Saturday, March 1, 2014

Not long ago, AOL, CompuServe and Prodigy ruled cyberspace

Here's an item that isn't very old, compared to most of the ephemera I post. But it seems so antiquated, compared to the world we live in today, that it's kind of jarring. It certainly made me feel old.

America Online's heyday was two decades ago, folks!

In this newspaper clipping from January 12, 1996, we see that The York Dispatch (and The Associated Press) were on the cutting edge in giving younger, technology-oriented readers content that might interest them.1 The AP provided, and the Dispatch published, a regular "roundup of celebrity events scheduled on America Online, CompuServe, Microsoft Network and Prodigy on-line computer services."

Remember Keywords2 and Center Stage? They were the center of the online experience for most people who had a computer and managed [sarcasm alert] to find one of those elusive AOL sign-up CDs.

Here's a look at some of the personalities who were participating in online forums 18 years ago:
  • Gary Paul Davis, aka Litefoot, talked about The Indian in the Cupboard movie on AOL.
  • Julia Child, who was 83 at the time, talked about cooking on AOL's Center Stage. (I'm guessing she had someone that she dictated answers to.)
  • Robert Carr, vice president of engineering for Autodesk (maker of AutoCAD), chatted on CompuServe.
  • Animators who worked on Pixar's Toy Story chatted on Prodigy.
  • Morton Downey Jr., described as a "former talk show host whose acerbic style made him a household name," talked with Prodigy members.

Nowadays, celebrities of this nature might opt to do an AMA on Reddit.3 And, 20 years from now, I'm sure some of you will be aghast at how antiquated AMAs are.

1. Here a couple other tidbits from this page in The York Dispatch:
  • In an advertisement, a music store called Disc Jockey in the York Galleria was touting its great prices on CDs and cassette tapes such as The Bridge by Ace of Base, Gangsta's Paradise by Coolio, Relish by Joan Osborne, and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by The Smashing Pumpkins. (Now I know some of you feel old.)
  • According to the TV listings, ABC's TGIF lineup on January 12, 1996, featured Family Matters, Boy Meets World, Step by Step, and Hangin' with Mr. Cooper.
2. Here are a couple of interesting posts related to AOL keywords:
3. President Barack Obama has done an AMA on Reddit. And Bill Murray did a recent one that generated a lot of buzz.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Is the structure you're sitting in right now built with hygienic concrete?

This bombastic advertisement for Fottrell Hygienic Concrete appeared in a circa-1891 issue of North American Review. (All sorts of products were being described as hygienic at this time in the United States. In a previous post, I featured an advertisement for Harderfold Hygienic Underwear.)

The Fottrell Patent Hygienic Concrete Company of New York went over the top in describing the alleged merits of its concrete. Here is some of the fine print from the advertisement:
  • "Health is the Greatest Boon of Life!1 The Fottrell Hygienic Concrete is the ONLY material which (as proved at the Royal Sanitary Congress1 in Europe) prevents the exhalations of noxious gases from the subsoil."
  • "No house can be absolutely pure and healthy without it. Every basement should be covered with it. Every basement wall should be rendered with it."

The illustration with the advertisement really outdoes itself and needs to be viewed at a larger magnification to be truly appreciated. It implies that Fottrell Hygienic Concrete is keeping all sorts of foul and devilish beasts out of your structure.

Despite its efforts to save lives and sell concrete, Fottrell didn't last very long. A column in the March 21, 1903, issue of United States Investor states:
"As to the Fottrell Hygienic Concrete Imperishable Ashphalt Co., we learn that there were some complications between the patentee and inventor, Mr. Fottrell, and the directors, which finally resulted in a disagreement among the latter. After unsuccessful attempts had been made to settle the difficulty, the president, Mr. C.R. Briggs, resigned. This was six years ago, and since then little or nothing has been heard of the proposition. The company has made some attempts to introduce its product, but did not appear to meet with a great deal of success."
1. The Royal Sanitary Congress is part of a public-health organization in the United Kingdom with a long history and many name changes. Read about its history on Wikipedia. Since 2008, it has been known as the Royal Society for Public Health. It's not clear whether the group's endorsement of Fottrell Hygienic Concrete still stands.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Keep this handy if you (time travel and) have malaria or liver woes

Modern business cards can be pretty sleek and snazzy. But, other than the fact that we can now design and print them with computers, their basic form and function hasn't changed much since the introduction of lithography in the 19th century.1

The card pictured above does what it needs to do. It tells you the doctor's name, what he treats (malaria, chills, fever, liver complaint, dyspepsia and indigestion), and where he's located (907 Broadway in New York).2

The card even offers a backup plan if you can't get to Dr. James: Head for C.N. Crittenton at 115 Fulton Street.

C.N. Crittenton was Charles Nelson Crittenton (1833-1909), a maker of drugs and patent medicines. According to Wikipedia:
"Born in Henderson in Jefferson County, New York, Crittenton went into the drug business in New York City in 1861. However, after 1882, when his 4-year-old daughter Florence died of scarlet fever3, he devoted his time and wealth to the establishment of the Florence Night Mission to 'rescue' prostitutes, and later Crittenton homes for homeless and unfortunate girls and their infant children. In 1898 the National Florence Crittenton Mission received a federal charter to carry on this work. Of these mission homes more than 70 were organized in Mr. Crittenton's lifetime."
1. For an excellent history of visiting and business cards, see this April 2012 Design Float Blog post.
2. Daytonian in Manhattan offers a neat history of The Warren Building, which takes up Nos. 903-907 on Broadway in Manhattan.
3. Scarlet fever was just mentioned a few days ago here, in "A child's traced and colored pictures from long ago."

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Gratuitous Victorian trade card of kittens climbing out of a wooden box

NOTE: Please do not attempt to pack and ship cats in this fashion.

The back of this Victorian trade card features a short poem about etiquette.

GOOD boys and girls should never say
"I will," and, "Give me these,"
Oh no; that never is the way,
But, "Mother, if you please."

And "If you please," to sister Ann,
Good boys to say are ready;
And "Yes, sir," to a gentleman,
And "Yes, mam'am" to a lady.

Actually, that poem makes etiquette really confusing.

Getting back to the cats, I have been inspired this afternoon to create a new Cats category for Papergreat. So, now you have one-click convenience for all of the cat photos and illustrations that have appeared here over the years. You're welcome.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Many great memories of Wintrode's Garage in Littlestown

Thanks to Mark Zuckerberg's little invention called Facebook, I can now share much more history regarding Wintrode's Garage in Littlestown, Pennsylvania, which was the subject of a post yesterday.

I asked folks on the "If you grew up in Littlestown, you remember" and the "If you grew up in Hanover, Pa you remember" Facebook groups for their memories about Wintrode's, and I received a bonanza of responses. Here are some of them, lightly edited. I don't mean to get all nostalgic, but they certainly speak to a different era in America and its small-town life.

  • "Wintrode Buick was in business since probably the 1940s. My parents bought a lot of Buicks from them over the years. Clinton Wintrode and his wife were the owners. Later, Emerson (Buck) Muller, husband of their daughter Arlene, ran the business. And at some time later, Muller's son Ray was involved in it. They sold Buicks, and when Buick was marketing Opels, they sold them, too. I took my driver's test in a 1965 Buick Special station wagon that was purchased there. They had a service department, and I remember a mechanic named Leroy Wildasin. He used to tell me jokes when I was a kid. Also, Wintrode's had an ice cream case that sold Folmer's Ice Cream — I remember dreamsicles on a stick. Ah, Mrs. Wintrode's first name was Mary. A sweet lady. It was a family business and they all worked at the business. ... I see the phone number is 170. I remember getting a dial phone in Littlestown in the very early 60s. These short numbers were before the dial!"
  • "I can tell you that my parents got many cars from them. I also got my first car there, a used Chevy Vega. The worst car you ever want to have but that wasn't their fault, it was a Chevy.
  • "My dad Leroy worked for all three generations as their bookkeeper at different times and retired from Wintrode's."
  • "I remember that Clinton and Mary Wintrode owned the dealership back in the day. It was a big time in Littlestown and other towns when the 'new' year vehicles were uncovered. The vehicles would arrive all covered with canvas on the carrier and were not on display until the specified day. Everyone one made it a point to stop in the dealership to drool over the cars. They would have an open house type of celebration. It was a big time in our small town. The other dealership was Basehore Ford Garage on East King Street."
  • "I can tell you that the founders of the garage were Clinton and Mary Wintrode. I am not sure what year Wintrode Garage moved from South Queen Street To North Queen Street. I remember going to the garage with my dad back in the 1950s. Wintrode's always made everyone feel like family! They had a lot of chairs in their showroom. My dad bought many cars from them."
  • "My dad Irvin was the body shop man at Wintrode's from the late '60s to mid '70s and we rented a house right behind the garage from Clinton and Mary Wintrode on Prince Street."
  • "I'm a teacher at the elementary school. When my car needed service, all I had to do was make an appointment and then leave the keys under the seat when I parked it in the school parking lot. The guys from Wintrode's would come and get it during the day, fix it, drive it back down to school and park it in the lot, and leave the keys in it and the bill on the seat. It was great service!"

Beautiful penmanship, but the grammar leaves much to be desired

On April 4, 1884, George B. Parr of Hanover, Pennsylvania, sent this postcard to Daniel Swartzbaugh of nearby Gettysburg, inquiring about a potential job.

Showing initiative? Check.
Ability to use the U.S. postal system? Check.
Penmanship? Check.
Spelling and grammar? Not so much.

With regard to George's note on the back of postcard, I don't mean to poke fun. But, hey, 130 years have passed and I'm looking at this more from a historian's perspective.

Here is George's note, verbatim (the actual image is below):
Hanover April th 4 1884
Mr Swartzbaugh
Dear Sir hove you a hirelen yet or not uncle george was teling me you would like to have won i would hire my Self to you Pleas let me know what wages you would pay me a monts good bye
Mr george B Parr to Mr D Swartzbaugh

I wonder if George was hired? If not, I wonder if his prospects would have been improved with some punctuation, spelling and proper use of capitalization?

Or perhaps Daniel Swartzbaugh didn't care. The message (mostly) is conveyed by this postcard. And he probably wasn't hiring someone to be his secretary or accountant. So maybe this worked out just fine for George.

This is also interesting, because a former boss of mine and I were just discussing an situation in which the New York Post mocks a group of teenagers for sending error-filled letters in response to a story about some serious problems at Manhattan’s Murry Bergtraum High School for Business Careers. States the Post:
"Red-faced administrators encouraged a student letter-writing campaign to attack The Post and defend its “blended learning” program. Eighteen kids e-mailed to argue that their alma mater got a bad rap. Almost every letter was filled with spelling, grammar and punctuation errors."
Is it bad that those students have trouble putting a solid sentence together? Absolutely.

Does it help support the Post's stance that the high school is a "fail factory"? Absolutely.

Should the students get some credit for at least speaking up and trying to defend their school? Absolutely.

And should they be mocked for their efforts at making their voices heard? Excellent and difficult ethical question.

My former boss adds: "It is hard to communicate, even to bright kids, that you aren't going to be successful if you write everything the way you would send a text [message]."

He's probably right. My thought, though, is that the young people who spend all their time texting in 2010s will eventually be the ones doing all the hiring. So they might have some different expectations than I do about the notion of resumes, cover letters and the appropriate ways to communicate. Language and grammar are not set in stone. They evolve (like it or not).

Monday, February 24, 2014

32 years ago we asked: "So What's Wrong With Playing Video Games?"

Yes, more than three decades ago. Feeling old?

This is the cover of 1982's So What's Wrong With Playing Video Games? by Joy Wilt Berry...

The book, geared toward young teenagers who might be prone to whiling away their days and quarters at the arcade1, isn't as militantly against video games as you might think it would be. Author Berry, who still specializes in self-help books for kids and has sold more than 85 million copies of those books (according to her website), brings a common-sense approach to examining the effects of video games on your relationships, your personality and your wallet.

We might not agree now with all of these points, but Berry states that arcade games:
  • Can serve as an escape from problems
  • Can provide an escape from responsibility
  • Can take the place of friends
  • Can take time from doing creative things
  • Can cause a person to become dependent
  • Can cause a person to become dishonest
  • Can cause a person to spend too much money
  • Can cause a person to become aggressive and perhaps violent

(And this was years before Mortal Kombat, Night Trap, Doom, Postal, Grand Theft Auto, and some fairly ridiculous Congressional hearings.)

But those 1982 concerns don't lead Berry to argue for banning or giving up video games. She advocates moderation and the individual controlling the machine, not vice versa:
"It is not the video game that is good or bad; it is the way you use the video game that makes it good or bad."

She urges kids to watch their time, watch their wallets and remember all the other things in their lives that they also want to have time for — family, friends, church, sports, hobbies, etc.

Berry suggests that you shouldn't spend more than 25 percent of your free time or 20 percent of your disposable income on video games.

I also like this point: "The purpose of games is to bring fun and fulfillment or rest and relaxation into people's lives. ... [If] you become frustrated, anxious or upset when you play the games, you should stop playing them."

Of course, video games have become more sophisticated since Pac-Man and Space Invaders. And our understanding on their pros and cons has evolved, too. Last year, my wife authored a series on "Video-Game Learning," which you can read on the Unschool Rules website. The topics addressed include:

  • Why “All my kids want to do is play video games!” isn’t such a bad thing
  • Virtual friends, virtual art: Video games for social skills and creativity
  • Digital currency: Video games for math
  • Pixels and punctuation: Video games for writing and spelling
  • Bringing the past to life: Video games for history and geography
  • Our fitness is pretty funny-looking: Video games for physical education

1. I was always pretty terrible at arcade games (which didn't necessarily stop me from playing). I think the ones I've enjoyed the most over the years are:

Wintrode's Garage in Littlestown: 1955 mailed advertisement

Today we return to Littlestown, in Adams County, Pennsylvania. In 2011, Littlestown was the topic of the favorite post title I've ever had on Papergreat — Fairy tales: From laxatives to Littlestown to Johnny Depp.

Alas, no laxatives today. This is a direct-mail advertising card from 1955, urging residents to come to Wintrode's Garage on November 4, 1955, and consider purchasing a new Buick for 1956.

Wintrode's Garage, later Wintrode Buick-Chevrolet, was located at 523 North Queen Street in Littlestown. More recently, that site was the location of Speak Automotive.

I don't know what year Wintrode opened or closed, but it was in business for many decades in southern Adams County, perhaps as long as a half-century. (I have sought help from the members of of a Hanover, Pa., history page on Facebook, so I'm hoping to have an update to this post.)

Read update: Great memories of Wintrode's

Here's the other side of the advertising card, which indicates that Wintrode's employees were "busy as beavers" getting read for the Buick showcase.

That's a 1½-cent Martha Washington U.S. stamp, by the way. It was first issued as part of the 1938 presidential series.

It was reprinted several times in 1939 and, obviously, used for many years after that. According to, it was used in the following manners:
"1½¢ paid the 3rd class rate per oz., including unsealed Christmas cards, and the 4th class book rate per lb. Non-profits used the stamp for up to 2 oz. from 1952-58. Non-philatelic usage of the vertical coils paying proper postage is extremely rare and even rarer with the Canal Zone overprint."

The Martha Washington stamp was part of a series that some call The Prexies. Read more on the Martha Washington page at The Prexies website.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Some railroad freight waybills from 60 years ago

While on our anniversary trip to northern Pennsylvania last year, Joan and I made an exciting find1 within a cobweb-filled garage that sat behind a damp and mildewy antique store in Coudersport, Pennsylvania: A thick stack of 1954 freight waybills from the Coudersport and Port Allegany Railroad Company.

The C&PA operated in Potter and McKean counties from 1882 until 1964, when it was purchased by another railroad, only to be abandoned in 1970.

The waybills document the shipper, consignee and goods for all freight shipped by the railroad. These receipts from 60 years ago provide an interesting snapshot of what was being moved across this less-than-20-mile line in northcentral Pennsylvania at the time.

The shipments included:

  • From Mars Inc. of Chicago to Taubert's Foods: 6 containers candy
  • From Econ O Seal Co. to Coudersport Dairy: 2 containers aluminum foil milk bottle caps
  • From Whiterock Quarries in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, to Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Highways, c/o Louis Forsythe, Supt.: crushed stone
  • From Geo. M. Leininger Co. of New Orleans to Warren D. White: 1 box personal effects, 1 crate personal effects
  • From American Chicle Company to Taubert's Foods: 2 containers chewing gum
  • From Boyertown Burial Casket Co. to Geo. H. Grabe Funeral Home: 1 wooden casket, boxed
  • From Nopco Chemical Co. to Damascus Tanning Co.: 2 drums tanners oil
  • From Lachman Rose Co. to Transogram Co.: 1 container "toys plastic damaged"
  • From Western Electric Co. of Philadelphia to Bell Telephone Co.: 2 boxes stationery
  • From Wood McCaw & Co. to United Natural Gas Co.: 2 bales moss
  • From Patriotic Fireworks Corp. to G.W. Mitchell: 2 containers spec. fireworks
  • From Ideal Pajama Co. to Carey's Department Store: 1 package cotton pajamas

1. Full disclosure: OK, I was excited by the find. I think Joan was a bit creeped out and worried that I would not make it out of the cavernous garage, in which years worth of junk tottered in precarious piles, alive.