VIENNA’S ADRIATIC SUMMER: A PHOTOGRAPH ALBUM RECENTLY ADDED TO THE WOLFSONIAN LIBRARY COLLECTION
Today’s blog post comes to you courtesy of Wolfsonian Associate Librarian, Nicolae Harsanyi. Dr. Harsanyi, an ethnic Hungarian from Romania, specializes in Eastern European language materials in our rare book and special collections library. He catalogued and provided metadata links to a rare Austro-Hungarian photograph album recently added to our collection. Our Digital Library Specialist, David Almeida photographed and provided the digital surrogates of the photograph album. Here is Dr. Harsanyi’s report:
After the 6 year-long success of the “Venice in Vienna” theme park (1895-1901), the Austrian capital was ready for another large scale surrogate experience blended with entertainment to be set up on the grounds of the Prater park. In 1913 the Österreichische Adria-Ausstellung vicariously transported its visitors to the Dalmatian coast lapped by the waters of the Adriatic Sea. It was almost a natural continuation of the Venetian theme, since the Dalmatian cities and coastal islands had been long-time colonies of the city-state of Venice.
This last April, Wolfsonian-FIU library acquired, with funds provided by the museum’s founder, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr., a hefty album of 112 black & white photographic illustrations showing various sights and visitors of the event.
Since the album has no introduction, nor does it carry captions to the images, its perusal can be likened to a silent documentary of the event, bringing to life a segment of the last year before World War I erupted. Before our eyes evolves a spectacle populated with characters harking back to the cast of Viennese operettas and against the background of Ersatz locales exuding an exotic atmosphere.
The exhibition’s distinguished visitors included Emperor Franz Joseph I.
Prince Regent Ludwig III of Bavaria (first on the left) and his wife Maria Theresa also visited the fair.
An artificial lake was created to render the illusion of a port. A full size steamer Wien (Vienna) was built for the exhibition and functioned as a restaurant.
This lake also served for open air entertainment: barrel paddling contests, riding on the greasy pole, and mock shaving competitions.
Situated in the periphery of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Dalmatian coast represented the favorite vacation destination for some of the (wealthier) inhabitants of the land locked lands that made up the empire. In the heart of the empire’s capital, the exhibition offered its visitors the illusion of a journey into the Adriatic world. They could see life-size replicas of the Praetorian Palace of Capo d’Istria, the ruins of a cloister, and a 120 foot high bell tower.
In order to enhance the illusion of the Dalmatian atmosphere, visitors would encounter various men and women wearing the folk costumes of the regions they were supposed to represent.
The exhibition drew 2,080,000 visitors, a record number, throughout its 155 days of operation (May 3 – October 5, 1913)—an astounding figure considering that there were 77 rainy days in that period!