Friday, July 25, 2014

Pathetic Papergreat procrastination

I have been putting off writing a post about the above item for more than three years. Could I be more lazy?

I hope to get to it before the end of August. And I mean it this time. (Ha.)

I have hinted about it a few times over the years, though. Can any careful longtime readers guess what it might be?

Empty 1908 kohlrabi seed packet

(Note: This blog post was originally written for Capper's Farmer. You should go check out all the wonderful bloggers they have there.)

I came across this empty 1908 kohlrabi seed packet at one of our many antique stores here in central Pennsylvania and was smitten enough with its age and design to make the minor purchase.

(One of the "benefits" of having an interest in books and ephemera as opposed to antique furniture, artwork or toys is that you can usually browse for hours and still escape with your wallet essentially intact. Of course, that might still leave you having to explain why you paid actual money for a 100-year-old brochure or receipt. But at least it's less actual money than if you had purchased, say, an 18th century pine blanket chest. )

The five-cent seed packet was sold by De Giorgi Bros of Council Bluffs, Iowa. And the envelope itself was designed by Stecher Lithographic Company of Rochester, New York.

According to "Nineteenth-Century Rochester Fruit and Flower Plates" by Karl Sanford Kabelac, "In the latter half of the nineteenth century, Rochester, New York, was a leading American nursery center. Auxiliary to the nursery businesses, there developed allied enterprises, one of which was the production of colored fruit and flower prints designed to aid nurserymen and their travelling salesmen sell plants."

Stecher was one of the bigger Rochester companies involved in this enterprise. Again according to Kabelac, Stecher employed about 100 people for its lithographic business in 1888.

Meanwhile, it's a bit harder to find good information about De Giorgi Bros. An excitingly titled 1928 volume, "The Vegetables of New York," makes about a dozen references to De Giorgi. There is a description of the September Morn variety of sweet corn:
"This large, many-rowed variety originated with V.H. Neilsen of Council Bluffs, Iowa, as the result of a cross involving Country Gentleman and Stowell's Evergreen. After 5 years of selection to obtain a stock with straight rows that still retained the depth of kernel characteristic of Country Gentlemen, the variety was transferred to the Di Giorgi Brothers of the same city who introduced it about 1917 and have since continued to list it."
Some advertising literature from the general time period lists Early White Vienna as the most desirable variety of kohlrabi that was available. According to Wikipedia, the most common varieties of kohlrabi nowadays are White Vienna, Purple Vienna, Grand Duke, Gigante, Purple Danube and White Danube. So it appears that this variety once produced by De Giorgi has persisted.

(Kohlrabi, by the way, translates roughly to "cabbage turnip," which is an apt description of this root vegetable.)

Here's a look at the back of the seed envelope...

The interesting thing is that the seed instructions are printed in both English and Czechoslovakian. Czech immigrants flooded the Midwest and Upper Midwest during the 19th century and became part of the farming backbone of our nation. And so it was only natural the many products and services were offered with Czech translations. It also made the detailed color illustrations in catalogs and on packaging crucial for those who couldn't read English but knew what they needed. And that is part of what gave rise to the lithography business in the 19th century.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Book illustration: "A Tradesman's Wife & Daughter of Chili"

I found this illustration loose, among some other miscellaneous papers. The caption states: "A Tradesman's Wife & Daughter of Chili."

I was able to determine that is a plate from the book Letters from Buenos Ayres and Chili, with an Original History of the Latter Country, by John Constanse Davie. The book was originally published in London in 1819. So it's possible this plate is 195 years old. It's also possible this plate is from a subsequent printing of the book, and thus is not as old.

If you're interested, Google Books has made the book's entire contents, including the illustrations, available for free. If you prefer a hard copy, your best bet is probably a reprint. (Not all reprints, though, contain the original artwork.)

Here's a short excerpt, related to the above plate:
"The tradesmen's wives bear a proportionate appearance, but always, more or less, with some attention to ornament: they also derive no small attraction from the coquettish air with which they envelop the upper part of their figure."

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!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fattigmands bakkels recipe from 1933 Furst-McNess cookbook

Now this is a cookbook cover with some mileage on it. Tape. Worn edges. Scuffing. Decades-old notes scribbled all over the white spaces on the illustration.

It's the 1933 F.W. McNess Cook Book, published by the Furst-McNess Company of Freeport, Illinois. Furst-McNess was established in 1908 and is still going strong. Its first-rate website highlights the company's focus on helping rural farmers:
"Since 1908, Furst-McNess has been synonymous with value and quality products for the rural community. From our humble beginnings with horse-drawn carts delivering consumer and farm supplies, we’re now one of North America’s most trusted suppliers of products for the beef, dairy, poultry, and swine industries."
Furst-McNess also provides the rural farmers that it's looking out for the opportunity to purchase a Furst-McNess vintage-style bar stool for just $230. ("Must order a minimum of two.")

But I digress.

The F.W. McNess Cook Book is a 64-page staplebound booklet filled with recipes and vintage advertisements for products such as baking powder, laxative tea, brooms, mops, bug repellent, spices, and a wide variety of medicines including Pain Oil, Menthoform, Mentholated Cough Syrup, Sarsaparilla and Sen-Lax, a "mild yet effective laxative" for all ages.

Here's an illustration from the center spread:

It's also interesting to note that the aforementioned advertisements throughout this cookbook include a number of celebrity testimonials. (The advertisements so, however, stress that they were paid no money. Hmmm.) Celebrities featured include Leila Hyams, Chester Morris, Hedda Hopper and 18-year-old 4-H Club Cake Baking Expert Marguerite Clark.

The theme of this particular cookbook is international recipes. The "To Our Customers" note on the first page states:
"In this Cook Book we bring you a collection of the choicest recipes of hundreds of McNess Customers from all over the world. Besides popular American Dishes, this Book contains choice recipes from Argentina, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, printed in their native language and translated into English."
Some of the diverse international recipes include:
  • Puchero (Argentina)
  • Bird's Nest Soup (China)
  • Chervil Soup (Denmark)
  • Nuremberg Fish (Germany)
  • Calves' Brain Pancake (Hungary)
  • Kransekaker (Norway)
  • Tripe-Oysters (Switzerland)

And here is the recipe for Fattigmands Bakkels, a dessert recipe from Sweden.

  • 12 egg yolks
  • 6 egg whites
  • 12 tablespoonfuls cream
  • 12 tablespoonfuls melted butter
  • 12 tablespoonfuls sugar
  • Flour
  • 1 teaspoonful cardemon
  • Wine glassful fruit juice (peach or apricot)
Beat egg whites, then egg yolks; combine and add sugar. Add butter, cream, cardemon, fruit juice and flour enough to handle - add just enough flour so mixture will leave the hands - too much flour will toughen mixture. When thoroughly mixed, place in a cool place overnight. Roll as thin as possible without flour. Cut in diamonds shapes and make a split in the center with cookie cutter. Then pull one corner through the slit. Fry in deep fat until a delicate brown. Sprinkle with powdered sugar at once.