Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Another cool bookplate: A black cat and some books

updated 1/1/2015
This simple but elegant bookplate, for Ada Saínte-Maríe, features a black cat atop a small pile of books. Ada was my great aunt, my father's mother's oldest sister. Her great loves were books, many of which she read and then promptly gave away, and all-white cats.1

Lew Jaffe's Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie website is still going strong, and you should definitely check it out if you're interested in browsing through more bookplates. Beware, though, that you might lose yourself in there for an hour or more. It's jam-packed with great vintage bookplates and information. Here's a different black cat that was featured recently.

One of these days, I'd like to have custom bookplates made for the volumes that I intend to keep permanently in my library.

They are, of course, something that you cannot do with an e-book.

1. Given that she loved white cats, it's a bit ironic that her bookplate features a black cat. With a little photo manipulation, however, we can fix that. I think she would approve.

Postcrossing card from Poland featuring artist Miroslawa Stefaniak

I have received a flock of Postcrossing cards in the mailbox in these final few days of 2014. The most beautiful one, hands down, is this postcard from Natalia in Poland. She writes:
"This card is coming to you from cold and windy Poland. I sent some cards to make my day a bit brighter. May your Christmas be filled with love, laughter, good food and fine wines."
The gorgeous postcard is by folk artist Miroslawa Stefaniak. It features an example of wycinanki, a form of papercutting art in Slavic countries. According to the Polish Art Center website:
"Wycinanki, pronounced Vee-chee-non-kee, is the Polish word for 'paper-cut design'. Just when and why this art form began to flower in Poland seems a matter of some uncertainty. Some say it goes back to the time when few farm houses had glass windows. To keep out the elements, peasant farmers hung sheep skins over the window openings. Then, to let in some light and air, they took their sheep shears and snipped small openings in the skins, and these were soon recognized as decorative as well as functional. The most well known modern styles of Wycinanki comes from two districts. One is the Kurpie cut out. This is usually a symmetrical design, cut from a single piece of colored paper, folded a single time, with spruce trees and birds as the most popular motifs. The second style comes from the area of Lowicz. It is distinguished by the many layers of brightly colored paper used in its composition. The unique richness of paper-cut designs done in the Polish tradition is a special contribution to the artitistic heritage of the world."
If you like this postcard, the Polish Art Center, located in Michigan, sells two sets of eight folk-art postcards by Stefaniak. Set A contains the postcard that was mailed to me from Poland. And there is also a Set B.

According to a translation of a Polish-language website that I found, Stefaniak learned the art of wycinanki from her mother and sisters and has been creating art for nearly two decades.

She is considered one of the most talented artists in Poland and her work has been exhibited in New York and Chicago.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My grandmother's bookplate

I've shared a bundle of bookplates here on the Papergreat, but I don't believe I've ever shared my grandmother's. It features a cute illustration with a dog and a bookshelf.

Many of these bookplate were affixed to volumes acquired through The Heritage Press from the 1940s through 1960s. According to a Michael C. Bussacco's 2006 article on The Heritage Press, the imprint was founded in 1935 by George Macy (1900-1956) "for the creation and distribution of more affordable 'semi-luxe' books."

From the readers: Ginza Tokyu Hotel, Koester's and belsnickeling

Here's the final 2014 edition of "From the Readers." Thanks, as always, for all of your comments, support and kind words throughout the years.

1938 holiday postcard from Leinhardt Bros. of York: I went fishing for some memories of Leinhardt Bros. on Facebook and got a few:
  • Sally Bailey Pomraning — "Bought my first wringer washer and a baby stroller there in 1958-59 on the payment plan LOL and then a nice desk in 1968. It was a nice store on West Market Street."
  • Ann Young O'Connell — "We bought our first sofa there in 1973 when my husband came back from SE Asia."
  • Catherine Bean Malstrom — "I bought my first furniture from Leinhardt Bros."

Saturday's postcard: Ginza Tokyu Hotel: Anonymous writes: "Hello, my still happily married parents met there in 1962 when visiting Tokyo. I tried to find the location today, but found a new building on the site. Do you know whether the lower floors are still original with only the top floors having been stacked on top, or was the hotel building completely torn down?"

I'm not 100 percent sure about the answer to that question. These additional Papergreat posts, however, discussed the Ginza Tokyu Hotel:

1960s Russian С Новым годом postcard ("Happy New Year!"): Izake Hitori writes: "It's not a rabbit, it's a forest hare — just a character of Russian folklore. Usually described like kind but faint-hearted, willing to help everyone."

In support and defense of tiny Christmas cards: Anonymous writes: "But you can't send these through the mail unless you put them in a larger envelope ... conservation fail."

Vintage photographs of kids playing in the snow: Nan Keltie writes: "I enjoyed seeing your post about winter and snow fun for kids! Thanks for sharing. I used one of the photos on my Facebook page and gave you credit by linking back to this page."

Coupons from the E.H. Koester Bakery Co.: Vincent Ward writes: "My grandfather, Edgar Weal, worked for Koester's as a credit manager from 1933 until he retired in 1965. When I was born he purchased a $25 U.S. Savings Bond for me through Koester's (I guess you could do that back then!) I kept the bond until cashing it some time in my early 20's. Needless to say my family ate a LOT of Koester's bread. Great memories!"

And Fairfaxcat writes:
"Give us the top and the bottom and we'll leave the middle to you,
Build something great with Koester's bread and see what you can do,
The better the bread the better the sandwich so start out way ahead,
Make the top and the bottom something great with Koester's Bread!

(Tune aired frequently on WBAL radio in 1972 during or near the time of Orioles' broadcasts. Heard the sound in and around my grandfather's Trappe farmhouse when I came over to visit from VA's western shore during school's summer break.)"

Thanks for passing that jingle along! I love that so many comments and memories were generated by this 2011 post.

"Dear Friend Mable come down on beldsnickle night": Jim Fahringer writes: "My two grandmothers — one born in 1889 and the other born in 1883 — often told me of their belsnickeling. It seems that they dressed in costumes similar to Halloween costumes and would travel from house to house on Christmas Eve asking for treats. I actually still have one or two belsnickeling costumes. For many years my mother wore the one costume as a Halloween costume during the early 1930's and my sisters wore the costume during the 1950's. Unfortunately the costume is in rather bad shape today — torn, dry rot, stained."

Monday, December 29, 2014

Of baby ostriches and shite pokes

This vintage postcard, published by Edward H. Mitchell of San Francisco, California, features adorable baby ostriches (from the historic Cawston Ostrich Farm) on the front and an intriguing message from H.A.M. on the back:
"I am sending Ostrich on this card and a Shite Poke on the other one."
Maybe some of you knew instantly what a Shite Poke was. I did not. I had to look it up. Turns out, it's a slightly vulgar synonym for heron.

Herons have had a lot of different names:
  • Shite poke, shitepoke or shite-poke
  • Shikepoke
  • Shypoke
  • Shiterow
  • Shederow
  • Shiteheron
  • Heronshaw
  • Handsaw


To further cloud the issue, H.L. Mencken writes the following in The American Language:
"The shite-poke is not imaginary. It is the common green heron, Butorides virescens. Shite-poke is traced by the DAE to 1832. Early alternative names were poke, and skouk, both recorded in 1794, and chalk-line and fly-up-the-creek, both recorded in 1844. One of the authorities cited by the DAE says the shite-poke was borrowed from the Dutch schyte-poke. It is legendary throughout the shite-poke's territory that it lives on excrement."

For even more on shite-pokes/herons:

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Lancaster's Hotel Brunswick, where you outen the lights

This old linen postcard is a Genuine Curteich-Chicago "C.T. Art-Colortone." That dates somewhere to the 1930s through 1950s. It has never been used.

It advertises the Pennsylvania Dutch Room, which was "one of five air-conditioned restaurants" at the Hotel Brunswick in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Hotel Brunswick no longer survives under that name. On, there is a message that states: "The Hotel Brunswick has been sold and closed. The new owners have restored and renovated the hotel property." Web users are then directed to the website for The Hotel Lancaster, located at 26 East Chestnut Street.

While the Hotel Brunswick must have been a very respectable lodging in the mid 20th century century, it came to a sad, dilapidated end in recent years. Here's an excerpt from a December 2013 article on
"The Brunswick is history. It is no longer the name of this hotel," [real estate developer John Meeder] said. "Sorry historians, but there is too much baggage." ...

Along with the name change, it allows him to distance the hotel from the recent history of the site and start anew.

The Brunswick, at 151 N. Queen St., had been beset with problems in recent years.

City officials and the county district attorney had urged the court to declare the hotel a nuisance last year.

They contended drug use, brawls and underage drinking were occurring there.
(In case you were wondering, 26 East Chestnut and 151 North Queen are the same corner of the same block. So The Hotel Lancaster simply changed its street address to further distance itself from Hotel Brunswick.)

Returning to the vintage postcard, the front of the card emphasizes the Pennsylvania Dutch aspect of Lancaster County with a collection of native phrases that you don't see very much elsewhere in the United States or world:

  • Throw Papa down the stairs his hat!
  • It wonders me!
  • Daniel loves to dunk Fastnachts
  • Papa's on the table and half at already!
  • Katy's hair is stroobly!
  • Aunt Minnie is wonderful fat!
  • Jonathan outens the light
  • Such a pair of schmootzer's!
  • Rachel's busy snitzing apples
  • Amos' tooth ouches him!
  • It makes down!
  • Lonnie makes the grass off
  • Sarah spritzes the lawn
  • You must be ferhext!
  • Don't be so doppick!

Almost every one of those phrases could be its own fun blog post. Maybe I'll get to some of them some day. In the meantime, my wife has written about some of them on her long-running Only in York County blog:

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Smirom ... Nabada ... Fred

Holiday story time: "The Christmas Crab Apples"

Detail from Raymond Briggs' color illustration for "The Christmas Crab Apples,"
on page 172 of Festivals

"The Christmas Crab Apples"
adapted from a Bohemian folk legend;
gently adapted from Ruth Manning-Sanders' version
that appears in the anthology Festivals (1973, E.P. Dutton & Co.)

Rubizal was a leshy (woodland spirit) who lived within the forested mountain. He was a mischievous one! He enjoyed playing tricks on people. He especially enjoyed plaguing the wicked and the proud. He put horns on their heads; he gave them pig snouts and donkey tails.

But he had a kind heart.

Many a poor peasant found coins in his pocket, put there by Rubizal. And if he should meet a tired old woman, a long way from home, staggering under a bundle of branches — puff! Rubizal would blow out his cheeks, and the tired old woman found herself seated in comfort by her own fireside, with some of the branches she had been gathering already blazing in the hearth.

Well, one bitter cold day, just before Christmas, Rubizal gave a hop, skip and jump down from his mountain into the valley. The ground was covered with snow, and trudging along through the snow toward Rubizal came a peasant, very ragged, very thin and blue with cold. Under his left arm the peasant was carrying a little fir tree, and under his right arm he was carrying a bundle of ivy and holly twigs; and he was looking about him in a worried kind of way.

"What do you seek, my friend?" says Rubizal.

"Oh sir," says the peasant. "I am looking for crab apples. Today is Christmas Eve, and after Christmas Eve comes Christmas Day. I am a widower with seven little children, I would make the time merry for them if I could. I have dug up this little tree; and as you can see, I have some ivy and some holly to decorate it. But I have no money to buy toys or pretty trifles to hand on the tree; and I thought if I could find a few crab apples to brighten it up — well, the children would like that. And they could eat the little apples afterwards for a bit of a treat like. Though it would be but a sour feast, when all's said. But then, children will eat most anything..."

The peasant sighed.

"But it seems no crab apples grow hereabouts," he added.

"I know where there is a crab apple tree," Rubizal said, rubbing his beard. "Come!"

He took the peasant into a little wood. In the middle of the little wood was a little crab apple tree. (Of course, don't you know, Rubizal had just magicked it there.) The tree was bare of leaves, but there were still small apples hanging on it: not very bright, not very rosy, but still — apples.

The peasant, joyful, set down his bundles, filled his pockets with the little apples, and picked up his bundles again.

"Goodbye, and thank you, sir," says he.

"Goodbye," says Rubizal. "A happy Christmas to you!"

"The same to you, sir!" The peasant turned to go home.

"Love to the children!" Rubizal called after him.

"Whose love shall I say, sir?" says the peasant.

"Oh, just a merry old fellow's," says Rubizal. And he laughs.

The peasant trudged off across the snow. Rubizal gave a jump. There he was, back on his mountaintop.

The night, when he had put the children to bed, the peasant filled a box with earth, and planted the Christmas tree in it. He fastened a tallow candle to the top of the tree, and decorated the branches with ivy and holly. Then, very carefully, he threaded some wire through the top of each little apple, and hung the apples on the tree.

"And it does look quite festive," said the peasant to himself, as he stood back to admire his work. "Though I could wish the apples were a bit more colorful."

On Christmas morning, when the children saw the tree, they jumped and shouted. They took hands and danced round the tree. And when evening came, and the peasant lit the tallow candle, the ivy glittered and the red holly berries shone, and it seemed the even the little apples looked brighter.

How the children clapped their hands and danced and shouted:

"Oh how pretty! Oh how pretty!
We've got a tree,
A pretty, pretty tree,
We've got a tree, the prettiest of all!"

And there they were, hopping and skipping and turning head over heels.

"But we mustn't forget the gentleman who found the apples," said the peasant. "He sent you his love!"

"No, we won't forget him!" cried the children, "Who was he?"

"Just a merry old fellow," said the peasant. "Or so he told me. But the way he spoke, he seemed to me like some great lord."

"Thank you, thank you, great lord!" shouted the children.

It was merry evening, though they had nothing but cabbage soup and some rye bread for supper.

"And when may we eat the little apples?" asked the children.

"Not until Twelfth Night," said the peasant. "That's the day we must take down the tree."

So, for twelve days, the tree stood in its box of earth in the kitchen. The ivy looked a bit more shriveled every day, and the holly berries dropped off one by one. The grease from the tallow candle, which of course had burned itself out on Christmas night, lay in patches on the withering leaves. But surely, surely, the little apples were growing every day rosier and bigger! Yes, there was no doubt about it. They were rosier, and they were bigger. By Twelfth Night they were so big that the branches on the tree bowed under their weight.

"I don't understand it," exclaimed the peasant, as he carefully cut the wires and piled the heavy apples on a dish.

"Seems to me half an apple each will be enough for tonight," says he. "And they'll last you longer that way."

"No, no, a whole one each!" cried the children.

"Well, half to begin with anyway," said the peasant. And he took a knife and began to halve one of the apples.

The knife cut into the juicy flesh, then it grated on something hard and stuck. What could it be? The peasant turned the apple upside down, and cut again. But again the knife stuck.

"There's something odd about this apple," muttered the peasant. And he put down the knife and wrenched the apple in two with his hands.

Oh! Oh! Oh! What do you think? Out of that apple tumbled six big rubies. Yes, the pips of that apple were precious stones.

"It's ... it's witchcraft! It's a Twelfth Night dream, that's what it is!" gasped the peasant. And his hands trembled as he took up another apple and halved it.

It was no dream. The pips of the second apple were shimmering pearls.

And so it went on: the peasant halving apple after apple, and every apple pip a jewel — diamonds, sapphires, pearls, emeralds and rubies. When all the apples were halved, there on the kitchen table lay a gleaming heap of jewels; and even the children, as they munched away at the most delicious fruit they had ever tasted, were awed into silence.

It was a long time before any of them went to bed. And the peasant couldn't sleep. he turned and tossed, thinking of that pile of jewels.

"It's the fairies up to their Twelfth Night tricks," he said to himself. "In the morning all those precious stones will be gone."

But they weren't gone. The fairies had nothing to do with it. It was a Christmas gift from Rubizal.

So the peasant sold the jewels and bought a farm. Everything prospered with him and his children. No more meager suppers of cabbage soup and rye bread for them! And they shared their good fortune, helping others who were as unfortunate as they had once been.

And each year, before they sat down to their Christmas feast, the happy peasant-turned-farmer gathered his children and their families and friends about him, raised his glass, and said, "Here's a health to the Merry Old Fellow! May we never forget his goodness, whoever he may be!"

And "A health to the Merry Old Fellow!" cried all in chorus.

Did they hear a chuckling laugh somewhere outside in the snowy darkness? Perhaps they did, perhaps they didn't.


Adaptation notes
1. Most of this is verbatim from the version by Manning-Sanders in Festivals. A few scattered bits of punctuation or wording were adjusted here and there. More notably, I changed a few words — faggots became "branches," for example, to suit the modern audience.
2. The biggest change, perhaps, is that Rubizal is called a demon in the original story. I felt that unnecessary, especially given how he acts and is described. Demon is a stronger and more loaded word in our times, and I believe the change was a natural one for the story. I tried to find something that would fit comfortably within a Bohemian/Slavic tale, which is how I ended up making Rubizal a leshy for this adaptation.
3. Near the conclusion, I completely added this line: "And they shared their good fortune, helping others who were as unfortunate as they had once been." I've read scores of fairy tales, and I believe that's entirely in keeping with the moral of standard folk and fairy tales about good people sharing good fortune. I believe Manning-Sanders would approve.
4. Also at the end of the tale, where it originally read "gathered his children and his work-people about him," I changed it to "gathered his children and their families and friends about him." Chalk that one up to a Christmas indulgence on my part.
5. This is a favorite tale in our family. I've read it to my daughter a few times over the years, including this month. It also makes me smile because of the widespread use of the word peasant. I'm always so unsure when pronouncing that word during read-alouds. I can never remember whether I'm supposed to say PEAS-ent or PEZ-ent. It's kind of a family in-joke.
6. This story shares a key plot point with "The Dragon of the Well," a folk tale from Greece that appears in A Book of Dragons by Manning-Sanders. In that tale, a misunderstood dragon gives out pomegranates containing jewels inside to a couple in need.
7. You can read more about Festivals on this Wikipedia page.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Mystery: "Here comes Santa Clause" at 7:47 on WRAW

Here's an odd piece of mystery ephemera that I picked up in the York New Salem store earlier this year.

It's a thick and firm piece of cardboard, measuring 2¼ inches across and 5 inches tall.

Written at the top is "7:47 WRAW." Then there is a sketch of the head and shoulders of a bearded figure. Written under that is "Here comes Santa Clause."

So I reckon that's supposed to be Santa? It looks more like the bearded neighbor from Home Alone.

The back of the card contains information related to NBC and Henry Aldrich airing at 8 p.m. There is a sketch there of a face that looks vaguely like a young Milton Berle.

WRAW is a Reading, Pennsylvania, AM radio station that was an NBC affiliate back in the mid 20th century. I couldn't find much more than that about its past. It has had a number of format and ownership changes over the decades. It is now owned by iHeartMedia and is a Spanish-language station known as Rumba 1340.

So many questions will go answered. Who sketched this? And why?

And why, why, why did he or she put an "e" on the end of Claus? And why did this survive for more than half a century after its creation?

Call it a Christmas mystery.

There's one thing we do know. If this is referring to the song "Here Comes Santa Claus," I can tell you that that holiday standard was written by Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman and first recorded and released by Autry in 1947.

"Dear Friend Mable come down on beldsnickle night"

This cheery card was postmarked on December 14, 1915, in Wrightsville, York County, Pennsylvania. It is addressed to Miss Mable Smith, also of Wrightsville.

The writing on the card is in light pencil, in cursive and appears to be the script of a child. Here is my best take on what is written:
Dear Friend Mable
come down on beldsnickle night
We want you to go along and we will paint you
let me know if you will come for sure
My address is the same as yours
Mable had an RFD (Rural Free Delivery) address that simply stated "Wrightsville, RFD, No. 1." So, presumably, if Mable just put a full name, Wrightsville, and RFD on a postcard, the postal workers would have known what to do with the reply. I think that's what the writer is indicating with regard to the "same address."

The beldsnickle referred to by the writer is either a variation or misspelling of Belsnickel. (It is also spelled Belschnickel, Belznickle, Belznickel, Pelznikel, or Pelznickel, according to Wikipedia, so clearly there is not wide agreement on one "correct" spelling.)

Belsnickel is a Saint Nicholas/Santa Claus type of figure in old German folklore. The Pennsylvania Dutch, here in the southcentral portion of the state, have kept Belsnickel alive in some of their December traditions. Here is a description, from Wikipedia:
"The Belsnickel shows up at houses 1–2 weeks before Christmas and often created fright because he always knew exactly which of the children misbehaved. He is typically very ragged and mean looking. He wears torn, tattered, and dirty clothes, and he carries a switch in his hand with which to beat bad children. The children escape unharmed, but they are scared into being good so that Santa will bring them presents on Christmas."
So — and this is a lazy simplification — Belsnickel is essentially Krampus, minus the demonic appearance. (Some versions of Belsnickel do, however, have the frighteningly long tongue associated with Krampus.)

Here's another excerpt from Wikipedia:
"Although he may seem like a harsh character, the tradition of Belsnickel is an amusing one and rather benign. Krampus and Belsnickel are two separate Christmas characters. Krampus is a wild, horned figure akin to the devil. His name translates to 'claw'. Belsnickel, on the other hand, dressed in furs and was very human, save for his short stature."
The "Belsnickel Night" referred to on this postcard is possibly (but not definitely) Christmas Eve. I'm not sure what "we will paint you" means.

For more on Belsnickel, see this November 2013 article by Kathy Lauer-Williams in The (Allentown) Morning Call and this 2008 York Town Square blog post by Jim McClure.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Some holiday recipes from the Inglenook Cook Book

This well worn copy of the Inglenook Cook Book contains some recipes that are perfect for the week of Christmas. Or, at least, they were perfect for the week of Christmas a century ago.

Here's an excerpt from the preface:
"This Cook Book originated with the Inglenook magazine published by the Brethren Publishing House, at Elgin, Ill., and was first issued in 1901. With few exceptions the recipes were contributed by sisters of the Brethren Church whose names and addresses are given in every instance. ... The chief claim made is that the recipes have been tried and are recommended."
I think my family would love, by the way, that there is an entire eight-page chapter titled "Macaroni and Cheese Dishes."

Here are a few of the holiday recipes. If you make them, let us know how they turn out. (Also, include how you finish off these recipes, which are not long on details regarding baking temperature or baking time. Those would be good things to know.)

Christmas Candy Loaf
Take 2 pounds of glucose, 4 pounds of granulated sugar and 1 cup of boiling water. Boil until it will form a soft ball when dipped in cold water. Beat until cool enough to stir in beaten whites of four eggs, 2 or 3 teaspoonfuls of vanilla and 1 pound of shelled almonds. If properly stirred and then placed in a deep custard tin it can be sliced off like cake. Should be made several days before wanted. — Sister Lauren T. Miller, Elgin, Ill.

Imitation Fruit Cake
Take 3 cups of sugar, 1 cup of molasses, 1 cup of buttermilk, 2 teaspoonfuls of soda, 7 eggs, 1 cup of lard and butter and 1 level tablespoonful each of cinnamon, cloves and allspice. This make 3 large cakes. — Sister Effie Hoover, Milford, Ind.

Snow Cake
Take 1 cup of sugar, ½ cup of butter, ½ cup of sweet milk, 1½ cups of flour, 1½ teaspoonfuls of baking powder, and the whites of 3 eggs. Flavor with lemon. — Sister Suzie C. East, South English, Iowa.

* * *

As an added "bonus," some stamps were once pasted inside the book, including on the inside front cover. These are the 1926 Christmas seals of the American Lung Association. The ALA first produced Christmas seals in 1907. See all of its seals in this gallery.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

In which angels descend to the Nativity on a ladder

Here's another Christmas postcard sent to Mrs. Emma Berger of Foltz, Pennsylvania. This one features an elaborate scene that adds blond angels, flowers, a ladder and a shooting star to the Nativity. It is not entirely clear, however, why winged angels would need a ladder. Especially if they're not going to use it in the safe and recommended way. The card was printed in Germany.

This postcard was postmarked on December 24, 1912, in Warren, Pennsylvania. The short message states:
"With love and best wishes for the Holidays. Anna."
Here are some detail shots of the colorful card.

What American children want for Christmas (2014 edition)

Earlier this month I wrote about the @TweetsofOld Twitter account and its excerpts from children's letters to Santa in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Kids wanted dolls, toy trains, bicycles, fruit and, sadly, guns and rifles.

Compare those old-time requests with these (verbatim) 2014 requests of Santa that appeared in a December 7 publication by LNP Media Group of Lancaster, Pennsylvania (my employer):

  • Dear Santa, You are good. I would like my little pony, pop ponyies, and an American Girl dog. Love, Abby, 7.
  • Dear Santa, On December can I have an Ever After High Diary and one Ever After High dolls and one dollhouse and a iphone toy. Your friend, Camille.
  • Dear Santa, I really like your presents. I want American Girl Isabelle and crafts. I will have cookies and milk for you and will make reindeer food. Love, Delaney, 5.
  • Dear Santa, I need a PS3 and a Xbox PS100 and a new computer and a new iPhone and a new book and a new jacket and a new toy and a new backpack. Love, Joshua.
  • Dear Santa, Please bring me: Peppa Pig, Hello Kitty, books, paper, dog toys and love and safety for my family and friends. Love, Julianna, 5.
  • Dear Santa, My name is Nevaeh. I'm 9 years old now. Pretty old right. I want toys, treats, and a bigger cage for my hamster. Hers is too small. Can I also get a babby that you can feed real food. And some Monster high dolls Sceliton Moth, Katty Mora, Toralie that's all. Nevaeh, 9. P.S. Say hi to miss jingle. can you find her a boyfriend?
  • Hi Santa, I know i was not very good this year but i am trying to stay on the good list. I hope i get what i want from you this year. I am going to let some cookies out for you. Well i hope i see you soon. Kayla H., 6.
  • Dr Santa, Mi nam z Ryan! I lik tu H R Wr B L S! HW DU U Str URS IA? LV. Ryan, 5.
  • Dear Santa, Can I have a toy, a unicorn also can I have a necklace also a computer. Your friend, Natalee, 6.
  • Dear Santa, I want a toy. I love you Santa because you give me food. I like food is my favorite. Love Yurana.
  • Dear Santa, I want for Christmas a laptop and I wont a self-oon. Love, Zion.
  • Dear Santa, Can I please have a yoyo. And a toy for my kitty cat. Thank you. Mackenzie, 5.
  • Dear Santa, I am sorry I was a naughty boy this year but if you get me a PS3 I will be good next year. I promise. From, Mason, 7.
  • Dear Santa, guess I want a lot of things this year. But you can tell your elves they can leave some off. Love, Brayden. 6. PS I will leave 4 cookies for you and 1 glass of milk!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Vintage Christmas postcard:
Two girls with their gift on a sled

The date is obscured on this card's postmark, but it's generally in the range of a century old, with its green George Washington one-cent stamp. The "Made in U.S.A." card features young girls in red and blue outfits and a sled with a holly-adorned Christmas present aboard.

The message on the front states:
"Christmas Wishes.
A dear old thought dressed up anew
A message of Christmas from me to you."
The postcard was mailed to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and the message on the back states:
"Many kisses for the dear boy and Best-Wishes for all
Meanwhile, I also discovered, thanks to the power of Google, that this postcard is also being featured this year on what is basically the Swedish-language version of Papergreat (only much cooler).

The blog is titled Gamla vykort, which translates roughly to Old Postcards. The September 30, 2014, post was titled "Julkort med vers (från Amerika och Kanada 1909-1929)," and it features this postcards and other wonderful vintage Christmas postcards from the United States and Canada. You should check it out. I also recommend the most recent post, titled "Flickan av snö - Snegorotjka."

From 1913: Combining Christmas greetings and gossipmongering

In this attractive blue-and-gold Christmas postcard from December 1913, Jane simply cannot help herself.

After writing "Merry Xmas and Happy New Year" as her perfunctory note, she adds:
"P.S. What did he preacher do? Do tell me."

Friday, December 19, 2014

1912 Christmas postcard mailed to a place called Foltz, Pennsylvania

This card was postmarked the morning of December 23, 1912, in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. It was sent to a Mrs. Emma Berger in Foltz, Pennsylvania. Waynesboro and Foltz are both located in Franklin County. So, presumably, the postal workers knew precisely where to send this letter. But it would seem that Foltz has fallen a bit "off the radar" during the past century. The website Roadside Thoughts, a gazetteer documenting the current and past communities of the United States and Canada, notes only the following: "At this time, we have very little information about Foltz. We found a mention of this community during our research. Although we've added it to our Gazetteer, we have few details."

There were many individuals with the last name Foltz in Franklin County, southcentral Pennsylvania, and elsewhere in the 19th century. See, for example, this genealogy site and this genealogy site.

The note on the back of this colorful postcard states:
"Christmas Greetings to you all. did Myra get home all right — sorry we can't come this time
Love to all.
I guess we'll never know if, indeed, Myra got home all right.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

In support and defense of tiny Christmas cards

Why do Christmas cards and greeting cards in general have to be so big? It might seem contradictory for an ephemera lover and a traditional book lover to be a conservationist, but I am. We need to use our trees and paper more responsibly.

I like smaller Christmas cards. And it seems as if the challenges of having less space leads to more creativity and beauty on the cards. Decisions have to be made about using the space in the best way possible. When you have a fold-out card the size of Godzilla, there's no room for subtlety.

The best of all, of course, would be smaller Christmas cards printed on recycled paper. Or recycling old Christmas cards to create new offerings.

Tonight's vintage card is not much larger than a business card. It's just a smidge over four inches by two inches. It features a wonderfully cozy living room scene. This tiny card has so much attention to detail that there's another winter scene taking place outside the window.

Other Papergreat posts featuring the word "cozy"

Merry Christmas from The Gazette and Daily of York, Pa.

This thin sheet of paper contains a jolly Christmas and New Year's greeting from The Gazette and Daily, once "the boys' and girls' newspaper" here in York, Pennsylvania. It is the predecessor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News.

It likely dates to the 1940s, give or take a decade. The design of the card shares some similarities to a birthday greeting card from The Gazette and Daily that I featured back in August 2013.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Santa's Christmas Rocket coloring book (1982)

Last December I featured a circa-1971 Christmas-themed fun book from the York Mall. This one is of a more recent vintage. The 1982 publication of Handi-Ad Printing Company is called Santa's Christmas Rocket and it is stamped with the name and address of the West Manchester Mall here in York.1

The coloring book features the adventures of Becky and Bobby and, yes, Santa's rocket. On Page 1, Santa invites the two children aboard his rocket to "visit the galaxy." Then he shows them a map of the planets they will visit. By Page 3, he's explaining the rocket's controls to Becky and Bobby, showing them a lever labeled "FASTER." The exact science of the rocket is unclear. Santa then inexplicably lays down on the floor and takes a nap, turning full control of the ship over to these two children he has just met. Instead of flying the ship, however, Becky and Bobby take advantage of Santa's nap to dig through his sack of toys, which they likely did not have permission to do. Then things get weird, with LSD possibly involved. They meet presumably alien creatures called Hairheds, Dractidecs and Boolies, and placate them with various toys from Santa's bag. Santa, who conveniently has a human-sized lollipop, gives it one of the giants on Glopuso, a planet I am unfamiliar with. Becky then reads Mother Goose to the Nannas, a race of disturbingly anthropomorphic bananas. Finally, they give both a fire truck and the gift of fire to a race called the Mimfies, and it is unclear that their civilization is ready for those advances. Fortunately (?) the final page involves Becky and Bobby waking up to find the whole thing was a dream. It is not, however, explained how they shared the same dream.

The back page of Santa's Christmas Rocket features an advertisement for the commercial real estate company Crown American, which remains based in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Crown American was originally responsible for many of Pennsylvania's smaller-town malls, the type that people like me grew up with in the 1970s and 1980s. They were involved, for example, with the North Hanover Mall, Nittany Mall, Capital City Mall, Chambersburg Mall and Lycoming Mall.

I have just now realized that my wife wrote about this same coloring booklet on her blog, Only in York County, in 2012. And, best of all, she scanned all of the trippy coloring pages, so you can see exactly what I'm talking about when I say that this is one weird booklet.

1. As I write this, the West Manchester Mall is undergoing a major renovation that will turn it into the West Manchester Town Center. Ashar and I went inside a couple of days ago and the few remaining businesses include the movie theater and a comic-book store (where we browsed the Batman offerings). The renovations will make it more of an open-air mall, with exterior storefronts rather than an indoor gallery. That configuration will make it less useful as a potential hiding place in the event of a zombie uprising.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

1915 Christmas postcard: "Nothing Too Good For The Baby"

This postcard, featuring a grumpy-looking baby surrounded by toys, was postmarked on the afternoon of December 22, 1915, in York, Pennsylvania, and mailed to Master Sickler in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (a 50-mile straight shot to the west on Lincoln Highway).

The message on the back states:
"Sincere good wishes to all for the yuletide and a bright, happy 1916 from all of The [illegible]."
The signed last name could be Oserpick, Osirpick, Oserfrick, Osirfrick, Aserpick, Asirpick, Aserfrick, Asirfrick or none of the above. Hard to tell.

That makes me grumpy like this guy.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Rib-tickling requests of Santa from @TweetsofOld

It's been three years since I first mentioned "R.L. Ripples" and the fabulous @TweetsofOld Twitter account, in the post about the Knights of Pythias.

This merry season, that Twitter feed has been filled with actual excerpts from children's letters to Santa in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They offer a window into that bygone era. They are scary at times (with so many gun references). And, mostly, they are laugh-out-loud funny. Or maybe that's just how my warped sense of humor reads them.

I encourage you to take some time to go through the full Twitter feed.

Here are some of my favorites thus far, as we jingle all the way toward our own 21st century Christmas.

Gorgeous postcard from Russia with Elena Potyakina artwork

I mentioned at the beginning of the week that I'm mailing vintage, Christmas-themed postcards across the globe as my half of the bargain for Postcrossing. The other half of the equation, of course, is receiving holiday-themed cards from all over. And a dandy one popped into my mailbox this week.

The postcard shown above features an illustration by artist Elena Potyakina and was sent to me by Sonya in Moscow. She writes:
"On this postcard there is a cat. It is the wonderful cat from Russian fairy tales. His name is The Cat-Bayun. ... In our culture there is tradition, that cats help in looking after infants and swing cots when children are sleeping."

According to Encyclopedia of Russian and Slavic Myth and Legend, Kot Bayun was "a talking cat that lived in the Thrice-Ninth Kingdom with the Thrice-Ninth Land."

Another website states:
A popular character of many Russian tales, Kot Bayun has a dual personality. In Russian "bayukat" means puts to sleep. Or "bayat" — tell the stories. On the one hand, this giant cannibal cat lulls to sleep the knights with with its magic voice and then kills them. The bravest ones, that manage to catch the cat, obtain the chance to cure the illnesses as the cat's tales have the healing power. Kot Bayun is a frequent character of many Russian tales and is most likely the prototype of the learned cat in the introduction to Pushkin poem "Ruslan and Liudmila".

So it seems as if Cat-Bayun/Kot Bayun has a bit of a dual personality, which is not uncommon for some of the oldest characters of folklore. Baba Yaga is another Slavic figure that has a history of being on both the dark side and the light side.

One thing is for sure, though: This is a festive postcard. And that cat looks like one you want in your house. I'm not as sure about the bird, though.

Lucian Lowen's cover illustration for a 1961 edition of The Sphere

I love this piece.

It's the cover illustration, by Lucian Lowen, for a December 1961 issue of The Sphere, an illustrated British newspaper. Specifically, this was Volume CCXLVII, No. 3205a. (Yes, that's a lot of issues. The Sphere launched in January 1900 and closed up shop in June 1964.)

It's too big to scan in its entirety (on our scanner, anyway). So I framed it. It's great to look at every day, especially during the holiday season.

I can't find much about Lowen, but this is a fabulous and festive piece of work on his part. Certainly suitable for a cover illustration. The artwork itself does have a bit of a 1960s vibe, but the scene itself seems nearly timeless (except for the electric lampposts and the boxy modern buildings in the background.)

Oddly, this illustration is available as a jigsaw puzzle on Amazon.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cash and puns make for a wonderful holiday mix

This Christmas gift envelope has fun with the homophones doe and dough. It is "A Gibson Card" and was produced by Gibson Cinti in the United States.

Alas, there was no cash remaining inside the envelope.

For some more holiday humor, check out Clean Christmas Puns and Jokes by Jean-Louis Bontront and the 2012 Papergreat post Kids Say the Darndest Things.

Also, why are there only 2,360 Google results for the search phrase "Batman laid an egg"?

1938 holiday postcard from Leinhardt Bros. of York

This handmade advertising postcard was mailed in December 1938 to an address in York, Pennsylvania

Leinhardt Bros. was a furniture store in York. It was known as “The Friendly Store." It was located on the 200 block of West Market Street. Most of the old advertising and references I've found online are from the 1940s through 1960s.

And we know the business was still around in 1972, because it is prominently featured in a photograph showing the devastation from Hurricane Agnes in York. That photo can be seen in a 2009 post on Jim McClure's York Town Square blog.

So, we know Leinhardt Bros. spanned at least the 1930s through 1970s. I'd happily welcome any reader memories or historical information in the comments section.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Lee S. Boggs' Christmas card

This attractive Christmas card, complete with red ribbon, is signed by Lee S. Boggs on the inside.

The printed message inside states:

May the hearty Christmas Spirit
in tale and legend told,
Expressed in Yuletide customs
since friendly days of old,
Grip you and yours this Christmas
with its good will and cheer,
And yours be a happy household
throughout the coming year!

Other than a brief newspaper reference to a Lee S. Boggs who lived in Napa, California, in the 1930s, I can't find much online related to Boggs. So I'm certainly open to fresh leads.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Old Italian-language Christmas postcard: "Buon Natale"

This vintage postcard, featuring a staged snowball fight in front of a painted background, states Buon Natale, which is Italian for Merry Christmas. Hand-scratched into the lower-right is the number 3327.

The red on the woman's skirt was applied separately, it appears, because that red coloring has bled a little bit toward the lower part of the card, making pink "snow."

The photograph has been pasted to the front of a split-back postcard, which was never written upon or mailed. It was published by I. & M. Ottenheimer of Baltimore, Maryland.

I. & M. was well known, starting in late 19th century, for books such as Howard Thurston's Card Tricks, German at a Glance, Automobile Jokes and Stories, New Book of Coin Tricks Illustrated, The Science of Hypnotism, Ventriloquism for Fun and Profit, How to Become an American Citizen, New Irish Yarns, New Dutch Jokes, Button Busters Jolly Jokes, New Clown Joke Book, Cowboy Jokes and Yarns, Best-Ever Joke Book, and, quite regrettably, The Minstrel Guide and Joke Book, New Coon Jokes, and New Black Face Joke Book, among many, many others.

The article "Joke Books and Humor Publications, 1897-1947" on the Kent State University website discusses the kinds of joke books that I. & M. produced and notes: "With million of immigrants arriving on American shores in the late 19th and early 20th century, ethnic humor served as an obvious and extremely popular topic for writers and performers. I. & M. Ottenheimer which published many joke books of this type, often in small 4"x5" formats, sold them through venues such as Woolworth's, 'by the carload.'"

Here's more on them, from the Baltimore City Postcards webpage:
"In August 1890, Isaac Ottenheimer, age 19, and his 14-year-old brother Moses rented one-half of a store located at Baltimore and Pine Streets to sell books. By 1940 the firm had more than 100 joke books, many of them written by the brothers using pen names of Moe and Joe Ott. ... None of the newspaper accounts describing the Ottenheimer brothers publishing endeavors make mention of their postcard publications."
So this postcard isn't indicative of what made most of the money for brothers Isaac and Moses, but it's an interesting footnote to their business, for sure.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Five vintage holiday postcards that will be traveling the world

These postcards are out the door...

This month, I am "recycling" some old and very old Christmas postcards that were either lightly used or never used and sending them out as international Postcrossing exchanges. I hope they will be some special, vintage surprises in the mailboxes of postcards lovers in places like Austria, Poland, Hong Kong, Crimea, Taiwan, Belarus, Belgium and the Faroe Islands. (Yes, one card is en route to that northern nation, which has a ram on its coat of arms.)

So, before this ephemera leaves the Otto household forever, here's a look at some of these cool cards, which, like the denizens of the Island of Misfit Toys, finally have a use and purpose in their lives.

Note: I think this one is my favorite, with its mixture of Christmas and Candyland atmospheres. I don't know who Russell and Bertha are.

Note: This beat-up card was originally given to Mable by Sadie, but had no other writing on the back. So I was able to repurpose it.

Note: This isn't technically a postcard. But it's quite merry and suits the purpose fine. It's an old gift-subscription notice for the Farm Journal of Philadelphia.