Saturday, November 30, 2013

Old postcard showing Teufelsbrücke (Devil's Bridge) legend

This undated old postcard, presumably produced in Germany, illustrates the Devil's Bridge legend that is found in dozens of locations throughout Europe.

There are numerous variations to the legend, but it usually goes something like this: A village or individual is faced with a difficult engineering challenge in trying to construct a needed bridge. The Devil agrees to help, under the condition the he receive the soul of the first to pass across the bridge after its completion. The Devil is then outwitted when a goat (or, in the case of this postcard, a dog) is sent across the bridge first, infuriating Old Scratch.

This is the German text from the back of the postcard:1
"Die Sage berichtet, dass der Teufel mit dem Baumeister sich einigte, diesem beim Brückenbau zu helfen, unter der Bedingung, dass das erste über die Brücke gehende lebende Wesen dem Teufel gehöre . — Als die Brücke fertig war, trieb der Baumeister einen Hund über die Brücke und so wurde der Teufel überlistet."

In addition to the Devil's Bridge Wikipedia page, a good resource for this folklore topic is this webpage by retired professor D.L. Ashliman on the University of Pittsburgh website. Ashliman has collected more than a dozen versions of Devil's Bridge tales from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Wales, and England. Here's a short one from Switzerland:

"A Swiss herdsman who often visited his girlfriend had either to make his way across the Reuss River with great difficulty or to take a long detour in order to see her.

"It happened that once he was standing on a very high precipice when he spoke out angrily, 'I wish that the devil were here to make me a bridge to the other side!'

"In an instant the devil was standing beside him, and said, 'If you will promise me the first living thing that walks across it, I will build a bridge for you that you can use from now on to go across and back.' The herdsman agreed, and in a few moments the bridge was finished. However, the herdsman drove a chamois across the bridge ahead of himself, and he followed along behind.

"The deceived devil ripped the animal apart and threw the pieces from the precipice."
In other versions, the goat is not killed, but the angered devil rips off part of its tail and, thus, in addition to being a Devil's Bridge tale, it's a pourquoi story: "Why the goat has a short tail."

1. The only other text on the back of this split-back card, which was never mailed, states: "Gebr. von Matt, Altdorf."

"100% hand made" Black Forest Weather House for just $2.99

Need a cool gift idea for the holiday season? Clearly, all you need to do is time-travel back to the early 1970s and order yourself a nifty Black Forest Weather House for just $2.99 plus 25¢ shipping.1 Or buy two for $4.99 and get free shipping!

(Aside: If you're looking for actual holiday gift suggestions that don't require a flux capacitor, the off-the-beaten-path ideas I suggested in 2012 still apply.)2

The Black Forest Weather House advertisement is featured in the October 1970 issue of The Workbasket and Home Arts Magazine. Other advertisements in that issue tout the wonders of Midget Sock Toys from Pack-O-Fun3, Magi-Glo Christmas tree ornaments, a Lighted Pineapple Centerpiece4, glitter plaques and half-price accordions.

If you think that $2.99 in 1970 didn't get you a very impressive "hand-made" collectible from "skilled artisans in the Famous Black Forest of GERMANY," I suspect that you are correct. That's the equivalent of about $17.50 in current dollars, which is now probably just enough money to get you some prefabricated assembly-line crap from Wal-Mart that you don't need.

But that didn't stop Foster-Trent5 from detailing all of the "wonders" of the Black Forest Weather House in the tiny advertising copy. (If there are a lot of words, it must be an impressive item, right?) Some of these Workbasket advertisements are really no different from what you'd see in comic books of the 1960s and 1970s. They're just aimed at a different audience.

But at least the advertising copywriters seemed to have some fun with their task. Here are some excerpts from how the described the Weather House:

  • "Ever since 1794, generations of gifted craftsmen from the SCHWARZWALD in the mountainous Bavarian area of West German have made these delightful Wetterhauschen."
  • "This ancient woodcrafters' art, jealously guarded, had passed on, down through the years, from father to sons and daughters. Each one is fashioned with quality materials featuring rich sepia woods of the Black Forest. The parts are put together by hand — piece by piece — with methodical German precision."
  • "In it 'live' grumpy Herr Hans and his flaxen haired daughter, Brunhild."
  • "People in scores of countries 'round the world use these quaint Weather Houses to help foretell weather conditions in their own localities."
  • "Please don't confuse this large, deluxe wetterhauschen with the cheap, brittle oriental imitations that sell for under two dollars. This is the genuine, original Wetterhauschen! Truly a product of German artistry and skill. Pictured here is the EXTRA LARGE size."
  • "You will be delighted at the miniature water pump ... the proverbial toadstool ... the nightingale poised to warble its glorious song ... the Lilliputian flowers and bushes! Everything's so real looking ... so perfectly shaped and meticulously put together by those nimble-fingered Bavarian craftsmen."

If you are now feeling that you must have a Black Forest Weather House for Christmas 2013, you'll be happy to know that you can still get them. They range from about $16 for the HOK Concepts model to $140 for the ISDD Cuckoo Clocks model on

But I'm not sure if any of the modern creations offer this feature that Foster-Trent highlighted in 1970...

Footnotes and general wonderments
1. Why is the dollar sign before the amount and the cent sign after the amount? Someone other than me has actually wondered this, too.
2. Who does footnotes AND asides? That's just silly.
3. Want to make the Red Heel Sock Monkey that Pack-O-Fun made famous? Here's how.
4. Susan Myers discusses the Lighted Pineapple Centerpiece and much more in this groovy post on Suzy's Artsy-Crafty Sitcom.
5. I previously featured Foster-Trent hawking some dubious items in this May 2013 post.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

I'd blame the tryptophan, but cat pileups like this happen every day

A Thanksgiving afternoon pileup in the Otto household. From left: Mitts, Huggles and Salem.

If you still need a Thanksgiving dessert, make some strawberry pie

Happy Thanksgiving!

This handwritten recipe was recorded on an old sheet of notepaper from Midland-Western of York, Pennsylvania, a company that once sold cod liver oils, feeding oils, vitamin products and poultry health products, but about which I know little else. (Anyone know anything about it?)

The recipe, as written, states:
Strawberry Pie
½ box berries cut in halves and line a baked pie shell
Then cook
1 cup granulated sugar
3 level tblsp. cornstarch
Mix them well and add ½ box of berries crushed and stir well. Let all boil until thick, stirring constantly.
Cool awhile and pour over berries in pie shell.
When cold add ½ pt. whipped cream and serve.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Nimoy Award for 1967 goes to...

...Miss Nancyann Hiera!

In 1967, a group called the Leonard Nimoy National Association of Fans1 was launched, and it became "one of the most active and fastest growing fan clubs in the country" as people rallied around their passion for the actor who portrays Mr. Spock in Star Trek. The association's president was Peggye Vickers of Garland, Texas.

In the first year, the association presented The Nimoy Award to Nancyann Hiera of Chicago, Illinois, who was honored for being the most active member of the LNNAF.

This photo of Hiera receiving her plaque from Nimoy appears in the May 1968 issue of TV Star Parade magazine.2 The bulk of the magazine article consists of Hiera's long letter to Vickers, thanking her for the honor.

Here are some excerpts from that letter:
  • "Oh, Peggye, how can I thank you?!! Receiving the Nimoy Award is one of the most thrilling things that has ever happened to me! I really don't know how to tell you how happy you've made me! THANK YOU, OH THANK YOU SO MUCH, PEGGYE!!!"
  • "After a short wait, in which we had chewed our fingernails down to the third knuckle, an elevator door opened, and we all looked up — it was him! He was wearing a dark suit with a kind of turtle neck affair. A tremendous black cape was slung over his arm. We were all sitting on a small red velvet couch when he approached us. We all froze, and as a result, we probably had expressions on our faces akin to the Three Stooges."
  • "With that, I placed in his hands a rubber plucked chicken, guilded for the occasion, and a plaque which read, 'To Leonard Nimoy goes the coveted HENNY AWARD, 1967.' He was chuckling warmly, and it was at this time that he acquired our new nick name for him, which is 'Dimples.' (It's not too hard to figure out...)"
  • "...he looked at me and asked somewhat teasingly, 'Do you know what the Nimoy Award is?' I nearly started to cry."

1. The club later shortened its name to the Leonard Nimoy Association of Fans. According to Fanlore, some of the "chapters" of LNAF included Nimoyan-Spock's Scribes, the Nimoyan Federation, and the Leonard Nimoy Star Trek Fan Club of Concerned Fans. Among the publications of LNAF was an anthology titled Spockulations, which, apparently, had only one issue.
2. Other articles in that issue, which includes no fewer than 12 advertisements for brassieres and bosom modification, are:
  • "Lorne Greene's Greatest Miracle"
  • "Nick Adams: Suicide or Heartbreak?"
  • "Private Affairs of Hollywood's Star Families" (featuring photos of the families of Ben Gazzara, Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner and Michael Landon)
  • "Kathy Garver reveals Untold Tales about her TV family"

From the Papergreat archives: Thanksgiving-themed posts

Here are some reruns to check out while you're soaking the turkey in its brine and wondering why CBS aired Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer LAST NIGHT.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone out there from our family, which I am so thankful for and is the most important thing in my world.

P.S. - Don't eat too much tofurkey! You won't be able to stay awake for the Steelers-Ravens game.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Mini mystery: 1930s Bookcraft label

This tiny gummed label, found barely attached to the inside of an old book, is just 40 millimeters by 15 millimeters.

The last number of the date looks like a 6 to me, making it 1936.

I do not believe this is related to the Bookcraft that published books for the LDS Church starting in 1942 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

I found another label like this posted on flickr with with the note: "Sorta iffy on the whole Book Trade connection. Seems to be used by students for textbooks to be returned or sold back to school."

Seven Roads' Gallery of Book Trade Labels, which is one of the definitive resources for bookseller labels, agrees that this one is a mystery. Seven Roads' page of mysteries also includes The Brown Shop, MDC Books, Nyland's Bookstore, The Sign of the Mermaid, Witch's Boy Bookstall and number of other nifty puzzlers.

If you have any insight about Bookcraft, please help out in the Comments section.