened the magazines, it was obvious why he'd bought them: each issue contained an anaglyph (3-D image) and an advertisement for readers to obtain a pair of 3-D glasses. Tucked inside one of the magazines was a small envelope containing one red and one green lens -- part of the response to the original owner's request for the 3-D glasses.
Anaglyphs had been around since the mid-1800s, I discovered, but The Illustrated London News was a pioneer in printing them for the general public's use. The anaglyphs in the magazines are interesting -- a large photo of tennis action at Wimbledon, an ad for the Ethophone V Broadcast Receiver, and much more. But it's the news coverage of the day that really intrigues me, because it seems so contemporary. For example, a story on the continuing violence in Syria:
The October 31, 1925 issue stated somberly: "The unfortunate events in Syria have aroused much feeling."
On a lighter note, a June 28, 1924 headline read: "Championships to Decide Britain's Olympic Team" with a full-page spread of pictures including one of Mr. H. M. Abrahams (so ably portrayed by Ben Cross in the film Chariots of Fire).
Many of the issues covered the doings of the British monarchy. The magazine paid particular interest to the pretty young woman who (although they didn't know it at the time) would one day be queen when her husband Albert Frederick Arthur George (Bertie) ascended the throne:
"With her charming smile, [she] has a very gracious manner of performing the public duties that fall to her lot, and she is popular wherever she goes."
Some of The Illustrated London News stories, however, cover one-of-a-kind events. For example, the 1924 British Empire Exhibition at Wembley featured a statue of the Prince of Wales made entirely of butter:
"The model is the work of...sculptors to the Canadian Government Commission. No less than 2 1/2 tons of butter was used, and the model is kept in condition by a special refrigerating plant, worked by two mechanics, who have to study the pressure of the atmosphere continually. When the Prince of Wales paid an unofficial visit to this exhibit, he remarked jokingly that he thought his legs were too fat."
Okay, to be fair, the Exhibition was much more than that. It was aimed at bringing all the nations ruled by Great Britain together, so they could get to know one another better, and cost 12 million pounds to put on. The BBC Archive has a recording of the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) and his father, George V, opening the 1924 Exhibition at Wembley:
(Still, I wonder what they did with all that butter after the Exhibition was over?)