10 Photos of Old Istanbul: 1910s in Istanbul

Balloons were the first mechanisms used in air warfare and France was the first country who had successfully flown balloons in the last quarter of the 18th century. The Ottomans were […]

Balloons were the first mechanisms used in air warfare and France was the first country who had successfully flown balloons in the last quarter of the 18th century. The Ottomans were behind developments. This photo which was taken in Talimhane in 1910 shows one of the first balloon experiments for the Turkish Air Force. It rises above the Istanbul skyline, and the curious crowd watching it.


Barry family was one of the Levantine families in Constantinople, with roots going back to England and Italy. The father of Albert Barry, Joseph Barry, was the court dentist during the reign of Sultan Abdulhamid II. Albert Barry also was the dentist, worked in his office at Mısır Apartment in Beyoğlu until his death in 1962. He was also interested in photography. As he is not in the photo he may be the photographer of this photo which shows the Barry family at Büyükada around 1910-12.


Sultanahmet Mosque or popularly known as the Blue Mosque has always been the Istanbul’s most touristic attraction along with the Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace, Basilica Cistern and Galata Tower. This mosque has five main domes, six point three minarets, and eight secondary domes. It is said to be the last great mosques of the classical period. This photo shows the Blue Mosque in 1919. Despite my research, I couldn’t find any information why there’s no crowd around the mosque.

Swiss brothers named Adolf and Walter Bomonti moved to Istanbul and established a brewery for a beer. It was Turkey’s first major beer factory, built in Istanbul in 1890, and later moved the factory in 1902 to the Bomonti neighbourhood. This photo shows the people enjoying their beer in the garden of Bomonti Beer Factory in the 1910s.

The “Sick Man of Europe” for over 100 years, Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers and entered World War I on October 28, 1914. The decision of the Ottoman Empire to enter the First World War was a catastrophic mistake which resulted in the empire’s occupation by the victorious allies. This photo is proof of this horrible mistake as it shows the occupation of Constantinople. The British troops of the “Army of Occupation of Constantinople” are awaiting General Allenby on the İstiklal Street in January of 1919.

It is safe to say that there was no place such abundant in fish as the Bosporus and there was no place where there were so many taken. Once upon a time, fishing dominated life in Istanbul thanks to the fertile sea which surrounded the city on three sides. The most common fish spicy was mackerel which migrated annually between the Aegean and the Black Sea. When they were on the way, Istanbul strait was full of migrating mackerel and it was a feast for the fishermen in Istanbul. This photo is proof of this feast as fishermen are beaching the mackerels easily on the shore of Bebek neighbourhood.

A great photo shows a panoramic view of Istanbul. You can see the Kabataş neighbourhood, the ferries are crossing the Bosporus, the famous Maiden Tower is apparent, and the Üsküdar neighbourhood is in the background. It is safe to say, Istanbul was not a concrete jungle that is evident in the photo!

This is one of the most beautiful photos from the beginning years of 1910’s. Probably the photographer took the picture from a small boat on the Golden Horn. Here is Fener shore, which looks completely different than its today’s appearance, and with its wooden houses, the neighbourhood looks really amazing in the photo. However, the photo’s most striking attraction is definitely the Phanar Greek Orthodox College which is called as The Red School by the locals.

This photo shows two coolies are on the Galata Bridge. No way to know what they were carrying or for whom but their financial situation is evident if we compare their clothing with the man on the left, who was wearing shoes of high quality, black long coat and fez, a truncated cone made of red felt.

This photo is witness of the Sultanahmet Demonstrations which was a milestone for the national awakening for Turks to give a start to Turkish Independence War.  It was series of rallies in 1919 at Sultanahmet to protest the occupation of İzmir by Greeks after the Ottomans lost the First World War. This photo was taken on 23 May 1919 and published by the newspaper Hakimiyet-i Milliye.


  1. Avatar photo
    Constance Walsh

    Thank you for these beautiful – and very sad – photographs.

    Sad because of the infectious disease which is modernity, aka western civilization, which seems to require complete destruction of whatever exists to accomplish its desires. There is little if anything left of what’s seen in these photos, save for the mosques.
    The mosque had no crowds because it was early in the day, and early in the century when visitors to Istanbul were few, tourists non-existent.

    Undoubtedly you know the work of Turkish author Orhan Pamuk, Saad, and if not, “Istanbul” is the one to read.
    Hold on to your heart.

    In the photo with the two men you call ‘coolies’ they are resting their burdens (barrels) on a wooden table.
    If you saw what it looks like to see them on the job, trudging through the streets with their chins almost touching the ground, sometimes invisible under their cargo, human beasts of burden, you would find it astonishing that despite their lives of unspeakable torture, these men always had a ready greeting and a smile. As they began this work at an early age, their bodies became permanently bent, unable to stand normally till the death.
    Eventually it was illegal for merchants to hire them, as it presented a shameful image of Istanbul to tourists.

    I was there in 1968, 1969, and 1987. I fell in love with Istanbul from day one.

    Wishing you many ordinary and extra-ordinary adventures on your travels- the world is still full of wonderful people.
    And take good care of yourself!


  2. Avatar photo
    Neil Titman

    Dear Saadi,

    I’m interested in the Bomonti Beer Factory garden picture. Do we know anything about the people in the photograph? And would mind my asking you where the photograph is from and who owns it?

    With thanks and kind regards,
    Neil Titman

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