Thursday, June 21, 2012

Wanamaker Diary: Storing your furs, great old desks, witches and more

And now for some more fun stuff from The Wanamaker Diary from 1910:


Above: This is a full-page advertisement for the Wanamaker Dry Air Cold Storage Vault, which is described "up to date, scientific, capacious and unrivaled."

In addition to storing minks, the Wanamaker vault was open for the storage of mounted animal rugs.

And how did the Dry Air Cold Storage Vault work? According to an advertisement in the January 1911 edition of the Cold Storage and Ice Trade Journal, it was "five carloads" of Nonpareil Corkboard that did the trick at Wanamaker's and many other big department stores. Check out the picture in the advertisement. I see two full deer and a tiger skin among the animal carcasses.

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The diary is filled with short news items and interesting articles, much like an almanac would be. Here are a couple of them:

AIRSHIP FOR THE POLE, 1911.
A dispatch from Friedrichshafen, Germany, says that the directors of the Zeppelin Airship Arctic Expedition have decided to send to Spitzbergen in the summer of 1910 an advance party to prepare for the sending of an airship to the Pole. An improved Zeppelin airship will be ready for trial flights in January, 1911.1
FEAR OF EASTER WITCHES.
Strange observances, surviving from pre-Christian days, mark the celebration of Easter throughout Sweden (writes our Stockholm correspondent).

During Holy Week, and particularly on Thursday night, witches are supposed by country folk to hold high revels. Thus people are careful to hide hay forks, rakes, shovels, and broomsticks, which might be stolen by witches for a nocturnal flight, and cattle-sheds are marked with crosses to frighten them away.

No smoke must issue from chimneys after sunset on Holy Thursday, as witches have the power to strike a house of which they can smell the fire, and all through the week firearms are discharged at random in the air.

Notwithstanding these precautions, hordes of witches are supposed to assemble for their unholy orgies, which last till late on Saturday. But woe to the witch who is belated on her flight home on Easter Sunday, for one ray of sunlight is sufficient to burst her like a bladder! -- London Mail.
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Above: Oh, they don't build desks like they used to. In fact, they don't much build them at all any more. That's usually left up to us, after we purchase a huge box filled with 400 desk parts (almost always particle board) and a mysterious set of instructions. Then we have to put the damn thing together ourselves.

Not that I'm bitter.

Anyway, the desk in this Wanamaker advertisement is a beauty. The drawers are solid and deep, and it's filled with compartments and cubby-holes. The perfect desk!

The "Quartered Oak or Imitation Mahogany" desk cost $42 (the equivalent of about $970 today), while the "Genuine Mahogany" desk cost $60 (the equivalent of about $1,380 today). Bet they were worth every penny.

Footnote
1. The Germans did not get to the North Pole in a zeppelin in 1911. In fact, it wasn't until Umberto Nobile's Norge in 1926 that an airship flew over the North Pole. The Germans didn't make it to the North Pole until Graf Zeppelin’s Arctic flight in 1931.

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