German Spies

I found this story in the Sheffield Evening Telegraph, 23 December, 1887.

“The Paris correspondent of the Daily News telegraphs as follows: Major Blumenthal, an officer of the German Landwehr, has on suspicion of being a spy, been ordered [to] leave France within 48 hours.

“Suspicions were aroused by his taking, under the assumed name of Baron de Jilly, a chalet near Conflans, not far from Paris. A lady who was supposed to have taken a part of the chalet from him turns out to have been a German military cadet.

“They both used to go wandering about with a perambulator. What seemed to be a sleeping baby was in reality a large doll that had a photographic apparatus for taking views of the new forts and the positions commanding them.

“They were also enthusiastic pigeon fanciers, but some of their birds were trapped by suspicious neighbours, and found to be carriers”.

1.) The phrase “pigeon fancier” will never not be funny to me.

2.) Since cameras in 1887 were not exactly known for being small and subtle, I just picture this  giant camera on a tripod sticking out of a baby carriage, with the baby doll perched on top.

Please enjoy my artistic rendition.

German Spy

There was a lot of tension in France and England around the time of German unification about the possibility of German invasion. This actually led to a whole genre of literature called “invasion narratives”. This particular news story is rife with details that would trigger that anxiety: German military invading domestic spaces, innocuous things like mothers, babies, and pigeons turning out to work for the enemy, and the “unsavory” issue of cross-dressing, which was seen as an expression of Continental decadence and foreign vice.

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One Response to German Spies

  1. Pingback: BizarreVictoria: Celebrating 3 Years | BizarreVictoria

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