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German History in Documents and Images
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On the New Canal near Berlin (1864)
In the second half of the nineteenth century, as wage levels for average Germans increased more steadily and the beginnings of fundamental democratization emerged, recreational activities ceased to be the exclusive preserve of nobles and the wealthy. The scene below, which features a motley crowd of skaters on a canal near Berlin, makes clear that public recreational activities brought representatives of different age groups and social strata together in a common pursuit. The diversity of men’s hats featured in this scene is but one indicator of the social diversity of the skaters themselves. (Basic caps, for example, appear alongside bowlers and top hats.) The operators of the small booth on the edge of the ice appear to have seized the opportunity presented by this concentration of customers to sell liquor, hot soup, and possibly tobacco products. Wood engraving after a drawing by Theodor Hosemann (1795-1875), 1864.