Friday, April 8, 2016

Let's all take a field trip to Singapore!

The awesome cards keep rolling into my mailbox, via Postcrossing.

This recent postcard, from Regina and Carmel in Singapore, is a gorgeous illustrated advertisement for Gardens by the Bay, an amazing nature park in Singapore that opened in 2012 and has already surpassed 20 million visitors. If I get sent to that part of my world on my next top-secret MI6 mission, I'll definitely check it out.

The postcard was "specially designed by Peranakan Inspirations for Gardens by the Bay," which is described as follows:
"The 101 hectares Gardens by the Bay comprises three waterfront gardens in Marina Bay. The flagship garden, Bay South, at 54 hectares, covers the size of 90 football fields and presents the plant kingdom in new light. Attractions include the SuperTrees, showcasing vertical gardens and the cool conservatories, Flower Dome and Cloud Forest, that highlight two of the world's most unique habitats."
Wikipedia adds:
"Supertrees are tree-like structures that dominate the Gardens' landscape with heights that range between 25 metres (82 ft) and 50 metres (160 ft). They are vertical gardens that perform a multitude of functions, which include planting, shading and working as environmental engines for the gardens. ... There is an elevated walkway, the OCBC Skyway, between two of the larger Supertrees for visitors to enjoy a panoramic aerial view of the Gardens."
But words don't really do it justice. Check out this jaw-dropping photograph...

By Jan —, CC BY-SA 2.0,

There are more great photos on Wikipedia, including a shot of Cloud Mountain.

Here's a portion of the back of the postcard, showing the washi tape they used and the stamp from Singapore. I also like the TNK YOU MR POST! stamp.

#FridayReads: Environment, books, cool history stuff and goats

Old sign in Orangeburg, South Carolina (March 2016). Instagram photo by me.

The weekend is almost here! Here's another batch of great links for your reading pleasure and continuing life-long education. If you enjoy these roundups and/or want to share some links to articles that you think I'd find interesting, leave a note in the comments section or come find me on Twitter.

Books, reading & writing

Environment and recycling

Walking and exploring

"Goats for $500, Alex"


Current events

Culture, social issues & entertainment

The Joy of Twitter
Finally, here is a sampling of highly recommended Twitter accounts to follow. Many of these veer toward having compelling visuals, which makes them great to follow.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Advertising card for Ayer's Cherry Pectoral (with morphine!)

This Victorian advertising card measures 8 centimeters by 13.2 centimeters.1 It's not in the best shape. The back of the card is badly damaged, due to it having been pasted into someone's scrapbook at some point. But we're not picky about the quality of the ephemera here at Papergreat, and it doesn't have to be pristine to tell a story.

This card for Ayer's Cherry Pectoral isn't that rare. A Google search brought up numerous examples. But the Ayer's story is a good one and card, with its dove-loving, cherry-toting Kate Winslet doppelgänger, is worth sharing. Here's the full text from the front:

Ayer's Cherry Pectoral
Colds, Coughs and all Throat and Lung Diseases.
Ayer's Cherry Pectoral
Prepared by Dr. J.C. Ayer & Co., Lowell, Mass. USA.
Prompt to Act. Sure to Cure.

And here's an excerpt from the portion that's still readable on the back of the card: "The confidence the public have in AYER'S CHERRY PECTORAL is the natural consequence of fifty years' marvelous and beneficent service in restoring health and saving precious lives."

James Cook Ayer (1818-1878)2 was a New England businessman who accumulated a fortune estimated at $20 million3 thanks to his successes with patent medicine.

According to an excellent article on the New England Historical Society website, Cherry Pectoral was Ayer's first medicine, and one of his most effective ones. The biggest moneymaker for Ayer, who had a medical degree but never practiced, was sarsaparilla, which was shamelessly touted as "a real blessing that purifies the blood, stimulates the vital functions, restores and preserves health, and infuses new life and vigor throughout the whole system." It was recommended for everything from syphilis to jaundice to pimples.

Of Ayer's Cherry Pectoral, the New England Historical Society states:
"He was accused of using misleading advertising to sell quack medicines and miracle cures. His defenders say Ayer’s claims were well within the bounds of medical knowledge in the 19th century. Cherry pectoral contained three grams of morphine – but that was a lot less than doctors were prescribing at the time. ... Cherry pectoral did not cure lung ailments, as advertised, but it did treat the symptoms of a cold, which helps patients improve."
The sarsaparilla, however, decidedly did not work, the same article claims. Neither did a hair restorer called Hair Vigor.

Ayer & Co. also produced almanacs as part of its aggressive campaign to advertise its products. You can read about those efforts in Darin Hayton's article "Quack medical cures: J.C. Ayer and the persistence of personal testimony" at the Philadelphia Area Center for History of Science's website.

Here's an illustration from the back of the Cherry Pectoral card.

Related posts

1. I'm putting John Bemelmans Marciano's Whatever Happened to the Metric System?: How America Kept Its Feet on my to-read list.
2. His life did not end well. According to his obituary from The New York Times: "For the past two years he had been in extremely poor health, and for some part of that period his mental condition was such that he had to be confined in an asylum for the insane."
3. Twenty million circa 1870 would be the equivalent of about $378 million today, enough to buy the NHL's Colorado Avalanche.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Activision's Fishing Derby:
The most humane way to catch fish

"FISHING DERBY™ is a game designed to be fun for everyone in the family. Now you won't have to get rained on or sunburned when you go fishing." — designer David Crane, describing his 1980 Atari 2600 videogame Fishing Derby.

On the heels of last month's post about Freeway (Frogger for chickens), here's the four-page pamphlet from Activision's Fishing Derby, the game that wanted you to enjoy angling from the comfort of your living room, rather than venture outside into the fresh air. What would Izaak Walton have thought of all this?

Fishing Derby wasn't one of Activision's more well-known games. It certainly wasn't a best-seller like Pitfall! or Kaboom!, but it's probably less obscure than Oink!, which was based on "The Three Little Pigs."

Indeed, Fishing Derby was real, David. It's something that happened. The front of the pamphlet makes it look like you get to control a straw-hat-wearing Mennonite angler. The guy on the right, meanwhile, looks like a construction worker. And I don't know why they're both wearing the Frankenstein monster's shoes.

The game, of course, didn't look like the cover of the pamphlet. Here's the screenshot from inside the pamphlet; it comes closer to how the game appeared on TV screens.

And here's a YouTube clip showing the actual game play:

Here are some instructions and tips about the game from the pamphlet:

  • There are six rows of fish. From the top down, they count as follows:
    • First two rows: 2 pounds each.
    • Second two rows: 4 pounds each.
    • Bottom two rows: 6 pounds each.
    The big ones are down deep. Go for 'em!
  • If you don't do anything after hooking a fish, he will swim slowly up toward the surface (and the shark might gobble him up). If you want to reel him in fast, push the red button.
  • "The most important thing I can tell you is to WATCH OUT FOR THE SHARK! I've made him quick and wily and unpredictable," designer Crane writes.

Left unsaid: what sharks are doing so close to the shore and why these men are fishing in shark-infested waters.

These are Brian C. Rittmeyer's1 thoughts on Fishing Derby from a 2001 retro-review on The Atari Times (a website that I hope is officially archived somewhere):
"Fishing simulation games might be common today, but back when most video games were shooters, Fishing Derby was different. ...

"There is no music in Fishing Derby, just sound effects — the sound of hooking a fish, the chomp of the shark eating your catch and points ringing up. The graphics are good if not eye catching — the players are represented by stick figures on either side and the fishing poles 'extend' in rather unrealistic straight lines. The fish are a bright yellow, while the shark is all black — fitting, but gray may have been a better choice.

"Fishing Derby may not be the ultra-realistic simulation enjoyed by today's video game generation, but it's good competition. While some games may not age gracefully, this one has. The challenge is in getting more fish, and more points, before your opponent does. A game like this is timeless."

1. I am 95% certain this is the same Brian C. Rittmeyer who attended Penn State and worked alongside me at The Daily Collegian in the early 1990s. Such a small world!

"Oh You Little Darling!" and a 19th century Michigan variety store

This vintage advertising trade card, circa 1890, measures about 2¾ inches by 4¼ inches, though it has clearly been trimmed at the edges with scissors.

Can anyone identify the musical instrument that the red-cheeked man is playing? I'm no expert, so my best guess is something like a baritone horn or euphonium. (My first thought, before doing some Google searches, was "backwards saxophone," but I knew if I actually typed that phrase here in the blog, it would just make me look silly. So I didn't.)

The back of the card contains more mystery. Someone, long ago, added together a long string of numbers — prices, probably — to arrive at a grand total. There's also a very faint stamp. The part I can make out states:

ST. [????], MICH.

The word after "ST." is only four or five letters long, and appears to start with a C, D or O. My best educated guess, and it's a strong one, is "St. Clair." For that, I can thank Suzanne Wesbrook Frantz, who has transcribed excerpts from the St. Clair, Michigan, newspapers for the St. Clair Historical Museum.

Here are some relevant excerpts from her excerpts:

  • March 1888: "Conger & Co. have decided on the removal of their variety store from their present Jay street location to the Front street stroe recently vacated by G. B. & J. A. Forrester in the Sheldon block. They expect to open up business in their new quarters as soon as April 1st."
  • April 1888: "Conger’s New Store – The opening of Conger’s new store last Thursday was in every was a decided success. The large salesroom was filled with goods, both useful and ornamental, which set off the store to excellent advantage, and the surprisingly low prices at which everything is offered furnishes a temptation to buy which few can resist. Almost every line is represented, including hardware, tinware, crockery, glassware, fancy goods, jewelry, toilet articles and everthing else usually found in a variety store..."
  • May 1888: "During the week the front of the bank and of Conger’s and Ingles’ stores have received fresh coats of paint and have been decidedly improved."
  • August 1888: "A. L. Conger, of Kalamazoo, is spending a few days in the city the guest of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. A. Conger."
  • February 1889: "Miss Zula Conger on Monday left for Richmond where she has a position in the new Variety Store."
  • January 1891: "W. H. Conger, of Port Huron, formerly in the Conger variety store in St. Clair, is to be wedded on Tuesday next to Miss Jennie Sutton, an attractive and popular Richmond young lady."
  • March 1891: "Mrs. and Mrs. W. H. Conger, of Port Huron, visited Aaron Conger and family a portion of this week."
  • April 1891: "H. E. Lovejoy, the popular Lenox auctioneer, did the selling at the Conger auction sale on Saturday afternoon and evening. The sales were well patronized and the entire stock was nearly disposed of." ... "Chas. Feldmeyer purchased the piano at the Conger auction sale on Saturday last for $12. Emil Feske at the same time purchased an organette. What the boys have in their minds we are unable to state. The latter in all probability will furnish music to his customers during leisure moments."

It appears that there might have been more than one Conger's Variety Store in Michigan. There are also references to a boat or barge named Conger.

As a final note, the only other example I found of this particular Victorian trade card online is at the Toronto Public Library's website.

Monday, April 4, 2016

"Find out how YOU can earn college credits as an AIRMAN"

Here's another advertisement from the April 1957 issue of Senior Scholastic. This one touts the United States Air Force, which only came into existence as a separate branch of the military in 1947.

The advertising copy states, in part:
"Like many young men faced with the prospect of military service, you may be wondering how to fit college into your life — without the loss of precious years. Well, about 250 colleges and universities offer courses under the United States Air Force Civilian School Program, for which you can receive residence credit toward your college degree. About 9,000 airmen are enrolled in the United States, and about 4,000 overseas."
The photo with the advertisement reminds me of a U.S. Army TV commercial from the 1980s or 1990s, the one in which some high school seniors are sitting in a diner, talking worriedly about what they're going to do after graduation. One of them seems very unconcerned as he merrily snags french fries and pickles off other plates. When they ask him what he's going to do after high school, he tells them he's joining the Army. Who else remembers that one?

Play Ball! Opening Day and a 1957 issue of Senior Scholastic

Today is Opening Day for most Major League Baseball teams, including the Phillies.1 So it seems like a good time to share this cool vintage cover of the April 19, 1957, issue of Senior Scholastic, a publication of Scholastic Corporation.2

Senior Scholastic started out as just Scholastic magazine in 1922. Over the decades, the company launched a number of different magazines, including Junior Scholastic, for younger students, in the mid-1930s. To differentiate it from that magazine, Scholastic was renamed Senior Scholastic.

Senior Scholastic ran into some controversies over the years. Parents and politicians at times disapproved of the magazine's content. Twice during the 1930s, it was accused of promoting communism.3 In 1948, the city of Birmingham, Alabama, banned the magazine because of article advocating racial equality.4

While there is not a specific magazine titled Scholastic or Senior Scholastic today, the company produces a variety of educational magazines aimed at various age levels, including My Big World, Scholastic News, Science Spin, DynaMath, Scholastic Action and Scholastic Art. Junior Scholastic, containing social studies content for grades 6-8, still exists.

So that's some context and background for this 32-page staplebound newsprint publication from 59 years ago that's featured here this morning. While baseball is spotlighted on the cover, there isn't very much baseball content inside. This is a serious magazine aimed at high school students, with the space given to hard news far outpacing sports, entertainment and a small jokes section.

The "Cover Story" consists of just five paragraphs, in which Sports Editor Herman L. Masin predicts a New York Yankees vs. Milwaukee Braves World Series. (He was right on the money!) Of course, picking the Yankees didn't exactly make you Nostradamus back in those days; the Yankees won 15 of 18 American League pennants between 1947 and 1964. Meanwhile, the Braves, who defeated the Yankees in the 1957 World Series, were led by 23-year-old National League MVP Henry "Hank" Aaron.

Here's some of the newsier content featured in this April 19, 1957, issue of Senior Scholastic:

  • A forum in which student-delegates from around the world discuss what they discovered about America on their visit. Pham Throng Le of Vietnam says, "News from America more often mentions H bombs than new good books. I discovered America was just the opposite." Lim Heng Loong of Singapore says, "The American system is designed to produce responsible citizens, prepared to take their part in community life in a free society." And Ziyad Husami of Lebanon says, "In the Middle East, many persons feel — rightly or wrongly — that Americans do not care about our feelings as human beings. I believe that America should do more to regard the human element first and last in the Middle East area."
  • A three-page article examines the economic distress happening in Chile and explains how the American government is trying to buoy the "bright beacon light of democracy in a region of the world where dictatorships are, unfortunately, all too common."
  • An article tackles the tricky issue of who takes over the United States presidency during times when the president is unable to carry out his duties. It became a hot topic in the wake of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's mild heart attack in September 1955. The debate was not fully solved until the adoption of Amendment XXV to the United States Constitution in 1967.
  • A news analysis of Britain's announcement that its defenses would henceforth rely on atomic weapons and guided missiles rather than manpower and ordinary weapons.
  • A brief mention of Manouchehr Eghbal becoming Iran's new premier.

Finally, there's that Coca-Cola advertisement on the back page of this Senior Scholastic issue.

1. There were three games on Sunday, including the Pirates beating the Cardinals in the first game of the 2016 season.
2. Check out 30+ posts on various Scholastic books and records in Papergreat's archives.
3. And, in 1952, a Scholastic Corporation editor had to explain to the House Committee on Un-American Activities his involvement, 20 years previous, with a short-lived magazine that was suspected of promoting communist sympathies.
4. Historical information on Scholastic Corporation used in this post is from

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Postcard: "The Eventail and Dames Tower" in Saint-Malo, Franco

This unused postcard, most likely 90 to 100 years old, features a scene from Saint-Malo, France, along the English Channel.

The French-language caption states "L'Evantail et la Tour des Dames," while the English caption reads "The Eventail and Dames Tower."

Eventail is the name of the beach pictured. I cannot find many references to a "Dames Tower." It could be Notre-Dame Tower. But I believe the actual answer is that it's 15th century Bidouane Tower (Tour Bidouane). If I'm wrong, please let me know in the comments section.

Here are some links to current pictures of the area: 1, 2, 3.

The city of Saint-Malo, a major tourist destination today, suffered near-destruction during World War II and was rebuilt during the late 1940s and 1950s. Of "The Burning of Saint Malo," historian Philip Beck wrote, in 1981:
"In August 1944 the historic walled city of Saint Malo, the brightest jewel of the Emerald Coast of Brittany, France, was almost totally destroyed by fire. This should not have happened.

"If the attacking U.S. forces had not believed a false report that there were thousands of Germans within the city it might have been saved. They ignored the advice of two citizens who got to their lines and insisted that there were less than 100 Germans — the members of two anti-aircraft units — in the city, together with hundreds of civilians who could not get out because the Germans had closed the gates.

"A ring of U.S. mortars showered incendiary shells on the magnificent granite houses, which contained much fine panelling and oak staircases as well as antique furniture and porcelain; zealously guarded by successive generations. Thirty thousand valuable books and manuscripts were lost in the burning of the library and the paper ashes were blown miles out to sea. Of the 865 buildings within the walls only 182 remained standing and all were damaged to some degree."
You can read Beck's full article here.