The Lost Generation, b. 1883-1900
The Lost Generation was the 9th generation of Americans. Born between 1883 and 1900, they were defined as a Nomad generation by two prominent historians, the late William Strrauss, and Neil Howe. Generation X shares their archetype and mirrors their life experiences.
In 2018, I found a rare World War I, Lost Generation photo album at a flea market in Oklahoma City. It cost me $50. World War II albums are not that uncommon, but a World War 1 album of this caliber is quite an amazing find. Similar albums with fewer photographs and fewer human subjects have sold at elite auction houses for around $3,500 to $4,000. This album features more than 300 photographs that are in perfect condition.
What a blessing it is that the album found its way into my hands. It feels like a divinely-orchestrated event. And, now, I’m finally ready to share pages from the album with the world. This first post features the album cover and the first 10 pages in the album. I will publish a new post with 10 more pages every week until I have published the entire album. When I’m finished, I will publish a post with all the thumbnails.
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World War 1 Photographs
The Lost Generation came of age during World War 1. Most of the pictures in this album were taken between 1917-1920.
Soldiers & Nurses
The album features many pictures of World War I soldiers and nurses wearing the Red Cross emblem. There are pictures of wartime lovers frolicking in the grass and at least a dozen pictures of beautiful young girls in bathing suits on the beach in Galveston, Texas. Most are wearing the Victorian-era or maillot-style bathing suits popular during that time. There are also pictures of people swimming in Bath Lake in Medicine Park, Oklahoma. I can’t wait for you to see all these pictures. These first pages are very nice, however, the best pictures are yet to come.
The Lost Generation was born over a span of 17 years, from 1883 to 1900. The young men and women in these pictures appear to be 18 to 22-years of age, making their birth years 1896 to 1900. Thus, they were in the late-wave of the Lost Generation that included Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Hemingway was born in 1899 and Fitzgerald in 1896. They were part of the Lost Generation of expats in Paris about whom Gertrude Stein famously said, “That is what you are. That’s what you all are…all of you young people who served in the war. You are a lost generation.”
The Lost Generation was born between 1883 and 1900. All the young people in the photographs are members of a Nomad generation as defined by Strauss and Howe. Gen-Xers are also a Nomad generation and share many characteristics with the Lost Generation. The following is an excerpt from Strauss and Howe’s book, Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069.
Nomad (Reactive) generations enter childhood during an Awakening, a time of social ideals and spiritual agendas, when young adults are passionately attacking the established institutional order. Nomads grow up as under-protected children during this Awakening, come of age as alienated, post-Awakening young adults, become pragmatic midlife leaders during a Crisis, and age into resilient post-Crisis elders.
Love & War
It is no coincidence that this precious album, relegated to a junk table at a dusty flea market, made its way into my hands. Precious and irreplaceable, it feels like the people in the pictures chose me to be its caretaker.
For three years, I’ve struggled to decide exactly what I should do with the album. Initially, I didn’t want to publish the photographs on the blog because it would diminish their monetary value. It would also mean the people in the pictures would no longer belong only to me. I’ve grown to love them even though I never knew them. I look at their pictures often, their beautiful, joyful faces, and I wonder what God wants to show me about their lives. What does He want to teach me about love and war? Pictures and albums? History and time?
I’ve learned to let them go a little more every day.
The people in the pictures. And, although sharing the album on the Internet may diminish its value, I know I am not called to hoard it, but to share it, freely, and with everyone. It is the reason I was chosen to be its caretaker. Not so I could make a few thousand dollars, but so that you and anyone else who finds the pictures through Internet searches could fall in love with them, too. The Lost Generation, the mirror generation to my generation, Generation X. They still have something to say to us. I am glad I get to share their stories through one woman’s carefully preserved memories. I wish I knew her name…
I wrote this in 2018:
I’m still learning things from the people in the pictures. One of my favorite lessons so far is about friendship. The young women frolicking at Galveston’s Electric Park, known as the Coney Island of the South, loved each other so much. They went through a lot wondering if their brothers and boyfriends would make it back home from the war. The joy on their faces is unabashed, and I want to live like that, for every day, we cheat death and escape assault. Absolutely, bloodshed, struggle, and strife are all around us. It’s a wonder anyone survives this mess. They survived so much chaos and tragedy to make space for the Ferris Wheel and penny arcade; Vaudeville shows and excursion trains. We, too, can be amused, and frolic despite the vicissitudes of life.
The Second Coming
William Butler Yeats, 1920
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
The Lost Generation
William Butler Yeats, 1920