Saturday, July 23, 2016

Victorian trade card for Gloss Soap, by Lautz Bros. & Co. of Buffalo

Buffalo and western New York have a deep and rich history of German immigrants settling there. Among those settlers, starting in the early 19th century, were members of the Lautz family, who founded the soap-making enterprise Lautz Bros. & Co. This is one of their many advertising trade cards. They really flooded the market, so this card for their "Gloss Soap" is by no means a rare example. A quick search on eBay this morning shows more than 140 Lautz trade cards for sale, some for under $5.

Here's a little bit about one of the Lautz brothers, Charles, excerpted from 1898's Our County and Its People, a Descriptive Work on Erie County, New York:
"[H]e is a central and prominent figure in the industrial, commercial and financial history of Buffalo. Mr. Lautz was born in Dieburg, Germany, and emigrated to this country with his parents when he was about eleven years of age. His education was obtained by taking a thorough course of study of private tuition after his routine duties of the day were completed. When, in 1853, the small acorn of the present business [Lautz Bros. & Co., manufacturers of soap and glycerine] was planted, and which has since grown to a gigantic oak, or rather, one of the most formidable of its kind, he was assigned to a most responsible position over which to exercise his judgment. That he proved himself adequate to the occasion is best illustrated by his subsequent success in commercial life. Aside from the above firm, whose name has become a household word, and his multifarious duties, he is one of the original members of The Lautz Company, extensive workers in foreign and domestic marble. A new departure was recently introduced by this company which promises to become one of the largest industries among those of our commercial pursuits, namely, the execution of interior work in marble of large public and private buildings. A member of this company is now scouring the lands of Italy and Africa in quest of rare and unique marble. The Niagara Stamping and Tool Works, a large and flourishing institution for the manufacture of tinners' tools, is another worthy example of enterprise into which he has been instrumental in creating life."
So, yeah, the Lautz family was doing quite well for itself. An immigrant success story. (For more on the Lautz family, check out this History of Buffalo website.)

Here's the back of the trade card...

The Lautz Bros. & Co. trade cards were, in fact, so popular that there is mention of some that were apparently being actively collected:
"The great demand for our picture, 'The Snow Boy,' has made it necessary for us to issue a companion called 'The Snow Girl,' which will be ready by January 1st, 1889. Mail us 25 'Gloss' Soap wrappers, with your full address, and get 'The Snow Boy.' After January 1st, 'The Snow Girl.'"
I found an online image of "The Snow Boy" card, but I couldn't immediately find anything of "The Snow Girl."

For more on Lautz Bros. & Co., check out these sites:

Friday, July 22, 2016

Old luggage tag from Dowco Travel

Here's an orange and octagonal luggage tag from Dowco Travel of Philadelphia, a company that I believe has long since ridden off into the sunset. While this tag is in good shape, the paper is fairly flimsy and it wouldn't have stood the test of time very well if it had been attached to a suitcase and tossed to and fro during flights and cab rides. Indeed, this tag was never used, and no name or address are written on the back.

As far as Dowco Travel goes, I found a couple of mentions in Philadelphia-area newspaper advertisements in the early 1970s. I also found a entry indicating that the company's name was registered in 1969.

And then I found one more thing.

I hesitate a little to post this, but it's been 34 years, so here goes...

It's an Associated Press story from the December 3, 1982, issue of the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press:
Defrauded vacationers get free trip

The Associated Press
GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - Thirty members of a South Jersey Moose Lodge headed for Florida yesterday while authorities sought the owners of a Philadelphia travel agency the vacationers paid $18,000 for a trip to Hawaii. The Florida trip was made possible after a small airline and a large Florida hotel, sympathetic to the plight of the group, offered a free flight and accommodations.

"My heart is singing," said Jane Parson, one of members of the group boarding a DC-9 airliner for the complimentary trip to Ft. Lauderdale International Airport. Her group was to be taken to the Sheraton at Bal Harbour, Fla., where they would spend a week on a vacation that, as recently as a month ago, looked as if it would be nothing more than a dream.

The chain of events began last January, when Mrs. Parson and other members of Lodge 585 of the Fraternal Order of Moose in Wildwood decided they wanted to vacation in Hawaii.

"We have such a good time when we're together, we figured we'd go to Hawaii," said Mrs. Parson, whose husband, Joseph, is a retired Philadelphia police officer. "I worked all summer and saved."

Mrs. Parson, 54, said she worked mending uniforms for ride attendants at a Wildwood amusement pier to pay for her Hawaiian trip. The group booked reservations with Dowco Travel, a Philadelphia travel agency, for $1,258 a couple, a "great price," said 59-year-old Doris Ciaverelli, that was supposed to pay for all meals, transfers and hotel accommodations. The price sounded so good, in fact, that several others tried to book reservations with Dowco, but had trouble reaching one of the agency's three Philadelphia offices.

"She then called the Better Business Bureau and found out Dowco had been closed," said Mrs. Ciaverelli's husband, Phil, 63. Members of the group said $18,000 already had been paid.

"I cried and I got angry," Mrs. Parsons said. "To think that people could do things like that."

But another group member, Eleanor Farrell, wanted to do something about it. She sought help from a Philadelphia television station's consumer reporter, who contacted an advertising agency. The group was then offered a trip to Florida by a small South Jersey airline. Gayle E. Moneyhan, vice chairman of American International Airways Inc., said the trip was offered to fix a blemish on the tourism industry.

Moneyhan said when one travel agency doesn't deliver services it promised, "it gives the entire industry a black eye."

[section snipped, due to electronic garble]

Robert Campolongo, a Philadelphia assistant district attorney, said an investigation is underway of the Dowco agency.

"We're trying to determine what's actually going on," he said. "Complaints regarding Dowco have come to our office, and we are taking a look at them."

Moneyhan said the airline seats are worth $199.95 each. The hotel rooms cost $135 a night, Sheraton officials said. In Florida, three Moose Lodges, several hotels and a restaurant pledged to feed the group of retirees.

"It sure restores your faith in people," said 66-year-old Tom Travaglini. And, as Travaglini and his 60-year-old wife Angelina were boarding the DC-9, they noticed a sign on the side of the plane. The markings, which were put on the jet by its previous owner but painted over in white by American International Airways, once read: "Operated by Hawaiian Airlines."

Morals of this story? (1) If a travel deal seems too good to be true, it might not be; (2) The world is still filled with good people.

(Also, maybe you shouldn't pick a travel agency whose luggage-tag slogan is "The Escape Artists." Just sayin'.)

Photo: 1926 Army-Navy game at Chicago's Soldier Field

Here's a family photo from an Army vs. Navy football game that was held at Soldier Field in Chicago. The note on the back of the photo doesn't specify which year, but there has only been one Army-Navy game at Soldier Field — in 1926. And it was a biggie.

It was played on November 27, 1926. Navy entered that year's game undefeated, and Army had just one loss — to Notre Dame. It was understood that the winner of the game would be the national champion in college football that year. Playing in front of more than 100,000 fans, the Midshipmen and Black Knights battled to a 21-21 tie, and thus still-unbeaten Navy was awarded the (mythical) national championship.

Here are a few details about the game from an article about the 1926 season and championship on
"In what would widely become known as the greatest game played prior to World War 2, Navy jumped out to a 14-0 start, Army came roaring back to lead 21-14 in the 3rd quarter, Navy tied it up in the 4th, and then Army drove to an easy, short field goal attempt, which they missed."
Here's an image of the game's ticket.

So, this 1926 gridiron battle is possibly the greatest live sports event attended by a member of my family, right up there with some New York Yankees World Series games that Dad and his father attended; the United States Football League championship game in Tampa, Florida, that Dad and I attended; the 1982 Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania; and my 700-level seat for Game 5 of the 1993 World Series at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. (I was a journalist at Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta, and it was a strange and somewhat unpleasant experience. Even before Phil Collins showed up.)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Ticket stub from 1933's Century of Progress fair in Chicago

This is my great-grandmother's colorful ticket stub from the "A Century of Progress International Exposition," also known as the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. Color was a big part of the fair; per Wikipedia: "The fair buildings were multi-colored, to create a 'Rainbow City' as opposed to the 'White City' of the World's Columbian Exposition [in 1893]."

The ticket price was 25 cents, the equivalent of about $4.60 today — a decent bargain for admission.

My son Ashar looked at the stub this morning and said, "I thought for a second that said, 'Llama Temple.'"

While I think we can all agree that temple filled with llamas would be an enjoyable attraction, the Century of Progress exhibit was the Lama Temple. It was a full-sized replica of the 1767 Potala temple in Jehol, Manchuria. It was commissioned by American auto and aviation industrialist Vincent Hugo Bendix. Here's an excerpt from the Fair's official guide book:

"It is the resplendent sight of the Golden Pavilion of Jehol, its gold-leaf roof glistening in the sunlight, that transports you to China of the Eighteenth century, with its culture and art that amaze and delight us today. It is placed westward from the Hall of Science, at Sixteenth street, like a jewel in a magnificent tiara.

"The Golden Pavilion, the original of which was built in 1767 at Jehol, summer home of the Manchu emperors from 1714 until the termination of the dynasty twenty years ago, was brought to the 1933 World's Fair and the City of Chicago by Vincent Bendix, exposition trustee. Dr. Sven Hedin, noted Swedish explorer, acting for Mr. Bendix, spent two years in Mongolia before he selected this as the finest existing example of Chinese Lama architecture.

"Exact reproductions of the 28,000 pieces of which the Temple is composed were made and numbered at its original site in China. A Chinese architect was employed to interpret these marks and to direct their assembly on the exposition grounds. Chinese artists painted and decorated the finished structure.

"The Golden Pavilion is 70 feet square and 60 feet high, rising from a 4-foot pedestal. Its double decked roof of copper shingles is covered with $25,000 worth of 23-karat gold leaf. On the exterior, twenty-eight columns in red lacquer, 16 feet high, support the lower deck. Twenty-eight other columns, 30 feet high, form part of the wall. Inside, twelve 37-foot columns support the gilded ceiling and the upper deck.

"Carved grills, in red, blue, yellow and gold, enclose the glass window panes. The cornice beams are gilded and carved with images of dragons, cats, and dogs. Hundreds of pieces of carved wood form the ceiling. ... There is an interesting temple drum, trumpets so long that the player requires the services of an assistant to hold them up, bronze and gilded wooden Buddhas, images of numerous other gods and goddesses, altar pieces, incense burners, trumpets, masks used in sacred dances, silver lamps, temple bells, and rare carpets."

The elaborate exhibit surfaced again at the 1939 New York World's Fair, but it was not as successful, and, depressingly, according to, "after not getting much attention in 1939, a girlie show was added in 1940."

And after that? The final story (perhaps) of the Bendix Lama Temple is told in this 1998 article by Robert L. Kaiser in the Chicago Tribune.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

108-year-old book cover: "Persis Putnam's Treasure"

  • Title: Persis Putnam's Treasure
  • Alternate title: Nan's Girls at Camp Chicopina
  • Author: Myra Sawyer Hamlin
  • Illustrator: R.C. Hallowell (interior illustrations; not clear if he handled the cover)
  • Publisher: Little, Brown, and Company of Boston
  • Year: 1908
  • Pages: 255
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Notes: According to Deidre Johnson's terrific website on 19th century girls juvenile fiction, Massachusetts-born author Myra Sawyer Hamlin (1856-1927) wrote a five-volume series of juvenile fiction centered around Nan from 1896 to 1908. Persis Putnam's Treasure was the final book in the series. ... A one-sentence review of Persis Putnam's Treasure in the American Review of Reviews stated:
    "'Persis Putnam's Treasure' (Little, Brown & Co.), is a story of Nan's camp and many happenings in outdoor life, appropriate for girls of fourteen to sixteen."
    St. Nicholas Magazine, however, stated that the book about the "happy lot of girls" was for ages 11 to 14. It's possible they were all just making it up as they went.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Cabinet card featuring two girls who are vaguely related to me

On the heels of Saturday's family cabinet card, here's another one from a studio in Wilmington, Delaware, presumably from the late 19th century.

The only writing on the back of the card, which came decades after its creation, state:

Edith - Marjorie [?] Simmons
Greta's 1st Cousins

Greta, if this is your first time here, is my great-grandmother. I mentioned her, too, on Saturday.

These two young girls, almost certainly sisters, were all set to go do some hoop rolling after having their portrait taken, though they might have had to change out of their nice white dresses first.

Wikipedia image of hoop rolling

Sunday, July 17, 2016

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

Diving back into the May 1978 issue of "Marvel Two-in-One," we find another ubiquitous advertisement of the era. The Fun House of Newark, New Jersey, offered "FREE ONE MILLION CASH" in its ad, which measures just under 2 inches by 2 inches.

Of course, there's no actual money involved. The fine print states: "Fool all yours [sic] friends. You'll get a Million $$$ worth of laughs with these exact reproductions of old U.S. Gold Banknotes (1840). They're yours FREE when you send for our brand new 'FUN CATALOG.'"

While the prank banknotes were "free," I'm sure the 50 cents required for shipping the catalog (about $1.80 today) more than covered the cost of the banknote photocopies.

And what banknote reproductions did The Fun House send? Possibly one of these...

Pictures courtesy of

Specifically referring to the first of the two banknotes shown above, D. McIntyre states the following on CoinSite: "This is the infamous serial number 8894 reproduction printed on fake parchment. The Bank of The United States was a private bank and the United States of America was their biggest customer. ... From the late 19th century to the 1950s, reproductions of Bank of the United States currency were distributed, often with an advertising message printed on the back. Since the notes are not official U.S. issues, it isn’t considered counterfeiting to reproduce them. Genuine examples of these notes are valuable. The infamous '8894' serial number comes from a firm that copied the original with the above serial number to use for advertising purposes. These notes were reproduced before Congress passed the 'Hobby Protection Act' requiring the words 'copy' or 'Replica' on reproductions of coins or paper money.

Interestingly, while The Fun House was offering these replica banknotes as a "free" incentive for potential customers, some of those very replicas now have a minor market among collectors, selling for $10 to $20 in some cases. Search for the terms 8894 and banknote on eBay to see what I mean.

As for The Fun House, I can't find much information about that 1970s business. Any leads would be appreciated. I wonder if any of their old catalogs are still floating around.

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