Saturday, July 21, 2012

Saturday's postcards: Two greetings from 100+ years ago

These two vintage postcards don't seem like anything special on the front. They're "commons" that might be sold for a dime or quarter. Or they might be placed in packs of 20 "assorted" postcards, essentially as filler. But they have stories, too.

To me, the interest in these postcards is on the back, in the notes that were written more than a century ago.

This flowery "Greetings" card was postmarked on July 24, 1908, in Norristown, Pennsylvania. (I like the elongated postmark with its Francis Hopkinson version of the 13-star United States flag.1)

The postcard is from Papa and it was mailed to Wesley K. Swartley in Tamaqua, Pennsylvania. The note, with its odd mixture of capitalization and non-capitalization, reads:
Dear Wesley,
We were down to Phila by Trolley on sunday, it was A very hot day, hope you have A good time
From Papa
Thanks to online genealogy records, I think I have figured out the identities of everyone mentioned in this postcard.3

Wesley K. Swartley was born on March 31, 1899, and thus would have been 9 years old when he received this.

Wesley was the son of Sylvester H. Swartley and Ida Knepper. Sylvester was a master painter and paper-hanger. The Swartley family lived in Norristown and was of the Lutheran faith.

The postcard was mailed to Tamaqua in care of Harry Knepper (I really thought that was Kneffer in cursive writing), who is Ida's brother and Wesley's uncle.

Wesley grew up to marry a woman named Katie. When the 1940 census was taken, he and Katie were living in Norristown and had a 10-year-old son named Wesley Jr. The three of them were living in a home valued at $3,000 and Wesley Sr. had grown up to be a paper-hanger, like his father.

This "Remember Me" postcard was mailed to Mrs. Mattie Taggert in Nickerson, Kansas. It was postmarked at 6 p.m. on December 30, 1910, in Stanton, Iowa.4

The period-challenged note reads:
Dear Mattie
well we did not see you Christmas again I think the weather is staying just on purpose for you to come up to see us we are all well and have pretty good appetites I have not had any chicken pie lately though I am still waiting for the letter you owe me We got the Christmas package all right
Nickerson and Stanton are about 360 miles apart (perhaps further, depending on what avenues of transportation were available then), so it would have been quite a production for Mattie to make a December or January trip to visit the writers of this postcard in 1910/11.

If Mattie had access to a car (unlikely) and the roads were good (unlikely) and the weather held out (dicey), it might have been possible to make the trip in 3-4 days, with stops in the likes of Salina, Junction City, Topeka and Nebraska City. More likely, such a trip would have required a cobbled-together itinerary employing multiple modes of transportation.

That's a lot of work to have some chicken pie.

As far as who Mrs. Mattie Taggert was, the best clue comes from this genealogy page, which states that a Mattie Snyder was born on November 24, 1888, in La Crosse, Kansas. She married Andrew Taggart5 on August 5, 1906, in Hennessey, Oklahoma. They had three children -- Rector Dee, Ivan Lee and Arlene Ellen.

1. The differences between this postmark and the Francis Hopkinson flag are its exaggerated width (of course) and the fact that it uses five-pointed stars. Hopkinson's design called for six-pointed stars.
2. Based on the postmark, the "Sunday" that Papa refers to would have been July 19, 1908. I can't find those weather records for Philadelphia. But here are some notable things that happened on that date:
3. Sources include:
4. Stanton, Iowa, has a couple of claims to fame: (1) its two water towers, which are painted and shaped like a giant coffee pot and coffee cup; (2) some of the victims of the Titanic sinking had Stanton connections. Former Stanton residents Ernest Gilbert Danbom and Anna Sigrid Maria Danbom, along with their infant child Gilbert Sigvard Emanuel Danbom, were returning to the United States from a year-long trip to Sweden and were planning to start a fruit farm in California. All three died when the unsinkable ship went down.
5. The page has references to both Taggert and Taggart, which is not necessarily problematic.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Creepy and dilapidated structures of the eastern United States, Part 2

Here's Part 1, if you missed it.

Scene at dusk in Philippi, West Virginia

Abandoned church in Needmore, Pennsylvania

Joan on staircase along Dickeys Mountain Trail, outside Needmore

Residential street in ghost town of Centralia, Pennsylvania

(Note: The church seen on the far mountainside is Centralia's still-active Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church.)

Abandoned house along Route 30 in western Pennsylvania

Some of my other photography

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Creepy and dilapidated structures of the eastern United States, Part 1

Last summer I got some good response to "Dilapidated structures of Southern Jersey," a collection of some of my (very amateur) travel photography. Since then, I have been gathering photos for another online presentation. In fact, it turns out that I have enough for a two-part entry.

So, if you enjoy these photos, come back tomorrow night at 7 p.m. EDT for another batch.

Big old house in Bennington, Vermont

(Note: This is the Walloomsac Inn. See this update.)

Abandoned Golden Rule department store in Belington, West Virginia

Seneca Motor Company garage,
across from Seneca Rocks, West Virginia

Service station in parts unknown, Virginia

See Part 2

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Three sci-fi paperback covers with UFOs (and one with a chimp)

Here are the groovy covers of four vintage sci-fi paperbacks that we picked up (along with a boxed set of Italo Calvino works) last week at the Goodwill Industries thrift store in Shamokin Dam, Pennsylvania.1

I'll start with the one featuring the monkey and then go full-barrel into the flying saucers...

Above: This is the fabulous cover of the 1975 Ballantine Books edition of "Norstrilia" by Cordwainer Smith (a pseudonym for Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger). We have Confident Looking Blond Guy in Gold Suit, Exotic Lady in Pink Outfit, White-Haired Old Guy With Wings and, of course, Chimpanzee Doctor With Hand in Pocket.

Above: The flying saucers start with the Pyramid Books paperback of Poul Anderson's Orbit Unlimited.

Above: A flying saucer filled with Little Green Men casts a shadow over Earth on the cover of Ace Books' 1966 paperback "The Flying Saucer Gambit" by Larry Maddock (a pseudonym for Jack Jardine). The cover illustration is by Sergio Leone, but I'm fairly certain it's not this Sergio Leone.

Above: There are flying saucers and a big floating brain on the cover of the 1967 Paperback Library edition of "Beyond the Spectrum" by Martin Thomas. The back cover states, in part:
"The time is the 30th Century. Somewhere in the galaxy the planet Nihil plots an invasion of Earth. Controlled by a malevolent computer, it begins sending invisible agents to terrorize Earth. The earth's rocketships and atomic weapons are helpless against this hidden foe."

Long footnote
1. The Goodwill store is just a couple doors down from the China House Supper Buffet, which Joan and I consider to be one of the top three Asian-cuisine buffets we've been to. And we've been to a lot, which makes it a surprise that the one in Shamokin Dam would rank so high. Meanwhile, it would be remiss of me not to include some historical information about Shamokin Dam, culled from Wikipedia:
"Shamokin Dam is a small borough in Snyder County, Pennsylvania. ... The name is derived from a 10-foot-tall (3.0 m) dam that was built across the Susquehanna River in the 19th century. The dam supported steamboat ferries run by Ira T. Clement, which transported goods and people between Shamokin Dam and the city of Sunbury on the Northumberland County side of the river. These ferries operated from 1772 until the Bainbridge Street Bridge was built in 1907. The dam also provided water to the Susquehanna Division of the Pennsylvania Canal System which was constructed on the western bank of the river. The dam was destroyed by ice in March 1904."
There is also this Wikipedia tidbit: "Shamokin Dam was founded by George Keen in 1745. At the time it was named Keensville. Most of the residents were canal workers, raftsmen, shad fishermen and eel fishermen."

In passing through Shamokin Dam, the view is dominated by towering Sunbury Generation facility -- a coal-fired power plant that went into operation six decades ago -- along the Susquehanna River.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Return of the QSLs, including Chicago and Navassa Island

Here are some more QSL cards from the shoebox full of 'em that I picked up earlier this year. They're an unending source of potential stories and fascination for me. See the earlier QSL blog posts here.

Above: This is the colorful K9JSC card for James Riff of Chicago, Illinois. The card is postmarked on July 19, 1958 (mailed with a 2¢ Thomas Jefferson stamp). A short note states: "HERE'S A BETTER QSL FOR YOUR WALL HI 73'S JIM".

Above: This W9YYS card for Steven L. Makowski, also of Chicago, was postmarked November 16, 1957. Mostly, I love the little illustration in the lower-left corner:

* * *

Above: The red-and-gray KKD-7719 card for Paul J. Kreuzkamp Jr. of Ramsey, New Jersey, states: "Have Shack - Will Yak". Like the above card, it also features a nifty illustration of a radio operator.

Kreuzkamp was a former police chief and attorney who died in 1989. His brother, Steven, founded a scholarship in his name at Brevard (Florida) Community College, to cover full tuition for either basic police training or the corrections officer program.

Above: This photocopied QSL is for the KC4DX Navassa DXpedition 1972. The note on the back of the card states:
"Navassa Island is located 90 miles South of Cuba, 75 miles East of Jamaica, and 35 miles West of Haiti. The island is owned by the United States and has been uninhabited for more than 50 years. The lighthouse is maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard and is the chief navigation aid for ships passing between the Panama Canal and Europe. 73 and thanks for your QSO and QSL. -- KC4DX"
The card indicates that a QSO (Contact) occurred with W2RGV at 0044 GMT on May 13, 1972. It is stamped by the "W3KT QSL SERVICE".

There is an excellent website devoted to the Navassa Island DXpedition of 40 years ago. You should go there to read the whole fascinating story. Here are just a few short excerpts from the tale, as told by Chaz W4GKF:
  • "I contacted the Coast Guard and my Congressman and received permission to go there. Wasn't too hard; but one did have to sign a lot of papers indicating you were 'on your own' if any life-threatening problems arose."
  • "I read everything I could about Navassa and there was a lot -- and this was thirty years before Google!"
  • "I don't remember mentioning that I'd never been to sea. Never. In any size boat. Ours was a 41-footer which ain't all that big. Just after dinner Captain Jervis fired up the boat and off we went in our motor yacht 'Tycoon'. Turns out that I get seasick pretty darned easily."
  • "Navassa was a tremendous experience and I've been dining out on this story for forty years. We made 5,700 contacts (not a lot by today's standards but we only operated for 50 hours)."
There's also a fascinating incident involving a Russian fishing trawler, the fear of Haitian gunboats, a broken radio, climbing down a rope ladder and getting onto a rubber lifeboat in the middle of the night and fifty gallons of diesel fuel. Go read it!

As a final note, according to Wikipedia: "Access to Navassa is hazardous and visitors need permission from the Fish and Wildlife Office in BoquerĂ³n, Puerto Rico in order to enter its territorial waters or land. Since this change of status, amateur radio operators have repeatedly been denied entry."

Above: Finally, here's the DL3GK card for Baron von Sobeck-Werder of Germany, which was filled out in 1981.

It states that Sobeck-Werder is from Burg Vilszelt. In translating the German Wikipedia page for Burg Vilszelt (pictured at right), we find that it is a small former moated castle in the Heister district of the municipality of Unkel. The age of the castle is not fully known. First mentions of it date back to 1290. In 1933, Prince Hesso of Leiningen (1903-1967) married Countess Marie Louise of Nesselrode, which somehow caused the castle to return to the hands of the Sobeck-Werder family after more than 450 years.

There is also this translated bit describing Burg Vilszelt: "The castle is a magnificent loose slate-roofed house with its hipped roof in natural Unkeler rubble." (Not sure if the Google translation worked too well on that one.)

Here is a link to more images of Burg Vilszelt.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Prudential advertisement from 1897 issue of The Strand Magazine

"The Prudential has the Strength of Gibraltar"

This 1897 full-page advertisement for The Prudential Insurance Company of America features an inset illustration of one of the company's long-demolished original-headquarters buildings in Newark, New Jersey.

Those original buildings were, according to Wikipedia, "early examples of steel framing in Newark, clad in gray Indiana limestone with Romanesque Gothic styling" and were demolished in 1956. An old postcard that shows you a little more of what this building looked like can be seen here on

Prudential, founded in 1875 by John F. Dryden (whose name appears in this advertisement, was originally known as The Widows and Orphans Friendly Society and then the Prudential Friendly Society for a short time. By 1897, it was well-established as The Prudential Insurance Company of America.

The company's Rock of Gibraltar logo dates to the 1890s and was apparently inspired by an igneous rock intrusion1 that juts upward at Laurel Hill County Park in Secaucus, New Jersey.

On the reverse side of this advertisement is the table of contents for the March 1897 issue of The Strand Magazine, which was published from January 1891 to March 1950.2 Articles in that issue included:
  • "Railways in the Air" by Corrie Sefton
  • "Duelling in German Universities" by An English Student
  • "Portraits of Celebrities at Different Times of Their Lives"
  • "Some Peculiar Occupations" by Balliol Bruce
  • "The Flowery Islands" by Sir George Newnes, 1st Baronet (the magazine's founder)
  • "Policemen of the World" by C.S. Pelham-Clinton
  • "Cliff-Climbing and Egg-Hunting" by L.S. Lewis

1. Perhaps the best-known example of an igneous rock intrusion is Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming.
2. Per Wikipedia: "The Sherlock Holmes short stories by Arthur Conan Doyle were first published in The Strand with illustrations by Sidney Paget. With the serialization of Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles, sales reached their peak. Readers lined up outside the magazine's [London] offices, waiting to get the next installment."

Sunday, July 15, 2012

1952 booklet: "What Your Family Should Know — ABOUT TEETH!"

Here's another volume from the Western Electric Booklet Rack Service For Employees.1

This one was published 60 years ago, in 1952, and is a 16-page guide titled "What Your Family Should Know — ABOUT TEETH!"2

It was produced by The Economics Press of Montclair, New Jersey, and features drawings by R. Roberts Baldwin.

Here are some of the toothy tips and tidbits from within the staplebound booklet:
  • "Good Teeth are like Great Men -- too often we don't appreciate them until after they are gone!"3
  • "The average 16-year-old has seven of his permanent teeth decayed, missing or filled." [I wonder how that compares with today.]
  • "An excellent practice is to keep a dish of attractively prepared raw vegetables handy in the refrigerator. Radishes, celery and carrots are the standard items. These can be easily slipped on the table at meal time and the children (and adults) encouraged to finish off their meals with a piece of raw vegetable."
  • "Some habitual pipe smokers wear regular 'pipe holes' in their teeth. If you smoke a pipe, don't chew on it and don't always hold it in the same spot in your jaw."
  • "Each member of the family should have at least two toothbrushes so that one can dry while the other is in use."
  • "At least one set of [tooth]brushes should be kept downstairs -- in the kitchen or downstairs lavatory. This makes cleaning the teeth directly after eating a practice in which the whole family will be more willing to cooperate."
  • "Your dentist may suggest occasional X-ray examinations of your teeth. This is completely painless and harmless and is the only way he can check the hidden surfaces between your teeth and under your gums. If your dentist believes that an X-ray examination is advisable, by all means cooperate."
  • "Proper care of your teeth is really not difficult; it's largely a matter of habit. Once you and your family have taken the trouble to form the right habits, the rest is easy. Good habits are just as automatic as bad. So -- why not start today? The time to appreciate good teeth is while you still have them."

1. Previous titles from this booklet series featured on Papergreat include:
2. Previous Papergreat posts dealing (sort of) with teeth include:
3. Hmm. I had not previously been familiar with that particular saying.