Thursday, May 1, 2014

10 postcards showing Atlantic City as you've probably never seen it

For the Ottos, Atlantic City means walking the boardwalk, Super Jackpot Block Party, the Boardwalk Cats Project, yummy food and seagulls (who often try to steal the yummy food), among other things. But that's just us. "America's Favorite Playground" means many different things to people. And it's meant different things over the decades, dating back to the 1850s.

So here, for your enjoyment, are 10 postcards showing Atlantic City as many of you have probably never seen it. (Nope. CGI re-creations of Atlantic City on Boardwalk Empire don't count.)

1. Steel Pier, circa 1910
The Steel Pier still exists of course, but it has seen many overhauls and iterations over the years. It dates to 1898 and has been a theater, the site of the Miss America pagaent, a concert venue, the home of an inhumane diving-horse attraction, and, since 1993, an amusement park. In 1910, as seen here, it was just a few years removed from its first major restoration effort.

POSTCARD DETAILS: It was mailed to Paterson, New Jersey, in September 1910 with the following note: "Atlantic City. Dear Howard we are haveing [sic] a fine time you could take lots of picture if you was with us. Grandpa has not taken any yet think he will. love Grandma." [Union News Co. postcard, published by L. Beard, Atlantic City]

2. Hotel Traymore at night, circa 1920s
The Traymore is arguably the most famous hotel in Atlantic City history. It began as a boarding house in the 1870s and grew to the Art Deco architectural behemoth seen in this postcard. My favorite fact: It had four faucets in every bathtub — hot and cold city water and hot and cold ocean water. The story of its rise and decline mirrors the overall rise and decline of pre-casino Atlantic City. You can watch the 1972 demolition of the Traymore in a 66-second Youtube video that's worth your time.

POSTCARD DETAILS: It was mailed to Bomoseen, Vermont, in April 1925 with the following note: "Friday morning. This is the most wonderful sight of all. We have all enjoyed this place and the ocean. New York today. Love Cassie." [Published by P. Sander, Philadelphia and Atlantic City]

3. Auditorium and convention hall, circa 1950
Of course, the historic Atlantic City Convention Hall, now known as Boardwalk Hall, is still around. But have you ever seen it with beams of colored light projecting from the roof?? (Never mind that those beams were added to the postcard after the fact.) The building dates to 1929 and is well known for its pipe organ and historic concerts.

POSTCARD DETAILS: It was mailed to South Pottstown, Pennsylvania, in July 1950 with the following note: "Hi Ereal [?]. Having a wonderful time. It sure is neat to have a vacation like this. Aggie." [Linen postcard. Made by E.C. Kropp Co., Milwaukee, Wisonsin]

4. "Atlantic City — A Net Haul," circa 1906
I think it's safe to say that the fishing business in Atlantic City doesn't look like this any more. This is one that's fun to magnify (just click on it) and check out all the people.
POSTCARD DETAILS: It was mailed to New Kent County, Virginia, in August 1906 with the following note on the front: "I am having a fine time, hope you are enjoying yourself. Tommie." [No publisher listed]

5. Sky Tower
OK, perhaps some of you do remember Sky Tower. It was part of the fad of gyro towers in the United States and it stood on the boardwalk from 1967 until 1989, when it was demolished. The text of the back of this postcard states: "A new Boardwalk landmark rising more than 300 feet above sea level is equipped with a two-tiered, rotating elevator car to give observers a panoramic sweep of the Atlantic Ocean and the sights of the world famous vacation shoreline." To read more about its history and demolition, see this 1989 Philadelphia Inquirer article.

POSTCARD DETAILS: It was mailed to Millersville, Pennsylvania, in August 1976 with the following note: "Am down here for a few days taking a good rest. Shuppie." [Curteichcolor postcard with "3-D natural color reproduction"]

6. Heinz Pier, sometime before September 1944
This old postcard states: "The famous Heinz Pier in Atlantic City, which extends 600 feet into the ocean, has been operated by H.J. Heinz Company for over forty years. It offers unusual exhibits, talking motion pictures, cooking schools, 'community sings' and other feature attractions." In an article posted on, Ed Flynn recalls that the pier's "entrance was framed by two large metal pickles, sort of like crossed swords." That was a long time ago, though. The pier was obliterated by the 1944 Great Atlantic Hurricane and never rebuilt.

POSTCARD DETAILS: Although a one-cent stamp was affixed to this postcard, it was never written on or mailed. No publisher is listed.

7. Music Hall Theatre inside Steel Pier, circa 1930
Turning back to the Steel Pier, the text on the front of this postcard states: "Music Hall Theatre, Steel Pier, Atlantic City, N.J. Featuring George Jessel and Baby Rose Marie." That's quite a crowd that is assembled inside, and this is another neat postcard to magnify and check out all the faces. Vaudeville singer Rose Marie Mazetta, by the way, is still alive at age 90. You might remember her as Sally on The Dick Van Dyke Show.

POSTCARD DETAILS: It was mailed to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in August 1932 with the following note: "Hello Ruth, Julia and I had dates and went to dance last night we also have some for to-night. Say hello to mother and I guess you received the candy O.K. Helen" [According to the front, the photo is by "Fred. Hess & Son." The postcard was published by Saltzburg's Merchandise Co. of Atlantic City.]

8. The "Ambassador" at night, circa 1923
The Ambassador Hotel had a storied history on the boardwalk. The 400-room palace was built in 1919 and expanded with another 400 rooms in 1921. Per Wikipedia: "On June 18, 1922, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his friend Harry Houdini met at the hotel, for Doyle's spiritualist wife Anna to contact Houdini's late mother in a seance. Although Anna transcribed pages of notes allegedly from her, Houdini later revealed that his mother did not speak English, claimed Doyle's wife was a fraud, and ended his friendship with Conan Doyle." In 1929, the hotel was the "host" of a four-day conference of organized crime leaders, including Al Capone. The Ambassador closed in the 1970s, was mostly demolished in 1979 and is now the site of the Tropicana casino.

POSTCARD DETAILS: It was mailed to Waterbury, Connecticut, in July 1923 with the following note: "I had a very good trip an [sic] I am enjoing [sic] the town very well I wish you were with me I send you my best reguards [sic]. Domenico Cianciolo." [Pub. by P. Sander, Philadelphia & Atlantic City]

9. View from the Steel Pier, circa 1905
Here's a shot from the Steel Pier, looking inward to the boardwalk and the skyline. Does anything from this view remain today? And look at all those people just standing around on the beach.

POSTCARD DETAILS: This postcard was never written on or mailed. [Front: "Copyright 1905 by Osborne Ltd., 22 E. 21st St., New York." Back: A "Made in America" trademark featuring an illustration of a Native American.]

10. The ocean and the skyline, circa 1934
Finally, this Curteich linen postcard shows off three historic hotels — the Traymore, Chalfonte and Haddon Hall. This view gives you a great sense of how the Traymore dominated the skyline and dwarfed many of the other properties. The Chalfonte and Haddon Hall buildings are now the site of the Resorts casino, though parts of the older buildings were, I believe, incorporated into the new complex. Read more of that history here.

POSTCARD DETAILS: This postcard was never written on or used. [Genuine Curteich-Chicago "C.T. Art-Colortone" Post Card]

The advertising text on the back of this postcard, which I think is a nice way to sum up this post, states:
"Happy Days in Atlantic City. No other resort compares with the Playground of the World, because nowhere else can you find the varied entertainment program, the array of fine restaurants and hotels, theatres and piers, and the world's finest beach and Boardwalk."
Also, seagulls.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Washington Beck received this book as a gift in 1884

It's been a while since I posted a book inscription. In fact, I haven't featured one since the "Eight awesome things you'll never find inside e-books" post in early December.

So here's one from 130 years ago.

It appears on the title page of Jane Shore; or The Goldsmith's Wife by Mary E. Bennett. The small, tight cursive handwriting states:
For Washington Beck.
with my love and best wishes on the 16th of January 1884
Miss C Carwood

Perhaps fearing the inscription was not proof enough of ownership, Washington Beck also stamped his name onto the endpapers no fewer than 12 times.

Given that this book was purchased in a Lancaster, Pennsylvania, bookshop, it's possible that this is Washington Beck, as detailed on a website focused on the descendants of Carl Friedrich Gauss. That Beck, who was born in 1816, was a miller, miner and farmer at various stages of his life.

As for Jane Shore, here are the first and last sentences:

In September, 1468, a small party of young people were assembled to pass an evening in merriment in the great parlour of a mercer's house in Cheapside.

The rapid tide of civil discord has prevented the threatened persecution against the Lollard peasantry of Abergavenny, who, with joyful looks, in their holiday clothes, their bards singing congratulatory lays, hailed the return of Sir Leolin, their gifted young constable, and Nest, the "Flower of the Welsh Mountains," to their native province.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Even these Robin Jacques creations are hooked on books and reading

This is a portion of the artist Robin Jacques' frontispiece from A Book of Devils and Demons by Ruth Manning-Sanders.

I love, love, love that they're just sitting there with a book!

I'm not sure what these creatures are supposed to be. The goat-like legs and pointed ears suggest they are fauns. But the wings on the adult creature have me a bit confused. Perhaps, as the book title itself states, they are supposed to be some sort of fantastic beasts with a demonic or devilish bent. (And, because this is a children's book, the author equates most devils and demons with "tricksters" who are just out to "pester" humankind. Nothing too blatantly evil or horrific.)

And how bad can they be, if they like books?

Book cover: "Snow Drop"

  • Title: Snow Drop
  • Cover illustrator: R.A. Burley (1890-1971). (He did some racy illustrations during his career. Read more about him on his slightly NSWF biography page at the Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists.)
  • Interior illustrator: Gordon Robinson
  • Publisher: Samuel Gabriel Sons & Company
  • Year: Not 100% certain. Some sources say it's circa 1935.
  • Notes: Snow Drop is a variation of Snow White that adheres a bit more closely to the version that was first titled Sneewittchen and presented by the Brothers Grimm. The Encyclopedia of Fantasy has a good summary of the Grimm version of the tale and its possible earlier inspirations. ... This is a 12-page staplebound booklet with 11 illustrations, six of which are in full color. ... The front cover sports a Linenette trademark, which refers to a special style of textured paper that holds brighter colors (not unlike Curt Teich's linen postcards). ... Although the cover appears to present Snow Drop as two words, the first page contains the title "Little Snowdrop" and the character is referred to as Snowdrop throughout the tale. ... This is listed as publication No. 431 on the back cover. ... An alternate version of the cover, with Snow-Drop hypenated and a Gordon Robinson illustration, can be seen here on Pinterest.

Here is the back-cover illustration by Gordon Robinson...

Additional folklore posts

Monday, April 28, 2014

See the wonderful sights of Tokyo with Pigeon Bus Tour's [sic]

This undated brochure touts the benefits of Pigeon Bus Tour's in Tokyo, Japan.


Now, I don't usually dwell on the grammar and spelling errors in the items that are featured here. But the widespread misuse of the apostrophe is an ongoing epidemic that gets many people, especially writers, journalists and editors, all hot and bothered.

It irks me, too. For some people, though, it's an obsession. There are websites devoted to pointing out this particular punctuation transgression — Apostrophe Abuse and Apostrophe Catastrophes are a couple of them.

Of course, it should be a little easier to forgive apostrophe mistakes when they are made by people for whom English is a second language. This is a brochure that was made by a Japanese company and is geared toward English-speaking tourists.

It includes detailed information about various bus tours, a map of Tokyo, photos of various Tokyo landmarks, and a directory of phone numbers for hotels, cruise ships, airlines, travel agencies, restaurants and museums.

Here is the pitch that the Pigeon Bus Co., Ltd., makes for its tours:

The best way to "do" leading sights of Tokyo with the minimum of time and expense is to avail yourself of Shin Nippon Kanko's Pigeon Bus service.1 A fleet of newly built, De-luxe motor-coaches, reserved exclusively for foreigners, has been assigned on carefully planned sightseeing routes, details of which are given inside the folder.

These motor-coaches are of the latest types and provide greater riding comfort. An English-speaking person accompanies each motor-coach. Pigeon Bus Office also arranges sightseeing trips in and around Tokyo using Chevorlet [sic], Plymouth or many types of Sedan for smaller or more intimate groups.

In case you're not convinced, the brochure includes these photographs of foreigners enjoying a Pigeon Bus experience.

The prices of the tours ranged from 1,000 yen to 2,500 yen, which included admissions, refreshments and a souvenir.

The brochure, as I mentioned, is undated. But I think it's from sometime in the early to mid 1960s. Here's a portion of an advertisement for Sony that's on one of the inside folds.

I found some links to more information about the products shown above:

1. OK, one more punctuation thing. Why is "do" in quotation marks in that sentence in the brochure? That's another pet peeve. At least it provides a bit more humor than the misuse of apostrophes. Go check out The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks and "LOL! 44 Ordinary Signs That Became Suspicious When People Failed At Using Quotation Marks" on Distractify.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Some Sunday night reading and a hand-colored QSL card

Hand-colored QSL card, 7350GGAK, for Harold Greene
of Slatington, Pennsylvania, featuring references
to Grundsow, Little Patch and Little Dolphin.

It's time for another collection of stories that caught my eye during the past two weeks and may pique your interest. Hope you find something here that intrigues you as your weekend winds down.

And a bunch of stuff about
the 1964-65 New York World's Fair

Old postcard: The Mill at Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet

Versailles — Parc du Trianon — Le Moulin
Translation: VersaillesTrianon Park — The Mill

This undated French postcard shows the exterior of The Mill (Le Moulin), one of the many buildings and cottages located with Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet (Hameau de la Reine) on the sprawling grounds of the Palace of Versailles.

The hamlet was built for Louis XVI's famous spouse in 1783 — ten years before her beheading.

Wikipedia describes the hamlet in this passage:
"It served as a private meeting place for the Queen and her closest friends, a place of leisure. .. [I]t contained a meadowland with lakes and streams, a classical Temple of Love on an island with fragrant shrubs and flowers, an octagonal belvedere, with a neighbouring grotto and cascade. There are also various buildings in a rustic or vernacular style, inspired by Norman or Flemish design, situated around an irregular pond fed by a stream that turned the mill wheel. The building scheme included a farmhouse, (the farm was to produce milk and eggs for the queen), a dairy, a dovecote, a boudoir, a barn that was burned down during the French Revolution, a mill and a tower in the form of a lighthouse. Each building is decorated with a garden, an orchard or a flower garden. The largest and most famous of these houses is the 'Queen's House' that is connected to the Billiard house by a wooden gallery, at the center of the village. A working farm was close to the idyllic, fantasy-like setting of the Queen’s Hamlet."
So, in the grand scheme of things, The Mill was only a minor part of Antoinette’s fantasy retreat. Clearly, no expense was spared on Hameau de la Reine. One source cites the 18th century construction cost at 500,000 livre. Another source indicates that 500,000 livre would be the equivalent of about $5 million in modern dollars, but that seems a little low to me.

Regarding The Mill, Wikipedia states:
"The Mill, built and fitted from 1783 to 1788, was never used for grinding grain, contrary to what is often argued. The wheel is driven by a stream derived from the Grand Lake and is only a decorative element. No mechanism or wheel were installed in the factory. The interior decoration was simple and neat. This structure is one of the most picturesque of the Hamlet. Each façade of the building is decorated slightly differently. This mill also served as a laundry."

In a way, this lavish retreat helped to stir the flames of the French Revolution. To escape the "stresses" and responsibilities of her real life, Antoinette enjoyed running off to her elaborate playground, where she would dress like a young peasant, don a straw hat and milk cows (all while still accompanied by the greatest royal comforts and attendants; indeed, the milk from the cows flowed into buckets made of Sèvres porcelain). The whole scene was perceived as an extravagant mockery of the real struggling French peasants, and served to both further erode Antoinette's public image and grow the anger and resentment toward the monarchy.

This postcard shows what The Mill looked like roughly 100 years ago, which would be about 130 years after its 18th century construction and long after Antoinette's head was separated from its body.

This is what The Mill looks like today. It has been restored and is open to the public, though there is an admission fee. Straw hat not included.