Identify a turn-of-the-century man-flying-with-umbrella postcard meme?
March 21, 2013 2:45 PM   Subscribe

My friend found a number of European postcards from around 1904 to 1907, each with a similar motif -- a mustachioed, suit-wearing man flying above the city using an umbrella, holding a suitcase in his other hand. You can see some examples here. Do you know more about this meme?

My friend's best guess is that it's a play on words ("Flug" being a part of "Ausflug" (flight and excursion, respectively), but anything more you could tell us would be great. As a bonus, here and here are some variations on the theme!
posted by grey_sw to Society & Culture (2 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I have seen these postcards in San Francisco Public Library. Umbrella man is Chinese or Japanese. He's a representation of a certain kind of traveler, middle class middle-aged foreign men who were on their own grand tour. I am sure there must be a dramatic tie-in somewhere, a play or a book where there was a plot around an Asian traveler.
posted by parmanparman at 4:59 PM on March 21, 2013

Balloon variant. Zeppelin variant. A blog post (did translate, but it's only descriptive, not explanatory). I'm wondering how widespread this really was, though -- e.g. if it was only one printer, it's not really a meme as such.

Magritte can't really have been even an indirect influence, as he was not painting until later at all; additionally, the most famous instances of his floating-man-in-suit paintings do not, so far as I can find, ever include an umbrella, and were painted decades later (50s/60s).

From the very beginning postcards lent themselves to montages and inventions, e.g. the jackalope and other fanciful boosterism.
posted by dhartung at 5:38 AM on March 22, 2013

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