by Emmett R Smith
This 1909 postcard view of South Front Street, looking south in Old Mankato, Minnesota, helps us all to see with startled surprise, and clearly, into our historical past. The optimistic Chamber of Commerce type of picture was made to “boom” the town. It is a picture taken forty-four years after the end of the American Civil War, which together with the 1870 Franco-Prussian War marked the begining of the nation-state era. In it we behold the world of Willy Lohman. When this picture was made, Einstein and Heisenberg were already evolving the theories that would bring into being the atomic bomb. As well, the men who were to design and build such lovely creations as the B-36 bomber, the steam locomotive and 1936 Stainless Steel Ford shown in previous postings were already alive and making their way in the World. Eighty years later, their late-modern age would come to an end with the collapse of communism and the pulling down of the 1961 Berlin Wall. So now, today, when we behold this antique street scene from ninety years ago we can see for ourselves, how far into the past historical modernism as historical fact already has receded. We behold the absolute unyielding image of a past remote both culturally and morally, and above all as to morale:
That past of our great-grandparents, now farther away from us emotionally than the atmosphere of Rome at the time of Jesus in the fable.
(This image is from the Minnesota Digital Archive, http://www.mndigital.org/ — ed)
[Emmett R Smith all text-rights reserved 4 December 2008]