Saturday, May 14, 2011

A dust jacket blurb that doesn't mince words

The dust jacket for this 1938 edition of "The Wasted Land" by Gerald W. Johnson is tattered and torn. But one reviewer's excerpt on the front still packs quite a punch:
"This book should be compulsory reading for everybody south of the Potomac and Ohio who can read, and the illiterates should have it read to them." -- Knoxville Journal
The inside flap of the dust jacket describes in a more detail what Johnson meant when he referred to "The Wasted Land":
"[A] Southern region 'capable of growing every crop that can be grown anywhere in the United States,' but given over to a collapsing one-crop system -- this is what Gerald Johnson see when he looks below the Potomac. ... The complete wreck of the cotton economy is plainly in sight; and with a waste 'so titanic as to be incomprehensible' -- 97,000,000 acres of land made useless by erosion, leaching, and overcropping, and 3,500,000 men lost by emigration alone -- 'fifty years more of waste at the present rate will do the work which, once done, cannot be undone save by the work of centuries, if at all.'"
And that doesn't even mention the devastation that the boll weevil had brought to the cotton industry by the 1920s!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Good time to delve into the archives

Blogger, the engine behind Papergreat and thousands of other fabulous blogs, is having some technical difficulties and has been a bit uncooperative these past two days.

(If you want, you can get the rundown on the situation here on Blogger Buzz.)

Lots of other bloggers are cranky or downright upset about the situation. Me? I'm just grateful that Google offers Blogger and its hosting services free of charge. It's free! If it breaks down every once in a while, how can you really complain?

Yesterday's since-vanished post on the Showmen's League of America raffle ticket might or might not return. If it doesn't, I'll just blog about it again some day. C'est la vie.

I'll wait and see how the Blogger recovery is continuing before making any new posts. In the meantime, this is a great time for you to delve in the Papergreat archives and check out some past posts you might have missed. Just pick a subcategory from the "Labels" list on the right-hand side of the page and start surfing!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Two bookseller labels from York, Pa.

I have been spending much of the day sorting through boxes of books, and so far I have stumbled upon two different bookseller labels1 from former York County businesses.

On the left is a label for The Regal Store. It was affixed to a 1925 hardcover edition of "Red Rock" by Thomas Nelson Page.

On the right is a label for The Book Shop at 20 South Beaver Street in York. It was affixed to the inside front cover of a 1945 edition of "Arch of Triumph" by Erich Maria Remarque.

I'm not familiar with either of these former stores. Can anyone shed any light?

1. For more on bookseller labels, see last month's post: "Brentano's, the American Bookstore in Paris".

And introducing Hans Gruber as the Vicomte de Valmont

Pick the correct caption:
  • "I'm going to count to three, there will not be a four. Give me the code."
  • "I am an exceptional thief, Marquise. And since I'm moving up to kidnapping, you should be more polite."
  • "Talk to me, where are my detonators? Where are they, or shall I shoot another one? Sooner or later, I might get to someone you do care about!"
  • "This time John Wayne does not walk off into the sunset with Grace Kelly."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Photos of Taftville/Ponemah Mill in eastern Connecticut

Here are some photos I took of the Taftville/Ponemah Mill building in Taftville, Connecticut, during a family trip in Summer 2009. None of my photos do justice to the size of this building, which was constructed in 1866. To get a better idea of what you're looking at, here are two public-domain postcard images from Wikipedia:

Above: The mill in 1907

Above: The mill in 1918

An 1950s aerial view of the complex, taken by Bill Stanley, accompanies the 2008 article titled "Once Upon A Time: Taftville’s character was built by Ponemah Mill" that he wrote for the Norwich Bulletin. In an excerpt from that terrific article, Stanley writes about how the mill defined the town:
Taftville was a monument to the power of the textile giants who used to move into an area and literally create an entire town. They built the mill, the housing, the stores, and they owned and controlled everything. ... Before the 1938 hurricane1, Taftville was like a storybook town with huge trees bordering both sides of Providence Street.
There's more great history in the rest of Stanley's article.

Here is some additional history on the mill from Wikipedia, along with a couple more of my 2009 photos:
The Taftville Cotton Mill, a cotton textile factory, was built on the Shetucket River where a large dam could be built to provide power. The large mill building (Building No. 1) was purported to be the largest weave-shed under one roof at that time. The original workers were predominantly Irish immigrants, and they were hard hit by the depression of the 1870s that began with the Panic of 1873. Unemployment rose and wages dropped appreciably from 1873 to 1875, causing bitter relations between workers and management in many places.

In April 1875, the 1,200 workers went on strike. The mill owners had raised rents in company-owned housing as well as prices at the company-owned store. Wages at the time were under $10 for a 67-hour work week. In one often-cited anecdote, a workingman said he and his daughter had worked full time for more than three months but only had four dollars between them to show for it. The immediate cause of the strike was a pay cut of 12 percent in an attempt to stop unionization. Workers were told half of the pay cut would be restored to anyone who had not participated in trying to form a union at the company.

The company replaced the workers with French Canadians, who would come to number more than 70 percent of the population [of Taftville].

Ponemah Mills operated for about 100 years.

What's next for the site? It is perhaps in the process of becoming luxury apartments -- "The Lofts at Ponemah Mills".

"The Lofts" would have 308,000 square feet of total space. It would feature 241 units, a game room, a media room and a fitness center. According to the realtor:
  • $5 million in state historic tax credits are available
  • More than $6 million in federal historic tax credits are available
  • A "Fortune 500 company" has offered to purchase the federal historic tax credits
  • Interior demolition and asbestos abatement have been completed. Temporary electric and temporary standpipes have been installed for construction. The building has been stabilized and is currently watertight and in "very good condition."
  • Environmental cleanup has been completed
Any guesses regarding whether this 145-year-old building is ever actually converted into luxury apartments?

1. That would be the September 1938 hurricane that has been dubbed the Great New England Hurricane, the Long Island Express and The Great Hurricane of 1938.

Monday, May 9, 2011

"Piggy Pork: His Odyssey" by Thomas Yost Cooper

I picked this up recently at Morningstar Marketplace in Thomasville, Pa., and the neat thing about researching its history was discovering that this book of poems -- much like Papergreat -- represented a side hobby of a York County newspaper journalist.

The 36-page staplebound book is titled "Piggy Pork: His Odyssey." It was written by T.Y. Cooper, illustrated by John M. Sheffer and published in 1963 by Anthony Printing Company (Clayton P. Bair, Proprietor) of Hanover, Pa.

It consists entirely of 16-line poems describing a pig's travels and adventures around the globe. Here is one:

When glut with frog legs, truffles, mush-
rooms, prawn, and caviar,
Pig crossed the Pyrenees led on by
his olfactory star.

Can't be denied on Spanish far Pig
certainly waxed stronger,--
I mean his breath which grew so strong
he had need walk no longer.

Into a bullring as toreador Don
Porkerino got;
He blew his breath, the raging bull
fell dead upon the spot.

You marvel how Pig did it, but 'tis
simple as 'tis true:
Put garlic in the sausage meat, a
child can do it too.
The last poem in the book is titled "America First and Last" and the final stanza is:
Now, National Vegetarianism is
Piggy's latest hobby:
He's working for it at Washington
in a Congressional lobby.
"Piggy Pork: His Odyssey" author Thomas Yost Cooper was born April 22, 1884, and died on July 24, 1967, four years after this book's publication.1 He graduated from Harvard University in either 1905 or 1906 with a degree in agricultural science and then moved to Hanover.

At some point, Cooper veered into journalism. He became city editor of The Evening Sun in Hanover and worked there until his retirement in 1949. During the 1960s, Cooper gifted many items -- including rare books and a collection of theater programs from the 1890s -- to the Gettysburg College library as a memorial to his parents. (The bequest's bookplate is pictured at right.)2

"Piggy Pork" wasn't Cooper's only published work. Decades earlier, in 1929, he had a 213-page book titled "Wren's nest: A fairy tale in verse, and other poems" published by Picket Press. A few used copies are still available on Amazon.

Regarding the printer and illustrator of "Piggy Pork: His Odyssey":
  • Anthony Printing Company (no longer in business) dates back to at least 1915. Its other publications over the years included:
    • "Official program of the centennial of incorporation of the borough of Hanover, Pennsylvania; together with historical sketches, September 12 to 18, 1915" issued by the Hanover Centennial Committee in 1915
    • "Hanover Cook Book" by the Hanover Library Association in 1922
    • and "History of Gettysburg Classis of the Synod of the Potomac Reformed Church in the United States" by Edwin M. Sando in 1941.
    Proprietor Clayton P. Bair lived from 1887 to 1969 and is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Hanover.3
  • Illustrator John M. Sheffer was a 1932 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. He died on June 28, 1996, according to Penn's alumni newsletter. I couldn't find any additional information on Sheffer.

1. Primary source for this section: Thomas Y. Cooper Endowment page on the Gettysburg College website. The page notes: "There is a large file on the Cooper gift in Special Collections which includes correspondence, news clippings and information on Cooper's birth (April 22, 1884) and death (July 24, 1967)."
2. It appears, fittingly, that he also donated a copy of Homer's "Odyssey" to Harvard's library at some point. Check out this bookplate.
3. Source: Find A Grave page created by Jana-Lee Bair. Here is some more on Clayton P. Bair.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

"The Girls of Central High on Track and Field"

Here's an illustration and, below, an excerpt from "The Girls of Central High on Track and Field (or The Champions of the School League)", a 1914 novel by Gertrude W. Morrison.1

I'll be totally honest here and say that the primary reason I wanted to blog about this book is because it has a character named Otto.2 The following excerpt is the opening passage of Chapter X (Eve's Adventure), and it features Eve, Otto and a good bit of local color:
Eve Sitz had plenty to do out of school hours when she was at home. Nobody could afford to be idle at the Sitz farm. But she found time, too, to put on an old skirt, gym. shoes, and a sweater, and go down behind the barn to practice her broad jump and to throw a baseball at the high board fence behind the sheepfold.

She grew expert indeed in ball throwing, and occasionally when Otto, her brother, caught her at this exercise, her marvelled that his sister could throw the horsehide farther and straighter than he.

"Dot beats it all, mein cracious!" gasped Otto, who was older than Eve by several years, had never been to school in this new country, and was one who would never be able to speak English without a strong accent. "How a girl can t'row a pall like dot. I neffer!"

"You wait till June, Otto," replied his sister, in German. "If you come to the big field day of the Centerport High Schools, you will see that girls can do quite well in athletics. You know how we can row, and you saw us play basketball. Wait till you see the Central High girls on track and field!"

"A lot of foolishness," croaked Otto. "You go to the school to learn to be smart, no?"

"No," replied Eve, laughing at him. "I am smart in the first place, or I would not go. And don't I help mother just as much -- and milk -- and feed the pigs and chickens -- and all that? Wait till you see me put the shot. I am going to win a whole point for the school if I am champion shot-putter."

"Ach! It is beyond me," declared Otto, walking off to attend to his work.

The family -- plain Swiss folk as they were -- thought Eve quite mad over these "foolish athletics." They had no such things in the schools at home -- in the old country. Yet Father and Mother Sitz were secretly proud of their big and handsome daughter. She was growing up "American."
If you're interested in reading more, the full book is available from Project Gutenberg.

1. Morrison -- almost certainly a pseudonym -- is also the author "The Girls of Central High" and "The Girls of Central High on Lake Luna". This seven-book series was part of the Stratemeyer Syndicate empire that I previous blogged about in "The Rover Boys at Big Horn Ranch".
2. Other Ottos in fiction include: the bus driver on "The Simpsons"; Sgt. Orville Snorkel's dog in "Beetle Bailey"; Evil Otto in the arcade game Berzerk; Kevin Kline's character from "A Fish Called Wanda" (who believed that Aristotle was Belgian, that the principle of Buddhism was "every man for himself", and that the London Underground was a political movement); and Otto from "Airplane!" (who I am proud to say has his own Facebook page).