Friday, August 3, 2012

Standard Farmer's Almanac 1905 excerpts, Part 2

Following on the heels of yesterday's post, here are some more intriguing tidbits from the Standard Farmer's Almanac of 1905...

  • In an advertisement, Mica Axle Grease is lauded because it "prevents hot boxes and vexatious days." And clearly those are two things we would like to prevent. The grease was available in tin boxes, buckets, kegs, barrels and half barrels.
  • A short article features the headline "Timber Cut by Electricity" and states the following: "A new and interesting method of cutting trees was experimented upon recently in the forests of France which may prove to be of great commercial value. A platinum wire is charged with a heavy current of electricity to a white heat, and is then used like a saw. The process takes about one-eighth the time of an ordinary saw, no sawdust is produced, and the carbonization caused by the heated wire acts as a slight preservative to the end of the timber."
  • The monthly national weather forecasts throughout the almanac tend to be quite ominous. March, for example, calls for "stormy, destructive conditions," "disasters," "disastrous gales," "electrical storms," "heavy frosts," and "danger of floods in the Upper Ohio and Susquehanna Rivers."1 Here's the full outlook for March 1905:

  • In a section about medical emergencies, the following "Tests of Death" are given: "Hold mirror to mouth. If living, moisture will gather. Push pin into flesh. If dead the hole will remain, if alive it will close up."
  • The feng shui of 1905 is related in this excerpt from the section titled "Colors in Living-Room Should Harmonize":
    "The woodwork and floors of the living-room may be of mahogany color, the walls olive, the ceiling a suggestion of olive,2 and the rug green or terra-cotta, or a mixture of green, terra-cotta, old blue and yellow. The furniture may be of any dark wood. ... Cushions for chairs in dark green would harmonize, as would a couch cover in terra-cotta, old gold or green."
  • A section titled "Correct Masculine Dress Chart for All Occasions" breaks down those potential occasions in the following way:
    • Day Weddings, Afternoon Calls, Receptions and Matinees
    • Evening Weddings, Balls, Receptions, Formal Dinners and Theater
    • Informal Dinner, Club, Stag and At-Home Dinner
    • Business and Morning Wear
    • Wheeling, Golf or Outing
    • Afternoon Teas, Shows, Etc.
    • Church
    Something tells me this portion of the almanac was not targeted toward your average Nebraska farmer.
  • The amazing Continental Ointment is advertised as being suitable for "cuts, bites, sore shoulders, bruises, galls, burns, scalds, scratches, barb wire cuts, sprains, etc., and for all diseases of the hoof — cracks, corns, hardness, dryness, and brittleness."
  • Finally, it is amusing, here in 2012, to read this section from a 1905 almanac titled "It is Amazing How People Lived in 1800, judged from modern standpoints":
    "Half of them dwelt in log huts. Window glass was a luxury even in coast towns. Some people used oil paper; others had simple openings in the walls, which in winter were closed with plank split from logs. The iron stove was a positive luxury; the furnace was unheard of. Great fireplaces supplied heat, but could not keep these huts comfortable in winter."
    What will they write of 1800, 1905 and 2012 in the year 2112?

1. Some of the actual bad weather that occurred in 1905 includes the Mataafa Storm and a deadly tornado in Snyder, Oklahoma. The 1905 hurricane season was a dud.
2. Would "A Suggestion of Olive" be (a) a good band name, (b) a good album title, (c) a good title for a hit single, or (d) a good title for a collection of poetry?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Standard Farmer's Almanac 1905 excerpts, Part 1

Today, in the first of a series, I'm presenting some excerpts from this copy of the Standard Farmer's Almanac 1905.

That's "Standard" as in Standard Oil Company, which was one of America's feel-good start-ups of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, until the cranky Supreme Court, led by Edward Douglass White, tired of its (Standard's) conspiratorial, restraining and monopolizing ways and ordered its (Standard's) breakup.

The almanac has a punch-hole with a string run through it — perfect for hanging it from a nail in the barn. And this issue was compliments of Jos. Breck & Sons, an agricultural supply business in Boston.

Here are some interesting tidbits from the first few pages:
  • This is part of a note to the "American Farmer" from Standard Oil Company on the inside front cover: "In compiling the Standard Almanac for 1905, it has been our aim to give you a number of useful facts from the scientific world in its forward march of progress. This is a progressive age. No one can afford to ignore new truths or facts. The difference between a wise man and a foolish one is the difference in their powers of observation and utilizing what they have learned."
  • On the following page, after that treatise about the scientific, progressive age, Standard Oil Company presents a chart with the twelve signs of the Zodiac. Oh well.

  • There is a large advertisement for Eureka Harness Oil, which claims to "keep the fibre soft and pliable" and "blacken the worn red spots on the harness." One thing that makes Eureka Harness Oil superior to other products, according to the advertising copy, is that no "lamp black" is used in its manufacture.

  • Suggestions are given for the problem of ants in the house. While "trapping and killing" is the recommended solution, the almanac states that the odor of tar, wormwood or pennyroyal will drive ants away in some cases.

  • Regarding the farm's poultry-house, the almanac offers the following tips: "Whitewash the poultry-house inside so as to make the interior light and cheerful. Poultry have a repugnance to dark quarters, and will remain outside, exposed to storms, in preference to resorting during the day to a dark and uncomfortable poultry-house. Ducks must be kept in a house which has a board floor covered with straw."
  • Finally, the following is written of milk, my favorite beverage:
    "Milk is not a beverage; it is a perfect food. When children drink milk at meals it should take the place of nitrogenous foods — meat of course, being omitted. It is far better when the children eat meat to give them water to drink. Where two sorts of nitrogenous foods are used, like meat and milk, constipation is universal."
    So there.

  • Read Part 2

* * *
Note: The "Harvesting in Russia" illustration that appears on the cover of the almanac also appears on this 1910 International Harvester Company of America postcard. There, the caption states: "Camels are used as draft animals to operate American Harvesting Machines on the Steppes of the Caucasus."

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Happy 150th birthday, M. R. James

The great ghost-story author and educator Montague Rhodes James was born 150 years ago today in Goodnestone Parsonage in Kent, England.

My personal favorite of James' many ghost tales is "The Mezzotint," which I will let you discover for yourselves.

To celebrate the anniversary of his birth, here are some great links to M.R. James content:

Monday, July 30, 2012

"Safety on the Farm" — a nightmarish coloring book for kids

"Safety on the Farm" is a 24-page staplebound book that was originally published in the 1970s or early 1980s by the Farm Safety Association of Ontario, Canada.

It is described by the Indiana Rural Safety and Health Council as a "delightful activity book" in which young readers "follow the entertaining farmer character through many mis-adventures during his work."

More than 95,000 copies were distributed throughout the United States, according to this Purdue University web page.

While learning farm safety is of paramount importance, I'm not sure how "delightful" kids have found these coloring pages over the years. I suspect they gave some children nightmares. Here's a sampling of the morbid stuff...

You can check out (and print out) a PDF of the entire activity booklet here.

"Safety on the Farm" reminds me somewhat of a children's version of "Shake Hands with Danger," an amazingly memorable 1970 workplace-safety film. Joan and I first watched it on a DVD called "The Educational Archives, Vol. 4 - On the Job". You can read Schlock Corridor's review of "Shake Hands with Danger" here and, even better, watch the full 23-minute film.

"Shake Hands with Danger," coincidentally, was directed by Herk Harvey, who spent decades as a writer, director and producer of educational and industrial films but is best remembered for his one feature film -- the influential 1962 horror classic "Carnival of Souls." Harvey also appears in the movie, uncredited, as "The Man" — aka the lead ghoul (pictured at right).

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Happy birthday to Brother Frank

This is the inscription inside an old book that was not salvageable because of significant water damage. But I like the style of the cursive script too much to just toss the book away without first scanning and posting the inscription for digital posterity.

To Brother Frank
From Mattie.

Wishing you many happy
March 21st 1915

So, either Frank and Mattie were siblings, or Frank was a monk or friar. I'm guessing it's the first possibility.

The book is 1902's "Brewster's Millions" by George Barr McCutcheon.1 The novel has been adapted into plays (a picture of stage actor Robert Ober is the book's frontispiece) and at least 10 movies — including three in India and the 1985 comedy starring Richard Pryor, John Candy and Stephen Collins.

1. McCutcheon also wrote a series of novels about the fictional Eastern European country of Graustark, the capital city of which is Edelweiss.