Saturday, August 2, 2014

A pair of fabulous old U.S. history textbooks

Here are two more books that I picked up at this summer's oft-mentioned Book Nook Bonanza. Old school textbooks have interested me for decades, really. I have memories of leafing through discarded textbooks designated for the dumpster at my elementary school in Clayton, New Jersey, in the late 1970s. I think I was born this way.

These two stately hardcovers are from the 1940s. They are in top-notch condition. (Which means, alas, that it's unlikely anyone paid much attention to them over the decades. The covers aren't worn. There are no notes or scribbles on the inside pages. Nobody has learned from these books. Yet. Hope springs eternal.)

Here's a closer look at these United States history books from about 70 years ago...

First up is America Yesterday and Today. This edition was published in June 1943 by The Macmillan Company. The authors were Roy F. Nichols, William C. Bagley and Charles A. Beard. Drawings were done by George M. Richards.

A sampling of chapter titles gives you a sense of the course it takes through American history. They include:

  • Establishing the Thirteen Colonies
  • The War for American Independence
  • Moving Westward
  • Industrial Development and Improved Transportation
  • The Beginnings of Free Education
  • Danger
  • The Blue and the Gray
  • Changing Conditions in the New Century
  • The Return to Peace
  • Prosperity
  • Panic
  • The New Deal
  • The Challenge of Today

There is a wonderful color map outlining the territorial growth of the United States in the front endpapers. And a few other robust color illustrations, too.

But the front and back covers of this tome are my favorite things about it. Here they are, in all their glory.

The second U.S. history volume is titled The Building of Our Nation. It was published in 1943 by Row, Peterson and Company of Evanston, Illinois. The three authors were college professors Eugene C. Barker, Henry Steele Commager and Walter P. Webb.

A neat thing about this book is that it was a promotional copy directed at teachers and principals. Pasted down to the inside front cover is a two-page brochure labeled "Check These Features of The Building of Our Nation (Grade 7-8)." It touts the textbook's organization, interpretative treatment, emphasis on the growth of democracy, "vivid one-idea maps," pronunciation guide for proper nouns and integration of geography, literature and science into a U.S. history framework.

The price of the textbook in 1943 was $1.92 and the companion student notebook was available for 48 cents. Of course, there would be the "usual discounts to schools."

While I don't find the cover of this textbook quite as visually impressive as the cover of America Yesterday and Today, I think The Building of Our Nation wins in the category of interior illustrations. Almost all of the photographs and drawings dotting the pages are in full color, with great reproduction. It's a joy to leaf through.

As a final note, I here's a description of newspaper journalists from page 472 of The Building of Our Nation:
"How the news is collected. Daily newspapers employ their own staffs of local reporters to gather and write the news. In the old days, reporters had to do much 'footwork.' They walked from place to place to get reports of the doings of the city government, the police court, the fire department, public meetings, and social receptions. Now they can collect much of the news by telephone."

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Vintage snapshots: Car in the woods

OK readers, as I've mentioned before, I'm not an automobile expert. So check out these old, undated snapshots of a shiny car in the woods and tell me what the make and model are. Also, if you used to own this particular car, share some stories. Thanks!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Freaky illustrations found within "The Story of Soil"

"The Story of Soil" seems quite harmless on the outside.

It's a 12-page staplebound booklet that was produced roughly a half-century ago by Swift & Company's Agricultural Research Department.

It's possible there was no drug testing in the department at that time time.

The booklet's cover appears innocent. Two cute kids are shoveling dirt in an idyllic garden.

Inside the booklet, though, things get ... weird.

Let's start with a pair of Freaky Farmers. This farmer in this first illustration is strange enough, with his pointy chin, witch's hat and grotesque claw hand. But then you really tumble down the rabbit hole when you realize he's pouring seeds into soil that's shaped like a human face.

That's some nightmare fuel right there.

Here's another farmer who is perhaps not of this Earth. The whole thing sort of looks like a runner-up entry in a fifth-grade drawing contest sponsored by the Future Farmers of America.

Up next: Let's talk about what's happening here. Or, perhaps, let's not. Let's never speak of it at all.

And here's something you will never be able to unsee.

Finally, no booklet of this era would be complete without a gratuitous anthropomorphic object.

And that, kids, is the Story of Soil. It's apparently a story that involves a lot of hallucinogenic drugs and/or secret cults that we're better off not asking about.

A photograph I think may be worthy of A Pretty Book

Here's a photo of some books that I came across at the Book Nook Bonanza this year. I'll admit that I only bought them because they looked kind of cool. My Spidey sense, correctly, did not not think they had much resale value, especially in the condition they were in.

But pretty books are underrated. They're just neat to have around. Also underrated, and deserving of more fame, is one of my favorite websites — A Pretty Book, and its accompanying Twitter account (which is jam-packed with great Instagrams), @APrettyBook.

If you love books, bookstores and Old Things, you need to become a follower of JT Anthony's content.

[Full disclosure: Three summers ago, JT sent me an eight-page pamphlet about chickens that inspired the "I pray you never get scaly leg" post.]

The Ten Books of the Merrymakers, by the way, were edited by Marshall Pinckney Wilder (1859-1915), an American actor and humorist whose life deserves a full-scale biography. Someone get on that.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

York County mystery: Kelly's Koins in Windsor

Here's a business-card-sized advertising card for Kelly's Koins in Windsor, Pennsylvania. There's no date. I'm guessing that it's probably from the 1950s or 1960s (based partially on the other ephemera that was with it).

I cannot find any online mention of Kelly's Koins on South Camp Street in Windsor. The store, which bought, sold and traded coins and coin supplies, was only open every Tuesday night from 7 p.m. onward. That, you must admit, is a little odd. It almost makes you wonder whether this was more of a numismatics club than a full-fledged business.

Interestingly, there is now a store called Ken's Koins in Red Lion, Pennsylvania. Red Lion is just two miles southwest of Windsor, so it's not too far-fetched to think that there might be some family relationship between the former Kelly's Koins and the current Ken's Koins.

I'm also going to ask some longtime York County residents if they remember Kelly's Koins, so stay tuned.

Another century-old advertisement for Bon Ami

Back in January, I did a quickie post — as part of the Far-Out Vintage Advertisements (FOVA) series — featuring a circa 1904 magazine advertisement for Bon Ami scouring soap.

Here's another Bon Ami piece, this one in full color, from a 1908 trade card...

Bon Ami is still very much in business. You can read about its history in a series of illustration-filled slideshows on the company website.

Here, meanwhile, is how the company described itself on the back of the 1908 trade card...

The illustration of the chicks on the trade card was taken from a painting by Ben Austrian (1870-1921). And his story brings us right back here to southcentral Pennsylvania. A 2013 article in Lancaster Farming by Sue Bowman tells some of his story. Here's an excerpt:
"Born in Reading, Pa., in 1870, to a German-Jewish immigrant father and a mother from Philadelphia’s prominent Drexel family, Benjamin Franklin Austrian was a sickly child who found the inspiration for some of his best-known artworks while spending summers on a farm near Kutztown, Pa., for his health. It was there that Austrian developed a particular affinity for poultry after seeing a hen leading her brood down from the haymow. This inspired him to begin painting the hens and baby chicks that would become the favorites of locals and Europeans alike.

"When interviewed about his choice of subject matter in 1900, Austrian replied simply, 'I paint chickens because I love them.' ...

"Austrian also did advertising artwork during his career. In fact, one of his best-known drawings can still be found on the shelves of modern supermarkets a century later: Austrian was the creator of the baby chick shown in advertisements and on containers of Bon-Ami scouring powder along with the slogan, 'Hasn’t scratched yet.' Some early Bon-Ami advertising art also depicted a housewife; it was an image for which his wife, Mollie, served as the model."
Read the full article here.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Old postcard: Twilight in the Ozarks

The scan really doesn't do this postcard justice, possibly because of the glossy, reflective coating on the front. But I'm happy to be writing about it here so that the postcard — and the story of the family behind it — are not forgotten.

The caption states: "Twilight in the Ozarks as seen from Tower at Mt. Gayler, Ark."

Mt. Gayler is NOT well-known. In fact, there is some confusion on Google as to whether it's spelled GAYLER or GAYLOR. (Gayler is correct, as we will discover shortly.) It's located along U.S. Route 71 in northwestern Arkansas, a bit north of the unincorporated community of Artist Point. Human souls are few and far between in that area of Arkansas.

The undated postcard is a Genuine Curteich card with C.T. Photo-Cote. (That must be the glossy finish.) The photograph was taken by Mr. and Mrs. E.A. Bellis of Mt. Gayler.

As of 2010, a descendant of E.A. Bellis was still living in the stone family house, next to the observation tower, atop Mt. Gayler. This information comes from an absolute gem of an article written by Velda Brotherton for the Washington County Observer in October 2010.

You should go read the whole article and check out the pictures. Here's a significant excerpt, though, so that I can round out this blog post with the history behind the postcard:
"She sleeps in the room where she slept as a child. Her bed is under the window she once looked out of as a young girl. But today, Ruby Jo Bellis does not see what she saw then. Traffic no longer rumbles along Highway 71. Drivers no longer stop to buy gas and their families don’t tour the gift shop or eat in the restaurant at Mt. Gayler. She is the third generation of her family to live in the remains of this once popular tourist attraction. And she lives there alone since the tragic death of her son, Janathan Jodane Bellis a year ago this month.

"Ruby said she will remain there as long as she can pay the taxes and keep the weeds pulled. Then she smiled and told me a story about her son when he was young. He told his grandmother, Sue Bellis, that he was going to pull the same weeds his great-grandpa had pulled.

"Edward A. Bellis Sr., his wife Sue Steward and their son Ed Jr. came to the mountain from Ft. Worth after they lost everything in the crash of ‘29. Edward bought five acres from R.D. Gayler, who had homesteaded the mountaintop south of Winslow so many years earlier. The family lived in the back of a pickup truck and a tent while they built the rock buildings and opened businesses that would grace the mountain for more than 60 years. They named the establishment after the Gaylers, who had been there since the mid 1800s.

"According to Ruby, whose mother told her the story, the different spellings of the Gayler name came about with a family rift, and those who remained there on the mountain spelled the name with an e, while those who left spelled it with an o. No one knows which the original spelling was, but the mountain is named after the ones who homesteaded the land there so long ago, and thus Gayler is the correct spelling."
Go read Brotherton's full article and learn about the history of the Bellis family and the mountaintop tourist attraction. And learn how the decisions on where to put highways can make and ruin businesses.

Vintage snapshot: It looks like a nice day to go camping

Any camping fans out there? Our family does a lot of short hikes and visits to lakes and other outdoor recreational areas. But I haven't actually gone camping in, oh, forever. I stayed in a cabin with electricity during a trip out West in the early 1990s, but I don't think that counts. So I believe I would have to go all the way back to my Boy Scout or Webelos outings in central Pennsylvania in the mid 1980s for my last true camping trip. Perhaps a summer trip to Camp Karoondinha, outside Mifflinburg, was my last camping adventure.

Anyway, this is a neat vintage snapshot. It looks like this man's tent has been set up on a wooden or concrete slab. So he didn't have to worry about uneven ground, rocks or creepy crawlers. Also, it means he's not truly out in the deep woods, removed from civilization. There is a level of comfort.

I don't know what decade this is front, but perhaps the glimpses we have of two vehicles in the photograph can provide some insight.

The man looks nice and relaxed. (All he needs, perhaps, is a good book.) I think my wife would find his outfit interesting, especially the dark socks with his shoes.

Final tidbit: The back of the photo has some damage from where it was once glued into an album. But it appears that there is a stamp for STEEL'S PICTURE SERVICE. There was once a business with that name in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Did you enjoy your weekend down the Jersey Shore?

My, now times have changed. This vintage, unused postcard depicts the view "overlooking boardwalk and beach from sundeck of Marlborough-Blenheim, Atlantic City, N.J."

I'm guessing this postcard dates to the 1960s. The Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel opened in 1906 and was demolished in 1978. It was quite an architectural wonder and was, at one point, the largest reinforced concrete building in the world.

Bally's Park Place now stands on the former site of the Marlborough-Blenheim.

In this postcard photo, the beach is lined with blue-and-yellow beach tents and umbrellas. The beach is full, the boardwalk foot traffic is light and, in the distance, you can see billboards for Camel and Schlitz.

The postcard was published by KARDmasters of Atlantic City.

Related posts