Friday, February 3, 2017

Science-fiction book cover: "The War Against the Rull"

(Note: This cover has a significant tear on the right-hand side that has been addressed with clear tape. But I think that just adds to its "character," in the same way that the old price sticker enhanced The Memory Bank last week.)

  • Title: The War Against the Rull
  • Cover blurb: "A fascinating novel of galactic peril and adventure"
  • Author: A.E. van Vogt (1912-2000)
  • Cover illustrator: Uncertain (see below)
  • Publisher: A Permabook edition published by Pocket Books (M-4263)
  • Date of publication: 1962
  • Price: 35 cents
  • Pages: 187
  • Format: Paperback
  • Excerpt from back-cover blurb: "A Rull, you see, can change its outward appearance at will, so that even your closest friend or most trusted colleague may suddenly turn out to be a spy in disguise."
  • First sentence: As the spaceship vanished into the steamy mists of Eristan II, Trevor Jamieson drew his gun.
  • Last sentence: While these matters developed, the galactic-wide Rull-human war ended.
  • Thanks for the spoiler alert: Sorry.
  • Random sentence from middle: From the causeway Diddy looked down at a dimly glowing world of huge, cubelike structures.
  • There's a character named Diddy? Yes.

  • Other character names: Commander McLennan, Ira Clugy, Peter Clugy, and a love interest named Veda who is described as "a woman of intense emotion."
  • Notes: This novel, originally published in hardcover in 1959, combines six short stories that were originally published in Astounding Science Fiction with two new connecting chapters. ... Goodreads reviewer Brian Schwartz, while giving the book 3 stars (out of 5), writes:
    "It is quite easy to tell where the seams are. Van Vogt put little effort into the rewrite to concoct a novel from these unconnected stories. What emerges is a disjointed, difficult to follow tale with no character development or arc and no real plot line. Van Vogt's penchant for doing fix up novels, some would argue, reduced his standing in the science fiction community. Those readers new to Van Vogt's work might pick up one of these fix up novels and wonder how this man ever got published."
    ... I love the cover of this paperback, though. It has a bit of Saul Bass flair to it. There is no official agreement on the artist, but some have suggested it was done by Science Fiction Hall of Fame illustrator Richard M. Powers (1921-1996). Others strongly disagree that it was Powers. So I guess we'll never know for sure. ... This cover has its critics, some of whom call it lazy and abstract. But I like it because it captures that feel of 1950s/1960s pulp science fiction. And I'll take those covers any day over the crap that started showing up on genre paperbacks from the mid-1970s onward.

Messages on two old postcards

This postcard shows Abriendo Plaza and the "opening ceremony at the bull fight, Tijuana B.C. Mexico." There's a yellow advertisement along the fence for a company that appears to be called FOTOMANTEL. Also, I should note that the white circle along the bottom of the image is NOT part of the original postcard. It's a blemish (paint? white-out?) that was introduced to the postcard long ago.

The stamp has been removed and the postmark is unreadable. But we do know that the card was mailed to Mr. William Midura of Irving Street in Rahway, New Jersey. William's wife, Mary, died in 2011 at age 92, and her obituary says she was predeceased by him. You can see photos of William and Mary at this Dignity Memorial page.

The message on this card, written in cursive, states:
Hello Willy,
Well believe it or not I am in Mexico now. Will be heading for Jersey soon. This is a swell place.
So Long,

And this second card is a linen postcard that has been copyrighted by Fred Noma. It's labeled "New Rainbow Bridge, Niagara Falls, N.Y." That iconic span is officially called the Niagara Falls International Rainbow Bridge, and it cost $4 million and opened in November 1941. If you're a passenger in a car crossing the Rainbow Bridge, you have a fairly stunning view of Niagara Falls.

This postcard was postmarked on July 6, 1944, in Niagara Falls, New York, and it was mailed with the green, 1-cent Four Freedoms stamp.

The addressees appear to be Mr. and Mrs. Jake Echan of Winthrop Road in Union, New Jersey. And here's the note:
Dear Folks—
I suppose by now you understand what we're doing here.
It's all so strange at first, but I guess we'll get used to it.
Best regards,
Leo & Emma
It's also possible that "Leo" is "Les". Either way, I'm wondering if this should be spelled e-l-o-p-e.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Cool illustrations: The New Human Interest Library (Part 15)

(Full disclosure: I wouldn't quite call this image "cool.")

Today's illustration is from Page 111 of 1929's The New Human Interest Library and, oddly, it's in a section titled "Refinishing Furniture." The image is headlined "THE WORLD AT WORK TO FILL A PAINT-BOX"...

The caption states: "All over the world men work hard in order to fill this little girl's paint box. Here, reading from left to right, we see men collecting ivory for black, insect-cells for crimson lake, resin for gamboge, cochineal for carmine, the indigo plant for indigo, the madder for brown, iron and potassium for Prussian blue, cuttlefish for sepia, earth for sienna, mercury for vermillion, and mineral for ultramarine."

That's a lot of bugs and plants and minerals and fish being used to make various historic colors. But the worst part, of course, is ivory black. It is a black pigment for painting that was made from bone char and has been used over the centuries by artists including Rembrandt, Velázquez, Manet and Picasso. It was made by grinding charred ivory, from elephant tusks, in oil.

Today, the color is more commonly termed bone black, and its manufacturers, from what I understand, have long since switched from ivory to "left over" animal bones. Meanwhile, some humane black pigments include Lamp Black, Vine Black and Mars Black. There is also Vantablack, but Sir Anish Kapoor is the only artist who is allowed to use that.

Monday, January 30, 2017

In which "Mark Felt" solves many, many Papergreat mysteries

Five days ago, I began receiving a flood of Anonymous comments on old Papergreat posts. They are tremendous comments — adding more history about the ephemera and the real people behind the ephemera, solving tough mysteries and providing smart depth to the original posts. A couple of days into this unexpected and unusual bounty of feedback, I asked if my mysterious benefactor would reveal herself or himself. This is the response that I received: "It's my pleasure. My name is Mark Felt -- or maybe it isn't. As a student of history, you will understand the reference."

Indeed. Mark Felt (1913-2008) was a longtime FBI special agent and Deputy Director who, a few years before his death, admitted — confirming decades of speculation — that he was Watergate whistleblower known as "Deep Throat."

So Papergreat has its own secret informant! And I didn't even need to travel to a parking garage in Rosslyn, Virginia, to get all of this great information.

So, without further ado, here are all the comments that Anonymous has gifted to Papergreat since January 25...

Saturday's postcards: Two greetings from 100+ years ago (originally posted July 21, 2012)

Anonymous writes: It appears that Wesley Swartley, Jr. met a sad and untimely passing, as described in the Indiana Gazette on October 9, 1946:

Chris says: To back up a little bit, the postcard originally featured was postmarked in 1908 and sent to Wesley K. Swartley, who was born in 1899. So his son is Wesley Swartley Jr., and this is the grim newspaper excerpt from 1946 that Anonymous discovered:
School Boy Suffocates
NORRISTOWN, Pa., Oct. 9 — Wesley Swartley, Jr., 17 year old Norristown High School pupil, was found dead Monday and his parents unconscious in their first floor apartment, apparent suffocation victims. John C. Simpson, coroner's physician, described the death of Swartley as accidental. His parents, Wesley, 47, and Catherine, 42, are in Montgomery County Hosptal. They were found by Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Singleton, occupants of a second floor apartment. The elder Swartleys, fully clothed, were on a bed, beneath which a dog was lying dead. The youth was on a couch in the living room. Dr. Simpson said he believed a lighted gas heater in the cellar and burners in the kitchen exhausted the oxygen content of the air in the apartment.
I can't find any definitive source or obituary regarding the ultimate fate of the parents, after they were hospitalized in the wake of this heartbreaking incident. I did find one passing reference to Wesley K. Swartley Sr. dying in 1974, but couldn't confirm that with any cross-checking.

* * *

1911 postcard: "Wish we were playmates again" (originally posted July 31, 2016)

Anonymous writes: Lillian's last name was "Voezel":

* * *

Cartoon postcard from Germany featuring gondola lift and goat (originally published July 28, 2016)

Anonymous writes: Translation: "With singing and yodel-a-hee-hoo,
the cable car goes to the top.
Up there, there is beer and cheese*.
'To your health!' I'll drink a** tankard."

*The German word for "cheese" is "Käse". In this instance, however, the Dutch monosyllabic equivalent "Kaas" was used, as that rhymes with the German "Maß" (a "tankard" or "measure" -- basically, a mug for beer).

**The singular feminine indefinite article in German is the disyllabic "eine". Here the monosyllabic contraction "'ne" was used to maintain rhythm.

The character in red is sitting next to a sign which reads "Do not lean out" (which is exactly what he is doing). On his shirt is written "ski school".

At the front of the funicular is a sign which reads "mountain station".

* * *

Hoover Dam and a reminder to always use ZIP codes (originally published April 29, 2016)

Anonymous writes: Carl Palm passed away on New Year's Day of 1974:

I should add that the township near the dam -- Boulder City, to be specific -- is just one of two places in Nevada where gambling is prohibited.

The other is the hamlet of Panaca (population 963) along the eastern border of the state, near Utah -- as in fact, Panaca was part of Utah until 1866, thus explaining the ascetic ways of its inhabitants, even to this day.

I learned all this when I was serving as a Sarbanes-Oxley audit director on behalf of a major gaming client in Nevada over a year ago.

* * *

Celebrating Earth Day 2016 with 6 awe-inspiring vintage postcards (originally published April 22, 2016)

Anonymous writes (with regard to the postcard pictured here): The artery running along the left side of the picture is Sunset Boulevard. To the right is the 101 (Hollywood) freeway. The angle of view is toward the south (more or less).

The four-level freeway structure appears to be in place, which means no earlier than 1953.

The tallest building in the photo appears to be City Hall (the obelisk-shaped structure behind the letter "S" in "THOSE"). Since the first building to surpass City Hall (namely the Union Bank building) was built in 1968-1969 -- and judging from the use of the slang term "DIG" and the drawing of the airplane -- this card probably originates from the 60's.

* * *

Partially deciphering a "Buttonwood Farm" postcard from 1913 (originally published April 13, 2016)

Anonymous writes: 1. March 23, 1913 was a Sunday; less likely to be postmarked on the Sabbath. January 23, 1913 (a Thursday) may be more likely.

2. Here is information about the graves of Fred and Bessie Santee (with a notation of their daughter Nellie):

3. Per the above, there were three children (not just one).

* * *

Mystery vintage postcard: "Haunted House" near Delaware, Ohio (originally published October 29, 2016)

Anonymous writes: Have a read:

Details on the O'Shaughnessy Dam are posted here:'Shaughnessy_Dam_(Ohio)

Chris says: The first link from Anonymous, definitely worth a read for ghost enthusiasts, takes you to a book titled Ohio Ghost Hunter Guide V: A Haunted Hocking Ghost Hunter Guide, which was written by Jannette Rae Quackenbush and published in 2014.

* * *

1918 postcard: "That Nightmare Sure Was A Horse On Me" (originally published October 26, 2016)

Anonymous writes: Al (Albert) Guffey was born on September 27, 1910, near Callao, Missouri (which is about 73 miles from Nettleton, Missouri).

At the time the post card was sent, Al would have been just over seven years old, which is consistent with the handwriting of Marvin, presumably a friend and contemporary of Al's.

Al moved to California and raised a family. He died in 1990.


* * *

A different Madison Square Garden, many moons ago (originally published July 15, 2016)

Anonymous writes: "Herbert Hall picked a blue violet in South Windham [Vermont] Oct. 10 [1917]."

Source (top of the middle column, below "About the State"):

* * *

Cool stuff in the mailbox this week from Postcrossing (originally published March 26, 2016)

Anonymous writes: The stamp from Belarus is Universal Postal Union code BY001.15. The horizontal text reads: "Architectural Monuments of Capitals [or perhaps 'the Capital']". The vertical text reads: "Church of Saints Simon and Helena".


* * *

Postcard of Harrisburg (with a minor mystery) mailed in 1922 (originally published March 20, 2016)

Anonymous writes: Here's a modern photo from the same angle. Copy it before it disappears from Pinterest:

True to your word, the obelisk is not in evidence.

Chris says: OK, here's the modern image.

* * *

1910 postcard of Rocky Springs Park in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (originally published March 12, 2016)

Anonymous writes: It's just plain ol' "Hope". See page 132:

Chris says: Indeed. I overthought it in trying to figure out the cursive writing. My guesses of Heopa, Heapa and Heoka were way off. It's just plain old Hope.

* * *

Dramatic postcard featuring a dragon and a ghost [help needed] (originally published September 29, 2016)

Anonymous writes: Translation:

"The Manifestation of Shichi-Menten.

For nine years, the great priest had been preaching to his acolytes. During that time, a lone woman would always sit quietly and listen. The woman was, in actuality, the Daija-Snake who had lived for ages in the great mountain. The great priest, knowing of this, preached to this woman regarding enlightenment, and just then, the woman appeared in her snake form and vowed to act as a protector goddess of the mountain. 'Lady Shichi Menten' is that woman."


The story appears to be the origin story of a demigod within the pantheon of Nichiren-shu, a Buddhist sect in Japan (which I believe also has New Age-type followers in the U.S.). There are references to a mountain, which is likely meant to mean the location of the Nichiren-shu main temple/headquarters. The Japanese actually says "this mountain", which suggests that the document is something given to visitors to that temple itself. One educated guess is that the document is a little information pamphlet given to tourists who visited the temple. Some of the kanji characters, and the hiragana written to the side of those characters, are slightly archaic, suggesting that the document is fifty or a hundred years old (or more), or that perhaps the use was intentionally archaic to give it a more regal air (similar to using "thee" or "shalt" when quoting from the Bible).

Additional note from Anonymous: This ... took quite a bit of work and assistance from my brother, who is a Japanese language expert and was a multi-year expatriate in Tokyo.

* * *

Postcard from more than 100 years ago: I'm off (for home) (originally published July 11, 2014)

Anonymous writes: This card was manufactured by the Detroit firm of Ely, Boynton, and Ely ("E.B.&E."), which was only in operation from 1903 to 1908 -- helping you to place the age of this card. Source:

EB&E produced all manner of cards, buttons, and other advertising paraphernalia, some of it considered insensitive by modern standards -- for example, see p. 550 of this book:,+Boynton,+and+Ely&source=bl&ots=ctwEbH8xOT&sig=qr639oBj_dsRXI8OCXufJg5EC5E&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjMwICP_uLRAhWCgFQKHSktA1gQ6AEIKzAE#v=onepage&q=Ely%2C%20Boynton%2C%20and%20Ely&f=false

Edward A. Ely passed away in December of 1905, likely contributing to the untimely demise of the firm. Source:

* * *

Notes, scribbles and doodles on the back of an old postcard (originally published November 18, 2015)

Anonymous writes: The scribbled/doodled postcard leads down many tangents:

Other members of the Thevenet family also lived at 371 Seymour Avenue, including Clarence S. Thevenet, whose radio license (with the same address) was recognized on p. 6 of the "Radio Service Bulletin" dated January 1, 1917. Source:

Clarence was two and a half years older than Mabel (to whom the postcard was addressed). Sources:

-- and --

Thus, given the proximity in age and the same address, we might conclude that Mabel and Clarence were siblings.

Fortunately, a granddaughter of Clarence (and presumably a great niece of Mabel), named Alana Thevenet, is a genealogist, and may be able to shed light on these and other family members. If you wish, feel free to e-mail Alana at the address provided here:

No doubt Alana would be overjoyed to see the scan of this postcard at your site.

Interesting: Alana's grandparents on the other side of her family lived right down the street at 139 Seymour Avenue. Source:

Finally, Clarence later served in naval communications during World War II. Source:

Clarence died just a few years later (1946). Rest in peace.

* * *

Postcard: Wishing Thoma a Merry Christmas in 1913 (originally published December 10, 2011)

Anonymous writes: The Harrisburg Telegraph of April 29, 1918, shows a photograph of a Paul W. Miller, son of Mr. and Mrs. H. J. Miller, at the same address (610 Schuylkill Street). Source:

According to the Evening News of Harrisburg dated September 2, 1918, Paul W. Miller was a lieutenant. Source:

The property at 610 Schuylkill Street was a three-story brick building. Source:

Numerous sites list other owners over the year. There was a chimney fire there in 1933, when the property was owned by a J. D. Brightbill:

Google Earth, Realty Trac, and similar sites seem to show that the property is now gone.

This does not solve the mystery of who Thoma (or Thomas) J. Miller was. The fact that "Mr. and Mrs." is not listed in the address suggests that Anna's grandmother may have predeceased her grandfather.

Who Anna was is even more of a mystery.

* * *

Illustrated postcard mailed in 1907 and a bat stamp from Latvia (originally published August 18, 2013)

Anonymous writes: V.O.H.P. = V.O. Hammon Publishing Company. Source:

Address: 215 Wabash Avenue, Chicago, IL and Minneapolis, MN. Source:

* * *

Three Earth- and space-themed vintage QSL cards (originally published July 2, 2013)

Anonymous writes: The second of the three QSL cards is better described as a "shortwave listener card" ("SWL card") rather than a true QSL (verification) card: SWL's only listen; they do not transmit, and thus they can not verify a transmission.

SWL "call signs" are not issued by any governmental agency and carry no legal weight. Nonetheless, some SWL's go through the motions of "applying" for a unique call sign -- see:

The call sign ("SWL/W1") on the second card posted above is rather generic; for example, compare (but do not contrast):

Much has been written about the demise of international shortwave broadcasting since the end of the cold war and the rise of the Internet. Former powerhouses such as BBC, Radio Moscow, and VOA have stopped broadcasting to the United States or have ceased their transmissions entirely.

In fact, Radio Australia is about to become the latest international broadcaster to leave the shortwaves: 73's ["Best wishes" or "Goodbye"] in just a few days (January 31 of this year):

Chris says: And that will do it. Thank you so much, Anonymous/Mark Felt, for all of these comments, insights and links to help set the record straight on a bevy of Papergreat posts. It's greatly appreciated. This also makes you an absolute lock for landing the prestigious 2017 Papergreat Summer Internship, if you wish to apply. ;)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

1940: Join the My Weekly Reader Adventure Club

This subscription form appears on the back page (Page 4) of the June 10-14, 1940, edition of My Weekly Reader, Playtime Edition A.

This was a summer newspaper, intended for home delivery to children ages 6 through 8. There was also an Edition B, for ages 9 through 12. A subscription cost 50 cents, and it could be paid in coins, stamps, check or money order.

This subscription form encouraged young readers to get their friends to sign up, too, and offered a little prize if they did:
"DO YOU WANT to win a free Adventure Club button? You can win one, if you get one or more of your friends to subscribe to PLAYTIME WEEKLY READER. Show this copy of the paper to your friends and ask them to subscribe."
The version of Weekly Reader/My Weekly Reader that was published during the school year existed from 1928 through 2012. Its founder was teacher Eleanor Johnson, who has some important ties right here in York, Pennsylvania. This excerpt is from her 1987 obituary in The Washington Post:
Miss Johnson said she began developing the concept of a weekly news publication for the classroom because she felt children needed a more realistic view of the world's people and events than they were getting.

"I was an assistant superintendent of schools in York, Pa.," Miss Johnson said in a 1978 interview printed in The Washington Post. "I saw that children were being given a lot of myths and folklore to read but were utterly illiterate about what was happening in the world."

She said the idea for a weekly newspaper tailored to the needs of schoolchildren simmered for a full year before she met William C. Blakey, publisher of the American Education Press in Columbus, Ohio, in the summer of 1928. She told him about her idea, and he liked it.

"On a blistering Sunday in August we met in the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago and on the same day we mapped out policy and framework and format," Miss Johnson said in the 1978 interview. "A month later, he started putting {the Weekly Reader} out."

Miss Johnson returned to her job in York, but she advised members of Blakey's staff on how to write for the new publication and supplied them with model issues for guidance and a workbook that she had developed.
I'm not sure how long the summer Playtime Edition lasted. It might have been difficult for it to be financially viable when it was depending on the support of schoolchildren, rather than schools, for subscriptions. The issue that this advertisement is from is marked as Vol. IX, No. 1. Articles and features include:

  • An article on the annual Folk Song Festival in the mountains of Kentucky.1
  • An essay on the adventures you can have in your backyard by examining bugs, squirrels, clouds and more
  • A short story about a circus parade
  • A short story about a cowboy
  • Riddles2
  • A crossword picture puzzle
  • A contest asking kids to draw a "topsy-turvy" animal, such as a "cat-duck"

Related post
1957 issue of Senior Scholastic magazine

1. Photo footnote:

Read more about Jean Thomas on Wikipedia.

2. One of the riddles is: What bird tells what Will's father does when Will is a bad boy? Answer: Whippoorwill. NOT COOL, WEEKLY READER.