Category Archives: History

Jeder einmal in Berlin

‘Jeder Einmal in Berlin!’ by Hugo Hirsch & Alfred Müller-Förster, published by Hugo Hirsch (Charlottenburg, 1927), photo collage by Albert Vennemann.

This photo collage by  Albert Vennemann conveys the buzz of a dynamic, modern city. We recognise the famous light traffic tower from Potzdammer Platz, the Brandenburg Gate, the Rotes Rathaus, the radio tower, the ubiquitous cars and a bus with an advertisement for the Scala, a very successful variety hall internationally reputed during the Golden Twenties.

Beautiful Berlinphotomontage of traffic in Berlin by Albert Vennemann. Source: MutualArt.

Vennemann was a Berlin photographer, who is now almost forgotten. He made pictures of everyday street life, capturing the idyll of the city and the (new) charms of illuminated advertising. He became an expert at photomontages of contemporary architecture and technology. Thus, Vennemann provided the visuals for the first Berlin city marketing campaign Jeder einmal in Berlin, meaning everybody should be at least once in Berlin.

It is also thanks to another artist, Walter Ruthmann, that we can witness the industrial, technical and cultural modernity that emanated from Berlin at that time He created his avant-garde film Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt (Berlin: Symphony of a Great City) in 1927. It is an invaluable time capsule of a Berlin that —fifteen years and 350 air raids later— would be dramatically destroyed.

‘Die erste Nacht’ by Hugo Hirsch & Hans H. Zerlett, published by Rondo Verlag (Berlin, 1922) and illustrated by Ortmann.

The popular march for the Jeder einmal in Berlin campaign was composed by Hugo Hirsch, a composer of well-received operettas. He left Germany in 1933 to escape Nazi anti-Semitism, and was able to survive the war by staying in France.

‘Die tolle Lola’ by Hugo Hirsch, Gustav Kadelburg & Arthur Rebner, published by Drei Masken Verlag (Berlin, 1922) and illustrated by Wolfgang Ortmann.

We wonder if Hirsch’s march could have lured you you to Berlin…

The promotional slogan Jeder einmal in Berlin was picked up by the Residenz-Casino, nicknamed the Resi: Jeder einmal im “Resi“!

The Resi was a vast dance-hall where everything seemed bigger and more luxurious than in any other dance venue. Each table had a connection to a pneumatic table-mail-service post. Using the pneumatic post, a patron could send intimate messages to revellers at other tables along with small presents: cigarettes, cigars, chocolates, pens, perfume, matches or tiny manicure pouches. There was a long list of gift items to choose from. Moreover, each table had its own telephone with a clearly visible table number on top. Above it was a lightbulb that could give one of three signals: dancer wanted, female dancer wanted or do not disturb. This technology must have given plenty of opportunities for romantic thrills and flirts with complete strangers. Everybody —at least once!— at the “Resi“.

Promotion booklet for the Resi.

Le Petit Mousse

‘Le Petit Mousse’ by Ad. Rémy & A. Baudeuf, published by Serpeille (Paris, sd) and illustrated by L. Lantier.

A mousse is the French word given to apprentices carrying out chores on a ship. They used to be young boys, usually 12–16 years old but sometimes as young as 7-8 years old, when they were called a mousaillon. It is only by a decree from 1852 that the boys had to be at least 10 years old to enlist on a ship.

‘Moussaillon’ by Demarquette & Henry Min, published by Félix Mackar in Paris (sd). Lithography by Jannin & Denis.

The mousse‘s tasks consisted of cooking meals, sweeping the deck, cleaning the chicken coops, tending the animals, scratching the rust, serving the crew. One other important (and dangerous) duty was to scramble up the rigging, in all kinds of weather, whenever the sails had to be trimmed. It is in this particular role —alone high up in the mast— that the mousse is represented iconographically, time and again.

Left: ‘Le Petit Mousse‘ by F. Plasschaert & J. B. De Baes, published by Charles De Vylder (Gent, SD) and illustrated by N. Heins. Right: ‘La plainte du mousse!’ by Louis Abadie & Anatole Morancé, published by Mayence (Bruxelles, sd).

Tales of spectacular shipwrecks and martyred mousses inspired a certain kind of literature, romantic and moralistic novels with a generous portion of melodramaAlso contemporary songs and magazines mawkishly lamented the miserable existence of these children at sea. In these sentimental stories the mousses were either real examples of virtue who earned a living for their family, after their father, a sailor, had perished at sea or had spent everything on booze. Or they were pitiable martyrs who were treated very badly on board: they were caned, flogged or shackled with the rats.

‘La Mère du Mousse’ by Etienne Arnaud & Anaïs Segalas, published by G. Jacqmain (Gent, sd).

In the Revue des deux Mondes from 1903 an extreme case of maltreatment is described. A mousse was punished for being seasick. He had to stand on deck, with a heavy wooden bar on his shoulders, and was left there for days on end. The child, at the slightest roll, stumbled, slipped on the deck, got soaked to the skin and shivered from the cold. Then, as he did not toughen up quickly enough, his hat and muffler were cut off. The sleeves of his jacket and shirt were lifted up to his elbows, and his trousers up to his thighs. By temperatures below zero his skin turned bluish. He was kicked and clubbed there where wounds began to form. He was deprived of food, and, not surprisingly the poor mite died. In the same magazine, another mousse accused his captain of sexual abuse but as it could not be proven the captain went free.

The normal life for most of the mousses was not as horrendous. Although it was absolutely not an easy living. No laws regulated their working conditions. Captains, usually with a drinking habit, were quite often uneducated and brutal. Luckily for some of the mousses, especially those on local fishing boats and small coasters, the crew knew each other and in many cases the captain, or someone in the crew, was related to the mousse.

Lithograph and picture of a French mousse. Both 19th century.

Nevertheless this kind of apprenticeship was much too harsh and rough for such young boys. They had to act as adults much too early. There were frequent cases of sexual abuse and allegedly a lot of the mousses had syphilis. They smoked and drank alcohol: typically a mixture of coffee, cider, eau de vie and lots of sugar. Apart from a few initiatives in the first half of the 19th century to provide a minimal education, it was not until the 1950s that mousses got a proper schooling.

Now comes the  story of the heroic petit mousse Marcel Rioual. While writing this story, I’m looking at a painting depicting Marcel’s  real-life tragedy at sea.

The sixteen-year old Marcel had registered on board of a dundee called the Bon-Retour’. A dundee was a fast tuna boat with an over-extended stern typical for Brittany. In September 1930 a fierce storm hit Brittany, brutally exposing the weakness of the dundee. Like so many other boats, the ‘Bon-Retour’ was in distress and two sailors were swept away. The water filled the boat but the pumps were broken. The rest of the crew desperately tried to empty the hold with buckets. When Marcel saw that the ship’s wheel was abandoned, he attached himself to it and clang to it during twenty-four hours, thus hoping to survive the raging sea.

At some point the Bon-Retour —I don’t know how— finally touched the port of Concarneau. It was devastated by the storm and its deck was strewn with ropes, pieces of sail and wood. Only its mast was still standing, the flag at half-staff. After being treated by a doctor, Marcel modestly said “I just did what I had to do”.
Marcel was also greeted by the Minister of Merchant Marine. That encounter was related in the press, together with a photograph of the embrace.

Mr Louis Rollin, the Minister of Merchant Marine posing with Marcel Rioual, and giving him a paternal embrace.

Clearly that picture inspired our amateur painter to represent the fatherly embrace in the clouds of the deadly storm.This naive work by an amateur painter may seem clumsy and funny. However it is testimony to the pain and mourning of the whole Finistère region, as 207 sailors died in that storm of 1930.

Stories of spectacular shipwrecks and heroic mousses have inspired young adult novels in pulp magazines, even as late as the fifties.


In Ambleteuse, the small French coastal village facing the English Channel where I am writing this story, there is this fast-food ‘restaurant’.  Au Petit Mousse offers typical French cuisine: pizza, Welsh and kebab.

Au Petit Mousse, Ambleteuse – France

Although their logo on the menu might be politically offensive, they were perhaps inspired by an old sheet music cover…

Le Petit Mousse Noir‘ by P. Cheret & Marc Constantin, published by Choudens (Paris, sd).

The Lambeth Walk & Felix Nussbaum

The Lambeth Walk‘ by Noel Gay, Arthur Rose & Albert Gumble, published by Modern Screen Songs (Shanghai, sd) and illustrated by J. Zane.

The naive drawing for The Lambeth Walk is a unicum in our collection. It’s the only one of our sheet music to have been published in Shanghai, which illustrates the song’s worldwide success. In 1937 the cheerful cockney Lambeth Walk started as an instant hit in England and soon rocketed to planetary triumph.

‘Lambeth Walk’ by Noel Gay, Arthur Rose & Albert Gumble. Left published by Cinephonic Music Co. Ltd, (London,1937). Right: published by Francis-Day (Paris, 1938).

The Lambeth Walk was composed by Noel Gay for the musical Me and My Girl about a Cockney boy who in order to inherit a fortune must abandon his working-class ways. The musical was turned into a film in 1939. In the clip we see the leading character, played by Lupino Lane, telling all the snooty aristocrats: you should come to my working-class neighbourhood, and do this little dance we do. This dance starts with a strutting gait, thumbs cheerfully up in the air. Add to that some kicks, knee-slapping, risqué pelvis motion, turning around and shouting “Oi” all seemingly without end. Earworm alert: code red!

The strutting gait is the way London costermongers used to walk. Costermongers, or costers, were street sellers of fruit and vegetables for the labouring classes. They used melodic sales patter, poems and chants to attract attention. The distinctive culture of costers inspired many comedians and made them prime targets for songwriters.

‘The Coster’s Mansion or Yo’uve only got to stop just where you is!’, by George Le Brunn & Will Fieldhouse, published by Francis, Day & Hunter (London, 1899).

The Lambeth Walk takes its name from a street in central London, once notable for its street market and working class culture. An article in the 1938 Picture Post wrote about Lambeth Walk: “In spite of its severe poverty it has a racy and vigorous life of its own.”

Life in the Lambeth Walk‘, Picture Post, December 1938.

In 1942, Charles A. Ridley of the Ministry of Information manipulated parts from Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will  to ridicule Hitler and Nazi soldiers as if they were dancing the Lambeth Walk. The newsreel companies gave their own credits to the propaganda film. This copy is titled ‘Schichlegruber doing the Lambeth Walk’ referring to Adolf Hitler’s father who was born as Alois Schicklgruber.

Felix Nussbaum was a German Jewish painter who lived in hiding in Brussels during the war. His last known painting, Triumph of Death,  shows skeletal figures making music in an apocalyptic world. It reads as an anticipation of the painter’s own doom. We see the despair on the face of the organ grinder, a self-portrait of Nussbaum. A few weeks after finishing this work in 1944, Nussbaum was arrested and shipped to Auschwitz where he died one week later. He had been betrayed by a neighbour.

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Triumph of Death‘ by Felix Nussbaum, 1944.

In the left bottom of the painting, amid a pile of debris of the painter’s everyday life, lies a torn and crumpled piece of sheet music: it is the score from the Lambeth Walk. The detail tragically illustrates that for Nussbaum there was no more place for the simple tunes that can make people happy.

Nussbaum523

Doin’ the Lambeth walk
Ev’rything free and easy
Do as you darn well pleasey