Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Amazing Colossal Edition of "From the Readers"

I have been delinquent again. It's time to open the bulging digital mailbag and catch up on Papergreat's amazing reader comments...

Linen postcard: Parachute jump at Steeplechase Park, Coney Island: "Kayo56" shares this memory: "My uncle had been a paratrooper in Germany, and this was the closest thing he was going to come to recreating the experience in Brooklyn. He persuaded our mother, his twin sister, to go with him, and take my brother and me. We must have been preschool age, since we're 61 and 62 now. I don't remember being bothered by the ride up, but on the way down, I decided the ride was over before it was over, and attempted to stand up in preparation for disembarking. When we did actually come to a landing, it was with a bit of a thump, and I banged some part of me. I wasn't hurt, but it hurt at that moment, and I connected it with the ride, not my own actions. Although he was willing to take us on again, I refused. Since the parachute jump was still standing, for a long time, I was unaware that it was no longer in operation. When I learned that it was closed, part of me regretted the lost opportunity for a repeat ride, and the other part of me was glad I'd never be asked."

Miscellaneous snaps from the family shoebox, Part 4: Wendyvee, who authors the dandy Roadside Wonders blog, writes: "I can't get a female re-boot of Reservoir Dogs out of my head with the group shot."

Cheerful Card Company can help you earn extra money for the holidays: The comments keep flowing for this 2012 post. Anonymous writes: "My mother sold these cards every fall to earn money for our Christmas gifts. Without the Cheerful Card Company we might never have had Christmas gifts. Definitely not a scam and I still smile remembering looking thru the 'selling book'."

Selections from the 1967 Top Value Stamps catalog: Eric Ferguson writes: "Santa brought me that Handy Andy Tool Set for Christmas in '70 or '71. It kinda sucked. The hammer was way too tiny to pound anything. My parents didn't even buy it: Just used their stamps. My mom always shopped at Kroger's, so she got the Top Value stamps."

Earth Day 2018 thoughts: Edward Humes' "Garbology": Joan, who writes Unschool Rules while juggling a zillion other things, writes: "I can't thank you enough for lending me that book. I know I have a long way to go but it really does open your eyes."

Burrill's beautiful "fluff", or "Hey, that Papergreat guy is creepy": Wendyvee writes: "Which reminds me of this article that I read some time ago: Mementoes of Grief Go to Auction from the US’s Only Museum for Mourning Art."

And Joan adds: "This is a rather unusual post, but I really like it. I also want to know what envelope the Coby hair is in."

Provenance clues in 1878's "The Old Church, and Other Stories": Stealth Research Assistant and Executive Vice President in Charge of Ephemera Reunions "Mark Felt" once again provides some excellent sleuthing: "It is quite possible that 'Hiram William M. Bickel' is a name which refers to one person. See this grave in Shillington, Pennsylvania. His date of death matches this obituary in the Reading Times (scroll down or search for "Reading"). That obituary lists his parents as Moses and Mary Bickel. At the bottom of Moses' grave is the inscription 'Erected by H.W.M. Bickel.' At the bottom of Mary's grave is the inscription 'Erected by Mrs. Ella M. Gromis.' Might that be Ella M. Bickel's married name? Perhaps, yet despite assiduous sleuthing, there the trail goes cold..."

Damaged but dandy dust jacket: "Mystery at High Hedges": Tom from Garage Sale Finds writes: "Great cover. I love the covers from youth mystery novels from that era. They hook you and make you want to read the book."

The evolution of Barry Leffler's KCC2188 QSL cards: Mark Felt writes: "Finally, a reference on Papergreat to a living person! Contact Barry Leffler directly [on Facebook] to fill in all the details. As for the Vocaline Company of America, here is the SEC's record of the initial public offering of that company in 1959, with a brief overview of the company's products."

[Chris adds: Yes, I did see that Leffler is on Facebook, and I've tried that route. He hasn't actually posted on Facebook in 6.5 years, and it can be difficult to contact/message someone that you're not Facebook friends with. But we shall see.]

Punch-card bill for The American Garden Guild Book Club: Anonymous writes: "What are the punches for?"

[Chris replies: The card could be fed into a punch-card reader, thus "quickly" entering data — subscriber information, an account number and/or billing information — into an early computer. The "punched card" entry on Wikipedia adds, rather dryly: "A punched card or punch card is a piece of stiff paper that can be used to contain digital data represented by the presence or absence of holes in predefined positions. Digital data can be for data processing applications or, in earlier examples, used to directly control automated machinery. Punched cards were widely used through much of the 20th century in what became known as the data processing industry, where specialized and increasingly complex unit record machines, organized into semiautomatic data processing systems, used punched cards for data input, output, and storage. ... While punched cards are now obsolete as a storage medium, as of 2012, some voting machines still use punched cards to record votes."]

1913 postcard: "You can put it in a frame and hang it up": Matt Hinrichs, who authored a blog titled The Joyce Compton Shrine, writes: "I don't blame you for finding Ruth's message vague — it sounds to me like she took a pre-printed photo postcard and hand-colored it herself."

A handful of artistic travel snapshots taken by my grandmother: Mark Felt writes: "'Somewhere in France' [pictured at right] is the town of Cordes-sur-Ciel in the south of the country. The hotel and restaurant indicated by the sign in Grandmother Helen's photograph is referenced here. Grand Écuyer translates as Great Squire."

Miscellaneous snaps from the family shoebox, Part 3: Wendyvee writes: "These are all lovely; but I would hang a litho of the Jean Pratt picture in my living room for sure."

Plethora of pudding within 1888 "Cyclopedia of Practical Information": Mark Felt writes: "Well, if Mom wasn't a Paul Thomas Anderson fan, then Chris certainly is. By the way, in 2007 this was the world's most expensive photograph."

[Note from Chris: Indeed, I am a major fan of Paul Thomas Anderson's films. I'm fairly certain that Mom never saw any of them. These were her favorite movies.]

A little bit more about Helen Goodrich Buttrick: Joan writes: "This led me down a small rabbit trail also related to fashions."

Get duly inducted into the Silent Mysteries of the Far East: Donald Gergely writes: "My uncle had this card also."

Saturday's postcard: Kozy Kabin Service Station & Kafe: Mark Felt writes: "The ineluctable march of progress forced owners Ralph and Julia Johnson to shutter the Kozy Kabin Service Station & Kafe in 1954, eighteen years after it opened. The history of this location and an impassioned eulogy for Mr. Johnson can be found here. Requiescat in pace."

1961 Ginza Tokyu Hotel guest booklet: Mark Felt writes: "You may find it interesting to learn of the basis of the $1/¥360 exchange rate which was in effect from 1949 to 1971: The word for the Japanese currency (pronounced 'en' in the native tongue but which we transliterate as 'yen') could mean 'money' or 'circle' in various contexts — try typing 'yen' into Google Translate — and there are 360 degrees in a circle. Also see The Yo-Yo Yen: and the Future of the Japanese Economy."

Wonder Bread bakery destroyed by 1933 Long Beach earthquake: Wendyvee writes: "Mother Nature is a fierce mistress. Also, don't you just wish we could know the stories of all of the people looking at the destruction."

Family Circle's "Most Beautiful Christmas Tree" of 30 years ago: Mark Felt writes: "Third-prize winner Mary Cooksey Wilks of Verona, New Jersey is still decorating and lighting her annual Christmas tree and giving back to her community in many ways."

Sorry "Infinity War," the greatest Avengers crossover was 34 years ago: Wendyvee writes: "This is EVERYTHING. It needs a live-action movie right this minute."

[Chris adds: Casting a young version of David Letterman will be difficult.]

The ephemera of families separated by the United States: Everyone gets their say here, as long as they're polite, so here is a response from a commenter referring to himself as Mr. Derp: "Poor illegal invaders and their hellish offspring who come here to lower the wages of the working class liberals claim they care oh so much about."

Дайте миру шанс [a Samantha Smith post]: Mr. Derp writes: "Pining for the 'good ol' days' of the 'workers paradise', I see."

In which I was 24 and really, really awful at journaling: Joan writes: "You still use the word schlonkered. Hopefully more ironically."

How to promote your hotel with a disturbing illustration of a dog: Mark Felt writes: "This is an example of a Victorian trade card, the predecessor of the modern business card, printed and sold by chromolithographers, and customized by businesses of all varieties. Trade cards often depicted animals in comic scenes. This card in particular was designed by George M. Hayes of Philadelphia, active from 1878 to the 1890's. However, this primary source announced his retirement, or perhaps a continuation in a new venture, in 1884. Other businesses which customized the same bulldog design include the following: Hartman's Bookstore, Ashland, Pennsylvania, French Confectionary, and a blank bulldog card. Other similar cards designed and/or printed by George M. Hayes include: Collection of four trade cards (including the bulldog design); examples from the Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas; and various feline designs.

Menus and recipes shared by Mrs. Anna B. Scott in 1936: Wendyvee writes: "Yes to the Chocolate Icebox cake but a great big NO to the Sardines!!"

Joan adds: "Also not sure about mock turkey."

[Chris replies: The mock turkey recipe itself sounds interesting, and pretty easy to make. No need to shape it into a bird, though.]

Receipt for Knights of Pythias and Tweets of Old: Mark Felt, self-titled "Royal Order of the Genus Capra", writes: "A link is worth a thousand words: The Strange Case of the Mechanical Goat in the Fraternal Lodge."

* * *

Complete roundup of that
Madison Square Garden postcard word

In late March I featured an old postcard of Madison Square. The message on the back contained a word that was difficult to discern, and the meaning of the message changed, depending on how you deciphered it.

Here's a recap that repeats some previous information but also presents it all in one place...

This undated postcard was mailed to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and the message on the back is fairly easy to decipher with the exception of one word. And that one word is crucial.
I am going over to Brooklyn. it is 2 o'clock a.m.
[???] in this Joint are no good.
So, that [???] is the elephant in the room. Intially, four parties, myself included, took a stab at it and compared it to all the other words and letters on the back of the postcard. The chief possibility, we thought then, would turn the final sentence into an ugly ethnic slur.

So, at that point, we thought the mystery word could be:

  • Jews
  • Jeus (a misspelling of the above?)
  • Tens (a shortening of tenants?)
  • Something else

Part 2: Later, Ephemera Detective Extraordinaire "Mark Felt" checked in with this assessment:
The abbreviation "Tens" refers to "Tenements", squalid living quarters common in lower Manhattan at the turn of the century.

Note the cursive uppercase "T" which contrasts markedly with the cursive uppercase "J" in "Joint".

Furthermore, leaving Manhattan for Brooklyn as a means of avoiding individuals of Jewish heritage would have been counterproductive, then as now.

The writer and sender of this postcard was one John ("Johnnie") H. Moulfair (1901-1964), son of John Sipert Moulfair (1880-1946) and the addressee Miriam M. (Selin) Moulfair (1882-1963). All names and dates are readily found on

The exact year of issue of the 1¢ stamp is no simple task from [this] website alone, but should be between 1908 and 1923.

Still, if Johnnie were out and about in Manhattan at 2 AM — and if his postcard were postmarked at 2:30 AM — and based on the level of his handwriting and his date of birth in 1901, this card was most likely written and mailed in the early 1920s.

Part 3: But then, in response to Felt's comment, an anonymous commenter going by "L" left this tantalizing response: "It just sez 'Pens'. Compare the P to the one in "Penna" (nearly identical, except where the former faded), and note the lousiness of the pen the writer is using in several places — most significantly, in the two letters right before the sentence in question, which had to be gone over more than once."

Part 4: And, finally, this was Felt's rebuttal to "L": "The writer may very well have intended to write 'pen', but not in the sense of a writing utensil, rather 'any small enclosure in which someone or something can be confined'. See definition 1.2 under the second section here. That would make more sense in the context of the postcard."

So, to sum up, our likeliest choices are now:

  • Tens (a shortening of tenements)
  • Pens (writing utensil)
  • Pens (small enclosure)
  • Jews

We will never know the answer for certain, but I like the reader-submitted solutions of tens and pens (either variant) quite a bit, and I've now moved off my initial assumption that the writer was using a slur.

* * *

But wait, there's more...

The more F's the better, plus a little mystery: Karlee send me an email regarding this 2011 post: "Hi, Chris, I was doing some research on the PJ Mann Printery when I came across your blog page. I'm the great granddaughter of PJ Mann. In the mid-1930s the print shop moved locations from Calumet Avenue to 642 Conkey Street and was at that location until it closed in 1975. Thank you for posting that brain teaser."

Some 1965 Amazing Stories ads were too amazing to be true: Michael Bonesteel also emailed with this fun memory: "FYI, I ordered a number of books from the Werewolf Bookshop back in the late 1960s when I was about 12 or 13 years old. I always received the right books, but I also noticed that they always had a distinctive perfume-y odor to them. Not a bad smell, just peculiar. Maybe the owner burned a lot of incense."

Old-style Ruth Manning-Sanders library book borrower's card: Sometimes I get queries. This one is from Jessica, who wrote: "Hi Chris, I hope that you are well this evening. I was searching online for ephemera and specifically a library borrower card when I found your blog. I was wondering if you would allow me to use the image at the link below, to place on a shirt and/or tote to sell? I have an Etsy store, and I think there a lot of folks who would enjoy the nostalgia of this image."

Who am I to say no? You can check out the Ruth Manning-Sanders themed items at Jessica's Etsy store. I love the idea of folks walking around in a T-shirt featuring one of her library circulation cards.

Illustrated "mapback" on vintage Dell paperback "Death with Death": Meanwhile, I received this friendly email query from Deb: "Hello Mr. Man of a Thousand Interests! Do you know where or if there is a schedule of the artists who drew covers and maps for Dell by book?"

I don't know if there's a specific directory of the artists. The best resources I know are this Flickr gallery. Plus, there are some articles that I note in the 2013 blog post.

Perhaps a reader can provide a better answer for Deb's specific question...

Advertisement for Murine Eye Remedy Co. in "The Rival Heiresses": This final comment is clearly from a Bot, but I wanted to share it because there's a response!
"Actually, I am facing some difficulties to understand the meaning of the blog. If you have any short video film related to your blog, then I would request you to share here. It would be great help."
There is a short video film for that. This was created by Wendyvee in early 2013:

Sunday, June 10, 2018

"From the personal library of Dan Rather"

I have no idea whether this refers to the Dan Rather, but I found the above provenance stamp, which measures about three inches across, on the first page of a used copy of 2002's The Banana Sculptor, The Purple Lady, and the All-Night Swimmer: Hobbies, Collecting, and Other Passionate Pursuits, by Susan Sheehan and Howard Means.

The book is sort of a less-frenetic version of Errol Morris' documentary Fast, Cheap & Out of Control. I was browsing it a bit before bed last night and (of course) stopped at a chapter about Texas librarian and yard-sale enthusiast Cathy Henderson. Here's are some excerpts...
"I am looking for nothing, just for what catches my eye," Henderson says, and promptly qualifies this statement. "I generally look for jewelry, decorative objects, art, books and CDs, and accessories. I don't buy furniture. I already have too much furniture. All my friends know about my garage sale-ing and ask me to shop for them. Right now, I'm looking for a manual typewriter for a friend." ...

She calls eBay "the world's garage sale" — she is convinced it is better for sellers than for buyers, that some people first try to sell their wares on eBay, then, if that fails, take them to thrift stores or, another rung down the price ladder, offer then up on their lawns...

"I'm not too cerebral about why I go garage-saleing, but I'll track it back to my high school debate coach dissuading me from pursuing a career in archaeology," she says. "He said it didn't pay enough. Archaeology as treasure hunting had a real appeal for me, so now I do my treasure hunting at garage sales..."
* * *
Meanwhile, Rather, who will turn 87 this Halloween and might or might not have once had this book on his shelf, remains active and outspoken on social media. Here are a few of his very recent posts:

Rather's Facebook post on June 4:
I look out at our nation today and feel great pride in so many ways and with so many people. And yet that pride must compete with a powerful gut-level feeling of shame. For make no mistake, we are in a moment of deep and abiding shame. And that shame must belong to all of us.

When we learn our American history, there is so much of which to be justly proud. But the nobleness of our great democratic experiment has also been marred by stark failures - where the chasm between the idealism of our founding documents and the reality of our laws and policies are, and should be, a cause of deep shame.

For all the talk of "all men are created equal", we allowed men, women and children to be bought, sold, beaten, raped, and lynched in the name of white supremacy. We wiped out entire tribes of native peoples, from their land and from our nation. We discriminated against immigrants due to their nationality, religion, and race. We interned patriotic Japanese Americans and ruined lives with anti-Communist and anti-gay witch hunts. We exploited workers and despoiled the environment. Time and again, we have reacted with callousness when we needed compassion. These sins of the past, and many others, remain with us.

Now, when I read the paper or hear the President and his apologists speak, I see an era where shame is once again a proper response. Who are we, that we separate parents from children seeking asylum, that we ignore the plight of the people of Puerto Rico, that we claim a President is like a king - above the law, and that we turn our backs on science and reason? It is shameful, and history will surely see it as thus.

But even in times of shame, there has been another American response. Leaders have risen up and said, we cannot allow this to be. We must feel this shame and channel it into action. For out of shame, has come an engine for the improvement of our nation. I feel that energy once more. I see many who refuse to be blinded by the moment. They speak with the moral justice of our history, and I truly believe, are determined to deliver us a better future.