Saturday, December 7, 2013

Cute vintage Christmas postcard, plus the famed Otto Christmas Cats

Here's a great vintage postcard of a little girl playing with a black kitty.

It was produced by our old friends at Raphael Tuck & Sons (appearing in their second straight post) as part of the "Christmas Children" series.

The card was postmarked in Brooklyn, New York, at 4 a.m. on December 25, 1913.1

It was sent to Miss Kathleen Sullivan at the Mill River Inn2 in Ridgefield, Connecticut, and the short note states: "love from Lucy McCormack."

We have a lot of cats, mostly black, in our household, which makes for festive pictures around the holidays. (It also makes for a lot of ornaments batted off the tree, but that's another story.) Here, for your enjoyment, are some shots featuring Mr. Bill, Huggles and Mitts.

1. This was exactly one year before the Christmas Truce of 1914.
2. I am trying to discover more about the Mill River Inn. Stay tuned for a potential followup post.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Shepherd's Home: Postcard mailed in 1918

This postcard, featuring a cozy sheep farm in the rolling hills, is part of the Rapholette series that was published by Raphael Tuck & Sons1 and produced in Saxony, Germany. On the back, it's labeled "OUR FARM postcard 8028." An online search revealed different OUR FARM postcards with that same number, so it is not unique to this particular view.2

This card was mailed with a 2¢ stamp and postmarked at 4 p.m. on January 7, 1918, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. A man named Millard sent the following note to John H. Lightner of Carlisle:
"Dear friend: Was in Carlisle to-day (Mon.) with Vic & will not get in on Tues afternoon as I have written in the letter.
Ever sincerely
So, unless I'm reading this incorrectly, Millard was in Carlisle and mailed a postcard to John, who also lived in Carlisle, to tell him that he wouldn't be in.

* * *

If you liked the farm theme of this postcard, you might also like:

1. Raphael Tuck & Sons were the "art publishers to their majesties the King & Queen," according to the small type on the back of this postcard. For more on them, see this December 2012 post.
2. The other two postcards I came across featured horses and were labeled "The day's work was done" and "Uphill work."

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Holiday hanky from Peoples Laundry & Dry Cleaning

Ashar gave me this piece of advertising ephemera as a Christmas gift last year.1

It's a holiday card for Peoples Laundry & Dry Cleaning of York, Pennsylvania, with part of a folded handkerchief sewn into the top. (The front of the hanky is scripted with "Merry Christmas" and the back has "Happy New Year.")

Peoples was a well-known business for many decades in York. I can't find specific dates of incorporation and disestablishment, but it could have dated as far back as the 1910s and there's evidence — gleaned from the obituaries of some longtime employees2 — that it was still in business in the early to mid-1980s.

At some point, the Peoples Laundry location at 284 West Market Street went into the hands of The Redevelopment Authority of the City of York. The site then was occupied by Sparky and Clark's coffee shop for a number of years. Now, that address is the location of a different coffee business — New Grounds Roasting Company.

The card is designed to fit into the breast pocket of a shirt or jacket and give the wearer the appearance of having a hanky inside. Thus, it's kind of a faux pocket square. There is actually a market for these things.

This advertising novelty was created for Peoples Laundry by Handy Hanky Inc. of Niagara Falls, New York. One interesting tidbit I uncovered about the company is that, in 1961, Ralph E. Becker3 donated 18 false-pocket handkerchiefs from the 1960 presidential campaign, made by Handy Hanky, to the Smithsonian Institution.

1. Best son EVER.
2. Peoples Laundry is mentioned in the obituaries for Grayson M. Arendt, Maria G. Desimone and Dorothy Margaret "Dot" Fake Black, among others.
3. Ralph Elihu Becker, who died at age 87 in 1994, was "a Washington lawyer and former ambassador long active in Republican politics," according to his obituary in The New York Times. Here's a relevant excerpt from that obituary:
"An avid collector of political memorabilia dating to 1790, Mr. Becker amassed ribbons, buttons, prints, cartoons, broadsheets and brochures. In 1961, he donated the material, the Ralph E. Becker Collection of Political Americana, to the Smithsonian Institution. In 1992, with Mr. Becker's financial support, the Smithsonian published 'Hail to the Candidate: Presidential Campaigns from Banners to Broadcast.' Mr. Becker contributed a chapter recounting his experiences as a collector."

Mystery vintage photo of an old couple sitting on their porch

It's a shame that so many wonderful vintage photos have no information or identification whatsoever on them.1

This 6½-inch-wide photo is mounted on a 9-inch-wide piece of black cardboard. There is no writing or other information on the front or back. So we're left to guess who these people were, when the photo was taken and where they lived.

We know they (apparently) didn't mind having plants and vines grow around and up the sides of their house. They had at least one set of fine clothes. They had some nice-looking chairs on their porch.

What are your thoughts on this photo? Share them in the comments section.

Here's a close look at the couple...

1. One website devoted to diving into mysteries like this on a regular basis is Who Were They?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Amusing Sinterklaas postcard from The Netherlands

I received this amusing Postcrossing postcard — which implies that aliens are at the helm of the immortal folklore figure Sinterklaas — this week from Carolien in The Netherlands. On the back, Carolien wrote:
"This card is about St. Nicolas, also called Sinterklaas. It's a Dutch tradition, for hundreds of years, and 'he' is still alive. He comes with his steamboat from Spain with his 'Zwarte Pieten'1 to the Netherland to bring presents to all the children. We keep this tradition alive. We know a lot of songs about Sinterklaas we sing with our children at night, hoping he brings presents in their shoes."

Sinterklaas, it is generally believed, served as a primary inspiration for Santa Claus, but is different than our Santa. Both Sinterklaas and, to a lesser extent, Santa Claus are separate parts of this month's holiday celebrations in The Netherlands. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia on the complicated and debated ways in which the two figures are intertwined:

"Sinterklaas is the basis for the North American figure of Santa Claus. It is often claimed that during the American War of Independence, the inhabitants of New York City, a former Dutch colonial town (New Amsterdam), reinvented their Sinterklaas tradition, as Saint Nicholas was a symbol of the city's non-English past. The name Santa Claus supposedly derived from older Dutch Sinter Klaas. However, the Saint Nicholas Society was not founded until 1835, almost half a century after the end of the war. In a study of the 'children's books, periodicals and journals' of New Amsterdam, the scholar Charles Jones did not find references to Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas. Not all scholars agree with Jones's findings, which he reiterated in a book in 1978. Howard G. Hageman, of New Brunswick Theological Seminary, maintains that the tradition of celebrating Sinterklaas in New York existed in the early settlement of the Hudson Valley. He agrees that 'there can be no question that by the time the revival of St. Nicholas came with Washington Irving, the traditional New Netherlands observance had completely disappeared.' However, Irving's stories prominently featured legends of the early Dutch settlers, so while the traditional practice may have died out, Irving's St. Nicholas may have been a revival of that dormant Dutch strand of folklore. In his 1812 revisions to A History of New York, Irving inserted a dream sequence featuring St. Nicholas soaring over treetops in a flying wagon – a creation others would later dress up as Santa Claus."

Most agree, though, that ancient astronauts are not at the center of the Sinterklaas/Santa Claus mythos.

Or are they?

1. On a non-silly note, for more on Zwarte Piet/Black Pete, check out this New York Times piece by Arnon Grunberg: "Why the Dutch Love Black Pete."

Captivating Meyerowitz photograph, even in the scuffed DJ version

This photograph by Joel Meyerowitz is featured on the back of the dust jacket of 1979's American Images: New Work by Twenty Contemporary Photographers. It stopped me in my tracks earlier this year when I was sorting through some boxes of coffee-table books, which tend to be an anathema to sellers of used books.

The squat luncheonette and the adjacent empty lot were on 12th Avenue between 34th and 35th streets in Manhattan in 1978 when Meyerowitz took this as part of his Empire State series. (Here's another amazing shot from that series.)

Meyerowitz, now 75, was one of the significant early adopters of color among serious photographers, according to his short Wikipedia biography. As an instructor in New York City, he influenced both his contemporaries and the next generation of street photographers during the 1970s.

In 1994, he co-authored Bystander: A History of Street Photography with Colin Westerbeck.

After 9/11, he was the only photographer who was granted unrestricted access to Ground Zero in Manhattan, and his documentation of the cleanup was published in 2006 as Aftermath: World Trade Center Archive. The book went to a second edition with new material in 2011.

I'm going to keep this dust jacket photograph of the little luncheonette. It's a little scratched and soiled and it certainly doesn't hold a candle to the quality of the original print. But, to me, a book and ephemera guy, that just adds to its character. Maybe I'll even get it framed.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

From the readers: Talking letters, shrimp recipes and airline history

It's been way too long since the last From the Readers roundup, so let's dive right in...

Let's get the whole gang together for a picture: Jim Fahringer writes: "Taking the line from the popular TV series 'If Walls Could Talk' -- 'If Pictures Could Only Talk'. Actually technology has brought us to the point of talking pictures. Perhaps, if the world survives 100 years from now that the people viewing our current pictures will have the benefit of hearing the voices of the people in the picture and learning about them. But, then again, wouldn't that take much of the joy and imagination away from those of us who love to look at old pictures and allow our minds free reign to imagine the stories behind the people in these pictures."

Need More Chemicals? (Maybe this is how Walter White got his start): Anonymous writes: "Yes, I used an A.C. Gilbert chemistry set. I requested it as a Christmas present about fourth grade in the late 1950s. I had an A.C. Gilbert biology set first."

Phonic Talking Letters from 1941: Dorothy Ross writes: "I was taught to read with these cards. At the time the preferred teaching method was the 'look-say' model which was primarily memorizing words and word parts. My mom subverted that by using these to teach me to read with phonics. I started reading at age 3."

Postcard featuring a much safer way for a child to ride an animal: Anonymous writes: "The SV would refer to the "Sons of Veterans" a creation of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). It's now known as the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War."

Halloween Countdown #8: Rather unappetizing shrimp dish: Weez writes: "It needs garlic and olive oil and maybe some crushed red pepper flakes. Throw out everything except the shrimp and add some wine and linguini. There. All fixed. You're welcome!"

Early Delivery: Old photo of a child, woman and dog: Anonymous writes: "Could it be the other way around? The child looks poor. Maybe she's handing day-old bread to him?"

December 1981 boarding pass for Nigeria Airways: The folks at the @NigeriaAirways Twitter account write: "Thanks for this great post. The Christmas rush phenomenon was already well established in the booming and then rapidly growing domestic as well as international services, when many Nigerians typically travel to their home cities and towns for the Christmas holidays. WT110 is not a gate but the flight number and is probably a Lagos to Port Harcourt flight, which typically departed from the the old Ikeja Airport terminal or the General Aviation Terminal."

Postcrossing card featuring vintage illustration of Game of the Goose: Bonnie Jeanne (aka PostMuse) writes: "I have not heard of such a game, but I suspect my grandchildren would sit me down and want to play it, on the postcard, if they ever got such a Postcrossing card (all four grandkids, ages 1-6, have accounts). Speaking of games ... here is a link to a new one (Robot Turtles) that teaches little ones how to code. And this kind of code is the kind more likely to be found in a Neil Stephenson novel than Dan Brown. Stephenson's one of my all-time favorite authors."

Small Christmas card from long ago

Have you mailed your Christmas cards yet? Back in the day,1 greeting cards didn't come in the standard shapes and sizes that we are familiar with on the card racks today. Some of them were downright small. This undated "Christmas Greetings" card measures 4½ inches wide by 2½ inches tall. How's that for a holiday tree-saver?

Inside, there's a fairly mundane note from Sybil to Jean on the left-hand side. And here's the pre-printed message, signed "From all the Arnolds."

I do like the illustration, with its cozy, snow-covered house in the middle of a moonlit forest. (Actually, that's more than snow-covered. It looks like that snow goes up 5-6 feet against the side of that cottage. Someone should go check on them.)

If you're interested in more on the long history of Christmas cards, here are a few links to check out, for starters:

1. September 20, 1943.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Gorgeous bit of penmanship in Christmas 1909 inscription

This wonderfully styled 1909 inscription to Mrs. Belknap is featured on the first page of a copy of Arms and the Woman, the first novel published by Harold MacGrath.1

Fine penmanship has become a lost art, much like the sending of personal (non-digital) mail. That's too bad. Though I suppose some of society's current penmanship efforts will provide plenty of interesting work for handwriting experts and interpreters 100 years from now.

I do greatly admire the handwriting of my wife and son, who each have their own distinctive (and very readable) styles.

Here's an example of Ashar's writing, from 2012, in which he makes a list of locations he would like our family to visit. He was 12 when he wrote this out.

From "The unschooled version of a seventh-grade-ish curriculum plan for 2012-13"

1. MacGrath worked in the newspaper industry until he became a full-time novelist and writer of short stories for magazines. Later, he became one of the first men hired to write exclusively for the movies. He made a lot of money, traveled the world, and built himself an English-style mansion in the area of Syracuse, New York. I like that.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Ho ho ho: Guide to Papergreat's Christmas and holiday posts

It's December, so it's officially time to put up the Christmas tree, put Burl Ives and Band Aid into your CD rotation and roast some chestnuts in your fireplace. Here, for your browsing pleasure in between visits to online retailers, is a complete directory of previous Papergreat Christmas- and holiday-themed posts. I'll be decking the blog's walls with new posts almost every day this month, so this directory will continue to grow. (Last update: November 30, 2014)


Greeting cards


Books and magazines

Fashion and decorations

Miscellaneous merriment