Saturday, September 23, 2017

Old Coney Island postcards, Part 1

(Note: To truly enjoy these, click on them and view them at a higher magnification.)

Coney Island, in its many iterations over the decades, is probably the second-most famous amusement park site in United States history, if we go ahead and lump together the Magic Kingdom/Disneyland empire — which I think qualifies as its own nation-state — as one combined property.

Countless words and books and photographs and websites have conveyed Coney Island history, memories and nostalgia. The Coney Island History Project is a dandy place to start, if you want to lose your weekend down that rabbit hole.1

As a teeny contribution to all that history and lore, I'm sharing a pair of vintage Coney Island postcard that I came across over the summer. Neither was ever written on or mailed. The stamp box on the back calls for a one-cent stamp, which doesn't help much with dating, because the cost of mailing a U.S. postcard did not permanently rise to two cents until 1952.

What does help, greatly, is the knowledge that these cards were produced by the Illustrated Post Card Company of New York, which was a major publisher but was only in business from 1904 to 1914. So that gives us the era for these images.

The first card, Number 2064, is labeled "Scene in Luna Park, Coney Island, N.Y." The image itself has this credit: "GEO. P. HALL & SON, PHOTOGRAPHERS, 212 BROADWAY, NEW YORK."

Luna Park, the first version of which was in existence from 1903 to 1946, was one of Coney Island's most iconic parks. It is described in one Wikipedia post as " a massive spectacle of rides, ornate towers and cupolas covered in 250,000 electric lights." It had rides and attractions named A Trip to the Moon, Bridge of Laughs, Dragon's Gorge, The War of the Worlds, The Kansas Cyclone, Razzle Dazzle, Helter Skelter, The Tickler and Witching Waves. If you could time travel back to one place, for one day, early Luna Park might be a great candidate.

The second card, Number 2065, is labeled "Entrance to Dreamland, Coney Island, N.Y." Dreamland opened in 1904, one year after Luna Park, and tried to steal all of Luna Park's thunder and visitors. It doubled-down on everything that Luna Park offered. Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia:
"Opened on May 15, 1904, Dreamland was a park in which everything was reputed to be bigger and more expansive than in neighboring Luna Park. Dreamland had a larger central 'Tower' and one million electric light bulbs illuminating and outlining its buildings, four times as many lights as Luna Park. Dreamland featured relatively high-class entertainment and dramatic spectacles based on morality themes such as 'The End of the World'2 and the Orient Theater's 'Feast of Beshazzar and the Destruction of Babylon.' It also featured elegant architecture, pristine white towers, and some educational exhibits along with the rides and thrills.

"Among Dreamland's attractions were a railway that ran through a Swiss alpine landscape, imitation Venetian canals with gondolas, a 'Lilliputian Village' with three hundred dwarf inhabitants, and a demonstration of firefighting in which two thousand people pretended to put out a blazing six-story building fire every half-hour."
OK, maybe we need two days for that time-travel trip. Day 1 at Luna Park, Day 2 at Dreamland. Dust off your flux capacitor.

Related posts

COMING UP IN PART 2: The Johnstown Flood Spectacle.

1. Personally, I'd recommend bookmarking the Coney Island History Project it for a stormy or wintry day. Here in Pennsylvania, at least, it's way too beautiful of an autumn day to spend inside.
2. The end of the world is today, don't forget.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Cool illustrations: The New Human Interest Library (Part 22)

Ugh. So apparently the world is ending tomorrow, maybe, sort of, and — in a serious End Times Heartbreaker — I haven't completed this series on the great photos and illustrations within the 1929's The New Human Interest Library, a book published by The Midland Press.

We are now moving into a section titled The Comradeship Book, which includes information on Boy Rangers, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Camp Fire Girls and 4-H Clubs. This section is mostly photographs, as opposed to illustrations, so that's mostly what I'm presenting here today. They offer a nice glimpse into these youth scouting organizations as they existed 80+ years ago. These smart youngsters would be handy to have around in the event of an apocalypse, should the doomsayers ever be correct.

(Note: Yes, I'm painfully aware of the sexism inherent in the specific tasks that are shown for boys and girls in these photos. Please don't snap at the historian.)


Chicago Boy Scouts building a hospital
at the Owasippe Camp, Whitehall, Michigan

Wearing the official uniform made of
gray-green cotton material


Girls Scouts reviving the ancient English custom of carol singing. These girls have spent hours rehearsing their program of carols. They have studied books in the library to collect information about the costumes to be worn and each girl has made her own costume.

These Camp Fire Girls know how to take care of the baby.

This final item, a full-page illustration, is something that I wish more youth organizations and schools of today would focus on: Personal finance and fiscal discipline. Those are skills that are not emphasized nearly enough. This chart is labeled "Monthly Thrift Chart of the Camp Fire Girls," and it includes columns for receipts and expenditures on items such as allowances, gifts, earnings, candy, movies, travel and setting money aside for future expenses.

Here's an excerpt from the small type at the bottom: "The Camp Fire Girls' Thrift Chart is planned to establish the habit of thrift and of investing small sums. A National Thrift Honor will be awarded by National Headquarters to the girls whose Thrift Charts for ten successive months show an investment of ten per cent of their monthly incomes."

You could probably make copies of this chart and print them on sheets of 8.5x11 paper for daily use. Or maybe there's an app for this!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Photographing a newspaper library for history

Earlier this year, the wonderful library staff at my newspaper in Lancaster was hit hard by layoffs, and we were informed that the library area and holdings — easily one of the best of its kind nationally at a newspaper of our size — are likely to be radically downsized in the near future, in favor of other needs and priorities.

Newspaper libraries, also known as morgues or archives, were once robust and essential, even at the smallest community newspapers. Certainly, though, the advent of digital technology has rendered some of their functions less important. Additionally, libraries have not fared well as newsrooms have had to make difficult financial decisions as a result of the industry's struggles during the past 15 years.

But I think we moved too far and too fast in these cutbacks. Libraries retain information in permanent ways that can be more efficient and practical than cloud computing. And — a point I harp on constantly — the Internet is hardly permanent or fail-proof. Libraries are a great part of our heritage, too. But soon we'll only see these aspects of newsrooms in movies and old photographs.

So I wanted to make a tiny contribution toward preserving our Lancaster newspaper library for posterity. Here's a gallery of 15 photos I snapped earlier this year, when we didn't know if the library's remaining lifespan would be days, weeks or months.

Celebrating the 80th anniversary of publication of "The Hobbit"

I learned from the awesome (and sometimes racy) @PulpLibrarian Twitter account that today is the 80th anniversary of the publication of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, or There and Back Again. For your afternoon enjoyment while having tea and seed cakes, here's a gallery of some covers of The Hobbit from across the decades and around the world.

First Impression of first UK edition
published September 21, 1937, by George Allen & Unwin Ltd.

1942 edition by Foyles (UK) for a children's book club

1962, first Portuguese edition (António Quadros, illustrator)

1973, Finland (Tove Jansson, illustrator)

1957 German edition (Horace Engels, illustrator)

1976, Soviet Union (Mikhail Belomlinsky, illustrator)

1982, published in Soviet Union, with English text

1975, Romania (Livia Rusz, illustrator)

1994, Russia (N. Martynowa, illustrator)

1992 paperback, France (cover art by Roger Garland)

1960, The Netherlands (Cees Kelfkens, illustrator)

1961 Puffin paperback by Penguin (UK); cover art by Pauline Baynes

Related links

More (mostly) uplifting notes from across the globe, via Postcrossing

In the continuing spirit of this mid-July post, here is a rundown of some of my late-summer interactions with fellow Postcrossing enthusiasts from around the globe. More than ever, I think it's important for us to have a shared sense of community with our fellow human beings around the globe. We are not just pawns on a board to be pitted against each other; we are not just pieces to "totally destroy."

My first official Halloween postcard of the autumn season came from Julia in Ukraine, who also included some awesome stamps, one of which I believe shows an example of a Kurgan stelae. The terrific Halloween artwork, featuring a giant, playful black cat and multiple witches is a 2015 piece by Надія Ільчук (Nadiya Ilchuk) titled "Sabbath on Castle Hill, Kyic."

Julia writes: "Hello, Chris! My name is Julia. I live in Ukraine. My hometown is Vynohradiv. It is situated in Transcarpathian mountains. The nature is amazing there. Have you ever been to Ukraine? Best wishes, Julia. :)"

I can add that Vynohradiv is a city of 25,000 that dates to the 1200s. One of the traditional regional dishes is uszka, a small dumpling or pierogi typically filled with mushrooms from the forest and/or minced meat. The most common and simple presentation is with melted butter and chives. The vegetarian version of uszka is traditionally served on Christmas Eve.

Here are two other postcard notes I've received in my Dover mailbox recently:

From Katriina in Finland: "Hello Chris, Greetings from Helsinki, Finland, the country of the Moomins, Santa Claus, Northern Lights, Over 180,000 lakes plus 3.2 million saunas, wife-carrying contests, swamp soccer and the composer Jean Sibelius, who loved to feel the silence of forests and to listen to the sounds of swans, wild geese and cranes."

From Els in the Netherlands: "Hello Chris, Greetings from the Netherlands. My name is Els, 52 y.o. I work as a nurse with old people. Faith is very important to us. We belong the New Apostolic Church. Do you hear about it?"

* * *

Meanwhile, these are some recent email responses that I have received from Postcrossers who received postcards from me:

From Tingyu in China: "I am very happy to receive your card. I like the cat very much. In China, more and more people like cats than before. I also want to take part in a summer camp but it is too hot here. We have no choice but to stay in the air-conditioned room. Best wishes."

From Alina in Russia: "Hello, Chris! Thanks for the interesting card. Stamps are also cool. Thanks for telling me that you wanted to be a programmer, it's very pleasant for me because I am a programmer now. Welcome to Russia, I think you will able to find Baba Yaga's hut or something similar ... Have a nice day!"

Mariitta in Finland: "Thank you ever so much for your absolutely beautiful Scary Story Time art card and marvellous stamps! You made me really happy today. May every sunrise bring you hope. May every sunset bring you peace. Have a cheerful day! Hugs to Mr. Bill, Huggles and Mystery!"

From Ivo in the Czech Republic: "Hi Chris, thank you very much for such a nice card. I love it like the stamps. World with peace and acceptance is something what I believe in. :-) Don't worry we don't think that all Americans agree with your president. We have president Zeman who I'm not proud of too ... But we are small country so his scandals aren't seen worldwide."

From Sebastiaan in the Netherlands: "Hi Chris, Thank you for the artistic cat card and the great stamps. Cleaning up alpaca poop is quite a special hobby! Cheers."

From Marina in Turkey: "Greetings from Istanbul! Thanks a lot for your cute postcard! Take care and enjoy last summer days!"

From Giulnara in Russia: "Dear Chris, Thank you for this lovely postcard, I love vintage book covers! Also, special thank you for your book recommendation. Right now I am in the process of preparation for the LSAT. Next year I am going to apply to law schools in the USA. So, reading books like 'Between the World and Me' would enhance my knowledge about the country. Warm regards."

From Yekaterina in Russia: "Hi, Chris! Thanks a lot for the postcard, it is really extraordinary! =) You are so lucky, you have so many animals around you! I guess, you are the calmest person! =)"

From Ralf in Germany: "Hello Chris, thank you for your beautiful postcard I enjoy it very much. Interesting that you work with alpacas. Greetings to you and your family and although to Coby, Huggles, Mr. Bill and Mystery from me and my dog 'Raaf' and my cat 'Frieda.' I wish you all the best."

From Marijke in Belgium: "Hallo Chris, thank you for your nice card and stamps. Nothing but bad news about your president, every day he's on the news here and not in a good way. He isn't very welcome in Europe too, did you know he called Brussels a hellhole! You have to deal with him till 2020 I think. All the best to you and yours."

From Olga in Russia: "Wow, you have really amazing and beautiful handwriting, both my husband and I were very pleasantly surprised — the letters are so small, but so clearly visible and 100% recognizable! Is it some sort of magic maybe? :) And a special thanks for an owl card, we call cards with owls 'awesome' and 'owlsome' :) Happy post-crossing!"

And, finally, from Fancy in China: “谢谢你的明信片,很开心”

That translates to: "Thank you for your postcard, very happy." When I posted that on Twitter, Natalie Litofsky‏ added the following:


Related posts

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

J. Edward Schwartzer's bookplate

Here is the bookplate for artist J. Edward Schwartzer, a York County, Pennsylvania, native who lived from 1905 to 1986.

We know that Schwartzer had a classy bookplate and some impressive books. This plate appears in Lettering, The History and Technique of Lettering as Design. It was written by Alexander Nesbitt, and this edition was published in 1950.

Here are some other tidbits I discovered about Schwartzer, mostly via

  • He graduated from the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art (now University of the Arts) in 1935 and won prizes for his industrial advertising and watercolor exhibits.
  • He served in the U.S. Army in World War II.
  • In November 1945, he placed a newspaper advertisement for his two lost beagles and offered a "liberal reward."
  • In February 1955, he married Harriet E. Gotwald. They took a wedding trip to Williamsburg, Virginia, and Philadelphia. Their first home as a married couple was on East Poplar Street in York.
  • At the time of his marriage, he was the art director for Everybody's Publishing, a firm in Hanover, Pennsylvania.
  • He had pieces included in an AARP exhibit at the York Arts Association in 1977.

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!