The Fascination of the Foreign, 1913 [Slide Show]

Science, art and philosophy of foreign cultures in 1913: an appreciation of differences from the archives of Scientific American
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Delhi, India:

An article on this ancient city in February 1913 looks at how the city could be improved by melding aspects of traditional Indian art and architecture with modern engineering methods such as water drainage.....[ More ]

Bridge at Constantinople:

The bridge was a functional and cheap solution for heavy land traffic within the city (officially renamed Istanbul in 1930) and boat traffic to the Golden Horn harbor. The structure is supported on floating pontoons, and one section swings out to allow ships to pass.....[ More ]

Art of the Paleolithic:

Cultures from faraway lands were intriguing, but civilizations from distant times were just as fascinating. In this 1913 article on the Altamira cave in Spain, prehistoric paintings such as a boar (left) and an “aurochs” (right) were hailed as ranking with the greatest art in the world.....[ More ]

Siberian Shamans:

A fascination for different cultures gave rise to a growing field of ethnographic study. This article is an early description of Shamans (holy men and women) of the Yakut, Koryak, Tungus and Chukchi tribes of Siberia.....[ More ]

Lion of Babylon:

This massive granite statue is still standing where it was found, in Babylon, modern Iraq. The sculpture, of a lion crushing a man, continues to defy easy explanation.....[ More ]


The Ishtar Gate of ancient Babylon, newly excavated. Yet the editors of Scientific American suggested politics went hand-in-hand with a desire to learn of ancient cultures: "[funding] may be due to the fact that the German government would increase its influence in .......[ More ]

Elephants in Mandalay:

The article on cargo handling compares the admirable efficiency of the elephant and "mahout" (handler) shown in this image with the "inexcusably" inefficient mechanized systems of the West.....[ More ]

Aswan Dam:

First contemplated in the 11th century. The Aswan Low Dam was built in 1902 across the River Nile in Egypt to control flooding and provide irrigation. Our image shows the work in 1913 to raise the height of the dam.....[ More ]


In Hama, Syria, an ancient technology for providing water to buildings and fields. Some wheels dating to the 13th century were working just fine in 1913: "The creaking of the wheels is incessant day and night.....[ More ]

Kodak Advertisement:

Inexpensive, easy-to-use cameras allowed ordinary travellers and tourists to capture on film the sights of foreign places (and then subject their friends and neighbors to vacation photos).....[ More ]

Pleasure Cruise:

These advertisements sell a new pastime, trips aboard ships that stop at foreign ports of call just for enjoyment. Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain had been published in 1869, but the first purpose-built cruise ship was built in 1900 by the Hamburg-American Line.....[ More ]

Panama Pacific Exposition:

Every World's Fair had a strong international character. This large decorative sculpture group sat at the top of the triumphal arch [see previous image]. The group contains references to several different Asian cultures.....[ More ]

Panama Pacific Exposition:

Magnificent buildings such as this arch were made of lightweight materials (such as burlap and plaster) designed to last only for the length of the event. The inscription at the top is from a poem by Edwin Arnold published in 1879, "The Light of Asia," which introduced the concept of Buddhism to the West.....[ More ]

Panama-Pacific International Exposition:

This World Fair was to be opened in 1915 in San Francisco. One purpose was to herald the completion of the Panama Canal. The exhibitions celebrated foreign grandeur and domestic glory.....[ More ]

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