Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Two more dandy vintage book covers, including a Rex Kingdon novel

If you're like me and can't get enough of vintage book covers, here are two more gems...

"Rex Kingdon of Ridgewood High"

This book, by Gordon Braddock, was published in 1914 by A.L. Burt Company and was the first in a juvenile-fiction series.

A page maintained by Mary Crosson on the University of Missouri-Kansas City website describes the series:
"Rex Kingdon is your basic all-around series book schoolboy hero — athletic, honest, interested in woodcraft, and so forth. The son of a scientist, Rex spent his early years traveling around the world. When the series opens, he's a new boy at Ridgewood High School. Later books see him camping out with Ridgewood friends, entering prep school, and playing on the school football and baseball teams. The basic plot of each book is the same: a jealous 'enemy' boy, a poor sport who aims to thwart Rex at every turn, is eventually converted into a staunch friend through the example of Rex's manliness and good sportsmanship. In the introduction to #5, 'Storm Island,' a sixth book is promised, but I can't find any evidence that 'Rex Kingdon and his Chums,' was ever published."
Meanwhile, author Braddock describes Rex thusly in this book's foreword:
"In this first volume of a new series for the modern youth Rex Kingdon makes his bow. I think you will find him a human chap with a love of fun, a whimsical sense of humor, and a clear conception of the demands of duty and honor and loyalty; yet by no means a prig or snob. And, above all, not the sort of unreal, impossible, never-was 'hero,' who is encountered so often in the pages of juvenile fiction."
So, Rex is more realistic and believable than other juvenile-fiction characters. Which explains why, when he is first introduced in Chapter 3, he tells us that he was recently "shackled for three months in a Peruvian jail." Because that was a common occurrence for American teens 100 years ago.

The most enjoyable discovery in this book, however, might be the names of the characters. Skimming through the first section of the narrative, I came across the following names:

  • Kent Starbuck
  • Shrimp Ballard ("an ardent admirer of Starbuck")
  • Nipper Ware
  • Chub Taffinder ("Chub hated exertion of any sort")
  • Hallet, the postmaster
  • Si Crane
  • Elmer Starbuck
  • Dudley Durand (who wears a scarf)
  • Bruce Brigham
  • Tug Melchor (from the mill district across the creek)
  • Dr. Pheneas Fogg
  • Dell Vickers

"Old Chester Tales"

This book, meanwhile, was published in 1898 by Grosset & Dunlap and was written by Margaret Deland.

It has a cursive inscription on the first page that states: "Ethel G. Wade. From Cousin Fannie Foy. March, 1911. Hot Springs, Arkansas."

Author Deland, a Pennsylvania native, was known for her several "Old Chester" books, which were apparently based on her early memories of Maple Grove and Manchester — Pittsburgh-area communities in which she grew up.

Here's the opening passage from one of the book's tales, titled "Good for the Soul." As you can see, it has much more sensible names than Braddock's book. But I did get a bit confused.
"It was about twelve or thirteen years before Dr. Lavendar startled Old Chester by helping Oscar King elope with that little foolish Dorothea Ferris that, one night, in the rectory study, with Mary and his brother, Joey Lavendar, as witnesses, he married Peter Day."
I read that sentence three times. And, each time, I thought Dr. Lavendar tied the knot with Peter Day.

But the next sentence helped with context.
"Peter, with a pretty girl on his arm, drifted in out of the windy and rainy darkness, with a license from the Mayor's office in Upper Chester, and a demand that Dr. Lavendar perform the marriage service."
OK. Now I get it.

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