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Collect ‘Em All: When Reykjavík’s Bums Appeared On Postcards

Collect ‘Em All: When Reykjavík’s Bums Appeared On Postcards

Published April 30, 2015

Being able to live anonymously is one of the great perks of modern civilisation. In a big city today, it’s possible to go about your life outside of the scrutiny and control of others. Although it can sometimes seem like your life is constantly on display in Reykjavík, a relatively small city, just imagine what it would have been like in the early 20th century, when far fewer people inhabited the city. At that time, even the homeless and drunks appear to have been celebrities whose photos graced collectible postcards in the 1930s.

It’s as if the “strange” were celebrated in the same way that sports heroes are celebrated on trading cards today. Many of the men depicted on these postcards suffered from mental illnesses at a time when there was next to no help available, but instead of slipping through the cracks, unnoticed, as they might today, it seems that they were well-known characters about town.

We thank Þórunn Jónsdóttir, who inherited these postcards from her father and allowed us to use her scanned copies of them.

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  • Jón söðli (“Jón, the saddler”): Believed in the existence of dangerous outlaws in the Central Highlands of Iceland, whom he wanted to eradicate with the help of the government.

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  • Dabbi í Nesi: A milkman who made famous drinking stops on his way.

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  • Gísli, þingmaður Bolvíkinga (“Gísli, MP of Bolungarvík”): A mentally challenged man who thought he was a Member of Parliament for the non-existent constituency of Bolungarvík.

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  • Símon Dalaskáld: A peculiar poet with an extraordinary memory for old verses.

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  • Stutti Bjarni (“Bjarni, the shorty”): A drifter.

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  • Brynki Hólm: A famous drunk in Reykjavík.

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  • Óli prammi: A “naive and strange man” who was “constantly searching for luck, love and the keys to heaven.”

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  • Eyjólfur ljóstollur (“Eyjólfur sunshine taxer”): A drifter and poet.

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  • Óli gossari: A “crippled” drifter with a drinking problem.

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  • Sæfinnur með sextán skó (“Sæfinnur with sixteen shoes”): The most famous water carrier of the late 19th century. An eccentric man whose wizard-like looks made him a local celebrity.

Lemúrinn is an Icelandic web magazine (it’s also the Icelandic word for the native primate of Madagascar). A winner of the 2012 Web Awards, Lemúrinn.is covers all things strangeand interesting. Go check it out at www.lemurinn.is


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