Simplicissimus was a Munich-based satirical weekly founded in 1896, noted for attracting stellar writers (Thomas Mann, Rainer Maria Rilke, Hermann Hesse and more) and for its brilliant, graphic cartoon style. A measure of its success is that various of its contributors, cartoonists and editors, along with its publisher, were imprisoned, fined and forced into exile in the first 15 years or so of its existence. Even so, it went on until 1944; was revived in 1954; became biweekly in 1964; and finally died in 1967. You can find the entire series of Simplicissimus, as PDFs with a lot of history (in German), here.  I knew nothing about any of this of this until I found a 1909 copy at a vide-grenier; liked the cover; and decided to buy it for, of all things, its photographic and other advertisements. 

Most or all of the photographic advertisements are reproduced here, with a few of the others and a couple of cartoons. The most intriguing thing, as far as I am concerned, is the way it shows the concerns and preoccupations of many Germans before World War One. The magazine lampooned militarism; betrayed a thoroughly Teutonic appreciation of spas; and (by the look of it) sold a lot of cameras. Again and again I thought: what would have happened if people like the editors of Simplicissimus had prevailed, and there had been no World War One?

An international photo exhibition in Dresden; Zeiss lenses (with cameras as an afterthought); and "Photographic Apparatus" along with binoculars. And Mercedes cars, featherlight capes and more.

A close up of the Zeiss advertisement. Note that as well as in Jena they have offices in Berlin, Hamburg, Frankurt a: Main, London, Vienna and St. Petersburg: The Tsar was still on the throne.

Spas, and a wonderful motor-car-cum-camera

The motor-car-cum-camera. Exactly when did Kruegener disappear?

The advertisements are from all over Germany, and an interesting point is that prices are often given for Austro-Hungary as well as for Germany; a powerful reminder of how World War One changed the map of Europe.

Meanwhile, not forgetting the political cartoons...

Schleussner plates, Huettig's Cupido, and George Eastman's Kodak; the latter two are enlarged below. Uncle George lasted longer, but the company he founded is not what it was.

The term Doppel-Klapp-Kamera is reserved for cameras with a front and a rear standard linked by a pair of X-struts, but as this shows, "klapp" in this context merely means "folding". 

Kodak-Photography is Daylight-Photography. Loaded in daylight, developed in daylight. Every Kodak-camera and Kodak-film carries the trademark KODAK.

The readers of Simplicissimus seem to have been enthusiastic consumers of technology: cameras and gramophones were the iPhones and MPC players of their day.

An odd mixture to modern eyes: photographic equipment, binoculars, gramophones, violins, zithers, music boxes, typewriters and weapons. In most of Europe at the time, even in England, there were few restrictions on the sale of firearms.

The Demon Drink, German-style

...and militarism. Bavaria was a pretty laid-back part of the world and its intellectuals (the sort who bought Simplicussimus, the circulation of which hit 85,000 at its peak), didn't have much time for militarism,colonialism or indeed the church (see below).

In 1906, only three years before this issue was published, the editor of the magazine (Ludwig Thoma) had been jailed for six months for attacking the clergy. Religious fundamentalism, bigotry and thin-skinned sectarianism are nothing new.

Back to the advertising. Yes, this is a photographic ad, showing how Stoeckig's Anastigmat-Kameras could freeze motion.

As well as cameras and spas (and binoculars, gramophones, violins, zithers, music boxes, typewriters and weapons) Simplicissimus included ads for John D. Rockefeller's memoirs and Thermos flasks.

...and sparkling wine and toothpaste and motor-car tyres and slimming aids and books about fakirs (Highly interesting! New!) and "faultless" (? - tadellos) Manoli cigarettes. Germans really did say "Donnerwetter!" The ads for the Bial & Freund in Vienna and Bernhardt in Leipzig have already been reproduced, bigger. 

And finally, the back cover. As far as I can see, the headline translates as "Reprimanding the landowners", or possibly "Crackdown on landowners", but the cartoons can be hard to follow. Once you've deciphered the Fraktur typeface, you then have to figure out the events of 1909 that would have given rise to the satirical comments. Imagine your great-great-grand-daughter in 2123 looking at a 2016 issue of Private Eye. Intriguingly, Private Eye has a lot of small ads too.

The pictures were copied using a 55/2.8 Micro-Nikkor on a Nikon Df camera mounted on a Kaiser copy stand. The pages are perhaps not quite as yellowed as they are shown here but they are pretty thoroughly yellowed: this was a largely artistic decision, because plain  white wouldn't have looked right. After all, the magazine was almost exactly 107 years old (July 12th, 1909) when I bought it in July 2016.

Go to Photography

Go to PPE+M

Go to Index

Go to Home Page

Running text and captions copyright (c) Roger Hicks 2016