Science class in the field, somewhere in Tsarist Russia

This postcard has no message or information on the back, but it came from a dealer in Pennsylvania who specializes in photographs from Imperial Russia (pre-1917).  The empire of the Tsars was truly vast, encompassing areas of northeastern Europe and Central Asia which today are made up of independent nations.  It’s impossible to say exactly where this photo was taken, but it looks to me like a scene out of a 19th century Russian novel.  Since it’s a postcard, I’d guess it was made between 1905 and 1915.

I’d bet that the young man in the straw hat, fourth from left, is the teacher, and the two adults to the left are workers on the estate where the class is taking place.

Science class 2

The children may have been members of the family which owned the estate.

Science class 3


I wonder what kind of experiment they were conducting?



24 thoughts on “Science class in the field, somewhere in Tsarist Russia

Add yours

  1. Intriguing photo! You do wonder who they all were and what part they played in the life of the estate where this took place.
    This is just a bit of guesswork, but I wonder if the thing on the left might be a centrifuge. You slot your test tubes into the bottom (that’s what I think I can see), put on the lid, which the man in the straw hat is holding, attach a crank handle and twirl. Not so different from what they use on CSI!

    Liked by 5 people

      1. Oh, I was rubbish at chemistry. What does one use a centrifuge for? Separating out the precipitate from a solution? (If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate 😃 – sorry, one of my small stock of science jokes)

        Liked by 4 people

  2. I like how the boys are barefoot for class. Hopefully not a class on acids. It definitely looks like chemistry with all the test tubes and glass “eyedropper” thingies. The girl looks very studious but its unclear whether she is also enjoying the grass between her toes. They must be wealthy to have so mant tutor. And the lady on the right looks very teacherly as well perhaps a governess?

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Looking at this great photo, I immediately remembered the great Russian chemist Mendeleev. By the way, in many photos he also has a beard and a hat. This photo looks earlier than you might think. How do you manage to find such interesting images? I’m impressed!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Aw, thanks. I find cool things by spending way too much time looking for them (haha). This photo is very unusual, so I was surprised no one else bought it. Collectors often look for specific things, and maybe this one didn’t fit any specific category or criteria. Luck is also definitely a factor. Someone else would have bought this, for sure, if I hadn’t seen it.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. yes, I have always admired your ability to wait patiently and catch the right moment at the right time)
        This photo is not easy to understand due to no inscription. I do not leave the idea that the people in the photo are very similar to the Mendeleyev family. I also find it strange that people who are in focus are too clear, and those who are not in focus are too fuzzy.
        Thank you for taking me on an interesting journey through Imperial Russia🙂

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Well, thank you for coming on the journey! I’m not sure why the people at the sides of the photo are not in focus. It may have been because of the shape of the lens. I like your idea that they might have been a scientific family. A very intriguing thought!

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Another magnificent addition to your collection, Brad. I wish we could side down with a box of your photos and a magnifying glass to discuss them all in detail.

    This image blows me away! There is just so much to it. Some odd things no one has already mentioned – the woman to the right appears to be pretending to write, as what else could her paper be than a folded newspaper? What is the boy next to her holding? It looks like some kind of magnifying apparatus. I thought it might be an attachment to a bigger piece of equipment? What could the story be with his quasi military outfit? The women at either end hold items that suggest they are helping with the task, whatever it may have been. Such a mysterious treasure!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Brilliant observations, as always! I have no idea what the boy is holding, but both of your theories sound good. His outfit looks comfortable and also durable, which would be ideal for a boy that age. The boy on the left is wearing shorts, which aren’t traditional for Russia, but this whole scene is untraditional. The fellow in the military hat and coat may have spent time in the army, in order to fulfill a mandatory service requirement. Or maybe he’s wearing them because he wants to be a soldier, and the clothes reflect his persona.

      Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: