Saturday, March 23, 2013

Weekend reading: Some great links and a short folk tale about monkeys

Here are some interesting links I came across during the past week, if you're looking for some weekend reading:

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And here's a short Khasi (an indigenous people from India) folk tale from the 1920 edition of "Folk-Tales of the Khasis" by a Mrs. Rafy. It's titled "How the Monkey’s Colour became Grey."
In olden times the monkeys had long hair of different colours covering their bodies, and they were much more handsome than they are in the present day. They were very inquisitive animals and liked to meddle in the affairs of other people, and they caused a lot of trouble in the world.

One day a monkey wandering on the plains met Ram, the god of the Hindus, searching for the goddess Sita. Ram, thinking that the monkey by his inquisitiveness and audacity might help to find her, bribed him to come to his service.

After making enquiries far and near, the monkey heard at last that Ka Sita was confined in a fort in the island of Ceylon, so he went and told the god Ram. Thereupon Ram gathered together a great host to go and fight the king of the island of Ceylon, but they found the place infested with dragons and goblins of the most hostile disposition, so that they dared not venture to land.

The hosts of Ram then held a consultation, and they decided that, as the monkey had been the cause of their coming there, he must find out a way for them to land without being destroyed by the dragons. The monkey, not knowing what to say, suggested that they should burn down the forests of Ceylon so that the dragons could have no place to hide.

Upon this the hosts of Ram declared that the monkey himself must go over to put his plan into execution. So they dipped a long piece of cloth in oil and tied one end of it to the monkey’s tail and set fire to the other end of it, and the monkey went over to the island and ran hither and thither dragging the flaming cloth behind him and setting the forests on fire everywhere he went, until all the forests of Ceylon were in flames.

Before he could get back to his companions he saw with dismay that the cloth was nearly burnt out, and the heat from the fire behind him began to singe his long hair; whereupon, fearing to be burnt alive, he plunged into the sea and the flames were extinguished. From that time the monkey’s hair has been grey and short as a sign that he once set the forests of Ceylon on fire.
Here are some other public-domain folk tales from the Project Gutenberg archives that have been featured on Papergreat:

Meet Milford Robinson in this antique F. Gutekunst photo card

This antique photo card, which is roughly the size of a baseball card (after having its edges trimmed), has the name "Milford N. Robinson" written in pencil on the reverse. It's probably safe to say this young man came from a family with money, don't you think?

The back of the card also features this business insignia for Philadelphia photographer F. Gutekunst.

Frederick F. Gutekunst Jr. (1831-1917) was a famous portrait photographer. (His portraits included Ulysses S. Grant.)

Here are some links where you can read more about him:
  • On Gutekunst Genealogy, it is stated that Frederick, who was born in Germantown, "was a favored photographer by the East Coast Elite." Furthermore:
    "Frederick Gutekunst was a daguerreian from 1857-1860 in Philadelphia, Pa. ... Before entering into photography as a full time business, he succeeded in making copper electrotype plates from daguerreotypes. He obtained his first daguerreotype camera by trading an electrical battery to Dr. Isaac Norris for it, and then he got a better lens for the camera from a photographer known as the 'Buckeye Blacksmith' [John W. Bear]."
  • There's an excellent 2008 blog post regarding a Gutekunst photograph of an orphaned girl on Shades of the Departed.1 The post deconstructs the photo and offer a bevy of details on Gutekunst's life, including these two gut-wrenching notes:
    • "[In] January 25, 1886, he suffered losses in the amount of $10,000 in a fire at 715-719 Arch St., Philadelphia. ... The loss of valuable negatives was very large, and while a small fraction of them remain, great numbers have been destroyed."
    • "When Gutekunst died in 1917 ... the executor of his estate ordered [his Arch Street studio] building emptied, in order to see it. According to family lore, a group of college students spent a day tossing the contents of the building into dump trucks, parked below. Wooden box after box packed with glass negatives was heaved from the windows of what was once the city’s most prolific portrait studio."
    Also of note: Gutekunst arrived in Gettysburg 10 days before Mathew Brady and, according to a descendant, "was so sickened at the waste of lives he packed up and returned to Philadelphia."

    There is much more that you should check out in the Shades of the Departed post, which also includes a bibliography.
  • This Corbis gallery features two Gutekunst photos, including one of an elderly Walt Whitman.
  • Here's a very cool stereoview of a Gutekunst exhibit from the Free Library of Philadelphia.
  • Here's another Gutekunst photo on Flickr.
  • Help solve the riddle of this Mystery Gutekunst Photo discovered in Florida.

1. Shades of the Departed, which recently celebrated its fifth anniversary, is an amazing website that is going right into my blogroll. (It's always a joy to find a history- or ephemera-related blog that I wasn't previously aware of.) With five years of content, there's a ton of great content to explore. One creepy item I stumbled across there was "I Think She's Dead!"

Thursday, March 21, 2013

"Compliments of C.D. Bausticker, Marble Worker, Goldsboro, Pa."

Indeed, "Compliments of C.D. Bausticker, Marble Worker, Goldsboro, Pa." is all that is written on this thin and tiny old piece of paper. (It measures 2 inches by 3 inches.)

The 1916 edition of the "Industrial Directory of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania" lists C.D. Bausticker under the "Marble and Granite Work" section. The address is listed as "Main Office, Etters," which means Bausticker's Goldsboro-based business had a PO box in the closest York County post office.

Beyond that, I can't discover much of anything about C.D. or his business. What kind of stonework did he create? Is any of it still around, perhaps in cemeteries? I'll have to throw this one out there as a mystery to my York County history-buff friends at Preserving York and elsewhere.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Another Victorian trade card for Pearline with a kid and a cat

I wrote a post last summer about a Victorian trade card for James Pyle's Pearline Washing Compound and detailed a good bit of the history of the company, which peaked between about 1870 and 1907. Here's another trade card for the company. And it once again features a young child and a kitty cat.

Maybe people associated children and cats with doing the laundry. Maybe that's because you have to do the laundry more often if you have children and cats in your household.

The back of this card features an exciting tale about washing lace curtains.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Cats, cowboys & more: A half-dozen old playing-card illustrations

And now for something completely different...

My Valentine's Day gift from Joan — a wonderful little box of assorted ephemera — included a handful of older playing cards, all from different sets.

I'm sure that hundreds of thousands of different playing card designs have been produced over the centuries. Here are just a few vintage ones, featuring cats, dogs, cowboys, Indians and circus stunts.

Which one is your favorite?

The card with the illustration of the handstand on the horse has the name "Wm Mark Young" in the bottom-right corner. That would likely signify William Mark Young, a prolific American artist who lived from 1892 to 1948.

And the card featuring the two dogs was produced by Arrco Playing Card Co. of Chicago. The company was originally known as the Arrow Playing Card Co. from its inception in the mid 1920s until 1935. It was then known as Arrco Playing Card Company from 1935 until 1987, when it was acquired by The United States Playing Card Company.

Here are some websites where you can learn more about the long and fascinating history of playing cards. If you're like me, you'll get lost in these links and end up on a series of reading tangents that takes up at least 45 minutes of your day. Cheers!

Monday, March 18, 2013

1916 postcard from Norristown's State Hospital for Insane

This postcard shows the "Female Wing, State Hospital for Insane" in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Was it written and mailed by a patient there back in 1916? Quite possibly, in my opinion.

It was postmarked at 7 a.m. on August 16, 1916, with a stamp indicating "NORRISTOWN, PA. HOSPITALS."

It was written and addressed in pencil, in neat cursive handwriting (see below). The recipient was Mr. Edgar Simpkins of Camp Creek, a now-nearly-forgotten location in Floyd County, Virginia.1

The note, as best Joan and I can tell, states the following (no punctuation or capitalization has been added or changed):
Aug 16
Dear Edgar
how are you
These hot days are to the good
I hope I'm well and hope you are the same
have you learned to run the auto yet
Take a run up to see me
I would be glad to see you
your Friend Mary

[across bottom] I'll write a letter soon
[across top] Write soon

I find it most illuminating that Mary writes "I hope I'm well." Why was she hospitalized/institutionalized?2

The hospital is still in operation today and is known as Norristown State Hospital. According to its official website, it opened its doors and received its first patient, a woman, on July 12, 1880. By September of that year, there were about 550 patients on site.

It was originally called the State Lunatic Hospital at Norristown, according to Wikipedia. I don't know if "State Hospital for Insane," as printed on this postcard, was ever its official title.

As far as the buildings and grounds are concerned, here is some further history from the hospital's website:
"Norristown State Hospital was the first of the Pennsylvania state hospitals to construct its buildings in a style following the 'cottage' model, developed in Gheel [sic], Belgium, rather than the large-scale single structure Kirkbride Model3 that was composed of multiple 'wings' attached to it. The Norristown State Hospital buildings were separate structures above ground, but were all inter-connected by a system of tunnels. The 'cottage' model allowed for the separation of patients into areas based somewhat on their level of functioning."

Some of the therapy options that were available for the first patients, many of which were occupation-oriented, included a bakery, a billiards room, a carpentry shop, a working farm, a garden, a mattress shop, painting, shoemaking and weaving. Patients could also play croquet and tennis.

On the other hand, according to the hospital's website, electroshock therapy, insulin coma therapy, and lobotomies were methods of treatment during the 1930s and 1940s.

Norristown State Hospital currently has 258 beds for general psychiatry and 136 beds in the Regional Psychiatric Forensic Unit (which, by my understanding, is modern-day PC code for "criminally insane.")4

1. Floyd County, even now, is sparsely populated, with about 15,000 residents and a population density of about 36 people per square mile. Some of the place names in Floyd County, many of which are unincorporated, include Carthage, Check, Duncan, Haycock, Pizarro, Poff, Smart and Alum Ridge.
2. As a non-historical aside, when I saw that her name was Mary, I thought of the heard-on-tape character of Mary Hobbes in the horror film "Session 9".
3. The "Kirkbride Model," designed by Pennsylvanian Thomas Story Kirkbride, featured large buildings with long, staggered wings that allowed for the most possible privacy, fresh air and sunlight, to benefit patients with mental illness. One of the best examples of the Kirkbride Model was Danvers State Hospital in Massachusetts (most of which has been demolished, with the central shell transformed into apartment buildings). For more on the buildings of the Kirkbride Model, check out the thorough website
4. In researching this post, I found Papergreat's doppelgänger — a website called Noises in the Attic, which features a post titled "Norristown Asylum for the Criminally Insane: An Early History of Trouble."

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cover of 1872's "The Union Speller"

The full title of this slender volume on spelling from 141 years ago is:



It was written by Charles W. Sanders and published by Ivison, Blakeman, Taylor & Company.

Other series by that publisher, as advertised in the Union Speller, included Robinson's Full Course of Mathematics, Webster's Dictionaries (including "Webster's Army and Navy Dictionary"), Kerl's Standard English Grammars, Gray's Botanical Text-Books, Willson's Histories, Wells' Scientific Series, Fasquelle's French Course, Woodbury's German Course, and Bryant & Stratton's Book-Keeping Series.