Monday, September 18, 2017

Mr. ZIP is way, way more famous than I thought

The world doesn't really need another post about Mr. ZIP (aka Zippy), but I'm going to write a short one, anyway.

Mr. ZIP is a tiny cartoon character who hangs out on the edges of sheets of U.S. stamps. I learned that those outer areas are called selvage, and there are realms of philately devoted to this selvage. Some selvage can be important and valuable. Collectors, though, have argued about whether you should keep the selvage. See, for example, this StampoRama forum and this Stamp Community forum.

Sometimes, though, the selvage can be fun, which makes it much more interesting to collect and document. That's Mr. ZIP. Pictured above are two examples of Mr. ZIP that I came across this summer and set aside. It wasn't the first time I encountered him on a sheet, just the first time he didn't go into the trash after I used the stamps.

So who is Mr. ZIP? He's a United States Post Office cartoon character, designed by Howard Wilcox and later tweaked by Joe Lawrence, who appeared on selvage from 1964 until 1986 to promote the importance of using ZIP codes to help with the speedy delivery of U.S. mail.

Here's a Wikipedia image of Mr. ZIP alongside a stamp...

As I mentioned at the top, Mr. ZIP is super-famous, as selvage characters go. Much has been written about. So, instead of repeating everyone else's fine work, here is a collection of links so that you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about Zippy:

And, as you might imagine, there is a bevy of Mr. ZIP items available on eBay. It goes way beyond the selvage collections. For example, who doesn't need an authentic Mr. ZIP brass charm in their life?

Take a 4½-hour tour of the Stanford area with The Gray Line

Here's a ticket stub (technically a "Souvenir Ticket and Identification Check") from, I'm guessing, the early 1960s for The Gray Line's 4½-hour bus tour of Stanford University and "suburban fine residences" in that area. The ticket measures 2¾ inches wide.

This had been pasted into one of the family scrapbooks. My guess is that it's my great-grandmother, Greta, who took the tour.

The Gray Line had both its depot and main office on Fourth Street in San Francisco, California. The office number was YUkon 6-4000.

The Gray Line has been around since 1910, according to its website, which now has a much broader and international focus. The history page states: "Gray Line is the largest provider of sightseeing tours on the planet. For more than 100 years, Gray Line has been at the center of creating and operating the best traveler experiences in the world’s most sought after sightseeing destinations. With thousands of tours and experiences in more than 700 locations, spanning six continents, Gray Line is also the largest direct supplier of destination services to online travel sellers, wholesalers and travel agents."

A 2008 post on The Infomercantile1 features a 1953 Gray Line bus tour map of the San Francisco area. Available tours then included the Golden Gate Bride, the Muir Woods (very popular and included in several different tours), Berkeley, the Yosemite Valley, Stanford University and "Chinatown After Dark."

In April 1967, Gray Line offered a "Hippie Tour" bus in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. The San Francisco Chronicle assigned a photographer to sit inside the bus during that first tour of exotic, long-haired Americans, and a May 2015 article by Peter Hartlaub headlined "'Hippie Tour' photos give striking window into Summer of Love" takes a look back at that assignment and those photos.

I can say, pretty safely, that my great-grandmother never took The Hippie Tour.

1. The long-lived website's slogan is: "Supplying Information, Our World's Greatest Commodity."

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Maime says: "Look for me at church"

This AZO real photo postcard dates to sometime between 1904 and 1918.

There's little specific information to identify the young woman who is pictured. But we do have a short inscription on the back. I believe it states the following:

Look for me at
church on Sat eve
on the 10' of 7 car
Ever a friend

I might be off on a word or two, though, so you can take your own look at the inscription:

Maime isn't all that common of a name any more. According to the website Think Baby Names: "Maime as a name for girls has the meaning 'star of the sea; pearl'. Maime is an alternate spelling of Mamie (Greek, Latin): contraction of Margaret (Greek) 'pearl'. ... Adoption of these forms of Maime was at its apex 135 years ago."

For fun, I typed Maime into Facebook to see if there are any folks today using that name. One of my first results, I kid you not, was a ghost from York, Pennsylvania. I'm not quite sure what to make of that.

Might as well click "Add Friend" and see what happens!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

"Mystery at Penmarth" oddball?

Back in February, I wrote about the hard-to-find American first edition of Ruth Manning-Sanders' juvenile novel Mystery at Penmarth. That was the 1941 hardcover published by Robert M. McBride, and it came the year after the original 1940 publication by Collins of London.

In cruising around eBay, I have now discovered what appears to be a Mystery at Penmarth curiosity, the cover of which is shown above.

Here is how it's described in the eBay listing: "1940. 288 pages. No dust jacket. This is an ex-Library book. Blue and green pictorial boards. Ex-Library with the usual stamps, stickers, marks and inserts. Contains black and white illustrations. Marks and tanning to endpapers and text block edges. Crisp pages with bold text. Illustrations are clear and bold. Mildly rubbed and marked laminated boards with shelf wear."

Furthermore, the publisher is listed as Collins and the year is 1940. Although, certainly, eBay listing details can be wrong. In fact, I'm somewhat confused, because a copy of Mystery at Penmarth with this exact description is listed on both eBay (shipping from the United Kingdom) and on Amazon (shipping from Florida). So something's fishy.

Setting aside the mystery of what book is for sale and who is selling it, this eBay listing does seem to indicate that this cover exists somewhere, somehow. It looks like a special library binding, designed for more wear and a longer shelf life. That would make it a separate release from the UK or American hardcover. And this library edition might have be issued by McBride, rather than Collins, as the American school library market was probably more robust.

I'm going to try to do some cross-checking and see if this illustration was pulled from the interior of one of those editions, which would be a big clue as to the publisher, since each edition had its own artist.

Friday, September 15, 2017

"The Valley of Hell" in Germany's Black Forest

My scanner doesn't really do justice to this full-page illustration, which is within the pages of an amazing 1882 book titled The Heart of Europe, From the Rhine to the Danube, A Series of Striking and Interesting Views. The 143-page volume is filled with scenes from throughout Europe that, in most cases, haven't existed for a century of more. I'm hoping to scan and share more of those images, moving forward.

Shown in this illustration is Höllental, which translates to "The Valley of Hell" or "Hell's Valley." It's a gorge that's about 5½ miles long and is located within the southern portion of Schwarzwald, the famed Black Forest, in Germany.

Leo de Colange, who wrote the text for The Heart of Europe, writes a good bit about Schwarzwald, but nothing specifically about Hell's Valley. I did, however, find this relevant and wonderful passage from The Universe: Or, The Infinitely Great and the Infinitely Little, an 1870 book by Félix-Archimède Pouchet:
"Almost all these imposing gorges are the effect of convulsions of the globe, and the first glance shows that they have resulted from a violent fracture of the mountains and separation of the fragments. We can identify these great fissures by the similarity which their walls present in respect to the layers of which they are formed, and by the irregularity of their chasms, in the depths of which reign shade and terror. Our superstitious ancestors, overcome by the awe which these darksome clefts inspired, often gave them names expressive of the dread they gave rise to; as, for instance, calling them hell valleys, hell holes, or devil's gorges.

"In all high mountains, such as the Alps and Pyrenees, we see some which are thus designated. But certainly one of the most remarkable of these gorges is the Hell Valley in the Black Forest. I passed through it during a severe winter, and nothing could equal the dark horror it inspired. Masses of snow hung suspended on its buttresses, and their whiteness contrasted strongly with the gloomy mouth of the infernal abyss. This portico to the domains of Pluto, though ample of entrance, was yet shrouded in impenetrable darkness towards the bottom. The ancient Hercynian Forest, which we had just traversed, was buried under half a yard of rime; the cold was 25 below freezing-point (Fahr.); and our vehicle, in spite of the skids, which made large showers of ice fly on all sides, dragged us with frightful rapidity towards the precipice. It was altogether superb, and vividly recalled the icy forests of the north."
For a less-terrifying, and frankly gorgeous, look at the Black Forest and one of its gorges, please check out photographer and travel blogger Melanie Fontaine's 2015 post "Hiking in the Black Forest, Germany: The Wutach Gorge."

Great woman in Pennsylvania history: Martha Maxwell

Mom's possessions, handed down from previous generations, included a small collection of cartes de visite. These early "trading cards," which predated cabinet cards and were about half their size, measure 2½ inches by 4⅛ inches. The collection included cards of Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant, cards of named and unnamed relatives and one card featuring two little people that is simply and unfortunately labeled "midgets" on the back.

One of the cards that captured my attention the most is the one shown above, featuring a serious-looking woman holding a gun. The back of this carte de visite is blank. But, as you can see, the following is printed on the front:

Mrs. M.A. Maxwell's
Copy-right Secured.

That's Mrs. M.A. Maxwell herself pictured on the card. Her full name is Martha Ann Maxwell (born Martha Dartt in 1831 in Tioga County, Pennsylvania), and she was a naturalist, artist and pioneering American taxidermist who led a really amazing life. (Don't let the rifle fool you into thinking she was another Annie Oakley, though.) Here are some highlights from Maxwell's Wikipedia biography:

  • When she was young, her grandmother, Abigail Stanford, first instilled a love of nature in her by taking her for walks in the woods.
  • She and her husband, James, joined the Colorado Gold Rush of 1860. While he pursued mining, she did washing and mending and baked pies to earn her own income. She made her own investments, too, and bought an interest in a boarding house, some mining claims and a one-room log cabin near Denver, Colorado.
  • "In 1861 the boarding house burned down, leaving Maxwell with no way to earn an income and the family no place to live. The plan was to move to the cabin that Maxwell had bought, but when they got there, they found that a claim jumper had moved into the cabin. They took the squatter to court, and the decision came down in favor of the Maxwells, but the man living in their cabin refused to move out. Maxwell waited until the man finally left the cabin on an errand. She removed the door from the frame and she entered the cabin and found among the man's possessions perfectly preserved stuffed birds and animals. The claim jumper was a taxidermist by training. Maxwell proceeded to put everything out on the prairie and reclaim her property. She soon wrote to family members requesting a book that would help her 'to learn how to preserve birds and other animal curiosities in this country.'"
  • "She made trips into the Rockies, where she gathered chipmunks, various species of squirrels and birds. By the fall of 1868 Martha had prepared almost 100 specimens, ranging from chicks to hawks, and hummingbirds to eagles. She was asked to display her work at the Colorado Agricultural Society exhibition. Attendees particularly admired that Maxwell created an entire natural habitat for each species, making it appear as if they were still alive. Her work was acknowledged with a $50 prize [about $915 today] and a diploma."
  • "Maxwell developed her own way of preserving the animals by molding them in plaster and then covering these molds with the animals skin which she had preserved. She later used iron frames over which to stretch the skins, rather than sewing the skins together and stuffing them, as most other taxidermists did."

By Centennial Photographic Co., photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

  • She opened her own Rocky Mountain Museum in Boulder, Colorado, in the 1870s. Also during that decade, she produced a wildly popular exhibit for the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876 — the first World's Fair held in the United States. The large natural-habitat diorama (pictured above) that she constructed for her taxidermied animals might have been the first of its kind. Press coverage was immense and the exhibition's official photography firm was unable to keep up with demand for images.
  • "After Maxwell's death [in 1881, at age 49] her daughter contracted with a man in Saratoga Springs, New York, to exhibit and/or sell the collection. The collection was exhibited several times but was then placed into storage. Unfortunately it was not put away carefully and pieces began to disintegrate. In 1920 Maxwell's sister, Mary, tried to retrieve the collection and planned to donate work to the University of Colorado. However, the pieces had aged badly and there was nothing worth preserving."

Additional reading about Martha Ann Maxwell

Finally, here's a closer look at Maxwell and her dog.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Suggested September bulletin board from Hayes School Publishing Co.

This is a September classroom bulletin board suggestion for teachers from the groovy 1978 book Hayes Tips and Clues for Every Bulletin Board, published by Hayes School Publishing Company of Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania. I'll be posting from this nostalgia-laden, spiral-bound tome each month as we work our way through the 2017-18 school year.

Here's the description for this board:
The message is clear: "Come to school and have fun in learning!" Make the balloons by using large circles of construction paper. Use pictures cut from magazines to show school activities and glue onto "balloons." Be certain to main good color contrast between "balloons" and magazine pictures.

Pro tip: On second thought, if you thinking of putting an old-school display like this together for your pupils this fall, you might want to skip the balloon theme entirely. Especially red balloons. Also, the paper-boat-making activity is right out. Spend time teaching your children to fear nothing. And make sure they have access to plenty of good stones. Urge them to walk home in groups.

Related posts

Monday, September 11, 2017

Postcard: "Redbay and Castle"

Here's an old postcard that was left over from the Labor Day Weekend Postcard Blogathon. The sepia-toned card is labeled on the front as "REDBAY AND CASTLE, ANTRIM COAST RD." This location is Country Antrim, located along the coast of northeastern North Ireland. Sitting atop the hill, in the upper-right corner of the image, are, indeed, the ruins of Red Bay Castle (or Caislen Camus Rhuaidh in Irish).

The castle was built in the 13th century, and, like many castles, it was host to battles and murders and weddings and family intrigue over the centuries. It was totaled and rebuilt several times, so you would probably want to check its Carfax history if you're interested in buying it.

It looks like the most "recent" destruction came at the hands of Oliver Cromwell, in the 17th century. And not much was done, restoration-wise, after that. Indeed, these are just ruins now.

The website features some modern photographs of the site and states: "This is a small ruin, with little distinctive features but there are great views from the site of the great landscape around you." Unfortunately, it's also noted that the ruins are located on a private farmland and there is no public access.

This real-photo postcard was published by E.A. Schwerdtfeger & Company of London and printed in Berlin. According to The Postcard Album, E.A.S. was established in 1894 and expanded with the acquisition of a rival company in 1920.

This card — the mailing date of which I can't make out, via the postmark — was sent to Miss Dora Lewis, Rangeley Lakes, Mountain View House, Maine. Dora was previously mentioned in this July 2016 post.

The note states:

you would love
this old castle!
Port Rush is fine —
great place for

"Port Rush" is Portrush, Northern Ireland, a resort town well known for its golf.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Romaine Smith's pixie-laden bookplate from the 1930s

How about another bookplate? This one is about 3½ inches wide and features an illustration of some tiny pixies or brownies or fairies (or such) lounging around outdoors. In the lower-right corner of the bookplate, the words DENNISON - USA are printed.

"Romaine Smith" is written in tidy cursive on the bookplate, and the inscription on the next page states the following:

M. Romaine Smith,
1230 E. Maple St.,
York, Penna.
Dec. 25, 1935

That is likely Martha Romaine (Smith) Guise, a York native who was born in 1923 and died in March 2012, at age 88. According to her obituary, "she was a United States Navy veteran of World War II [and] served in the WAVES and was honorably discharged as a Pharmacist's Mate Third Class in 1946."

As for the book that contains this bookplate, it's Hilda's Mascot (subtitle: "A Tale of 'Maryland, My Maryland'"), which was written by Mary E. Ireland (1834–1927) and published by The Saalfield Publishing Company in 1927. The dust jacket was still intact. Here's a look at the front cover and spine portions of that jacket, which features the work of artist Corinne R. Bailey.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Colorful bookplate in 1908 book

This bookplate, measuring 2 inches by 3¼ inches, was discovered within a copy of the 1908 Grosset & Dunlap book Pictures That Every Child Should Know: A Selection of the World's Art Masterpieces for Young People.

I'm fairly sure the bookplate is the reason that I bought this book for $1 at a Lancaster sale a couple of years ago. I don't think the subject matter would have piqued my interest, though the encouragement of fine-art appreciation by youngsters is certainly a noble endeavor.

The author, Dolores Bacon, also wrote Operas Every Child Should Know, Hymns Every Child Should Know, and Songs Every Child Should Know.

(If she was alive today, she'd probably pen Netflix Shows Every Child Should Know, Twitter Memes Every Child Should Know, and Instagram Filters Every Child Should Know.)

As you can see from the bookplate, this volume belonged to Frank K. Mears Jr. He lived from 1917 to 1992, and he grew up to become a doctor who worked in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, before later moving to Lancaster County.

After a little nosing around online, I discovered a blog post that's all about the life of Frank K. Mears Jr., as written by his son, John. It was posted in June 2011 and is titled "My Father, The Sex Machine." Cheeky title aside, it's a beautiful 2,200-word essay that I hope is preserved and doesn't end up as a Lost Corner of the Internet. It's well worth your time to go check it out. Here are a few short excerpts:

  • "Dad also loved gardening. Coming home from a ten-or-twelve-or-fourteen-hour day at the hospital, he made a beeline straight to his vegetable garden, which was a meditation on chaos. Rows of vegetable plants could best be found among the waist-high weeds by looking for little piles of stones that Dad put at the end of each row, the plan being that Dad would later cart the stones off to another location. (That rarely happened.)"
  • "Crows were a pain in the ass, with their cacophonies and sneak attacks on the corn, so in their case my father made an exception to his Quaker pacifism and shot them with his .22 rifle. He would then leave their bodies to rot next to the corn field, a warning to their fellows."
  • "My father could throw, would throw, did throw nothing away. He was a textbook example of a pack rat. Dad was remarkable for his obdurate inability to part with any object in his possession, no matter how trivial or apparently worthless. He filled every available space in every building of our farm with random stuff, initially organized in stacks, piles, cartons, or bins, but increasingly demonstrative of the second law of thermodynamics: everything in the physical universe tends towards entropy."
  • "After the funeral, my older brother Jim began the sad task of carting Dad’s memorabilia by the truckload to a pit in a cornfield for cremation. Columns of smoke rose above our farm for weeks."

As I said, you should go read the entire essay by John Mears.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Book cover: "The Talking Cat and Other Stories of French Canada"

  • Title: The Talking Cat and Other Stories of French Canada
  • Author: Natalie Savage Carlson (1906-1997)
  • Illustrator: Roger Duvoisin (1900-1980)
  • Publisher: Harper & Brothers, New York
  • Original price: $2.50
  • Year of publication: Original publication was 1952. This is the 1955 Weekly Reader Children's Book Club edition.
  • Pages: 87
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Contents: The seven stories are: The Skunk in Tante Odette's Oven, The Talking Cat, Jean Labadie's Big Black Dog, The Speckled Hen's Egg, The Canoe in the Rapids, The Ghostly Fishermen, The Loup-Gorou in the Woods.
  • First sentences: "Long ago in Canada, there were no television sets or radios or movies. The people who lived in the country spent so much of their time working that they did not miss these things. But when they gathered in their kitchens in the long winter evenings, there was need for some kind of entertainment. So anyone who could tell a good story was more than welcome as a guest."
  • Notes: These tales are "retold" by Natalie Savage Carlson, per the title page, putting this is the same general category as Ruth Manning-Sanders' retold folk and fairy tales. ... The author's other books include 1965's The Empty Schoolhouse, a well-regarded tale of school integration. ... The Talking Cat is also much-loved. One Goodreads reviewer said "This is one of the most amazing and hilarious set of folk tales I've ever read. The title story is not great shakes, but the rest is absolutely amazing!" while another wrote: "This book used to belong to my grandmother. When I was younger the Ghostly Fisherman, the loup-garou, etc. kind of freaked me out, but I really liked it!" ... A Loup-Gorou, by the way, is also known as a rougarou, roux-ga-roux, rugaroo or rugaru and is basically the French folklore version of a werewolf. Read more about it Wikipedia and on the Mythical Creatures Guide.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Kyoto garden: Riding on a dragon flying across the sky

Labor Day Weekend Postcard Blogathon #16

Here's a peaceful postcard to bring the holiday blogathon to a close. And we could use some more peace, right?

This never-used, black-and-white card from Japan features a woman crossing a pond via a set of pillar-like stepping-stones.

After some research, I believe this photo shows the Middle Garden at the famed Heian Shrine in Kyoto, Japan. There is a similar photo on a website called The Kyoto Project. Here is the passage that refers to this location:
Ogawa Jihei, a landscape gardener of the modern era also known as Ueji, made these three gardens. He designed his plans with the intention that, all over this lush garden, people would be made to feel calm. He spent about 20 years making these three gardens. ... The main attraction of the middle garden is Garyukyo and irises. Garyukyo is a series of stepping-stones in the pond called Soryu-ike. These stones were formerly piers of two great bridges over the Kamo River — Sanjo Ohashi and Gojo Ohashi — which were made by the great conqueror Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598). Ogawa Jihei arranged these stones so that people stepping from one to the next can feel as if they might be riding on a dragon flying in the sky that is reflected on the surface of the pond. About 100 purple irises found here are at their best in May.
Here's another view of this garden from Wikimedia Commons.

OK, I'm sold. Who's ready for a calm and relaxing road trip to Kyoto?

Aunt Maggie climbing over a wall to avoid a bull

Labor Day Weekend Postcard Blogathon #15

As we head toward the Blogathon finish line, this oddball postcard, mailed in 1911, features an illustration on the left and a photograph on the right, woven together to make it appear to be a seamless image of a bull charging down a path while a woman tries to escape by climbing over a stone wall. Not a bad visual effect for more than a century ago!

The caption states: "I don't see how I'll be able to get over."

Someone has written "Aunt Maggie" on the woman, likely in an attempt to be humorous.

The card was postmarked at 1 p.m. on February 25, 1911, in St. Louis, Missouri. It was mailed to the Felton family in tiny Pocasset, Oklahoma. The Grady County town only has a population of about 200 these days; I'm not sure how different things were in 1911. In addition to the town of Pocasset, the county also includes the cities of Blanchard, Chickasha, Minco and Tuttle, the towns of Alex, Amber, Ninnekah, Norge and Verden, the unincorporated community of Tabler, and the ghost towns of Acme and Bailey.

This was apparently one in a series of postcards sent to the Feltons of Pocasset. The message states:
No. 6
Say. — How are you two old scamps. Antent [?] said Uncle Ollie was sick. — Well Aunt Maggie I know he gets the best of care.

Postcard: Conversation between a tree and a dog

Labor Day Weekend Postcard Blogathon #14

This cartoon linen postcard, which has no publisher or manufacturer listed, was postmarked on March 1, 1946, in Atlanta, Georgia. I'm putting the caption online for posterity, because it doesn't seem to be anywhere else:
I think it's probably best if we don't spend too much time or effort delving into a line-by-line analysis of that verse.

Then there's the note on the back of the card, which is a different kind of disturbing:
Hi Jake —
How's this one. I hope I can find a few good ones here. I sure would like to be in your cellar.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Annotated postcard for Beaver Dam High School in Wisconsin

Labor Day Weekend Postcard Blogathon #13

If you look closely at the front of this 1907 postcard and squint, you can see that someone has added, in pencil, some locations and descriptions of the rooms within the high school in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. This was at least two high schools ago for Beaver Dam, if not three. I'm not even sure if this is the building that actor Fred MacMurray (1908-1991) would have gone to when growing up there. If anyone out there has any insight about the history and fate of this particular building and can share, that would be wonderful.

In the meantime, we have these faint annotations. They include:

  • Boys entrance (on the left)
  • Girls entrance (on the right)
  • Mathematics room
  • lavatory (or possibly laboratory)
  • stairway (2)
  • German room
  • Latin room
  • B Grammar (beginning or basic?)
  • A Grammar (advanced?)
  • drawing room

Those are the ones that I can make out. I think that leaves a couple that are simply illegible at this point. It's pretty neat insight, though, to have this level of detail about a high school of 110 years ago.

The postcard was postmarked in September 1907 and sent to an address in Hartford, Wisconsin. The cursive note states:
Sept. 24, '07
Hello Della. Are you coming down to the Fair this yr? How do you like school again? Tell Mae please, that she should send my mail in care of J.A. Wrensch [?], B.D. Wis. How is your mother? We expect to have a jolly time at the fair, wish you could come.
Yours with love, Verna

1962 postcard: "You should take a trip with United Fruit"

Labor Day Weekend Postcard Blogathon #12

This worn postcard, mailed in 1962 and probably relegated to a drawer for many decades thereafter, brings us a splash of color and culture for this Sunday evening.

The caption of the back of this Mirro-Krome Card is printed in both Spanish and English. The English version states:
The "Montuna" and "Montuno," typical and traditional dresses of PANAMA, worn mostly on typical national festivities and during "Carnival."
The nature and specifics of Carnival vary by country. Here is the Wikipedia summary of Carnival in Panama: "Traditionally beginning on Friday and ending on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, los Carnavales, as Panamanians refer to the days of Carnival, are celebrated across the country. Carnival Week is especially popular because of the opulent Las Tablas Carnival as well as the Carnival celebrations in Panama City and almost all of the Azuero Peninsula."

Meanwhile, the short message on this postcard, which was mailed to New Jersey, states: "You should take a trip with United Fruit. Wonderful! With love, Polly."

The United Fruit Company, which was transformed into Chiquita Brands International in the 1980s, had a huge impact on the 20th century development of multiple countries in Latin America and was deeply intertwined with the political and economic structures that we negatively refer to as banana republics. So, while it's nice that United Fruit offered "wonderful" vacations to Americans, its hard to look past the reality of United Fruit as a corporate colonialist that built its decades-long empire on the backs of cheap labor and a monopoly on the banana market.

Before I get even more worked up about this, here are the Panamanian stamps that were affixed to this postcard for its journey to America in May 1962.

Valentine's postcard: "Nor will this fire that's burning ever wane"

Labor Day Weekend Postcard Blogathon #11

Sometimes I forget to post Valentine's Day ephemera during that special week in February. So here's a special Labor Day weekend post in honor of that hearts-and-Cupid-filled holiday.

This undated, never-used postcard was printed in England and is part of the Davidson Bros.' Real Photographic Series. The Davidson Brothers were only in business from 1901 to 1911, according to, so that lets us know which decade this postcard is from.

The caption of this postcard featuring some way-too-young sweethearts states:

To My Dear Valentine
I am consumed by Love's most mighty flame.
Nor will this fire that's burning ever wane.

Somewhat amazingly, neither of those last two sentences return any results in a Google search. I figured they were from some run-of-the-mill 19th century poem or that, at the very least, some other website would have already documented this verse. No such luck.

And when I did a Google reverse image search for this postcard, the first result was an Ed Sheeran music video, so I think I'll just quit while I'm ahead.

If you have a hankering for more Valentine's Day posts, click on the label at the bottom of this post.

Ed Sheeran's appearance in this post courtesy of Atlantic Records

Trincat Street and castle ruins in Les Baux, France

Labor Day Weekend Postcard Blogathon #10

And now, let's transition from the roads to the walkways.

Here's an undated, used Yvon postcard that was published in Paris, France. According to
"Pierre Yves Petit, better known simply as Yvon, took up photography in 1916 and in three years he began publishing postcards of his images under the trade name Edition d’Art Yvon. His early postcards were printed as black & white collotypes, but, unsatisfied with the results, he switched to a rich warm to sepia rotogravure in 1923. ... While some of these view-cards depict very ordinary landmarks, many of Yvon’s cards demonstrate the eye of an extremely accomplished photographer."
I'll agree that Yvon was an excellent photographer. This is a splendid shot, and the reproduction does it justice, in my eyes. This is likely from later in his career, when photo-postcard printing techniques improved, but that's just speculation on my part.

The caption on the back of the card states:

LES BAUX (B.-du-R.) — Rue du Trincat,
au fond, ruines du château féodal

Les Baux-de-Provence is a small village in the region of Provence, France.1 Though only a few hundred people live there, it receives tremendous tourist traffic each year, as visitors check out the picturesque, centuries-old dwellings tucked alongside the ruins of a feudal castle — ruines du château féodal.

If you want to fawn over more walkable streets and communities, before cars took over everything, this July post is a good place to start.

1. Les Baux officially became Les Baux-de-Provence in August 1958, so it's likely that this postcard pre-dates that.

Peaceful Pennsylvania postcard

Labor Day Weekend Postcard Blogathon #9

For this wonderfully quiet Sunday morning, here's a mid-century linen postcard labeled "State Highway, Pennsylvania." Wouldn't you love to get out on that road this morning, with no other cars in either direction? (Windows down. No AC or heat allowed.)

Beautiful Pennsylvania has a lot of roads like this, meandering through minor mountains and surrounded by diverse vegetation. Road conditions will vary greatly, of course. And the roads won't be empty. Please watch out for deer, possums and woodchucks.

While this postcard looks like a generic stretch of highway you might find in 1,000 different corners of the state, a slightly different version of the card is labeled "A Scene Between Henryville And Tannersville, Pocono Mts., Pa." (Both of those are unincorporated communities in Monroe County, as is a spot called Gravel Place.)

This card was mailed to Union, New Jersey, with a two-cent red Jefferson stamp. It was postmarked at 3 p.m. on July 10, 1958, in Union Dale, Pennsylvania.

The cursive note on the back states:
Hello Grandparents!
Well it sure is beat beautiful here. So quiet, restful, but who wants to rest? Joey catching fish, Andy talking to his arthirits [sic], me reading.
Helen & Andy

Finally, for the record, this is a "Colourpicture" Publication printed in Boston, Massachusetts. It was published by The Mebane Greeting Card Company of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Postcard: Château de Prény

Labor Day Weekend Postcard Blogathon #8

Continuing with the castle theme, here's a real photo postcard that has been labeled — right on the print — Ancient Castle - Preny W.S. 82.

This never-used postcard was published by AZO sometime between 1910 and 1930, based on the stamp box.

The "ancient castle" in question here — ruins, really — is Château de Prény in northeastern France, not far from the borders of Germany, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and Belgium. It dates to the 11th century, though its full origins are unclear. It has been the site of numerous battles and seiges over the years, as you might imagine, including some long and nasty ones in 1262 and 1266. Although it was already in ruins by the 19th century, it was further decimated by fighting that took place in and around it during World War I.

Here's an illustration of Château de Prény in its better days.

Postcard: Scotland's Edinburgh Castle and Ross Fountain

Labor Day Weekend Postcard Blogathon #7

This postcard is younger than me, so it's one of the more recently produced pieces of ephemera featured on the blog.

The gorgeous card features the Ross Foundation, which was built in the 1800s in France and was subsequently purchased and gifted to the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, where it was installed in 1872. In early July of this year, the fountain was dismantled for a significant renovation project that is expected to cost £1.5 million. According to an article by Fiona Pringle in the Edinburgh Evening News:
The operation is part of the Ross Development Trust’s plans to regenerate the gardens.

The arms and buttocks of the two-tonne statue were removed before it was cut away from the rest of the fountain and then lifted down by a crane.

The rest of the fountain is being dismantled today and will be reunited with the statue before both are transferred to a trailer with built-in hydraulics and transported to Wigan, where conservation experts will carry out the work.
How long will the restoration take? One source in Pringle's article stated: "When you’re dealing with a fountain that’s 145 years old it’s not just a case of giving it a lick of paint. It’s going to be a fairly lengthy process."

The postcard also features, in the background, historic Edinburgh Castle, parts of which date to the 12th century.

This card was mailed to an address in Yonkers, New York, in 1978. The note, clearly written by a child, states:
Dear Aunt Beverly,
We are in scotland enjoying our vacation. thank you for your letter and picturs. I have to go and eat breckfast now.
Love Allison

The elementary school in the City Behind the Fence

Labor Day Weekend Postcard Blogathon #6

This unused postcard features an aerial view of Cedar Hill Elementary School in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. As the card itself states, this is "The City of the Atomic Bomb."

Alternately known as the Secret City, the Ridge, or the City Behind the Fence, Oak Ridge was a key production site for the Manhattan Project in the 1940s. Its location within a 17-mile valley and its low population (initially) helped the federally controlled town remain a secret, even as its population boomed by tens of thousands for the war effort. Even while the top-secret facilities were being constructed, they also built up a town around them to support the civilian workforce. Oak Ridge blossomed with movie theaters, restaurants, more than a dozen grocery stores, a library, churches, ballfields and, of course, schools.

According to Oak Ridge Schools website: "The Oak Ridge School District was born in the shadow of the Manhattan Project in 1943. Like the project that brought together the nation’s greatest minds for a common goal, the school system set the bar high for educational excellence from the beginning."

Cedar Hill Elementary School grew outdated and was demolished in the 1980s. A playground was established on the site in 1988.

The school district now has four elementary schools — Glenbrook, Linden, Willow Brook and Woodland.

This vintage postcard's photo was taken by J.E. Westcott, and one source pegs the date it was taken as March 1946. It was published by the Standard News Agency of Knoxville, Tennessee. And it was printed by Graycraft Card Company of Danville, Virginia.

Real photo postcard with a distressing lack of information

Labor Day Weekend Postcard Blogathon #5

As longtime readers of this blog know, I'm as enthusiastic as anyone about ephemera mysteries — old photos and postcards and inscriptions that leave us with very few clues to go on. But sometimes the mysteries get tiring. Sometimes there are too many mysteries, and you wish that someone, a century ago, had taken 30 seconds to jot down a name or a location or what phase the moon was in that night.

This real photo postcard is utterly lacking in identifying information. All I know is that it's an AZO postcard that was produced sometime between 1904 and 1918, based on the four upward-pointing triangles in the stamp box. I bought the postcard in Pennsylvania, so there's a reasonably good chance that this house was in Pennsylvania. But that's it. There's so little hope that this mystery will ever have a resolution.

I'm half-tempted to be an Ephemera Prankster.1 To get some black ink and write — in an old style of script I think I can replicate — some fake identifying information. Then I'd tuck the postcard inside an old book and donate it to a used-book sale.

What would I write? Should I go for something realistic enough to fool future historians?


Or, if I really wanted to throw someone for a loop...


1. Prior to the publication of this post, a Google search returned the following: No results found for "ephemera prankster". I'm glad we've rectified that.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Rooster-themed Postcrossing card

Labor Day Weekend Postcard Blogathon #4

One of my recent Postcrossing arrivals is this modern postcard featuring a reproduction of a late 17th century [?] illustration of a rooster, filled in with text. The original was published by Carel Allard, who you can read about at The Public Domain Review.

The postcard came from Jannat, a resident of Switzerland, who wrote:
Dear Chris,
My daughter Ariel and I are having vacation here so we'd like to send you a kind greeting from Taiwan! As you may know, this year is the Year of the Rooster. We collected a lot of cards with chickens and roosters. Ariel picked this one for you from her collection. We hope you like it! It is surprising that a four-year-old can be so obsessed with Postcrossing. She loves to receive postcards and always wants to write but yet she can't spell at all plus she doesn't speak English. We hope you have a wonderful summer.
I love it! A 4-year-old who digs postcards (and chickens). I'll be sending her a thank-you card from my collection of dandy original postcards by Ryan Conners, who has her own fair share of chicken portraits.

Postcard: Wood carriers of Amalfi

Labor Day Weekend Postcard Blogathon #3

Here's another postcard that was mailed — approximately 1,313 full moons ago — to Lizzie Williams of Newville, Pennsylvania. (Here's the other one to Lizzie.) This sepia-toned card is from the beautiful 6th century seaside town of Amalfi, Italy.1 Portatrici di legna translates to "wood carriers," which is certainly what the woman on the left is doing, quite impressively. She looks like she wants the photographer to hurry up and finish his business, so that she can be on her way.

This postcard was published by A. Fusco Dipino and was mailed with a red 10-centesimi (cent) stamp. The note reads:
Naples, July 7, 1911
Dear Sister,
We reached Naples Wednesday morning and since then I have visited the ruins of Pompeii and have gone to Capri and Sorrento. To-morrow afternoon I expect to start for Rome.

1. A bit of Amalfi history, from Wikipedia: "First mentioned in the 6th century, Amalfi soon afterwards acquired importance as a maritime power, trading grain from its neighbours, salt from Sardinia and slaves from the interior, and even timber, in exchange for the gold dinars minted in Egypt and Syria, in order to buy the Byzantine silks that it resold in the West. ... In medieval culture Amalfi was famous for its flourishing schools of law and mathematics. Flavio Gioia, traditionally considered the first to introduce the mariner's compass to Europe, is said to have been a native of Amalfi."

For another Papergreat post featuring Amalfi, check out "8 stupendo vintage postcards of Italy."

Vintage postcard of City Park in Reading, Pennsylvania

Labor Day Weekend Postcard Blogathon #2

This old postcard, printed on heavier-than-usual stock, is labeled "VIEW IN CITY PARK, READING, PA." It features well-dressed individuals sitting on benches, along a tree-shaded path. A park bench, with a nice book, seems like a good weekend spot for Labor Day Weekend 2017, don't you think?

City Park is, indeed, the full name of this location in Reading, and it still exists, under the guidance of the Reading Recreation Commission. It even has a Facebook page.1

This postcard is undated and was never used. It was published by the Mt. Penn Souvenir Card Company of Reading.

1. Some Facebook comments about the park:
  • "City Park is one of the jewels in the city. The Summer Concert series has proven that City Park is a beautiful venue. The basketball courts are home for many of the city youth in the Blacktop League. To stroll around the paths of the park and take in the beauty and the history of all the monuments is also a nice afternoon."
  • "This park used to have a castle until it deteriorated and had to be torn down. It also has a bunch of basketball courts for people who want to live out their hoop dreams."
  • "Homeless people were urinating in [the castle], doing drugs and leaving needles, bags, etc, and having sex and leaving 'debris' in it. That's why they tore it down! It reeked!"
  • "City park is a great place to sit and relax and reflect on the gift of life we're given."

Colorful illustration on 1926 Red Star Line postcard

Labor Day Weekend Postcard Blogathon #1

Happy September! I'll be celebrating Labor Day weekend by working five straight night shifts, starting tonight. Somebody has to put the "Labor" in Labor Day, I guess. And there are no days off, except for the occasional Christmas Day edition in some towns, from getting that morning newspaper onto your doorstep.1

But, although I'm working, I squirreled away a bunch of quickie postcard posts for your enjoyment. Don't expect any Woodward-and-Bernstein levels of research on these, just some quick vintage ephemera goodness to help you pass the time.

First up is this colorful illustration on a Red Star Line postcard that was mailed from Plymouth, England, in June 1926 with a red three-halfpence stamp.2 The Red Star Line was an American-Belgian ocean passenger line that was in business from 1871 to 1935 and later became the Holland America Line.

I found another occurence of this illustration on a 1927 Red Star Line breakfast menu that's featured on this Dutch-language blog. There's a Red Star Line Museum and website, if your curiosity is further piqued.

This postcard was mailed to Mrs. Lizzie Williams, Retired Merchant, in Newville, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. The note states:
Near Plymouth, England, June 19 / 26.
Dear Sister, - With the exception of fog we have had a good voyage and little excuse for sea sickness. These large ships are steady although all roll more or less especially in stormy weather. Love to all.

1. Actual doorstep not included.
2. But it's not the original Three Halfpence Red, which was issued during the 1870s.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Mystery photos: The Bow Tie Man and his family

These two found photographs — each with an image that measures just 3 inches across — have no names, dates or identifying information whatsoever. So all we're left with are the mystery and the questions. Both photos feature a man, wearing a striped dress shirt and a bow tie, and a young girl who we can probably assume is his daughter.

The first photo is on the steps of a house and also includes two young men who could be the Bow Tie Man's sons. The one sitting closest to him definitely bears a strong resemblance.

The second photo is inside, where there are some interesting furnishings. The girl (with her doll) is sitting on the man's lap and they are looking at a book. (Well, the man is looking at the book. The girl is, somewhat hauntingly, looking right at the unknown person wielding the camera.)

Here's a closer look at the man and the girl in each of the photos...

And those eyes...