A rough date of the photo can be surmised from their clothing. The creased cuffed trousers, slicked centre-parting, round sunglasses, and pencil moustache point to the 1920s or 1930s. One looks to be wearing a felt hat that could be a fedora.
They’re photographed outside, standing against a wall.
Gevaert Photo Products was founded by Lieven Gevaert in Antwerp, Belgium in 1894. The company later merged with Agfa in 1964 to become Agfa-Gevaert.
Singapore – 1920s and 1930s
The island city of Singapore had been part of a British Crown Colony since 1st April 1867. The name of this colony was the Straits Settlements. Other territories within this colony were Dinding, Penang, Labuan, and Malacca.
It was a modern city boasting magnificent European architecture. The roads were filled with motor cars and trams. Apart from the heat and rickshaws, one could forget they were in Asia.
Those who lived on the streets of Singapore were mainly Chinese, with some Malays, Indians, and Europeans. This ethnically mixed population had been the result of British colonial development attracting immigration. And with these waves of immigration had come different religions. Singapore had become home to many Buddhist and Hindu temples, Muslim mosques, and Christian churches.
A film from British Pathé shows Singapore street scenes from the 1920s:
This is a longer film from 1930, made available by the University of Pennsylvania Museum:
There were many ways those three men could have entertained themselves. As well as the numerous shops, Singapore was home to three large amusement parks. These were called New World, Great World, and Happy World.
The first, New World, was opened in 1923 by the brothers Boon Tat and Ong Peng Hock. It offered general entertainment such as amusement rides (Ferris wheel, ghost train, dodgem cars), football, opera, boxing, and cabaret.
New World was followed by Great World, built by Lee Geok Kun and opened in 1929. Happy World, later renamed Gay World, opened in 1937. This third amusement park was built by George Lee Geok Eng of George Lee Motors.
Often described as the “Gibraltar of the East”, the British Empire understood its economic and strategic importance in the region.
In 1923, to counter the growing Japanese Empire, work began on a large naval base. It was completed in 1938. This concentration on fortifying Singapore from a naval invasion, however, led to its downfall. In 1942 the Japanese Army successfully conquered the island by attacking the naval base from the land.
“Empire Shipping On The Trade Routes Of The World.” Times [London, England] 5 Mar. 1924: 7. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 23 Sept. 2018.
General history of Singapore resource provided by National Library Board of Singapore: