Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving postcard from 1914, plus a little guffaw

Happy Thanksgiving! This pleasant vintage Thanksgiving postcard features pumpkins, late-season cornstalks and a modest little house.

The fun comes on the back. The card was mailed from somewhere in Baltimore to a woman named Alice Kohler in Felton, Pennsylvania (York County). The message states:

"Dear Friend,
I am back in the city and working now. I hope this card will find you and your family all well. I saw Blinky tonight. She is still Fat, Ragged and Saucy.
Love to all,
So, who or what do we think Blinky is? Man or beast? I suppose it could be a cow (a saucy cow?) or a pig (a saucy pig?).

I guess we'll never, ever know. Oh well.

* * *

BUT WAIT. On a whim, I did a Google search for "fat, ragged and saucy," and here's one of the things I found. It's a page from 1824's Select Proverbs of all Nations: illustrated with notes and comments. To which is added, a Summary of Ancient Pastimes, etc. with an Analysis of the Wisdom of the Ancients, and of the Fathers of the Church, by Thomas Fielding.

So perhaps Blinky is a person. We'll still never know, though.

Previous Thanksgiving posts to browse
while dozing off after your meal

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Book cover: "Life in America:
The Midwest"

  • Title: Life in America: The Midwest
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Pages: 144
  • Author: Walter Havighurst
  • Illustrator: No credit listed for cover illustration.
  • Publisher: The Fideler Company
  • Year: First published in 1951. This edition is copyright 1960.
  • Notes: The first half of the book takes on the history of the U.S. Midwest, with chapter titles such as "The Coming of the Pioneers," "The People of the Midwest," "Products of the Midwestern Factories" and "Recreation in the Midwest." The second half of the book has separate chapters detailing eight different Midwest states. ... Author Havighurst (1901-1994) was a college professor who wrote more than 30 books and left a bequest that created The Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies at Miami (Ohio) University. ... According to a preface, this book is designed for three reading ability levels: "slow learners, children with average abilities, and students with superior minds." ... The first group, according to this preface, will probably only look at the pictures and maps, but that's OK. Teachers were still encouraged to order a whole bunch of copies for their classroom. (The minimum recommendation was one copy for every six students.) ... The picture maps are credited to Jessie Miersma. That might include this map, which gives an interesting snapshot of land use in the middle of the 20th century (it would be interesting to overlay this with a current map featuring the same information).

  • Excerpt from Chapter 1: "The Midwest has a history of about three hundred years, but people lived in this region long before history began. The first explorers found Indians living in wigwams and hunting in great forests. They also found mysterious man-made mounds, so old that huge trees were growing on them. The Indians were here long before the white men. The Mound Builders were here before the Indians and may have been their ancestors. From buried skeletons and tools, we know that people have lived in the Midwest for perhaps twenty thousand years. We are not sure when the first Europeans came to the Midwest. About sixty years ago, a farmer near Kensington, Minnesota, found a large stone on his land. His ten-year-old son noticed some curious scratches on the flat surface. Now these scratches have been translated. They tell how a party of Norsemen reached the Midwest in the year 1362."

Um. That would be the Kensington Runestone. It's a fascinating story, but quite possibly a hoax and most likely not something that belonged in a fact-based 1950s-era history textbook.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bad military idea from the past: Magnetic Plane Destroyer

This futuristic illustration is featured as the back cover of the Spring 1970 issue of Thrilling Science Fiction Adventures, a magazine that was also known as Thrilling Science Fiction and consisted of 42 issues from 1966 through 1975.

This issue features stories by Lee Francis, Rog Phillips, William P. McGivern, Ruppert Carlin, Lester Barclay, Craig Browning (a pen name of Rog Phillips), Manly Wade Wellman and Willy Ley (a German-American whose full name was Willy Otto Oskar Ley).

The illustration of the Magnetic Plane Destroyer is credited to "McCall" and is accompanied by an essay on the about this "invention of future warfare" on the inside back cover.

In the essay, the following "benefits" of the Magnetic Plane Destroyer are cited:

  • This tower, sunk deep in the earth, and surrounded by coils that will pick up the vast electrical energy inherent in the earth itself, will become a gigantic magnet which will be capable of drawing everything with iron in it to its huge sides with inexorable force.
  • When not in use, these towers would be grounded — as are all other metal installations nearby such as buildings, bridges, etc. — and thus made harmless.
  • However, in the case of an air-raid warning, the magnet would be set in action, and its natural force greatly increased by sending through the coils constructed around it all the stored power which has accumulated in storage batteries deep in the ground, perhaps naturally created in lead-lined pits in the rock itself.
  • The first effect would be to cause the compasses of the distant planes to be thrown from their true north, thus destroying their plotted course.
  • Later, coming in range, the planes would be drawn to their destruction against its massive sides. However, it is doubtful if many would reach this smashing end, since motor parts would become magnetized, freeze, and the planes would crash while yet many miles away.
  • Local metal objects not grounded would also be drawn to the tower, thereby causing perhaps more damage than a raid itself, if it were not for the fact that a magnetic beam can be directed, and near the ground, neutralized by compensating currents broadcast from local stations.
  • A third action of the towers would be the formation of electrical storms, which would cause great lightning displays, and raise winds in the upper atmosphere of hurricane force.

This might be the worst military idea since the thermal exhaust port on the Death Star. Or attaching bombs to bats.

I have many questions:
  • 1. How much would this sucker cost?
  • 2. How many of them would be needed? (Multiple Answer 1 by Answer 2.)
  • 3. Wouldn't this be destroyed after a few too many fighter planes crashed into its sides?
  • 4. Does the science even make sense? Sinking deep structures into areas with heavy lead deposits and harvesting the "vast electrical energy inherent in the earth itself" seems dubious.
  • 5. And if #4 was possible, couldn't you just use these towers to power all of civilization, do away with fossil fuels and foster peace among nations?
  • 6. I'm no scientist, but the concept of the magnetic beam being "neutralized by compensating currents broadcast from local stations" doesn't make a lick of sense.
  • 7. And even if it did, what would that cost?
  • 8. It is noted that some of the enemy planes might crash long before they reach the tower. There would be no way to control where they came down or how many casualties those crashes caused.
  • 9. And that's before we even get to the hurricane-force electrical storms noted by the author. With "defensive" weapons like this, who needs enemies?

To see more dubious weapons of war dreamed up by the science-fiction community, check out this forum on Penny Arcade.

Politically-charged P.S. — Here's another thought for this tower. If such a thing actually worked, could it be turned on and used to collect every firearm out there? They would all just cling fast to the sides of the tower and be unavailable for use by anyone. That's a concept I could get behind.

The Old Man in the Field

There's not much to say about this old snapshot, which is 2¾ inches wide. It's an old man in a field. He's wearing dress pants, a white shirt, suspenders and a very short tie.

All in all, he doesn't look like he's dressed to be hanging out in a field.

Of course, it also looks like someone told him, "You look very nice in your church clothes, Gramps. Go stand in that pretty field so we can take your photo."

The only thing written on the back of the photo is a date — July 2, 1937.

On that date:
  • Amelia Earhart disappeared.
  • The first 24-hour guard was posted at the Tomb of the Unknowns. It has been guarded continuously since.
  • NASCAR legend Richard "The King" Petty was born.
  • The Philadelphia Phillies lost, 3-0, to the visiting Brooklyn Robins in front of 3,000 fans at Baker Bowl. The baseball game included players named Gibby, Buddy, Babe, Cookie, Woody, Hersh, Dolph, Pinky and Orville.

Here's a closer look at the old fella in the field.

Monday, November 23, 2015

As the holiday gift-buying season ramps up, consider opulent owls

This undated (1960s?), unused postcard has the following caption on the back:
OPULENT OWL — This sapphire-eyed jeweled dazzler is actually a boutique bank. Molded of aquamarine expanded polystyrene, it features embossed flowers, feathers and leaves that you quickly and colorfully transform with brush and paint included. Tiny sim. jewels are supplied for the blossom centers, plus big sapphire-like jewels for eyes. Conversation piece of the century, this beautiful bank stands about 6" tall. "Topaz"-eyed brown owl and all-season spray kit (owl perch) also available. Another original craft creation from the Studio of National Handcraft, Handcraft Building, Des Moines, Iowa.

It was the conversation piece of the century, folks! I'm sure the Studio of National Handcraft would not have been hyperbolic on this matter.

Other thoughts:
  • So, the owl came to buyers unpainted, in a kit. Meaning you had to do some work just to get it to the level of precision tacky show on the postcard.
  • Polystyrene is really, really bad. It takes centuries to biodegrade, is one of the major ocean pollutants and is nearly impossible to effectively or efficiently recycle.
  • If the owl banks of yesteryear are your thing, you're in luck. There are more then 300 listings under "vintage owl bank" on both eBay and Etsy. Have fun browsing! Maybe you'll even come across one of the original opulent owls.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Mystery portrait taken in Littlestown, Pennsylvania

This old portrait, about the size of a baseball card, has a huge crease in the middle and won't lay flat. So I had to photograph it, rather than scan it.

Any guesses on this person's sex? At first, I thought it was a man. But the style of the collar has me doubting myself and now thinking it might be a woman. Definitely hoping for others to weigh in.

There is no information on the back other than the name and location of the photographer — H.T. Slaughenhaupt of Littlestown, Pennsylvania (about 10 miles southeast of Gettysburg). We actually have biographical information for Slaughenhaupt, as he was profiled in 1886's History of Cumberland and Adams Counties, Pennsylvania. Here's the full excerpt:
"H. T. SLAUGHENHAUPT, photographer, Littlestown, was born April 17, 1846, in Taneytown District, Carroll Co., Md., and is of German extraction. His grandfather, Jacob Slaughenhaupt, was a chair-maker near Taneytown, Md., and there died at a ripe old age; his wife, who was a Miss Newcomer, died there also. They were parents of the following children: Samuel, Catharine, Anna, Barbara, Susan and Margaret. Of these Samuel, who was born near Taneytown, Md., died August 18, 1881, at Harney, Md., aged seventy-five; he was a shoe-maker in early life, but farmed the last thirty-five years. He married Mary A. DeHoff, a daughter of Peter DeHoff, who was a captain in the war of 1812, and is the mother of ten children now living: Ellen C., Emily J., James D., Maranda R., Sarah A., Samuel D., Mary E., Henry T., Albert L. and John William. Of these Henry T. was educated in the common schools, and at the Eagleton Institute. His early life was spent of the farm. At the age of twenty-two he learned photographing, which he has since followed. In February, 1875, he moved to Littlestown, this county, and has been here ever since. Mr. Slaughenhaupt was united in marriage, October 12, 1875, with Miss Mary E., daughter of Rev. Louis A. Wickey, who was a son of Dr. Louis Wickey, a native of Switzerland, who gained considerable celebrity during the cholera epidemic in early years, having possessed the only remedy, which was effectually used against the disease in Washington County, Md., and York County, Penn. This medicine is now made by H.T. Slaughenhaupt after the original formula. To Mr. Slaughenhaupt were born two children: Beulah E. and Louis Trueman. Mr. and Mrs. Slaughenhaupt are members of the United Brethren Church. He is a prohibitionist and an independent voter. For some years he has been a correspondent for a number of newspapers."
I also found a neat advertisement for Slaughenhaupt's photography business, touting "twelve beautiful gem pictures for $1.00."

None of this, of course, helps us at all with the subject of this mystery photograph. Here's a closer look...

Other Littlestown-related posts