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.