Friday, October 9, 2020

Dazzle patterns for Atlantic ships, but not for Pacific

WILL NOT USE CAMOUFLAGE: Zebra Stripes Not to Be Put on Vessels in Coastwise Trade, in The Oregon Daily Journal (Portland OR), August 25, 1918, p. 28—

Ships sailing from Portland for Pacific Coast points and which are not destined for the war zone will not have to wear the zebra stripes of camouflage, according to recent orders of the [US] government. The camoufleurs will be required to paint every ship intended to go the Atlantic, however, with the futuristic designs.

USS Western Maid (1918)

The United States Navy Department is to prescribe color and design of camouflage rather than the Emergency Fleet Corporation’s district camoufleur, says the Emergency Fleet News. Designs will be prepared and each district will use the type most suited to the style of ship to be painted.


The news article above might at first be misleading, as it sounds as if "dazzle camouflage" was applied to very few ships at Pacific Coast shipyards. But in fact some of the most striking examples of WWI camouflaged ships were built and their camouflage applied at West Coast ports. Many of these ships (those intended for service in the Atlantic) were given names that bore the words "West" or "Western." The USS Western Maid (as shown above) was built by the Northwest Steel Company at Portland OR, with its camouflage applied by Emergency Fleet camouflage artists, using a scheme provided by US Navy camoufleurs in Washington DC.


Camouflage application process

Disruptive camouflage patterns

Further information

Thursday, October 8, 2020

barber pole stripes, peppermint candy, prison stripes

Antoinette, STRIPES ARE A PET STYLE OF NEW FALL FASHIONS in The Spokesman-Review (Spokane WA) Woman’s Section, November 12, 1953, p. 8—

If you want your clothes to have a new look this fall, by all means consider something in stripes. It is one of fashion’s pet styles, just now, and stripes appear in many different interpretations.

Zebra stripes, harlequin stripes, prison stripes, barber pole stripes, peppermint candy stripes. On the other hand, there are muted sombre stripes which blend into the other through subtle shadings.…

Alfred Steiglitz photograph (1889)

Contrary to the general feeling, there is no law on figure camouflage by which stripes up and down will make you look slim and tall while stripes around the figure will make you look shorter and heavier. Yet, most saleswomen, most articles and books on how-to-dress, and many fashion “experts” are likely to advise you to wear vertical stripes if you want to look taller and avoid horizontal stripes if you need to look slimmer in your clothes. It simply is not true, and if you are not willing to believe it do what I did, try several striped styles on and see what they do to your looks.

One can’t tell in advance—it depends upon how the stripes are placed, how much spacing there is between them, how nearly the same width each alternate color is, the boldness of the contrast…

WWI camouflaged British ship in dock


BARBER’S POLE IN GERMAN COLORS EXCITES YOUNKERS, in Wilkes Barre Leader and Evening News (Wilkes Barre PA) April 24, 1918—

Yonkers NY—A barber’s pole, displaying the German colors, caused some excitement here, and the police were called.

Barber Fred Milazow explained that some of the stripes had turned black from the weather. He gave the offending pole a shampoo and all was serene.

a broken fragment of rainbow / a crazy patchwork quilt

J. Milo Courzy, A CLIPPER SHIPPER, in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 16, 1927, p. 6—

When the Buccaneer Club of New York combed the seas for a master worthy of their ship, Captain [Thomas Orlando] Moon’s adventurous achievements won him the coveted command. The clubship is the five-masted barketine Buccaneer, now docked in Brooklyn. The club is composed of men of means and artists and writers who have won fame.

Ship-shaped parade float (not the Buccaneer), 1918

…The Buccaneer now lies in a Brooklyn drydock, where she is donning a holiday dress—a dress of many colors, that looks like a crazy-patch quilt. She will be a floating rainbow, a carnival of color that will make the sea dragons pale. With hull painted in broad bands of white, yellow, black and red, with red and ochre sails and masts gleaming in olive and tipped with white, she will resemble a broken fragment of rainbow fallen to the surface of the sea—a chameleon ship, flying a pirate’s flag.

The idea belongs to Joseph Cummings Chase, artist and pioneer in the art of camouflage during the World War; Professor Ezra Winter, former Yale professor [and WWI ship camoufleur]; and Henry Killum Murphy, architect. These form a committee whose task it is to turn the ship into a masquerading privateer in harlequin garb, flying the skull and crossbones of the Jolly Roger.

…[Captain] Moon scorns the Buccaneer Club’s fantasies. “They’re turning a good ship into a cure for the color blind. The club’s notions have made us all as crazy as a cat without claws in hell!” he growls. 


Was there really a men's social club in NYC called The Buccaneer Club? Haven't found one so far. And did they dazzle-paint a ship? Don't know. But Joseph Cummings Chase, Ezra Winter, and Henry Killum Murphy were genuine people, although never before have I heard of contributions to camouflage by Chase.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Cover of a soldier's (or sailor's) wartime sketchbook

Below I cannot recall where I found this, perhaps ten years ago. It's the cover of a World War I American soldier's (or possibly sailor's) sketchbook, featuring a watercolor rendering of a wildly-patterned camouflaged ship.

Gestalt Psychology, Cubism, Art and Camouflage

In 1973, Fritz Heider, a Viennese-born American psychologist, published a memoir on "Gestalt Theory: Early History and Reminiscences." Near the end of the article, Heider talks briefly about Gestalt psychologist Max Wertheimer's research of "unit-forming factors" (or perceptual grouping tendencies) and the explicit use of comparable strategies, during roughly the same time period, in the Cubist paintings of Pablo Picassomore>>>

Thursday, October 1, 2020

French Women Employed Making Camouflage Nets

MAKING CAMOUFLAGE SCREENS. French Women are Employed in Making Nets for Disguising Gun Positions
, in The Watchman and Southron (Sumter SC). October 16, 1918—

Behind American lines somewhere in France. Seven hundred French women are employed in the American Camouflage station here making nets to screen from observation American batteries and machine gun sections. There was a burst of patriotic song as the Associated Press correspondent entered the large building where they work, for many of them sing as they sew.

The screening of artillery is the most imporant work of camouflage, as it is the main reliance in deceiving the aerial observer and camera and in preventing the enemy from locating our batteries.

For this purpose huge camouflage nets are provided of wire and fish-net, which cover the guns like a great horizontal tent. In the netting are tied bunches of green burlap, of the same color as the surrounding grass or foliage. And thus viewed from above, the overhanging green net merges the battery into the landscape of trees and turf.

Hundreds of these nets were being made by the women workers. The 75 millimeter takes an overhanging net, 30 feet square, the 165 millimeter gun has a 37 foot net, and the American machine gun gets an 18 foot net. The nets are graded inten colors of green and earth-brown, so that the shield may have the exact tint of the surrounding trees. The nets are shipped to the front in huge bundles, one for each gun.

It has been a problem to get the 700 women required for this deft work on the nets, and one of the chief means of drawing them is a Red Cross home for the babies of the married women, and a YMCA kitchen which gives them a good meal for 60 centimes (12 cents). Camouflage garlands are also made by the women. These garlands of green burlap are strung between the trees, in order to break up lines and diffuse edges so that the location of a convoy or battery will not show on an aerial photograph.

In the carpenter shop huge frames for green umbrellas were being made. The umbrellas open like an ordinary sun-shade, and camouflage a machine gun. In the blacksmith shop the men were turning out steel "cabins" which are sunk below the ground, for an observer. They have a front of bulletproof steel and are about as strong as a small safe. In one of these an observer is safe in the midst of a shower of shrapnel.

Laying on paint much as a scrub-woman wields a mop, an artist was walking about on a gigantic camouflage screen for an airplane hangar. The great piece of painting was spread on a field and covered an area of 1000 square yards. The artist was using a brush as big as a broom.

“Camouflage is making a constant battle against the aerial camera,” said the escort, "for with photographs made from airplanes the enemy gets a complete view of our positions unless they are obscured by some device of camouflage.” 


Film of scene described above

The role of American women in WWI camouflage

Chicanery and Conspicuousness: Social Repercussions of  WWI Ship Camouflage