Saturday, June 29, 2013

Saturday's postcard: La Maison de Turenne in Valdoie, France

This old, unused postcard features a building in Valdoie, France, a commune1 of about 5,000 residents in northeastern France.

The caption across the bottom of the card states: "La Maison de Turenne (Turenne coucha dans cette Maison le 27 Decembre 1671)."

That translates to "Turenne House. Turenne slept in this house December 27, 1671."

The Turenne referred to, based on the date of 1671, is probably Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne, Vicomte de Turenne (1611-1675), who is one of the most famous military figures in French history. Turenne was so well-regarded that Napoleon Bonaparte urged all of his men to study his campaigns and strategies.

Moving from military figures to food, another interesting aspect of this postcard is the blue-and-white sign on the front of the house.

Chocolat Menier was, according to Wikipedia, "a chocolate manufacturing business founded in 1816 as a pharmaceutical manufacturer in Paris, France, at a time when chocolate was used as a medicinal product."2 By 1853, the company was producing 4,000 tons per year of chocolate, bars of which were wrapped in yellow paper. Poster advertisements, created by Firmin Bouisset, became a big part of the company's strategy in the late 19th century.

The Menier family was phased out of the business during a series of sales and mergers beginning in the 1960s. The brand is now owned by Nestlé.3

1. Communes in France are roughly the equivalent of townships in the United State or parishes in England. According to Wikipedia: "Valdoie is situated on the Savoureuse River. The name is thought to have come from combining the Latin word Vadum (meaning shallow crossing) and the Celtic word Oye (meaning water or river)."
2. You could still argue today that chocolate is "medicinal," in some aspects.
3. For some eye-opening reading, Google "Nestlé bottled water" along with keywords such as "problems" and "scandal." You might not think of Nestlé the same way again afterward.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Five cool illustrations from 1916's The Book of Wonders

Yesterday's post highlighted an entry from "The Book of Marvels," so clearly the best way to follow that is to delve into the 1916 edition of "The Book of Wonders."

The book, edited by Rudolph J. Bodmer, "gives plain and simple answers to the thousands of everyday questions that are asked and which all should be able to, but cannot answer."

Additionally, it is "fully illustrated with hundreds of educational pictures which stimulate the mind and give a bird's eye view of the Wonders of Nature and the Wonders Produced By Man." It was published by the Bureau of Industrial Education.

So here is your "mind stimulation" for the day.

Tunnel Shield

According to "The Book of Wonders," the tunnel shield was invented in 1818 by Marc Isambard Brunel. The first shield was used to create, from 1825 to 1843, the tunnel across the Thames River.

Caption: This shows the rear end or tail end of one of the smaller shields, used on the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad tunnels under the North or Hudson River at New York. It shows the skin, the hydraulic jacks with the skin and the piping and valves for working them. It also shows the doors leading to the front or "face." The erector is not shown, but the circular hole in the middle shows where it would be attached.

The Story in a Lump of Coal

The book's chapter about coal mining includes sections titled:
  • How Did the Coal Get Into the Coal Mine?
  • Mine Workers That Never See Daylight
  • How the Slate Pickers Work
  • How a Coal Mine Looks Inside
  • How the Miners Loosen the Coal
  • The Dangers to the Miners
  • The Lamp Which Saves Many Lives
And then there is the following illustration, the caption for which states: "Boy slate pickers. Coal slides down the chutes. Boys pick out the slate and rock and throw into chute alongside."

This illustration reminds me of a postcard I wrote about back in August 2011.

Railroad tunnels connecting
New Jersey and Manhattan

This illustration is a nice companion piece to the one of the tunnel shield. The caption states: "This is a picture of a section of one of the world's greatest tunnels, showing how man has learned to construct great tubes of steel beneath the surface of the water and land, in which to run the swiftly moving trains which carry him rapidly from place to place."

The railroad tunnels shown are from the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad, which is now known as PATH and is operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

How Chocolate is Made

The book's section on chocolate doesn't specifically mention The Hershey Company, which was founded in 1894, but it's possible that's where these two photographs were taken.

The process described isn't much different, I don't think, from what happens on a larger scale today at chocolate factories, of which I am happy to say Pennsylvania has more than its fair share. An excerpt:

"The [cacao] seeds are first roasted. In roasting the substance which develops the aroma is formed. The roasting is accomplished in revolving cylinders, much like the revolving peanut roasters, only much larger. After roasting the seeds are transferred to crushing and winnowing machines. The crushing machines break the husks or 'shells,' and the winnowing machine by the action of a fan separates the shells from the actual kernel or bean. The beans are now called cocoa-nibs."

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Book of Marvels: A peculiar sanitarium in Cleveland

This photograph is featured in 1931's "The Book of Marvels" by Henry Smith Williams. It's a book that's chock-full of amazing dirigibles, dams, locomotives, generators, medical innovations, astronomical observations, and much more.

The "peculiar" building in Cleveland was called the Timken Tank at Cunningham Sanitarium.

It was, according to The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, "a five-story-high spherical steel structure designed to maintain a pressurized atmosphere to aid in the treatment of various diseases, especially diabetes. Although oxygen therapy had been in use for over eight years, this sphere, allegedly the only one of its kind in the world, was the first to conduct such therapy on a large scale."

It was constructed in 1928 and cost $1 million (about $13 million in modern dollars). It was 64 feet high, weighed 900 tons, and had 38 rooms and 350 portholes.

How did it work? According to a Q&A by Dr. Lawrence Martin on, "air was pressurized ... and pumped into the air-tight sphere, so that occupants inhaled air at 30 pounds per square inch. This is double normal sea level air pressure of 14.7 psi. The theory was that the pressurized air, by providing double the normal oxygen concentration, would alleviate many diseases (wrongly attributed) to anaerobic bacteria, such as some cancers, diabetes, pernicious anemia, and others."

Lawrence adds that there was "not a shred of scientific evidence" that the Timken Tank actually helped patients.

Dr. Orval J. Cunningham managed the Cunningham Sanitarium when the Timken Tank was built. The sanitarium changed ownership in the 1930s and was eventually razed in 1942, with the steel from the tank going to the war effort. The American Medical Association, which had been critical of the endeavor, applauded the fact that the steel would finally go to a good use.

Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School was eventually constructed on the former site of the sanitarium.

Additional old photos of the Timken Tank and sanitarium can be found at Cleveland Memory.

For more information, check out these websites:

Monday, June 24, 2013

"The Great Base Ball Match" of August 1865 in Washington, D.C.

The above baseball boxscore appears front and center on the front page of the oldest newspaper I own — the August 29, 1865, edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer. There is a five-deck headline for the article, which states:

"WASHINGTON, Aug. 28. The Grand Baseball Tournament. Which has been for some time past in preparation commenced this afternoon on the grounds south of the Presidential Mansion. The match to-day was between the National Base Ball Club of Washington and the Athletic Base Ball Club of Philadelphia, which resulted in a victory for the Philadelphia club over their 'national' opponents.

"The sport attracted an immense concourse of spectators, upwards of ten thousand being within the inclosure [sic]. Among the visitors were the officers of the President's household, and many distinguished civilians, as well as military and naval officers. All seemed deeply interested in the proceedings. There was also a stand exclusively for the ladies, and a fine band of music was in attendance. The day was all that could be desired, being clear, cool and pleasant, and everything combined to render the scene exceedingly interesting and exhilirating [sic]. ...

"The Philadelphians were entertained in the kindest and most hospitable manner by the Washingtonians. Carriages were provided in the morning, and the Athletics visited the various public buildings and the Capitol, where the Werz [sic] Court martial was in session, where they got a glimpse of the prisoner.

"They also called the President, but were unable to obtain and interview, owing to the President being engaged at the time. To-night a complimentary supper was given to the Athletics at the National Hotel by their Washington friends, where speeches were made and there was a good time generally between the victors and the vanquished. To-morrow the Athletics go to Baltimore, to play the Pastime Club of that city."

Sunday, June 23, 2013

In which Roy from Avoca writes to Marion in Pottstown ... again

"This is some Bird Cage, Looks like a church."

This old postcard features Kentucky State Penitentiary in Frankfort, Kentucky. The prison did, indeed, have a bit of a church or castle look to it.

The postcard is dated September 18, 1917, and was sent from Roy Walter in Avoca, Kentucky, (a little east of Louisville, where the card was postmarked) to Miss Marion Boone in Pottstown, Pennsylvania.

Roy wrote: "Marion, I would at least appreciate a card from you. This is the second I have wrote. Haven't went back to work as yet, certainly hate that first day. I was in Pittsburg on sunday every-thing closed, it is almost as bad as your little Burg. If you don't answer this time, will think that I am annoying you, and shall not write again. Sincerely yours, Roy."

Don't you wonder if Roy and Marion ever got together again? There is one small hint that they might have, though it's a bit of a long shot.

I found that a woman named Margaret Alice Walter was born on September 7, 1918, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. She was the daughter of "Roy and Marion Walter," according to her obituary. The names match up. And it's not inconceivable that Roy and Marion got married, moved to the Wilkes-Barre area and had a daughter in the 12 months between this postcard and Margaret's birth.