Saturday, June 18, 2016

1970s summer comics nostalgia with Thing and Vision, Episode II

In case you missed Episode I, this is a little summer series in which I'm highlighting the groovy and nostalgic stuff inside the May 1978 issue (#39) of "Marvel Two-in-One."

This time around, we have another one of those comic-book advertisements that should bring back memories for folks from a particular generation...

Yes, it's 100 dolls for $3 (plus 50 cents for postage and handling). This half-page advertisement was jam-packed with fine print and breathless pitches. There are more types of dolls than there are types of shrimp dishes, as described by Bubba Blue. Why, there are baby dolls, nurse dolls, dancing dolls, costume dolls, ballerina dolls, Mexican dolls, Indian dolls, clown dolls, cowboy dolls, bride dolls, groom dolls ... and so many more. They all come in "lilliputian cuteness," according to the advertising copy. Then it gets laid on really thick:
"Your daughter or your niece or the cute child next door1 will love you for this gift. She will play with them for months and not grow weary of them. What a family for a little girl! Just think of it — 100 exquisite little dolls ... at this unbelieveable [sic] price!"
And in case you think this is all some scam to separate you from your $3 — which would have totally bought you 12 to 15 candy bars in 1978 — there is this guarantee...

So it was legit, right?


The Pulitzer-winning journalists at The New York Times blew the lid off this too-good-to-be-true offer back in that same summer of 1978. In an article titled "Mail‐Order Products: What Do You Get?" Ralph Blumental wrote:
Over recent months, The Times has conducted its own inquiry, sending for two dozen items, from dolls to diet pills, offered through comics and magazines. ...

Another ad with a money‐back guarantee, this one appearing in a Jughead comic, offered 100 little dolls for $3, plus 50 cents postage and handling, from The 100 Doll Company in East Orange, N.J. Blurry illustrations showed costumed dolls while the copy described them as “expensively molded in true dimension” in “genuine styrene and synthetic rubber.”

What arrived in a small box the size of a transistor radio were a jumble of inch‐and‐a‐half‐high yellow plastic figures, mostly dancers, on little stands. They were barely three‐dimensional, with difficult‐to‐discern costumes and features. The “100” turned out to be 98, including one broken figure.
Gotcha, doll peddlers! Too bad, though, that none of the kids who begged their parents for $3.50 to send off to East Orange, New Jersey, were also readers of The New York Times.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Lititz Springs postcard sent in 1940

This cool postcard features Lititz Springs in Lititz, Pennsylvania (Lancaster County). It was published by The Rotograph Company of New York City and printed in Germany.

I'm going to make the assumption that the scene pictured here is from Lititz Springs Park. The seven-acre site has a long history, and the first recorded use of it for social recreation was in 1778. You can find a great and detailed history of the park on its website. Here's one of my favorite tidbits:
"In addition to its beautiful stream, its shaded walkways and its well-kept, natural environment, the Park was decorated in 1857 by a lion's head elegantly carved by J. Augustus Beck, a native of Lititz; and strategically placed to the right of the spring-head near the steps. Sometime later, Paul E. Beck, his father, Abraham; and his brother, Herbert, put a stone tablet into the wall at the Springs' head-end, upon which was engraved a German inscription, Gottes Brunnlein hat Wasser die Fulle ('God's Fount is never failing.')"
I've never been to Lititz Springs Park, but I'm definitely going to check it out now and take my camera. On the right day, with the right light, it could reap some dandy pictures.

This postcard was postmarked on October 4, 1940, in Richmond, Virginia. The cursive message states:
If tomorrow Wed — is clear — we are coming to Charlottesville — expect to reach there about 11 — wish you could come over and meet us there — we will not have time to go to Covesville — of course if it rains we will not start — we can spend two or three hours in Charlottesville and hope we can see you — Love to all

Tiny "Jack the Giant-Killer" illustrated by Edward Gorey

This miniature version of Jack the Giant-Killer was published in 1973 by Scholastic Magazines as the fourth volume in its series of Lucky Mini-Books. (Other tiny volumes included the folktale Master of All Masters and The Night Before Christmas).

This "book" is especially notable because it is illustrated by Edward Gorey (1925-2000), a writer and artist who was known for a distinct style that could perhaps be termed Victorian Gothic. (He categorized himself as "literary nonsense.") Gorey published more than 100 of his own books and is well known for his cover art and illustrations for a wide range of material, include the works of John Bellairs.1 He also provided the illustrations for the animated opening credits of PBS's Mystery! anthology.

Jack the Giant-Killer features 12 Gorey illustrations in its 10 fold-out pages. The folk tale, which first appeared in print in the early 1700s, is told economically, in just a few hundred words. (If you're interested in a longer version of the story, one author you could turn to is Ruth Manning-Sanders, who includes a version of the tale in A Book of Giants.)

If you're scoring at home, here's an updated ranking of the smallest books featured on Papergreat.

1. Warren's Pocket History of Winchester (2 inches wide)

2. Jack the Giant-Killer (2½ inches wide by 3½ inches tall)

3. Book of Brief Narratives (2⅞ inches wide)

1. For an example of Gorey's cover artwork, check out the 2015 post "Edward Gorey's fabulous cover art for The Wanderer."

Monday, June 13, 2016

1950 home tips: Flaxseed, laxatives, nail polish, marbles and more

I picked up this spiral-bound Vermont Recipes book — published in 1950 by members of Home Demonstration Clubs of Rutland County, Vermont — for 50 cents at last month's Friends of the Lancaster Public Library book sale at Franklin & Marshall College.

It contains, of course, many interesting recipes, including deviled shrimps, navy mulligan stew (from World War I), golden glow salad, famous Pottsfield pickles (from Mrs. William A. Ward of Poultney), daffodil cake, gum drop cake, mahogany cake ("has won 67 prizes"), pork cake, and little red hen cookies.

What I found most interesting, though, was the "Just Between Us" section at the end of the book, which features a collection of household tips and remedies. Here are some of them:

  • Envelopes sealed with colorless liquid nail polish cannot be opened by steaming.
  • An old-time cook book recommends flaxseed tea for coughs. Here's how: 1-2 cup of flaxseed boiled for 30 minutes in 1 quarter of water. Let it stand near fire to thicken. Strain it, add lemon juice and rock candy or sugar to taste.
  • Fasten a rubber jar ring to the string which pulls a toddler's toy. It is easier for a small hand to pick up, and hold in its grasp.
  • For a luscious laxative, kept on hand by a prominent Rutland doctor, run through the food chopper and equal amount of figs, dates, prunes and raisins with about a dozen senna leaves. Press the mixture, firmly into a shallow sheet pan previously dusted with powdered sugar. Score into squares or bars and keep in refrigerator. This is a gentle digestive conditioner and one popular with children. Senna leaves are procurable at most drug stores.
  • Warmed tomato juice is a treat the family will appreciate on a chilly morning.
  • Paste an envelope on the inside cover of your cook book to hold recipes, clipped from papers and magazines, which you wish to try someday.
  • When whipping cream, add about 1-4 teaspoons of unflavored gelatin to make the cream stay up.
  • While hanging silk stockings on the clothesline, drop a marble into the toe of each to prevent the stockings whipping around the line. Dime stores sell the marbles, if none of Junior's old ones are at hand.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Postcrossing, penmanship and dragons from Russia

There has been much lament in recent years about the state of penmanship among today's youth.1 Even though it's probably one of those complaints that surfaces with each new generation ("When I was a kid..."), there's probably some validity to the idea that young people of the 2010s practice and employ handwriting much less than past generations. And that would tend to mean they aren't as skilled at it.

But there's good news out of Russia! I recently received Postcrossing cards from a couple of young Russians whose penmanship is quite good — which is especially impressive, given that English is not their first language.

First up is this note written by Maria, who lives just outside Moscow and loves Harry Potter and medieval history...

And then there's this postcard note from Julia, who lives in Kostomuksha.2

Dragons named Raskolnikov and Toothless! That sure beats having cats named Huggles, Mr. Bill and Mystery and a dog named Coby. I told Julia that I do not have dragon, but that I have some excellent dragon fairy tales that I'm going to send to her. Specifically, I'm thinking of the good-hearted Greek tale "The Dragon of the Well."

* * *

Finally, because I couldn't think of anywhere else to post it, here's a peaceful-looking postcard featuring the 17th century St. Nicholas' Church in Suzdal, Russia.

1. I'm not really one to talk. My signature/autograph on non-essential items such as receipts and office paperwork has devolved to this in recent years...

2. Julia describes Kostomuksha as follows on her Postcrossing biography page: "It is situated near a beautiful deep lake and surrounded with taiga. Winters here are really 'russian': snowy, windy and severe."