Katherine Wolcott and her uncle, Robert Hull Fleming, compiled this photo album on their visit to Japan in 1909. Part of a larger Asian trip, the two stopped in Japan and collected photos, postcards, bookmarks, and other materials. Fleming was a...
Katherine Wolcott and her uncle, Robert Hull Fleming, compiled this photo album on their visit to Japan in 1909. Part of a larger Asian trip, the two stopped in Japan and collected photos, postcards, bookmarks, and other materials. Fleming was a graduate of the University of Vermont, and in 1929 Katherine Wolcott helped to fund the construction of the Robert Hull Fleming Museum in memory of her late uncle. This album, a memento from their trip, was part of Wolcott’s own collection.
There are nearly 40 leaves of collected photographs and postcards, numbering two to three per album page. The pictures range in content, some depicting staged photos of daily life while others portray landscapes and countryside. The album itself measures approximately 11 x 14 x 4 inches and is currently housed at the Robert Hull Fleming Museum at the University of Vermont.
Wolcott’s album captures a unique view of Japan at the brink of burgeoning Western influence. After defeating the Russians in the Russo Japanese War (1904-05), Japan began to cement itself as a global power, and its efforts to modernize began to attract Westerners. The images in this album depict a Japan with a strong national heritage and cultural appreciation as well as a newfound embrace of modernization and technology.
Most of the pictures in the album sold commercially as a form of postcard. In the early 1900s, the Japanese populace began consuming millions of these types of commercially produced picture postcards. Eventually, the medium became so popular that it started to replace the more traditional wood block print. The citizenry sought pictures of their budding nation, wanting to hold a still image of the rapidly modernizing and changing countryside.