Saturday, July 14, 2012

Story time: "Old Hopgiant" (from Sweden)

It's story time again, courtesy of all the great public-domain content that's available on Project Gutenberg.

"The Swedish Fairy Book" was edited by Clara Stroebe, translated by Frederick H. Martens, illustrated by George W. Wood (whose work is pictured at right) and published in 1921.

In the short preface, Martens writes: "The following volume of Swedish fairy-tales represents a careful choice, after the best original sources, of those examples of their kind which not only appeared most colorful and entertaining, but also most racially Swedish in their flavor. For the fairy-tales of each of the three Scandinavian countries, Sweden, Denmark and Norway, have a distinct local color of their own. ... There has been no attempt to 'rewrite' these charming folk-and fairy-tales in the translation. They have been faithfully narrated in the simple, naive manner which their traditional rendering demands."

And so here is one story (and its accompanying illustration) from "The Swedish Fairy Book."

Old Hopgiant
Once upon a time there were two neighbors: one of them rich and the other poor. They owned a great meadow in common, which they were supposed to mow together and then divide the hay.

But the rich neighbor wanted the meadow for himself alone, and told the poor one that he would drive him out of house and home if he did not come to an agreement with him that whichever one of them mowed the largest stretch of the meadowland in a single day, should receive the entire meadow.

Now the rich neighbor got together as many mowers as ever he could; but the poor one could not hire a single man. At last he despaired altogether and wept, because he did not know how he could manage to get so much as a bit of hay for the cow.

Then it was that a large man stepped up to him and said: "Do not grieve so. I can tell you what you ought to do. When the mowing begins, just call out 'Old Hopgiant!' three times in succession, and you'll not be at a loss, as you shall see for yourself." And with that he disappeared.

Then the poor man's heart grew less heavy, and he gave over worrying. So one fine day his rich neighbor came along with no fewer than twenty farmhands, and they mowed down one swath after another. But the poor neighbor did not even take the trouble to begin when he saw how the others took hold, and that he himself would not be able to do anything alone.

Then the big man occurred to him, and he called out: "Old Hopgiant!" But no one came, and the mowers all laughed at him and mocked him, thinking he had gone out of his mind. Then he called again: "Old Hopgiant!" And, just as before, there was no hopgiant to be seen. And the mowers could scarcely swing their scythes; for they were laughing fit to split.

And then he cried for the third time: "Old Hopgiant!" And there appeared a fellow of truly horrible size, with a scythe as large as a ship's mast.

And now the merriment of the rich peasant's mowers came to an end. For when the giant began to mow and fling about his scythe, they were frightened at the strength he put into his work. And before they knew it he had mown half the meadow.

Then the rich neighbor fell into a rage, rushed up and gave the giant a good kick. But that did not help him, for his foot stuck to the giant, while the latter no more felt the kick than if it had been a flea-bite, and kept right on working.

Then the rich neighbor thought of a scheme to get free, and gave the giant a kick with his other foot; but this foot also stuck fast, and there he hung like a tick. Old Hopgiant mowed the whole meadow, and then flew up into the air, and the rich man had to go along hanging to him like a hawser. And thus the poor neighbor was left sole master of the place.

Saturday's postcard: Ringkirche in Wiesbaden, Germany

This is an undated old postcard1 of Ringkirche (Circle Church), a 19th century Protestant church in Wiesbaden, Germany.

Here is a description of the church from the English-language version2 of Wiesbaden's official website:
"Until the erection of the Ring Church, there was not really a Protestant tradition of ecclesiastical architecture, and Protestant churches were based on Catholic models. The Berlin architect Johannes Otzen built the Ring church, following the so-called 'Wiesbaden Programme', developed in 1890 by the Wiesbaden pastor Emil Veesenmeyer. This plan oriented Protestant church architecture to the needs of Protestant services. Thus the altar, pulpit, choir loft and organ are visible and audible to everyone seated in this church (capacity 1100), which was consecrated in 1894. Because of the interior design and the care with which the church's external appearance corresponded to the requirements of urban planning, it was declared a German national monument in 2002. Visitors will find a 'monument of German architecture' (Otzen) built using high-quality materials and with a uniform architectural style, namely the transitional style from the Romanesque to the Gothic style. It is one of the few churches of its era not spoilt by either the impact of the war or by later changes. Even the Romantic Walcker organ of 1894 still has 75% of its original sound."

1. The publishing credit is Verlag Horst Ziethen, Frechen-Köln, Hauptstr. 7
2. Wiesbaden is home to about 10,000 United States citizens, most of whom are based at the Lucius D. Clay Kaserne military complex and airfield. The complex is going to grow, as it is slated to become the new site for the United States Army's European headquarters, with the transition beginning this fall.

Friday, July 13, 2012

More miniature photographs from 1930s New York City

There was a good amount of interest in the 1930s photos of New York City that were magnified and posted earlier this week, so I thought I'd share some more from that same set.

Above: The caption on the back states: "NBC Studio in the RCA Bldg. Rockefeller Center." Some background from Wikipedia: "In 1930, General Electric was compelled by antitrust charges to divest itself of RCA, which it had founded. RCA moved its corporate headquarters into the new Rockefeller Center in 1933. ... RCA was the lead tenant at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the RCA Building (now the GE Building).1 The building housed NBC studios, as well as theaters for RCA-owned RKO Pictures."

Above: Here is Grant's Tomb, located in Riverside Park overlooking the Hudson. Its design was based upon the ancient Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Read more from the National Park Service, which manages the site.

Above: Here is the photogenic Little Church Around the Corner, officially known as Church of the Transfiguration2 on East 29th Street. The Episcopalian church was constructed in 1849. Author P.J. Wodehouse3 was married there in 1914. And the church has housed the Episcopal Actors' Guild, whose officers have included Basil Rathbone, Tallulah Bankhead, Rex Harrison and Charlton Heston.

Above: Finally, here is a shot of the Brooklyn Bridge and the mid-1930s skyline of Lower Manhattan. Obviously it is much changed today, nearly 80 years later.

1. The famous and stomach-roiling Charles C. Ebbets photograph Lunch atop a Skyscraper was taken during the construction of the RCA Building.
2. Yes, it is the Church of the Transfiguration, but it goes by the catchy URL of
3. P.J. Wodehouse was mentioned in passing in this February post: 1959 receipt from The Colonial Bookstore in York, Pa.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Before Paterno, Sandusky and Freeh: Penn State 71 summers ago

Today seems like an appropriate -- necessary, even -- day for this.

It's a 36-page staplebound paperback titled "A Brief History of The Pennsylvania State College For Freshmen."

It was Volume XXXV, Number 43 of The Pennsylvania State College Bulletin and is dated July 11, 1941 -- almost exactly 71 years ago.

It was written by Arthur Ray Warnock, Dean of Men.

The booklet -- which freshmen were advised to bring to college and refer to -- presents the college's history from its first 86 years of existence (1855-1941).

More importantly, it provides for us a snapshot of what one Pennsylvania State College official felt mattered about its history, mission and purpose in the summer before Pearl Harbor.

Here are some direct quotations from Warnock's guide:
  • In entering The Pennsylvania State College you have chosen to affiliate with a college which holds a sturdy grip on the hearts of thousands of men and women -- your predecessors in the student body -- who have found an enduring satisfaction in their devotion to it. Though they are scattered all over the world, they would express to your personally, if they could, their hope that you too in time may share affection for this college in the Pennsylvania hills.
  • There is something in Penn State that goes on and on, unchanging even while buildings, faculties, and student bodies come and go. If you find out what that is, you will have found the source of the notable Penn State spirit and loyalty.
  • You have come to a campus that is widely known as one of the most beautiful in America, -- to a college whose academic, technical, and scientific departments are widely recognized for their worth and for the achievements of their many graduates.
  • Engraved in stone over the front entrance to Old Main on the campus of your College is this inscription --
    "To promote liberal and practical education ... in the several pursuits of professions of life." Act of Congress -- July 2, 1862 -- Signed A. Lincoln.

    "And the faith of the State is hereby pledged to carry the same into effect." Act of Legislature April 1, 1863.
  • The Board of Trustees made a fortunate choice in the first President. Dr. Evan Pugh, though a young man barely past 30 years of age, was one of the best educated scientists in America. He was a native of Chester county, and was of Welsh descent and Quaker heritage. ... One of his contributions to agricultural education was the use of laboratory and field experience to supplement the conventional lecture method of instruction. His experimentation and his emphasis on strict scientific standards soon gave to his school a reputation.
  • In 1912 the Agricultural Extension department was instrumental in having country farm agents placed in five Pennsylvania counties. ... Today the extension program projects its helpful ministrations into every corner of the Commonwealth with diversified programs in agriculture, home economics, rural sociology, engineering, mineral industries, education, and liberal arts. In the World War of 1914-1918 the Agricultural Extension organization aided the nation materially in the food production program necessary in that emergency. ... Research and extension divisions throughout the College stand ready to answer promptly such calls as the national emergency may make.
  • In the first pages of this history appeared the following statement: "There is something in Penn State that goes on and on, unchanging even while buildings, faculties, and student bodies come and go." That something is a great, enduring purpose. ... It is a purpose which most often appears in acts, in a hundred and one daily experiences of campus routine; it is a purpose which expresses itself in work and effort. But, if the student is aware of its presence, he will be able to understand much about his college experience and its requirements which otherwise might be confused. And, if he has some imagination, in the midst of his daily routine of work and play there may come to him fleeting moments in which he sees himself as a part of this great purpose which is Penn State -- which in turn is part of the life and purpose of America.

Notice what's absent from all those passages I chose?


The word "football" does not appear until Page 13, when Warnock writes, briefly: "In 1881 a group of students organized an informal football team and journeyed by road to Lewisburg, there to defeat a Bucknell team in a drizzling rain. In 1887 organized football was begun..."

There are a few passing mentions of football after that. Mentions of Hugo Bezdek's successful teams and enthusiastic football weekends bringing large crowds to campus. But nothing that indicates football is center of the Penn State universe and identity.

There is a reference, though, to Edwin Erle Sparks -- Penn State's eighth president, who served from 1908 to 1920 -- having to "meet a difficult situation in the field of intercollegiate athletics [early in his tenure]. For aid he turned to the alumni. An alumni advisory committee in athletics was formed, and took over the direction of athletic policies and practices."

That doesn't seem like a terrible idea. Certainly, the overwhelming majority of Penn State alumni today would have done a better job than the trusted, powerful individuals who failed to take any steps to protect children for 14 years.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"The enclosed poster is of questionable merit"

In an undated letter that I found tucked away inside a book, concerning the Association Internationale des Étudiants en Sciences Économiques et Commerciales (AIESEC), Wendy Peter of New London, Connecticut, typed the following:

First off, as an aside, we're getting to the point where current and future generations will lump typewriters in with water wheels when it comes to ancient inventions that have no meaning to them or bearing on their lives.

And that's a shame. Typewriters were so cool! I mean, it's convenient to have spell checker and it's fun to manipulate fonts on our PCs, but typewritten letters are minor works of art. Even the typos and mistakes hold their own beauty:

Up close, they almost look like the kind of extraterrestrial symbols that Charles Berlitz or Erich von Däniken would try to interpret:

But I digress. Or maybe I'm just getting punchy. Or perhaps both.

At one point in her letter, African Coordinator Wendy Peter writes: "The enclosed poster is of questionable merit or talent, but it might prove of some use for publicity. More professional posters and the long-promised case studies will be available at the National Congress."

Well, I had the "enclosed poster" tucked away inside, too.

It's ... well, it's something.

Yes, indeed. That is Africa.

Can't you just see all those great opportunities for business, economic or political science students within it? Don't you want to run right out and join AIESEC?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Illustration of a man reading a book in an uncomfortable position

This illustration, which perhaps could serve as a companion piece to the Dark and Stormy Night Girl, features a man -- Balfour of Burley -- reading a book by candlelight and not looking the least bit comfortable.

Maybe Balfour would enjoy his book a bit more if he removed his broad hat, satchel and boots. And put down the sword. He clearly needs to lighten up.

Perhaps the reason for his inability to relax is that he is a character in Sir Walter Scott's 1816 novel "Old Mortality."

In the book, which is historical fiction, a man named Henry Morton gives shelter to John Balfour of Burley, who has helped to assassinate Archbishop James Sharp (a real-life figure). Morton ends up joining Balfour of Burley in the Covenanters, a Scottish Presbyterian movement.

The 17th century was a dangerous and violent time for the Covenanters and their uprising, which is probably why this man looks so uptight, after all.

Miniature photographs from 1930s New York City

Big weekend coming up! My wife and I will be traveling to New York City for one of the premieres of "I'm Fine, Thanks" -- a feature-length documentary for which she played a big behind-the-scenes role.

To maintain the Big Apple theme, here are four miniature photographs of New York City, circa the mid-1930s (more on that in a moment), that I came across. The photos are a mere 2¾ inches by 1⅞ inches. They have short descriptions stamped on the back, and I suspect they would have been sold to tourists in small packets.

The beauty of the computer age is that I can scan these small photos on my Canon PIXMA and magnify them so that we can see a previously unavailable level of detail regarding New York City of nearly eight decades ago. (You can click on any of these images for even greater magnification.)

First up is an aerial view of the Triboro Bridge (as it's spelled on the back)...

The bridge opened to traffic in 1936, thanks to the efforts of Robert Moses. So that helps us with the dating of these photos. It's not 100% clear whether the bridge is open here. But if it's not, it's pretty darn close.

Next up is the historic Woolworth Building...

And then an awesome shot of Times Square...

In magnifying this photo, these are some of the signs I was able to read:
There is also, on the right, a movie marquee with the names Gene Raymond and Ann Sothern. This is a wonderful help in dating this photograph. Raymond and Sothern starred in five films together between 1935 and 1937.1 So I think it's safe to say this photo was taken between 1935 and perhaps early 1938.

The final photo shows 42nd Street, with the Chrysler Building in the background...

Like these? I posted some more from the same set.

1. The five Raymond/Sothern films were "Hooray for Love" (1935), "Smartest Girl in Town" (1936), "Walking on Air" (1936), "She's Got Everything" (1937), and "There Goes My Girl" (1937). Many years later, both of them also appeared in 1964's "The Best Man," but those were supporting roles to stars Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Front covers and opening passages from four old books

Tom Swift and His Great Oil Gusher

This book was written by Victor Appleton1 and published in 1924 by Grosset & Dunlap. Its alternate title is "The Treasure of Goby Farm." Here's the opening passage:
"A grand day for a spin in the air, Ned," remarked Tom Swift, as he stretched his arms and looked through the window of his office. "What do you say? Come along and let the wind blow some of the cobwebs out of your brain."

"Get thee behind me, Satan," replied Ned Newton, the young financial manager of the Swift Construction Company. "I've got a heap of work yet to do in checking up this last monthly statement."

"That'll keep," said Tom. "You'll find the figures waiting patiently for you when you get back. I know you're well ahead of your work, anyway, and a whirl in the circumambient will do you good. You see, I'm only thinking of you."

"Yes, you are, you old hypocrite!" laughed Ned, who was about the same age and on the warmest terms of friendship with his talented young employer.

Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates

This edition of Mary Mapes Dodge's beloved 1865 book2 was published by Grosset & Dunlap (there is no publication date). The opening passage:
On a bright December morning long ago, two thinly clad children were kneeling upon the bank of a frozen canal in Holland.

The sun had not yet appeared, but the gray sky was parted near the horizon, and its edges shone crimson with the coming day. Most of the good Hollanders were enjoying a placid morning nap; even Mynheer von Stoppelnoze, that worthy old Dutchman, was still slumbering "in beautiful repose."

Now and then some peasant woman, poising a well filled basket upon her head, came skimming over the glassy surface of the canal; or a lusty boy, skating to his day's work in the town, cast a good-natured grimace toward the shivering pair as he flew along.

Meanwhile, with many a vigorous puff and pull, the brother and sister, for such they were, seemed to be fastening something upon their feet -- not skates, certainly, but clumsy pieces of wood narrowed and smoothed at their lower edge, and pierced with holes, through which were threaded strings of raw hide.

Not Like Other Girls

This novel was penned by Rosa Nouchette Carey (1840-1909), who was known for writing "wholesome fiction" for young girls.

This version is not dated, and it was published by Hurst & Company of New York.

Many of Carey's books were originally published as three-decker novels -- a standard format for British fiction in the 19th century that consisted of the narrative being split into three books, which were sold separately.

Here is the opening passage of "Not Like Other Girls":
Five-o'clock tea was a great institution in Oldfield.

It was a form of refreshment to which the female inhabitants of that delightful place were strongly addicted. In vain did Dr. Weatherby, the great authority in all the concerned the health of the neighborhood, lift up his voice against the mild feminine dram-drinking of the modern days, denouncing it in no measured terms: the ladies of Oldfield listened incredulously, and, softly quoting Cowper's lines as to the "cup that cheers and not inebriates,"3 still presided over their dainty little tea-tables, and vied with one another in the beauty of the china and the flavor of their highly-scented Pekoe.

In spite of Dr. Weatherby's sneers and innuendoes, a great deal of valuable time was spent in lingering in one or another of the pleasant drawing-rooms of the place. As the magic hour approached, people dropped in casually. The elder ladies sipped their tea and gossiped softly; the younger ones, if it were summer time, strolled out through the open windows in the garden. Most of the houses had tennis-grounds, and it was quite an understood thing that a game should be played before they separated.

Grace Harlowe's Plebe Year at High School

The alternate title for this book is "The Merry Doings of the Oakdale Freshmen Girls" and it was published in 1910 by the Henry Altemus Company of Philadelphia.4 It was written by Jessie Graham Flower, who is, according to Wikipedia, "apparently a pseudonym for American author Josephine Chase."

This was the first book in the Grace Harlowe series. It begins like this:
"Who is the new girl in the class?" asked Miriam Nesbit, flashing her black eyes from one schoolmate to another, as the girls assembled in the locker room of the Oakdale High School.

"Her name is Pierson; that is all I know about her," replied Nora O'Malley, gazing at her pretty Irish face in the looking glass with secret satisfaction. "She's very quiet and shy and looks as if she would weep aloud when her turn comes to recite, but I'm sure she's all right," she added good naturedly. For Nora had a charming, sunny nature, and always saw the best if there was any best to see.

"She is very bright," broke in Grace Harlow decisively. "She went through her Latin lesson without a mistake, which is certainly more than I could do."

1. The Tom Swift series was established in 1910, and most of the titles were published under the pen name Victor Appleton. Many volumes were actually written by Edward Stratemeyer or Howard Garis (of Uncle Wiggily fame). Read more about Stratemeyer in this April 2011 post.
2. "Hans Brinker" was a best-seller not just because of its now-famous plot. But because it was full of details about Dutch history and customs. Dodge, an American, herself writes in the preface:
"This little work aims to combine the instructive features of a book of travels with the interest of a domestic tale. Throughout its pages the descriptions of Dutch localities, customs, and general characteristics, have been given with scrupulous care. Many of its incidents are drawn from life, and the story of Raff Brinker is founded strictly upon fact."
3. "The cups, That cheer but not inebriate" is a quote from William Cowper's 1785 poem "The Task."
4. The Henry Altemus Company also published "The Story of the American Flag," which was featured in this July 2011 post.