Saturday, October 15, 2016

Cool illustrations: The New Human Interest Library (Part 1)

During a Tucked Away Inside post last month, I mentioned that I could get a bundle of posts out of the great photos and illustrations that are featured within my worn copy of The New Human Interest Library. So, by golly, let's do it!

This is Volume I of The Midland Press' The New Human Interest Library. It is subtitled "The Child and His World." It is copyright 1928, with this being the second printing from February 1929.

The Managing Editor of The Midland Press was S.E. Farquhar, who also, we are informed, contributed some articles on Great Industries. Among the dozens of contributors to this set of books were Richard E. Byrd, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Isabel M. Lewis, William T. Hornaday and Frederick Starr.

Here's the full list of contributing artists, since it's their work that will be featured in these posts: Herbert N. Rudeen, Florence White Williams, Donn P. Crane, Frank X. Henke, Ralph Reynolds, Robert W. Chambers, Herbert Joseph, W.C. Shepard, Don Keith Musselman, Cobb Shinn, Nettie Hall, Corina Melder-Collier, B.C. Friedman and Charles Ketcham.

(And yes, I can only assume that's the same Robert W. Chambers who wrote The King in Yellow — he was also an artist. So please feel free to connect these posts and illustrations to the occult theories of your choice.)

This 1928 edition of The New Human Interest Library consisted of six volumes, titled The Child and His World, Stories of Science, Great Industries, Our Country in Romance, Around the World and Leaders of All Times.

From what I can determine, the original set of books, titled The Human Interest Library (without the "New"), was published in 1914 by The Midland Press. There were numerous reprints of The New Human Interest Library, likely with editorial updates, between 1930 and the late 1950s.

Here are the first few illustrations that I have selected for the Papergreat spotlight. Stay tuned for much additional cool stuff under this new label.

(Photograph by Beidler; Courtesy Fashions of the House)

These two illustrations appear to have the signature of Herbert N. Rudeen...

(Tommy Tumble is a great name, by the way.)

Friday, October 14, 2016

Water-Stained Work of Art: Cabinet card from Pottstown, Pennsylvania

This damaged but intriguing 19th century cabinet card of a young child leaning on a fake tree stump was produced by the studio of Lachman & Son in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. There is no name for the kid on the front or back, so that will surely remain a mystery.

Photographer Isaac S. Lachman lived from 1835 to 1901, and you can see his grave here. The "Son" in his business was likely William F. Lachman (1859-1909).

Lachman was one of Pottstown's notable producers of CDVs (carte de visite), which where thin photos, about 2.5 inches by 4 inches, mounted on cardboard. The cards were exchanged among friends and visitors in what became known as "cardomania." CDVs pre-dated cabinet cards and were, to an extent, replaced by them.

If you do a Google search for "Isaac S. Lachman," you can find a half-dozen or more other examples of his photography, including this one on the blog Who Were They? and this one from The American Civil War Museum.

Other water-stained works of art

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Postcard: Little Nell and her (zombie) grandfather

The uncredited illustration on this postcard1 shows two characters from Charles Dickens' 1840s serialized novel The Old Curiosity Shop. They are two of the main figures in the story — Nell Trent, a beautiful and kind 13-year-old orphan, and Nell's grandfather, who is not given a name by Dickens.

Dickens' cheery tale involves Nell's lonely orphan existence, poverty, gambling, a "hunchbacked dwarf moneylender," destitution, health problems and, ultimately, a lot of death.

But forget all of that for a moment. Why is Nell's nameless grandfather depicted as a zombie in this illustration?

Other depictions of the grandfather are not nearly this grotesque. There is, for example, this circa-1930 painting by Harold Copping in which the grandfather at least looks alive. And here's an 1888 photogravure by Felix O.C. Darley.

I am not the only one to wonder about this illustration. Back in May, Jenny Provenance of the Provenance and Pilgrimage website wrote about finding one of these postcards under odd circumstances.2 She called it "one of the creepiest images I have ever seen."

I do have a non-zombie theory for this illustration, but it involves a spoiler for the book.


The Old Curiosity Shop concludes with penniless Nell falling into poor health and dying after she and her grandfather have made a long and difficult journey to evade the dwarf and other Dickensian villains. Her grandfather, beset with dementia, refuses to admit she is dead and sits every day by her grave waiting for her to return. Eventually, he dies too. Fade to black.3

So here's my thought for how this illustration could work: It's supposed to be Nell's ghost, sitting silently beside her grandfather as he waits, catatonic and near-death, by her grave.

I'm sure that's not the case, but it's much more poignant and could help to explain why Nell looks so robust here, when she was the first die.

(Or maybe this is just how all of us look at this point in the U.S. presidential election)

1. The postcard is in good condition and has never been written on or used. The reverse side is generic, with no publisher or signature mark. My broad guess on a year of publication would be 1920 through 1950, with the earlier part of that range more likely.
2. The circumstances involve ephemera of a girl holding a chicken, which is awesome.
3. This ending was NOT well-received. Critics skewered the over-angelic character of Nell and her death. Angry readers destroyed their copies of the final serialized chapter to express their displeasure with the conclusion. This came after there had been a great deal of excitement leading up to the conclusion. According to Wikipedia:
"The hype surrounding the conclusion of the series was unprecedented; Dickens fans were reported to have stormed the piers in New York City, shouting to arriving sailors (who might have already read the final chapters in the United Kingdom), 'Is Little Nell alive?' In 2007, many newspapers claimed that the excitement at the release of the last instalment of The Old Curiosity Shop was the only historical comparison that could be made to the excitement at the release of the last Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."

On having an old dog

OK, I know I don't have to share everything here, but...

...this piece of ephemera was a back-and-forth exchange our household members had this morning regarding our dog Coby.

Coby is a black goldendoodle who turns 13 on October 22 and is, of course, a very good boy. In his old age, he is suffering from a bad leg, arthritis, breathing issues and an occasional touch of dementia. Unfortunately, his path to the backyard to do his business involves going down three steps, which can be difficult for him at times.

So this week a ramp was built to skip two of the steps and help ease his potty trips. But it turned out that he either doesn't like the ramp or is too confused about how to use it. So we've been coaching him to get him adapted to using it. Obviously, it's important that he "goes potty."

That all led to this note detailing his potty progress — and encouraging successes — this morning. It's a keeper. I'm sure it will bring us some smiles and chuckles in the future.

But, mostly, I just wanted to put "YAY FOR POOPING!!" on the blog.

Enjoy your day.

Scholastic book cover:
"Alvin's Secret Code"

It's been two years since Scholastic Fest, a countdown of my 25 favorite covers from vintage Scholastic Book Club books that I had on my shelves at that time. To see the countdown, click on the Scholastic Books label and scroll through 7 or 8 more recent (and also fun) posts until you get to the posts from Autumn 2014.

For you enjoyment this morning, here are the details on another dandy Scholastic Book Services volume that I came across earlier this year.

  • Title: Alvin's Secret Code
  • Author: Clifford B. Hicks (1920-2010)
  • Cover design: Constance Ftera
  • Publisher: Scholastic Book Services (TX 666)
  • Cover price: 50 cents
  • Year: First print, March 1967
  • Pages: 160
  • Format: Paperback
  • First sentence: Alvin Fernald had a warm, tingly feeling smack in the middle of his stomach.
  • Last sentence: He knew he had given her the finest of medals.
  • Notes: This is both a middle-grade book and a smart, detailed introduction to codes and cryptography. It doesn't talk down to the reader, and some serious types of secret codes are discussed in the book and appendix. ... This was the second of 10 books in author Hicks' series about the adventures of Alvin Fernald. Later volumes included Alvin Fernald, TV Anchorman and Alvin Fernald, Master of a Thousand Disguises. Fernald calls himself a "criptogruffer" in the book, a play on cryptographer. ... This book is a childhood favorite for many, and it has a 4.11-star rating (out of 5) on Goodreads. Reviewer Jorn writes: "I read this when I was a kid and I still remember parts of it vividly. Very clear explanations of various types and styles of codes woven into the plot." And Michael writes: "I read this book 37 times as a boy, and then a few more times as an adult. It got me interested in codes and ciphers, and as a writer may have been the first influence on me regarding the value of snappy dialogue." ... In a 2013 article in Riverside Insider, Lea Deesing, who had been newly hired as the Chief Innovation Officer for the city of Riverside, California, states that Alvin's Secret Code was the book that got her started on her career path. ... Ptera, who designed the cover for this edition, also designed the cover for Scholastic's 1966 edition of H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man.

From here, a reader interested in cryptography could pretty easily jump into The Code Book by Simon Singh. And then, if you want the graduate-level course, you could check out Dave Kahn's hefty 1966 book The Codebreakers – The Story of Secret Writing, which was revised and republished in 1996 as The Codebreakers: The Comprehensive History of Secret Communication from Ancient Times to the Internet.

Ashar and I were actually talking a bit about codes yesterday. We have The Imitation Game on our list of movies to watch soon. And we were talking a little bit about this semi-famous secret code. Does you know what it's from?

;46(;88*96*?;8)*‡(;485);5*†2:*‡(;4956*2(5*- 4)8¶8*;40692



Monday, October 10, 2016

Gearing up for some Halloween Postcrossing fun

Shown above are some of the Halloween- and autumn-themed postcards, all with original artwork, that I'll be sending around the world via Postcrossing this month. Redbubble is my website of choice for getting most postcards. Their cards come on high-quality stock, the site has frequent discounts and sales, and a wide range of excellent artists showcase their work there.

Here are links to the five postcards shown above (clockwise, from the witch in the top left):

The awesome Conners has been featured on Papergreat before. She allowed me display a couple of her postcards for Papergreat's 1,600th post. And I'm actually using two of her postcards for Halloween mailings this month. The other one is Scary Story Time.

You should check out and considering supporting the work by Conners and all of the artists mentioned here.

Meanwhile, one of the stamps I'll be using on this year's mailings is this 10-cent beauty from 1974...

It's U.S. #1548, and it was issued on October 12, 1974, in North Tarrytown, New York. (North Tarrytown officially changed its name to Sleepy Hollow in 1996.)

Here's some information on the stamp from Arago, the online database of the Smithsonian Institution's National Postal Museum:
"[T]he 10-cent American Folklore stamp features a scene from Washington Irving's 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow' in which the infamous Headless Horseman pursues protagonist Ichabod Crane. The short story demonstrates two qualities for which Washington Irving is best known: his humor and his ability to create vivid, descriptive imagery. Irving first published the short story in 1819-1820. He lived at Birmingham, England, at the time. Designed by Leonard Everett Fisher, the stamps were lithographed with an initial printing of 140 million. The stamp dimensions measure 1.44 x 0.84 inches and have one plate number. 'Mail Early' and Mr. Zip appear in the selvage on both the left and right side of each sheet."

Photo postcard of Mena House Hotel in Cairo, Egypt

This black-and-white real photo postcard1 features a traveler who might be wondering if they have any rooms left at the inn.

The inn in question is the Mena House Hotel, and you can't tell from this angle, but it's located very close to the Great Pyramid of Giza.2

The hotel's website and Wikipedia offer some different historic details of the building, so let's check out excerpts from both. First, from Wikipedia:
"The Mena House was initially a hunting lodge; it was a two story hut nicknamed the "Mud Hut". It was built in 1869 for the Egyptian King Isma'il Pasha.3

"Due to political matters in 1883, Isma'il sold the lodge to couple Frederick and Jessie Head as a private residence. The couple came across the building while on their honeymoon and once it was purchased they expanded it. In 1885, it was then sold to an English couple, Ethel and Hugh F. Locke King. They immediately began construction on the hotel and opened it to the public in 1886 as The Mena House. The hotel is named after the founding father of the first Egyptian dynasty, Mena or King Menes.

"In 1890, the hotel opened Egypt’s first swimming pool that same year it was announced that the hotel would remain open year round. During World War I the hotel was requisitioned by Australian troops and occupied again by the Australians in 1939. Toward the end of the war it was then converted to a hospital for wounded Australian troops."
Some of the detail offered by the hotel's history page includes how the Locke Kings prepared and decorated the building for its launch as a hotel: "[T]hey retained much of the Arabic ambiance of the facility, and enhanced this with fine Mashrabia (wooden screens) work, fine blue tiles, mosaics and medieval brass-embossed and carved wood doors. Their taste was excellent, and the hotel has been kept with such good care, that many of these original fixtures are still in use." You can also read there about how the hotel has been the site of some important gatherings of world leaders, especially during the 1940s and 1970s.

Among those who have used the hotel as a luxury retreat are Arthur Conan Doyle (who spent the winter of 1895-96 there with his wife), Agatha Christie, Charlton Heston and Charlie Chaplin.

Today, the Mena House Hotel is fully modernized and offers a spa, fitness center, internet access and other amenities. I don't know, however, if they have a stable for your camel. It does have a 4.5-star rating from TripAdvisor, so if you're going to be in Cairo, need a secure place to stay and have the dough, you probably can't go wrong.

1. This postcard has a purple stamp on the back that states "Pyramids Photo Store & Book Shop" — just like the card I featured back in April.
2. The hotel and Great Pyramid are in Giza, which is part of the Greater Cairo metroplex.
3. Coincidentally, I'm currently reading about a hunting lodge that was build on an asteroid in Clifford D. Simak's 1951 science-fiction novel Time and Again. According to the book, the far-future lodge cost at least a billion dollars, half of which went toward the "atomic plants" necessary to maintain gravity and an atmosphere.