Author's Note: My grandfather, Milton M. Brown, was a travel lecturer on the Chautauqua Circuit in 1915. He lectured on Rome, Naples and the Amalfi Coast and used a lantern slide projector to show hand-colored glass slides of photos he had taken. The old photos of Italy on this page are only a few of the images he took. To research and prepare for his lectures, my grandfather spend six months in Italy in 1914, missing by weeks the start of World War One (August 1914). While the 23-year-old Brown spent a good deal of time in libraries and museums, he also wandered city streets and back alleys, lounged in local cafes and talked with everyone from curators to shoe shine men. Never far away was his camera. When he died, I inherited all his trip notes, lectures and these old photos of Italy. I am now working on articles and a book that will highlight much of his material. My first historical article using this material is below and was published by AAA Colorado's EnCompass magazine. As for his old photos of Italy, you can see eight of them below that I've scanned, cleaned up, altered and copyrighted, and 11 more photos on this other page. As you can see from the copyright stamped on each image, these photos are for your personal enjoyment while on this website. They are not for downloading or use in anyway without my written permission. They are, however, for sale as fine art prints at my E-Store. Just Click Here for the E-Store. I would appreciate any feedback you'd like to give me regarding the images, my article or my grandfather's story. And, of course, if you're an editor, I would be happy to provide you with high resolution images and tailor-made articles that will interest your specific audience. Thank you. Jeff Miller, [email protected] Naples: As the birthplace of pizza, Naples had pizza men who slung their tables over their shoulders and traveled the city, selling their creations to passersby. Brown, exhibiting the typical American attitude of superiority at the time, stated in his lecture: "Sour dough baked with rancid bacon, strong cheese, garlic and ill smelling greens does not tempt our discriminating American palates, and we prefer to watch the natives devour this pizza -- which is a favorite delicacy of the Neapolitans." Photo Copyright: Jeff Miller Rome: For more than 30 years, visitors to the Spanish Steps could find Francesco (here pictured with his daughter in 1914) shining shoes. As Brown reported in his lecture: "Everyone who spends much time at Rome knows the grizzled old cripple, for he has shined the shoes of the forestieri [foreign students] for nearly thirty years...And when he does begin to recognize you as a lingerer in Rome there is not a cheerier smile in all the city than his, as he lifts his hat and gives you his pleasant, 'Buon giorno, Signore.'" Photo Copyright: Jeff Miller
Rome: Taking pictures on the Spanish Steps, Brown came across something all tourists saw back in those days -- children who would ask to be photographed, either simply for the joy of it or as "models" to be compensated with a coin or two. As Brown stated in his lecture: "Here are these two little peasant boys, artist models whose faces look out at us continually from windows of the art stores and who wait here to pick up trade. We can find Holy Families, Madonnas, Brigands, and picturesque Peasants. They smile as we pass and call to us, 'Fotografia! Fotografia!' If we have a camera with us, we yield to the spell of the picturesque, and take their pictures, never regretting losing a few minutes from our sight-seeing to talk to these quaint strangers."
Photo Copyright: Jeff Miller
Amalif Coast: Brown was mightily impressed with those who carried produce and products by hand, foot and back. Here, a woman hauls a cask full of wine down to the town of Amalfi, probably to toil back up the steep mountain trails with a return load of charcoal. Waxing philosophical, Brown related in his Naples lecture that "As to the life along this coast, it seems to have passed into mere existence...And the people hereabouts struggle on through the years, growing old with heavy labor before youth has ever reached its prime. Bearing burdens of fagots or of charcoal the women toil up and down over the mountain trails bent beneath their heavy loads. Barefoot girls, strong and sturdy at first and handsome with their deep tan, lose their beauty and their figures portaging casks of wine or tubs of lemons or of oranges through the mountains. And the recompense is so pitifully meager!" Photo Copyright: Jeff Miller
Naples: Street stalls might be picturesque for tourists, but they were the life blood of many locals. As Brown described this one, "the proprietor is dropping into kettles of water boiling over a charcoal fire slices of the feelers of a great octopus, and men will purchase these to eat between pieces of sour bread." Photo Copyright: Jeff Miller
Naples: While the 23-year-old Brown spent a good deal of time in libraries and museums, he also wandered city streets and back alleys, capturing life in everyday Italy. Here, he photographed Strada di Lavinaro. In his description of the photo, he not only shows a good eye for detail and description, but a Nineteenth Century American perspective. This photo, he said was "In the heart of Naples' most wretched but most interesting quarter. The wash of scores of families, hanging high up in this narrow canyon shuts out what little light the lofty walls of stucco would permit to fall into the narrow street, and the outdoor life of the people is amazing in its variety and total disregard for the commonest of conventions. Very nearly every domestic office, for the reason of which most people have built themselves a home, is here performed in the open air before their doors while gossiping with passersby. Of course, it cannot fail to arouse disgust, but then we realize that it is for just such things that we love old Naples. If these men and women and children who swarm in and out of their foul black dens lived like other people we should love them the less for their being less unique, and we should miss a glimpse into a life which has no counterpart...Such is a day in the streets of Old Naples where the life of her people lies open before us like the throbbing vein exposed by the dissector's lance."
Photo Copyright: Jeff Miller
Milton M. Brown: Right: Taking notes on a veranda on the Amalfi Coast. Beside him is his No. 3A Kodak Folding Camera on a tripod. The photo was taken by his father, Harry Whiting Brown.
Photo Copyright: Jeff Miller
Below: The title page to Brown's pamphlet promoting his lectures.
The making of a 1914 American Travel
"The wash of scores of families, hanging high up in this narrow canyon shuts out what little light the lofty walls of stucco would permit to fall into the narrow street, and the outdoor life of the people is amazing in its variety and total disregard for the commonest of conventions. Very nearly every domestic office, for the reason of which most people have built themselves a home, is here performed in the open air before their doors while gossiping with passersby.”
Experiencing Naples’ darker side
While Brown loved and embraced the Italian people, he did not do so blindly. “The beauties of her environs,” his Naples lecture reads, “are not offset by the filth of her dark streets; nor is the happy carefree, lighthearted, music-loving temperament of her people o’ershadowed by their cunning, their treachery, their lightly controlled passion, or their innate lack of industry and ambition… in this city of harsh realities, of sternest poverty, of lying cheating and crime.”
He came face-to-face with the city’s dark side when one of his three cameras was pinched at a tram stop. Lacking much of the anger and frustration he must have felt, his trip journal simply records the facts: “…came back across the river and waited for #4 by the Temple of Mater Matuta. While waiting, a young fellow came over to get his coat which was near me, and gathered up my Kodak with it. I did not notice it for about ½ minute but then the fellow disappeared. I called a kid who told me the fellow was called ‘Matto.’ I then got the kid’s name and when I asked for his address, another fellow butted in and wrote it down. I hurried up the street and found a carbinieri who sent me to police headquarters there in that worst section of town. A detective came out with me and we hunted all over but found no one I knew.”
While he went back to the police numerous times, his camera was never retrieved and no one ever prosecuted. In his Naples lecture, he seemed to be referring to why the crime was never solved when he related: “In the Old Town, that section to the east of the more modern parts, the bond with olden days is strongest. There are places there through which a man should hesitate to take a woman, and he himself would do well to leave his watch and all superfluous jewelry behind. For that is the den of the camorrists, and even at high noon it is simple enough to snatch a watch or scarf pin from the traveler; and the man who is thus attacked has no recourse, for the people of this community are bound together by bonds of life and death never to reveal the deeds done by any of their number.”
By the end of his trip, Brown had become a respectable photographer. A few days before sailing for home, he went to Sommer’s: “To my great delight, found…about 200 slides to look over (all my Naples work and about ½ my Rome). All of [Sommer’s staff] were enthusiastic over them and indeed I felt very well satisfied with them—more so than I had expected from the prints, and far more so than I had expected before I came to Italy.”
Back in America, he polished his text, organized the glass slides, then began speaking at universities and private institutions in the Midwest. The only documentation of a lecture, however, was in the Asheville, N.C., Citizen on April 30, 1915: “Milton McIntyre Brown, travel-lecturer, gave an unusually interesting talk last evening at the auditorium of the Young Men’s Christian Association on ‘Naples, Pompeii and Vesuvius.’ The lecture was illustrated by a wealth of colored stereopticon slides…All parts of the city were shown, the modern part with its splendid avenues and the older sections of the city with its narrow streets and picturesque natives.”
Not long after, Brown’s career plans were derailed by World War One. In January 1916, with America still neutral, Brown once again sailed for Europe, this time to become one of only 175 “delegates” in Herbert Hoover’s Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB), which became the largest food and relief the world had ever seen.
He would never return to lecturing.
Jeff Miller is a Denver-based writer/editor/author and grandson of Milton M. Brown. He is working on a book about his grandfather’s travel lecturing/photography and another detailing his CRB days.
Writing & Photography
For travelers, history buffs, readers, writers, and even the health conscious
How a young Ivy League grad brought street scenes of Italy to small town America.
On Tuesday, June 10, 1913, in Princeton’s Alexander Hall, Milton M. Brown took his A.B. diploma with all the assurance of a young man who knew where he was going in life. Plans were in the works to pursue his dream of becoming a travel lecturer on the Lyceum or Chautauqua circuits. His first set of lectures would be on Italy, which he had fallen in love with during a European grand tour in 1911. Following his passion for history, art, architecture and culture, he chose Rome and Naples as each deserving its own lecture. Photographic and experiential research would require an extended stay in Italy, financed by his father, Harry Whiting Brown (the first marketing director of Procter & Gamble). Accompanying younger Brown for part of his six-month stay would be his father, mother and 15-year-old sister, Elizabeth, who would attend classes at Miss Moxley’s School for American girls in Rome. On January 22, 1914, the group boarded the S.S. Laconia in New York City, bound for Naples. They would stay in Naples for February, traveling to nearby places such as Pompeii, Capri, Sorrento and Amalfi. March and April would be spent in Rome, after which the family would leave the 23-year-old Brown on his own. May and June Brown would spend between Rome and Naples, then depart for home on July 10 aboard the German Prinzess Irena.
It took the S.S. Laconia 17 days to reach Naples, after stops in Madeira, Gibraltar, Algiers and Monte Carlo. As the Browns disembarked in Naples, they had no idea that within eight short months Europe would become entangled in the Great War.
Cameras, supplies and glass slides
As the family took up residence at Naples’ Pensione Cargill, Brown sought out two establishments critical to his photography needs: the Eastman Kodak Agency and G. Sommer & Sons.
At the Kodak store on the main thoroughfare of Via Roma, he introduced himself to the staff, explained his project
and promptly bought 150 rolls of film at 40 cents each (6-exposure and 12-exposure rolls), for a total of $60. He had brought three cameras with him; all were Kodaks. At least one was the No. 3A, model C, Folding Pocket Camera—the first U.S. camera to produce postcard-sized negatives (3¼ x 5 ½) and priced from $20 to $79 (when a day’s wage for an American factory worker was $2). Next he went to G. Sommer & Sons (Largo della Vittoria), which was owned by famed German/Italian photographer Giorgio Sommer. While the store sold Sommers’ images as postcards, prints and works of art, the shop also processed film and could convert negatives into lantern glass slides—black and white, $2.50 per slide; hand-painted color, $3.50 per slide. Lantern, or magic lantern, slides were used by public speakers to project images for audiences, and Brown planned to do the same at his lectures. Approximately 4x5 inches in size, the slides were made by taking a thin sheet of
glass, painting it with emulation, exposing the negative to the emulsion, then hand-painting colors onto the dried emulsion image before sealing it with another thin sheet of glass.
Photo permissions and frustrations
While Brown began taking photos the minute he landed, he knew that many museum, monument and castle images would require permission to photograph. Using a letter secured from the American Embassy that asked Italian officials for assistance, Brown began to make the rounds. He was aided by his ever-improving Italian and his youthful enthusiasm for his project. Even so, it took time and effort. “Went to [Naples’] Museo Nazionale,” he wrote in his trip journal, “up to office of Director…to get permits to photograph in the gallery, at Pompeii, Herculaneum, Pozzuoli, etc. Took me ¾ hour. Had to write three letters (one for each camera) requesting permits.”
Even when permission was granted, it sometimes took a little extra to get what he wanted. “Walked to [Rome’s] Baths of Caracalla where I photographed for awhile,” he wrote. “Then asked for the key to [San Clemente’s] Temple of Mithras. Was told Pietro had it. Found Pietro and after much flourishing of permissi and jingling of money, got him interested. He is a jewel among attendants and took me all thru the subterranean parts of the baths closed to tourists.” At times, permission granted meant incredible privilege bestowed—such as taking a renowned 16th Century painting out of its frame for the best possible photograph. From the offhanded tone of his notes, however, Brown didn’t seem to think that was extraordinary: “…then to Palazzo Barberini for picture of Beatrice Cenci, by Guido Reni. Several days ago I had asked there for permission and the director said he would ask Prince Barberini. When I went today...
he had an easel ready and we got ‘Beatrice’ out of her frame and set her up on the easel and I photographed her many times.”
As the amateur photographer tried to capture nearly everything he saw—both indoors and out—he learned that photography was as much art as science, with lots of luck thrown in. A sampling from his trip notes reveals universal photographer frustrations before the digital age: “…tried picture of interior arch of Constantine, but wrong light…This a.m. started out for pictures but found it too windy and dusty…took cab to Saint Peter’s where I waited unsuccessfully for a priest to pass thru colonnade for a picture of him…saw an elaborate funeral procession moving along the quay and after following it and circumventing it through many of the horrible streets of [Naples] old town, finally got a picture of it on the quay…bad day for Kodak
so stayed in…[tried] to get a panorama of city and Vesuvius (which had to be clouded by its own smoke, of course, just as I got ready to take the picture)…hope I timed my exposures O.K.”
Beyond monuments and museums
While Brown photographed many paintings, statues and architectural details in numerous museums, his strongest images were taken in the streets, piazzas and alleys of Naples and Rome. He worked hard to capture basic street life as if to counterbalance the fine art he was photographing elsewhere.
Naples was known as the birthplace of pizza and Brown photographed a unique slice of that history while adding a culinary comment in his lecture: “Brushing by us is the ‘pizza’ man with his table slung from his shoulders. Sour dough baked with rancid bacon, strong cheese, garlic and ill smelling greens does not tempt our discriminating American palates, and we prefer to watch the natives devour this pizza—which is a favorite delicacy of the Neapolitans.”
Another food related Naples photo that Brown took captured not only a local favorite but a tourist attraction as
well. Pasta street stalls could be found citywide, providing cheap, filling meals. Since the late 1800s, locals who patronized such stalls would sometimes entertain tourists by holding up spaghetti before eating it. Over time, such antics led to the term “macaroni eaters,” and many tourists wanted an image of this local flavor. Brown was no different and secured quite a group of men and boys for one such photo, although he did not include it in his lectures—probably because it had become such a tourist cliché.
In Rome, he found two subjects that still radiate charm nearly 100 years later: “…near the head of the [Spanish] Steps you will see old Francesco with his little daughter. Everyone who spends much time at Rome knows the grizzled old cripple, for he has shined the shoes of the forestieri [foreign students] for nearly thirty years, there at the Trinita dei Monti, and soon comes to know you. And when he does begin to recognize you as a lingerer in Rome there is not a
Naples: Pasta street stalls could be found citywide, providing cheap, filling meals. Since the late 1800s, locals who patronized such stalls would sometimes entertain tourists by holding up spaghetti before eating it. Over time, such antics led to the term "macaroni eaters," and many tourists wanted an image of this local flavor. Brown was no different and secured quite a group of men and boys for one such photo, although he did not include it in his lectures -- perhaps because it had become such a tourist cliche. Photo Copyright: Jeff Miller
cheerier smile in all the city than his, as he lifts his hat and gives you his pleasant, ‘Buon giorno, Signore.’
“There is a school for American girls nearby, and there is scarcely a girl who ever went there whom he does not remember. And when Christmas comes, these American girls who are so far from their own family celebrations make Christmas for the household of old Francesco.”
The Spanish Steps inspired many photos, as he noted in his Rome lecture: “As we move on down the graceful curves and across the balustrade landings of the [Spanish] steps, we come up on many familiar faces, just as [Charles] Dickens did years ago; and, like him, we wonder why these people seem so like old acquaintances whose names we can’t recall. Here are these two little peasant boys whom we have seen somewhere! And then we remember that these are the artist models whose faces look out at us continually from windows of the art stores and who wait here to pick up trade. We can find Holy Families, Madonnas, Brigands, and picturesque Peasants. They smile as we pass and call to us, ‘Fotografia! Fotografia!’ If we have a camera with us, and we yield to the spell of the picturesque, we take their pictures, never regretting losing a few minutes from our sight-seeing to talk to these quaint strangers.”
Brown also went beyond traditional tourist haunts to wander some of the worst streets in Naples and Rome. In one photo on Naples’ Strada di Lavinaro, he captured the local custom of hanging wash on lines strung between buildings. His lecture noted that this street was “in the heart of Naples’ most wretched but most interesting quarter.
Naples: Brown loved to wander through the Piazza del Mercato on market days. He described it as the "marketplace for the poor, with stalls surrounded by their squabbling proprietors and customers fulfills all our wildest and most fanciful ideas of the life of Southern Italy. Gaudy colors, half naked children, the rattle of haggling men and women, the incessant waving of arms and gestures of hands -- which forms at least half of the Neapolitan's powers of conversation -- an odor horribly mephitic that will remain with you for a lifetime; -- these are some of the memories of a day in the market of Old Naples." Photo Copyright: Jeff Miller
For 11 More 1914 Italy Images,