Thursday, June 14, 2012

The return of our old friend,
Henry Davenport Northrop

Old Dinosaur Illustration of the Day, from Valentine's Day 2011, remains one of the stranger posts in the history of this blog. Papergreat was really only in its infancy then (as opposed to its toddlerdom now?) and I think I got a bit loopy writing that post, what with references to pterodactyls, zombies and Rifftrax. But I'm glad the post exists, because it introduced us to...

Northrop is the author of the "dinosaur illustration" book, which has a full title that begins "Earth, Sea and Sky or Marvels of the Universe..."

Northrop also wrote or edited books titled:
  • "Indian Horrors; or, Massacres by the Red Men"
  • "World's Greatest Calamities"
  • "New York's Awful Steamboat Horror"
  • and much more
As commenter Ken once wrote here, "Mr. Northrop wrote many a strange book back in the late 1800s."1

And I've stumbled across evidence of another one of them.

Pictured at right is the title page (all that I have, sadly) of an 1896 book with another super-long title.

Actually, it appears to be a two-part book. The first part, by Frederick Davis Greene, has a title that begins: "Armenian Massacres or The Sword of Mohammed Containing a Complete and Thrilling Account of the Terrible Atrocities and Wholesale Murders Committed in Armenia by Mohammedan Fanatics..."

The violent title goes rambling on a bit longer. Then, under that, we are promised some bonus material: "The Mohammedan Reign of Terror in Armenia" by none other than...

In case you missed it, he's a well-known author, Mr. Northrop is.

As for the book itself, I can't tell you much more. Thankfully, it has been preserved. You can see PDFs of the original or download various electronic versions at the University of California's digital library. It actually looks fairly interesting (though certainly gut-wrenching). Consider this the strangest #FridayReads suggestion you'll come across today.

1. Ken, after discussing nightmarish steel engravings in other books he was looking at, also wrote, perhaps ominously: "I'll be watching you."

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Perry Pictures: Robert E. Lee

This photo card of Robert Edward Lee measures just 3 inches by 3½ inches. The tiny text across the bottom states:


For information about The Perry Pictures and Eugene Ashton Perry, my best source turned out to be a message-board thread started in 2004 on Information Navigation. According to one poster:
"Perry Pictures Company was located in Malden, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. It produced rotogravure pictures on good quality stock paper useful for children illustrating school projects and reports in art, history, geography, etc.1 It was founded in 1897 and lasted probably to the mid-fifties. Its business was mostly mail order from a catalog. I grew up in Malden and used to visit the company in person. It was located in a old building in a side street. You climbed a flight of rickety stairs to visit the office, peruse the catalog, and make purchases. I still have a few 5x7 pictures (Roman antiquity) in my possession."
The message-board thread also contains great stories about how some people came into possession of their Perry Pictures. A sampling:
  • "I am putting my father's teenage diaries on-line at For June 2, 1938 he writes: 'Received some Perry Pictures which I ordered with Laura [his sister] last week. Got "The Dying Gaul," "Victory of Samothrace," and others.'"
  • "I have a whole book of them. They are pasted into a black book that is the size of a stenography book. I got them years ago at an antique shop."
  • "I found 5 Perry Pictures stashed in an old Longfellow poetry book and wondered about their creation and intended usage. If someone is looking to start the fascinating hobby of collecting, Perry Pictures would be a great way of starting, with out sacrificing an arm and a leg."
  • "I have a full collection intended for educational purposes. The prints are well kept and clear. I don't know if they are of any value other than the pleasure of having them. I have framed some of them and the prints make attractive and interesting home decor."
  • "I have a whole book of these pictures. It belonged to my grandparents and it was a gift from someone on their wedding day!"
So many great stories about these pictures!

1. The 1898 book "The Use of Pictures in the Schoolroom (Illustrated)" was written by Sarah Louise Arnold and published by none other than E.A. Perry of Malden, Massachusetts, to build demand for his photo cards. Here's one passage by Arnold, who was the "Supervisor of Schools" in Boston:
"But aside from the influence of the pictures upon the walls, much has been accomplished by the use of smaller reproductions, which fortunately have been placed within the reach of the lightest purse. No one can observe the common use of such pictures without rejoicing, — for these not only make their influence felt in the schoolroom, but they go out with the children into their homes, where they brighten the walls and multiply their teaching. I have visited schools where the Perry Pictures had been bought by the children, with money which otherwise would have been appropriated to pickles, gum, or candy.1 The teacher had placed some of the pictures about the walls of the room, and had allowed the children to choose 'one apiece' to remain upon their desks during the day. She said the pupils hung over the pictures with delight, slowly making their choices, loth to leave any, when all seemed to them so attractive. After keeping their pictures all day upon their desks, they wrote about them. The proposition to buy them was their own. 'We can save our own money,' they said. And so their books were made, picture and composition alternating upon the pages. The children showed them with pride, and described their pictures with affection and discernment as well."
Secondary footnote
1. Children saving their pennies for pickles! That's awesome.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

There's beauty in them thar old library circulation cards

Few words needed today.1 Just enjoy the beauty of some ephemera at its purest -- a pair of old library circulation cards.

1. Oh, OK. If you must have words, here are a couple of neat websites that feature slices of library circulation card history:

Monday, June 11, 2012

Another "mug": Old illustration of the centuries-old Winthrop Jug

Following yesterday's post, let's stick with the mugs. This time, though, we have one that's a bit older and more prestigious. Pictured at right is an illustration of the Winthrop Jug from the 1926 edition of "Home Life in Colonial Days" by Alice Morse Earle.1

Here's what the text has to say about this drinking mug:
An English writer in 1579, spoke of the English custom of drinking from "pots of earth, of sundry colors and moulds, whereof many are garnished with silver, or leastwise with pewter." Such a piece of stoneware is the oldest authenticated drinking jug in this country, which was brought here and used by English colonists. It was the property of Governor John Winthrop, who came to Boston in 1630, and now belongs to the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts. It stands eight inches in height, is apparently of German Gresware, and is heavily mounted in silver. The lid is engraved with a quaint design of Adam and Eve and the tempting serpent in the apple-tree. It was a gift to John Winthrop's father from his sister, Lady Mildmay, in 1607, and was then, and it still now, labelled, "a stone Pot tipped and covered with a Silver Lydd."
I found some more about this mug/jug in a February 2010 blog post by Ellen Denker on Sawdust & Dirt. The post is a review of the 2009 book "Salt-Glazed Stoneware in Early America." And one of the pieces of stoneware featured, with a photo, is the Winthrop Jug.

According to the blog post, "the German mug [was] made 1550-1575 with engraved English silver-gilt mounts for the cover, rim and foot, and carried by John Winthrop, future governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony when he crossed the Atlantic in 1630. ... The mug continued to be passed down through generations of the Winthrop family for another two hundred years, until it was given to the American Antiquarian Society in 1825. Without the silver mounts and the long Winthrop family history, this is otherwise a rather mundane mug made in Cologne or Frechen of grey stoneware body coated with a rich brown slip and fired with a salt glaze. Surely the potter who made it thought of it as nothing more than one more piece qualifying for his daily count. Yet it was held in high esteem in the sixteenth century (the English silver mounts tell us that) and acquired magical properties as it was passed from generation to generation of Winthrops, each passage carried out on the Feast of St. Michael (Michaelmas recognizes the coming of autumn and shortening of days, while celebrating the accomplishments of Archangel Michael, who defeated Lucifer in the battle for the heavens)."

Rambling footnote
1. "Home Life in Colonials Days" was originally written and published in 1898. This edition, by The Macmillan Company, was once property of the Hanover High School Library, as evidence by the stamp on the title page.

It's a wonderful book, with chapters on The Kitchen Fireside; The Serving of Meals; Food from Forest and Sea; Indian Corn; Meat and Drink; Hand-Weaving; Girls' Occupations; Jack-knife Industries; Travel, Transportation, and Taverns; Sunday in the Colonies, and much more.

I have been especially enjoying the chapter Food from Forest and Sea, in which I learned that salmon and shad were "lightly regarded in colonial days," so much so that "farm laborers in the vicinity of the Connecticut River when engaged to work stipulated that they should have salmon for dinner but once a week." No, instead of salmon and shad, the most valuable fish of the period was cod. And the finest tables had the finest dun-fish (codfish cured in a particular manner, so as to be of a superior quality) upon them for Saturday's meal.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Obscure nostalgia: 1970s plastic mugs from Whirley Industries

When my family was living in Montoursville, Pennsylvania, in the mid 1970s, we acquired -- I believe from a door-to-door fundraiser -- a couple of plastic mugs. The mugs, one yellow and one red, had "HANDS OFF!" printed on one side and "MY MUG!' printed on the other side. They are somewhat garish, to be sure, but became more endearing with the passage of time.

The yellow mug stayed with me after I graduated from college and moved around the country. But then, around 2006, it suffered a tragic end. Our dog, Moose, chewed it to pieces while we were out of the house. (Moose chewed a lot of things to pieces in those days, so I couldn't really complain about a lone plastic mug.) So I pulled myself together and moved on with my life, sure that I would never again come across such a distinct piece of Americana.

I was wrong.

Last month, Joan1 and I were at Megatronix, a sprawling York County store that sells tons of used stuff. The store itself is just OK. But this turned out to be more interesting: In front of the store, they have sheds filled with items that cost one penny. Most of these penny items are true junk -- used sampler CDs from artists no one has ever heard of, old computer-programming books, expired makeup, plastic covers for cellphones that aren't produced anymore, etc.

But, in one of the penny sheds, atop the highest shelf, were three or four dozen plastic mugs just like those we originally acquired in the 1970s. What are the odds?!? At first glance, most of the mugs had "AVA BEARS" printed across one side in blue lettering. But then I saw one scuffed "HANDS OFF!" mug. And then I spotted another one, which was in almost pristine condition, except for some specks of blue paint and, of course, dust.

We splurged and paid three cents for the three plastic mugs shown above.

Besides the "HANDS OFF!" mug, I got one with AVA BEARS printed on it. Turns out Ava is a tiny city (fewer than 3,000 residents as of 2010) in southcentral Missouri. And Bears is the nickname of the Ava High School sports teams. So perhaps these personalized mugs were sold for a school fundraiser three or four decades ago. (I guess there was no interest in personalizing the Montoursville mugs. Or perhaps I've just never come across one of those.)

The other mug I bought is white and features the Mister Donut logo in red. Y'all remember Mister Donut, don't you? They were commonplace across Pennsylvania before Dunkin Donuts came to rule the country. According to Wikipedia, Mister Donut's main market is now Japan, with more than 1,300 locations. It appears there might be just one remaining Mister Donut in the United States -- in Godfrey, Illinois.2

These groovy plastic mugs were produced once upon a time by Whirley Industries in Warren, Pennsylvania,3 according to the raised lettering on the bottom.

And Whirley is still around. It's now rebranded as Whirley DrinkWorks!, which designs custom products for the food and beverage industry. The company is family-owned and has been in operation since 1960. Bob Sokolski and Hal Conarro started in the car-wash business before moving on to plastics in the 1970s. The company's range of offerings is, of course, much broader now than it was 40 years. Check out some of its products here.

As a final note, while I'm a big fan of the "HANDS OFF!" mug, it appears that the most well-remembered Whirley product is the Moo-Cow Creamer. Who remembers those?

1. Some congratulations are in order! Joan's blog on York County history and culture celebrated its FIFTH anniversary this weekend. I know I will be hard-pressed to keep this blog going for five full years. She has recorded quite an amazing accomplishment.
2. However, there is a company called Donut Connection with many franchises in the eastern United States. According to Wikipedia, these franchises "serve the same menu and recipes as Mister Donut once did." Its logo, however, is not nearly as cool as the Mister Donut logo.
3. Joan and I went through Warren as part of our fifth anniversary trip to Erie in 2010. Here's proof that I was there:

Reader comments: It's a Small World, translations and spambots

Before we dive into the latest batch of reader comments, I must say that it's getting a little harder to differentiate between Real People and Computers in the comments that I receive. Here are a few recent comments from spambots:

On Klein Chocolate Co. of Elizabethtown analyzes Fannie's butter fat:
  • 1. "I've tasted their desserts so many times and I can't forget how delicious their chocolate chips are. I want to come and visit again and eat as much as desserts as I want. But I think since I just had my dental implants at Atlanta sedation dentistry clinic, I should eat sweets moderately so as not to damage my teeth."
  • 2. "My grandpa used to tell stories about this chocolate company. Some dentists knoxville would even love to get this for their kids even it is bad for their teeth."
On A Greeting by Western Union: "Wow very beautiful postcards and cards paper quality is very well and have a nice shave. The card printing and its flowers style is very beautiful and its background is very amazing."

Have a nice shave?!?

Meanwhile, here's a piece of commenting spam that reminded me of middle school: "It has a good beginning and end and conveys the subject matter very comprehensively."

And, finally, here's one automated comment I really hoped was from a real person: "Very rapidly this web site will be famous amid all blogging visitors, due to it's good content My page > antivirus mac"

Yes! I am definitely ready to be famous amid all blogging visitors!

* * *

And now the real comments from some real wonderful readers...

AMF Monorail flyer from the 1964 New York World's Fair: Buffy Andrews of Buffy's Write Zone writes: "Neat post. I remember my mom, who was pregnant with my little sister, and I dropping my dad and three older sisters off at the York train station to go to the world's fair. I was a toddler and much too young to tag along. But I remember sitting on the train bench with Mom. Wow! Now that's something I hadn't thought about in forever. That's one thing I love about your blog, Chris. It always brings back such sweet memories. ... Oh, here's a bit of trivia. What attraction at Disney World debuted at the World's Fair?"

An anonymous commenter checked in with the correct answer to Buffy's question: "It's a Small World. Still going strong. Tune is famous!
Also, I believe the GE pavilion exhibit was moved to Disneyland in California after the NY World's Fair, too."

* * *

Saturday's postcard: Japanese girls imitate the three wise monkeys: We had a mystery on the back of this postcard, as there was some writing in another language (pictured above).

Dosankodebbie came to the rescue with this response: "The text on the back of the postcard is read from right to left and appear to be a Chinese phrase, rather than Japanese, but the characters are similar enough to those in current use in Japan that I can tell you they translate to 'Manchuria Postal Service Postcard.' I hope that helps."

Terrific! Thanks, Dosankodebbie.

Meanwhile, Wendyvee of Wendyvee's (who recently wrote about the Wienermobile) writes: "I can't tell you how much I love this postcard! I don't have a large ephemera collection; but I do have a gorgeous Geisha postcard from the 30s that I found in the bottom of a box lot a few years ago."

* * *

An old bookseller's label from Miller & Rhoads department store: Jo Ott writes: "Garfinckel's main store was in downtown Washington, with branches at Spring Valley (very wealthy section of the city) and in the Seven Corners Shopping Center -- classy in its day -- in Falls Church. One day while shopping in the Seven Corners store I heard a voice talking that was indisputable, and could be coming from only one lady. Soon I saw her with her entourage. Kate Smith was in the store purchasing linens."

Thanks for sharing that story, Jo. Now I'm in the mood for a Flyers game today!

P.S. -- Have a nice shave.