January 7, 2014

One Couple Takes the Same Christmas Portraits for More Than 40 Years From 1900 Until 1942

These stereoscopic holiday portraits of Berlin couple Richard and Anna Wagner—taken every Christmas Eve from the first year of their marriage in 1900 until 1942—were sent out as Christmas cards to the couple's friends. Today, they inadvertently offer the modern viewer a fascinating perspective on the passage of time. There are the expected physical changes, like weight fluctuations and thinning hair, as well as the addition of new technology.

For 42 years, the couple posed in front of the tree, creating an elegant visual story over a lengthy period. As the years progress, viewers can see signs of the changing times: in 1915, a map in the background signifies the ongoing war; overcoats and a note in 1917 indicate a lack of coal for heat during the winter; and the presence of an electric vacuum cleaner in 1927 serves as evidence that the couple installed electricity into their home.

Their last photograph together was in 1942. Anna died three years later and Richard died shortly before Christmas in 1950. The memory of their love lives on through this extensive series that was located in an attic in the former East Berlin and published a half century after the couple took their last photograph.

The first card shows the young and newly married couple - Richard sports a silver topped cane and Anna lift up Meitz, her cat, to show him the various gifts they have received. The house is sparsely decorated but comfortable.


By 1912 their material wealth has increased, as have their waistlines. Richard now sits at the desk as Anna tidies around him.

A map is included in the 1915 picture to show the advances of the German Troops in the Great War.

By 1917, the fortunes of the War have been reversed, and Anna and Richard are in their overcoats, signaling the lack of winter fuel.

In 1927, Richard begins to wear glasses and is hair is showing signs of grey. Anna’s Christmas present for that year is a vacuum cleaner – electricity has been installed.

1935 is a frugal year and Richard begins to look older.

By 1942, both have gone completely grey and are again wearing their winter coats. Richard took one last photo of Anna alone in June 1945, all alone – no tree, no presents. She died that August. Richard died 5 years later, a few weeks before Christmas of 1950. No Christmas photos of those last lonely years survive, if they ever existed at all.


  1. This is Disney World, not Disneyland!

  2. These photos are great, however they are taken in Los Angeles, not in Florida as the title indicates. The Hotel Cecil in the first photo is in Los Angeles to this day, and also the final photo has the last letters in "Los Angeles" showing on the street car.

  3. Nothing's changed

  4. great stuff... so many stories in every pic

  5. The photos actually look like memories.

  6. Isn't that Simon Callow slumped on the tube floor?

  7. Errr, how do you figure that? [:o) MANY things have changed - that woman sparking up a fag for a start; no smoking on the tube for well over 15 yrs now.

  8. Loved in, brought back memories of my own tube journeys in the early 80s, thanks for sharing

  9. And of course no alcohol and only "official" buskers!

  10. I wasn't naming specifics, just generalising across the board. If you use the tubes weekend evenings you still see some limited drinking and I've seen smoking on the exterior extremities both early morning and late evening.

  11. Stannous FlourideMarch 27, 2014 at 9:40 PM

    I guess commenting here is a waste of time. Marylou corrected teh caption but 'vintage everyday' either doesn't read the comments or doesn't care about accuracy in his blog.

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