Saturday, December 2, 2017

Book cover: "Uncle Titus in the Country"


  • Title: Uncle Titus in the Country
  • Author: Johanna Spyri (1827-1901)
  • Translator: Clement W. Coumbe
  • Illustrator: Frances Brundage (1854–1937)
  • Publisher: The Saalfield Publishing Company (Akron and New York)
  • Year of publication: 1926
  • Pages: 245
  • Format: Hardcover, with paste-down illustration on front cover
  • Inscription: "Bob Blanning, Christmas 1928"
  • First sentence: On the east side of the city of Karlsruhe there is a lovely park and under the shade of its linden trees a gentleman slowly paced back and forth every afternoon.
  • Last sentence: As the carriage rumbled away, Dora and Paula turned, arm in arm, to the garden, singing happily: "Till we die, joy in heart, You and I never to part."
  • Random sentence from middle: The twins turned red as fire and then white as chalk with fear.
  • Does book contain miniature pink poodles? No.
  • Seriously? Did I check every page? No.
  • Rating on Goodreads: 4.11 stars (out of 5.0)
  • Goodreads review excerpt: In 2014, Amanda wrote: "Like Alcott, the author aims to teach her readers the useful lessons of reliance on God and maintaining a cheerful disposition in trying times. Younger children, who wouldn't be able to understand Alcott's works well, should be able to read this with pleasure."
  • Notes: Other English-language editions of this book had the title Uncle Titus and His Visit to the Country. Author Spyri's best-known book is 1880's Heidi. Her other books included Moni the Goat-Boy, a title that I certainly wasn't going to fail to include here. ... Illustrator Frances Isabelle Lockwood Brundage, according to Wikipedia, "was an American illustrator best known for her depictions of attractive and endearing children on postcards, valentines, calendars, and other ephemera published by Raphael Tuck & Sons, Samuel Gabriel Company, and Saalfield Publishing."

Friday, December 1, 2017

Story time: Napoleon's second chance at love


Sarah and I decided to use this old, extremely purple, postcard of Medici Fountain in Paris as a creative-writing prompt to co-author a story this week. While brainstorming, she decided early on that she was interested in making Napoleon Bonaparte part of the tale. So we did some research on his life.

The only necessary background for our story: Napoleon and Joséphine de Beauharnais were married from 1796 until 1809, and this story — which clearly falls into the realm of historical fiction — is set in 1811, in France.


A SECOND CHANCE AT LOVE

Once upon a time, Napoleon Bonaparte sent Joséphine de Beauharnais a note, via pigeon. He was asking for a second chance, so the note said: “My dear beloved Joséphine, I love you with all my heart and you make the stars shine brighter in my night-time sky, so, tonight, I want you to meet me at the Medici Fountain at 8:30 p.m. Sincerely, Your Beloved Nappy.”

Unfortunately, Joséphine wasn’t really down with notes from pigeons. So she took the note and, without reading it, flung it into her garbage can. However, her maid, Tabitha, saw her do this, and secretly saved the note.

Tabitha was walking around, cleaning Joséphine’s house, when she decided to take a break and reached into her pocket, pulling out the note. Tabitha read the note with wide eyes. She immediately got up and ran into Joséphine’s quarters, yelling, “Ma’am! Ma’am! You have to read this note.”

Joséphine read the note, and tears formed in the corners of her eyes. “Oh, my Nappy!” she said. Then, she realized that she was going to have to figure out what to wear to their secret meeting at the fountain. At this very same moment, Napoleon was also figuring out his wardrobe.

Napoleon put on his most famous grey cloak. He put on his black pants and his grey high boots and his white shirt. He dumped some water on his comb and combed his hair back. And he dabbed his skin with his favorite cologne, Saint Céleste.

Joséphine was getting into her prettiest dress, which was white with fancy blue diamonds. She put on her white diamond earrings and her blue diamond necklace. She brushed her hair. Her perfume was Magnifiquement Doux. She put on her dark shiny blue heels.

Thirty minutes before it was time for Napoleon to leave for the secret meeting, one of his staff members came into his office and said, “Imperial Majesty, I have many papers, related to the war you are fighting, which need to be read and signed immediately.” Napoleon stared at the thick collection of 37 papers in the man’s hand. How was he going to get out of this?

Napoleon sat down at his office chair and signed at least 20 of those papers. Looking at the time, realizing he had to go, he got up, grabbed his cloak and rushed out the door.

Joséphine, meanwhile, had her own issues getting to the fountain. While she was walking there, she suddenly found herself being chased by a pack of miniature pink poodles. “Egads,” said Joséphine.

Joséphine was searching her pockets for anything she could possibly use to distract the dogs. She felt something in one of her pockets, so she put her hand into her pocket and pulled out a piece of bread. She split the bread into multiple pieces and gave each poodle a piece of bread. So then she was able to continue on her way, because she made the dogs happy.

At 8:29 p.m., one minute early, Joséphine and Napoleon both arrived at the Medici Fountain, a beautiful piece of architecture which had been originally built in 1630 in Paris. It was late summer, so the sun was just starting to set, and the sky had a mysterious purple hue to it.

“Why did you invite me here, Nappy?” Joséphine said.

“Because I wanted to ask you for a second chance,” he said.

“A second chance at what, exactly?” she said.

“A second chance at our love that we had,” he said.

“What about your little country and your little war? How would you have time for me?” she asked.

Somewhere, a poodle barked.

“You mean more to me than the war and my country,” he said.

“Prove it,” she said. “Will you run away with me? Perhaps to Rome?”

“I’ll run away with you as long as that will make you happy,” he said.

Napoleon then looked up and saw a shooting star streak across the sky.

“Look Joséphine,” he said. “That star is shooting for the amount of love I have for you. You make my heart leap to the moon and back.”

There was a long pause.

Joséphine stared at Napoleon.

“What even,” she said.

However, Joséphine did realize that Napoleon, her Nappy, was being sincere, even if his words were somewhat cheesey. She looked lovingly into his bluish-gray eyes as the fountain gurgled in the background.

Joséphine glimpsed into the flowing water of the fountain. As she looked back into Napoleon’s bluish-gray eyes, she said, “Napoleon, your eyes gleam like the river in my heart.”

Napoleon reached for Joséphine’s hand and took it in his own. They both smiled. Suddenly, Napoleon realized they were going to need a way to get to Rome, which was approximately 882 miles away. Neither airplanes nor trains nor cars had been invented yet, although Napoleon wished they were.

A trip by horse carriage from Paris to Rome would take them at least 12 days, in good conditions.

But Joséphine had a better idea. She had a magic carpet that she had been given by her mother, Rose, who she loved dearly.

“Nappy, my dear, don’t freak out, but I have a magic carpet at my house. It will take us less time to get to Rome if we go by magic carpet instead of horse carriage,” she said.

“We won’t be able to take much of our stuff, including my books,” Napoleon said. “But we can always get new things in Rome, so that sounds like an excellent plan, my love.”

Joséphine took Napoleon’s hand and led him to her house. After a few minutes, they went inside and up to her room, got her magic carpet and went to her balcony and laid her magic carpet out. As they both sat on it, Joséphine told the magic carpet to take them to Rome, and off they went on their adventure.

And the pigeon that started it all followed them, caught up and then sat on Napoleon’s leg for the rest of the trip.

THE END

* * *

Addendum #1: Sarah wanted to make a proper cover for this very short book.


Addendum #2: Sarah's dream cast for the movie version would star Norman Reedus and Gal Gadot.

Addendum #3: Sarah is already providing notes for the Rome-based sequel. Hint: It might involve time travel.

Learn about the Solar System with Swift's Space Travel Guide


When we last encountered our intrepid heroes at Swift's Premium, way back in 2012, they were pitching us on the merits of "Party Giving with Meat Power," which basically involved a lot of Very Bad News for chickens, pigs and cows.

Now we have this nifty guide to travel within the Solar System, which was among Mom's things. Swift's Space Travel Guide — produced in 1958 by Specialty Advertising Service Inc. of New York — is 4½ inches wide, if you include the slight bulge for the circle that holds all the rotating planetary information.

In addition to a snazzy illustration of a rocket, the front includes windows in which you can learn the astronomical sign, maximum surface temperature, distance from Earth at closest approach and period of revolution around the sun for each of the planets, plus the moon.

Mom's name is written across the top of the front and back. And there has been a lot of doodling on the various sections of the wheel. As you can see, there are a pair of dog heads next to Pluto. Mercury has a thermometer doodle, Venus has a heart with an arrow through it, the moon has smiley faces, and Neptune has a pair of tridents. Very clever!

I thought it would be interesting to compare the 1958 scientific estimates on Pluto with today's known numbers.

  • Maximum surface temperature: THEN, -348° F; NOW, -369° F
  • Distance from Earth at closest approach: THEN, 2670 million miles; THEN, 2660 million miles
  • Period of revolution around the sun: THEN, 248.43 years; NOW, "about 248"


Meanwhile, the back of this Solar System info card compares the size of the other planets to Earth. It also offers the obligatory advertisement for Swift's Premium products, the meat that made this educational material possible. The copy states: "OUT OF THIS WORLD recipes on the back of every package. GET INTO SPACE ORBIT with .... Satellite Surprize, Interplanetary Delight, Supersonic Sandwiches or Space Snacks."

On the wonderfully named and long dormant blog "Doc Atomic's Attic of Astounding Artifacts," Doc Atomic wrote the following about this item in 2009:
"All in all, this is a great little premium from a time when kids still considered science and space exploration cool. Yeah, it's educational -- but it's also the type of thing that a young Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers or Tom Corbett would drop in his pack, along with his Space Phones and ray gun, before running out to play with his friends."

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Pair of "Greetings from" postcards

Here are a couple more of those old "Greetings from..." postcards with the generic images but specific town listings.


Greetings from Winter, Wisconsin
[Population: About 230 in the village and 1,000 in the town.]

This postcard was mailed in the summer of 1934 to Sally at the "Biely Sweet Shop" in Chicago, Illinois. The cursive note states:
"Hello Sally! Well we're here and Ah boy talk about hot whoa. say Hello to Joe and all my loves. I'm so happy.
Ann."


Greetings from Konnarock, Virginia
[Population: Unknown. Unincorporated community in far western Virginia, located about 60 miles south of the equally isolated and equally unincorporated community of Burke's Garden, Virginia.]

This card was postmarked on June 29, 1962, in tiny Troutdale, Virginia. It was mailed to a woman in Westminster, Maryland, and the long cursive note states:
"Dear Hollis,
The scenery down here is really beautiful. Am enjoying it so much. It is so quiet and restful that it's just the place for me to be with my ailing leg. The school at Konnarock is no longer used for the purpose it was built. Now it is a place for people to come and spend their vacation. Will be home on Monday. With love and best wishes,
Hattie"

(This is possibly the school she is referring to.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Cool illustrations: The New Human Interest Library (Part 26)

All good things must end.

And so today will wrap up this Papergreat series, now spanning 58 weeks, on the interesting innards of 1929's The New Human Interest Library (Volume 1), from Managing Editor S.E. Farquhar and The Midland Press.

And then we shall move on to other things.

So. Many. Things.

I'm going to speed through the final chapters of the book, plucking out some stuff that caught my eye. So there's certainly still an opportunity for future ephemera-archaeologists to delve even more deeply into this volume. Plus, there are five other volumes in this set of the The New Human Interest Library. Endless possibilities for a winning doctoral thesis or obscure journal article!

First up are these two rare color illustrations within the mostly black-and-white volume. They're from the section on Art Education, and they're both quite wonderful.



* * *

These are from a full section on handwriting and penmanship. It kicks off with a sample that was written by Thomas Edison, and then follows with a couple of examples from students of different grade levels.



* * *

And finally, there is this trifle. I love the looks on the other students' faces.


Go back in time and start with Post #1 in this series!

Monday, November 27, 2017

1930 linen postcard from Thermopolis, Wyoming


This old linen postcard features the "Teepee Fountain" at Hot Springs State Park in Thermopolis, Wyoming. The preferred/correct spelling these days is Tepee Fountain, and you can see some modern photographs of it here. It seems to be squatter today than it was in this postcard, but, in either case, it sort of looks like the supreme leader of the Blancmange contingent from the planet Skyron in the Galaxy of Andromeda.

This postcard was mailed to a woman in Morrill, Nebraska, in 1930. The cursive note is difficult to read, but here's my best attempt at transcribing it:
6/30
Dear Friend.
I presume you are priming yourself for the 4th. I just wish you could take a flying trip out here for a visit. So many beautiful sights right here all within walking distance. The thing on this card was built up on the mineral deposit. So wonderful. Wanda and I are very comfortable in apt. at the Yellowstone Sanitarium St. Park. Now you just
[illegible] me one of young [and then it gets more illegible].
Love, Martha

Yellowstone Sanitarium State Park is definitely a bit of a mystery. If anyone wants to give the rest of the note a whirl, here you go...

Sunday, November 26, 2017

1982 first day cover: "Exploration for Peaceful Uses of Outer Space"


Here's a cacheted first day cover (aka "illustrated envelope") with some wonderful artwork by Ramon de Olivera of Puerto Rico and an equally wonderful message: Exploration et Utilisations Pacifiques de L'Espace Extra-Atmosphérique, or Exploration for Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

(Goober-level editing note: The correct English-language name of the conference is "Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space," so it's a minor error that the FDC text states "Exploration for Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.")

Dated June 11, 1982, the FDC features four different United Nations stamps and was produced by the World Federation of United Nations Associations, which you could say is a booster or service club for the UN.

A May 23, 1982, article in The New York Times discusses both the conference and the commemorative stamps. Here are some excerpts:
As space becomes ever more usable and explorable, the United Nations is keeping pace with periodic issues for the changing circumstances of outer space. On June 11 the U.N. is putting out a new issue of four commemoratives on "Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space." ...

The stamps herald the second U.N. conference on the subject, which is taking place in August at the Hofburg Palace in the Austrian capital of Vienna, a quarter of a century after the launching of the first Soviet sputnik into space.

The purpose of the conference is to examine the tremendous advances in space technology and its applications since the first U.N. conference 14 years ago, to explore means of making the benefits to be derived from space more widely available, and to intensify international cooperation in space developments.

The four new commemoratives consist of a 20-cent stamp to be used at the organization's headquarters in New York, an 80-centime stamp and a 1-franc stamp in Swiss currency to be used by the U.N.'s European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, and a 5-schilling stamp in Austrian currency to be used at auxiliary office of the U.N. at Vienna.

The United States equivalent of the Swiss values is 45 and 57 cents, of the Austrian value 33 cents, subject to exchange rate fluctuation.

An olive branch in the darkness of space, in orbit around a planetlike U.N. emblem, forms the design of the 20-cent and 80-centime stamps. Wiktor C. Nerwinski of Poland was the designer. The 1-franc and 5-schilling stamps, in five colors on a white background, have a backdrop of a satellite in outer space gathering information and five applications of space technology illustrated in the foreground in a row of circles. In the circles are symbols of weather, television, telephone, food and power. The design is the work of George Hamori of Australia. ...

A serene "landscape" in space by an artist who has made space his special realm decorates the cacheted covers that are traditionally put out by the World Federation of United Nations Associations to accompany new U.N. issues.

The artist is Ramon de Olivera of Puerto Rico, who also contributed a painting for the first-day covers and lithographs that WFUNA put out in 1975. In his art and lectures around the world, he devotes himself to the theme "Art and Man in Space."

He is currently working on what may be called a double fantasy. He is creating four volumes of hand-lettered text and illustrations for "Don Quixote in Outer Space," which takes the adventures of Don Quixote and transports them to outer space. Two volumes have been completed.

I cannot find any evidence that "Don Quixote in Outer Space" was ever completed or published. That might have been a windmill that Olivera never quite reached.


Snapshot & memories:
Me and Pop-Pop in the kitchen


I'm going to try a new mini-series here: Taking single family snapshots and using them as launching pads for memories, stories and whatever else enters my head.

The caption on the back of this photo, written in pen and in cursive, states:

Ted at Home
Chris peeping 5/'75


So we're in May 1975. I'm 4½ years old and looking like I just woke up from a nap. "Ted" is my great-grandfather, Howard Horsey Adams (1892-1985). He's 82½ here. "Ted" was the longtime nickname that his wife, the oft-mentioned-here Greta Miriam Chandler Adams (1894-1988) had for him, so I believe she wrote the photo caption. I called them Pop-Pop and Mimi, though there was, of course, no 100% standard spelling of those kinds of monikers that we gave to our elders when we are too young to say things correctly.

Pop-Pop and Bleary-Eyed Me are in the Nexus of Doors at the house on Oak Crest Lane in Wallingford, Pennsylvania:

  • Door #1: Directly behind me is the door to the first-floor main hallway, with quick access to the den, the bathroom and the front of the house.
  • Door #2: In the center, and closed, is the door to the basement. There were many things in the basement and many more things would be added between 1975 and 1995. We shall not speak of that now.
  • Door #3: My favorite. This was the swinging door between the kitchen and the dining room. The drawn-out squeak it made when it swung open and closed was my favorite sound in that house, even though I know it irked others, who would have preferred it to be better-lubricated and silent. You could hear it from anywhere in the house; it told you that people were going back and forth between those two food-focused rooms. Eventually, when stovetop and oven cooking became less frequent in the kitchen, the swinging door was permanently propped open, and the house lost some of its character.

I am leaning up against the dry-goods cabinet, which contained six shelves — some of which had cheap, plastic Lazy Susans from the 1960s (some of them double-deckers) — filled with soups, condiments, beans, sardines, anchovies, bouillon cubes, crackers, olives, pickles, chili, chocolate syrup and much more. Different things over the decades to reflect the changing denizens of Oak Crest Lane.

After my grandmother, Helen Chandler Adams Ingham, died in 2003, my mom was the only permanent resident of the house. She loved to go grocery shopping, because it gave her something to do, and she loved to procrastinate about sorting and pruning the food in the kitchen, not necessarily because she couldn't do it herself, but because it gave her a reason to ask my sister and I to come and visit. "We need to go through the freezer and kitchen cabinets!" And so Adriane and Joan and I took turns making visits and purging expired and no-longer-wanted items from the dry-goods cabinet, the fridge, the spice shelves and other corners of the small kitchen, while Mom sat, directed and made executive decisions about things staying and going. We donated a lot of food to rescue missions, took a lot back to our own homes and tossed more expired items than I'd like to admit.

Getting back to the photograph, you can see that Pop-Pop is wearing an apron. He was the primary cook among the household residents, until he got too old to do so. My great-grandmother and grandmother didn't do much more than the basics when it came to cooking, so he handled a lot of the big meals, and much of the day-to-day cooking was done by Lorraine Quarles, who worked for the family for many years, handling cooking, household chores and light nursing duties when Pop-Pop and Mimi became ill and bedridden. But "Ted" definitely prided himself on his cooking and I'd like to think I inherited some of his kitchen skills, though not through a direct apprenticeship, because I was clearly too young and bleary-eyed in the 1970s.

Final note: That cream-colored kitchen cabinet, for so many years filled with canned goods and other food, now serves as my "dresser," holding my shirts, socks, pajamas and more. There's a lot of room in there! And no more expired anchovies!

My bedroom. Essex Road house in Dover, Pennsylvania. November 26, 2017.

The inside story of all those roadside Burma-Shave signs

A short and enjoyable book I finished recently is The Verse by the Side of the Road: The Story of the Burma-Shave Signs and Jingles, written by Frank Rowsome Jr.

It was first published in 1965 and has gone through many printings and editions over the years, including a 25th anniversary edition in 1990, so used copies are plentiful and available for just a couple bucks, in most cases.

It is, as the title explains, the history of Burma-Shave's rhyming roadside advertising signs, which could be found all across the United States in the middle of the 20th century and still have a firm place in our popular culture and collective memory.1 A typical set would feature six signs, spaced apart for reading by passing drivers, with messages such as:

THE WOLF
IS SHAVED
SO NEAT AND TRIM
RED RIDING HOOD
IS CHASING HIM
BURMA-SHAVE

As I said, it's a short book at only 121 pages. But nearly half of that is an appendix featuring the text of every Burma-Shave sign ever produced. So the actual text, in my edition, is only 68 pages. Short enough to read during the first half of a Sunday NFL game.

Here are a few of my favorite anecdotes:

  • Some of the Burma-Shave signs were public-safety and road-safety messages, rather than explicit advertisements for shaving cream. One of my favorites, combining my love of black humor and puns, is:

    HER CHARIOT
    RACED AT 80 PER
    THEY HAULED AWAY
    WHAT HAD
    BEN HUR
  • "In the first decade the strangest natural enemies of Burma-Shave signs were horses. Signs in field where horses were pastured would be found broken off forcibly at the attachment point. ... [Study] revealed that the signs were being installed at a perfect height to serve as horse back-scratchers. Throughout the country, enterprising horses were discovering that, by sidling under an overhanging sign and humping slightly, a richly sensuous scratching could be achieved; and often, in some transport of equine ecstasy, the sign would snap."
  • At one point, the U.S. Navy asked if Burma-Shave would contribute some signs to boost the morale of the men who were stationed in Antarctica during Operation Deep Freeze. Three sets of signs were selected and delivered to the Navy. The book goes on to state: "Photographs of the last series — erected in a howling wilderness with a snow tractor in the background and five politely interested penguins gracing the foreground — were picked up by United Press International and distributed to scores of U.S. newspapers. Even after allowing for the fact that Burma-Shave had become a sort of national institution, it was evident that ... [it] had a knack for unpaid publicity that Barnum would have envied."

    I found what I believe to be the aforementioned photograph posted on a member gallery at Shorpy. The caption states: "Some of the locals in Antarctica photographed in 1963 by my father-in-law, the late [U.S. Navy Senior Chief] Joe Edge."


If you don't want to pick up the book but would like to spend some time browsing nostalgically through all of the Burma-Shave jingles and reading them aloud to your friends and family, here is the perfect website for you.

Footnote
1. Here is Dad's response to the general topic of Burma-Shave memories:

If you don't know
Whose signs these are
You haven't traveled
Very far
Burma-Shave