Friday, April 15, 2016

Postcard: Sundial at sunset at the 1939 New York World's Fair

Here's a peaceful and colorful postcard to mark the end of the traditional work week. This linen postcard show us 80-foot-tall "Time and Fates of Man" sundial at the 1939 New York World's Fair. Also visible, in the background, is the 60-foot statue of George Washington, by James Earle Fraser. But it's the sun dial — lit by a brilliant sunset — that steals the show.

"Time and Fates of Man" was created by American sculptor Paul Manship (1885-1966). The terrific 1939 New York World's Fair website by Paul M. Van Dort offers this description and history of the sundial:
"Manship wrote, 'The Perisphere and Trylon at the World's Fair suggests to me measurements of time and space, so my sundial ... relates to the background of the central motif of the Fair.' His white plaster sculpture was the biggest sundial in the world, standing 80 feet tall.

"The Three Fates, 'The Daughters of Necessity,' sitting under the tree that holds up the sundial's pointer, are characters from Greek mythology. The Goddess of Necessity, Themis, brought forth three lovely daughters, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, known as The Fates. All living things must eventually submit to these divine daughters of Zeus and Themis. Life is woven by Clotho, measured by Lachesis and, finally, in a very literal sense, the thread of life is cut by Atropos."
You can see additional images of Manship's sundial on Van Dort's website.

This postcard, published by the Manhattan Post Card Publishing Co., was glued into a scrapbook, so the back is somewhat damaged. It's still usable, though. If you'd like me to mail it to you, so that it can finally fulfill its intended purpose, drop me a line at chrisottopa (at)

Related posts

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Book cover: "From the Ground Up" by Standard Oil Company (1930)

And the back cover...

  • Title: From the Ground Up
  • Subtitle: Why an airplane flies — and how it is flown — simply explained
  • Author: None listed
  • Cover illustrator: Clayton Knight (1891-1969), a pilot himself and prolific illustrator of aviation books
  • Publisher: Standard Oil Company (Indiana)
  • Year: 1930
  • Pages: 48
  • Format: Staplebound paperback
  • Notes: The title page of my copy has a stamp from "Carlos L. Reavis, Flying Service Inc., Municipal Airport - Denver." ... The book's sections cover physical requirements and tests to be a pilot1, the various pilot licenses that are available, the parts and functions of standard bi-planes (focused on the Stanolind Jr. No. 2, a key airplane within the Standard Oil fleet), a visual guide to flying maneuvers and a guide to airplane tail markings. ... Though short, the book offers a fairly comprehensive introduction to airplanes and learning to fly, stating that flying is like learning to ride a bicycle. And it makes flying seem very safe. For example, this excerpt:
    "Before we go on, let me clear up one point. Perhaps you have wondered what would happen if the motor should stop in the air. Nothing will happen — absolutely nothing — you simply glide safely to the ground."
    ... Finally, there's a neat section titled "Silhouettes of Ship Models," featuring 16 different types of airplanes, including the sesquiplane, the flying boat and the ornithopter. Shown here are some of those silhouettes...

1. From Page 3: "If you want to fly, arrange for a physical examination. The doctor must be a special medical examiner, approved by the Department of Commerce. The fee is a standard one of $10.00."

1954 Audubon Junior News artwork by Ellsworth Jaeger

This full-page illustration, suitable for printing out and coloring, appears in the May/June 1954 issue of Audubon Junior News.1 The artwork is by Ellsworth Jaeger (1897-1962), who was a well-known outdoor educator in the middle of the 20th century. It accompanies an article, also by Ellsworth, titled "Mother Nature's Nursery."

The illustration features many forest animals — including skunks, woodchucks, rabbits2 and opossums — with their young. There is also a raccoon carrying a smiling frog. This is explained in Ellsworth's article:
"As we near a brook, we find the five-toed tracks of a family of Raccoons. Perhaps we can find them fishing. As we creep up quietly we can see the family busily reaching under the stones in the shallow water for a crayfish and a frog or two. Both baby and grownup Raccoons are very clever at this kind of fishing."
So the frog is dinner. If it knew this, it probably wouldn't be smiling.

Jaeger was an author, artist, naturalist, youth worker, TV and radio personality and lecturer, according to the biography on his Find A Grave page. He appears of Wikipedia's "List of 20th-century outdoor proponents and outdoor educators," which is a pretty cool list to be on, in my book.

Here is some more information on Jaeger, again from Find A Grave:

  • "Jaeger's interest in natural history and Native Americans blossomed early, inspired by the writings of Ernest Thompson Seton3 to whom he wrote a fan letter at the age of nine."
  • "His career as a popularizer of natural history was said to have begun about 1925 when he showed some watercolor paintings with lengthy captions to a group of publishers in New York City. St. Nicholas Magazine bought the first set for publication. Many other magazines followed suit, most notably Nature, Natural History, Life, Better Homes and Gardens, Canadian Nature, and the Christian Science Monitor."
  • "His association with the Buffalo Museum of Science began in 1929 when he joined the museum's adult education faculty and began offering evening classes. Four years later he was elected to the Board of Managers of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, the museum's governing body. This eventually led to a career at the museum beginning in 1941 as Assistant Curator of Education. He took on full curatorship two years later."
  • "For nearly a decade, beginning in 1951, he hosted WBEN-TV's popular weekly program 'Your Museum of Science', viewed in Western New York, Pennsylvania and Southern Ontario. With moderator Virgil Booth, he would discuss nature studies, woodcraft and Native American lore, often exhibiting small animal "guests" from the Buffalo Zoo and showing film footage from his travels."

Jaeger published a couple of books, including 1945's Wildwood Wisdom, an outdoor survival guide, which is remains popular and in print from Shelter Publications. In 2015, Randy Clark added the following tribute to Jaeger's Find A Grave page:
"It's such an extreme pity this wonderful man's life work has been largely forgotten within the bush craft and survival communities. My first book on these subjects was his 'Wildwood Wisdom'. It's one of my few treasured possessions and in 40 years I've never found another book that even comes close to it in terms of breadth and usefulness of knowledge. Rest in peace, sir, and thank you for equipping me for a lifetime of wilderness adventures."

1. For some neat history of the National Audubon Society's youth programs and materials, check out the Vintage Kids Clubs Online Museum.
2. Speaking of rabbits, I did the first mowing of the year yesterday, and I am pleased to report that no baby bunnies crossed the path of my lawnmower. This has been a problem the past few years. Last night, however, I did see two huge rabbits loping across the yard when I pulled into the driveway.
3. You should see Seton's mustache.
4. According to Shelter Publications, Wildwood Wisdom includes information on "providing life’s basics: food, shelter and clothing. How to skin a bear, blaze a trail, cook flapjacks on a flat rock. Plants that are edible, plants that are poisonous, and plants that are medicinal. How to portage a canoe, pack a mule or build a bed in the woods out of willows." Shelter Publications also, by the way, offers books titled Tiny Homes on the Move, The Barefoot Architect, The Septic System Owner's Manual, and D.C. Beard's 1914 classic Shelters, Shacks and Shanties.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Partially deciphering a "Buttonwood Farm" postcard from 1913

There is much to examine and ponder on this postcard of Buttonwood Farm in Iowa that mailed 103 years ago, so let's dive in...

1. It was postmarked on either January 23 or March 23, 1913. My guess is March, but there's enough detail missing to keep me from being 100% certain.

2. It was postmarked in a Pennsylvania post office beginning with DUN. So, two good guesses would be Duncannon and Duncansville.

3. It was mailed with a green, one-cent Benjamin Franklin stamp.

4. It was mailed to Mrs. Fred Santee in, I believe, Bartow, West Virginia. Bartow is a tiny community in eastern West Virginia, so it's a good educated guess.

5. There are references to Bessie elsewhere on the postcard. So I believe that the Santees are husband Fred Santee (1890-1968), who died in Hundred, West Virginia1, and wife Bessie Jane Cain (1889-1974). They had one child.

6. I believe that the cursive notes on the front and back of the postcard were written by different women.

7. Let's start with the note on the back. It's a tough one. Here's my best guess:
"dear Bess We all had Bad colds the Booby [unknown] a Bit well got your letter yesterday i am still getting stronger [unknown] Eat any [unknown] i want and am hongry all the time i am coming out when spring comes well write soon
There's an additional note written sideways on the back of the card:
"how is little [unreadable name] i would love to see her so Bad"
The unreadable name might be "Nellie," who was the child of Fred and Bessie, according to

8. And then there's the note on the front, which appears to be written by someone else. Maybe. It's not much easier to read than the note on the back. My best guess:
"the first good day comes i am going to town to have the Babbies Pictures taken But it has Bin so Bad [unknown] [unknown] just [unknown] [unknown] yet i would like to call [unknown]
The question is whether that's Bessie's signature at the bottom, indicating a separate writer from "Mary" on the back, or whether the note ends "call for Bessie" or "call to Bessie," which would mean the writer is referring to Bessie. How could we ever know for sure?

9. And we'll never know why this postcard from Pennsylvania to West Virginia pictures bucolic Buttonwood Farm in Iowa. But I don't think we should read too much into that. It was probably the "generic" card that was available at the post office or general store.

1. Fun fact: According to Wikipedia, Hundred was named for Henry Church and his wife, the first settlers, who lived to be 109 and 106. Hundred is the only place in the United States with this name.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Happy 100th birthday,
Beverly Cleary!

Author Beverly Cleary, who was born Beverly Atlee Bunn on April 12, 1916, in McMinnville, Oregon, turns 100 years old today. Whoa.

Pictured above is the cover of the Scholastic edition of Henry Huggins that served as my introduction to Cleary's fictional worlds. When I was 8 or 9 years old, living in Clayton, New Jersey, one of the kids on the block had a small-scale yard sale. I bought Henry Huggins out of a box for a nickel or a dime. (I think I also bought a piece of Gator Gum; those yard sales weren't exactly regulated.)

Henry Huggins was Cleary's first book, published in 1950, and coincidentally served as my first meeting with Henry, his dog Ribsy and the other residents of Klickitat Street (which, in my mind, looked just like Maple Street in Clayton). The first book of Henry's and Ribsy's adventures includes an ice cream cone, a short-lived bus ride, guppies, night crawlers, a football and lots of hijinx.

I read a lot of Beverly Cleary books in the early 1980s, mostly from the Konkle Memorial Library in Montoursville, Pennsylvania, after we moved back there. I would guess that my most-read authors during those formative years were Cleary, Ruth Manning-Sanders (of course) and Robert Arthur Jr., who penned most of the early books in The Three Investigators series.

While I liked the adventures of Henry, Beezus and Ribsy, most of which were written during the 1950s, I also enjoyed the new books about Ramona Quimby (Beezus's little sister) that Cleary published in the 1970s and early 1980s. These included Ramona the Brave, Ramona and Her Father, Ramona and Her Mother and Ramona Quimby, Age 8.

Here's a little moment from 1977's Ramona and Her Father that has stuck with me over many decades:
Mr. Quimby set his cup down. "I have a great idea! Let's draw the longest picture in the world." He opened a drawer and pulled out a roll of shelf paper. When he tried to unroll it on the kitchen floor, the paper rolled itself up again. Ramona quickly solved that problem by Scotch-taping the end of the roll to the floor. Together she and her father unrolled the paper across the kitchen and knelt with a box of crayons between them.

"What shall we draw?" she asked.

"How about the state of Oregon?" he suggested. "That's big enough."

Ramona's imagination was excited. "I'll begin with the Interstate Bridge," she said.

"And I'll tackle Mount Hood," said her father.

Together they went to work, Ramona on the end of the shelf paper and her father halfway across the kitchen. With crayons Ramona drew a long black bridge with a girl standing astride a line in the center. She drew blue water under the bridge, even though the Columbia River always looked grey. She added grey clouds, grey dots for raindrops, and all the while she was drawing she was trying to find courage to tell her father something.

Ramona glanced at her father's picture, and sure enough he had drawn Mount Hood peaked with a hump on the south side exactly the way it looked in real life on the days when the clouds lifted.

"I think you draw better than anybody in the whole world," said Ramona.

Mr. Quimby smiled. "Not quite," he said.
That endless roll of shelf paper delights me still. A sprawling blank canvas for the imagination. Never-ending possibilities.

Cleary has spent a writer's lifetime pulling stories from her own imagination and setting them down on that roll of shelf paper, shared there for each new generation to discover and enjoy and be inspired by.

Great links: Beverly Cleary

Monday, April 11, 2016

"A Book of Mermaids" by Ruth Manning-Sanders is back in print!

Back in early December, an email with the subject line "Ruth Manning-Sanders" popped into my inbox. Those emails are always going to be good, but I wasn't expecting this great news from Melissa Buron, who was reaching out to me after stumbling across Papergreat. She wrote:
"I grew up hunting down her books in my local library and recently obtained permission from her estate to republish A BOOK OF MERMAIDS. I am over the moon. My website is and the book will be published (with many more following) in Spring 2016."
Indeed, this new edition of Manning-Sanders' classic A Book of Mermaids will be published by MAB Media of Texas on May 1 and is now available for pre-order at, Barnes & Noble, and other online booksellers.

MAB Media, an independent publisher of literary fiction and nonfiction by women, is planning to publish other books this summer.

This is big news for a couple reasons. First: To my knowledge, there have not been any English-language reprints of Manning-Sanders' works since at least the 1980s. (Her final book, A Cauldron of Witches, was published in 1988, the year of her death at age 102.) So this is great news if it's the first step toward more reprints and more availability of her timeless storytelling to modern audiences.

At the moment, used copies of Manning-Sanders' folk- and fairy-tale books are all that we have to circulate. In some cases, those used books, mostly ex-library editions, can still be purchased for just a few dollars. But the prices, which I monitor regularly, are rising. Many titles are starting to climb into the range of $15 and up.

And A Book of Mermaids, published in 1967, has long been the most expensive, by far, fairy-tale book by Manning-Sanders to acquire. I occasionally see a well-worn copy available for $35-$40. Nice copies, with the dust jacket, generally cost $100 or more, and few copies hit the used market.1 Except for a precious few library copies that remain in circulation, there just haven't been many ways for today's children to read these mermaid stories.

Until now. I've seen a copy of the MAB Media paperback edition of A Book of Mermaids, and it's awesome. It contains all 16 tales from Manning-Sanders' original book — everything from "Sven and Lilli" to "The Four Abdallahs." It has a cover illustration by Mari Paige Hellman and interior illustrations by Stephanie Vanicek.2

These are great stories. Manning-Sanders combed the globe, from India to Iceland to Italy, to bring together this collection of mermaid folklore. Ashar and I especially love the Breton story "Margrette," a funny and romantic tale that features, as a secondary character, a scary mermaid bride with a wig made of seaweed. One of the reasons we like it is because there are a half-dozen different character voices I have to employ when reading it aloud.

There are many different kinds of mermaids and mermen in the book, some of them more like Ursula than Ariel. As Manning-Sanders writes in the foreword of the 1967 edition:
"You can't trust a mermaid even as far as you can see her. For they have a habit of falling in love with handsome young men, and dragging them down under the water. Woe betide you, too, if you offend one of these sea people; for then they will raise such a storm of wind and wave that if you escape with your life, you are lucky."
Now all these tales, from "The Groach of the Isle of Lok" to "Merman Rosmer," are easily available again, thanks to Buron and MAB Media. And it's a real bargain, in my opinion, at just $9.99 for the paperback. Buy copies for all the young people you know who need some fairy-tale magic in their lives. Let's get it back in all the school libraries!

And, if the sales are stellar, this might just be the dawn of an era of much-needed Manning-Sanders reprints.


Related post

1. My personal copy of A Book of Mermaids once resided in the Llyfrgell Y Coleg Normal (Normal College Library) in Bangor, Wales, before being withdrawn (tynnwyd o stoc).
2. Alas, the marvelous original illustrations by Robin Jacques are not present. But all of the magic of the tales remains.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Postcard: New Waldo-Hancock Bridge in Bucksport, Maine

This Chnor Quality Views postcard from the 1930s highlights the then-new Waldo-Hancock Bridge over the Penobscot River in Bucksport, Maine.

The bridge was constructed in 1931 for far less than its initially estimated cost [imagine that happening today], with the those lesser costs being covered by tolls from 1931 through 1953. Its then-innovative design, employing prestressed cables and a Vierendeel truss, helped to pave the way for some much more famous bridges — the Triborough Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge.

No infrastructure lasts forever, though, as we are becoming all too aware of here in the 21st century. The bridge was a sturdy path over the Penobscot from 1931 until about 2000, when it began to become clear that even emergency (and expensive) rehabilitation efforts would not be sufficient. A new bridge was needed. The Penobscot Narrows Bridge opened right alongside the Waldo-Hancock Bridge in 2006. The Waldo-Hancock was demolished between 2012 and 2013 for six times the original cost of the bridge itself (although, if adjusted for inflation, and if my math is right, the demolition cost was about half the original price tag of the bridge's construction).

Here's a Wikipedia before-and-after photograph of the Waldo-Hancock (left), before its demolition, alongside the Penobscot Narrows.

By Centpacrr (Composite digital image) - Original digital photographs by the uploader, Centpacrr (Bruce C. Cooper), CC BY-SA 3.0,

As for the back of this postcard, it was postmarked in July 1938 in Belfast, Maine, and mailed to Jack W. Shadel of Bellwood, Pennsylvania.

The cursive message, with its punctuation cleaned up, states:
Dear Jack & all
This is a toll bridge we went over. Beautiful around here. Leaving to-morrow. Will be in Extre [Exeter??] Thursday. You can write there 89 Water St., N.H. When are you going to Reading? I know you are having a grand time. Did you write to Auntie [illegible]? If not, do so. Well good-by from us and lots of love.
Mother & Dad