Thursday, January 22, 2015

Best. Book. Ever.
(Part II: 21 cool things inside)

I hope y'all weren't underwhelmed by the first "Best. Book. Ever." post last week.

I realize, though, that it might have been hard for you to share my enthusiasm for this tome, given that I only showed you its exterior and didn't share any of the goodies inside — the stuff that really catapulted it toward the top of my list.

(Regarding that list, some of my other favorite books have included a 1900 Grimm's Fairy Tales, a doodle-filled geography book, a book with mystery photos tucked away inside, and a different geography book that was filled with pins and thread.)

The book in question, as we move into Part 2 of this post, is the school textbook A Brief History of the United States, which was published in 1885 by A.S. Barnes & Company.

And now it's time to crack it open and divulge all the cool secrets with this 130-year-old volume. We'll go through the book from front to back.

1. Homemade endpaper
When A Brief History of the United States was crisp and new (during the first Grover Cleveland administration), the inside front cover was blank and white. At some point, it was the recipient of a good bit of artwork. The side-by-side color waterfront scenes, now half striped away, appear to be a kind of ink or watercolor image that was applied directly to the page. Then there's the dramatic pencil drawing of a man firing a shotgun at a bear (or werewolf?) standing on its hind legs. The page, with its mixed media and decay, reminds me of some of the Brooklyn graffiti I documented in 2012.

2. Introduction to the former owner
The second page features another of the color images that were applied directly to the page. And we're introduced to one of the members of the family that used this textbook so many decades ago. Written in cursive are references to Charley Bryson of Columbia, Pennsylvania, and Charles Brison of Columbia. This is a recurring theme — the spelling of the last name as both Bryson and Brison at times. There might be a logical explanation for this. Or it might simply be that many American families didn't start taking the spelling of their names seriously until the late 19th or early 20th century.

3. A butterfly flutters by
Also on Page 2, below Charley Bryson's name, there is a colorful image of a butterfly, with the "tongue" labeled in pencil. Disturbingly, it appears as if a rudimentary skull and crossbones has been scratched into one of the butterfly wings. Agree?

4. Indian Head cents
On Page 3, someone took an Indian Head penny rubbed it with pencil lead or perhaps charcoal, and made impressions of the coin on the page. That's pretty nifty, especially because it was an Indian Head that was used.

5. Charley Bryson, in lovely script
On Page 4, this appears to be the official spot where Charley Bryson of Columbia was recorded as the owner of this textbook. The letters are slightly over a half-inch high. (Also note that the book was once for sale in a used-book store for $10.)

6. The artistic version
Also on Page 4, Charley attempted to get a bit artistic with his name. But he didn't plan well. There was no room for the "N" in Bryson.

7. The bizarre artistic version
And finally on Page 4, underneath the first two versions of the name, is this oval-shaped illustration/doodle featuring what are presumably the owner's initials.

8. Contents
This textbook is well illustrated, quite elaborately in some spots, and this design atop the table of contents is one good example.

9. Willie Brison and an Indian
On a blank page (the reverse side of a color map) toward the front of the book, we find the name Willie Brison and a light sketch of a Native American. I think it's safe to assume that Charley and Willie Brison/Bryson were brothers and this textbook was a hand-me-down at some point.

10. An odd doodle
This small doodle with a touch of color appears on the same page as #9.

11. Textbook illustration of Puritans
As I mentioned, the book has excellent illustrations. This is a mauve-ish full-page plate showing "Puritans Going to Church."

12. Steal not this book...
On the back of a color map illustrating the routes of the British Army during the Revolutionary War, William Brison has written a common (for the time) warning to those who might snatch his textbook. (I will say, though, that this is probably the last place a book thief would look.) The text states:

Steal not this book my honest
friend for fear the gallows
will be your end and God will
say on judgement day where
is that Book your stole and
if you say I do not know then
God will say go down Below

For more, see Papergreat's February 2011 "Steal not this book..." post.

13. Man on horse
This is one of the more impressive doodles in the book. It shows a man on horseback, wearing a backpack labeled "US." He is holding up a small flag labeled "truce."

14. Willie H. Brison
These students just liked writing their own names. Here, Willie wrote his name and hometown in elaborate fashion. He did have some trouble with the letter "N," though, getting most of them backwards. Or did he just do that on purpose to be silly? This page, randomly, also features a small color doodle of a turtle.

15. Nice beard and moustache
Here's another large sketch featuring a foreign-looking soldier with a sword. His hat is labeled "CORPAL," which I'm guessing is supposed to be corporal.

16. Some silly graffiti
On an illustration featuring "Federal Leaders of the Civil War," someone has added a pipe and a cigar to the mouths of David Farragut and David Dixon Porter, respectively. Maybe this chapter was a bit dry.

17. Deep thoughts
I don't think these are original, but here's a page of deep thoughts provided by Willie Brison. My favorite: "May your life have just enough clouds to make a beautiful sunset."

18. Odd-looking character
I'm not sure who this doodle is supposed to represent. He has spectacles, a curled mustache, a pointed beard, an umbrella, a top hat and tails, a murse, and cross-hatch pantaloons. (He looks a little like Kenneth Branagh's character is the execrable Wild Wild West.) It's certainly creative!

19. Random sketches
OK, now someone was really bored. This page just contains random sketches of everyday objects. I wonder if one of the Brison/Bryson boys ventured into a career in art.

20. One more signature...
Here's another Willie H. Bryson (with a "Y"), dated 1893.

21. And one more sketch...
Finally, here's the sketch that appears on the next to last page of the book, under the name Willie Brison. I have no idea what's going on here, or what words were supposed to be coming out of those cartoon balloons. But it's just one more thing that adds to the charm of this 130-year-old textbook.

I could have probably scanned and posted another 10 illustrations or inscriptions. But I think you get the picture. Obviously, we shouldn't encourage students to scribble in their textbooks while they're still in use. But, if they do happen to get a little overzealous with the with their pens and pencils, maybe we should tuck those books away for future generations. We couldn't have had all this fun if this history book had gone into the garbage 70 years ago.

* * *

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Vintage postcards of a couple historic American sites

Blue Hill Observatory, Massachusetts

The site: Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory is, according to Wikipedia, "the foremost structure associated with the history of weather observations in the United States. ... It is home to the oldest continuous weather record in North America, and was the location of the earliest kite soundings of the atmosphere in North America in the 1890s, as well as the development of the radiosonde in the 1930s. ... The observatory remains active to this day, continuing to add to its data base of weather observations now more than one hundred years old, and stands as a monument to the science of meteorology in the United States."

The postcard: This never-used card might be pre-1907, as it does not have a divided back. It is marked as E.9026 and was published by "The Metropolitan News Co., Boston and Leipzig, Manufacturers of Souvenir Postal Cards." Metropolitan was in business from 1905 until 1916, according to the (unrelated) Metropolitan Postcard Club of New York City. That website states that it was "a major publisher and printer of view-cards in color, black & white, sepia, and with hand coloring in both halftones and in collotype. They captured views throughout the American Northeast but postcards of New England scenery were produced in greatest number. Many of their cards have a heavy look resembling early chromolithographs."

The Sea Wall, St. Augustine, Fla.

The site: St. Augustine, Florida, is one of the oldest cities in the United States. And so it would naturally follow that its seawall is quite historic, also. According to the website of The Avenida Menendez Seawall Project: "The historic St. Augustine Seawall has long been an integral part of the city’s fabric — a coquina sentinel from rough waters, a promenade for romantic strolls and waterside socials. The Spanish first began building the original seawall in 1696 south of the Castillo de San Marcos fort. The section now being improved was built between 1833 and 1844 by graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point. But it has been battered by time and tide, from a devastating hurricane in 1846 that partially collapsed it to Tropical Storm Fay in 2008."

The postcard: This never-used postcard also has a back that is for the address only, making it pre-1907. The small type on the front states: "E.C. KROPP, PUBL., MILWAUKEE NO. 1640." According, again, to the Metropolitan Postcard Club, that company "began producing chromolithographic souvenir cards and private mailing cards in 1898 under the name Kropp. These cards were of much higher quality than those that would printed under the E.C. Kropp name. They became the E.C. Kropp Company in 1907 and produced large numbers of national view-cards and other subjects."

On a final note, the closest building in this postcard has a sign stating "THE VEDDER COLLECTION." Underneath that, a small sign states "MUSEUM FOR [?] ST. AUGUSTINE INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE AND HISTORICAL SOCIETY."

Monday, January 19, 2015

Board for Parker Brothers' 1936 version of the game Finance

(Huggles not included.)

A while back, I came across a well-worn board and set of rules for Finance, a board game with an interesting history that's tangled together with the beloved and ubiquitous Monopoly.

The very short version of that history goes something like this:

  • 1904: Game designer Elizabeth Magie (1866–1948) receives a patent for The Landlord's Game. It is designed (ironically) to specifically show the dangers and ill effects of monopolies and champion the adoption of land-value tax.
  • 1910: The first edition of The Landlord's Game is published by Economic Game Company.
  • 1912 or 1913: A Scottish adaptation of The Landlord's Game, titled Bre'r Fox and Bre'r Rabbit, is published.
  • 1921: The original patent on The Landlord's Game expires.
  • 1924: Magie receives a patent on a revised version of The Landlord's Game.
  • 1932: The second edition of The Landlord's Game is published by Adgame Company.
  • 1932: The game Finance is released. It was created primarily by Dan Layman, who based his game directly on The Landlord's Game.
  • 1933: The game Monopoly is first "created" by a group of Parker Brothers game designers working in tandem. (But not solely by Charles Darrow.)
  • 1933: Layman sells Finance to Knapp Electric for $200.
  • 1935: Magie sells her patent to The Landlord's Game to Parker Brothers for $500, plus an agreement to have Parker Brothers publish some of her other games.
  • 1935: Parker Brothers purchases Finance from Knapp Electric for $10,000. Changes are made to the game to make it less like The Landlord's Game/Monopoly.
  • 1935: Monopoly is first published and sold by Parker Brothers.
  • 1936: Finance is first published under the Parker Brothers name.

For a more exhaustive detailing of this tangled web, check out the Wikipedia article History of the board game Monopoly.

The board featured in today's post, then, is from the 1936 edition of Finance, as published by Parker Brothers. It still, however, retains a great deal of similarity to its inspiration, The Landlord's Game, and what we now know as Monopoly. It features groups of properties, starting with Goat Alley, Central Street and Main Street, and ending with Silver Circle and Union Square. In between there are place such as Boomtown, Lonely Lane, Hollywood Terrace, Peachtree Street and Fifth Avenue. There are four railroads — Boston & Maine, Union Pacific, New York Central and Santa Fe. There are also Chance spots on the board.

Here is a look at the board's four corners:

As you can see from the Goat Alley space, there are also rents and the buying of houses (to increase land value) associated with each property on the board. According to the rules pamphlet, players could put up to six houses on each lot. Six houses made the rent worth 32 times the printed price.

Also according to the rules:

  • Players receive $200 (their salary) each time they pass "Cash Here."
  • Railroads cannot be bought or sold.
  • When there are no more natural wood (uncolored) Houses left unused, a Building Shortage occurs. A Player may, at private trading, buy natural wood houses from some other Player who will charge him a profit, or he must wait until some Player, in order to raise money, sells his Houses to the Bank.
  • Much of the fun of the game and some of the skill comes in Private Trading. A Player, at any time, may offer to sell any Lot, including Houses, he owns to any other Player as a private transaction and at a price agreed upon between the Traders.
  • Players may not borrow money from another Player for any reason during this game.
  • In the Course of the Play, Players will eventually be retired from the game [through bankruptcy], leaving only One Player, who will, therefore, be the Winner of the Game.

Finally, there's also this fun spot on the Finance board...