Saturday, December 29, 2012

Saturday's postcard: New Year's greeting from Rastenburg, Germany

This old black-and-white postcard features a deer (hey, another deer!), a church, a fence and a snowy forest.

It has the German greeting Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Neuen Jahre, which translates roughly to "Congratulations on the New Year."

The back of the postcard has all sorts of interesting stuff, although there is no indication of the manufacturer.

Clearly, it was intended for international use, as the word "postcard" is printed on the back in about 18 different languages.

The handwritten note reads:

Wishing you a very
happy New Year!
D.H. Lang
As to the photo I promised
to Miss Chrissie, please tell
her the frame is standing there
and waiting for my wonderful
"image" since a fortnight.

At least I think the name written in cursive is D.H. Lang. Perhaps you would interpret it as something different.

The postcard is addressed to Mr. & Mrs. Pyne (Chrissie's parents?) of Belmont, Forest Hill, London S.E.1

Forest Hill, carved out of the mostly vanished Great North Wood, is a suburb of London that saw its first significant population growth in the second half of the 19th century.

But where was it mailed from? That brings us to the most intriguing portion of the card — the stamp and postmark:

The stamp is the easy part. It is a 10-Pfennig Germania stamp, the kind of which was first issued in January 1900. Actress Anna Führing served as model for the woman on the Germania stamps, which were issued until 1922.2 After 1902, all of these stamps carried the DEUTSCHES REICH phrase featured on this stamp. Here's a link to a better image of this particular stamp.

The postmark, meanwhile, appears to have 31.12.06 in the middle. That would be standard European notation for December 31, 1906, if I'm reading the faint numbers correctly. Even more faint is the top of the postmark. But I'm fairly certain it reads RASTENBURG.

Rastenburg was formerly a town in Germany.3 After World War II and the Potsdam Conference, it became a part of Poland and was called Rastembork. In 1950, it was renamed Kętrzyn in honor of Wojciech Kętrzyński.

So, Rastenburg is no more. But 106 years ago, someone there took the time to mail a New Year's greeting to a family in London. I wonder if Chrissie ever received her photograph, and what it pictured.

1. If anyone out there in Reader Land knows the modern descendents of the Pynes of Forest Hill, get in touch with me. One of my goals for Papergreat in 2013 involves a Franciosan urge to reunite families with their lost ephemera. (And if you get that reference, there's no hope for you.)
2. The movies of Anna Führing (who is pictured at right posing as Germania) included 1915's Hausdame aus bester Familie gesucht (Housekeeper Wanted from a Good Family), 1915's Ein Held des Unterseebootes (A Hero of the Submarine), and 1928's Ossi hat die Hosen an (Ossi Wears the Trousers).
3. Two more Rastenburg facts: (1) The town was established in 1329 in the State of the Teutonic Order, which existed from 1230 to 1525. (2) Adolf Hitler's wartime military headquarters, the Wolfsschanze, was located in the forest about five miles east of Rastenburg.

Friday, December 28, 2012

A final #FridayReads of 2012 and looking ahead to 2013

Books, books, books! So much time and so few books.

Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it.

I wanted to get one more #FridayReads post in before we close out 2012.1 And this one will be a whirlwind, looking at what I'm presently reading and my wish list for the upcoming year. I guess I have more time to get to some of these, what with the Mayan thing not panning out.

My Christmas Gifts

My wonderful wife got me a trio of groovy books for Christmas, and they will form the cornerstone of my reading list for 2013:

  • "The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York" by Robert Caro — This 1974 biography earned a Pulitzer Prize for Caro, who has since won another Pulitzer for his multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson. "The Power Broker" is the tale of controversial urban planner Robert Moses, who spent a half-century wielding his power and influence to create the infrastructure of modern New York City.
  • "Portrait of an Obsession: The Life of Sir Thomas Phillipps, the World's Greatest Book Collector" adapted by Nicolas Barker from the five-volume work by A.N.L. Munby — In the 19th century, Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872) amassed the largest collection of manuscripts and books in the world. He was, perhaps, the first book and paper hoarder. This book is an abridged version of his life and describes the obsession of a man who once said: "I wish to have one copy of every book in the world."
  • "At Day's Close: Night in Times Past" by A. Roger Ekirch — A Publishers Weekly review describes this history book thusly: "Ekirch remind[s] us of how preindustrial Westerners lived during the nocturnal hours, when most were plunged into almost total darkness. ... A professor of history at Virginia Tech, Ekirch ranges across the archives of Europe and early colonial America to paint a portrait of how the forces of law and order operated at night, and he provides fascinating insight into nocturnal labor — of masons, carpenters, bakers, glassmakers and iron smelters, among many others."

My Current Reads

I've already plunged into "Portrait of an Obsession," as I take notes and come up with my own scheme to own a copy of every book and every piece of ephemera in the world.2

In addition to that, here are the other books I'm currently working on. My official #FridayReads on this day.

  • "Blue Highways" by William Least Heat Moon (a long, amazing road story that rewards slow rather than rushed readers and can be revisited at irregular intervals)
  • "The Under-People" by Eric Norman (a silly but fascinating book about some of the delusional beliefs people have held over the years)
  • "Tales to the Told in the Dark" edited by Basil Davenport (a dandy collection of spooky tales)
  • "A Book of Spooks and Spectres" by Ruth Manning-Sanders (reading these to Sarah at bedtime)
  • "The Book on the Bookshelf" by Henry Petroski (yes, it's a history of bookshelves; you have to have somewhere to put every book in the world, right?)
  • "Roger Ebert's Four-Star Reviews 1967-2007" (a constant companion for browsing, great writing and inspiration)

My Partial Reading List for 2013

This is both incomplete and overly ambitious. But everyone has to have goals, right? And, in addition to this, I have my big list of writing projects that I want to work on in 2013. (More on that Monday.) I'm sure it will be no sweat carving out the time for all this reading and writing.

  • "PrairyErth" by William Least Heat Moon (another tome from the great chronicler of America)
  • "Empire" by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele (a biography of Howard Hughes by the Pulitzer-winning journalists)
  • "Objects of Desire" by Thatcher Freund (short read on the high-stakes world of antiques collecting)
  • "Seaside England" and "The English Circus" by Ruth Manning-Sanders (two in-depth, non-fiction works by my favorite author)
  • "The O Gauge Railroading Primer: Your Introduction to the Exciting World of O Gauge Model Railroading" (Did I mention that we have some projects? Building a model railroad with Sarah is another one that's on the 2013 list.)
  • "Historic Ghosts and Ghost Hunters" by H. Addington Bruce (this was originally published in 1909; read it for free at Project Gutenberg)
  • "The Forest in Folklore and Mythology" by Alexander Porteous (the title says it all)
  • "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet" by David Mitchell (still trying to get to this one!)
  • "The Saragossa Manuscript" by Jan Potocki (a fantasy with a publishing history as tangled as its plot)
  • "A Canticle for Leibowitz" by Water M. Miller Jr. (another fantasy/science-fiction classic)
  • "Bar the Doors" and "More Stories My Mother Never Told Me" presented by Alfred Hitchcock (two collections of short stories for dark and stormy nights)

And Some Shorter Reads...

Finally, for #FridayReads, here are some of the most interesting articles I've come across recently.

And here's one final piece from The New York Times. Dennis Lim interviewed Paul Thomas Anderson for an article titled "A Director Continues His Quest."

The article discusses all of the research material that Anderson collected and read before writing and directing "The Master":
"To prepare for 'The Master' — a story about the intense, symbiotic bond between Lancaster Dodd, a charismatic cult leader in post-World War II America (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and Freddie Quell, a tormented veteran (Joaquin Phoenix) — he tracked down as many books as he could find on the teachings of the Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard. They included 'Dianetics in Limbo,' a personal account by Helen O’Brien, an early follower of the movement (and the inspiration for Laura Dern’s character in the film), and Hubbard’s own 'Mission Into Time' (1973), about a sea voyage involving treasure hunts and past lives. ('He was really starting to lose his marbles by this point,' Mr. Anderson said.) He skimmed the writings of ex-Scientologists and pioneers of offshoot movements like Dianology and Dianotes, and perused several years’ worth of The Aberree, a Scientology newsletter."
For 2013, Anderson hopes to begin filming an adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel "Inherent Vice." For his research on making that film, Anderson has been checking out an underground comic strip called "The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers".

Pynchon's book is described by Lim as "a stoner private-eye saga."

I guess that's one more title that I'll have to go on my 2013 reading list!

1. Here are the previous #FridayReads posts on Papergreat:
2. I think Joan just regretted purchasing this book for me.

Vintage punny card: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Hello everyone! Hope you are having a wonderful holiday season.

We got a little bit of snow here in southcentral Pennsylvania on Christmas Eve and again on Wednesday. But not nearly enough to build the kind of snow fort my daughter has been wanting since I made her one in February 2010.

Today's "MADE IN U.S.A." vintage greeting card has a bit of a three-dimensional effect to it. On the front, a cheerful young deer is poking its head through a hole in a fence. (Because deer do that all the time.) The front of the card states "HEADS UP!" and "De-tails inside..."

As you open the card, the way it has been folded gives you the aforementioned 3-D effect. I imagine this is the way the card was meant to be displayed on a table or shelf.

And this is what the inside looks like when it's fully open:


Get it? It's a pun. Or maybe a palindrome? No. A palindrome of de-tail would be liated. And that's just silly.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Crīstesmæsse 2012

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Crīstesmæsse is the Old English word for Christmas.

Here is "Merry Christmas" written in the languages of the countries (other than the USA, UK and Canada) in which Papergreat has its greatest readership:

Germany: Fröhliche Weihnachten
China: 聖誕節快樂
Russia: с Рождеством
Ukraine: З Різдвом Христовим
France: Joyeux Noël
India (Hindi): मेरी क्रिसमस
Poland: Wesołych Świąt

Also, I promised my son Ashar — who provided the gorgeous vintage card for today's post in a wonderful Christmas Eve gift to me — that I'd include "Merry Christmas" in Irish.

Nollaig Shona Dhuit

Enjoy your day, folks! Papergreat will return with new posts on Friday.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A merry Christmastide to you, Marguerite E. DeWitt

In December 1958 — when Charles de Gaulle was elected president of France, the John Birch Society was founded, Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" was shown in color on television for the first time, and the Colts beat the Giants in "The Greatest Game Ever Played" — a 59-year-old woman living in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, near Columbia University, put together her own Christmas postcard with the help of a camera and a typewriter.

Her name was Marguerite E. DeWitt. I believe she lived from 1899 to 1987.1

She was a photographer. She was a Christian. And she was alone that Christmas of 1958.

I don't know much about her beyond that. Or beyond the words and photographs she left. But we still have those, thanks to this postcard.

The front of her card features a black-and-white photograph of a snowy street scene, presumably taken from her apartment window. The caption, in her unique lettering, reads:

By M.E. DeWITT '58

Scratched onto the photo, in the bottom right corner, is a unique logo that incorporates her initials. That logo helped me to identify at least one other piece of her photography.

Here's a closer look at the wintry street scene:

Meanwhile, the back of the postcard has no stamp, postmark or mailing address. Perhaps Marguerite handed it to a friend. Perhaps she placed the postcard into an envelope and mailed it.

Perhaps it was never sent at all.

There is a typed note (with a few fixes and mis-strikes here and there) and then, upside down, a short cursive note, in pen, along the bottom.

The cursive note reads: "No '57 cards due to a shattered arm." Next to that note is the same logo that appears on the front of the card.

Here are those two logos, side by side:

Here is what the typed note on the back of the postcard states:
Alone on THE HILL Christmas '58
600 W. 116th St. Ap. 44, New York 27

Oh, what shall we do
  Throughout the long year?
And what shall we do on THE DAY?
Believe in BELIEF
-From hour to hour
No matter what doubters may say.
Believe in BELIEF
  --the innermost LAW
That can come to the heart of all.
It bravely shines through
  Darkest hours of man
And answers all sighs and each call

A blessed Christmastide
And a New Year of believing
  To you and yours
I found two other photographs by DeWitt online.

This first one is titled "Three Children in the Grass." It was taken around 1915 and is currently in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum (though not currently on display). The same logo from the postcard appears on this photograph, in the lower-right corner:2

The second photograph bearing her name is an untitled image of a steeple. It was also created around 1915. It apparently sold for about $62 in a California auction earlier this year.3 I really love this photo.

Marguerite lived nearly another three decades after creating her "Alone on THE HILL Christmas '58" postcard. I hope they weren't all spent alone, and that she had happier Christmases in subsequent years.

And I'm glad for the small opportunity to remember her — and a small part of her life's work — here on Papergreat this Christmastide. That wouldn't be possible if this hand-made postcard hadn't survived the past 54 years.

1. I believe that this Sysoon page refers to the same Marguerite E. Dewitt I'm writing about today. So, if she was born in April 1899, she would have been 59 during Christmas 1958.
2. Yes, I am aware she would have been about 16 when she took this photo, if it's truly "circa 1915". I think that could have been possible.
3. One auction site states that it sold for $62. Another states $63. I wonder who purchased it. And if he or she is displaying it somewhere. And does the purchaser knows anything about Marguerite?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas remembrances card featuring Strasbourg Cathedral

This "Christmas Remembrances" card features a piece of orange yarn and an illustration by an artist named Rosenberg of Strasbourg Cathedral in Strasbourg, France.

On the inside of the card is the following caption:
Strasbourg .. Alsace, France

Beyond the roofs on these old world houses the artist has stretched the tower of the Strasbourg Cathedral.

Here is housed the famous clock, four stories high where the hours are announced by the twelve apostles and where other sacred characters appear at certain intervals accompanied by a beautiful carillon of chimes.
And the card is signed by "Truman family" (probably not this Truman family, though).

Here are some additional images of the card, which has no other identifying information:

And here are some additional facts about Strasbourg Cathedral, courtesy of Wikipedia:
  • In French it is called Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Strasbourg.
  • In German it is called Liebfrauenmünster zu Straßburg.
  • Its construction took from 1015 to 1439.
  • At 466 feet, it was the world's tallest building from 1647 to 1874.1 It remains the highest still-standing structure built entirely in the Middle Ages.
  • The cathedral was damaged by British and American air raids in August 1944. The last of those damages were not repaired until the early 1990s.
  • The cathedral houses an astronomical clock, which is one of the largest in the world.
There is also this interesting tidbit from Wikipedia:
"One legend says that the building rests on immense piles of oak sinking into the waters of an underground lake. A boat would roam around the lake, without anyone inside, though the noise of the oars could be heard nevertheless. According to the legend, the entry to the underground lake could be found in the cellar of a house just opposite the cathedral. It would have been walled up a few centuries ago."
1. Strasbourg Cathedral ascended to the title of the world's tallest building in 1647 when the spire of St. Mary's Church in Stralsund, Germany, was destroyed by a lightning strike.