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Views from the Iltis in China, 1919

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Views from the Iltis in China

Scope and Content of Collection

The album of 154 collodion and gelatin silver photographs was compiled by an unidentified German sailor from photographs collected during his tour of duty aboard the German gunboat Iltis. Its focus is the German naval presence in China, documenting the Iltis and its crew in particular, but also including views of other German and foreign naval vessels. One photograph depicts the crew of the Iltis gathered around a replica of the Prussian Pour le Mérite cross awarded the boat by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1903 for its role in the Taku Forts rebellion. Another photograph shows the Kaiser boarding the SMS Carmen. The daily life of the crew is depicted in scenes such as the mess line and sailors gathered around a Chinese vendor selling souvenirs aboard ship. Also included are two views of the Iltis Denkmal, the monument commemorating the crew of the first gunboat named Iltis Denkmal, which was hit by a typhoon off the Shandong coast in 1896.

In addition to recording the German naval presence in China, the album also presents a picture of Chinese culture during the last days of the Qing dynasty, the revolution of 1911, and the birth of the Chinese Republic. It documents both domestic struggle and foreign intervention and includes views of burnt cities, battle scenes, and military encampments. Featured are aspects of war such as the transport of the wounded, burial of the dead, prisoners of war, and executions. Also included are views of cities and architectural landmarks, urban and rural life, and portraits of local inhabitants. Locations depicted include Hankow (Hankou), Tsingtao (Qingdao) and Kiaochow Bay (Jiaozhou Bay) Amoy (Xiamen), Shanghai, Nanking (Nanjing), and Foochow (Fuzhou).

Sprinkled throughout the album are readily available touristic studio photographs corresponding to the ports of call that the Iltis stopped at en route to Tsingtao, including Gibraltar, Naples, Colombo (Ceylon), Port Said and the Suez Canal, and Singapore. One photograph of a crocodile "hunt" in Egypt is by Zangaki. A sailor reporting to the Iltis for duty at a later date, such as the compiler of the album perhaps, would have also stopped at these ports on his voyage to China.

A smudged ink inscription on the upper binding of the back flyleaf recto may provide the name of the compiler of the album and the date: A. Steffenson 1919.

Lacquered wood covers are glued over a leather album; the leather spine is exposed. Depicted on the front cover is a river scene in gold, red, and white with figures in an open boat poling past a paifang in the foreground; buildings and mountains are shown in the distance. Tree branches frame the scene which is enclosed by a silver fretwork border with a chrysanthemum topping each corner.

Captions are written on the mounts in German. Unless otherwise noted these captions have been used for the titles of the individual photographs.


Arranged in a single series:
Series I. Views from the Iltis, 1919.

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