Saturday, February 7, 2015

Artsy-fartsy photos from a night on the town with real artists

On Friday, I had a nice night on the town with artist-poet Joan and artist Sarah, whose fabulous work was featured and presented at various York venues.

I snapped and filtered some photos with my iPhone, trying to get into the artistic spirit. Here they are, for posterity.

Postcard of building that's been gone for a century (Washington Hotel)

Here's a battle-scarred, never-used postcard, probably from before 1910, of the Washington Hotel in Monterey, California. The postcard was part of The PCK Series, from Paul C. Koeber Co.1

One-third of the back of the postcard has been designated for:

In space below May be written senders nam and addres.
(No others writting).

So it's not truly a split-back postcard, as no message can be included.

The Washington Hotel was, as you might imagine, old even before this postcard image was taken (sometime in the first decade of the 20th century). According to administrator Claire Martin on CAGenWeb Monterey County Genealogy:
"The Old Washington Hotel was California's first hotel and stood on the northwest corner of Washington and Pearl streets. The building was erected in 1832 and for a few years was the private residence of Don Enrique Montenegro.

"The hotel, which was fifty feet in width and over two hundred feet in length was built of adobe in 1840, the adobe being obtained from the rear of the San Carlos Church. The trees which were cut down to make way for the building were used to support the roof. The building would accommodate over a hundred lodgers.

"A nest of gamblers, fifty in number, arrived in Monterey, May 12, 1847, and opened up a 'monte' game in the Washington Hotel. Then Alcalde Walter Colton took a file of soldiers and surrounded the place, arresting the whole outfit. He took them into the bar, told them about the schoolhouse he was building, and fined them $20 each. The proprietor was fined $100 — which made a nice sum toward the building of Colton Hall. After the discovery of gold, it became the gambling headquarters of the town.

"In 1849 during the Constitutional Convention the hotel was leased for $1200 per month, its rates being then $200 a month without board.

"It is at this site where, at ten o'clock on the evening of June 18, 1856, Mr. Lewis Belcher was shot while sitting at the bar, a victim of the infamous Belcher-Roach vendetta murders.

"The Old Washington Hotel was torn down in 1914-15, it too becoming a victim of progress."

So it had quite a history from 1832 until 1914!

Here's an 1894 photograph of the hotel from the Library of Congress:

A little more about the hotel and its intriguing history can be found in the blog post "A Mystery in History."

1. The PCK Series and its logo were previously discussed in this August 2013 post.

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Crock of Gold
(wool blanket ephemera)

Here's a new category for the blog — blanket ephemera.

This is the small tag that's sew into a multicolored wool blanket that's been in our family for decades.

The company producing this 100% wool, hand-dyed, handwoven blanket was called The Crock of Gold. Its logo consisted of a rainbow, a pot of gold and what looks like a gnarled, bent-over tree.1

The blanket was produced in the Irish Republic. If we take those two words, in that order, at face value, that means we can possibly date this blanket's creation to sometime between 1919 to 1922. That's when the Irish Republic (Saorst√°t √Čireann) was in its short period of existence, to be replaced by the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland, under the Partition of Ireland.

1. Or maybe it's a gnarled hand holding a cloud or a fistful of wool.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

From the readers: Talking letters, capitol buildings and more

It's time, once again, to turn the blog over to you for a "From the Readers" post. Thanks, as always, for your emails and comments. They are greatly appreciated.

Phonic Talking Letters from 1941: This post from June 2012 continues to spur a lot of interest. I have received a couple of new requests from people who would like to purchase the set that I featured on Papergreat. Alas, I sold them a couple of years ago to one of the first people who queried about them. It turns out they're pretty difficult to find, and people still want to use them for educational purposes. One suggestion I've made to people is to check regularly on, which is an interesting marketplace of crafts, homemade goods and vintage items, including ephemera. I've seen some Talking Letters posted on there, although more often as individual cards and less often as full sets. Good luck, if you're seeking them.

Anyway, here's an edited email I received from one woman who was hoping to buy the Talking Letters:
"I taught school for quite a few years in the ’68 to ’93 range. I really enjoyed it and had a perfect set of the Phonic Letters — still in the original box. I could shoot myself for giving them away! My two youngest grandchildren are now 5 & 8. Their mother is Japanese and bless her heart, is absolutely no help in teaching them phonics, rules or anything like that. She tries but still has trouble sometime understanding English herself.

"The 5-year-old little boy ... is the one having all the phonics and reading problems and I am trying to help. The second day of school I picked him up. I asked him how he liked school. He said that he didn't like it at all — they did not teach him to read! I explained that it might take a while. The third day of school, I picked him up again. Again I asked, 'How was school today,' his response was I still don’t like it, I still can’t read!!! We are now trying to work on that!!!"

"How Spider Cooked His Children, And Found Them Bitter": Posting on Facebook, Sharon writes: "Great! I read Anansi Boys a week or two ago which was my first introduction to Spider stories."

Coupons from the E.H. Koester Bakery Co.: Janice Koestler asks, "Could Koester fresh bread be related to Koestler's Bakery in Vicksburg, Mississippi?"

My answer is that I don't know, but I wonder if any readers out there have any insight on a possible connection. Contact us in the Comments section.

Great links: Prokudin-Gorskii's color photographs of Russia: An anonymous commenter writes: "It just goes to show how people leave a legacy behind with their work and travels when they dedicate themselves to doing their best. I would never have guessed that those images were over a century old. The quality of the pictures of Russia makes them look quite modern."

(Note: I recently had a followup post with additional Prokudin-Gorskii favorites.)

"A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband": Anonymous writes: "Blimey, that 'Teenage party' recipe sounds like a cholesterol nightmare!"

Props for use of the word "blimey" in your comment!

Randomly pulled postcard: Connecticut's State Capitol: Jim Fahringer writes:
"While I have only ever seen the Pennsylvania State Capitol building and perhaps the Maryland State Capitol building as a little boy, state capitol buildings are beautiful monuments to man's creative and artistic talents and superb craftsmanship. The stately buildings are indeed awesome and will never ever be able to be built again because there is no way we could afford it at today's prices for those materials — gold leaf, precious marble, beautiful paintings, stained glass, frescoes, glass chandeliers, etc. In addition many of the pieces of artwork and statuary and furniture could never be found. As I understand it most state capitol buildings cannot be insured because they are irreplaceable. What is really sad is that a very low percentage of our population have ever visited their state capitol building. I took fourth-grade classes to the state capitol in Harrisburg for 40 years and each time I go I see and experience something new and more beautiful than before. If you have never visited our Pennsylvania State Capitol building, you owe it to yourself to go and experience this monument of superb beauty which has been called the 'Most Beautiful State Capitol Building in the Nation.' The public tours are free."
Thank you for your comments, Jim! I believe I'm the only member of my family who hasn't toured the capitol building in Harrisburg, and this makes me want to put it on this year's travel list (along with Markleton, of course).

Mexichrome postcard: Grotesque (or chimera) atop Notre Dame: My wife writes: "If you sold a wallet-sized reference card of the bottom image, I'd buy it. You never know when you'll need to identify one of those suckers in the wild."

Maybe I've stumbled upon the idea that will make me rich!

From 1904: Questionable ad for a hunting and fishing gizmo

This advertisement is featured on the back page of the July 25, 1904, issue of a hobby publication titled "Friendship Junior and Amateur Collector" (which I hope to write more about later).

The Eagle Claw is touted as follows in the advertising copy:

  • "A wonderful invention."
  • "Best trap in the world for catching fish, animals and all manners of game."
  • "Every fish, muskrat, or squirrel which bites at the bait is surely caught."
  • "Perfectly safe for children, will not rust."
  • "No. 1 is for all ordinary fishing, the ladies' favorite."

The post-paid cost of the smaller Eagle Claw was 30 cents, which is nearly $8 in 2014 dollars.

So ... I have some concerns.

First off, the design of this thing, as pictured, makes it appear incredibly inhumane. And I'm sure it was. It's also difficult to envision how this product was as effective as it claims. It looks like it would be messy, inconsistent and problematic. But then I've never been much of an angler or squirrel hunter.

Most importantly, I'm dubious about the claim that it's "perfectly safe for children." Now, I'm sure children were more rugged 111 years ago than today's videogame generation. Still, this looks like an invitation to a nasty injury. And if you didn't hurt yourself fiddling around with the Eagle Claw, you might be in for big trouble when dealing with an injured animal "captured" by it.

Do you think Mr. Wolf (or perhaps it's Mr. Coyote) in this illustration is going to be very happy about having its paw stuck? (Probably, though, the idea is that it makes him a sitting duck so that you can finish him off with Dad's rifle.)