Saturday, December 22, 2012

Two Christmas-themed 19th century tales by Mrs. W.J. Hays

I haven't delved into the Project Gutenberg archives recently to present any old tales here.1 The weekend before Christmas is a good time for it!

In 1884, Harper & Brothers published "The Adventures of Prince Lazybones and Other Stories" by Mrs. W.J. Hays.

The book contains four tales, two of which have Christmas overtones.

The stories are too long to present here in their entirety. So I'll just give you a preview, and then you can go to Gutenberg for the rest, if your interest is piqued.

Mrs. W.J. Hays, whose maiden name was apparently Helen Ashe, was a children's writer whose other works included "The Princess Idleways," "A Loving Sister: A Story for Big Girls," "City Cousins: A Story for Children," "A Village Maid," and "Little Maryland Garden."

Here are excerpts from two tales within "The Adventures of Prince Lazybones and Other Stories":

Florio and Florella
(A Christmas Fairy Tale)
There was once a child named Florio, who had neither father nor mother, uncle nor aunt, and so it happened that he was adopted by a witch. He might have had a fairy godmother if anybody had remembered to ask one to the christening, but as no one took enough interest in him for that, it was neglected, and poor Florio became the property of a hideous, hateful old hag, who was never so happy as when she was making trouble. Of course Florio was compelled to do her bidding. Naturally inoffensive and gentle, he was continually obliged to do violence to his conscience by obeying the witch.

For instance, the witch — who was known by the name of Fussioldfuri, and lived in a miserable cavern when she was not travelling about — had great delight in spoiling any one's innocent amusement or upsetting his or her plans; she even started children quarrelling and disputing; indeed, she found this one of her particular pastimes when she was not engaged in annoying older people.

It was among children that she made Florio particularly useful — so useful, in fact, that he never had a friend. If she found him amusing himself with a happy little company, she made him do some selfish or ugly thing which at once put a stop to all the cheerfulness; and often, before he knew what he was about, he would be struggling and kicking and screaming and flinging himself upon one or the other of his comrades, while Fuss — as we must call her for convenience — laughed till she shook, and tears of joy ran down her ugly leathery cheeks. Then Florio, ashamed, miserable, and unhappy, would creep off to a corner and weep as if his little heart would break.

It was after one of these dreadful occurrences one day that Florio, hiding in the woods, heard a strange rustling among the bushes. He was so used to wandering about after old Fuss, and living anyhow and anywhere, that he was more like a little creature of the woods himself than anything else, and it took a good deal to frighten him. Patter, patter, patter it went. What could it be? He peered in and out and under the bush, but he saw nothing except a nest full of little blue eggs, which he would not touch for the world; no, he knew too well how pleased old Fuss would be to have him disturb this little bird family, and he concealed it again. As he did so, the sweetest little voice said,

"That's right."

Florio jumped as if a wasp had stung him.

Read the rest of the tale and discover what it has to do with Christmas here.

* * *

Boreas Bluster's
Christmas Present

It had been a hard, cold, cruel winter, and one that just suited old Frozen Nose, the Storm King, whose palace of ice was on the north shore of the Polar Sea. He had ordered Rain, Hail, and Snow, his slaves, to accompany Lord Boreas Bluster on an invasion of the temperate zone, and when they had done his bidding he harnessed up his four-in-hand team of polar bears and went as far south as he dared, just to see how well they had obeyed him. How he roared with laughter when he found nearly all vegetation killed, and the earth wrapped in a white mantle as thick as his own bear-skins piled six feet deep! There was no nonsense about that sort of work.

"Catch any pert, saucy little flowers sticking up their heads through such a blanket!" said Frozen Nose to himself. "No, no; I've fixed 'em for a few years, anyhow. They're dead as door-nails, and Spring with all her airs and graces will never bring them to life again. Ugh! how I hate 'em and all sweet smells! Wish I might never have anything but whale-oil on my hair and handkerchiefs for the rest of my life!"

"There's no fear but what you will, and stale at that," said the ugliest of his children, young Chilblain, giving his father's big toe a tweak as he passed, and grinning when he heard Frozen Nose grumble out,

"There's the gout again, I do believe!"

But Boreas Bluster, coming in just then, saw what was going on, and gave Chilblain a whack that sent him spinning out of the room.

Read the full story of Lord Boreas Bluster and Frozen Nose here.

Finally, here is the intriguing frontispiece from "The Adventures of Prince Lazybones and Other Stories":

1. Over the summer, I offered up three short, public-domain folk tales from Project Gutenberg. These are great for winter nights, too:

Saturday's postcard: Christmas card from Raphael Tuck & Sons

Here's another card produced by England's Raphael Tuck & Sons, coming on the heels of the small Christmas card that was tucked away inside the "Triumphant Songs" book we examined earlier this week.

This appears to be a postcard, although it was never used as such and the reverse side does not contain any indication of where to place a stamp, address or message.1 More on the back in a moment.

Printed along the bottom of the card's front are "RAPHAEL TUCK & SONS" and "X SERIES 300".

The verse on the card is the final stanza of John Greenleaf Whittier's poem "Our Master":

The heart must ring Thy Christmas bells,
Thy inward altars raise;
Its faith and hope Thy canticles,
And its obedience praise!

That's followed by the phrase "A Happy New Year." It's probably not the specific sentiment Whittier had in mind when he penned his Quaker poem, which calls for simple religious services lacking in structure, ritual, incense and bells.

Meanwhile, the back of the card contains a name, a date and large logo for Raphael Tuck & Sons. First, here is what's scrawled across the top:

Two mysteries here: 1. What is Rosella's last name? 2. What year is written after December 23?

Regarding the last name, I might have guessed Kane, but that "n" is looking more like an "r." I guess the full range of possibilities would have to include Kane, Kare, Kave, Hane, Hare, and Have. Am I missing anything?

The date, at first glance, looks like 1806. But that wouldn't make a lot of sense, unless it refers to something like Rosella's birth date. My wife's educated guess is that it's 1886, and the writer just got a little sloppy with the second 8. (Also, we know for a fact that Raphael Tuck & Sons launched its business in 1866.)

Finally, here's the wonderfully detailed Raphael Tuck & Sons logo that appears on the back of the card:

There are clear similarities to the logo that appeared on the back of the Christmas card I featured earlier this week. Here they are, side by side:

1. The Chicago Postcard Museum's website has an informative page titled "How old is your postcard?"

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas-themed cover of the December 1979 issue of Cricket

This festive illustration by Carl Larsson (1853-1919), titled "Christmas Eve at Sundborn," serves as the cover for the December 1979 issue of Cricket.1

Cricket, a smart and literary children's magazine that was launched in 1973 and aims to be "The New Yorker for children," describes the Swedish artist's life and times — and his amazing residence — within the issue. An excerpt:
"[W]ith the help of his wife, Karin, he transformed a two-room country cottage into one of Sweden's most unique and beloved homes. 'Little Hyttnäs,' as their house was called, was given to the Larssons by Karin's father in 1889. The cottage was small and dark, as were many houses at the turn of the century, so Carl and Karin set about to brighten and enlarge their home. Carl painted the walls — along with the doors , cabinets and sections of the ceiling — with flowers, folk designs and portraits of Karin and their children. ...

"The Larsson home grew in intervals, with the help of local craftsmen and carpenters. Room after room was built onto the original cottage, so that in time the house seemed to wander across the yard. But it never seemed 'big,' because the rooms were always small, simple, and cozy and were attached at odd angles, with doors and stairways in the most unexpected places.

"Every nook and cranny was different — shelves of richly-illustrated books were built into the walls, flowers and ivy adorned tables and window sills, and colored panes of glass were set in the windows to soften the bright summer sun. Walls and trim work were splashed with color — green, rose, and sunny yellow.

"For over twenty years, 'Little Hyttnäs' grew and changed with the Larsson family (Carl and Karin had seven children), and today it is considered one of the most unusual and striking examples of the beauty of a hand-crafted home."

What a wonderful home! For more information on Little Hyttnäs, which is located in the village of Sundborn in central Sweden, check out these links:

1. The contents of this issue include:
  • "Has Winter Come?" by Wendy Watson
  • "The Clown of God" by Tomie de Paola
  • "All Those Mothers at the Manger" by Norma Farber
  • "Zlateh the Goat" by Isaac Bashevis Singer
  • "Christmas Treats from Sweden" by Ulf Löfgren
  • "A Family" by Lennart Rudström (the article about the Larsson family)
  • "Banana Twist" by Florence Parry Heide
  • "Bells, Bells, Bells" by Bernadine Bailey

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Betty Crocker shares her steamed holiday pudding recipe

Anyone planning to have a lovely steamed holiday pudding this month?

Here is the recipe from the 1971 edition of The Betty Crocker Recipe Card Library published by General Mills.1

  • 1 cup Gold Medal flour*
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon mace
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1½ cups cut-up raisins
  • 2 cups currants
  • ¾ cup finely cut-up citron
  • ⅓ cup each cut-up candied orange and candied lemon peel
  • ½ cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1½ cups soft bread crumbs
  • 2 cups ground suet (½ pound)
  • 1 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • ⅓ cup currant jelly
  • ¼ cup fruit juice
*Note: If using self-rising flour, decrease soda to ½ teaspoon.

Grease well 2-quart ring mold or turk's head mold. Measure flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, mace and nutmeg into large bowl. Stir in fruits, nuts and bread crumbs. Mix suet, brown sugar, eggs, jelly and fruit juice; stir into flour mixture. Pour into mold; cover with aluminum foil.

Place rack in Dutch oven and pour boiling water into pan up to level of rack. Place mold on rack; cover Dutch oven. Keep water boiling over low heat to steam pudding 4 hours or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. (If necessary to add water during steaming, lift lid and quickly add boiling water.)

Unmold; cut into slices and serve warm with your favorite hard sauce. 16 servings.

1. Here are the other Papergreat posts featuring the The Betty Crocker Recipe Card Library:

Old-style illustration of a boy carrying a Christmas tree

This is just a holiday illustration I wanted to share this afternoon.

It's from a category I made up called "Loose Leaf Ephemera." It's the front cover of a Christmas card that was cut off and separated. The reverse side is blank. So I have zero identifying information.

For all I know, it's a "vintage reprint" card from the 1980s or 1990s. Even so, it's still a neat illustration.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Festive Christmas matchbook from D.F. Stauffer Biscuit Co.

I never thought I'd call a matchbook a piece of art. But this one is.

This beautiful Merry Christmas/Happy New Year matchbook was produced by the D.F. Stauffer Biscuit Co. right here in York, Pennsylvania.

When closed, it measures 3⅜ inches by 4¼ inches. The matchbook is promoting Stauffer's Nifty-brand cookies, crackers and pretzels.

There is no year listed anywhere on it.

(If anyone has any idea what year this was produced, or any other information about it, I'd love to hear from you in the comments section.)

Stauffer’s Biscuit Company (official website, Facebook page), which claims to be "the original animal cracker company", originated in York in 1871. In 2004, it became a fully owned division of Meiji Co. Ltd. of Japan.

According to Stauffer's history page:

"Each day Stauffer’s produces more than 250 tons of animal crackers1, cookies, and snack crackers on fifteen oven lines using only the finest ingredients. Taste the rich cheddar cheese flavor of Whales available in several package sizes. Stauffer’s produces a variety of scrumptious cookies, such as Ginger Snaps, Lemon Snaps, Shortbread Cookies, Snickerdoodles, Vanilla Wafers and Graham Stix."

And Stauffer's is famous for upping the ante during the year-end holidays with its seasonal products, including Dark Chocolate Stars and Milk Chocolate Stars. Again, from the website:

"Celebrate the holidays with a delicious assortment of Stauffer’s cookies. Our signature item is the holiday tin collection, which is produced once a year and has become a much sought after collectors item. Enjoy the rich taste of Stauffer’s Chocolate Stars, Gingerbread Men, and White Fudge Holiday Cookies."

What's not clear to me at this time is whether Stauffer's still makes any products that are branded "Nifty," as mentioned on the matchbook.

And, no, I haven't forgotten about the matchbook. Here are two more images — from the other side of the cover and from the inside of the matchbook.

Like I said, it's an absolute work of art. And a neat piece of York County's manufacturing history.

1. Why are there holes in Stauffer's animal crackers? The company answers this in its FAQ: "The holes in the Animal Crackers are called 'dockers.' The holes are there to let some of the air out of the crackers and reduce the rising process. This helps retain the animal cracker shape."

Stauffer's, helpfully, also provides an online Animal Cracker Identifier.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Very old Christmas card (and more) inside 1890's "Triumphant Songs"

All sorts of wonderful things became apparent when I cracked open this copy of 1890's "Triumphant Songs Nos. 1 and 2 Combined" by E.O. Excell, and I'm not even sure where to start.

Talk about a holiday treat!

So fasten your seat belts and prepare for a whirlwind tour through a 19th century book and all of the cool stuff tucked away inside.

The book is an omnibus edition of two previous song books — "Triumphant Songs No. 1" had been published in 1887 by Excell, and "Triumphant Songs No. 2" had been published in 1889. The combined edition is packed with more than 400 pages of religious music and lyrics arranged by Excell and others.

The price of this combined edition ranged from 45 cents to 75 cents, depending on the quantity ordered and whether you wanted a cloth cover. (For perspective, a book that cost 45 cents in 1890 would cost about $11 today.)

Edwin Othello Excell (pictured at right), lived from 1851 to 1921 and was a well-known publisher, composer and song leader. He served as author or contributor to about 90 song books. While not all of his work involved religious music, he became noted for his 1909 arrangement of "Amazing Grace."

Much of his early work was done in western Pennsylvania, including Brady's Bend, East Brady and Oil City. In 1883, he moved to Chicago and his music-publishing business truly took off.

Excell's "Triumphant Songs" series spanned five volumes from 1887 to 1896.

As I said, this well-worn volume from 1890 contains numerous treasures inside. One of the first owners — perhaps the first owner — was Bettie Shultz, who wrote her name in pencil on the first page in 1891:

There were a number of pieces of ephemera tucked away inside the song book. Here is the rundown on a few of them:
  • A list of numbers — 306, 232, 313, 430, 196 and 59 — that almost certainly refers to songs in the book.
  • A single-sheet Bible lesson, torn from a book or booklet, for July 3. The lesson is titled "Pictures of the Kingdom" and is copyright 1894 by David C. Cook.
  • A partial page torn from a program. The event, whatever it was, featured discussions with titles such as "Making Our Beliefs Count," "Choosing Our Life's Work," "Ideals for Social Relationships," and "Discussion Groups for Adult Workers." The inspirational address was delivered by Rev. Hunter B. Blakely, who was, according to a quick online search, a 1919 graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary.

That brings us to the pièce de résistance — a tiny Christmas card I found inside the song book. It measures only 2¾ inches by 4 inches. The card has separated into two pieces at the center fold. Here are images of the front and the inside:

The long-ago note inside the card reads: "Hearty greetings and good wishes for a happy Christmas. From Jno. J. Fix"

Believe it or not, "Jno." was most commonly used as an abbreviation for John, although there are some instances of it being an abbreviation for Jonathan. While it might seem odd, I guess it could be argued that Jno. represented a 25% savings in time and letters over John.

On the back of the Christmas card, in super-small type, is this credit line:

Raphael Tuck & Sons, London, Paris, New York
Designed at the studios in England
and printed at the Fine Art Works in Bavaria

Above that text is this logo (shown greatly magnified):

Raphael Tuck & Sons, according to Wikipedia, began business in City of London in 1866. The company enjoyed immense popularity with its production of pictures, greeting cards and, especially, postcards.

The company produced its first Christmas card in 1871. A Tuck & Sons holiday card similar to the one I discovered can be seen on this history page.

Sadly, the company's headquarters, Raphael House, was destroyed on December 29, 1940, by Nazi bombing during The Blitz. The original artwork and photographs that the company had been storing in its archives for decades was mostly lost.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Old postcard: Forest scene near Wernigerode, Germany

This undated vintage postcard (or postkarte) doesn't exactly fall into this month's category of Christmas Posts, but I think it fits nicely into the season all the same, with its serene forest and snow-covered evergreens.

The caption on the front reads:

Partie am Ottofels b. Wernigerode

That translates, roughly, to "Excursion to Otto Rock near Wernigerode."

The Ottofels (Otto Rock) is a rock outcrop and national monument near the scenic mountain town of Wernigerode in central Germany.

Otto Rock, made of granite, is about 1900 feet above sea level and towers 118 feet.

A series of ladders (which you can see in the Wikipedia photo at right) allows for public access to the very top of the formation, which is named after Prince Otto of Stolberg-Wernigerode (no relation).

Here's a gratuitous photo of Wernigerode Castle, also from Wikipedia: