Saturday, February 25, 2017

Two early 20th century firefighting postcards

Here are two vintage postcards with a firefighting theme.

The top postcard shows a half-dozen firefighters on the street, aiming their hoses toward a building that's on fire. The caption states: "Fighting Fire at close range." It was made in Germany and is part of the "New York Fire Fighters Series." There's a tiny logo on the back of the card, shown at right. This split-back postcard was never used or written on, and calls for a one-cent stamp for mailing to the United States, Canada or Mexico, and a two-cent stamp for all other countries.

The second postcard is labeled "GOING TO THE FIRE" and features a horse-drawn fire engine. Additional information on the front states: "1946 ILL. POST CARD CO., N.Y." That would be the Illustrated Post Card, which was in business from 1904 to 1914. Its logo — a bald eagle with a shield — appears on the back of this undivided postcard. According to
"This major publisher produced a wide variety of tinted halftone postcards in series that were printed by Emil Pinkau in Leipzig, Saxony. Each city or location of their color card sets were assigned the same number prefix. They also published an unnumbered series of chromolithographic fine art cards that were printed in Dresden. ... Their best known cards are from a very large set that captured scenes throughout the City of New York. ... In 1909 they stopped importing cards from Germany and began printing their own."
This card was never used either, though someone has scribbled some illegible words on the back, in pencil.

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Green baggage sticker for
Holland-America Line

This is an unused Holland-America Line baggage sticker that my great-grandmother placed in one of her scrapbooks. It's green, oval-shaped and measures 6.5 inches across, at its widest point. It includes spaces for the passenger's name, steamer, sailing date, room number and port of landing. Passengers could choose whether this piece of luggage was to be placed in their stateroom or in the baggage room, where access to it would be limited.

Here's a link to a rectangular version of essentially the same luggage label on

Holland America Line was a Dutch-owned shipping company from 1873 to 1989. It helped to bring many immigrants from the Netherlands to North America over the years, especially during the final two decades of the 19th century. Its transatlantic passenger service ended in the early 1970s, but it got new life in 1989 when the company was purchased by Carnival. Transatlantic cruises returned in 2011.

Holland America's newest passenger ship, the MS Koningsdam, is the fleet's largest ever and made its maiden voyage in April 2016.

Eye-catching dust jacket illustration by Ilonka Karasz

When browsing through some books at a sale in Lancaster last year, it was the dust jacket that caught my eye when I came upon this copy of 1945's The World, the Flesh and Father Smith, by Bruce Marshall.1 It's a well-reviewed and well-regarded novel — described as a slightly comic and poignant tale of a Catholic priest, spanning the first half of the 20th century in a small town in Scotland — but not really my cup of tea, reading-wise.

However, I love the dust jacket illustration, even with its chips and tears and ragged edges. It's the work of Ilonka Karasz (1896-1981), a Hungarian-born artist who immigrated to the United States in 1913 and created an amazing artistic legacy for herself.

Here are some facts about her, from Wikipedia and her obituary in The New York Times:

  • In 1914, Karasz, who was only about 18 at the time, co-founded the European-American artists' collective Society of Modern Art. For a few years in her late teens, she also taught textile design at the Modern Art School.
  • From the 1910s to the 1960s, her designs — inspired equally by folk art and modern art — found their way into textiles, wallpaper, rugs, ceramics, furniture, silverware and toys. She also illustrated children's books, including The Twelve Days of Christmas.
  • Karasz's textile work came for companies including Mallinson, Schumacher, Lesher-Whitman, DuPont-Rayon, Susquehanna Silk Mills, Standard Textile, and Belding Brothers. She was known as a pioneer of modern textile designs requiring the use of the Jacquard loom and became one of the few women to design textiles for airplanes and cars.
  • She began painting covers for The New Yorker in 1924 and continued up to 1973, creating a total of 186 covers. Most featured lively vignettes of daily life viewed from above and drawn using unusual color combinations.

I think the description of her covers for The New Yorker would also apply to her work on The World, the Flesh and Father Smith, though the latter is more subdued. You can check out some of Karasz's amazing (trust me) covers for The New Yorker, plus her other work, at the blog Fishink.2 For more about Karasz, you should also see this terrific 2010 post on a blog titled We Too Were Children, Mr. Barrie.

1. From the back-cover blurb: "Bruce Marshall is a dark, smiling man..."
2. Art prints of The New Yorker covers are available from Condé Nast.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Cool illustrations: The New Human Interest Library (Part 17)

This is the final post from "The Do-It-Yourself Book" portion of 1929's The New Human Interest Library, and we're going out with a bang, creating our own zoo. I believe that the creature on the far left is supposed to be a lion. And we are also presented with an illustration of a chicken facing off with a monkey — a duel that looks like a weird twist on Freddy vs. Jason.

Here are some excerpts from the text:

  • "They did not look much like animals then, but that was before they were touched and brought into shape by the wonderful fairies Needle and Thread."
  • "our fierce lion was a corner of fawn-colored, smooth-faced cloth from a tailor-made suit"
  • "our fat pig and dear little white bunny were odds and ends of eider-down"
  • "The best materials are tightly woven stuffs that are plain on one side and fluffy or shaggy on the other. Thin and loose cloths that easily fray are troublesome."
  • "Stuff always with unbleached wadding. A yard will fill three or four animals of 7 inches or 8 inches long and 4 inches or 5 inches in height."

Here's a closer look at this showdown, which involves either a very large chicken or a very small monkey...

Monday, February 20, 2017

1912 softball team at Miss Capen's School for Girls

I've already written about my great-grandmother, Greta Chandler, and her basketball exploits at West Chester Normal School, circa 1913. Now we have a photograph of Greta with her softball team, about one year earlier.

The only caption is "Capon School 1912." With a little help from Mom and some Google searching, the strong likelihood is that this is the softball team from Miss Capen's School for Girls in Northampton, Massachusetts. (Capon having been misspelled in the family album.)

Miss Capen's School was a preparatory school, run by Bessie T. Capen, connected with Smith College, and many (but not all) of its students went on to attend that college. It was originally known as The Burnham School, before Capen took over. It was closed in 1920, when Miss Capen died. Here's a little bit more about the school, clipped from 1915's A Handbook of the Best Private Schools of the United States and Canada, Volume 1.

There were at least two buildings associated with Capen's School. Both became parts of the Smith College campus after 1920.

Here's a closer look at the 1912 Capen's School softball team. Greta Chandler is in second row, the third person from the left.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

1940s comic postcard and "girls out for a whirl"

This illustrated postcard from the 1940s presents the comic cliché of the Beleaguered Husband and Domineering Wife.

He says, "I'm going to have pneumonia, Toots!"

She replies, "You'll have nothing till I've had a new hat!"

(I can't help but be reminded of the piles of old hat boxes we brought out of the attic and master bedroom of the house on Oak Crest Lane — the longtime residence of my great-grandparents, Greta and Howard.)

This card was postmarked on May 20, 1942, in Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania. It was mailed to Mr. and Mrs. Jake Echan of Union, New Jersey (who also turned up in this February 3 post). This cursive message states:
Hello Folks
Here we are just a couple of girls out for a whirl. And what a place to find it. The best we did was soldiers on the train.
Best Regards from us
Cecilia & Carmen

Cool illustrations: The New Human Interest Library (Part 16)

Dollhouse decorating has been one of the under-served content areas on Papergreat over the years. To help remedy that situation, here are some illustrated instructions on making dollhouse curtains from Page 127 of 1929's The New Human Interest Library. (We're still in "The Do-It-Yourself Book.")

The one-room dollhouse itself had been described earlier in the book, in great detail. These instructions further tell us that "the material for the curtains may be of any thin material, as dotted Swiss or curtain scrim."

No credit is provided for this nicely lettered info-graphic. Note the overlapping O's. I wonder if that was a special touch that the artist employed often, as a kind of calling card.