Friday, August 18, 2017

LibrarianShipwreck and the final word on statues and history

The LibrarianShipwreck Twitter account (@libshipwreck) is one of the arms of the LibrarianShipwreck website, which describes itself as follows:
At its founding, LibrarianShipwreck was intended “as a resource, soapbox, forum, and gutter for those interested in the future of librarianship. Amongst our interests are libraries, archives, activism, radical librarianship, history, technology, cats, sweater vests, and other fascinating things. We hope to rile you up.”

Since then (as the site’s actual content makes obvious) the main topics of the site have become focused primarily on technology, critical theory, and impending doom. This may or may not be a result of the fact that one of the main authors on the site may or may not be pursuing a PhD in the history of technology.

You may or may not like what you find written here.
In the wake of the national events and conversation of the past week, the LibrarianShipwreck Twitter account posted a series of sarcastic, edgy — and, frankly, perfect — tweets in response to the claim, by some, including the President of the United States, that statues, no matter the subject, have a crucial educational value.

Here is the first response tweet from LibrarianShipwreck, followed by the entire "Twitter Essay" compiled and saved for posterity. (It's not going to be easy to find the good stuff when the Library of Congress is literally saving everything.)

As a historian the hardest part of my job is that I am constantly building statues, as statues are the only way people learn about history.

Little known fact, but most of what you learn when you pursue a PhD in history is actually just how to build and install statues.

Just the other day I was discussing dissertation ideas with my advisor and she said "pick a different topic, there isn't a statue of this."

The phrase "pre-history" derives from a German word meaning "periods of history that didn't leave statues behind so who knows what happened"

Last year I did a ton of archival research only to have a conference reject my paper for: "failure to cite a statue."

Harsh but fair!

How do we know that Don Quixote & Rocky are real historic figures, and not fictional characters?
Easy: because there are statues of them!

How do historians know that F. Kafka's father was a terrifying headless monster & that Franz rode on his shoulders?
Because of the statue!

There are some who ask "which came first: the history or the statue?"
But those people are philosophers and you should probably ignore them.

Some argue that you can learn about history from books & other non-statue materials. But who has ever heard of learning from a book? No one!

If a statue comes down it becomes impossible to know what happened in the past. No historian will dare make a claim without statue evidence.

Don't we all know the famed adage: "if you want to be remembered, do something important - but also build a statue of it"? We do!

Historians have been calling for a return to "statue based" education for years, but skills like "looking at statues" have been devalued.

In conclusion: taking down statues permanently alters the space-time continuum (unless you build a statue of the other statue coming down).

How do historians know that F. Kafka's father was a terrifying headless monster & that Franz rode on his shoulders?
Because of the statue!

Partial mystery photo: Three women in Atlantic City, New Jersey

This old family photograph is the same size and thickness as a real photo postcard, and I suspect that's what it is. But there is no printing or stamp box or publisher's mark on the back of the card.

The writing on the back was done by a relative. It states: "Mary Casey Chandler in middle in Atlantic City."

So, we know one of the three women. Mary Casey Chandler (1872-1929), an Alabama native, was the second wife of my great-great-grandfather, Lilburn Chandler (1858-1948). The would have been married sometime after December 1913, when Helen Gregg Simmons Chandler, Lilburn's first wife and the mother of their three children, died.

The three women are sitting in an Atlantic City Boardwalk wicker rolling chair. You can see photos of similar ones here and here.

And, for important context, you might want to check out the Tradition of Excellence blog post titled "African-American workers were key to Atlantic City’s success, new book argues" and the photo below, which accompanies it.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Three outfits from the early 1970s that I wish I could wear this Fall

I was so much more fashionable in the early 1970s. Think of how much of a show-stopper I'd be if I had grown-up versions of these amazing outfits.

Also, I want to ride that tricycle to work every day.

Our family's funniest member

My Uncle Charles is probably the funniest member of my extended family. It's from him that I first learned of Fawlty Towers many years ago, so that's probably sufficient proof right there of his excellent comedic taste.1

As I go through all the family papers, there's a lot of stuff that just makes my eyes glaze over. But there are some funny bits, too. Like this typed note from my uncle. There's no date, but it's probably circa 1958-1962. The "Grandma" in this instance would be Greta Chandler Adams, who I've written a few posts about.2

To the best of my knowledge, Greta's boat did not sink.

1. When it comes specifically to puns, however, my dad will always be No. 1.
2. More about world traveler and sports standout Greta Chandler Adams:

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

"The play's the thing / Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king"

This old photograph shows my grandmother, Helen Chandler Adams Ingham, with her fellow actors in the 1942 cast of Heidi at the Players Club in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. The Players Club of Swarthmore was founded in November 1911 and has a storied history; it is still going strong today, and it is currently advertising its summer children's theater production of Freckleface Strawberry: The Musical. Its 2017-18 season is set to include Chicago, The Little Mermaid and Little Shop of Horrors, among other productions.

A funny thing about this photo, other than the live goat, is that I couldn't immediately identify my grandmother. She would have been about 23 years old at the time. After some thorough study and process of elimination, I am now 99.5% sure I have spotted her. She's the lady on the far left, fairly close to the goat, in the cropped segment of the photo shown below.

I don't know which character from Heidi that would have been. It looks like she was playing someone a bit older than she actually was. Beembom had range!

The bigger photograph at the top of the post is more enjoyable if you click on it, zoom in and check out all the faces and costumes of 75 years ago.

One of the reasons I wanted to share this photo is because it's been quite the summer of theater for the family.

Ashar (right) made his Shakespearean stage debut by playing, in excellent fashion, the role of Trinculo in a local summer-camp production of The Tempest. It's a bit of a comic-relief role, perfect for him, and he was perfect in it.

The play was staged in a barn, and Trinculo has a long speech upon his first entrance, of which this is an excerpt:
I do now let loose
my opinion; hold it no longer: this is no fish,
but an islander, that hath lately suffered by a
Alas, the storm is come again! my best way is to
creep under his gaberdine; there is no other
shelter hereabouts: misery acquaints a man with
strange bed-fellows. I will here shroud till the
dregs of the storm be past.
At his first performance, almost precisely on cue, an actual thunderclap sounded above the barn at the point in the speech where [Thunder] is noted in the script. It was, to use a non-Shakespearean term, amazeballs.

Our Summer of Theater has also included attending local performances of Antigone and The Taming of the Shrew. For this autumn, to follow up on his role as Trinculo, Ashar is trying out for small roles in both Antony and Cleopatra and a stage adaptation of Frankenstein.

And, to keep up the momentum, I have also put together a list of Shakespeare or Shakespeare-inspired movies that I believe Ashar would enjoying watching. We're looking forward to these:

  • Hamlet (1996)
  • Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (1990)
  • Much Ado About Nothing (1993)
  • 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) [basically The Taming of the Shrew]
  • Forbidden Planet (1956) [inspired by The Tempest]
  • Ran (1985) [King Lear, set in medieval Japan]
  • West Side Story (1961) [a musical version of Romeo and Juliet]
What's your favorite Shakespeare movie? Share it in the comments.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

DC Comics in 1973: "You will receive 15 consecutive issues for $3.00!"

This advertisement hails from the November/December 1973 issue of DC Comics' "Sword of Sorcery."1 Those were certainly the days! You could get, via National Periodical Publications, a 15-issue mail subscription to DC books such as Batman, Wonder Woman and Shazam for just $3.00. That worked out to just 20 cents per issue, which was the newsstand cover price. Which means postage and handling was free. Which was a pretty great deal, right?

Adjusted for inflation, a comic book that was 20 cents in 1973 should cost just $1.10 today. But most issues from DC and Marvel these days cost $3.99, which represents a pretty big spike and, some argue, has made comics much less of an affordable gateway to reading for kids than they were decades ago. The math doesn't seem to lie, in that respect.2

It's interesting to see the range of DC titles from 44 years ago. There was a whole series of Superman-related titles, including separate books for Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. The latter was officially titled "Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen." According to Wikipedia, "when Jack Kirby began working at DC in 1970, he insisted on this title [Jimmy Olsen] since it was the lowest selling in the publishing line and without assigned talent at the time so he would not cost someone their job. During his run, Kirby introduced many memorable characters, notably the Fourth World's New Gods, Darkseid, Project Cadmus and Transilvane."

Also on the list of comics in this advertisement is "Mister Miracle," a Kirby comic that lasted just 18 issues and would vanish after its February/March 1974 issue.3 "Mister Miracle" has gotten a revival this month in the talented hands of Tom King, Mitch Gerads and Clayton Cowles. I highly recommend the first issue, if you're looking for something with some depth and mystery of storytelling.

DC was also still abundant in horror, romance and war titles in 1973, as you can see from the above list. The mystery/horror books ran especially deep, with the likes of Ghosts, House of Mystery, House of Secrets, Phantom Stranger, The Unexpected, The Witching Hour, The Demon, Forbidden Tales of the Dark Mansion, Secrets of Sinister House and Weird Mystery Tales.

Wow! Now I kind of want to go back and check some of those out. It will probably cost me more than 20 cents an issue, though.

1. "Sword of Sorcery" featured the Fritz Leiber characters Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. It ran for just five issues. On, an unofficial DC Comics fan-run magazine, David Luhn wrote the following about the series:
"Sword Of Sorcery began with much fanfare, expectation, and anticipation. With an incredible talent base and a large public wave of interest in this genre, DC Comics looked to cash in. Marvel Comics had proven viability with Robert E. Howard's Conan The Barbarian, a very successful comic book. DC chose to adapt Fritz Leiber's stories of Fafhrd The Barbarian and The Gray Mouser. After a back-door introduction in Wonder Woman 202, the first official issue of Sword Of Sorcery debuted in early 1973. But, after a fantastic beginning in issues 1 through 3, and a promise of real development in issues 4 and 5, Sword Of Sorcery was abruptly canceled. ... [O]nly five issues. However, these are five exceptional issues. This was a truly inspired project that was never fully realized and canceled prematurely. And what did I tell you about that talent base? If you can find 'em, get them. You won't be disappointed."
Luhn details those five issues in his fully essay, which you should check out if you're interested.
2. Here's just one of the myriad articles on this topic. It's a Newsarama article by Vaneta Rogers titled "What Price Is Too High? Comics Retailers Talk Pricing & 2017 State of the Business."
3. That makes me wonder what happened with those $3.00 subscriptions when a book was cancelled before 15 new issues had been published.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Putting a basket on your head is as good a plan as any these days

I think we've all had this feeling at times, especially here in 2017 and especially on Mondays.1

This 3-inch-by-4½-inch Victorian trade card has had its borders trimmed a bit. It serves as an advertisement for both Dr. Jayne's Tonic Vermifuge (for various ailments) and Dr. Jayne's Carminative, for a host of "bowel complaints." A carminative is a drug that is intended to relieve flatulence.2

Dr. David Jayne was born in Pennsylvania (of course) around 1799, and you can read more about him here.

Here's an excerpt from the tiny type on the back of the trade card. The full back is shown below.
One the other side we present you with a copy of Schl√©singer's beautiful picture, entitled, "Le Derni√®re Mode," — meaning in plain English, "The Latest Fashion." The young girl having adjusted the basket to her own satisfaction, seems by the archness of her expression to inquire, "How do you like it?" This is the sixth of our Album Series, and we trust will be as favorably received and appreciated as the preceding issues.

We would now call your attention to the value, as a Tonic and Dyspeptic Remedy, particularly for grown persons, of Dr. Jayne's Tonic Vermifuge. For the varied and distressing symptoms of that wide-spread complaint, Dyspepsia, it is an excellent curative, and if taken in small doses after each meal, (using the Sanative Pills when required,) it will gradually restore the disgestive organs to a healthy condition. Whoever is afflicted by a debilitated system, or oppressed with languor, will find it an entirely safe and practical medicine.
Here is an index of this series of Dr. Jayne trade cards.

1. "Uh oh. It looks like somebody’s got a case of the Mondays."
2. Or, as Ashar and I would say, "tooting."

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Vintage book cover:
"A Cruise in the Sky"

  • Title: A Cruise in the Sky
  • Alternate Title: The Legend of the Great Pink Pearl
  • Series: The Aeroplane Boys Series (#5 out of 8)
  • Author: Harry Lincoln Sayler (1863-1913), writing under the pen name Ashton Lamar
  • Illustrator: S.H. Riesenberg
  • Publisher: The Reilly & Britton Company (Chicago)
  • Original price: 60 cents
  • Year of publication: 1911
  • Pages: 218
  • Format: Hardcover
  • First sentence: All afternoon the train had been following the picturesque shore of the Indian River, in Florida.
  • Unfortunate random sentence from middle: "Tell the great thief Cajou that the white man brings death."
  • Last paragraph: Tearing it open, a narrow strip of blue paper dropped in Andy's hands. It read: "Royal Bank of Nassau. Pay to Andrew Leighton or order £1,000. Monckton Bassett."
  • Notes: The odd cover illustration seems to show a combination of a bird and an airplane. This might refer to the "Bird of Death" that comes into play as part of the book's narrative. ... Author Harry Lincoln Sayler was a newspaperman who wrote several series of juvenile fiction and was an expert on pirates. His other pen names were Elliott Whitney and Gordon Stuart. ... The first page of Chapter I features this cursive gift inscription: "Lee M. Brosius, Xmas 1918 from Mrs. Gast [?]." ... If you are interested in juvenile series about flying airplanes, you might want to read Boys’ Books, Boys’ Dreams, and the Mystique of Flight, a 2006 book by Fred Erisman. Here's an excerpt from the book's description: "In this first comprehensive study of the more than forty boys’ aviation series, Erisman reveals the part played by the books and their writers in spurring the American nation’s fascination with flying. ... [T]he books communicated a steadfast vision of the liberating, exhilarating world that flying offered every boy. More than that, they conveyed as well a glimpse of the better world that would come as air-mindedness and aviation worked their uplifting influence on the larger community."

Check out more aviation-themed vintage covers in this post from two months ago.

1909 postcard: Balloon at the Merchant's Picnic in Hanover, Pa.

Here's a fun one...

This black-and-white postcard was postmarked on August 19, 1909, in York, Pennsylvania — nearly 1,300 full moons ago.1 It was mailed to Mr. George Williams in Newville, Cumberland County. The cursive message on the back states:
Suppose you wonder why we did not come to-day but the lady that promised to keep house for me could not come & one of my boarders has taken sick so it was impossible for me to get away. Am very much disappointed. Hope to see you all sometime again.
Sister Emma

The postcard photograph was taken by Swords Bros. & White, which was based in Hanover. No publisher is listed for the card, though.

The image, featuring a large crowd and what looks like a hot-air balloon with the words "HAPPY DAY" printed on the side, is titled "Merchant's Picnic, Eichelberger Park, Hanover, Pa."

It looks like this big summer event started in 1906. Here's an article from The Baltimore Sun on August 12, 1908, and refers to that year's event as the "third annual":
The Big Picnic.
Hanover, Pa., Aug. 11 — This town was closed tighter today than on Sundays. All business was suspended and streets and homes practically deserted. Traveling salesmen and visitors were astonished when they arrived and hastened to inquire why the town was abandoned, some thinking an epidemic of contagious disease had broken out and that a quarantine had been established. They learned that this was simply merchants' picnic day and that the populace was enjoying their third annual outing at Eichelberger Park.

Fully 10,000 persons from Hanover, McSherrystown, Littlestown, New Oxford, Spring Grove and country districts were in attendance. A baby show proved a popular feature, and more than 300 youngsters were in competition for liberal gold prizes offered for the prettiest babies. William H. Long and Luther P. Horn, the judges, made these awards: First prize, Elizabeth Sell; second, Dorsey Venard; third, Marie Tressler.

Balloon ascensions, peanut scrambles, a pig race and stilt walking contest were other amusing features. Two baseball games between Columbia and Hanover and a game between the Merchants and Barbers drew the largest crowds.
A newspaper article from the next summer, 1909, features some very similar themes to that 1908 article in The Baltimore Sun. This is from the August 11, 1909, issue of the Harrisburg Daily Independent:
Pretty Feature of Merchants' Picnic Called Off.
Hanover, Aug. 11 — Yesterday was merchants' picnic day at Eichelberger Park, and fully half the population deserted the town for a day's outing, while thousands came from the surrounding towns of New Oxford, Spring Grove, Littlestown, McSherrystown, Abbottstown and East Berlin. Hanover was closed tighter than on a Sunday, and traveling men got the impression that a quarantine prevailed.

The leading feature of the picnic was to have been the baby show, but this was a failure owing to the requirements that all babies appear in coaches, which the mothers objected to.

The amusements combined a balloon ascension, two baseball games, concert and prize contests for children.
Finally, here's the coverage of the event that appeared in the August 10, 1910, edition of The York Daily:
Delightful day Spent by Hanover Business Men
at Eichelberger Park
Hanover, Aug. 9 — With weather conditions all in their favor the members of the Merchants' association, and their relatives and friends spent an enjoyable day at Eichelberger park, the affair being one of the best ever held. Despite the fact that many farmers were home getting ready for the fall seeding, the attendance was large and all of the amusements were enjoyed. The dance floor, which was free to all in the afternoon, was crowded with young people and the ball games were well attended. All of the contests were enjoyed as were the thrilling balloon ascensions and parachute drops of King Kelly and wife. These concert in the evening by the City band completed a delightful program.
I found references to the Merchants' Picnic going all the way up to 1972. I'm not sure if it still persists today.

1. In baseball games on August 19, 1909, the Philadelphia Phillies split a doubleheader with the New York Giants and the Boston Doves swept a doubleheader against the Brooklyn Superbas. The Boston Doves eventually became today's Atlanta Braves. While in Boston, the team went through a lot of nicknames, including Red Stockings, Beaneaters, Rustlers, Bees and Braves.