Friday, April 22, 2016

Celebrating Earth Day 2016 with
6 awe-inspiring vintage postcards

Today is Earth Day. To mark the occasion appropriately — well, appropriately enough for a blog devoted to coverage of historical items produced from dead trees — here are six vintage postcards showcasing the beauty of various corners of Earth, the only planet we have.

(Click on any of these postcards to see them in their full, larger glory.)

Above: Linen Genuine Curteich-Chicago postcard: "Bat Flight from Cavern Entrance — Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico." Here's an excerpt from the educational text on the back of the postcard:
"This photo was taken from the downward trail in the entrance to the Cavern, looking up. There are an estimated 3,000,000 Bats at times, and the flight covers a period of from two to three hours. This wonderful sight led to the exploration of the Caverns by Jim White. ... The Bats stay in a remote part of the Caverns and are not seen on the regular trips through the Caverns."
The most recent estimate is that about 800,000 bats now reside in Carlsbad Caverns. It is thought that DDT, among other factors, has severely winnowed their population.

Above: John Hinde postcard: "Glencar Lough in the Yeats Country, Co. Sligo, Ireland." From the back of the card, which was postmarked in 1963:
"Situated about 8 miles north-east of Sligo town, this delightful sheet of water stretches eastward for over 2 miles into Co. Leitrim, along a valley which provides some of the loveliest scenery in Ireland."

Above: This the first of two linen Genuine Curteich-Chicago postcards featuring the rock formations near Gallup, New Mexico. This one shows Navajo Church Rock, described on the back as:
"...resembling a a church with its spires. A landmark to be seen for miles. it is like a gem in a mammoth setting of red mesas studded with occasional pinnacles and spires of grey sand stone."

Above: And this second postcard of sites near Gallup showcases No. 1 Pyramid, Red Rocks and, in the far distance, Church Rock. I love the pink clouds in this one. The postcard text states:
"This scene is part of the stretch of red rock formation extending a distance of about 40 miles along Highway 66, seen between Grants and Gallup, N.M. The route is a historic one, as it was first traveled by the Spaniards, later by the U.S. Soldiers and then by the pony express."

Above: This more recent postcard highlights the Throne Canopy at Luray Caverns in northern Virginia. The sprawling underground cavern was first "discovered" by Americans in 1878, although of course it's possible that Native Americans knew about the place long before that.

Above: Finally, here's an undated linen postcard from The Kingston News Service that provides "Greetings From Hunter, N.Y." These "Greetings From..." postcards were made for every conceivable city, town, hamlet and village in the United States, often using the same generic nature scene or roadway. So this specific spot likely cannot be found in Hunter. Still, Hunter's location in the Catskills would certainly seem to lend itself to some peace, beauty and untouched landscape.

Addendum #1

Coincidentally, two of my current #FridayReads are books that are appropriate to the notion of Earth Day:
  • Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know, by Joseph Romm
  • Looking for Longleaf: The Fall and Rise of an American Forest, by Lawrence S. Earley

Additionally, the recently published Door to Door: The Magnificent, Maddening, Mysterious World of Transportation, by Edward Humes, (author of Garbology) is on my to-read list.

Addendum #2

Here is a roundup of environment-themed newspaper and magazine articles that I have come across in recent months:

Addendum #3

For a final thing to think about, I'm going to leave you with one of the most Anti-Earth Day postcards in my collection. Crazy freeways, indeed.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Four pennies left in their refund envelope for decades*

*a headline for a blog post that never before existed on the internet

So ... I can't completely recall how I came across this, but it seemed bloggable at that time, and it still does. So here goes...

This piece of ephemera measures 5 inches wide by 3⅛ inches tall. The cover (first image above) opens upward to reveal a stiff piece of cardboard (second image above) with spots to securely hold various coins. This one contains four cents, which I will remove in a moment.

The envelope is from The Crosse & Blackwell Company, which dates to 1706. The company was owned by Nestlé from 1960 until 2002, and was under the Nestlé umbrella at this time. As you can see from the cover, Crosse & Blackwell touted its nut rolls, relishes, jellies, preserves, marmalades, soups, sauces, puddings and more.

The point of the envelope was to deliver a cash refund: "We are pleased to send your cash refund in accordance with your recent request."

How much was the refund? Well, it looks like there might also have been a quarter and a dime inside at one point, in addition to the four pennies. So, perhaps, someone removed the 35¢ and left the 4¢ (undesirable even then) for some future ephemera nerd to stumble upon.

Upon removing the four pennies and examining them, I can report that they were all minted in 1964, making that a good guess as to when this piece of ephemera dates to. So, the pennies were shiny new in 1964 and now, 50 years later, they have been liberated from the envelope and will soon find themselves in my daughter's piggy bank (which is actually a coffin bank, in case you were wondering).

So, I am happy to report to Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew that these coins will soon be back in circulation, after a half-century.

That makes this post timely, because there was a lot of hubbub yesterday about U.S. currency changes and how those changes relate to Andrew Jackson, Andrew Hamilton, Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Sojourner Truth and others. In addition, there is ongoing discussion about ceasing production of pennies, because they cost 1.7¢ apiece just to make them, and because who really uses or wants pennies anymore, anyway?

Plus, now that I'm putting four more pennies back into circulation, we should be good there. So we can stop with the penny production already.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Postcard: Zeppelin moored atop the Empire State Building

This Manhattan Post Card Publishing Company postcard from the 1930s shows a dirigible (aka rigid airship or Zeppelin) moored at the top of the Empire State Building in New York City. Though the Zeppelin is quarter-mile above the ground, it remains an easy target for King Kong.

The pre-printed text on the back of the postcard states:
"THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING, NEW YORK CITY, rises 1250 feet, or nearly a quarter of a mile above Fifth avenue. It is 200 feet higher than any other building1 and 266 feet higher than the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It contains 63 acres of floor space and enough steel to load a train 11 miles long. A dirigible moored to a mast atop the Empire State, world's tallest building, would exert a greater pull than three locomotives."
The scene depicted on this postcard, however, never happened. In a 2010 article for The New York Times, Christopher Gray wrote:
[N]o airship ever docked there, and indeed the whole mooring mast concept was a bit of a stunt itself.

In late 1929, Alfred E. Smith, the leader of a group of investors erecting the Empire State Building, announced that they were increasing the height of the building to 1,250 feet from 1,050. Mr. Smith, a past governor of New York, denied that competition with the 1,046-foot-high Chrysler Building was a factor. “We are measuring its rise by principles of economic investment rather than spectacular standards,” he told The New York Times.

The extra 200 feet, it was announced, was to serve as a mooring mast for dirigibles so that they could dock in Midtown, rather than out in Lakehurst, N.J., the station used by the German Graf Zeppelin. Mr. Smith said that at the Empire State Building, airships like the Graf, almost 800 feet long, would “swing in the breeze and the passengers go down a gangplank”; seven minutes later they would be on the street.
(Sure, Mr. Smith. You just go right ahead and walk that gangplank, dangling 1,200-plus feet above the pavement, from the airship to the top of the Empire State Building. We'll be right behind you. Promise.)

For more on this impractical and terrifying idea, read the rest of Gray's article.

This postcard is another one that was mailed to Walter Homiak in Atlas, Pennsylvania. Previous cards were featured in February (the Woolworth Building) and in March (Siboney Hotel in Havana, Cuba).

This one was postmarked on March 19, 1937, at Times Square Station. The message, in pencil, states:
"Hello Wally: Well I finally got out to N.Y.C. and I'm making out swell. I'm working in a restaurant. It's not bad out here only if a few of you guys were out here with me. I'll go up to Manhattan C. and scout for you.2 Please send Harry Preston's address. Also what kind of power AC or DC do we have at home. Write to Gella's address.

1. The Empire State Building held the title of World's Tallest Building from 1931 to 1970.
2. That might be a reference to Manhattan Center, but I'm not sure.

Yours truly

Every blogger was a baby at some point, utterly oblivious to scripts, search engines, spam, spyware and servers.

This afternoon, I share some snapshots of me during my younger days — specifically the early years of Nixon's presidency.

I wish I still had that hat...

Already gravitating toward books...

Preferring the TV to be off... I could focus on my music?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Vintage ink blotter supporting Quigley for mayor of Chelsea

As we taken another big step today, with the New York primary, toward determining whether Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders will be the next U.S. president1, here's a vintage political advertisement in the form of a blue ink blotter.

It measures 6 inches by 3¼ inches and states:

Costly Experiment

I believe this ink blotter refers to a mayoral race in Chelsea, Massachusetts, many decades ago.

A man by the name of Lawrence F. Quigley, pictured at right, was Chelsea's 31st mayor (from 1922 to 1926), 33rd mayor (from 1928 to 1929) and 35th mayor (from 1932 to 1935). This advertisement might be part of Quigley's third run for mayor, circa 1931, as that's the one instance in which he followed an opponent's two-year term, as mentioned on the blotter. In 1932, he succeeded John J. Whalen as mayor. Both were Democrats.2

There is one other possibility. Andrew P. Quigley (Lawrence's son) served as mayor from 1952 to 1955.3 When he was elected, he was following a two-year term by fellow Democrat Joseph A. Melley.

So those are the two possible Quigleys. And the ink blotter is from sometime between roughly 1920 and 1950, it seems. (It could also, of course, be from a particular election that one of the Quigleys lost. They certainly ran for office often enough.)

1. Or perhaps it will be someone else, such as Jill Stein, Paul Ryan, Louie Youngkeit or Morris the Cat.
2. Side note: There is a Lawrence F. Quigley Memorial Hospital in Chelsea, Massachusetts. It began as the Soldiers' Home in 1882. It still operates as a facility for U.S. veterans and includes an Alzheimer's unit.
3. Andrew P. Quigley died at age 64 in 1990. The lede of his obituary in The Boston Globe stated:
"Andrew P. Quigley, who left his inimitable stamp on Chelsea politics, journalism and education in a career that spanned four decades, died Friday of cancer at age 64 in New England Deaconess Hospital.

"Mr. Quigley was a political prodigy, serving as a state representative when he was 22, as a state senator at 24, and as mayor of Chelsea at 25. Thirty years later he would purchase the faltering Chelsea Record and transform the newspaper into a forum for his colorful views. Finally, in 1986, he proposed a landmark partnership with Boston University designed to improve Chelsea schools."

Monday, April 18, 2016

Mining the Cthulhu Mythos for some mashup humor

For a Monday Night Giggle™, here are a couple of H. P. Lovecraft postcard mashups that I got from Redbubble last year.

First up is artist "vonplatypus" with a creative imagining of an early 1980s Choose Your Own Adventure book ... if written by Lovecraft. The design and illustration style nicely mimic the work done by Don Hedin (under the pseudonym Paul Granger) for those iconic CYOA books.

Vonplaytpus offers a couple of other CYOA-style covers — one with a Doctor Who theme and one with a Harry Potter theme.

Speaking of Choose Your Own Adventure, the greatest parody-tribute to that series might be 2013's Who Killed John F. Kennedy? by Justin Sewell and Despair Inc. The 190-page book went out of print quickly, though, and used copies are fairly pricey.

The second mashup postcard, above, is by artist "Ratigan" and places Lovecraft and his cuddly cosmic entity Cthulhu side by side in a tribute to the bus stop scene in Hayao Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro.

Doesn't it just give you warm fuzzies inside, seeing Old Octopus Face keeping his creator dry?

Related posts

A trio of book reviews: Longitude, Sub-Mariner & Welsh castles

Quick thoughts on some books I finished recently...

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel
I liked Longitude well enough; it's a quick and worthwhile read for those who are interested in history. I learned a good bit about clock-making and astronomy, and it also reinforced the idea, true throughout all history, that politics, power and greed stand as barriers to science, innovation and progress.

Strangely, while this is about as short as a non-fiction book gets (about 60,000 words), it felt a bit redundant and padded at times. Maybe the tale would have been best served as a long-form magazine article. Richard Preston's "The Mountains of Pi" and Gay Talese's "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" aren't any lesser accomplishments because they were only magazine articles.

Another note: I was disappointed that Sobel portrayed some early anecdotes about Clowdisley Shovell [as Sobel spells his name] and the 1707 sea tragedy involving his fleet as fact, when there remains much mystery and difference of opinion regarding precisely how the tragedy unfolded. The liberties that Sobel took with that early material made me wonder if later details, especially regarding individuals and motives, were tweaked to suit the narrative.

All that said, I recommend this book, especially if you'd like to learn a bit about the history of sea navigation and the concept of longitude.
Marvel Masterworks: The Sub-Mariner, Vol. 1
This is probably just for die-hard fans. Late Silver/Early Bronze is my favorite era of Marvel comics. These Imperius Rex tales get a little repetitive, though. Sub-Mariner gets either his woman or his kingdom stolen from him, and then goes ballistic in the most alpha-male way possible. His narcissism and failure to ever approach a problem at an intellectual level gets a little tiresome by the end of the volume, especially given how many "misunderstandings" drive the plot.

Also, for someone who says he wants peace between humans and Atlantis, Sub-Mariner is never willing to try the "have an actual conversation" approach with the land-lubbers for more than a single panel before the fists start flying. Finally, Lady Dorma probably represents the worst of the female stereotypes foisted upon comics readers of this era. She is nothing other than the star of The Perils of Pauline, waiting for Sub-Mariner to rescue her and then grant her absolution for sins she didn't even commit.

I will say, though, that the inclusion of the Marvel Comics #1 Sub-Mariner tale from 1939 is a nice treat to start the book. I might be more interested in going back and checking out those early Golden Age tales before diving into (no pun intended) more mid-1960s solo adventures of Namor.
Welsh Castles, Gardens & Ancient Houses by Jeanette Dixon
This short book is, at least, more readable than Welsh Ancient Industries and Handicrafts, the previous volume I tackled in the 1970s Viewing Wales Series. But it's still a clunker. The author of this one, Jeanette Dixon, weaves in a few juicy historical anecdotes about Wales' many castles and fortresses. But it's still far too dry, even for a 32-page booklet with eight pages of pictures.

And the grammar and punctuation are maddeningly bad. The only defense I might be willing to permit is that the book was perhaps translated from Welsh to English by someone for whom English was not their first language.

If Welsh castles truly have a colorful and compelling history (and I'm sure they do), you wouldn't know it from this book. Nearly every short section boils down to this: Castle X was built in XXXX, changed hands in XXXX, and was then captured by Owain Glyndŵr, who held possession of it for X years.

Glyndŵr and his men got around Wales quite well, it turns out.

As for the summary of Welsh gardens seemingly promised by the book's title, forget it. Dixon pretty much gave up at end and offered only a cursory list of garden locations, with no history whatsoever. I guess Glyndŵr never conquered those.

May you have as much vim and vigor to start your week as this young man

This advertising trade card, about the size of a baseball card, is from "Young, The Hatter" of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

I found a reference in The Clothier and Furnisher, a trade publication, to George H. Young, hatter, of Bethlehem traveling to New York City in February 1894 to purchase spring goods for his business.

I also discovered that a man named George H. Young served as burgess of West Bethlehem Borough for three years, starting around 1890. And a man by that exact name was a stockholder in the the Lansdale & Norristown Electric Railway Company, circa 1901.

It's likely that all of those tidbits refer to the same George H. Young who sold hats to Bethlehem residents more than a century ago. I wonder how many of his advertising cards are still out there?

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Colorful 1930s postcard of McClatchy Building in Upper Darby

This postcard, published by Lynn H. Boyer Jr., showcases the John H. McClatchy Building in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. The stunning Art Deco building, which I believe was finished and opened in 1929, is adjacent to the 69th Street Terminal, which opened in 1907.

Although this postcard states that the McClatchy Building is in Philadelphia, it's actually in Upper Darby (though really just a stone's throw from the city). The building has housed many different businesses over the decades. If you look closely, you can see that Whelan Drug Company had street-level space, and there are also signs for S.S. Kresge Company and Franklin Fire Insurance Company.

You can view some nice detailed photos of the McClatchy Building taken in 2012 in this Curbed article.

This postcard was postmarked in Philadelphia in 1932 and mailed to a woman in New York City. The short message states:
Ann: Just stopping here — visiting my sister — Leaving for Atlantic City.
It's not clear why Georgia put quotation marks around her name. And it never will be.