I’ve mentioned it more than once here, but maybe the best thing I have done to put some serendipity wonder into the daily web browsing experience is installing the Library of Congress Free to Use extension.

What it does is simple- each time I open a new tab in Chrome, rather than the white screen of nothing, I get a random public domain image from the Library of Congress.

I just noticed on the extension page (was it there before?) that it credits Junior Fellow Flynn Shannon as the creator of the extension, and better yet, there is an old fashioned blog post where Flynn shares the back story of where the idea came from, and how it was made (and just for grins Tony Hirst, Flynn made use of Jupyter Notebooks). And even better was reading that Flynn is a student at Kenyon College, where I will be doing a June workshop.

Quite often I stop in curiosity at the expressions on old time photos, or the interesting scenery, or just a wonder about what was happening in that photo. I learned early if I do not click the bottom bar that links to the LOC page, the image disappears, and you cannot find it again.

So I’ve had a few sitting as open tabs for weeks now. Like this one, I just wondered what the story was.

Who was Becky Edelson, and what kind of criminal was she? From the LOC entry page:

Photograph shows Rebecca Edelsohn (c. 1889 or 1892-1973) after her arrest for attempting to hold an open air mass meeting in Fountain Square, Tarrytown, New York on May 30, without a permit. Edelsohn and fellow I.W.W. members were protesting labor violence in Ludlow, Colorado and went to Tarrytown to denounce John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

Becky Edelson [i.e., Edelsohn] taken from jail (Library of Congress)

As usual I find way more interesting things in the Flickr Commons entries for these images, because of the comments people share to add to the information about the photo. Becky was noted as going on a 50+ hour hunger strike as part of this Labor dispute.

This other image in the series adds even more interest, with the expressions on the observers and imagining the verbal abuse likely being tossed her way:

A commenter on the photo stated 8 years ago he has started a Wikipedia article on her; it’s rather filled out now. Apparently Becky Edelson was the first female hunger striker. She railed against John D. Rockefeller in his home town, calling him a mass murder in court:

She denounced the charges as politically motivated, and scornfully dismissed the court as illegitimate: “This town is owned by John D. Rockefeller. We don’t expect justice here.

Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Becky_Edelsohn

She’d not think much of justice these days in Washington, D.C. eh?

This was some winding rabbit holes from just a random image in an open browser tab.

That’s just one.

The stern look of the guy driving this boat made my step and wander down the click hole too.

How could you not be curious about a picture titled “Pugh of the ‘Disturber'”? But here’s the thing, the metadata info from the LOC entry is a bit… boring. All it shares is that “Photo shows James A. Pugh in his motorboat Disturber III”.

But in the flickr image, the comments lead to a story of how Pugh took this thing to court to get a boating prize. But even better, in flickr someone added hotspots with labels that made me spit coffee:

But also, on the right side, one more hotspot indicates the date of the negative as September 5, 1911.

I wondered how Pugh of the Disturber would look with color, so see the different applied by the ColorizeSG site

black and white photo of stern captain of boat, on the right is false color version created by an algoritm
Comparison before and after using https://colourise.sg/#colorize

Does Pugh look ever more of a Disturber in color?

A different kind of curiosity came in one of today’s open tabs- I knew the location as Venice of course

Library of Congress Public Domain image

The entry dates the image as 1890-1900 but also curiously (and without any more story) “Image shows two Italian Carabinieri soldiers in a boat, possibly accompanying detainees.”

I had a different thought here- could I possibly locate a modern image of this same location? I did a search on Street View Venice, and found one of those lush Google sites. and where the map interfaces were darkened and covered with “for development purposes only”. I’ve seen this on my own project sites that once used the Google Maps API; if you do not five them a credit card now, they limit your use and stiff you with this effect. It seemed, well ironic.

It’s pretty bad when Google cannot load its own maps, right?

If Google clicked on the Do You Own This Website? link they might have to figure some **** out. Maybe Google’s credit card is busted?

Under certain circumstances, a darkened map, or ‘negative’ Street View image, watermarked with the text “for development purposes only”, may be displayed. This behavior typically indicates issues with either an API key or billing. In order to use Google Maps Platform products, billing must be enabled on your account, and all requests must include a valid API key.

I was able to get a screenshot of what looked like the same tall church tower in the background:

Ghosty image from the broken Google Site

I picked that name of what I thought was the church from the map ( on that site (I was wrong, it was not Frari), but spent my lunch running up and down the canals in Streetview, and darned if I did not find the location (the dome is new since 1890, but the buildings on both sides of the canal match):

View of a canal with the same tower in the old image above/

I consider this a match! The church is actually Chiesa di San Geremia.

Now let’s see if I can align them….

Not exact, but close enough for this dog.

I have more open tabs, but maybe I will save them for another time. But having the the Library of Congress Free to Use extension in my daily routine gives me just enough things to chase down the rabbit hole and save me from making angry gifs about politicians.

Give it a try, if only for coming across public domain images you likely won’t see elsewhere.

Featured Image: Appropriately I opened a new browser tab hoping to find something to use for a featured image and found the Library of Congress public domain photo Erie Foreign Car Parts multi-statue sign, angle 1, Mohawk Street, Whitesboro, New York. I decided to edit the ERIE letters into my own.

crafted from Library of Congress public domain image
If this kind of stuff has value, please support me by tossing a one time PayPal kibble or monthly on Patreon
Become a patron at Patreon!
Profile Picture for CogDog The Blog
An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as @cogdog@cosocial.ca


  1. Now installed.

    I was in a conversation last week with someone who spoke in a positive light about forcing students to watch PSA-style videos before they could log into the LMS. I imagine the different vibe students would have if this kind of construct was what people considered building instead. Some day I’ll find the right scenario to present library archival material, student work, faculty work etc. in both providential and intentional.

  2. I installed this a little while back when you mentioned it in another post. I don’t go down to many rabbit holes with it, but I get plenty of small moments of intrigue or amusement in my day, and that’s a gift.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *