Saturday, June 30, 2018

Cool Czech Republic postcard with puppets Spejbl and Hurvínek

On the same week that I once again wrote about Lada Draskovic, I received a dandy Postcrossing postcard from a different Lada, a woman in the Czech Republic who likes Justin Bieber, Adele, castles, ruins, historical novels and books about vampires.

She writes of "the most famous Czech wooden puppets" — Spejbl and Hurvínek — who were created, per Lada, in 1919 (Spejbl) and 1926 (Hurvínek). They were dreamed up by teacher Josef Skupa, who toured widely with them, manipulating both puppets and providing both voices. According to the World Encyclopedia of Puppetry Arts (which is easily one of the grooviest encyclopedias ever):
"Spejbl was sculpted by wood carver Karel Nosek in 1920 following Skupa’s design. Conceived in the Dadaist spirit, Spejbl is dressed in a tuxedo with tails, snow-white gloves and wooden shoes; in contrast, the character is bald-headed, with large ears and protruding eyes. This opposition between different social symbols is also expressed in the personality of the puppet character: a simple man but clumsy, opinionated but mired in its contradictions, and torn between his social ambitions and his limited capabilities. The Hurvínek puppet was carved in 1926 by Gustav Nosek. His appearance – peculiar movable eyes, a tuft of dishevelled hair, dressed in short pants held up by suspenders – gave Hurvínek the appearance of a rascally suburban street urchin."
You can learn more about the puppets at this English-language website.

Book cover: "Appalachian Hiker, Adventure of a Lifetime"

  • Title: Appalachian Hiker, Adventure of a Lifetime
  • Author: Edward B. Garvey (1914-1999)
  • Publisher: Appalachian Books (Oakton, Virginia)
  • Year: 1971
  • Original price: Unknown, but I found a reference to the book still being in print in 1979 and costing $4.95 at that time.
  • My price: $1 at this year's Book Nook Bonanza in York
  • Typical cost of used copies: $10-$30
  • Sequels: This book was followed by two volumes that essentially serve as revisions and updates on Garvey's hiking life: 1978's Appalachian Hiker II and 1997's The New Appalachian Trail (Appalachian Hiker III).
  • Pages: 397
  • Format: Sturdy paperback
  • Back-cover blurb: "The long awaited book that competently describes the whole Appalachian Trail. The newest and most completely documented account of hiking the Trail from Georgia to Maine. Information on food stores, restaurants, hotels, motels, Post Offices. Edward B. Garvey, 58 years old, between careers, member of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) hiked the entire Trail in 1970 and has written this book about his adventure, how he planned for it, and the experiences he had."
  • First sentence: This is the story of the Appalachian Trail, the famous hiking footpath that stretches for 2,000 miles along the crest of the Appalachian mountain chain from Maine to Georgia.
  • Final sentences: To those who will hike the Trail for a few days or a few weeks, I wish you happy hiking. May the skies be sunny, the springs full, and the shelters clean and dry. For the comparatively few who have the time and stamina to hike the entire Trail I say "Welcome to the Club!" I know that for them, as well as for myself, it will be "The Adventure of a Lifetime!"
  • Random sentence from middle: A scant 50 yards from the shelter the U.S. Army was conducting helicopter maneuvers.
  • Items listed in chapter titled "Not Necessary But Nice": Camera, binoculars, book, radio, thermometer, diary, knives (specifically the Swiss Army Knife, which Garvey says is truly not needed).
  • Goodreads rating: 4.0 stars (out of 5)
  • Amazon rating: 4.6 stars (out of 5.0)
  • Excerpt from Amazon review: In 2015, Bansko wrote: "I read this book cover-to-cover several times when it first came out in the early '70's. I was a young Boy Scout who had the good fortune of belonging to a troop that loved to backpack. We covered small sections of the AT on our weekend trips, but this book gave me bigger dreams."
  • Notes: When my friend Mike McCombs and I were copy editors at the Spartanburg Herald-Journal in the late 1990s, we shared the dream of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. While editing and designing the pages for the sports section, we would discuss taking six months off from work, acquiring backpacks and gear, mailing supplies ahead and enjoying life on the Trail. We mulled how we would turn our Journalism Bodies into Hiker Bodies. On that last note, we decided the most likely scenario would involve letting the Trail itself work us into shape; for many hikers, the first few hundred miles serve as the best weight-loss and leg-strengthening program. Alas, two decades later we have not yet hit the Trail. ... I moved back to York County, Pennsylvania, in 2000 and, coincidentally, in 2002 I wrote the obituary for Earl V. Shaffer while working at the York Daily Record. (Sadly, that obituary appears to have disappeared from cyberspace.) Shaffer, a York County native, became possibly the first thru-hiker of the Appalachian Trail in 1948 and traversed the Trail many more times during his life, including at age 79 in 1998. In 1983, the book Walking With Spring, about Shaffer's Trail experiences, was published. ... I used to have a larger library of Appalachian Trail books, but have downsized that section over the years. A two-volume set that remains is Hiking the Appalachian Trail, which was published in 1973 by Rodale Press. Edited by James R. Hare, it contains dozens of first-person accounts by Trail hikers. If you're interested in even more stories, the website AT Memoirs contains a "bibliography of Appalachian Trail memoirs published in book format."

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Yet another postcard of a child riding a water buffalo

This flimsy old postcard featuring a photographic image of a young child atop a water buffalo has never been used. The caption states:
29. Riding on a Water Buffalo. Philippine Islands. (American Baptist Missionary Union, Boston)
The American Baptist Missionary Union was founded in 1814. Among the group's numbers was Charlotte "Susanna" Hazen Atlee (1782-1863), who was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. After she was widowed, Charlotte White joined the First Baptist Church in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and later became the first unmarried American woman missionary sent to a foreign country, working in India from 1816 through 1826. She remarried and had three children while serving there.

As for water buffalo, they apparently have the highest numbers of use for domestic labor of any animal in the world, and are even seeing their numbers rise in the United States. I say it's time to give them a well-deserved break for the next couple of centuries. Here's my plank for jump-starting a better America for everyone and everything: Put Americans (and those seeking citizenship) to work building, from 100% recycled materials, solar-powered robotic water buffalo, which we shall ride atop and use as our primary form of transportation moving forward. Make room for plenty of cargo space in the hollow robot rump.1 Commute times will be longer, but perhaps that will inspire us to work closer to home and/or find more time for reflection, relaxation and education while the Autonomous Water Buffalo Automobile (AWBA) does its thing. Are you with me, Elon Musk?


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

All sorts of weirdness packed into a mid-century bookplate

This bookplate looks like it belongs to one of those mysterious secret societies, like the Illuminati, the Priory of Sion, the Order of the Talamasca or the Carbonari. Mixed among the ornate flourishes are seahorses, a skull, an oil lamp, nude figures, and what appears to be a shovel with a square cross. All of this is elaborately melded together into the general shape of a slightly unsettling coat of arms. Somebody call Tom Hanks!

Next to the bookplate, the name "Kenneth S. Howard" and the date May 10, 1955, are written in cursive writing. That's written perpendicular to and removed from the bookplate, so we can't be certain whether it's Howard's bookplate. Also, Kenneth S. Howard is way too generic of a name for us to track him down, although there was one individual with that name who wrote some books about chess.

The bookplate appears on the inside front cover of 1955's The Susquehanna, a history of the titular river, by Carl Carmer (1893-1976). Carmer's most important book was 1934's Stars Fell on Alabama, about the lifestyle, people and (horrific) racial relations in that state at the time. He also wrote about folklore, superstitions and bizarre hoaxes such as the Cardiff Giant, so maybe we can find some way to incorporate him into the "mystery" around this bookplate.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

German postcard: In the mill in Märchengrund

The printed text on the front of this German postcard, when roughly translated to English, states:

In the mill in Märchengrund
the mill-wheel turns every hour
The millers grimly grasp
The sacks fill up in no time!

Märchengrund is, appropriately enough for this blog, a children's fairy-tale theme park that opened in 1910 in Bad Sachsa in Lower Saxony, Germany. To learn more, I had to do additional translating from the Märchengrund website, which is curiously only posted in German.

It is an attraction where grandparents and parents can share with their grandchildren and children the fairy tales of generations past. The old-fashioned park is proud that it doesn't deploy plastics or "modern technology." In the enchanted forest, visitors might encounter Snow White or Hexe Hillebille, which translates to Witch Hillebille. More of the translation:
"The newly designed fairytale house invites young and old to play and read fairy tales. In the witches' house, colorful costumes transform visitors into fairy-tale characters."
For children, it promises: "Whoever solves our fairytale puzzles, finds the witch hiding places and helps Snow White find the seven dwarfs, gets a lucky stone as a reward from the treasure chest of the seven dwarfs."

There is no date of publication for this postcard and no indication if or when it was mailed. There is a cursive message on the back, written in German. The message consists of four separate happy-birthday wishes for Elizabeth from two aunts, a grandmother and a grandfather.

An addendum to "The Incomplete Lada Draskovic"

Five-and-a-half years ago, I had a post titled "The Incomplete Lada Draskovic." It pulled together everything I knew at the time about Lada Draskovic and her now-obscure Sweetniks dolls in the early 1960s. The incomplete tale involves, among other things, a fair amount of World War II intrigue.

The dolls are extremely rare. On a whim, I checked eBay recently to see if any of them were listed for sale there. And it turns out that one of them sold last month (May 2018) for an undisclosed sum after initially being listed for $1,200.

Here, along with some images from that eBay listing, are some interesting details that the Tennessee-based seller included in the item description:
Super Rare! Vintage 1960's "Sweentnik" Beatnik Doll, Tagged Brevettato Italy, Made Exclusively for Saks Fifth Avenue

After much research, all I could find were two other "sweetnik" dolls and the newspaper photo ... with caption that names the creator of the doll Lada Draskovic. The newspaper mention says the dolls "selling like hot-cakes in Rome, may soon be introduced in the US" ... this doll, seems to be the proof that they did, indeed make to the US, because in addition to the "Sweetnik - Made in Italy" silver paper tag, it also has a tag that reads "Made exclusively for Saks Fifth Avenue".

My guess, after their popularity in Rome, these were made for Saks Fifth Avenue, hitting stores in 1960-1961, very likely not sold for more than 1 year or more.

I found this doll at a high-end estate sale filled with top of the line Hollywood Regency furniture, vintage designer clothing, hats, jewelry, purses and shoes. The fashionable lady of the house had 8-10 overflowing closets. The doll seemed appropriate in her surroundings. I've been buying and selling vintage and collectibles for over 25 years and I have NEVER come across this doll before. ...

This doll is in very good vintage condition, she can stand on her own, but her head and hair make her top heavy, so a stand would be preferable. See all pictures.

Specifications: Height: 15"

Materials/Techniques: Wood legs & feet, leather & felt sandals, tartan paid cloth tunic, corduroy pants, brass bracelets, bendable/pose-able wire arms, wool yarn pale yellow hair, hand painted face with exaggerated eyes.
(From what I understand, completed eBay auction listings only remain available to the public via online searches for 90 days, which is why, as a historian, I see value in preserving the item description and some of the Sweetniks photos in this post.)

Monday, June 25, 2018

Mary L. Haines' 1909 bookplate

Mary L. Haines kept this poetry book for many years.

In 1894, Rhymes of Childhood, by James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916), was published by The Bowen-Merrill Company.

In 1896, the book was given to Mary L. Haines as a Christmas gift from Mrs. Hogue. We know that from the cursive inscription on the first page.

Years later, Mary affixed a 2¾-inch bookplate with 1909 and her initials, MLH, to the inside front cover.

So, who was Mary L. Haines? That's a tough one, because her name is a little bit on the generic side. If we limit the search to Pennsylvania, there are a couple of possibilities:

I'll leave you with this short excerpt from one of Riley's poems, titled "A Home-Made Fairy-Tale":

For I was a-watchin' something queer
Goin' on there in the grass, my dear!
'Way down deep in it, there I see
A little dude-Fairy who winked at me,
And snapped his fingers, and laughed as low
And fine as the whine of a mus-kee-to!

Bookplate within 19th century "German Fairy Tales"

This 2⅛-inch bookplate appears inside a slim volume titled German Fairy Tales, which was part of Maynard's English Classic Series. The 4½-inch-wide book was published in 1894 as Number 132 in a series that cost $10 to subscribe to. That's the equivalent of $287 today, so this series wasn't exactly for the masses. I wonder if many of them were purchased by schools and libraries.

Tales by The Brothers Grimm included in this volume are "Little Briar Rose," "Jorinda and Joringel," "The Bremen Town Musicians," "Rumpelstiltskin," "Iron John," "The Water of Life," "The Spirit in the Bottle," and "Faithful John".

As for the bookplate, my best guess is that B.A. Field of Watertown, New York, is Judge Brayton A. Field (1853-1940). Here is an excerpt from his obituary, which was published in the Empire State Universalist and is posted on Field's Find A Grave page:
"Judge Field was born on a farm in Hounsfield with an ancestry which went back to 1629 when Zechariah Field sailed from England for Boston. He graduated from the Watertown High School in 1873. A year of poor health followed and then four years at Dartmouth College. ... His law practice included criminal cases in his first years, but in later years it was identified with the Federal Land Bank, which loans government money to farmers. For many years he was village attorney for Dexter.

"He was member of the City Board of Health for seven years and president of the Bureau of Charities and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for a longer period. For many years, he served All Souls Universalist Church as a trustee and president of its board of trustees. ...

"He was married to Miss Antoinette E. Thompson [1858–1946] on April 27, 1881."
Brayton and Antoinette had four children, one of whom — Brayton W. Field — lived until 1984.