Saturday, July 14, 2018

They don't make high schools like this any more

This old postcard features the high school (which no longer exists) in Warren, Pennsylvania. It's part of a cache of cards belonging to the Berger family of Foltz, Pennsylvania. I rounded up links to those postcards in two summers ago.

I finally found some information about this building thanks to the Warren Library Association. It was built between 1896 and 1897 and was razed in 1960 or 1961.

It was located on the corner of Second Avenue and Market Street, which then became the site of the Market Street Elementary School after 1961. That elementary school, in turn, appears to have closed in 2006.

Warren High's nickname, by the way, is the Dragons, which is pretty dang cool.

An 1893 bookplate, the Chautauqua movement and a sad ending

This 125-year-old bookplate, 3¾ inches wide, appears on the inside front cover of Walks and Talks in the Geological Field, which was written by Alexander Winchell (1824-1891) and published in 1886 by Chautauqua Press.

Chautauqua1 was, per Wikipedia, "an adult education movement in the United States, highly popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries." Through the 1920s, there were gatherings throughout rural American that focused on culture, entertainment, religion and more. President Theodore Roosevelt said the Chautauqua movement was "the most American thing in America."

An excellent 1974 article by S.A. Schreiner Jr. in The New York Times details this history of the movement, straight through the early 1970s, and has this to say about Chautauqua Press:
"Thus was Chautauqua launched. And it grew apace. A systematic home study course, proved that the world was waiting for book clubs and correspondence courses. In less than seven years more than 100,000 people signed up for the home study and correspondence courses, and branches sprung up from Tokyo to London to Capetown. To meet the demand for books, a Chautauqua Press was set up, and by 1885 its catalogue listed 93 titles. As early as 1879, a Chautauqua Normal School of Languages was added to the Sunday School fare at the assembly grounds...

"By World War I, the press was gone, and the correspondence courses were retreating before a rising tide of competition from improved schools and bright commercial ventures. But the place called Chautauqua continued to grow."

* * *

Returning to the bookplate, here's the full text:

No. 54
Date, Dec. 4, 1893

Windfall — an awesome name — is these days just a tiny location in Granville Township, Bradford County.2

Haxton lived from 1871 to 1925, possibly residing his whole life in Bradford County, was a 32nd degree Mason and "traveling collector," and came to a sad end on his 54th birthday. This newspaper excerpt appears on his Find A Grave page:
Troy, Pa., March 15 [1925] – (Special to The Daily Review) – Slashing his throat with a razor, Myrton T. Haxton, justice of the peace of South Troy, inflicted fatal wounds today, his 54th birthday, and died at the home of his sister, Mrs. May Bruce, on Canton street here, at 7:45 tonight.

Mr. Haxton had been in ill health for months and had spent the past two weeks in the Gleason health resort at Elmira, N. Y. When he returned home Saturday night, however, he apparently was feeling fine, and declared to friends that he "hadn't felt better in a good while."

Mr. Haxton was staying with his sister, Mrs. Bruce. The family asked him to go for a ride this afternoon, but he said he thought he'd rather stay home and take a nap. When they returned they found the front door locked and Myrton Bruce, a nephew, went to the rear to get in, remarking that "Uncle Mert must have gone up home." Bruce called to his brother Roy and they found Mr. Haxton lying on his bed bleeding to death. That was about 3:30 or 3:45.

Dr. George Boyer was called and he quickly sewed up the wounds and stopped the bleeding. The right hand side of the neck was not cut deeply, but on the left side the small arteries were cut. Mr. Haxton rallied slightly, though he appeared in a daze. He said he was trying to shave and cut his throat.
1. Chautauqua itself is an undefined word from the now-extinct Erie language.
2. Other dandy place names in Bradford County include Apex, Armenia Mountain, Baldwinton, Dodgetown, Harkness, Hoblet, Lambs Lookout, Lix, Pail Factory, Phalanx and Roll-Way.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Hitchcockian postcard from Napoli

The birds are definitely making their move in this vintage postcard featuring Piazza del Plebiscito and San Francesco di Paola in Napoli (Naples), Italy. I haven't seen that many birds in one spot since that time I opened a container of french fries on a Maryland beach, which nearly led to the whole family getting slaughtered by seagulls. (I'm not joking. Don't try that unless you're wearing an Iron Man suit.)

One thing I'm not sure about is whether some of the birds were added by illustrators, thus making it more alarming than it actually was. (Note: I was additionally trying to work in a joke about the 2010 concert by Maroon 5 in Piazza del Plebiscito, but nothing good popped onto the page. I guess I'm losing my touch.)

The Roman Catholic church in the background dates to 1836 and contains artwork by Pietro Benvenuti, among others.

This postcard was mailed from Naples to New Jersey in 1953 and has a note that's written neatly in Italian. Translated roughly, it states:
We are still here. We'll be back at Guardia tonight. Geri shares (or parties with) Mario & Carol. Today I will see Vincenzo when I leave. I hope for the first [??]. Greetings to all. Romolo.

Other posts mentioning Naples/Napoli

Monday, July 9, 2018

Scholastic book cover: "Superstitious? Here's Why!"

  • Title: Superstitious? Here's Why!
  • Authors: Julie Forsyth Batchelor & Claudia De Lys
  • Illustrator: Erik Blegvad (1923-2014). Three of his illustrations are shown below.
  • Publisher: Scholastic Book Services (TX 1354)
  • Cover price: None listed
  • Year: Original copyright is 1954. This Scholastic edition is the first printing from April 1969.
  • Pages: 129
  • Format: Paperback
  • Back-cover blurb: "Do you knock on wood for luck? Avoid black cats? Go around ladders? Throw a pinch of salt over your left shoulder? Find out about these superstitions and dozens more that people have believed in since ancient times."
  • First sentence: Superstitions were part of the language and background of most of us as children.
  • Last sentences: If you happen to be afraid of witches try the counter-magic of placing a broom across your doorway. No witch, it is said, can ever resist a broomstick. So she'll hop right on yours and fly away!
  • Random sentence from middle: Another is to rub a grain of barley on the wart, then feed it to a chicken.
  • Rating on Amazon: 5.0 stars (out of 5)
  • Amazon review excerpt: In 2005, C.L. Wilson wrote: "What a fascinating little gem, written in early 50s. ... In fact, I copied the whole chapter on 'romance' to give to my son and daughter-in-law on their wedding anniversary."
  • Rating on Goodreads: 3.59 stars (out of 5)
  • Goodreads review excerpt: In 2016, Steve wrote: "The artwork is wonderful and keeps you wondering what the next illustration will be, and what the cat will be doing that appears in each of them."

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Summer reads, 2018 edition

Instagram photo by me

LNP/LancasterOnline published its "Summer reads: Recommendations from Lancaster County readers" this weekend, and it's full of terrific suggestions from librarians, educators and public officials.

I also have a few picks appearing in the LNP list. Unsurprisingly, when I was asked for my submissions, I wrote way too many words about too many books. Space is at a premium in newspapers these days, so my selections understandably had to be trimmed down. Here, for posterity, is my full original list. Share your summer reads in the comments or tweet them @Papergreat!

  • At Home: A Short History of Private Life (2010) by Bill Bryson. If you love general history books that are packed with ideas, famous (and forgotten) figures, outrageous anecdotes, and the kinds of historical connections that would make James Burke proud, this is the doorstop of a book for you.
  • The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence (2010) by Paul Davies. I'm only a third of the way through this history and criticism of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). Some of the theories and proposals presented here have already blown my mind a little bit.
  • The Only Harmless Great Thing (2018) by Brooke Bolander. You can polish off this novella, which is less than 100 pages, in an afternoon. But the alternate-history tale of elephants, electricity and atoms might stick with you much longer than that.
  • Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash (2012) by Edward Humes. This insightful book by Humes, a Pulitzer-winning journalist, will educate you on the depths of how much waste (and plastic!) society generates, but it also offers hopeful paths and ideas toward sustainability and shepherding of the environment. [I wrote more about this book on Earth Day.]
  • In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox (2016) by Carol Burnett. I grew up with Mr. Tudball, Mrs. Wiggins, Eunice, and all of the others dreamed up by Burnett, Vicki Lawrence, Harvey Korman and Tim Conway, so this memoir should provide plenty of chuckles.
  • Dancing on Blades: Rare and Exquisite Folktales from the Carpathian Mountains (2018) by Csenge Virag Zalka. I grew up on folk and fairy tales, especially those by Ruth Manning-Sanders, and I still seek them out at age 47. This collection of traditional tales unearthed by a young Hungarian storyteller is indeed "exquisite," and fun for all ages.
  • The Ladies-In-Waiting (2017) by Santiago Garcia, Javier Olivares and Erica Mena (translator). This one's a gorgeous graphic novel. About 17th century Spanish painter Diego Velázquez. With a complex plot that jumps back and forth between about four timelines. At this point, you're either deeply intrigued or quickly skipping ahead to the next book.
  • Swimmer Among the Stars (2017) by Kanishk Tharoor. I love short-story collections — I also have volumes by Paige Cooper, Richard Wright, Jamel Brinkley and Carmen Maria Machado stacked up and ready to go. And maybe I'll switch over to spooky short-story scribes Kelly Link and Robert Aickman once Halloween season rolls around.
  • Time is the Simplest Thing (1961) by Clifford D. Simak. A newspaper journalist who wrote novels and short stories on the side, Simak is best known for his "pastoral sci-fi." This tale isn't so much in that vein, but is a thought-provoking romp involving witches, space travel, superstitions and an all-powerful commerce-and-innovation corporation that might seem very familiar to today's readers.
  • What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry (2006) by John Markoff. This history book promises hippies and hackers, California living and computer culture. Count me in.

Great links: Artifacts dredged from the river Amstel in Amsterdam

Dan Herman of the charitable crusade Pengins for Everyone tipped me off to Below the Surface — an amazing database documenting hundreds of thousands of items that were discovered from 2003 to 2012 while the river Amstel in Amsterdam was being dredged for a construction project.

Here is an excerpt from Below the Surface's introduction to its archaeological enterprise:
"Urban histories can be told in a thousand ways. The archaeological research project of the North/South metro line lends the River Amstel a voice in the historical portrayal of Amsterdam. The Amstel was once the vital artery, the central axis, of the city. Along the banks of the Amstel, at its mouth in the IJ, a small trading port originated about 800 years ago. At Damrak and Rokin in the city centre, archaeologists had a chance to physically access the riverbed, thanks to the excavations for the massive infrastructure project of the North/South metro line between 2003 and 2012.

"Rivers in cities are unlikely archaeological sites. It is not often that a riverbed, let alone one in the middle of a city, is pumped dry and can be systematically examined. The excavations in the Amstel yielded a deluge of finds, some 700,000 in all: a vast array of objects, some broken, some whole, all jumbled together. Damrak and Rokin proved to be extremely rich sites on account of the waste that had been dumped in the river for centuries and the objects accidentally lost in the water. The enormous quantity, great variety and everyday nature of these material remains make them rare sources of urban history. The richly assorted collection covers a vast stretch of time, from long before the emergence of the city right up to the present day."
You can see all of those found objects, in their roughly-chronological and ever-scrolling glory, at this link on Below the Surface. The site furthermore ranks, in general terms, the types of material that were discovered:

  • Ceramics (350,491 items)
  • Bone (126,367)
  • Metal (91,849)
  • Leather (58,597)
  • Pipe clay (26,225)
  • Glass (21,218)
  • Building ceramics (10,405)

You will probably get the most enjoyment from just scrolling through the finds yourself, but here is a tiny sampling of items I came across:


GAMING TOKEN (1686—1713)

INSIGNIA PIN (1400-1450)

ARROWHEAD (1000-1300)

BRASS KEY (1800-1950)