Saturday, January 16, 2016

How Ray Barr handled his wooing, back in the day

Many, many decades ago — long before email, text messages, Facebook, Twitter,, eHarmony, Craigslist, Zoosk, Tinder, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Mate-O-Rama, Yo, MeetMe, ooVoo, Burn Note, Whisper and Yik Yak1 — single gentlemen would use small calling cards to make their presence and intentions known.

This is one such card, which was once put into use by "Ray Barr."2 It measures just 3¾ inches by 1⅝ inches.

I'm guessing that Victorian-era women had little wooden boxes, full of cards from potential beaus, sitting on their Victorian-era vanities. They would collect them like baseball cards. "I only need one more and then I have everyone from Hickory Lane!"

If you're interested in more about this bygone method of wooing, courtship and social manners, here are some links to check out:

1. Only one of those is made up.
2. If you are a Papergreat reader actually named Ray Barr and would like to attempt to use this card, let me know. But you also have to report back and let us know how it goes.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Jaw-dropping dust jackets of George Manning-Sanders' novels, Part 2



Last July, I featured the covers of the novels written by George Manning-Sanders (1884-1952), the husband of Ruth Manning-Sanders. While his writings weren't as prolific or well-known as his wife's, he's part of her story and should certainly be remembered. I'd love to learn more of his biographical information.

That July post resulted in a recent email from reader Christopher Dunnbier, who shared with me the two George Manning-Sanders images atop this post:

  • A much better version of The Third Day dust jacket
  • A second version of Drum & Monkey dust jacket

Dunnbier is also a Ruth Manning-Sanders fan; it's wonderful how writing about her brings me in contact with more and more of her admirers. Before long, we'll have a full-fledged revival of her folk- and fairy-tale works on our hands!

Here are some excerpts from Dunnbier's emails:

  • "I should introduce myself ... and talk about my own enjoyment of Ruth Manning-Sanders. (Even before I understood the concepts as a young child, I loved that her folktales were effortlessly feminist — she showcased strong active heroines as well as sympathetic passive princesses — and multicultural — while the majority of the stories were from all across Europe, I recall there was almost always one from Asia, Africa, and Native America ... which were illustrated true to the source material)."
  • "I will actually have to think more about my 'origin story' with Ruth Manning-Sanders. I strongly suspect my initial exposure came from library copies via my mother (and, my childhood library is one of those very few things that is even better now than my memories of it then) and it was only much later I realized how awesome and unique RMS truly is."
  • "I know so much is a mystery about Manning-Sanders, but do you have any insight on her hyphenated last name? I assumed that was very unusual around the turn of the last century. The internet does sort of date the tradition further back to Lucy Stone keeping her name after marriage in the 1800s as an early feminist statement, but the internet also suggests hyphenation could do with the British class system if, for example, Ruth was marrying below her station."

1. While RMS did have her share of damsels in distress (partly a function of the tales she was retelling), Dunnbier is absolutely correct that she also had a significant percentage of smart, strong-willed, sassy heroines who were quite adept at handling themselves when battling witches, giants and other creatures. I think Ruth would have loved Rey from The Force Awakens.

2. I haven't come across any information or insight about the Manning-Sanders hyphenated surname. I am hopeful that I might one day get some insight from one of their descendants. My research and inquiries haven't stopped.

Great links: New York Public Library's public domain archives

Gîv, dressed in a tiger-skin coat and helmet, leads the young Kay Khusrau and his mother Farangîs across the Oxus. [cropped portion of artwork from 1026]

The New York Public Library, among the coolest spots in America, is also among the coolest spots on The Cloud. The library is promoting that is has more than 180,000 public domain images in its digital archives and that "everyone has the freedom to enjoy and reuse these materials in almost limitless ways. ... No permission required. No restrictions on use."

What a wonderful time to be alive and be an ephemeraologist!

The thousands and thousands of images date back to the 11th century and include book covers and interior pages, illustrations, photographs, artwork, sheet music, maps, stereographic cards, menus and much more. It's a treasure chest for historians, artists and ... pretty much everyone.

But wait, there's more!

New York Public Library is also offering what will certainly turn into someone's Dream Job — the NYPL Labs Remix Residency.

In their words:
"NYPL Labs is pleased to announce our first Remix Residency, designed to spur transformative, interesting, beautiful new uses of our digital collections. We have been digitizing our collections for many years, but digitization is just the start—the real magic happens when these collections make their way into the hands of scholars, educators, technologists, and creators of all types. Amazing things can happen! Anything can happen! ... We are pleased to open this call for proposals, asking what beautiful, inspiring, and engaging things can be made from our public domain collections. We are seeking submissions for projects that provide new ways of looking at or presenting public domain materials — or allow access to the information or beauty currently locked within the static images we’ve digitized. Submissions may include: Mappings, Visualizations, Generative Art, Games, Bots, Interactives."
Submissions are due by Feb. 19. See all the details here.

Here are a few more groovy images I cherry-picked from the NYPL's Public Domain Collections, but the true fun is diving in there and surfing through everything yourself. Enjoy!

Pennsylvania Railroad dinner menu [December 1917]

Abandoned houses, Dobra, West Virginia [1935]

The Negro Travelers' Green Book [Fall 1956]
For more on these travel guides, see this November story by WBUR.

Chart showing the solar system with earth at the center. It is surrounded by four grotesques, on blue, red, green and gold field. [1260, by Johannes de Sacrobosco]

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

"Suzi and the Milestone" — helping to market Stel-Mar postcards

Here's a postcard oddity that might be among the last of its kind. (I can't find any others like it online.) This 1960s sample postcard was used to advertise the services of Stel-Mar, a long-gone company that was based in Mount Joy, Lancaster County.

According to the reverse side of the postcard, Stel-Mar offered "black & white postcards in quantities from 250 at low cost."

The Etchtone cards (using the halftone technique, as you can see in the closeup at right) could be made from photographs or negatives.

I wonder if Suzi, wearing her monogrammed blouse, was a Stel-Mar employee. Either way, it's an interesting photograph that they used for the marketing materials, what with Suzi grinning and holding a fold-out map while sitting on the grass near her bicycle and a mile marker.

Is that an authentic milestone? Do any Lancaster County residents out there recognize its shape and style?

(Full disclosure: When I first saw this postcard, I thought Suzi was sitting next to a gravestone. The flowers sprouting up right in front of it didn't help.)

Monday, January 11, 2016

"Donegal Fairy Stories" by Seumas MacManus

This is the cover of my edition of Donegal Fairy Stories by Seumas MacManus. I discovered it at a used bookstore in Lancaster about a year ago. Coincidentally, there are a Donegal borough and Donegal Township here in Lancaster County; they're both named after the ancient Donegal in Ireland, which is the setting of these folk tales.

Author MacManus lived from 1869 to 1960. He was a poet and storyteller. According to Wikipedia, he is "considered by many to be the last great seanchaí, or storyteller of the ancient oral tradition. He wrote down and interpreted traditional stories so that they would not be lost to future generations." That puts him in league with the likes of his contemporary, Ruth Manning-Sanders (1886-1988), whose own reach for folk tales to retell spanned the globe.

Here is Macmanus, in his own words, describing how he came to be a seanchaí:

"I am of the mountain people. As a buachaill of a boy I herded on the hills, spaded on the farm, dallied to the mountain school where I got the daub of schooling that is mine. At night I moved from cottage to cottage, squatted in the groups that always surrounded the big, blazing turf-fires, hearkening to the women telling their fairy stories and the old men reciting ancient folk tales, singing the old songs, or chanting some thousand-year-old poem.

"Ere I crept out of childhood I was myself a shanachie — carried in mind and could tell a sheaf of the old tales, as I had learned them by a hundred firesides. I told the tales to the lads who companied me to the herding, the lads who with me scudded three miles over the hills to Mass on Sunday, to the lads who loitered with me to the little school."

Donegal Fairy Stories was first published in 1900. It has gone through many editions. I believe this one is from the 1940s. It is part of the "Travel and Adventure Library for Young Folks" and the title page states: "This special edition is published by arrangement with the publishers of the regular edition Doubleday & Company, Inc. by E.M. Hale and Company, Eau Claire, Wisconsin."

The snazzy green-and-yellow endpapers, meanwhile, indicate that this was also a Cadmus Books title...

The 256-page book contains only 10 tales. These are longer stories, and they have wonderful titles, such as:

  • The Amadan of the Dough
  • Manis the Miller
  • Hookedy-Crookedy
  • The Bee, the Harp, the Mouse and the Bum-Clock
  • The Old Hag's Long Leather Bag

I give it the highest recommendation. If you're intrigued, a newer version of this book, with "modern language, punctuation and word usage" from editor Joseph Greenleaf, is available for a very reasonable price in paperback and e-book editions.