Saturday, November 9, 2013

Old spools of sewing thread

In the category of Things I Don't Need To Be Hoarding1, I have a metal container full of old thread spools and sewing needles that I picked up a couple of years ago at a yard sale. Because.

It's time for this sewing paraphernalia to move on to another owner. But before it moves out, I wanted to record for posterity some of these really old spools (which is kind of why I bought the container in the first place). The spools are from American Thread Co., Coats & Clark's, Talon, Clark's O.N.T., Richardson's, and Star, among others.

At least these were within a proper container. Back in January 2012, I posted about some embroidery thread, pins and more that I found buried inside an old geography book.

1. My wife thinks that many things I've brought into the house fall into this category. She is correct.

The Hams of Vesuvius, Virginia

Pictured above is an image from the first page of 1912's New High School Algebra by Webster Wells and Walter W. Hart.1

Per the stamp, the book was for the W.O. McCluskey Oyster & Fruit Co. of Wheeling, West Virginia, and was from Raleigh Givens Ham of Vesuvius, Virginia, an unincorporated community in Rockbridge County.2

Vesuvius, believe it or not, has a website. Here's an excerpt from its history of Vesuvius:
"The beginnings of the village of Vesuvius date back to the Iron Furnace that was built in northeastern Rockbridge County around 1828. Named for the Mt. Vesuvius volcano in Italy, Vesuvius Furnace was located about one-half mile from the present intersection of Route 56 and 608. ... Pig Iron stamped 'Vesuvius' has since been recovered from the port of Richmond. ... Although the Furnace ceased operations on December 15, 1854, ruins of the Furnace still stand, giving an idea as to what it was like in Vesuvius Furnace's heyday. ... Among the early names of the residents of Vesuvius were Bryan, Bradley, Campbell, Cash, Crist, Drawbond, Fitzgerald, Hite, Humphries, and Wright. ... The area is also home to rare minerals. One is called churchite and is a fairly scarce rare-earth phosphate containing yttrium and erbium, industrially valuable metals. Churchite is found only in Rockbridge County, USA; Cornwall, England; and Auerbach, Germany. Another rare phosphate is Rockbridgeite."
Meanwhile, in addition to the mention of Raleigh Givens Ham, the initials A.M.H. (above the word "McCluskey") refer to A.M. Ham, whose name is written elsewhere in the mathematics textbook. Finally, Maxine Ham is written on the inside front cover. (Of course, it is possible that A.M. Ham and Maxine Ham refer to the same person.)

According to, there was a Raleigh Givens Ham who was born on 1912 to Robert Fulton Ham and Rosa Ella Fitzgerald. He married Mary Margaret Garber, had six children, worked for a time as a bricklayer, and died on March 29, 1985, in Augusta, Virginia. But I don't believe he was the only Raleigh Givens Ham in the family.

While we It would be interesting to find out more about W.O. McCluskey Oyster & Fruit Co. and the Hams of Virginia.

I wonder if one of the Hams worked out the equations I found written on this sheet of paper tucked away inside New High School Algebra.

1. According to the copyright page: "This book may be had with answers or without answers at the same price. Answer books, bound in paper, may be obtained free of charge of teachers."
2. Other unincorporated communities in that county include Brownsburg, Gilmore Mills, Marlbrook, Mechanicsville, Natural Bridge, Natural Bridge Station, Raphine, and Rockbridge Baths.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Three illustrations from 1925's "Mother Goose Secrets"

Way back in May 2011, I wrote about the marvelous Story Gnome in Mother Goose Secrets, a 1925 book by Barbara Webb Bourjaily. Revisiting that volume, which is in very rough shape, I find that I gave short shrift to some of the book's other illustrations.

In and of themselves, they are quite impressive — part fairy-tale whimsy with a little bit of 1920s design and style mixed in. They're definitely a product of their era. Here are three of them for your enjoyment this evening.

From "Hush-a-bye, Baby"

From "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary"

From "Hickory Dickory Dock"

1908 bookplate from novel used at The Jacob Tome Institute

In 1908, The Jacob Tome Institute purchased a copy of Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe for 33 cents and issued it to one of its pupils.

Was it ever returned? Possibly not.

The bookplate affixed to the inside front cover (shown above) indicates that the novel was supplied to a student named Worthy E. Coslett on April 21, 1908. He is the only person listed as a recipient, and this is what was written in the column on the book's status:

So, Worthy never gave it back? Did he like Daniel Defoe's novel that much?

Or, perhaps, the book was officially given to him as some sort of reward or incentive. We'll certainly never know for sure.

I can't find much about the life of Worthy, beyond a 1910 U.S. Census report that indicates that he was born around 1894 in Pennsylvania and had moved to Cecil County, Maryland, by 1910. He would have been about 14 when he was issued this book.

For information about Jacob Tome and The Jacob Tome Institute, the best account I discovered is a piece by historian June Lloyd. Tome, it turns out, was born in York County, Pennsylvania, near Hanover. Here's a relevant excerpt from Lloyd's account:

"Jacob Tome (1810-1898) grew up poor in York County, but died at Port Deposit, Md., as one of the richest men in America. ... His crowning achievement was the Tome Institute, a free school founded for Cecil County children. The day school opened in 1894, with the 600 student capacity quickly reached. Estimated construction costs were around $500,000, and Tome's initial endowment was $2.5 million. Jacob passed away on March 16, 1898, pleased that the first commencement from the school was about to take place. An even grander school with multiple buildings was erected above Port Deposit after his death. Probably due to the Great Depression, the Institute's holdings depreciated to a point that the upper campus was sold in 1938 and closed in 1941, but in 1942 the U.S. Navy took over, and the site became the core of the Bainbridge USNTC, eventually training 244,000 sailors. ... USNTC Bainbridge closed in 1976, and in 2000 the closed base, including multiple imposing former Tome Institute stone buildings, was turned over by the federal government to the state for redevelopment."

But that's only a sliver of Tome's fascinating life. To learn more, I recommend Lloyd's article as a great starting point.