Saturday, May 4, 2013

Postcrossing card from Horsens: Fairy tales and famous prisons

(If you're checking in for the first time in a while, I'm in the final two days of highlighting some of the dandy postcards I've received through the Postcrossing project. See the initial post here, and see all of the cards in the Postcrossing subcategory.)

Tonight's postcard...

Sender: Kirsten in Horsens, Denmark

Message: "Hello Chris, I'm a retired teacher living in Horsens, Denmark. Horsens was known for its huge, ugly State Prison. It closed in 2006, and now the building is an interesting prison museum — a bit like Alcatraz! Concerts (rock mainly) and other events are also held there. A few weeks ago there was a crime(!) book fair/show going on there. The artist who did this painting on the card (Svend Otto S.) is very famous in DK. He died in 1996. Has illustrated hundreds of books."

I love this card, which came to York from nearly 3,900 miles away (as the crow flies). Some thoughts and notes:

  • Horsens looks like it would be a wonderful place to visit (or live). The Wikipedia image at right shows a street in the older section of the city. It reminds me of the other human-scale streets in Scandinavia — Fiskargränd in Visby, Sweden, and Møntestræde in Odense, Denmark — that I've written about in the past.
  • Fun coincidence: Kirsten mentions Horsens State Prison and Alcatraz and, on the day I received this postcard in the mail, I came home from work to find my wife and daughter watching the episode of MythBusters in which the team investigates whether Clarence Anglin, John Anglin and Frank Morris could have successfully escaped Alcatraz in 1962 using an inflatable raft made from ponchos. (The verdict: Plausible.)
  • The Discovering Denmark blog had an interesting post about Horsens State Prison just a few days ago.
  • The full name of artist Svend Otto S. (1916-1996), who did the Snow White illustration on this postcard, is Svend Otto Sørensen. According to information provided by Maria Nikolajeva on "His illustrations are characterized by a richness of detail, elaborate technique, and warm humour. They also show a clear tendency to counterbalance the Disney style. Unlike many illustrators of classical fairy tales, Svend Otto S. addresses primarily an audience of children, avoiding adult connotations or allusions. He has also written and illustrated original fairy tales, exploring characters from Norse mythology, like trolls."
  • Kirsten notes that the Swedish translation of Snow White is Snövit.

Finally, Kirsten used three wonderful stamps to mail her postcard. The first one is Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale stamp in Denmark.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Postcrossing card from Fort Nelson: Life on the boreal forest's edge

Sender: Sherina in Fort Nelson, British Columbia, Canada

Message: "Hello from Fort Nelson, BC, Canada. My name is Sherina, I am 23 years old. I was born and raised in Fort Nelson and recently bought a home to spend another 20 years. It is a small community of 3000 but increases to over 10000 during the winter for work. The closest community to Fort Nelson is 4 hours (400 KM's) south."

Oil and gas are (unfortunately) the primary industries in beautiful Fort Nelson1, which sits along an edge of Canada's three-million-square-kilometer boreal forest. (A boreal forest, also known as a taiga, is a huge region of coniferous forests consisting mostly of pines, spruces and larches.)

Fort Nelson owes most of its existence and growth to the Fort Nelson Airport (in the 1930s), the creation of the 1,387-mile Alaska Highway (1940s), oil and gas exploration (1950s), and the introduction of a railroad to transport lumber, oil and gas to markets in the south (1970s). Tourism is also important to Fort Nelson, as RVs headed to or from Alaska stop there throughout the year.

1. Fort Nelson is a community within the boringly named Northern Rockies Regional Municipality, which provided the aerial photograph for this postcard.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Postcrossing card from Germany: Hotel Astoria, Leipzig Central Station

Click on above image for larger version with much better detail.

Sender: Sielke from Germany

Message: "Hello Chris. You're interested in history? So here you get a very old card from the time before our re-union. These old trams built in Czechoslovakia are now only in a museum. On the right you see our famous car called TRABANT (the one with the red roof). You almost ordered it when you got 18 yrs old to get it about 10 yrs later. Crazy?1 This was reality for us. Now it's easier to buy a new car. The station is more modern inside, too. They made lots of shops inside. Outside it's the same, but no flags today. Regards, Sielke."

The city pictured is Leipzig, Germany. (Sielke, according to Postcrossing, lives a bit west of Leipzig, near the town of Merseburg.)

The building on the left is the Hotel Astoria, which opened in 1915 and closed in 1997. It is now vacant, and its future is uncertain.

The huge building to the right of the Hotel Astoria — the "station" that Sielke refers to — is Leipzig Central Station, which is the world's largest railway station by floor area. Like the Hotel Astoria, it opened in 1915. It was damaged by Allied bombing during World War II and restored in the 1950s. Wikipedia has a nice gallery of past and present images of the station.

1. The Trabant was dubbed "the car that gave Communism a bad name" in an article by Time magazine on the 50 worst cars of all time. It is also cited as one of the failures of having a planned economy.

Map to help you find Coppini's Silversmith in Florence, Italy

This undated old advertising card, which is 4½ inches wide, includes a map to help you find Coppini's Silversmith in Florence, Italy (Firenze).

Fratelli Coppini has been around since about 1740, according to its website. The company profile states:
"Know-how and craftsmanship, research and contemporary design. Fratelli Coppini has been a benchmark of excellence in fine jewellery and precious stones in Florence since 1740. The company began as a silversmith's workshop and then made its entry into the watchmaking and jewellery world by designing one-of-the-kind pieces. The creations by Fratelli Coppini are designed in the workshop by Benedetta and handcrafted by artisans of the highest skill. Ongoing research and careful selection of precious stones, creativity and insight are the key to the success of Fratelli Coppini, which now ranks as an equal among the greatest names of Italian high jewellery, such as Chantecler and Pippo Perez."

One older example of their work, a silver folding travel spoon, is for sale at Ruby Lane for $165.

The map also makes reference to Florence locations such as Old Palace (Palazzo Vecchio), Uffizi Gallery, Pitti Gallery, Strozzi Palace, Nazional Museum Bargello and more.

Here is the other side of the hand-lettered advertising card...

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Postcrossing card from Hong Kong: Another fan of history and language

Sender: Joanna in Hong Kong

Message: "Warm greetings from Hong Kong! Being an editor was once my dream. I enjoy reading a lot and I am sure we both appreciate the beauty of languages and words much! We call USA 美国 in Chinese. ... Hong Kong is a self-governing city of China, it was once the colony of the Great Britain and therefore the city develops as an international cosmopolitan one. You can find cuisines from all around the world here! I really enjoy your blog, please keep it amazing!!! (I love history.) PS. The card reminds me of fairyland, hope you like it."

Joanna also uses about five smiley faces and three hearts on her super-sweet postcard. And I promise I did not ask her to say those things about Papergreat, so I will definitely keep working to make it "amazing."

Joanna's wonderful postcard is certainly a different kind of "Shoe House" than the one we have here in York County, the Haines Shoe House.

Up next for Paul Thomas Anderson: Inherent Vice

Cigarettes & Red Vines has broken the great news that shooting will begin shortly on Paul Thomas Anderson's seventh movie, which will be an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's "Inherent Vice."

The novel is set in 1960s Southern California (an area that PTA knows well) and features as its main character a frequently stoned private eye named Larry "Doc" Sportello. We know that "Doc" will be played by Joaquin Phoenix, but no other casting has been announced.

This, of course, will not be the place to follow regular news about the new movie. For that, you'll want to read Cigarettes & Red Vines and follow it on Facebook and Twitter.

You can also find a coven of PTA obsessives at the slightly obscure (and it likes it that way) movie message board (I used to post there regularly in the early 2000s but am now correctly labeled a "Sell Out" in my profile.)

I haven't read the novel yet. It's on my reading list for 2013, as I mentioned in December. Usually, it's fascinating to compare the script to the film when it comes to PTA's work. For example, if you're familiar with "Boogie Nights," check out this snippet from the script and think about all the ways in which it differs from the movie.

(Big points if you cite the differences in the comments section. I admit, you probably have to be a bit obsessive about the movie, like me, to see where it differed.)

In this case, though, the fun will come in seeing how PTA "breaks the back" of Pynchon's novel and comes up with an entertaining film.

Can't wait!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Postcrossing card from Kyiv:
A meal of varenyky and uzvar

Sender: Slava in Kyiv, Ukraine

Message: "Hi Chris! Greetings from Ukraine! On frontside of this postcard is Ukrainian cossack who eat varenyky with uzvar (I guess)."


Varenyky are stuffed dumplings that are popular in Ukrainian cooking. They are quite similar to pierogi, which is what Americans would be most familiar with. According to Wikipedia, varenyky are made of unleavened dough and "stuffed with mashed potato, sauerkraut, cheese, cabbage, meat, hard-boiled egg ... or a combination of these, or with a fruit filling." Other fillings could include mushrooms, cottage cheese, salty white cheese, fish, liver and offal.

Varenyky translates, quite elegantly, to "boiled thing."

You can check out some recipes for varenyky at All Things Ukrainian and And there's a recipe for sweet blueberry varenyky on

Meanwhile, uzvar is, again according to Wikipedia, "a kompot [clear juice] prepared from several kinds of dried fruits ... and sometimes berries sweetened with honey or sugar. Uzvar is a traditional Christmas Eve supper drink in Ukraine."

You can read a recipe for uzvar on and there is also a neat post on The Kat & The Falling Leaves blog about Ukrainian Christmas Eve, which includes varenyky, uzvar, whole roasted stuffed fish and much more.

But lost in all this talk about food is a startling thing about this postcard. Go back and look at it again. The cossack appears to be using psionic powers to guide the varenyky into his mouth!

Handy tips from "How to Prevent Spoilage in the Grocery Store"

"How to Prevent Spoilage in the Grocery Store" is an undated staplebound booklet that was published by The Grocery Trade Publishing House1, located at 4925 West Erie Street in Chicago.

The price of the booklet was 15 cents.

The introduction states: "Every item in your store represents money. Your shelves contain 'package dollars.' Your bins, your canisters, your barrels, your cases in the 'back room' or in the basement — all contain goods paid for with hard-earned NET profit money. Most of those items are of a perishable nature. They deteriorate and spoil in time. This booklet tells you how to prevent spoilage — and thus save money. Read it carefully and see that everyone connected with the store reads it through. Keep it for reference. It will prove of great value to you in your business."

Here are some grocery-preserving tips from this decades-old booklet:
  • Pickles in bulk: Examine the barrels and kegs for leaks as soon as you receive them. ... It is absolutely necessary that pickles be kept at all times well under the liquor in which they are packed. Otherwise they will become soft and shriveled and will spoil quickly, the trouble extending through the entire package. ... Relish, chow chow, and other pickles of this kind should be stirred frequently in order to prevent stock from becoming dry on top.
  • Olives in bulk: Olives should be kept in a cool place and when opened should be kept away from odorous articles, such as kraut, salt fish, onions, etc.
  • Sauer kraut:2 All kraut will continue to "work" or ferment for a certain time and for that reason when a package is received it should be placed on end and the plug withdrawn. If this is not done, the pressure of fermentation will push the staves and heads out of shape, leaving the package in a leaky condition and with the appearance of being slack filled. Kraut should be brined at least three times a week while in dealer's hands, taking care not to use too much salt in the brine. Five ounces of salt to each gallon of water is the right proportion. When the package is opened to be retailed, a heavy weight should be placed upon the kraut so that it will be constantly covered with the brine.
  • Canned goods: Do not put canned goods on a dirt floor. ... If your cellar has a dirt floor, build a platform at least six inches from the floor on which to store goods.
  • Fish: If salt codfish is found upon arrival during hot weather to have on it red specks, it should not be sold as such specks are signs of deterioration. Notify at once the jobber from whom you purchased the goods. If the red specks develop later, they should be trimmed off to prevent their spreading.
  • Cheese: If you find that during the warm weather a cheese has become puffed or swollen, taking a fine wire and puncture the cheese in two or three places, then turn it upside down. In a short time the cheese will return to normal.3
  • A Good Way to Get Rid of Rats: Use a small size steel trap and secure the chain so you will find the rat where the trap was set. Lay one sheet of newspaper (after the trap has been set) over the trap and chain, to entirely conceal same; sprinkle shorts, corn meal, or, best of all, the soft part of graham bread, over the newspaper, just a little about the edges of the paper and a teaspoonful over the trap. If there is a rat about, you will have him sure next morning.
  • Will Prevent Breeding of Flies: Sprinkling a little borax in with the garbage will effectively prevent the breeding of flies.

1. Other titles issued by The Grocery Trade Publishing House, mostly from the 1920s through 1940s, included "The Grocer's Answer Book," "Food Buying Today," "The Handbook of Food Selling," "Food Buyer's Information Book," and "5000 Food Selling Phrases." Alexander Todoroff appears to have been the company's primary author.
2. Full disclosure: I love sauerkraut. But I'm the only one in my household who does. So I get most of my kraut from convenience stores and from small cans that I open and warm up when I'm least likely to offend others.
3. Ummm.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Postcrossing card from Minsk: Fairy tale characters

Have I mentioned how much of a blast I've been having with Postcrossing, the website that facilitates sending of postcards to and receiving postcards from people all over the world?

I'm not sure what I enjoy more — picking out and writing postcards or receiving postcards from others who still enjoy handwritten mail.

So far, I've sent more than two dozen postcards and I've received 21, each of which is an absolute treat. I mentioned my love of folklore and fairy tales in my Postcrossing profile, so I've received some neat postcards with that theme.

But part of the fun is sharing, too. And I've already received too much great stuff to pack into one blog post. So I'm going to share one received Postcrossing card every day this week at 7 p.m. Be sure to check back daily! (And I'll still be posting about other ephemera too, of course.)

Sender: Polina in Minsk, Belarus

Message: "On this postcard you can see the most Belarusian and Russian fairy tale characters. I hope you and your daughter like this. Best wishes!"

But where is Baba Yaga? Maybe she was too scary to include...

The postcard is also printed with the statement: "2012 — Year of Book. Children's books."

Indeed, I found a January 3, 2012, article from the Belarusian Telegraph Agency that states:
"MINSK, 3 January (BelTA) – Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko signed Decree No 618 'On declaring 2012 the Year of the Book' on 30 December, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

"The decision was taken to enhance the role of the book and reading in the modern society, to nurture love to the art of declamation among the younger generation, to develop native literature and support the national book publishing industry.

"The head of state instructed the Council of Ministers to adopt an action plan to implement the Year of the Book.

"The announcement of the Year of the Book in Belarus shows that the issues of preserving spirituality, developing the Belarusian literature and culture are among the priorities of the state."

Way to go, Belarus!

Finally, this postcard has a terrific stamp. It appears to be a pixelated chicken.

Potluck Monday: Four random things to kick off your week

Happy April 29, everyone! It was 243 years ago today, in 1770, that Captain James Cook first made landfall on mainland Australia, named the area Botany Bay and was abducted moments later by Khan Noonien Singh and his henchmen, who had been abandoned on the harsh continent decades earlier by members of the East India Company who mistook Australia for New Zealand.1

To commemorate that dark moment in world history, here are four unrelated pieces of ephemera. At least three of them fall into the categories of "Why Hasn't This Been Thrown Away" and "Who Would Scan And Blog This."

I think you must admit, though, that this first piece is a nice bit of vintage artwork.

1. Unused label (probably a crate label) for Hearts Delite citrus fruits from the Marion County Citrus Company in Weirsdale, Florida.

2. A four-inch-wide card with an illustration labeled "The look-out." Nothing else is written on the front or back.

3. An old wrapper from a Swan's Ice Cream Bar, produced by Swan Ice Cream Co. in Saginaw, Michigan. The price was a nickel.

4. Finally, here's a 3¼-inch-wide illustration card featuring two Tom Thumb-sized children climbing flowers. It was produced by Sunshine Publishing Company of Philadelphia, probably in the late 19th century.

Here's a closer look at the little girl's oversized head.

1. Just kidding! It was actually Cook's second in command, Zachary Hickes, who was abducted by Khan's men. Hickes later escaped and proved instrumental in keeping Leonardo da Vinci's Genesis Device from falling into the hands of the pirates aboard the Kobayashi Maru.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pennsylvania College's old library copy of "Flatland"

One of the volumes in our family book collection is Gettysburg College's old copy of "Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions," which is one of Joan's favorite books.

How old is it? It's so old that it was in Gettysburg College's library when the school still went by its original name — Pennsylvania College. (It didn't become Gettysburg College until 1921.)

While Joan enjoys the book for its examination of mathematical dimensions, I just like it for its oldness and the cool stuff inside. (It's true. Some of us ephemeraologists are a pretty shallow lot. We don't care about all those words and ideas. We just like pretty things.)

First, here's a closeup of the cover illustration.

"A Square" was the punny pseudonym used by author Edwin Abbott Abbott when the book was originally published in 1884.

Moving along, here's the bookplate1 from the inside front cover.

As I mentioned, this book was originally added to the library when the school was known as Pennsylvania College. The bookplate includes the shelving information for this volume.

Elsewhere inside, there are stamps that state "GETTYSBURG COLLEGE LIBRARY," so this edition of the book remained on the shelves for awhile after it was published by Little, Brown and Company in 1915.

On the (formerly) blank last page of the book, someone wrote out a geometry problem in neat pencil handwriting. But the coolest part of this copy of "Flatland," to me, is that the library card pocket and circulation card both remain intact on the inside back cover.

This circulation card is skinny, measuring just two inches wide. It has been stamped seven times. There's an identical blue card in the pocket, too. But it was never stamped.

Shown below is a closeup of the handwriting on the circulation card. I wonder what employee of the college library meticulously filled out the circulation card and how many hundreds (thousands?) of them he or she neatly created over the years.

To see more terrific old circulation cards, from the time before everything became computerized, check out this June 2012 post.

1. Here are some previous posts in which bookplates are featured: