Saturday, July 16, 2016

Great link: Tim Prasil's The Merry Ghost Hunter

Cemetery at Red Mount Church in Adams County, Pennsylvania. (Photo by me)

If you like spooky spirits, Victorian ghost stories, occult detectives, things that go bump in the night and the rich and meticulously-researched history of all of the aforementioned, here's a website you need to bookmark immediately: The Merry Ghost Hunter by author/researcher/blogger Tim Prasil.

Some of the content you'll find there includes:

That should be more than enough to whet your appetite for The Merry Ghost Hunter website.

But you might not want to read it in the middle of the night. In an empty house.

Old postcard: The Carnegie library of Tomah, Wisconsin

This undated1 and unused E.C. Kropp postcard gives us a dandy view of the public library in Tomah, Wisconsin. It is one of 63 public Carnegie libraries built in Wisconsin, which received 60 Carnegie grants totaling more than $1 million between 1901 and 1915. (Wisconsin was 11th in the nation in total amount of Carnegie grant money received.)

Construction on Tomah Public Library, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places, began in 1915. It was designed in the Prairie School architectural style by the Madison, Wisconsin, architectural firm of Louis W. Claude (1868-1951) and Edward F. Starck (1868-1947). The architectural style, according to Wikipedia, is typically marked by horizontal lines, flat or hipped roofs with broad overhanging eaves and windows grouped in horizontal bands. The Willits House, in Highland Park, Illinois, as designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is an important early Prairie School design.

According to the Tomah Public Library's history page, the idea of a town library first came about in 1871, when residents began donating books and magazines. But as the collection grew larger over the years, it needed a sufficient home. The primary funds for the library's construction consisted of $7,000 bequeathed by geologist Ernest Buckley and a $10,000 Carnegie grant.

The building's original interior included "a fireplace, built-in bookshelves and magazine racks along the walls, built-in benches, and a desk on the rear facing the main entrance (from where the librarian could easily keep watch over the entire room)."

In 1980, a major expansion nearly doubled the library's size. The addition was added to the back of the building, so that the original design of the front would retain its prominence. Here's a 2009 photo of the library from nearly the same angle as the postcard.

To commemorate the library's 100-year anniversary, the Friends of the Tomah Public Library are planning to erect "The Wellspring of Knowledge Fountain" on the grounds. According to fund-raising materials, "the fountain will consist of an original cast bronze sculpture with a water wall. A granite base will hold a bronze double-sided bookshelf containing 80 books on each side. A bronze life sized figure of a child will be seated on each side of the bookshelf."

We can keep our fingers crossed than that library and planned fountain will remain there for at least another 100 years.

1. The postcard might be from between 1915 and 1930, which is known as the White Border Era. This was primarily an effort to reduce production costs by saving ink.

Victorian trade card & a reminder to stay hydrated in this heat

Hot enough for ya?

As this sweltering, energy-draining, lawn-killing stretch of Summer 2016 continues, here's an old Victorian trade card1 that seems relevant. It features a young woman who is filling a large pitcher with water while looking very hot and fatigued.

The card, which was damaged by being pasted into a scrapbook at some point, serves as an advertisement for the American Tea Co., which was located at "N.W. Cor. 11th & Spring Garden St." in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A man named Locker served as the manager.

I found a few 1860s references to the American Tea Company — including an advertisement in The Evening Telegraph — but nothing that offered much information about its history.

But a tall glass of cold iced tea certainly sounds like it would hit the spot right now, doesn't it?

1. The card measures 3⅛ inches by 4¾ inches.

Family cabinet card: Toddler in chair

Here's a cabinet card from the family archives. It was taken at Paul Brown's photography studio at 617 Market Street in Wilmington, Delaware, in the late 19th century. It features a young girl sitting on a rug or bedspread that's been draped over a chair.

Who is she?

There are some notes in cursive on the back. First up are these three initials.

The initials are followed immediately by: "age 19½ months Sept. 1/84."

Written underneath that, at later times, were:

"Helen Gregg Simmons"

"cousin of Greta Chandler"

Greta is my great-grandmother, who was documented in posts about the Class of 1914 basketball team at West Chester Normal School and a train trip from Paoli to San Francisco in 1962.

Our family tree has a Helen Gregg Simmons Chandler. But she lived from 1857 to 1913 and thus couldn't be the young person in this photograph.

Mom shared these thoughts on the mini-mystery:
"My guess is that she is probably a niece of Grandma's mother ... daughter of one of Helen Gregg Simmons Chandler's brothers ... so a cousin of Grandma's. There are a LOT of Greggs and a LOT of Simmons, and Helen seems to be a often recurring, favorite name at the time. It's a guess, but probably a good one."

All of this is assuming that those initials at the top of the card are H.G.S., which I'm not 100% sure of. If we think those are different letters, then we're potentially back to square one. Isn't this fun?

Thomas' Eclectric Oil beats the world

Here's another Victorian trade card for Dr. Thomas' Eclectric Oil, which I first wrote about last summer. It features a young girl in a red hat and a product-branded blouse that must have been way ahead of its time.

In short, Eclectric Oil was cooked up by Dr. S.N. Thomas, contained a good bit of fish oil and sold well in the second half of the 19th century (making its bottles quite common today). It might have also contained opium, and it, of course, positioned itself as a miracle cure for many, many ailments.

The reverse side of this card, which measures 2¾ inches by 4¼ inches, is filled with testimonials for Eclectric Oil. Here are some of them:

  • "Had rheumatism; used Thomas' Eclectric Oil; got out in one week." — JAMES DURHAM, East Pembroke, N.Y.
  • "Never saw a medicine in my life that gave such universal satisfaction." — C.R. HALL, Druggist, Grayville, O.
  • "Tramped upon by a horse, and for a year the pain through my hips was so bad, could not rise upon my feet. Thomas' Eclectric Oil helped me beyond description." — JOHN FUNK, Springfield, O.
  • “Sat up in bed and coughed until the clothing was wet with perspiration. Two bottles of Thomas’ Eclectric Oil cured me.” — E.H. PERKINS, Creek Centre, N.Y.
  • “Has magical pain-killing and healing properties.” — O.J. DOESBERRY, Proprietor Holland City News, Holland, Mich.
  • And my personal favorite: "Thomas' Eclectric Oil beats the world." — H.C. HOBERMAN, Marion, O.

This card was part of a set, per the fine print on the back: "Full set of cards will be sent on receipt of three-cent stamp. FOSTER, MILBURN & CO., Buffalo, N.Y."

If you interested in more about this card, Joseph Crisalli discussed it in humorous fashion in a 2012 post on Stalking the Belle Époque.

Friday, July 15, 2016

A different Madison Square Garden, many moons ago

This old postcard, mailed in 1910, features the second of four iterations of New York City's Madison Square Garden.

If you're keeping score, those four structures are:

This second version of MSG was a thriving cultural and entertainment center that hosted orchestras, operas, circuses, boxing matches, indoor football, the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, and the 1924 Democratic National Convention.

This postcard was postmarked on July 12, 1910 — the very date that the poem best known as "Tinker to Evers to Chance" was first published in the New York Evening Mail. It was mailed to Master Herbert Hall in "So. Windham." The short message from A.E. Brennan states: "New York Missed but not forgotten."

I miss New York a little bit, too. It's been four years, to the month, since I was there for the premiere of I'm Fine, Thanks (and photographed some graffiti/artwork). There are still so many museums and historic sights I want to check out there. And it would be a dandy spot for Instagramming. Also, while the famed Book Row is long gone in Manhattan, there's a fresh upsurge in used-book stores in Gotham, according to this article in The Wall Street Journal (subscription required).

I'll leave you with a look at the full back of this postcard, something I don't post often enough.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

A nice day to go pedaling somewhere

It's a nice Sunday for a ride, isn't it? Here are a couple undated mystery photos of people doing just that.

First up, we have a girl on a tricycle. She's in a fairly generic park that I'm sure we'll never be able to identify. Is the man on the bench related to her, or did he just happen to be sitting there when a relative took the photo of the girl? I would guess that he's related, but there's no way to know for sure. He might have just been sitting there, taking in the peaceful view and working out physics equations in his head.

Let's take a closer look at them...

And here's the second photo...

So we have a tall woman sitting on her bike. Her shirt is almost sleeveless, her pants are rolled up nearly to the knee, and she's wearing white socks. Is she just arriving from somewhere? Or departing? Maybe she's off to the market, and she'll put her groceries in that basket at the front of the bike.