Saturday, March 5, 2011

Saturday's postcard: Peek inside San Simeon

This postcard of the gothic study in California's Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument by Dexter Press1 of West Nyack, N.Y., was copyrighted in 1966.

The text of the reverse side of the card states:
San Simeon, California, on Scenic Highway 1 between Monterey and San Luis Obispo

Portrait of William Randolph Hearst hangs at the far end of the GOTHIC STUDY in La Casa Grande2. It was from here that Mr. Hearst directed his vast business empire. Rare books are housed in the ornate shelves.

Newspaper magnate Hearst had his estate -- which has been referred to as Hearst Castle, La Cuesta Encantada and San Simeon -- constructed between 1919 and 1947. It featured 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, 127 acres of gardens, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, a movie theater, an airfield, and the world's largest private zoo.

San Simeon was the inspiration for the Xanadu mansion (pictured at right) belonging to Charles Foster Kane in the 1941 movie "Citizen Kane". Hearst, furious because this and several other aspects of the film seemed to be about his life, angrily attacked Orson Welles' film on several fronts through his media empire.

Tours of San Simeon are available. Sightseers might have the fortune to glimpse zebras -- descendants of Hearst's original zebras -- roaming freely on the grounds.

1. Dexter Press also produced last Saturday's Dealey Plaza/JFK postcard.
2. La Casa Grande, the castle on Hearst's sprawling estate, is 60,645 square feet.

Friday, March 4, 2011

1952 advertisement for Royal gelatin desserts

This advertisement is from the June 1952 issue of Woman's Day magazine, which had a cover price of just seven cents at the time.

The copy for Royal gelatin desserts reads: "Doubly Ideal for Children! 21 Child Specialists Agree that Royal Gelatin Desserts are Ideal for Digestibility and Ideal for Food-Energy!"

Royal, a gelatin dessert competitor of Jell-O and others, has been around since 1925.

Here's a link to an interesting 1950 box of Royal with a Warren Spahn card on the back side. Royal had many different series of images on its boxes over the years, including sports stars, movie stars and Disney tie-ins. Some additional images of those boxes can be found here.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Tearless onion slicer: "It is her first invention"

This newspaper clipping comes from an issue of the St. Paul (Minn.) Dispatch from sometime in the span of Oct. 28-31, 1935.

The photo caption reads:

Weep no more, oh lovers of onions! A tearless onion slicer has been invented by Mrs. Vera Vath, 3242 Chicago avenue, Minneapolis and is shown being examined by Florence Susag of the Harmon hotel1, Minneapolis, who almost wept with joy. "I love onions," Mrs. Vath said, explaining her device, "but they used to make me cry. Besides, I knew how cooks in hamburger shops suffered slicing them. So I invented an airtight slicing machine." A cardboard oatmeal box served for the first model, while a later model, with real knives inside, was made of metal. It is her first invention.

I doesn't appear that Mrs. Vath's invention was a huge hit, does it?

Plenty of people, of course, have tried to design the perfect tearless onion slicer over the years. Here's a "vintage" one for sale on Etsy. Here's another neat one that's available from Janet's Depression Glass & Country Store. And here's a (somewhat dry) look at some of the patents related to tearless onion slicers over the years.

Finally, I found this amusing story from June 2000:

NEW YORK -- The ages-old battle for a fool-proof way of slicing onions tearlessly may have been won by an 8-year-old girl.

According to a recent report in the New York Post, Rachael Kaminsky is one of 12 finalists for the 2000 Craftsman/National Science Teachers Association Young Inventors Award for her tearless onion slicer. Kaminsky is a third-grader at Concord Road Elementary School in Ardsley, N.Y.

Her contraption is described as a bowl-shaped, plastic food container with an apple corer at the bottom. The corer slices the onions, while a bag of baking soda and a pastry cloth are used to trap and absorb the odor of the onions.

1. The Harmon Hotel in downtown Minneapolis was converted into condominiums sometime after 1972.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The more F's the better, plus a little mystery

Here's a business-card-sized brain teaser that I found in my great-grandparents' desk.

Follow the directions -- no cheating -- and see what you come up with. Then scroll down to the bottom of today's entry for the reverse side of the card.

Meanwhile, it's not so easy to find is any evidence of the company that printed this card many decades ago:

The P.J. Mann Printery
5345 Calumet Avenue
Hammond, Ind.

If you plug that address into Google, you find that there's now an overpass at the location. Here's what you see in Google's Street View:

View Larger Map

  • "P.J. Mann Printery" gets no hits in a Google search
  • "P.J. Mann Printery" is mentioned in the 1925 volumes of American Printer and Lithographer and The Inland Printer. It is also mentioned in a 1937 edition of The Typographical Journal.

Beyond that, I have nothing. So we can file this one under "Mystery", and if anyone out there has any leads on this former company and its products, send them my way!

OK, so here's the back of the card. Did you get all six F's?1

1. This brain/eye trick is quite common. Here's an online version.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Some interior decorating tips from 1969

The garish image above is from "Making the Most of the One-Room Apartment", a 64-page staplebound book written by David Holmes and published in 1969.

Holmes writes:
"[M]any sociologists say that apartment living is the way of the future, that the single family residence, as we have known it, is on the way out. ... [T]here is a magic about all apartment living, the lure of making a bright, personal world in the heart of the city, of creating, by oneself, a warm, inviting place to come to where the crushing problems and pace of the metropolis can be shut out. And curiously, this magic seems to increase as the size of the apartment diminishes."
It would also seem that, as the size of the apartment diminishes, so do the senses of style, taste and proper color coordination.1

Of color coordination, Holmes writes: "[W]e are ready to to extend the color plan to dispel any hint of monotony or lack of originality. The rule in a sound color plan is to have one basic hue and two or at most three accents. For example, if your background is a French gray for walls, woodwork, doors, etc., you could warm it up with red and yellow plus touches of black."

Some of the book's photo contributors, if you're looking for people to blame besides just Holmes, included Joanna Western Mills Co., Directional Industries Inc., Fostoria Glass Company, Herculon's olefin fiber carpets, the Latex Foam Rubber Council2, and Kodel polyester (which was introduced by Eastman Chemical Company in 1958).

Now, enjoy some additional photos from Holmes' book. Maybe you'll get some decorating ideas! As always, be sure to click on the photos for larger, more detailed versions. And you can thank me later for giving you the brilliant idea that you can lay your mandolin upon a cheetah pillow for a groovy effect.

If you can't get enough of this topic, here's one more thing you can check out: The 1960s subsection of the Ugly House Photos blog.

1. Unrelated footnote: The beauty (or curse) of writing this blog is that when I start doing research on an item or topic, I can easily veer way, way off course. Someday, perhaps, I'll be able to explain how my research for today's entry led me to "Drummer Dick's Discharge". Or maybe not.
2. You probably remember them as the group that brought you "101 Things to do with Foam Rubber".

Monday, February 28, 2011

Two old postcards for Atlantic quality lubricants

These two never-used postcards were made prior to 1951, because they are pre-printed with one-cent postage. Postcard postage increased from one penny to two pennies on January 1, 1952. Most likely, the postcards are from much earlier, possibly as early as the 1920s.

They are advertising for Atlantic quality lubricants1 (motto: "Keep Upkeep Down"), touting the company's transmission oils for winter and "high film-strength motor oil".

At the bottom of the cards is printed:

941 Main Street
Peckville, Pa.

Peckville is an unincorporated village within the borough of Blakely, Pennsylvania, in Lackawanna County.

The only online reference I found to Bisignani Nash Motor Co. is within an advertisement in the February 14, 1930, edition of the Republican Watchman2, a newspaper out of Monticello, N.Y. It's a testimonial for Gold Bound Anti Freeze from Duffy Bisignani.

I also found this image of an old sign from Bisignani Motor Co. on the LiveAuctioneers website.

1. Two other examples of postcards of this type can be viewed here and here. Other Atlantic postcards I came across have automotive companies in Huntingdon, Pa., and McGees Mills, Pa., printed on the bottom of the card.
2. Published from 1866 to 1971. See more details here.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Watch "Star Wars" in the comfort of your own living room

This full-page advertisement was on the back cover of the January 1980 issue1 of Fantastic Films, a science-fiction and fantasy magazine that published 46 issues between 1978 and 1985.

The text states: "Now you can see almost 8 minutes of exciting scenes from STAR WARS in a specially condensed Super-8 version. All the visual splendor, the ships, effects, space battles, the heroes and villains of one of the finest Science Fiction films ever made."

The cost was $8.95 for the black-and-white2 silent version, $17.95 for the color silent version and $29.95 for the color and sound version.

Interestingly, the Super 8 versions of "Star Wars" (pictured at right) still in existence aren't as valuable as you might think they'd be in the collectors' marketplace. A quick glance on eBay shows that copies can be had for less than $20.

Of course, in 1980 it was a novel concept that you'd be able to watch a portion of Star Wars at your own leisure and on your own schedule3. This was before the days of owning films on VHS, DVD, Blu-ray and other formats4.

As a 9-year-old living in Clayton, New Jersey, in 1980, I was more interested in Star Wars figures and their mail-in offers than acquiring a Super 8 home movie. I remember how excited I was when I finally had enough proofs-of-purchase from action-figure boxes to send away to Kenner for the Action Display Stand. I couldn't wait! It was going to be so cool! It promised to be a great way for me to display and MOVE my Star Wars figures for "added play value" in front of a "realistic backdrop"!!

It was going to be...

It was going to be...


Oh. ... OK.

Well, I could always just take Darth Vader, Chewbacca and Greedo outside in the fresh air and throw them off the front porch some more.

1. The issue includes articles on the Sean Connery/Natalie Wood flop "Meteor", Eiji Tsuburaya's work creating Godzilla, John Badham's version of Dracula, and an interesting look at how robots were presented in science-fiction serials of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.
2. Picturing "Star Wars" in black-and-white reminded me of the brilliance that is this.
3. One thing you did have control over was this: If you watched the end credits for "That's Hollywood", narrated by Tom Bosley, you could see the Death Star explode in your own living room at the same time each week.
4. The "Star Wars" films have been issued and re-issued in countless editions and special editions. Up next: A Blu-ray box set in Fall 2011 and 3-D versions of the films starting sometime in 2012.