Friday, May 31, 2013

My Latest Post on the Irish Fire Side

I post historical topics on the Irish Fireside blog, and today I'm talking about Ellis Island and Annie Moore. I hope you'll stop by and comment!

Irish Fire Side: Ellis Island, Linking America and Ireland

Not Her Grandmother's Camera

In Grace's Pictures, Grace McCaffery longs to capture an image so that she can study it more closely. What better way to do that than with Kodak?

She tries sketching, but she's not very good at it. She visits a photographer and wants to learn about picture-taking, but he does not want her to get too close to his expensive equipment. Besides, he confuses her with all the technical terms, and she realizes the process would require time and study and she doesn't have much time. Besides being a means to freeze a moment in time, she believes photography could become a side business for her. She needs money in a hurry to bring her mother over from Ireland and save her from her peeler (policeman) husband.

The Advent of the Brownie

And then she discovers the Brownie camera. First introduced in 1900, this Kodak box camera was unique in a couple of ways. It was small and very portable. The user did not have to worry about the process of developing film. He or she just mailed the filled roll of film back to Kodak and soon the postman delivered your snapshots. (The snapshot was a new concept as well.) But perhaps the most appealing thing about the Brownie was that it cost only one dollar. To purchase a traditional camera outfit from Sears & Roebuck cost thirty times more! It was not as simple to use either. (Brownies were: crank the film, aim, shoot, and crank again.) Not to mention the fact that you had to develop your own film. What a mess!

An Invasion of Privacy

The introduction of the Brownie camera meant that the average person on the street could own one and carry it around. And, as someone commented in a contemporary newspaper, people could be taking photographs of folks who did not wish to be photographed. It was an invasion of privacy!

In Grace's Pictures, she commits this invasion of someone's privacy quite by accident. And in turn of the 20th century Manhattan, there were hordes of criminals about. And a corrupt police department. A naïve young immigrant girl could easily find trouble without looking.

The Brownie's Legacy

Brownie Hawkeye Flash 1960
Photo by Voxphoto
My family had a Brownie camera in the '60s and it operated pretty much the same way. The Brownie was an ingenious invention that did change society. I wonder what those folks would have thought about our smart phones today. We can take moving pictures of strangers now and instantly post them for the world to see.

Do you have any Brownie camera memories? I would love to hear them!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Why You Should Remember Ellis Island This Memorial Day

Read about this over on Novel PASTimes and let me know what you think of this prologue clip (below) to the concert I saw last Saturday.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Faces of Your Ancestors...

...could be here.

Many of these photographs used in this video were taken by Augustus Sherman. He appears in my novel, Grace's Pictures, and takes Grace McCaffery's photograph as she prepares to leave Ellis Island. These faces hold so many stories--the reason I wrote this book.

Friday, May 3, 2013

An Irish Book Launch

Ballina (EIRE)
Ballina photo by eric.delignieres
When I was in Ireland, I had the unique opportunity to attend Kate Kerrigan's book launch!

The event was held in the beautiful little town of Ballina (Bow-lynn-ah)--I pronounced it wrong continually until I heard Kate say it. The town is near her home and the place where her mother Moira lives.

Her book, the one just launched in Ireland, is the final in a series about an Irish immigrant who makes a home in Hollywood, and the party was at a beauty salon. Read her blog post about it here. (I actually appear in the background of one of the pictures she has up on her blog. I was on my way back from the bathroom when the costume award was being given. Yep, a photobomb by yours truly!)

I met Kate through my blog,, where I interviewed her. About a year and a half ago I had another unique opportunity. I learned she was going to Manhattan on book tour just the time I planned to be there to research my book. She invited me to a book blogger luncheon hosted by her publisher, Harper Collins, at the HC headquarters.
That's me in front of HC holding Kate's book.

The luncheon was an intimate gathering where we heard insides stories from the author, the best kinds!

Besides being a delightfully nice person, she is a wonderful writer and I've enjoyed her books. You should check them out!