I find the relationship between words and pictures endlessly intriguing. Sometimes I type a single word into the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog simply to see what variety it turns up. It’s a little like the best parts of opening a gift: full of surprises and meaning. The other day, I was meditating on the holiday associations of the phrase “trimming the tree,” where “trimming” counter-intuitively implies adding to a tree, rather than taking something away. So into the search box went “Trimming,” and out came reminders of the many types of trimming the world has seen.
In this nineteenth century print, the options for trimming beards required an entire chart:
The “Trimming Shop” in this Civil War photograph focused on trimming wagons, adding canvas and leather fittings, in this case, probably to outfit the vehicles for use as ambulances.
The Depression-era Farm Security Administration photographs and the World War II-era Office of War Information photographs remind us of the sheer variety of materials that stood to be trimmed in that period of rapid change.
Horses’ hooves required trimming as part of basic foot care (and still do):
And trimming was an integral step in fashioning the cowboy boots that graced the feet of many a horseback rider:
In highlighting U.S. industry and, possibly, international trade relationships, the Office of War Information illustrated the trimming process that went into forming bars of pure tin made from South American ore:
Even as the Office of War Information promoted production, it also conveyed messages about reducing consumption, providing an insight on how trimming related to war rationing. This photograph graphically illustrated War Production Board specifications about the “trimming allowance” permitted in wartime dress manufacture, a visual “story of saving yardage by controlling the trimming allowance” by comparing two dresses:
A couple of years earlier, FSA photographer John Collier captured the fashion whimsy of the moment: the detachable fur trimming on the “Daniel Boone hat” seen in this New York City store window:
The Matson Collection, a rich source of photographs of the Middle East in the early twentieth century taken by photographers from the American Colony based in Jerusalem, also features a variety of trimmings.
The tree trimming documented in the collection were of the type that left the tree barer, rather than more adorned, whether the tree stood short or tall:
Lamps were also subject to trimming—likely a not inconsiderable task given the number of lamps hanging in this grotto:
One word, so many applications–and a wealth of pictures to explore!
- See if you can find some new twists on “trimming” in this search result from the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog. Are there differences between photographic representations of “trimming” and trimmings depicted in other media?
- Learn more about the Popular Graphic Arts, Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints, Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives, and Matson Collection we glimpsed in this trimming tour.
- For another exploration of a word and its pictures, revisit the many literary allusions we discovered in last summer’s “looking challenge” blog post.