Saturday, August 25, 2012

Rest in peace, Neil Alden Armstrong

I had this National Geographic book on my bookshelf as a kid in the early 1980s.

I thought of it today a couple hours after hearing about the death of Neil Armstrong. I thought of it because the family was out doing some shopping and it struck me how little "space" stuff (beyond Star Wars and Star Trek, of course) there is in our consumer culture.

We love dragons and elves and the Titanic and superheroes and Abraham Lincoln1 and sexy vampires and all sorts of things. But you don't really see our society — or our children — interested in the cosmos, as it once was. The moon and the planets and the stars and real space exploration are not considered cool or important. (To the point that some journalists, apparently, don't know the difference between Neil Armstrong and Neil Young.) It's fine to argue about how much money we should be budgeting for space exploration. But it's not fine, in my opinion, to devalue the cultural importance of space exploration. We should always be reaching for the stars, and caring about the people who did.

I am reminded of the final lines spoken by Jim Lovell in "Apollo 13":
"I sometimes catch myself looking up at the moon, remembering the changes of fortune in our long voyage, thinking of the thousands of people who worked to bring the three of us home. I look up at the moon and wonder, when will we be going back, and who will that be?"
1. I said to my 12-year-old daughter today: "Did you know there's a new movie about Abraham Lincoln coming out this winter?" And she replied, "Yes. Abraham Lincoln fighting vampires."

Friday, August 24, 2012

"The Book of Lists" and my love of browsing books #fridayreads

I have recently been re-reading the original 1977 "The Book of Lists." And there is a sense in which this represents coming full circle in my reading habits. This was perhaps my original Browsing Book™.

Though it is now somewhat dated and of questionable accuracy in spots, I love diving into lists such as "Clifford Irving's 10 Best Forgers of All Time" (Oh, the irony!), "10 Sensational Thefts," "9 Most Unusual Monuments in the World," "Wilfred J. Funk's 10 Most Beautiful Words in the English Language," "Orson Welles's 12 Best Movies of All Time," "10 Memorable Books The Never Existed," "15 Famous Events That Happened in the Bathtub," and much much more.1

Browsing books are a big part of my life for two reasons.

First, I don't always prefer reading in linear fashion.2 I enjoy jumping around to different topics and letting my train of thought barrel off in whatever direction it wants, before circling back to the original topic. So, yes, I'm the guy who gets lost in neverending Wikipedia and Google searches, somehow starting with Pomerania and ending up with, say, the Moberly–Jourdain incident or Husband Edward Kimmel.

Before Wikipedia and web browsers, I thought the mid-1990s version of Encarta, with its early adoption of hypertext functionality, was the greatest thing in the world.

But before that, books were the only option for surfing the world of knowledge. And so I would, in the early 1980s, browse through "The Book of Lists" and encyclopedias and those Britannica Book of the Year volumes.

Today, even with the Internet, books are still a huge part of my life, of course. (And I "Just Say No" to e-books.) My collection of browsing books has grown over the years. I mentioned that there were two reasons that browsing books are a big part of my life. The second reason is that, once it's time to get into bed, I typically only have six to nine minutes of consciousness before I start head-bobbing and snoring. So, clearly, that is no way to be reading the works of Richard Russo or David Mitchell. They are not designed to be read in six-minute chunks.

And so browsing books are perfect for bedtime! You can open to whatever page you want, and most articles are limited to one or two pages.

Here's my personal Browsing Books Hall of Fame:

1. Oh my. I'm going to become immensely sidetracked if I keep going. Clearly, I need to do a retro-review of "The Book of Lists" in a future post. The book is so endlessly fascinating and full of side alleys of knowledge to wander down!
2. Speaking of nonlinear narratives, today is, coincidentally, the 113th anniversary of the birth of Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. I recently had an opportunity to discuss Borges' works — in a very introductory manner — with my daughter. On her own initiative, she created a small sculpture with old floppy disks and pencil erasers. She decided to call it "The Path That Never Ends." And so I took that as an opening for a homeschooling discussion of Borges' work, including "The Garden of Forking Paths" and "The Library of Babel."
3. "Food in History" is not technically a browsing book. But its anecdote-filled romp through food history is suitable for diving into at any point.
4. This book was mentioned in the June post "Another 'mug': Old illustration of the centuries-old Winthrop Jug."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Another one: Bookseller's label for Cotterel-Ebner Co. of Harrisburg

On the heels of this morning's bookseller's label, here's another one. The inch-wide label is for Cotterel-Ebner Co. of Harrisburg and it's on the inside front cover of "Just Folks," a 1917 collection of poetry by Edgar A. Guest.1

Unlike the bookseller in this morning's post, however, there is not a wealth of information online about the history of Cotterel-Ebner Co., which was not specifically focused on bookselling.

So I'll be looking for tips and insight from readers to help flesh out Cotterel-Ebner's place in central Pennsylvania history.

Here's what I've found so far:
  • There was at least one Cotterel-Ebner building in Harrisburg.
  • Other businesses were also located within the Cotterel-Ebner building in the 1920s, including the Harrisburg Auto Census Bureau, The Irvin-Lloyd Co., and Harrisburg Credit Exchange.
  • This classified advertisement appeared in Publishers' Weekly in the early 1920s:
    "WANTED Man or woman to take charge of our book department. Must have had at least five years' experience in buying books. Give full details in first letter: Applications will be held strictly confidential. COTTEREL-EBNER COMPANY, 9 North Second Street, Harrisburg, Pa."
  • This article about the company buying a new building appears in the 87th volume of "American Stationer and Office Manager," which was published in 1920:

  • And this short article about the company appears in the 36th volume of "Office Appliances," which was published in 1922:

1. Edgar Albert Guest (1881-1959) wrote about 11,000 poems, which were collected in more than 20 books. The dedication page of "Just Folks" states: "To the Little Mother and the Memory of the Big Father, This Simple Book Is Affectionately Dedicated."

Bookseller's label for The Norman Remington Co. of Baltimore

This circular bookseller's label for The Norman Remington Co. of Baltimore was on the inside back cover of a falling-apart copy of 1923's "The Conquest of Fear" by Basil King.1

For information about The Norman Remington Co., I found everything I was seeking (and more) in Frederick N. Rasmussen's nostalgic and bittersweet July 23, 2011, article in The Baltimore Sun headlined "Demise of Borders recalls the end of Remington's."

Some tidbits culled from that article:
  • The bookstore, in its various incarnations, was in business from 1910 to 1986 in Baltimore.
  • The original founders were Stanley G. Remington and William Wollstonecraft Norman.
  • The bookstore was also the purchasing agent for several libraries and had a used-book section devoted to Marylandia.
  • From 1966 to its closure in 1986, one of its key managers was George Leinwall, who is described by Rasmussen as "a colorful and somewhat crusty book appraiser, raconteur, bibliophile, and collector of rare volumes."2
  • When Remington's closed forever in 1986, Leinwall told The (Baltimore) Evening Sun: "In today's world, there is no longer desire for the services we used to extend. We're closing down. We'll belong to the ages."3
There are many more great details in Rasmussen's article. I recommend that you read the whole thing.
* * *
For more on bookseller labels, see these past posts:

1. Basil King's full name was William Benjamin Basil King. He lived from 1859 to 1928 and was a clergyman who became a writer. According to Wikipedia, "The Conquest of Fear (1921) portrayed his own struggle with ill health and eventual spiritual growth, and lays out his somewhat mystical approach to religious understanding." The book is available from Project Gutenberg.
2. That sounds like a wonderful job. Where do I sign up?
3. Leinwall died on New Year's Day in 1993. Later that month, The Baltimore Sun's James H. Bready wrote: "The year started with the death of George F. Leinwall -- book man, collector, patron; on Jan. 1, at age 77, of cancer, at his home in Carroll County, his wife Mary Helen and their daughter Francesca at his side. By his request, there was no service, no death notice or obituary, no fuss."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Vintage advertisement for Stanley's Crow Repellent

This advertisement for Stanley's Crow Repellent came to me already clipped from an issue of The Rural New Yorker farming magazine, so I can't properly date it. I think the 1920s would be a fair guess, though.1

The Rural New Yorker was first published in 1850. In May 1938, The New Yorker published a profile of the farm magazine's editor/publisher. Here's an excerpt from that article's abstract:
"PROFILE of John J. Dillon, editor and publisher of the Rural New Yorker, a farm paper which now reaches 270,000 farmers throughout Northeast. The Rural New Yorker looks almost the same today as it did when Dillon took it over 46 years ago. It was founded in 1850 as Moore's Rural New Yorker, dedicated 'to home interests of both country and town residents.' The paper is printed in the old Chelsea Methodist Church, on 30th St., just east of Ninth Avenue."
Today, the spirit of The Rural New Yorker lives on in Reginald Oberlag's charming The Rural New Yorker blog, which is inspired by the former magazine.2

As for Stanley's Crow Repellent, the advertisement includes some tiny testimonials regarding the product's effectiveness:3
  • Crows pulled one hill, and said: "Good night!" writes C.H. Barnett, Thetford Center, Vt.
  • Hundreds of corn-growers write us letters like these: "Had no corn pulled that I could discover." — F.G. Vincent, W. Tisbury, Mass.
  • "Crows nor nothing seem to bother it" — M. Crockwell, Red Hook, N.Y.
  • "One kernel was pulled by crows. None were eaten. Yet crows were in fields all the time catching bugs," says M.S. Taite, Turnhannock, Pa.4
  • "The crows pulled only one hill of my corn" — L. Martin, Hillsboro, N.H.
Stanley's Crow Repellent was used to coat the corn seed before planting, which kept the crows from digging it up and eating it. And I guess it didn't have any negative effect on the crop. (Or at least no negative effect that anyone in those days was aware of.)

1. On the other side of the advertisement, there is a mention of Goodrich Silvertown tires, which were produced as early as 1920 (possibly earlier).
2. Also, you can check out some old excerpts from The Rural New Yorker in this 2009 post by Sam Moore on Farm Collector.
3. Apparently, the primary ingredient in Stanley's Crow Repellent was creosote.
4. "Turnhannock" has to be a misspelling. They meant Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Guest post: Smull's Legislative Hand-Book for 1881

Scott Downs, the publisher of the Lebanon (Pa.) Daily News, was kind enough to send along some images of one of his prized antiquarian books.

Scott's book is the 1881 edition of "Smull's Legislative Hand-Book" by Wm. P. Shull.

The longer title (books back then always had longer official titles1) was something along the lines of: "Smull's Legislative Hand Book, Rules and Decisions of the General Assembly of Pennsylvania, Legislative Directory, Together with Useful Political Statistics, List of Post Offices, County Officers & C."

Of the book, Scott writes:
"One of the jewels of my collection. Thought it would be of interest. Don't recall where I found it. ... The year and title grabbed my attention first. The crown jewel [is] a map of PA from 1881! I found this pleasant surprise and knew the book was a 'must have.' I think it cost me $1-2."

Awesome find, Scott! When it comes to books that are 100 or more years old, I'm definitely a fan of reference books.2

Here are the rest of Scott's photos of the hand-book, including some looks at the "crown jewel" map.

The York County portion of the map show above has references to Castlefen (that would be an alternate spelling or typo of Castle Fin, which was mentioned in this Papergreat post), Hadricks, Gordons and two more apparently misspelled towns — Yacumtown (should be Yocumtown) and Beach Bottom (should be Peach Bottom).

1. The longest book title I've ever come across is discussed in this bizarre February 2011 post.
2. Some of the antiquarian volumes along these lines I've written about previously include:

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Caption contest: Vintage photo of young lady on the telephone

I don't really have anything to write about this neat vintage photograph (1960s?) of a young lady posing with a telephone receiver in her hand. There is zero information on the back of the photo, which I came across at a flea market.

So I thought I'd turn it over to you for a caption contest!

Post your funniest suggestions in the comments section below, along with your name. The winner, as selected by yours truly, will receive a fine assortment of groovy ephemera.