A century ago, journalist Frank G. Carpenter traveled through Romania capturing photos and colorful, sometimes lecherous, descriptions of the people and places he encountered.
Frank G. Carpenter (pictured above in Rome in 1923) was a writer and photographer whose reports from far-flung corners of the world enthralled readers of his widely syndicated "letters" home to the United States. His popularity enabled him to travel nearly continuously through the final decades of his life, writing books, taking photos, and scribbling notes that he condensed into punchy, sometimes dubious, photo captions.
Below are 19 of the photos and captions Carpenter made while traveling through Romania in 1923 that are now housed in the U.S. Library of Congress archive. The images offer a fascinating insight into both the "Greater Romania" era of relative wealth and calm between the two world wars, and an American perspective toward the "Old World" of Europe a century ago.
The original captions used below sometimes lack location information. Several have been edited to change spellings or grammar.
Drivers of these carriages were known as "birjar" and were notorious for their profanity, leading to the Romanian phrase still in use today: "He/she swears like a birjar."
The military building was completed in 1911 and continues in its role as an army "club" today.
The Turkish city of Istanbul was known as Constantinople until 1930.
In another photo description of a young peasant woman, Carpenter claimed "an olive twig must be held over her head" on her wedding day. If the stick is dropped, "bad luck will be her lot, and the gaiety will be dispelled in a jiffy," he wrote.
Romania does not have a widespread history of olive growing, so the story may have been a fabrication, or based on what Carpenter saw during a previous trip to Greece.
Gypsies in Romania were historically more well-known for their metalcraft, rather than masonry.
The original caption above is incorrect; the image, in fact, shows Bucharest's Cantacuzino Palace, built in 1902 for former Romanian Prime Minister Gheorghe Cantacuzino. Today, the building houses a museum.
This image, in fact, shows the Central University Library of Bucharest, one of the centerpieces of the Romanian capital. The building is generally considered an example of Beaux-Arts, rather than the Byzantine architectural style, as Carpenter claimed. The building was badly damaged during the 1989 Romanian revolution but has since been rebuilt.
The unnamed building is the Black Church, in the center of Brasov.
Carpenter died of an unspecified illness in China in 1924, just one year after these photos were taken.
A U.S. newspaper at the time marked his death by praising his "genius for finding out things, and the things that interest everyone, and then for writing them interestingly."