Saturday, May 24, 2014

Masonic Widows and Orphans Home, and a note to Greaner

This postcard, which was postmarked on August 23, 1909, features the "Masonic Widows' and Orphans' Home, Louisville, Ky."

The building shown is the original home, which was used from 1869 until 1927. Over the years, this first structure — which housed mostly the orphans and widows of Civil War soldiers — was damaged by a tornado and eventually suffered from overcrowding because of World War I and the 1918 flu pandemic. A new, larger facility, with its own working farm to feed residents, was constructed and opened in 1927. The new building served as an orphanage until 1989 and is now solely used for senior care.

This postcard was addressed to Mr. Greaner Mason of Richmond, Virginia. The short note, in cursive writing, states:
"Hello Greaner
How are you. Would you like to have a nickel.
I don't reckon we'll ever be privy to knowing what that meant.

Related posts

Friday, May 23, 2014

Rockwell and Munkácsy artwork in that old scrapbook

Here are two more gorgeous illustrations that have been pasted into the large, old scrapbook that I first posted about last week.

Above: This is Dreams in the Antique Shop by Norman Rockwell. According to (by Keith McDonald), the artwork appeared on the cover of the November 17, 1923, issue of The Literary Digest. (It was Rockwell's 44th of 47 appearances on the cover of that magazine.) It is alternately titled Woman Daydreaming in Attic, according to McDonald. The original oil-on-canvas painting, which measures 35 inches by 30 inches, is part of the collection of Bay Path Junior College.

This Rockwell painting has been monetized in many different ways over the decades. A quick search found both a figurine and a coffee mug based on the artwork.

Above: This is a detail of The Blind Milton Dictating Paradise Lost to his Daughters by Mihály Munkácsy. This was an important painting in the career of the artist, who lived from 1844-1900. According to Wikipedia:
"In 1878, he painted a historical genre picture, The Blind Milton Dictating Paradise Lost to his Daughters, which marked a new milestone in his oeuvre. This scene is set in the past and in a richly furnished room. The picture was bought (and successfully sold) by Austrian-born art dealer Charles Sedelmeyer, who offered Munkácsy a ten-year contract. This deal made Munkácsy a wealthy man and a really established member of the Paris art world."

From 1982: Dr. Robert Wesson's program will help you speel better

In 1982, one of computer programs people could buy to check the spelling in WordStar and Magic Star documents was called SPELL, an application that is highlighted in this advertisement from the March 1982 issue of Creative Computing.

SPELL was available on an eight-inch floppy disk (that's what the man is holding), recognized more than 50,000 words ... and cost just $49.95!

That price is the equivalent of nearly $120 today. For that kind of money (then and now), you could probably just get yourself a used copy of the Oxford English Dictionary.

SPELL was developed by Dr. Robert Wesson, a "professional computer scientist," and distributed by The Software Toolworks1 of Sherman Oaks, California. (Here's a link to a PDF of the Summer 1982 catalog for The Software Toolworks. In addition to SPELL, the company offered a C/80 2.0 compiler, the original Adventure game, a computerized cookbook called Computer Chef, Eliza, a maze game called Munchkin that was also written by Wesson, a game called Space Pirates and an air traffic controller simulation.)

Computer spell-checker programs date back to the 1957, when researchers were in need of "special applications to find records in databases in spite of incorrect entries." In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the programs — such as SPELL — were sold separately to personal-computer users. By the middle of the 1980s, however, spell checkers were incorporated into most word-processing packages, and there was no longer a market for standalone products.

These days, spell-checkers are part of almost every digital device that we use in our everyday lives, which leads to some interesting debates. The tendency of spell-checkers and AutoCorrect to sometimes provide the wrong word is known as the Cupertino effect.2

But wait, there's more!
If you want to check out more advertisements and content from the March 1982 issue of Creative Computing, see this Papergreat post from January 2012.

1. According to MobyGames: "The Software Toolworks started in 1980 as a publisher of software for Heath/Zenith personal computers. Early products included MYCHESS, The Original Adventure, and the C/80 C compiler for CP/M. In 1994, The Software Toolworks acquired Mindscape, setting it up as its development studio. The company is best known for their chess games and educational Mario titles. The Toolworks also created the Miracle Piano Teaching System."

Seeing that reference to MYCHESS sent me down the rabbit hole to the Wikipedia entry for computer chess, to the entry for Wolfgang von Kempelen's 18th century Automaton Chess-Player (The Turk), to Tom Standage's book The Turk: The Life and Times of the Famous Eighteenth-Century Chess-Playing Machine, which I now want to read. Ahhh, the hazards of writing this blog...

2. Ben Zimmer wrote an interesting blog post titled "When Spellcheckers Attack: Perils of the Cupertino Effect" in 2007.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Glossary from 1914's "Outa Karel's Stories" by Sanni Metelerkamp

I was planning to share one of the folk tales from Outa Karel's Stories (South African Folk-Lore Tales), which was written by Sanni Metelerkamp and published in 1914 by Macmillan and Co. But then I found something in the text that piqued my interest a bit more.

The book is part of the public domain and is available in its entirety from the Gutenberg Project.

Some of its tales include "Why the Hyena is Lame," "The Stars and the Stars' Road," "Why the Hare's Nose is Slit," and "Why the Heron has a Crooked Neck."

But the book opens with this glossary, which, as a fan of language and etymology, I found more intriguing than the tales themselves. So here it is for your intellectual enjoyment, too:

  • Awa-skin, skin slung across the back to carry babies in.
  • Askoekies, cakes baked in the ash.
  • Baas, master.
  • Baasje (pronounced Baasie), little master.
  • Babiaan, baboon.
  • Berg schilpad, mountain tortoise.
  • Biltong, strips of sun-dried meat.
  • Bolmakissie, head over heels.
  • Bossies, bushes.
  • Broer, brother.
  • Buchu, an aromatic veld herb.
  • Carbonaatje, grilled chop.
  • Dassie, rock-rabbit.
  • Eintje, an edible veld root.
  • Gezondheid! Your health!
  • Haasje, little hare.
  • Hamel, wether.
  • Jakhals draaie, tricky turns.
  • Kaross, skin rug.
  • Kierie, a thick stick.
  • Klein koning, little king.
  • Kneehaltered, hobbled.
  • Kopdoek, turban.
  • Kopje, hill.
  • Krantz, precipice.
  • Kraal, enclosure.
  • Lammervanger, eagle.
  • Leeuw, lion.
  • Maanhaar, mane.
  • Mensevreter, cannibal.
  • Neef, nephew.
  • Nooi, lady or mistress.
  • Nonnie, young lady, miss.
  • Oom, uncle.
  • Outa, old man, prefix to the name of old natives.
  • Pronk, show off.
  • Reijer, heron.
  • Riem, leathern thong.
  • Rustband, couch.
  • Sassaby or Sessebe, a South African antelope.
  • Schelm, rogue; sly.
  • Schilpad, tortoise.
  • Sjambok, whip of rhino or hippo hide.
  • Skraal windje, fine cutting wind.
  • Skrik, to be startled; also fright.
  • Slim, cunningly clever.
  • Smouse, pedlar.
  • Soopje, tot.
  • Taai, tough.
  • Tante, aunt.
  • Tarentaal, Guinea fowl.
  • Tover, toverij, witchcraft.
  • Vaabond, vagabond.
  • Vlakte, plain.
  • Voertsed, jumping aside suddenly and violently.
  • Volk, coloured farm labourers.
  • Volstruis, ostrich.
  • Vrouw, wife.
  • Vrouwmens, woman.
  • Zandkruiper, sand-crawler.

Related posts

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Scott C26 8¢ U.S. air-mail stamp

There's not a whole lot to say about this cancelled stamp from August 1944, other than the glimpse into the past that it provides. It's the Scott C26, an 8¢ U.S. air-mail stamp featuring a twin-motored transport plane. It was first issued on March 21, 1944, with a press run of more than 1.7 billion stamps.

The art credits for the stamp, according to, were:
  • Designer: William A. Roach
  • Engraver: J.R. Lowe (vignette)
  • Engravers: J.S. Edmondson & J.T. Vail (lettering)

The same image was used on numerous air-mail stamps of various values between 1941 and 1944. You can see a gallery of them on this page.

I also came across an interesting newspaper article from 2012 about a Pennsylvania woman who found a 1944 love letter affixed with the 8¢ air-mail stamp tucked away inside an old book.

My stamp, however, has been stripped of most of its context. It was cut from its envelope and kept with a small pile of other old stamps and ephemera.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Tyrannosaurus matchbox label, phillumeny and thoughts on Godzilla

Godzilla opened this past Friday, so I thought I'd be hip and do a post that's somewhat tied to the beloved kaiju and throw in a mini-review, to boot.

Pictured above is a two-inch-wide matchbox label featuring a terrifying Tyrannosaurus.1 The words under the dinosaur — Druhohory Křida — are from the Czech language and translate, roughly, to "Mesozoic Chalk." Now, the Latin word for chalk is creta, which is the root of the word Cretaceous. So I believe the label is simply telling us (correctly) that Tyrannosaurus lived during the Cretaceous period, which was the last of the three major periods of the Mesozoic era.

Want some more big words? The collecting of matchbox labels is part of the hobby of phillumeny, which covers matchboxes, matchbox labels, matchbooks, matchcovers and more. There are many great websites filled with information about phillumeny. This will not be one of them. So here are some links to get you rolling:

Mini movie review
(Warning: Contains spoilers)
Sarah and I went to see Godzilla on its opening night.2 I would give it a B+. It's a million times better than Godzilla vs. Ferris Bueller. But I feel like I was a bit misled by the trailers, which seemed to promise a lot of Bryan Cranston. He's the most compelling human in the movie, but doesn't make it past the one-third mark. The baton is then passed to Ken Watanabe to carry the film's gravitas, and he does just OK while being surrounded by a lot of cardboard cutouts. But we don't go to kaijū eiga for the humans, so I wish there had been more Godzilla. The Big Guy shines when he's on-screen (and they got his roar perfect)3, but those moments are too few and far between until the final half-hour. As for the plot, I like the way that The New York Times summed it up: "Whole cities are wiped out so that two enormous bugs can be prevented from having sex."

Related posts

1. I got this matchbox label from Manto Fev, which, as of today, sells them in batches of six for $1. Their website is a dream for ephemera lovers and scrapbookers.
2. Sarah and I have seen a LOT of movies in the theater already this year. I would rank them as follows:
  • 1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (A)
  • 2. The Lego Movie (A-)
  • 3. Godzilla (B+)
  • 4. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (B-)
  • 5. Brick Mansions (C+)
  • 6. Rio 2 (C)
On deck: X-Men: Days of Future Past.
3. NPR has a neat piece titled "What's In A Roar? Crafting Godzilla's Iconic Sound."

Sunday, May 18, 2014

1944 envelope from the John C. Calhoun Hotel in South Carolina

Pictured above are portions of an envelope that a U.S. soldier mailed to his family from Anderson, South Carolina, in March 1944. (Note that he did not have to pay postage.)

The envelope came from the John C. Calhoun Hotel in Anderson, which is the building shown on the back of the envelope. According to
"The John C. Calhoun Hotel welcomed its first guests in 1925. Designed by architects James J. Baldwin and James H. Casey, the hotel was built by the Fiske-Carter Construction Company, one of largest contractors in South Carolina in the 1920s. The Calhoun is once again welcoming people to Downtown Anderson with its luxury condominiums and was a film site for the movie Leatherheads."
You can read more about the Calhoun's history and architecture on this nomination form for its inclusion in the Anderson Downtown Historic District.

Meanwhile, the back of the envelope features an advertisement for a vacation spot more 160 miles to the north — Mayview Manor in tiny Blowing Rock, North Carolina.

Blowing Rock had its intial heyday in the 19th century as an upscale destination for those seeking a healthy respite from city life. Its history as a haven dates to the Civil War, when some Confederate soldiers sent their families to Blowing Rock to keep them safe. After the war, many of these soldiers joined their families there and remained. In the late 1800s, city-dwellers in western North Carolina also began traveling to Blowing Rock to enjoy the air and the scenery.

And, thus, hotels began to spring up. Blowing Rock resident Walter Alexander opened Mayview Manor in 1922.

According to this website:1
"Mayview Manor was an elegant 138-room hotel. ... [It] was constructed of pre-blight chestnut wood and native fieldstone. Its exterior was covered with chestnut bark. Mayview was considered a perfect getaway for the rich, and elegant entertainment and fine dining were a hallmark of the hotel. For over 40 years the Boots and Saddles Ball, held during the week of the annual Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show, was one of the most popular events at Mayview Manor. After its closure in 1966, Mayview Manor sat dignified and empty until it was demolished for a housing development in 1978."
Mayview Manor had another claim to fame. According to an post titled "Annie Oakley's love for North Carolina":
"In 1924, Mayview started a gun club directed by sharp-shooting legend Annie Oakley, who came out of retirement for a last hurrah. One account tells of a 63-year-old Oakley in fine form as she blew away 98 of 100 clay pigeons."
Here's an old photo of Mayview Manor.


1. The URL is The site features some interesting photos and documents related to Mayview Manor.