Friday, November 14, 2014

Tiny photos #5: Women near rocks

This is one of the larger "Tiny Photos" featured this week. But, once again, the relevant portion of the vintage photograph — the group of three women — is only about an inch wide.

Let's take a closer look at them...

Those are interesting outfits. Pants. Loafers. White socks. Fashionable headscarves. What kind of outing was this? What are the black boxes that two of them are carrying? Cameras, perhaps?

It looks like a wet day in very early spring; there seem to be some buds on some of the branches. The rocks remind me a little of Devil's Den in Gettysburg, but are hardly distinctive enough to make a definitive identification.

Here's a final zoom-in on their faces...

Any guesses on their ages? I could see anything from 18 to 28 being viable.

We can magnify these old photos, you see, but so many questions remain (forever) unanswered.

Previous posts

Thursday, November 13, 2014

1936 dust jacket: "Around the World in Eleven Years"

This is the tattered dust jacket for the 1936 book Around the World in Eleven Years. The travel memoir with a twist, authored by globe-hopping children Patience, Richard and John Abbe, was a best-seller. (This particular book is part of the thirteenth printing, which came in just the seventh month of publication.)

The three authors were the children of "James E. Abbe, internationally known photographer, and his wife, Polly Platt, formerly of the New York stage."

According to the dust jacket blurb:
"The Abbes travel like gypsies who tell only their own fortunes and expect as fee only the gold of adventure. They know everybody, from Stalin to Alexander Woollcott (of whom Patience writes, when they ran across him in Russia: 'A big man in a big coat made out of a camel. He is a very nice and smart man. He loves children') They have lived in all sorts of countries, in all sorts of shelters, from tents to palaces. They talk and think in several languages."
Reviews for the book, also noted on the dust jacket, included:
  • "A barrel of fun." — Harry Hansen, N.Y. World-Telegram
  • "Like no other book you've ever read ... consistently delightful, refreshingly different." — Herschel Brickell, N.Y. Post
  • "Rare, rich, racy ... an instantaneous hit." — John Clair Minot, Boston Herald

While the book had three co-authors, it was widely admitted that Patience Abbe was the primary contributor to Around the World in Eleven Years.

She died at age 87 in early 2012 and, according to her obituary in The New York Times, her fame and desire to write waned as the years passed.1 Her parents were divorced in the late 1930s, even as the children's books were still selling well.

Here's an excerpt from the Times obituary:
"After their Hollywood adventure fizzled, Ms. Abbe’s mother settled with the children in Laguna Beach, where their fame gradually expired. The last ember seemed to die, according to a story Ms. Abbe loved telling, at a beach party held for her on her 21st birthday. Bette Davis, who owned a place in Laguna, happened by. 'Patience Abbe!' Davis exclaimed. 'I always wondered what happened to you!'"
Although Patience seemed to be a born writer, she never published her own book. Again, we turn to the well-written Times obituary2, penned by Paul Vitello, for the bittersweet story behind what happened following her childhood fame:
"Family members traded theories about why Ms. Abbe had been reluctant to pursue writing as an adult. Ms. Abbe Moyer’s view was that the coincidence of her early success and her parents’ breakup — and even the start of World War II — had become 'all mixed up in her head' and soured her on writing. 'She called it "the great synchronicity" of disasters,' Ms. Abbe Moyer said. For many years, the only writing Ms. Abbe did was for a church bulletin of St. John’s Church in San Anselmo, Calif., where she was the secretary."
The obituary ends, however, on an up note. Patience Abbe began working on her memoir in the 1990s. Shortly before her death in 2012, she finished the manuscript. I can't find any evidence that Patience's final book has been published yet, but at least we know that she completed it, and it exists.

1. There were two sequels to Around the World in Eleven YearsOf All Places! (1937) and No Place Like Home (1940).
2. Here are two collections of obituaries you don't want to miss, if you are a fan of such journalism: The Last Word: The New York Times Book of Obituaries and Farewells and 52 McGs.: The Best Obituaries from Legendary New York Times Reporter Robert McG. Thomas.

Post-prom party ticket

This little ticket (I'm assuming it was a ticket) comes with no provenance or context. It was in a box with many other scraps of ephemera, in a junk store.

Written on the reverse, in pencil, is "Watch Pocket." This piece of paper is a little less than three inches wide, so it would indeed be the perfect size for a pocket. Was that a young man's reminder to himself of where to put the ticket after he got dressed for the prom?

In modern times, the purpose of a post-prom party, or "prom after party," is to create a fun and safe environment to keep teen-agers away from drugs, alcohol and other dangers that adults think they might encounter if left to their own devices. The Maryland-based is one website that offers ideas for after-prom parties that can be appealing to teens ready to take on the world. Its stated purpose: "The primary goal of a school and/or PTA and/or community sponsored post prom or after prom party has to be ensuring the safety and well-being of 'invincible' high school teenagers — those who go to the prom, as well as, those who don't."

Finally, here's a little bit on U.S. prom history, from Wikipedia:
"Proms worked their way down incrementally from college gatherings to high school extravaganzas. In the early 1900s, prom was a simple tea dance where high school seniors wore their Sunday best. In the 1920s and 1930s, prom expanded into an annual class banquet where students wore party clothes and danced afterward. As Americans gained more money and leisure time in the 1950s, proms became more extravagant and elaborate, bearing similarity to today’s proms. The high school gym may have been an acceptable setting for sophomore dances (soph hop), but junior prom and senior balls gradually moved to hotel ballrooms and country clubs."

Tiny photos #4: Tintype portrait of man and woman

For today's tiny vintage photograph, we go all the way back, almost certainly, to the 19th century. This beat-up old tintype1 of a man and woman only measures 2½ inches across, if you count the paper mat. The image itself is only about 1½ inches wide.

First things first, let's take a closer look at the couple. I've also brightened the image ever so slightly.

They seem happy enough. If they seem a little rigid, that would be another sign that this is from the 19th century. The process of taking a portrait involved putting on your finest clothes and getting groomed to perfection. Then you had to be posed just right by the photographer. Then you had to wait for the photographer to load film into the camera. Then you had to remain SUPER STILL for the three to eight seconds required for the exposure.2 So we should forgive them for looking a bit stiff.

One of the things that struck me was the positioning of the woman's arm and hand. It looks a bit awkward up that high, doesn't it? Here's a closeup of that hand...

First off, she has her fingers crossed, which might or might not have meant anything. Second, it appears that she's wearing her wedding band on her right hand. But that's when I learned something, which is one of the coolest things about writing this blog. Most tintypes produced mirror images. So that's her left hand, which would make more sense with regard to the ring.3 The mirror-image theory is further supported by the man's jacket buttons, which incorrectly appear to be on the left because of the lateral reversal of the image.

So tintypes, unlike modern photographs, flipped reality.

Moving along, let's zoom in on their (mirror image) faces. No one, sans magnifying glass, has ever been able to see them so clearly.

Finally, flipping the photograph over, here's what the back looks like.

It hasn't stood the test of time too well, but I was able to make out all of the printing:


Copies made from all Styles of Pictures.

I couldn't find much about Jeffres.4 No studio address is listed, so it's possible that he traveled around southcentral Pennsylvania and did his work from a portable booth. For all we know, this photograph was taken at the York Fair!

1. Tintypes had their heyday in the 1860s and 1870s, but remained widespread into the early 20th century. So, as I said, the odds are that this photograph was taken in the second half of the 19th century.
2. Source: Grant Romer discussing portraits in the mid-19th century on PBS' The American Experience.
3. Before I made the mirror-image discovery, I had found some evidence (now unnecessary) to support why a wedding band might appear on a woman's right hand. According to Wikipedia: "In Germany the ring is worn on the left hand while engaged, but moved to the right hand when married. In Poland and Turkey, the engagement ring and wedding band are traditionally worn on the right hand but modern practice varies considerably."
4. Fifteen years ago, someone tried to track down information about Jeffers on a RootsWeb forum but received no answer.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A promising, one-of-a-kind book about flower arranging

I had high hopes when I came across this homemade volume in a box of used books last week.


Alas, all of the pages are blank.

So, was it a never-completed project? Or perhaps a gag gift?

The cover is nice, anyway. Maybe I can find another use for this...

Postcrossing arrivals: Cool stuff on the reverse sides

As a companion piece to Monday's post about some groovy Postcrossing cards that have arrived in my mailbox this autumn, here are some interesting stamps, drawings and other goodies from the backs of a few postcards.

From Annick in France

Annick has a wonderful French-language website full of images of decorated envelopes and postcards.

From Maya in Belarus
Maya is the 6-year-old who sent me the Inga Paltser owl postcard. As a fledgling artist, she added some of her own illustrations on the back.

She also has her own awesome stamp, it seems!

From Verena in Germany

The first image is Verena's family crest. And the PostCat and Poste Wonderland stamps are very cool. Verena also writes in her message that her family lives in the countryside in northern Germany and has on its land an 800-year-old watermill. There is a German-language website, with photo, about Wassermühle Ellringen ("Watermill Ellringen").

Tiny photos #3: Car and dog

Today's vintage tiny photo features some trees, a car, some buildings and a dog. The full image, shown above, is only about two inches wide.

Let's go a little closer...

Does anyone recognize the make of that vehicle?
How about the make of that white dog?

One thing we can figure out, thanks to super-spy zoom-and-enhance technology straight out of a James Bond or Jason Bourne film, is the number on the license plate.

It's 39 199.
Um, unless it's 39 189.
And I can't tell what state it's from.
Oh well. No super-spy license for me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Farewell Floyd, a good boy

Ugh. This has been a sad year with regard to the cats in the Otto household. Back on June 6, our 16-year-old Salem died.

This afternoon we lost Floyd, who was 12 or 13. We were his second family. His first owner was a World War II veteran (and, yes, the irony of today being Veterans Day is not lost on us) who had been living in Lancaster County.

When his first owner died, Floyd was evicted from the premises and only saved by the grace of the volunteer group Pet Guardians. On the day we adopted him in June 2011, I sat down on the garage floor so that Floyd could get to know me at his own pace. He climbed onto my legs and promptly took a nap.

Floyd's best trick, which we didn't teach him, was to stand up on his hind legs like a prairie dog and beg for attention. He was quite good at it and was always rewarded with a good scratch behind the ears or a belly rub.

He was a good boy.

Tiny photos #2: All bundled up

Day 2 of Tiny Vintage Photographs brings a photo that's not too small. It's 4½ inches wide. But the relevant portion of the image, three people standing next to a car, is only about 1½ inches wide.

So let's take a closer look!

Those are some pretty snazzy hats and overcoats — real fur I be (unfortunately). I might have been a bit breezy, given that the woman on the right appears to be holding her hat on.

Are we looking at a father and two daughters here? Or perhaps the woman on the right is the man's wife?

Let's zoom in even closer on the faces.

Yes, the woman on the right could definitely be the same age as the man in the middle. I'm not sure about the woman on the left, though. She could be a bit younger or about the same age as the other two. It's difficult to tell from her features.

Any thoughts on the people in the picture and/or what decade this is from?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Postcrossing arrivals: Hansel & Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin and an owl

Some fabulous postcards from around the world have arrived in my mailbox this autumn, via Postcrossing. Here are a few of my favorites.

Hansel and Gretel

Above: This postcard came from Moni, who is an actor in a fairy-tale theatre in Germany. It is from a book titled Die 100 schönsten Märchen der Brüder Grimm, which is illustrated by Daniela Drescher. That title translates to "The 100 most beautiful fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm." And this postcard illustration certainly is beautiful. This is the third appearance for Hansel & Gretel on the blog. The others:

"The Miller's Daughter"

Above: This postcard came from Jasmin in Aachen, Germany. The illustration is by Scottish artist Anne Anderson (1874—1930) and is titled "The Miller's Daughter." It first appeared in a 1922 edition of Grimm's Fairy Tales. Anderson's illustrations, such as this one from "Rumpelstiltskin," have been used frequently on postcards.

Bundle-up Owl

Above: This postcard came from 6-year-old Maya in Minsk, Belarus (with some help from her Mum). The owl illustration is by artist Inga Paltser, a painter from Severodvinsk, Russia. Paltser has a groovy website, a shop where you can buy her stuff, a blog and a Twitter account. And, by the way, making wonderful artwork is only her hobby. Her full-time job: research biologist.

Tiny photos #1: Tuck in your shirt!

I am drawn to tiny vintage photographs, even mundane ones, because 21st century home technology allows us to easily enlarge them and discover details that one might otherwise need a magnifying glass to see.

I'm going to feature a new tiny photograph each morning this week. This first one is less than 1½ inches across. It does not come with any identifying information. The young lady on the right appears to be standing on a curb or step above the smiling young man in the plaid shirt. What caused her to look down and over at him? Are they boyfriend and girlfriend? Brother and sister? And who are the nattily dressed bystanders in the background?

We'll never know. But at least now we can see them a little better.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Water-stained work of art II:
Princes Point on Orr's Island

This beautifully decrepit postcard, originally mailed in July 1909, ties in with a number of previous Papergreat posts.

1. It is the second post in what is now officially the Water-stained Works of Art series. The first post was back in January and featured the Hudson & Manhattan Subway Terminal. I really love what time and moisture have done to these vintage postcards. In a world of infinite resources, I would make a high-resolution print of the above image and frame it; the best part is the purple outline where the stamp was once located in the upper-left corner.

2. This is the second postcard to feature Orr's Island, Maine. In February 2013, I featured an old (and also water-stained) card showing the island's small post office.

3. All of these postcards tie in with the Georgia Klinefelter Multiverse. As I mentioned previously, Klinefelter must have moved around (or traveled) quite a bit. Decades later, her water-stained postcard collection ended up in the antiques store in York New Salem, where I purchased some of them. Here are links to previous posts featuring cards sent or received by Klinefelter:

Today's postcard, from July 1909, finds the well-traveled Miss Georgia B. Klinefelter in San Juan, Porto Rico (as Puerto Rico was often spelled in the early 20th century). It is sent in care of the "N.Y. & P.R. S.S. Co." That's a reference to the New York & Porto Rico Steamship Co.

The postcard was written by someone named Elizabeth, who writes:
"I am having a lovely time in Maine. I will leave the twenty fourth. The water is right in front of our house. Every thing is lovely. We have a sail-boat and I love to sail. I wish you were here. Lots of love, Elizabeth."
As a final note: While this 1909 postcard and the title of this blog post refer to the location as Princes Point, most historical sources use an apostrophe. So it's probably correct to write Prince's Point. And yes, Elizabeth, it's lovely.