Saturday, February 19, 2011

Saturday's postcard: A color-coordinated Holiday Inn


This is a postcard from (best guess) the late 1960s or early 1970s by Robert Freeman Photography of Big Bear Lake, California.

That's a lovely color-coordinated Holiday Inn, isn't it?

The text on the back reads: "Holiday Inn of Santa Maria is located just off Hwy. 101 at 1405 Main Street. Its 125 sound proofed rooms all have color cable T.V. and are situated separately from the Restaurant, Cocktail Lounge, Patio and heated pool."

To the best of my knowledge (employing a little help from Google Earth), this building no longer exists.

As for the minor mystery aspect of this postcard, I have not yet determined whether the Robert Freeman of "Robert Freeman Photography" is the same man who is famous for his work with The Beatles and their album covers.

That would be something, if he juggled Holiday Inn postcards and also the photography for the With The Beatles, Beatles for Sale, Help! and Rubber Soul album covers.

Here's Robert Freeman's official website.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A War Service Library bookplate


Sometimes, I don't need to start from scratch. The work has been done for me.

That was the case with this War Service Library bookplate, which I retained from the inside front cover of an otherwise unsalvageable novel1 that was more than 100 years old.

In doing some research on Google, my first hit took me to a Q&A on the American Libraries Magazine website. It featured an identical version of the above bookplate and all of its history from World War I.

So go check out the Ask the ALA Librarian entry. It has everything you'll want to know about this bookplate and the War Service Library.

Further reading

Footnotes
1. My stance is that some books cannot and should not be saved. If they are falling apart, moldy or otherwise damaged beyond reasonable repair, I will not hoard them just because they are "old books". Nor will I donate them to a library or another individual in that condition. Sometimes, it's just a book's time. (Which isn't to say I won't remove a few ephemera relics, if interest warrants, from a dead book before sending it off to the Great Beyond.)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

See the Great Lakes and the world's greatest cataract

This advertisement for a cruise comes from the June 1929 issue of The Etude, a music magazine that was published from 1883 to 1957.

(Note that you can click on the advertisement image to see a much larger version and read all of the text.)

For just $79.50, a traveler would receive meals and berth for a seven-day cruise on four Great Lakes and Georgian Bay. The cruises were offered by the Chicago, Duluth & Georgian Bay Transit Company (better known as the Georgian Bay Line).

Using my favorite toy this week, the inflation calculator, we find that something that cost $79.50 in 1929 would have an equivalent cost of $986.57 in 2009.

So was the 1929 cruise a good value? By my very quick assessment1, it definitely was.

In 1929, this seven-day, 2,000-mile cruise took its passengers to four Great Lakes, Georgian Bay, Mackinac Island2, Parry Sound and Niagara Falls.

Meanwhile, I checked out the website for the Great Lakes Cruise Company and the closest comparison cruise I could find is "Magical Lake Michigan", a seven-night trip that starts in Chicago and visits Holland (Michigan), Beaver Island, Sault Ste. Marie (Michigan), Mackinac Island, Sturgeon Bay and Milwaukee.3 The lowest available price for this cruise is $2,379.

So yes, the $79.50 cruise in 1929 ($986.57 in 2009 dollars) appears to have been a nice bargain, if everything was as advertised.

Other thoughts and notes from the 1929 ad in The Etude.
  • Descriptions You Won't See Today, Part I: Niagara Falls described as "the world's greatest cataract."
  • Descriptions You Won't See Today, Part II: Cruise ships described, with pride, as "big oil-burning4 white liners."
  • Although the advertisement doesn't make it fully clear, North American and South American were the names of the two Georgian Bay Line cruise ships. According to Wikipedia, the North American was retired in 1963 and later sank while under tow to what would have been a new life as part of a merchant marine academy. The South American was scrapped in 1992. (Pictured at the bottom of this entry is a postcard image I found online of the South American.)

Footnotes
1. I'm not a travel agent, and I don't play one on TV.
2. Mackinac Island is the setting for the 1980 movie "Somewhere in Time" starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.
3. I'm not sure whether there are any regular cruises from Chicago to Niagara Falls any more. In my quick Google research, no obvious cruises taking that route jumped out at me. I did, however, find this interesting related column on Straight Dope Chicago.
4. Modern cruise ships, by the way, average about one gallon of bunker fuel burned for every 30 to 60 feet traveled at cruising speed.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

1891-92 subscription to the Religious Herald


I found this -- where else? -- tucked inside an old book. Mrs. M.E. Quarles (if I'm reading the cursive script correctly) paid $2 to subscribe to the Religious Herald for the 12-month period from September 1891 to September 1892.

The Religious Herald is still very much around and still a pretty good bargain. Individuals may subscribe for $18 per year, and the subscription cost is as low as $11 per year if everyone from a church subscribes, according to its website.

That means the Religious Herald has kept its subscription cost extremely low, relative to inflation, in the past 110+ years. Because, according to this online inflation calculator1, a product that cost $2 in 1891 would cost $47.15 in 2009.

The Religious Herald is now a publication of the Baptist General Association of Virginia, a faith community of about 1,400 congregations in Virginia and other states.

Here is some of the publication's early history, quoted from its website:

The immediate forerunner of the Herald was a monthly publication called the Evangelical Inquirer, produced by editor Henry Keeling in 1827, primarily for a Virginia Baptist readership. The 32-page, pamphlet-sized magazine covered many topics but produced only 12 issues before ceasing operation. Keeling wanted to move to a weekly newspaper format which would be printed on a large "blanket sheet." The first issues of the Religious Herald rolled off the press on Jan. 11, 1828, in downtown Richmond, somewhere on Main Street between 11th and 12th streets.

Eli Ball became editor in 1831. Two years later, William Sands, who was then the publisher/proprietor, assumed editorship when Ball resigned because of the press of duties with other Baptist entities. Sands served the new paper for 37 years during times of turbulent religious controversies and doctrinal disputes.

During the American Civil War, the paper struggled but managed to maintain publishing, although it was reduced from four pages to two in 1864. On April 3, 1865, the retreating Confederate army set fire to Richmond's business district and the Herald's offices were destroyed. What little that was left of the paper was sold to Jeremiah B. Jeter and Alfred Dickinson in October 1865.

Jeter served as editor until his death in 1880, when Dickinson assumed leadership of the paper until 1906.

In line with that, Alfred Dickinson is listed as "President" on this $2 receipt from 1891.

The J.T. Ellyson who is listed as secretary and treasurer on the receipt is almost certainly James Taylor Ellyson, who was also serving as the mayor of Richmond, Virginia, while performing his duties for the Religious Herald. Ellyson went on to serve as the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia from 1906 to 1918.

Footnotes
1. The calculator adjusts any given amount of money for inflation, according to the Consumer Price Index.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"Steal not this book my honest lad"


The pencil inscription on this 1932 edition of the history textbook "Our Republic" reads: "Steal not this book my honest lad for 50¢ cost my dad and you will say at judment [sic] day where is that book you stole away."


It's a unique variation on an old, familiar theme. I could not, though, find any other online references for phrases that specifically begin with "steal not this book my honest lad." Maybe this book owner was going for his or her own original rhyme.

According to Littera Scripta: "It was traditional, particularly before the invention of the printing press when books were all hand written manuscripts, to letter a curse into the book to prevent theft. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to have worked very well, as the books also had to be chained into place."

One of the most commonly used modern inscriptions starts with "Steal not this book for fear of shame, for in it is the owner's name."

Some other examples of variations on the theme:

Frizzled in a pan. That sounds uncomfortable.

More on this topic

Monday, February 14, 2011

Old Dinosaur Illustration of the Day


So here's the deal. I didn't think I was going to have much time for today's entry, so I thought, "Oh, I'll just toss onto the blog a cool old illustration of dinosaurs that I have laying around1 and be done with it. I won't really need to say anything."

Ha.

Now, part of the reason I wasn't going to write much about this illustration featuring pterodactyls, monstrous sea creatures and -- for some reason -- a solemn stork (in the upper-right corner), is that I didn't know what book it was from. It was a loose-leaf page that had been pulled from an unsalvageable, falling-apart old book a while back. But while I found the illustration interesting and worth keeping2, I stupidly didn't bother to make a note of the book it was from.

The other side of the illustration has a page of text, but no obvious indicators of the book's title. So I decided, just for the heck of it, to type a sentence from that page into Google:

"Another reptile allied to the pterodactyle lived in this epoch."

The Internet is a scary thing, sometimes.

And so it's clear this page and illustration are from an 1887 children's non-fiction book by Henry Davenport Northrop. I was going to type the book's title, but to heck with that. Instead, here is a facsimile image of the title page, from the Google eBook:


(That title makes "The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!?" seem like a short title by comparison.)

So now that the mystery has been lessened and we know what book this illustration came from, what else can we learn?

Well, we can learn that you can find interesting stuff if you accidentally type the wrong name into Google. I meant to enter the author's name, "Henry Davenport Northrop," into the search engine. But, for some reason, I typed "Henry David Northrop" instead.

And I got an interesting hit! Because somebody else got his name wrong, too.

The following anecdote about Northrop's book comes from a 2008 message-board post on, of all places, the official Rifftrax forum3. Here's the post by user "basselope" that discusses his then-recent acquisition of the book:

Pardon the epic reply, but this is a story I've never told to anyone but my wife.

Earth, Sea and Sky by Henry David Northrop, printed in 1887, the only printing I'm aware of.

It may sound silly at first, but I've been wanting this one since I was about ten years old. When I was a little stinker My mother would take me to my Great Grandmother's house the next state over about once a year. Her home was rather Spartan and very Great Grandmotherly (read: not much for a little stinker to do.) I don't know how it started, but every time we would visit her I would make a beeline for one of her books. It had pictures of animals, stars, deep sea life, and even Dragons and Dinosaurs. And there was something intangible about that book that just drew me in. It felt ancient and a little bit mysterious with it's guilt leather binding, filigree lettering here and there and the black and white ink illustrations. I loved that book.

My Great Grandmother passed on when I was, oh, I guess around 6 years old. When we went to her house to gather her things, my Mother handed me the book and told me Gran'ma wanted me to have it. I don't know whether or not they had ever actually discussed the book and, frankly, it doesn't matter. Nothing on this earth could have touched me more than that.

As I grew and could read better I began to notice something odd about that book. It had always been a mystery and I was determined that I would be able to read it one day, but things just didn't seem right. Eventually I figured out that the copy I had was a salesman's copy. The binding was split into samples of the four different options, the text was only partial and skipped around quite a bit, and even then it was printed in four lettering styles and three languages. To say I was disappointed would be a gross understatement.

Jump forward to a few weeks ago. After years of off-and-on searching, I found a copy in reasonable condition on an auction site. I was sweating bullets waiting for the auction to end, scared to death someone would out bid me. Turns out there's not a big demand for this particular tome... go figure! I was the only bidder. Once I got it in my grubby little hands I was elated. It was at least twice as thick as my sales copy and, except for the cover, it was in beautiful condition.

I don't have anything else to add, except that I'm now kicking myself for only keeping this single illustrated page from Northrop's book, even if it was falling apart and unsalvageable. I should have kept the whole thing and let it pass down to future generations.

That concludes today's entry. I was originally going to apologize for its length.

Instead, I will apologize for its length.

Footnotes
1. Doesn't everyone?
2. My name is Chris, and I hoard ephemera.
3. This entry couldn't get any weirder if it tried.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Quest for ephemera at a local auction

Because I am already running out of ephemera to write about and clearly am in need of more1, I decided to attend a local auction on Saturday, February 5. The listing for the event lured me in with these portions of its advertising:

LOTS OF OLD POSTCARDS,MOVIE POSTERS,HEATHKIT ELECTRICAL KIT...HUGE AMOUNT OF OLD PAPER GOODS, CATALOGS,MAGAZINES,LOTS OF PAPER GOODS!! ...
MANY OLD TOYS,COUNTRY STORE ADV ITEMS,SIGNS,DISPLAY ITEMS, SODA ITEMS,ETC,...MANY RARE & UNUSUAL PRIMITIVES,VINTAGE SPORTS ITEMS,AND MUCH,MUCH,MORE!! ... THERE WILL MANY SURPRISES AT THIS ONE, SEVERAL NEW CONSIGNORS HAVE BEEN COLLECTING FOR OVER 30 YEARS,AND THEY ARE DIGGING IN THEIR COLLECTIONS AND PULLING OUT SOME REAL NEAT STUFF THAT HAS BEEN STORED AWAY FOR DECADES!!TONS OF OLD PAPER GOODS,TABLES WILL BE LOADED AGAIN!!

OLD PAPER.

Those are two words that send the heart of any ephemera collector stirring.

And it turned out there were plenty of ephemera collectors (or, more likely, dealers) there.

The auction was a great experience. It was held at the York County 4-H Center, where my daughter has her monthly 4-H Wildlife Watchers club meeting, so I was familiar with the location and layout.

The auction itself was run by Stermer's Auction Service out of East Berlin, which did a terrific job. Though a first-timer, I had no problem getting registered.

It did take me about 20 minutes as an observer to catch on to how the auction process works2. They started in the back in the room with a rows of, say, 12 boxes full of miscellaneous items. The highest bidder would get first pick of however many boxes he or she wanted (paying the full bid price for each box). And then the bidding would start again for first pick among the remaining boxes. So there was a law of diminishing returns and bids until finally there were just a few boxes left, which were auctioned as one final group lot.

A good bit of the ephemera was auctioned this way at the beginning of the auction. There were tables with 10 rows of pulps, comics, movie magazines, etc. And the highest bidder would get to pick which row of magazines he or she wanted. The first few "picks" would be auctioned for prices in excess of $100 at some of the tables. And even when things cooled off, the final row of 6-10 vintage magazines might go for $20 or more.

I only had about $40 in my pocket that I was willing to spend. Plus I was new at this, so I wasn't interested in getting involved in the bidding on any of the items drawing a lot of attention.

One table full of ephemera caught my interest, though. The highlight was ten big cardboard containers full of receipts and records recently pulled out of an old mill in Glenville, York County. Each box was about the size of one of those unabridged dictionaries you see on pedestals in libraries, and was jam-packed with paper. I was definitely interested in snagging one of them, and willing to go up to $30 once the initial burst of bidding on the table died down.

Didn't happen. A woman who had already snagged a ton of ephemera in the previous hour got aggressive in the second round of bidding at the table and won a pick for $40. She took all ten cardboard containers, spending $400 to collect the old paper from that York County mill.

Soon the traditional auction began with an auctioneer at the front of the room and each item brought up individually by assistants. It was fascinating to watch the process and see what people were bidding on.

Here are some of the notes I jotted down on items and how much they sold for:

  • Factory-sealed Lionel Pennsylvania Flyer, $140
  • Two little elf/gnome figurines, $50
  • Land O' Lakes thermometer (about 18 inches tall), $45
  • Buster Brown store sign, $75
  • Book of postcards, $150
  • Box of old Valentine's cards, $100
  • Very small Pepsi sign, $30
  • Small box of postcards, $55
  • Mickey Mouse phone, $20

And what was my haul? Very modest. Pictured below is what I won at my first auction: a small box of vintage paperbacks for $5 and a 10-pamphlet collection titled "Home Course in Animal Breeding" for $5.

Can't wait until the next auction!


Footnotes

1. My wife would strongly oppose this statement, and would point to the 30-pound box of ephemera in our bedroom as evidence to the contrary.

2. A fun and interesting book about auctions of a half-century ago is "Going, Going, Gone!" by Bellamy Partridge.