Monday, July 21, 2014

From the readers: Confederama,
sci-fi covers, postcards and more

We're long overdue for a dive into the dandy reader comments from recent months and weeks...

Recalling the Civil War with 3 miles of electrical wiring and 650 lights: Brad Watson writes: "When I was a kid — 6-12 years old (1965-71) — my family would visit Chattanooga every summer. One of the reasons for this pilgrimage is that I was obsessed with all things Civil War and Abraham Lincoln. I remember my parents taking me to the 'Confederama' and thinking how cool it was! All those individually painted toy soldiers and train layouts. Wow! I AM 55 now and I'd love to see it again! I can then come home and play with my HO scale Civil War train 'The General' and some Civil War soldiers. It would be like being a kid again. Sorry Southerners, but I made sure the North always won. I think I'm the reincarnation of Lincoln, who was the reincarnation of Benjamin Franklin."

Cheerful Card Company can help you earn extra money for the holidays: Anonymous writes: "I am 58 and sold these cards for many years when I was younger and had regular customers who wanted imprinted cards. When I stopped selling them, I still had people calling me back for years hoping I would start again. Great memories!"

[Read MANY more memories of Cheerful Card Company in this March 28 post.]

Fanzine flashback #1: 1964's "Con" by Christopher Priest: Harry Bell caught a mistake by me: "Just a small point: contrary to 'At a glance,' Dick Howett did the artwork, not Dick Howlett."

Thank you, Harry! And that's not a small point. That's a big error on my part, and there's no excuse, because the printed name Howett was staring me in the face the entire time I wrote this post. I have gone back and fixed the name throughout. And I see, now that I'm searching under the correct name, that he was a published artist, per The Internet Speculative Fiction Database.

Thanks again, Harry, for your attentiveness and for taking the time to write.

In which my wife comes up with a new category of ephemera: My wife writes: "I am not only chuffed at the presence of these lists on Papergreat, I'm ecstatic that on further reading, I realized the second list contained notes about pineapple rum. While I don't drink and can't have pineapples, I'm excited for people who can."

Full disclosure: I had to look up the word chuffed.

Book Cover: "Invaders of Earth": This one received two comments.

Bart Ingraldi of writes: "I hope those cages have a transparent barrier. Those bars are kinda far apart. I love the campy cover art of the period, thanks."

Barry Dearling writes: "That looks like a real blast from the past. Love those fifties outfits, lol. But I do have a nostalgic side that loves all this old kind of B-movie material. I have always liked science fiction, and am always on the lookout for new exciting writers. My Kindle collection continues to grow!"

Mystery real photo postcard: Well-dressed girl and chair: Yan Pak writes: "So interesting when see an old postcard with human photo. I often wondering what a fate has/had this human, how does he/she now or was. Girl on photo is pretty! I wish a good in all her moments!"

A postcard mailed in 1910 and some Sunday night reading: Andy writes: "Interesting. I have several postcards with the PCU [Post Card Union of America] stamp on them (a paper or ink stamp indicating that the card is being sent as part of a PCU sanctioned exchange) and have tried to find out a little more about the organization, without success. It would be interesting to see the magazine, if any exist, but I've drawn a blank on that so far as well."

The Perry Pictures: Robert E. Lee: Ed writes: "I think that Perry Pictures was still in business in 1958 when I moved from Malden. The side street was near Malden Square and I went there frequently to get pictures for various school papers. It was fun and an experience going through the catalog."

Illustrations of Pennsylvania's orphanages, circa 1880: Lance Anderson writes: "Thanks for posting. The full PDF of the book is found here. Through this book, I learned that my great grandfather Richard Anderson was a resident at Mount Joy School for Soldiers Orphans from 1868 through 1872. His father John (my great great grandfather) was KIA on May 16, 1864. The building is still standing and being used to hold several apartments: 205 N. Barbara St., Mount Joy, PA 17552."

Nostalgia: Five TV movie intros that kids these days will never experience: Bart Ingraldi writes: "Million Dollar Movie — my gosh, I had to rewatch that intro a dozen times. A great piece of nostalgia! WOR and I grew up together."

Card from Wayside Gospel Crusaders in Lancaster: Anonymous writes: "Today purchased a gorgeous 1940s porcelain sign quoting Matthew 11:28 from Wayside Gospel Crusaders. Way cool piece of history."

Pics from the past #1: A trio of men: Sandi writes: "Weekend at Bernie's, vintage version?"

Which is an inappropriate transition to...

* * *
Baby mystery remains unsolved

On May 12, I published a post with the jokey title "Authentic vintage postcard of Chewbacca holding a York baby." It was supposed to be a lighthearted look at an old postcard.

But, afterward, there were questions about whether this was actually a postmortem photograph.

At this point, there is still no definitive answer. And there is probably no way to ever have a definitive answer.

Here's a summary of the points made during the debate:

  • My mom, who I agree with: "Not to spoil your fun with the York Chewbacca baby, but this might actually be a post-mortem photograph ... aka 'dead baby picture.' It was something some grieving parents did during this era. ... Sorry, but this is definitely a post-mortem photo. If you look closely at the eyes in the closeup ... you can see the irises are artificial and the baby's real eyes are looking up and you can only see the bottoms of them. Plus, a baby would never have stayed still long enough for a photograph."
  • Sandi: "It looks like a christening picture to me. That baby is pretty bright eyed. And I always suspected that Chewie loved babies .. .he has a gentle heart, despite his burly, furry bigness."
  • The Thanatos Archive Twitter account: "Well, I have good news — that photo is not post-mortem!" [The Thanatos Archive features Victorian Era post-mortem and mourning photography. So it's a bit of an expert source on this topic.]
  • Anna Krentz, a student of Photographic Preservation and Collections Management at Ryerson University: "Sometimes it is hard to tell but I personally don't think it's post-mortem — retouching around eyes is very common in this period, especially on lighter coloured eyes. Babies absolutely could and did sit still long enough for clear photographs, there are millions of examples — in fact I have a very similar looking photograph of my great-grandmother ca. 1890, and she most definitely lived beyond that! Also the 'Chewbacca' cloth makes it more likely the baby is alive, as it is almost certainly there to conceal the mother holding the baby and keeping it quiet enough to stay still. With a deceased baby there is no need to hide the mother, you can simply pose the baby. Post-mortem photography was of course fairly common, as you say, but it isn't a conclusion you can leap to on the basis of retouching and staying still."

What do you think? My two cents is that the original image could not have been large enough for the photographer to do that precise level of retouching of the eyes after the fact. I think those irises were put in before the picture was snapped, which means...

(Here's a link to the full scan, which you can magnify.)

* * *
One last thing: Praise from Russia

This morning, I got an unexpected email from Sergey in Russia, who had received a postcard from me through Postcrossing:
"Thanks a lot for this postcard! Your blog is a real treasure for me — it has so many interesting information! From recipes to different mysteries and illustrations — all what I like. Your blog necessarily will be one of my favourite pages! You have very careful handwriting. Stamps are great too. Thank you! I hope you have a happy summer too!"
Aww! Thanks, Sergey! You have a wonderful summer, too!

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