Friday, January 19, 2018

Magical first #FridayReads of 2018

Here's my grandmother (lower right) reading and studying with classmates in her University of Delaware dormitory, circa 1937-1941. See more related photos here and here.

Need some reading suggestions? Papergreat is back with more dandy links for you. Besides this, I'm still working my way through John Crowley's Little, Big (I needed to make a chart), among other books, and I've been catching up on the 2017 issues of G. Willow Wilson's Ms. Marvel.

Serious reading

Not-so-serious reading

Great Science Friday series
about endangered digital data

by Lauren J. Young (@laurenjyoung617)

Thursday, January 18, 2018

From the readers: Witches, fruitcake, QSLs, Jell-O, mysteries and more

This is long overdue. It's been nearly 100 days since the last full "From the readers" segment. So there are a lot of dandy contributions from all of you to present today. Let's get started!

Halloween Countdown #3: Things you shouldn't put in Jell-O: Audrey Hutchison writes: "Actually if you use lime jello, sour cream, celery, green olives with pimento cut in half and tuna it's good. Don't use a mold, use a flat casserole dish so it can be plated with other salads or fruit."

Mystery photo of riflewoman: Jim Fahringer writes: "I really like the idea of writing your own story to go with this picture. When I taught 4th Grade I would purchase all the old (mostly Victorian era) photographs I could find reasonably. We would then study the culture of the era. Each student would receive an antique picture and pretend that they were the person illustrated. They would make up a name and tell all about themselves including things like: why was this picture taken, what were you doing in this picture, what kind of things did you have to do to get ready for your portrait, what were your hobbies and pastimes, explanation of your hairstyle (How did you do it, how long did it take, etc.), description of your clothing (was it comfortable or were things like starched collars and corsets really miserable to wear), family description, difficulties and trials (like disease, death, war, and other disasters), your occupation or chores, how you died, etc. These neat old photos are a wonderful tool that can stimulate creative writing in the classroom."
Chris adds: Thanks for sharing this story, Jim! What a wonderful idea for using ephemera as a teaching aide.
Witches, pickles and good fun at an 1893 party in Pittsburg, Kansas: Stealth Research Assistant and Executive Vice President in Charge of Ephemera Reunions "Mark Felt" writes: "For the second time I quote Fargo by the Coen brothers: 'I'm not sure I agree with you 100% on your police work.' This site gives the date of your article as March 16 (not 23), 1893 — or might the same blurb have been published twice, one week apart? 'But' (or even 'Bud') is not the first name of the individual in question, nor is 'Byrt' his last name. Rather, 'Byrt' is short for 'Albert', just as 'Bella' (Byrt's sister) is short for 'Isabella', and both shared the last name 'Maxwell' (before her marriage to Otto Greef) — see Find A Grave. Thus, Byrt and Bella (Albert and Isabella — elsewhere 'Isabelle') were brother and sister who hosted the 'Witch Party'. Byrt sold bicycles as of 1894. Byrt's wife Estelle also died young (at age 38 in 1910), as did his sister Bella (as you stated). Byrt and Estelle's son Donald fought in World War II, dying shortly thereafter. Donald's wife Thelma died in 1980 in Texas — and there the clues stop for that particular branch of the family tree. A collateral descendant, Stephen E. Greef, is a genealogist, and presumably knows how to fit the remaining pieces of the puzzle together."
Chris adds: Thanks for the corrections and great legwork! This article definitely appeared The Pittsburg Daily Headlight twice, on both March 16 and March 23, 1893. The two pages on which the article appears are otherwise different, so it seems they just published it twice. Newspapers can make mistakes, it turns out. Though that doesn't make their content fake.
Also with regard to this post, commenter "Kansas Kate" adds: "If you're on Facebook, check out the group Historic Pittsburg Kansas, where there's a c.1902 photo of the Greef house at 407 W Euclid."

1970's "The Halloween Hut" by Miriam Fuller: Joan writes: "Seeing books get discontinued is what triggers 'mild fear' in me. Of course, it's also how I got Nobody Plays With a Cabbage, so..."

Cheerful Card Company can help you earn extra money for the holidays: There are three more new comments from the post that has kept everyone buzzing over the years.

  • Wendy Applegate writes: "I recently went through a box from my grandparents home and found 11 Salesman samples folders that have these cards in them. They look to be from the mid 50's. I love the suggestions on how to personalize your cards 'Mr. and Mrs. J. Bell and their little "Chimes"' is one of the suggestions. Love them! Not sure what to do with them, but so cool."
  • Anonymous writes: "I sent in the ad from the back of a comic when I was 8. I sold Cheerful Cards to all of my family, friends and neighbors. It was my first job, first money of my own and a strong lesson on meeting and dealing with different kinds of people, including some difficult cases. I would not take anything for the experience now and I am just retiring at 66! Wonderful, vivid delightful memories! You are simply uninformed if you think we were all 'suckers'!"
  • Zizzybob writes: "I worked for the Cheerful Card Company in White Plains NY in the summer of 1965. What a nightmare that was. It was like being in prison."

Memory from the Gettysburg Times: Joan writes: "This is a wonderful story that I cannot believe I'd never heard before. Thanks for sharing it!"

Fruitcake: Lost corners, rabbit holes and recipes: Mark Felt writes: "In Alex Cox's 1984 cult film Repo Man, Emilio Estevez discovers that his love interest (played by actress Olivia Barash) works at a mysterious venue named United Fruitcake Outlet. (The initials belie the venue's true intent.) Skip to minute 2:47 here.
Chris adds: Fruitcake and UFOs. Perfect!
* * *

Wendyvee Says...

Wendyvee, who authors the fabulous Roadside Wonders blog, is a frequent and loyal reader and commenter, so I'm gathering her feedback together in this one section...

Pete and Jeff's lending library: "Wow, that brings back memories. In third grade, my friend Nadine and I spent hours making index cards and card holders for all of her books. Same summer that we wrapped yarn around glass Pepsi bottles and thought we would make a killing. Where was Etsy when we needed it?"

1969 Jersey Devil postcard illustrated by Ed Sheetz: "The Pine Barrens have lots of cool roads and historical places to explore. Load up the Scooby Mystery Machine. Of little, or no, consequence, 'puckish' is one of my favorite adjectives."

Postcard: Graffiti-covered "student prison" in Heidelberg: "Great piece. I'm going to form a band ... and we will be called The Academic Miscreants. You can say you knew me 'when.'"

Book cover: "The Dunwich Horror" (from Bart House Books): "I'm not sure if I love this cover or hate it ... which is not necessarily a bad thing."

Old keno pamphlet from the Stardust casino in Las Vegas: "The Stardust still hasn't been topped in Las Vegas logo design (IMO)."

Vernacular photos: Fire trucks and the great outdoors: "Great found photos. I have an everlasting love for pedal cars."

Florence Darlington: Without her, there would be no Papergreat: "Oooh, a mystery. Hope we find out more about her at some point."
Spoiler #1: There is another post about Florence Darlington coming.
Spoiler #2: It's going to be sad.

Have a very Fritos Thanksgiving: "'More and more people are being captivated by the enticing taste of these new Mexican crisp chips, and are constantly finding manifold uses for their nourishing goodness.' ... I now feel my degree was a waste of time. I shall never be able to achieve such levels of cazzate elevate."
P.S. from Chris: I should also note, with regard to this post, that readers Undine and Johnna Fick believe that the recipes for "Fritos Dressing" sounds "pretty good."
Bettina's Thanksgiving in the country (and more): "'Two Business Girls Entertain Two Others in Their Kitchenette Apartment' ... The most interesting 10 words that I've read today."

Snapshot & memories: Me and Pop-Pop in the kitchen: "I love everything about this post. One set of my grandparents had Door #3 too. That noise ... and the sound of my Grandmother's giant creaky-doored gas range are the soundtrack to my childhood visits."

Ink blotter for Cook, Watkins & Patch memorials: "Technacraft seems a very modern product description for a company that existed so long ago. My marketing ancestors were slinging "jargon" even then."

Learn about the Solar System with Swift's Space Travel Guide: "1. I tend to overuse the word fabulous; but this is FABULOUS.
2. I want to make Interplanetary Delight (unless it involves shredded coconut or anchovies). Heaven Forbid should it include both.
3. I want every single raygun on "Doc Atomic's Attic of Astounding Artifacts"

Some vintage board games you probably won't get for Christmas: "I don't think we ever played it; but I think I have a copy of Bermuda Triangle that was in a box lot at an auction once."

1914 postcard: "Road to White Horse Ledge and Echo Lake": "Now I want to go the New Hampshire to find this ghostly gentle man and his carriage."

1970s Christmas snapshots of me: "Awwww, loved all these pics. We got snow block makers for Christmas too. If I recall correctly, the year that we got them was particularly snowy so we used them a lot!"

Science-fiction book cover: "Invaders from Rigel": "Best sentence that I've read all day: 'The white knight, he wrote in a fit of impish perversity, is climbing up the poker.'"

Book cover: "Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint": "Holy leaping creepers ... that's a cute cover."

* * *

Colorful 1960s QSL card from the White Rose City: JJ writes: "When I came across this name [Ronald E. Sellers] in a [USS Blue Ridge] link it rang a bell, especially his academic studies of graduate computer science. I found his name in the '73 BR on-line cruise book in Operations as an officer, but because of the strange way they listed the scanned names on that page, I'm not sure of his mug. I didn't find him in either the '72 or '75 cruise books for BR and I have no other memories of that name. It is relevant to me because he may have been in that time period on BR that I got the Operation Buckshot assignment for helping EW to track those first Soviet satellites for radar tracking of our bird farms (US-A, US-P). I was told by my officers that they may have an officer aboard BR that could help me, but never heard any more about him or his name."

Mystery: John Briden's Circus in Newark, New Jersey: Herb Kingsland says that John Briden, Mini-Circus Ring Master, was a longtime next-door neighbor of his father's family in Newark, New Jersey. Kingsland shares some of his memories in this Facebook album.

Edward Drosback's 1932 Christmas card to John Bryant: Regarding this 2012 post, a reader writes: "Ed Drosback was my grandfather. Where did you find this Christmas card?"
Chris replies: That's a great question, after all these years. Most likely it came from a lower-end antiques store here in southcentral Pennsylvania. There's one in York New Salem that I frequent, and I know I've purchased Christmas items there. It might also have been purchased for me as a present, by someone who knows I love ephemera, in which case it still probably came from this general part of Pennsylvania. Sorry I can't be more specific after all this time.

Vintage ink blotter supporting Quigley for mayor of Chelsea: Graham Quigley writes: "Hi there! Wonderful to read this. I am the youngest grandson to the late Mayor Lawrence F. Quigley. My father was Lawrence F. Quigley Jr. He passed away in 1983 when I was 8 years old. I never got a chance to meet my grandfather as he passed before I was born."

Bookmobiles, #FridayReads and some recent articles worth reading: Tom from Garage Sale Finds writes: "The Bookmobile would come once a month to my elementary school. It was always exciting for me because I had access to books our school library didn't carry. There was no public library nearby. I don't remember when I stopped seeing the Bookmobile, but I would guess it was soon after our town finally got its own branch of the country library."

A mysterious Daisie: Mark Felt writes: "The obscured initial before the letter 'A' on the calling card appears to be 'E.' A certain 'E.A. Daisy [sic] Roehrer' was a graduate of Ephrata High School in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. According to this source, she graduated from that institution in 1895. That would place her year of birth in or around 1877, consistent with the year indicated on the gravestone you referenced above; however, the spelling of her first and last names remains inconsistent."

One child is chosen to be "It": Joan writes: "I want to refuse to comment on account of the floating pun, but I will play along and say we played a LOT of Red Rover all the way up through high school."

Coupons from the E.H. Koester Bakery Co.: Pop Pop writes: "We have a large, heavy metal tray with Koester logo. Love the weight of it."

Book cover: "Cloe Spin and her Happy Family": Joan writes: "I think it's incredibly sexist that Cloe and her mother need to cover themselves but the men don't. Whatever."

The Hams of Vesuvius, Virginia: Robert Hulvey writes: "Hi Chris. Well, it has been nearly 3 years. I had sent my mom a note about this, but she didn't respond, so I forgot about it. Anyway, she just sent it to me again so I came back to this site. I don't suppose you ran across the book again? I'm sure my mom could tell you a lot more about her father than I. They lived in Staunton, VA, along with his wife's mother (my great grandmother Garber, nee Curd). His mother, Rosa Ella whom you mentioned, lived right next door when I was a kid. He served in WW2, I believe in Iceland and in Germany. P.S. I am still thoroughly baffled as to why anyone would send an algebra book to an 'oyster and fruit' company, or why any company would sell both oysters and fruit. I think bartering was a more common thing back then, as my mom tells me that her father once traded a gun for a flute she still has, so maybe he traded the book for something. I'd also guess that AMH was probably his sister, Maxine, whose full maiden name was Audrey Maxine Ham. She passed away just a couple of years ago."

The Lost Corners of Paul Crockett: Anonymous writes: "Actually Crockett didn't live near the family at Spahn. He came into contact with the family in the desert as he was a prospectors. He ended up becoming the manager of Brooks and Paul's band. Later he told Paul he could heal Paul of cancer if he abandoned his family and paid a lot of money, according to Paul. He also ended up leading his own cult which Brooks was part of, again according to Paul."

Lost Corners: The Skyrim dog tale: Joan writes: "I KNOW THAT DOG. At first I thought the photo actually went with the tweets and I about lost my mind that there was a dog out there that looked JUST LIKE COBY. But then I figured it out. (It's 11:20 p.m. and I am not doing my best mental work at this time.)"

Wilmington Friends School pennant,
then and now


My grandmother Helen Chandler Adams' dorm room at the University of Delaware, circa 1937-41. She had attended Wilmington (Delaware) Friends School in the mid 1930s. See more pictures of her college life in this 2011 post.


The work corner of my bedroom in Dover Township, York County, in the summer of 2017. In the many decades in between these two photos, the Friends pennant had been affixed to the wall of the first-floor den at the house on Oak Crest Lane in Wallingford, Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Book covers & spine:
"A Daughter of the Samurai"

  • Title: A Daughter of the Samurai
  • Author: Etsu Inagaki Sugimoto (1874-1950)
  • Illustrator: Tekisui Ishii
  • Edition: 1947 Doubleday & Company hardcover. (Book was first published in 1925.)
  • Price: $3.00
  • Pages: 314
  • Subtitle (from title page): "How a daughter of feudal Japan, living hundreds of years in one generation, became a modern American"
  • Copyright-page acknowledgment: "Much of the material of this book originally appeared in ASIA but has been thoroughly revised for book publication."
  • Dedication: "With respect and love and deepest gratitude I dedicate these sacred memories to MY TWO MOTHERS whose lives and environments were far apart, yet whose hearts met in mine."
  • Author's acknowledgment: "To Nancy Virginia Austen, whose pleasant friendship and energetic spirit encouraged me to take up unfinished work which had been laid aside; and which, but for her, might have remained forever only bits of writing scattered far and wide — and a few silent memories."
  • Excerpt from author's "To My Readers": "With deep appreciation I acknowledge the many beautiful letters which have come to me from the readers of 'A Daughter of the Samurai.' I am happy that so many are interested in the design on the cover for, because of tradition, this design speaks with silent eloquence to the heart of every Japanese. Our cherry blossoms never wither. they fall while still fresh and fragrant."
  • First sentence: "Japan is often called by foreign people a land of sunshine and cherry blossoms."
  • Last sentence: "The red barbarians and the children of the gods have not yet learned each other's hearts; to them the secret is still unknown, but the ships are sailing — sailing —"
  • Random sentence from middle: "One thing in America, to which I could not grow accustomed, was the joking attitude in regard to women and money."
  • Goodreads rating: 4.04 stars out of 5.0.
  • Amazon rating: 4.4 stars out of 5.0.
  • Excerpt from Amazon review: In 2017, RJF in Illinois wrote: "This is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. It is the story of (minor spoiler alert) the life of a woman raised in a samurai family in Japan, and the profound insights that she has from daily events as she travels to the United States and back to her homeland. It is stunning on two levels. First, the story continually reminded me of the plurality of perspectives in the world and the relative cultural barbarism of the West. Second, it is written in a style that I can only recall in one other book — The Last Fine Time by Verlyn Klinkenborg — that has a cadence that carried me like a gentle poem."
  • Notes: Some background of Etsuko's life, from Wikipedia, helps to set the context for this autobiography: "She was born in Echigo Province in Japan. ... Her father had once been a high-ranking samurai official in Nagaoka, but with the breakdown of the feudal system shortly before her birth, the economic situation of her family took a turn for the worse. Although originally destined to be a priestess, she became engaged, through an arranged marriage, to a Japanese merchant living in Cincinnati, Ohio. Etsu attended a Methodist school in Tokyo in preparation for her life in the USA, and became a Christian. In 1898 she journeyed to the USA, where she married her fiancé and became mother of two daughters. After her husband's death she returned to Japan, but later went back to the United States to complete the education of her daughters there. Later she lived in New York City, where she turned to literature and taught Japanese language, culture and history at Columbia University."

Bonus image
The illustration on the back cover of the dust jacket continues onto the inside back flap. Here's the full, unfolded view.

Mystery photo of riflewoman

This small found photograph features a woman standing in a field and aiming a rifle. To the left, there is a shadow of another individual, who might or might not being the person snapping the photo.

The width of the image is 3⅛ inches.

The only helpful information on the back of the snapshot is a purplish stamp for FOX-TONE PRINT, FOX CO., of San Antonio, Texas. There's actually a good bit of history about Fox — which existed under various permutations of that name from the early 1900s until 2001 — available, as it has its own Wikipedia entry. At one point, a Canadian-born Texan, Carl Newton, was running the largest mail-order, photo-finishing business in the world as the company's primary business. Much, much later, Fox Photo one-hour photo processing booths were a 1980s rival of Fotomat. (Those booths were one of the oddest segments of U.S. consumer and car culture, I but digress.)

None of this, of course, gives us any insight regarding when and where this photograph was taken, who that woman is, or what she's aiming at. We can write our own story. I suppose some possibilities for her targets are cattle rustlers, traveling encyclopedia salesmen, aliens, gnus, and zombies. But we'll never know for sure.

Is there enough detail for anyone to identify the rifle she's using?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

"It is pitch black.
You are likely to be eaten by a grue."

This nifty advertising postcard was mailed to me recently by Kevin M. Savetz, who is generously sending some out to help promote a podcast that he co-hosts, Eaten By A Grue. On that podcast, which started in December 2016 and has 14 episodes thus far, Savetz and Carrington Vanston are enthusiastically playing their way through all of Infocom's interactive-fiction computer games, which were originally published throughout the 1980s.

It's a great podcast, especially for someone my age, who has plenty of nostalgia for and memories of playing Infocom games such as Zork, Planetfall and The Lurking Horror back in the day. These were all-text computer games — no graphics! — that touted their great prose, captivating puzzles, and power to unleash your imagination. As one vintage advertisement stated:
"Instead of putting funny little creatures on your screen, we put you inside our stories. And we confront you with startlingly realistic environments alive with situations, personalities, and logical puzzles the like of which you won't find elsewhere. The secret? We've found the way to plug our prose right into your imagination, and catapult you into a whole new dimension. ... Step up to Infocom. All words. No pictures. The secret reaches of your mind are beckoning. A whole new dimension is in there waiting for you."
Also waiting in there were grues. If your character wandered into a room with no light source, you would likely received the message...


So if you like podcasts and 1980s computer games, I highly recommend that you listen to Savetz's and Vanston's "Eaten By A Grue" podcast, hosted by Monster Feet. And follow them on Twitter @kevinsavetz and @carrington. ... BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE ... As this is an ephemera and history blog, I should note that Savetz is also involved in an amazing project to scan and document Ted Nelson's Junk Mail. That's is exactly what it sounds like. Nelson accumulated and stored decades worth of "junk mail" in disciplines ranging from computers to aerospace to engineering, and now it is all, slowly but surely, being scanned for preservation in the Internet archives. You can read more about it in this Motherboard article and follow the Twitter hashtag #TedNelsonMail for peeks at the latest gems that have been scanned and preserved.

My Infocom history
  • Completed games: Zork I, Zork II, Enchanter, Planetfall, Suspect.
  • Played but did not complete: Zork III, Beyond Zork, Zork Zero, Sorcerer, Cutthroats, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, The Lurking Horror, Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Head or Tail of It

Related posts

Note: I cannot believe it took me until Post #2,421 to use the word "grue" on this blog

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Lovely postcard of that York across the Pond

With regard to this dandy postcard, Wendyvee, who writes the awesome Roadside Wonders blog, served as my "ephemera procurement assistant." The 109-year-old card features York, England, viewed from a segment of its historic wall. York is, of course, the namesake for our city of York (the White Rose City) here in southcentral Pennsylvania. The one over there was founded in 71 AD and ours was founded in 1,670 years later, in 1741. We're just a toddler, by comparison.

York, England, which was founded by Romans as Eboracum (glad that name didn't stick), currently has more miles of intact walls — about 2.1 miles (3.4 kilometers), according to the Visit York website — than any other city in England. Folks can even become a Friend of the Walls and sponsor specific stones in order to help protect and preserve them. The names of some key areas of the walls and gatehouses (called "bars") include Multangular Tower, Bootham Bar, Monk Bar, Walmgate Bar, Micklegate Bar (once the site of Sir Harry Hotspur's severed head on a pike), Fishergate Bar, Victoria Bar, Layerthorpe Bridge, Davy Tower, and Skeldergate.

This postcard is part of the Exclusive Photo Color Series that was published by Photochrom of London. It was mailed from York, England, to Philadelphia and it was stamped at 3 p.m. on July 28, 1909, three days after Louis Blériot became the first person to fly an airplane across the English Channel. (It was also the first international flight.)

The note on this card states:
July 28, 1909
I have come to see the Pageant to-day. Hope you are better. We have had a cold wet summer. Love, [?]"
Indeed, a British weather history website, which is called "Historical weather events" and gives notice on its home page that it could disappear from the web at any time, says the following about the Summer of 1909 in England:
1909 (Summer):
One of the 15 or so COLDEST summers using the CET record (13.9degC / anomaly on 'all-series' of -1.4C) across England & Wales [in a record back to 1659].
> June was the equal (with 1916 and 1972) COLDEST of the 20th century, with CET=11.8degC, anomaly around two-degrees C below the LTA (whichever series is used), and the second-COLDEST (with the other two noted) June in the entire series. A day MAXIMUM TEMPERATURE of just 10degC (presumably this was registered as 50degF) was recorded in Oxford and Bath on the 6th. There was more outstandingly COLD, WET (some significant THUNDERSTORMS) & DULL weather from the 10th to the 12th, and also 20th to 28th. The Trooping the Colour in London was abandoned on the 24th. June was also a very DULL month, with no sunshine at all in London from the 2nd to the 6th.
> July continued WET, with significant / widespread THUNDERSTORMS in the last week of the month - VIOLENT THUNDERSTORMS on the 25th, particularly in Fife. (See also entry against summer 1907, above)[CET]

Saturday, January 13, 2018

A thing that happened today

Very thankful that we don't see things like this every day...

It also affected my little corner of the world,
covering sports events that can seem so meaningless.

Here's a strong piece of instant analysis and context provided by Ian Bogost of The Atlantic: "The Internet Broke Emergency Alerts"

And here's the entirety of a terrifying Twitter thread (starting with this tweet) from Max Fisher, a journalist at The New York Times:

You need to know the story of KAL-007, a Korean airliner shot down in 1983, to understand why those 38 minutes in Hawaii put the whole world in danger.

Soviet pilots shot KAL-007 down because they thought it was a military spy plane that’d deliberately entered Soviet territory (in fact it was civilian and a mistake). When they shot it down, killing 269 people, Washington said it’d been a mistake. But US officials also worried the whole thing could be a prelude to war.

Ironically, Soviet leaders in Moscow were the most terrified. They had fragmentary information about what was happening way out in its far east — much as DC is at a great remove from Hawaii — and could only trust what they were told: the Americans are lying, it was a spy plane.

The Americans knew that the Soviets were lying and thought: What are they up to? Is this meant to provoke a war? The Soviets “knew” that the Americans were lying and thought: they’re trying to create casus belli for a massive attack on us. The Americans in 1983 had been repeatedly threatening to launch some kind of attack on the USSR — just as the Trump admin is doing with North Korea today. Some in Moscow were convinced this was it, cover for what DC had promised to do. Some in Moscow, believing this was all a smokescreen for an imminent American attack, wanted to strike first. They had good reason to argue as much: if they were facing possibly extinction, better to launch first and maybe survive.

What made this especially dangerous is the nature and speed of missile-launched nuclear missiles gave the Soviets only a few minutes to guess — yes, guess — what the other side was doing and respond. Terrible pressure to fire before it was too late. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, but they might not have. The confusion over KAL-007 literally could’ve ended the world.

Imperfect information, mutual distrust, and minutes-long response times. They all existed in 1983 and only more so today.

Might North Korea have had reason to fear, if only for a moment, that the alarm was cover was a US attack on North Korea? Recall the US has been threatening such an attack for weeks. What if they’d said “this could be it, better launch to stop them before it’s too late?"

Nuclear weapons are unspeakably dangerous. But their greatest dangers come from uncertainty and human fallibility.

The Trump administration has deliberately engineered high levels of nuclear uncertainty on the Korean peninsula. Most think it’s a bluff. But this comes with risks. Even a relatively limited nuclear exchange would, according to some (highly theoretical) climate studies, bring global famine and "a decade without summer."

Ugh. Even the White House is confused as to whether this was an exercise or an error. If we have shoddy information about our own military's mix-up, how much more confused must the North Koreans be? At what point does their confusion become dangerous?

World's Fair advertisement for ancient Japanese Noh masks

This is a full-page advertisement for Toray (Toyo Rayon Company) that appears within the Official Guide New York World's Fair 1964/1965.

That Robert Moses "boondoggle" (as this historian writes) is perhaps the most documented and written about of the World's Fairs. Guides and postcards and pamphlets and advertising are easy to find. (A quick eBay search this morning returned more than 5,400 items, including Heinz pickle pins.) The best place to start delving into the history of the 1964-65 fair, if you want the rabbit hole of all rabbit holes, is

The Official Guide New York World's Fair 1964/1965 is a great book for browsing. It's full of vintage advertisements, futuristic themes, descriptions of the pavilions and all sorts of other goodies. Plus, there's an awkward picture of Moses dining with Jinx Falkenburg, whose name sounds like someone who would appear in a Svarsh Corduroy novel.

Getting back to the masks, the ad copy states: "See ancient Japanese Noh masks at the Toray booth in the Japan Pavilion. Toray is Japan's largest marker of synthetic fibers and the third largest in the world. We hope you'll pay us a visit."

According to Wikipedia, Noh masks are part of a Japanese musical theater tradition that dates to the 14th century and are "carved from blocks of Japanese cypress, and painted with natural pigments on a neutral base of glue and crunched seashell. There are approximately 450 different masks mostly based on sixty types, all of which have distinctive names. Some masks are representative and frequently used in many different plays, while some are very specific and may only be used in one or two plays. Noh masks signify the characters' gender, age, and social ranking, and by wearing masks the actors may portray youngsters, old men, female, or nonhuman (divine, demonic, or animal) characters."

There's your Japanese cultural history lesson for today! I'm planning to delve back into all the great photos and advertisements in this World's Fair guidebook throughout 2018, so stay tuned.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Two snapshots of my grandmother in the United Kingdom

My grandmother, Helen Chandler Adams Ingham, was, like her own mother, an extensive world traveler. Here are a couple of undated photos of her touring the United Kingdom. First, above, is a shot of her on a windy and overcast day at Stonehenge, in Wiltshire, England. I have not been to Stonehenge, but I've seen This Is Spinal Tap and portions of Children of the Stones, so that's pretty much the same thing.

Below is a snapshot of Grandma (Beembom), on a sunny day, in an interior courtyard of Caernarfon Castle in Wales. This iteration of the castle dates to the late 13th century and was constructed under the rule of Edward I, who probably should have gotten a better artist for his portrait. The castle was sacked and besieged before its completion, and its beauty today is thanks to repairs and restoration that began in the 19th century. You can view a nifty gallery castle photos in the Wikimedia Commons.

(It is likely that these photos are from the same trip to the UK. It looks like the coat she's holding in the castle photo is the same one she's wearing at Stonehenge.)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Colorful illustrations inside
100-year-old "Čítanka Malých"

I picked up this slim and nifty volume a couple of years ago at the annual Friends of Lancaster Public Library book sale at Franklin & Marshall College. Čítanka Malých is Czech and translates roughly to "Small Reader."

This hardcover book was published exactly a century ago, in 1918, and was edited by B.O. Vaŝků. It was copyrighted by the Bohemian Free School of New York City.

Bohemia is a large political and cultural region with the Czech lands, past and present. However, the cultural idea of Bohemianism, now associated mostly positively with wandering, art and freedom, evolved from a series of misunderstandings, misconceptions and biases over the past 200 years regarding the peoples of that region of Bohemia within the Czech lands.

And so the mission of the Bohemian Free School of New York City had, I think, more to do with educating United States immigrants from Bohemia than it did with anything involving free spirits and art. Support on this point comes from a 2012 journal article titled "Evolution of Our Ethnic Community in New York City," in which Vlado Simko writes:
"In 1917 the Sbor zástupců (Governing Board) of the Bohemian Free School, New York published Třetí čítanka, a 144 page book with comprehensive Czech history, that included many illustrations. They also proposed to publish a Fourth Čítanka that was to include the Czech history from the Hussites to then present time. Czech schools in New York were not a substitute but complementary to the public schools, thus the focus on the ethnic history."
Čítanka Malých is a beautiful, 96-page book, filled with vibrant color illustrations in the first half and black-and-white art in the second half. Though I can't read a word of it, it's clearly a primer, using basic vocabulary and both folk tales and scenes from everyday life to educate young readers.

Here are some of the illustrations from the book...

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Two vintage postcards: Indoor and outdoor majesty

Here is a related (in my mind) pair of postcards for this sunny Tuesday morning...

Iglesia de la Merced (Merced Church) in Havana, Cuba

This old postcard was made in the United States and published in Cuba by "C. Jordi" of Havana. The pre-printed caption on the back states: "This shows a Catholic church during the celebration of mass. Many of Havana's churches are interesting to the tourist because of their magnificent interiors replete with beautiful altars, images of saints, paintings, etc."

I'd say that qualifies as a half-hearted caption. Here's a little bit more about the church, from
"Built between 1865 and 1867, this is arguably one of Havana's most lush churches. The temple stands opposite a small square and its façade, constructed in Baroque style, features the principal door with its round arch and central niche. The niche, presbytery, cupola and naves were decorated in 1904 by prestigious Cuban artists. The Lourdes Chapel, inaugurated in 1876 and decorated with beautiful mural paintings by prestigious Cuban artists, is the most outstanding pictorial collection within Cuban religious colonial architecture. Its lavish robin-eggshell blue interior has high arches and frescoes covering the chapel and cupola. The Capilla de Lourdes (Lourdes Chapel) has an outstanding collection of religious paintings by renowned Cuban artists: Esteban Chartrand, Miguel Melero, Pidier Petit and Juan Crosa, among others."
This postcard was mailed from Havana, but I cannot read the date, as the postmark is obscured. It was sent to a resident of the Elmwood neighborhood of York, Pennsylvania. The short cursive note states:
"Dear Mary:
Just to remind you — this is one of the churches you saw or — didn't you? They're all asking for you down here.

Needles at Sylvan Lake, Altitude 8000 feet, Black Hills, South Dakota

This postcard was made in Germany and the "importer and jobber" was S.A. Longenecker of Rapid City, South Dakota.

The Needles are a gorgeous area of granite pillars and spires within Custer State Park. Meanwhile, Sylvan Lake was man-made in 1881, in conjunction with an adjacent dam of the same name. Perhaps the most interesting historical tidbit about this area is that the Needles were the first site proposed for the creation of the Mount Rushmore carvings. But sculptor Gutzon Borglum rejected the location, in part because of how thin the Needles were. You'd barely get Washington's nose on some of those.

There is an address and note on the back of this postcard, but it was never stamped or mailed. It's addressed to a woman named Stella in Parkesburg, Chester County, Pennsylvania. (Based on the note, though, the postcard might have been included inside a letter.)

The note, in cursive and pencil, states:
"Hello Stella. If you see any of the folks show them these cards for they would apreciate [sic] them very mutch [sic] and tell them I said they were to write once in a while. From your friend Aberdeen [?]"

Monday, January 8, 2018

Book cover: "Cloe Spin and her Happy Family"

Preface: This is actually the back cover of this book. The front and back covers are nearly identical and the front cover is in rougher shape, so I'm displaying the back here. Also, more importantly, I apologize for the fact that this family has serious issues with regard to wearing sufficient clothing.

  • Title: Cloe Spin and her Happy Family
  • Author: None listed. Can't imagine why.
  • Illustrator: Dan Q. Brown
  • Publisher: Stephens Publishing Company, Sandusky, Ohio
  • Year of publication: 1955
  • Price: None listed. At one point, it was listed for three cents used.
  • Pages: 20, including the covers
  • Format: Staplebound
  • Note from publisher: "Minute Stories — With Pictures to Color — have been conceived and carefully edited by us as a development of an idea that parents would welcome a companion project whereby they might enthuse young children in various subjects, which their tender minds would readily absorb — and yet help develop their knowledge of many things about us, which to the adult are commonplace, but which are wonderfully new and exciting to the newcomer."
  • What?? I have no idea. I mean, it's a book about mostly naked clothespin people. That's neither commonplace to adults nor a subject in which tender minds need instruction.
  • Characters featured: Cloe, Father, Mother, Little Brother, Miss Betty Basket.
  • First sentence: Monday is a day we all help.
  • Last sentence: The Clothespin family is a happy one because we all join in our work — and have such fun when we play.
  • Random sentence from middle #1: Little Brother cannot seem to stop eating.
  • Random sentence from middle #2: They carry the lemonade and colored soda water which taste so good at the picnic.
  • Random sentence from middle #3: Little Brother watches the lemonade closely so no dirt gets into it.
  • Random sentence from middle #4: Sometimes a pupil will not pay attention and disturbs the rest of the class, and to punish him Miss Basket makes him sit at the front with a dunce cap on his head.
  • Notes: A copy of this coloring booklet exists within the Joe and Lil Shapiro collection of laundry ephemera (1805-2010) at Brown University's John Hay Library. ... Stephens Publishing is still in business. These days it concentrates on spreading the word about fire safety awareness with promotional items, including coloring books.

(Sort of) new photograph of
Ruth Manning-Sanders

Finding photographs of folk- and fairy-tale author Ruth Manning-Sanders has been a long, rarely successful journey. The first photo I discovered, sometime in 2010, was a grainy image from the 1972 reference work Third Book of Junior Authors. I've found a handful of others over the years, including an excellent portrait shot. A roundup of those efforts can be seen here. But it's still like finding a needle in a haystack; if there isn't a family member out there holding onto a secret stash, then it might be that very little else will turn up in the future.

So I was thrilled when I discovered the above photograph printed on the dust jacket of Manning-Sanders' 1964 hardcover The Red King and the Witch (a collection of retold gypsy folk tales). The nearly three-inch-wide black-and-white photo shows Manning-Sanders sitting on the front leg of a circus elephant.

A new photo!

(New to me.)

Well, sort of.

This is actually the original photograph that was modified (it received an "elephant-ectomy") and used for that grainy portrait that appears in Third Book of Junior Authors. So, while this is a better and much more complete photograph featuring Manning-Sanders, it's not new, per se.

Further, it seems, based on her outfit and the elephant's head-covering, to have been taken on the same day as this previously known Manning-Sanders photo...

So that would mean The Red King and the Witch dust jacket photo is circa 1935, was taken at Tom Fossett's Circus, and features Lizzie the elephant.

While we're discussing The Red King and the Witch, here are a few more tidbits:

1. Manning-Sanders biographical information from dust jacket: "Mrs. Sanders, whose life has been far from dull, describes her childhood as 'extraordinarily happy ... with kind and understanding parents and any amount of freedom.' With her two sisters, she spent long summer holidays swimming, boating, climbing hills and '(running) ... wild generally.' At home in Swansea, they had 'literally thousands of books' and Mrs. Manning-Sanders read — as Dylan Thomas so aptly put it — 'everything and all the time with my eyes hanging out.' She later became a Shakespeare scholar, married a Cornish artist and began marital life in a horse-drawn caravan, travelling all over the British Isles. When circus life caught her fancy, she promptly went about actively participating in Rosaires' Circus — even entering the lions' cages. Today, a widow, she lives in Bristol with her daughter and two grandsons, making use of the life of action and excitement by communicating that verve in the books she writes for young readers."

This is one of the few overt biographical mentions I've found regarding the death of her husband, George Manning-Sanders, in 1953. And, while there is a mention of her daughter, Joan, and grandsons (Christopher and John Floyd), there is notably no mention of her son, David. I know that David, born around 1915, served as an Acting Major for the Royal Engineers during World War II, but I've never found any confirmation of his fate beyond that. The lack of references to him after the war might, sadly, tell us all we need to know.

2. Manning-Sanders' foreword to The Red King and the Witch:

All the stories in this book were told by gypsies. A few of them (Brian and the Fox and The Little Bull-Calf, for example), were told in English. But most of the stories were told by the gypsies in their own language, which is Romani, and were taken down and translated by scholars. The stories came from many different countries; for the gypsies, who are believed to have lived originally in India, have wandered all over the world. And, as they wandered, they picked up more stories from whatever country they happened to be in, as well as repeating to the people of that country the stories they had brought with them.

Through the years, as they were told and retold, the stories became altered, sometimes not very much, sometimes greatly. It all depended on the particular fancies of the narrator: an ogre might become a dragon, a prince might be put in the place of a princess, or a poor boy in the place of a poor girl; but the idea at the back of the story would remain. For instance, you all know the story of Cinderella, but you may not know The Tale of a Foolish Brother and of a Wonderful Bush, which is just a Polish gypsy's version of the same idea.

And now, since it may interest you to see what the gypsy language looks like, here is a familiar fairy tale ending in Romani:

T'a doi jivena kano misto.
(And they live there happily to this day.)