the little folks of animal land

anonymous asked:

Hello! This is actually my first time asking anyone something. Regarding the kitty doing laundry, I had a story book when I was little that featured that picture. It was exactly the same. The story was told with a series of photos just like that one. Do you have any explanation for that??

I do! The pictures were taken by Harry Whittier Frees in his Oaks, Pennsylvania studio and they were extremely popular during the 1900s to 1930s. 

The Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, Nebraska, June 2, 1936

One day, Frees, who didn’t even own a camera, put a hat on the family cat and thought “I’d love a picture of that”. So he bought a camera and set up a studio and began.

Frees got his start in 1906 selling postcards of his animal photos. Postcards were only allowed to be printed and issued by the USPS, and they were generally pretty boring and generic, until 1898, when private companies were allowed to begin printing them. By 1900 it had become major fad, sending and collecting souvenir cards, and postcards were a booming industry. He sent a couple pictures in to a leading postcard company, thinking maybe they’d take them. The company accepted immediately and printed the photos on their postcards, they sold like hotcakes, and he was offered a three year contract with the company.

The Anaconda Standard, Montana, May 27, 1906

 He published multiple books of his works, like The Animal Mother Goose (1922), which had 63 full page photographs. Other books by him include Little Folks of Animal Land (1915), Animal Stories (1916) and Kitty Cat Stories (1917) which was followed with Bunny Stories and Puppy Stories. He also helped illustrate advertisements and other people’s books with his photographs, like Edward Anthony’s The Pussycat Princess in 1922 and did exclusive series for newspapers, usually for Sunday supplements or ongoing features.

It was asked pretty frequently what he did to have the animals sit so well. After all, it was hard to get a good picture of a person back then, let alone an animal in an elaborate pose. People wondered if the animals might be drugged or hurt to hold the poses, but Frees said it was done with a whole lot of patience - and lots of treats. He said that one reason he always used young animals (aside from the fact that they’re darn cute) was that they were easier to work with than older ones. 

Fitchburg Sentinel, Massachusetts, November 13, 1935

However, some people doubt whether the animals Frees used were even alive:

“The idea that some of these images are the result of patience is clearly nonsense,” opines Mike Power in one public post beneath an article about Frees. “He admitted that he used a shutter speed of 1/5th second which, in modern terms, is slow. Taxidermy was popular and the Victorians weren’t concerned about it in the way that we are today.” According to an article on, Frees used both dead and living animals, but refused to acknowledge the use of stuffed pets. “If Frees’ contemporaries knew that many of the animals in his photos were dead, they probably didn’t care,” the article states. “Victorians and Edwardians had no problem photographing dead things.” 

The Ottawa Journal, Ontario, Canada, March 29, 1935

Fitchburg Sentinel, Massachusetts, November 13, 1935

Personally, I don’t think any of the photos I’ve seen were taxidermy. Might the animals have been uncomfortable during the shoots? Maybe a little. I know my cats get pretty surly when I try to put a Santa hat on them for Christmas photos. But I don’t think Frees mistreated them, and I think he had a genuine talent with animals and that he loved them.

Fitchburg Sentinel, Massachusetts, November 13, 1935

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, New York, May 27, 1906

The Ottawa Journal, Ontario, Canada, March 29, 1935

Here’s a link to an NPR article about Frees’ not so happy personal life.

More pictures by Frees from the Library of Congress:

The human skull is the symbol of death. For the witch death holds a strange fascination. Each and every one of us is born to die, but is death a final end to life? The witch says no. For she knows that: “there are other places and other things”. Her whole life and being is devoted to the ever present but unseen world of spirit. To the witch the spirit world is a reality, a living thing. To her everything has a spirit, a soul, a personality, be it animal, mineral, vegetable. That is why to us in the south west we know and believe in the little people, oh, you may laugh, my fine up country folk, but beware for indeed you are in the land where ghoulies and ghosties, and long legged beasties still romp, stomp and go bump in the night. Come, let us show you what the witches and their spirits do…’
- Cecil H. Williamson 1909-1999

anonymous asked:

Hello! I was looking at the graph for the age of reproduction/longevity graph for the hydra piece and I was confused about how this link was found. The ratio between the two variables seems to range between 1:1 and 1:100 for different animals so I'm struggling to see how it's significant, given how much it fluctuates. For the record, my experience with statistics is limited so maybe it's above my paygrade. If possible, could you explain it in a sort of layman's terms? Ta!

Apologies to folks here for pretty science pictures - I’m going on a little statistical aside in response to a question about yesterday’s post on the hydra - a little animal that seems to be immortal. 

Read that post first to get some context on what follows.

You’re right, Anonymous - that seems like a big range of ratios. The important thing is that nearly every animal falls within this range. That strongly suggests a trend - we can hypothesize that ALL animals fall within this range. But the hydra falls way outside it. At this point, it is a approaching a ratio of 1:1000.

Imagine this: you land on a strange planet entirely inhabited by sentient slinkies. You start to catch and release the slinkies, measuring their length and keeping a tally as you go.

The first slinky is just 2 inches long. So you make a column for 1-10 inch slinkies and mark down a single X.

The next slinky is 98 inches long.

At this point, all you know is that these living slinkies can range from 2-98 inches. The average slinky length is 50 inches. But the range could be much bigger. You don’t have a reason (so far) to think a slinky can’t be 1000 inches long.

So you keep going. After measuring ten slinkies your tally looks like this.

After measuring 50 slinkies it looks like this.

You’re getting a better and better picture of life on Slinky Planet. The average slinky length still happens to be 50 inches. But now it would surprise you if you found a 1000-inch slinky. Why? You have a new piece of information - a value statisticians call standard deviation. Standard deviation is a measure of how much variation there is within a population. How close are most of the slinkies to the average of 50 inches, give or take? In this case, they mostly fall within a few dozen inches.

If the standard deviation was much smaller (just a few inches) the slinkies would all be closer in length, clustering around the mean. 

If the standard deviation were much larger, you’d expect more variation - a wider spread. And it would be more likely to find a larger value.

The more slinkies you measure, the more certain you are of the standard deviation of the slinky population. AND you’re more and more sure that you won’t find a slinky outside a certain range. You’d expect to find more slinkies in the 1-100 inch range, with ~50 inch slinkies most likely. It wouldn’t be surprising to find a 150 inch slinky - that could just be an extreme outlier.

But a 1000-inch slinky? That would be a shock.

In the same way, the ratio between age of first reproduction and longevity for different species does vary. The distribution of these ratios is pretty well defined; because we have data for so many species, we have a good idea of the standard deviation. 

The hydra ratio falls way outside the range we would expect based on this standard deviation. So we can be pretty confident that the hydra isn’t following the rules - it’s up to something completely different.


I’m Scottish, a witch, a writer, blogger and daydreamer. I’ve lived in Scotland all my life and love this country with my whole being. 

I use traditional Scottish folk magic as well as magic of my own devising. I’ve also practiced a little hoodoo on occasion, and I have an interest in all things witchy, magical and occult. 

I’m an animist - I recognise the spirit within all things. My practice involves ancestor veneration and working with the spirits of land, plant and animal, sea and sky. 

I was drawn to magic as a child, and never gave up looking until I found what I was looking for at age 14. I’m nearly 30 now and I haven’t looked back. 

I’ve written articles for magazines, and essays for books (see my writing portfolio on my page) and when I’m not writing I’m reading books by the dozen. A self confessed bookworm and proud :)