Saturday, December 24, 2011

A collection of "The Night Before Christmas" covers

It's certainly an appropriate day to share the covers of some copies of "The Night Before Christmas" that we have around the house. The paperback version of the tale that's pictured above was published in 1964 by James & Jonathan1 and features illustrations by Nino Carbé2. (His name is incorrectly printed as "Niño Carbe" on the cover.)

Of course, it is stated on the cover that the famous nineteenth-century poem -- which largely defines our modern conception of Santa, his sleigh, his reindeer and more -- was written by Clement Moore. But this is a subject of some dispute.

The two camps on the authorship of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" are divided between Clement Clarke Moore and Henry Livingston Jr. The debate is an interesting tale that includes sleigh rides, Dutch folklore, Washington Irving, textual content analysis and the possible importance of Santa's pipe. If you want to delve into more, check out "Whose Jolly Old Elf Is That, Anyway? Literary Sleuth Casts Doubt on the Authorship of an Iconic Christmas Poem," written by David D. Kirkpatrick and published by The New York Times on October 26, 2000.

Scholarly debates aside, here are some of our family's additional "The Night Before Christmas" covers to enjoy on Christmas Eve.

"The Night Before Christmas," a 1980 Golden Press "I'm an Artist Storybook" with illustrations by Rod Ruth

"The Night Before Christmas," published in 2002 by Little Simon, with pop-up illustrations by Robert Sabuda

"The Night Before Christmas," published in 1993 by Grosset & Dunlap, with illustrations by Jean Hirashima

1. James & Jonathan Inc. was based in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Notable Hollywood folks from Kenosha include Don Ameche, Bert I. Gordon, Al Molinaro, Mark Ruffalo, Daniel J. Travanti, Orson Welles and Billy Zane.
2. Nino Carbé had an interesting career, as detailed on this excellent website bearing his name. In the early 1930s, he illustrated editions of "Tales of the Arabian Nights," "Cyrano de Bergerac" and "Frankenstein." He had a long career with Walt Disney Studios, where he worked on such films as "Fantasia," "Bambi," "Pinocchio," "Dumbo" and "Victory Through Air Power" (a fascinating slice of World War II history). He also did some animation for Chilly Willy for Walter Lantz Productions and he worked on Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 animated version of "The Lord of the Rings." (Speaking of which, have you seen the groovy new trailer for December 2012's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"?)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Reader comments: Christmas edition

A month filled with Christmas-themed and holiday-themed ephemera posts has brought out the best in the readers. So I turn it over to you today...

Awkward Christmas card idea from the past: A lot of responses to this one:
  • Mel Kolstad of Ephemeraology writes: "I LOVE this card! We can think of it as analog Photoshop!"
  • Someone with the user name "Indiana Medical Insurance" writes: "Great idea. We have plenty of old pictures so I'm tempted to use some that are 10-15 years old. Maybe put everything in black and white as well."
  • (Note: If anyone attempts to replicate the sheer awesomeness of this card in the future, please send a copy to Papergreat.)
  • Anonymous writes: "Previous comments like the Christmas card idea. Personally, I think it's creepy!!"

Christmas recipes from The Betty Crocker Recipe Card Library: Mel Kolstad writes: "WHOA - SO weird that we both posted stuff about vintage Betty Crocker holiday recipes today on our blogs!!! Do do do do do do...." (Here is the Ephemeraology Betty Crocker blog entry she's referring to.)

Postcard: Wishing Thoma a Merry Christmas in 1913: We got a nice, research-based exchange going in the comments section on this one:
  • Mel Kolstad wrote: "What a gorgeous postcard, Chris! I wonder, though - may the grandaughter (sic) from Schuykill (sic) have possibly misspelled "Thomas"? She certainly doesn't have a great track record in spelling, at least judging by this postcard!"
  • Blake Stough of Preserving York wrote: "In the 1910 and 1920 United States Federal Census records, there are several 'Thomas' and/or 'Thomas J.' Miller's listed in Harrisburg, but none on Schuykill Street. There are also no "Thoma J. Miller" names listed in those years. As Mel mentioned, this may be meant to say Thomas."
  • I responded with: "Interesting, Blake. Appreciate the research. ... Were you looking up 'Schuykill' or 'Schuylkill'?"
  • Blake responded: "There was actually no need to look up an individual street name. In the census records for those years it lists the street names along the edge of the pages. The house number is usually included as well for each household."
I would have to agree that the most likely answer here is that this person's name is actually Thomas J. Miller. But I still enjoyed the tangental avenue I went down in researching the use of Thoma as a first name.

A handy Christmas cape that doubles as a tree skirt: Mom had this comment: "Green bean and almond molded salad...more frightening than the RED JELLO." (Hmmmm.)

In addition, Bruce Thiel, the assistant news editor at the York Daily Record/Sunday News, added this fun anecdote: "My grandmother always made Jello salads at Christmas. One was strawberry, which was a hit. The other was lemon with shredded cabbage and carrots. It was an acquired taste."

Saturday's postcard: Sami girl and a reindeer: Mel Kolstad (who lives in Wisconsin) writes: "I had to laugh about the 'What's with all the dead deer photos?' part, because we have the same dilemma here! Deer hunting is HUGE but there is the faction who'd rather not see the hunters with their dead 'trophy'. We don't have ANY snow either! I'm crabby about it too, especially when I learned today that parts of TEXAS may have a white Christmas and we most likely won't. How is that fair?"

"I never thought it was such a bad little piece of ephemera.": Anonymous has a good thought: "Perhaps it is a greeting from or for someone in the Southern Hemisphere, where it would be summertime and 'beachy' during the Christmas holidays."

Manger scene at St. Mary's Episcopal School for Indian Girls: Justin Mann of Justin's Brew Review writes: "I love this post for so many reasons. First of all, I love that Ashar puts the figurines to bed. I also love that you intentionally left the footnote blank and followed up with a tertiary footnote. Third, I love that you posted the Food Center's Facebook page. I could go on, but mostly I want to tell you to keep up the great work!"

Thanks, Justin!

Christmas 1971 and a vintage greeting card: Mom writes: "Uh oh. Scary clown."

Yes, because it's the holidays and all, I wasn't going to bring up the scary clown in this 1971 photo of me (at right).

Somehow, I survived the childhood trauma of having my face inches from said clown. But now that the topic has been broached, here he is in all his glory (not exactly a vision of sugar plums dancing in your head):

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Family Circle's "Most Beautiful Christmas Tree" of 30 years ago

Thirty years ago today, in its December 22, 1981, issue, Family Circle1 announced the winners of its "Most Beautiful Christmas Tree" contest.

The winner and recipient of the $4,000 first prize was Gary Bowers of Elyria, Ohio. His tree is pictured at right.

Second prize went to Jean Lincoln of Somers, California, and third prize went to Mary Wilks of Verona, New Jersey.

This is how Family Circle described the contest:
"These splendidly decorated Christmas trees are the top winners in our December 1980 Christmas Tree Contest, sponsored jointly by Family Circle and American Tree & Wreath. Chose from over 22,000 entries, they reflect all the love and warmth of this joyous holiday season. We hope that these prizewinners will inspire you as you decorate your own 'most beautiful' Christmas tree."
Here are the second- and third-place beautiful trees...

1. Family Circle, according to Wikipedia, began publication in 1932 as a magazine distributed at supermarkets such as Piggly Wiggly and Safeway. The Family Circle website is currently offering a one-year subscription for just $5.99.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Manger scene at St. Mary's Episcopal School for Indian Girls

This undated postcard features a manger scene1 with all Indian characters at St. Mary's Episcopal School for Indian Girls in Springfield, South Dakota.2

The postcard also states that the school building appears in the background and that the school was founded in 1873.3

But does St. Mary's still exist? It does not. My search for information about the school took me first to a message board on In December 2009, a woman started a thread seeking information on the whereabouts of an altar and cross that her grandfather had carved for the St. Mary's chapel.

It turns out that St. Mary's was closed (probably in the late 1980s) and turned into a privately owned detention center for male juveniles.4 But the altar and cross were saved and moved to an Episcopal church about 300 miles away in Eagle Butte, South Dakota.

One of the key figures in the history of St. Mary's was A.C. Kenyon Cull, who died in June of this year at age 90. He served as headmaster at the school from 1955 to 1985 and his life's experiences also included serving in the British Army with the Royal Corps of Signals and getting married in Jerusalem in 1946 and staying in a monastery guest house near the Sea of Galilee for his honeymoon.

Former students and administrators of St. Mary's remain in active communication through this Facebook page.

1. Our family has a big collection of manger scenes, also known as nativity scenes, crèches and cribs. (This is in addition to our big Christmas collections of decorative nutcrackers, Irish ornaments and snow globes.) Here is a sampling of the nativity scenes in our living room:1

2. Going off on a photographic tangent, I became fascinated by the photo of Main Street in Springfield, South Dakota, on Wikipedia. I made this list of things I see in the photo: air siren; barn-like facade on a brick structure; office for NorthWestern Energy; office for Bon Homme Insurance; Boschma Law Office (with lovely white curtains in the window); Libby's Steakhouse2 (with banners for Bud Light, Libby's Casino and an indoor golf range); a MR. Golf Car Inc. store; a Doug's Food Center4 on the corner, which offers fresh produce and quality meats and has both Pepsi and Coca-Cola vending machines out front; and a lot full of golf carts, presumably belonging to MR. Golf Car Inc.

3. For the record, here's the other information on the back of this undated, unused postcard: "Kolorvue by Artvue Post Card Co., 225 5th Ave, New York, N.Y. 10010"
4. Sadly, another local school -- the University of South Dakota at Springfield -- was closed in the 1980s and turned into a state prison. Turning schools into prisons is not a wonderful course for our country.

Secondary footnote
1. If you're wondering why all of the figures in the lower-left nativity scene, by Playmobil, are laying down, it's because my son Ashar had already "put them all to bed for the night" before I took this photo.
2. According to The Shadowlands' "Haunted Places in South Dakota," Libby's Steakhouse might be haunted. The website states: "It is believed the basement of this restaurant is haunted by a little girl, there has been only one sighting which was just a glimpse. If you leave the basement door open it causes stacks of soup bowls to fall over for no apparent reason. When you are actually down stairs you feel very uneasy and sometimes you will get 'tripped' going up the stairs. It is though she died of an overdose, the former building used to be drug store known as Hoch Drug."
3. [This secondary footnote intentionally left blank.]1
4. Doug's Food Center only has six "Likes" on Facebook. Help them out.

Tertiary footnote
1. I just wanted to see how small the type would get.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas 1971 and a vintage greeting card

Before getting to today's piece of holiday ephemera, let's continue the buildup to Christmas on Sunday with a couple of gratuitous photos of yours truly from Christmas 1971 in Montoursville, Pennsylvania.

In this first photo, I am riding some newfound transportation and -- no surprise -- checking out a book. It's "Pets and Pals," a board book published in 1970 by Western Publishing Company. This clearly set the stage for my later devouring of books by the likes of Theodor Seuss Geisel, Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Edward Packard, Ruth Manning-Sanders, Stephen King and Alan Weisman.1

In the second photo, I have ditched my wheels and am checking out another early passion -- music. Given that it's 1971, I'm probably spinning either "Joy to the World" by Three Dog Night or "Me and Bobby McGee"2 by Janis Joplin on my brand-new3 Fisher-Price Music Box Record Player.4

Now on to today's ephemera. It's something that I picked up at some sale or another over the past year, so I can't put any name or context to it. But it's kind of cool and in good condition.

Next to the colorful illustration on the front is the printed greeting:

May the bright cheer
Of Christmas tide
A lasting gift
With you abide

Below that, in pen, is written "Best wishes from Class 18." And below that, in pencil, is "1925." Was this card received in 1925 and sent from the Class of 1918? That's my best guess.

The back of the card, meanwhile, was used for some definitions that someone was apparently studying. Written in cursive is:
teleology - final causes
a priori - from something prior
1. Plus, of course, just a few authors in between.
2. Years later, some friends and I enjoyed changing this song to "Me and Willie McGee."
3. Apologies to Professor H.L. Williams and other guardians of the language.
4. Actually, 1971 is the year that this Fisher-Price record player was introduced, according to Perpetual Kid. Instead of Three Dog Night, its songs would have included "Edelweiss" and "Camptown Races."

Monday, December 19, 2011

"I never thought it was such a bad little piece of ephemera."

Today's piece of ephemera is, possibly, the Charlie Brown's Christmas Tree1 of ephemera. It's sad, battered Victorian card with rips, stains and a few big chunks missing. It was never a very festive illustration in the first place. And there's not even any interesting writing on the back.

But, as Linus said, "I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It's not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love."

So maybe we can give it a little love and point out some nice things about this old scrap of paper. I'll start:
  • You can't see it in the image, but the card still has some of its original glitter. There is glitter on the shell, the pink plant and the clouds in the background. Not bad for a card that's around 100 years old.
  • In the bottom-left corner, it states "W.B. & O. New York." The only identifying text on the card at least gives us a clue to start from in finding out more about this piece.
  • The scripted message on the card, which stated "Accept my Christmas Greeting(s)" before a chunk was torn out, really looks wonderful. You don't see elaborately detailed script like that any more, in this age of computer fonts and typography.
  • It is a rather lovely Christmas ... shell.
That's what I have. What can you do, gang, to heap some more love on this not-so-bad piece of ephemera that just needs a little love?

1. While there are a number of good articles online about "A Charlie Brown Christmas," one of the more interesting pieces I came across was "The Lonely Tree: The Story of A Charlie Brown Christmas" by Brian Heater.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Smart ephemera discovery in York

While many of us are scrambling in the final week leading up to Christmas1, Smart magazine editor Kara Eberle is way ahead of the game, already working on preparations for Christmas 2012.

As she writes on her blog:
"We produce each issue of Smart about two months before it hits your mailbox, so we’re always off by a season. It leads to some interesting challenges, and I learned that I need to work a year ahead if I want Smart to reflect the appropriate seasons. This means I have to find beautiful homes decked out for the holidays now, so I will have Christmas decor2 in the holiday 2012 issue."
Kara was recently interviewing a York County interior designer for that 2012 holiday issue. That's when she made her ephemera discovery.

In an email, she writes: "[He] had these super cool lamps that look green when they're lit, but white when off. I asked him for information on them, and he pulled this tag from underneath the lamp. Oh, how I love hidden treasures! It's a book about the lamp and how to care for it. He had kept the books for each of the two lamps. ... (Unfortunately), we couldn't find any dates on them. He thinks they're from the '40s, but that was just a guess."

Kara's photo of one of the lamp tags is at the top of today's entry. And here's a peek inside one of the booklets:

Here are some things I tracked down about Rembrandt Lamps:
  • "The Sentinel's History of Chicago Jewry, 1911-1961" states that "among the largest manufacturers is the Rembrandt Lamp Corp. This company was formed in 1924 by Albert Witz, Louis Brosilow, and William Markoff, in a consolidation of two companies. Witz was president of Rembrandt from 1924 to 1931..."
  • John Chuckman's blog of Chicago nostalgia and memorabilia includes a circa 1930 advertisement for Rembrandt Lamps. The ad copy states, in part, "The industry's greatest line -- over 500 designs for selection covering every lamp requirement -- priced within the reach of all."
  • A U.S. federal trademark registration was filed for Rembrandt Lamps Masterpieces on September 18, 1944.3 It was one of several associated trademarks once held by IIH Industries.
Here are side-by-side pictures of the Rembrandt Lamps Masterpieces lamp that the tag came from.

Much thanks to Kara for the cool ephemera find! Check out more nifty stuff on her Smart website.

1. No, I have not finished my shopping yet. For me, it's still early.
2. Speaking of Christmas decor, our family recently took a drive and enjoyed some of the holiday lights -- including a house with its own radio station -- around York County. Joan writes about it in this Only in York County post.
3. Another web page detailing the Rembrandt Lamps Masterpieces trademark includes this line under "Consent": "The portrait forming part of the trade-mark is that of Rembrandt Harmanszoon van Rijn, deceased." They missed by one letter on the correct spelling of his name, which is Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn.