Saturday, July 28, 2018

Old postcard: Gibraltar signal station

This would be a nice place to stay, if you just wanted a little quiet and solitude. Perhaps you could catch up on a bunch of reading, assuming you could haul all your books up the mountain.1 The downside is that you'd probably be interrupted constantly by solicitors asking you to sign up for the Beacons of Gondor Affiliate Program.™

Middle-Earth jokes aside, this is an actual place, of course. The undated, unused postcard, published by Benzaquen & Co., shows a signal station high atop the Rock of Gibraltar. Because of its strategic signficance, Gibraltar is "probably the most fought over and most densely fortified place in Europe, and probably, therefore, in the world," according to Field Marshal Sir John Lyon Chapple, who served in the British Army from 1954 to 1992 and was Governor of Gibraltar from 1993 to 1995.

Given this military significance, there have been fortifications and artillery installed all over the Rock over the centuries, often with those installations constructed upon the bones of previous structures. They have names such as the Bombproof Barracks, Defensible Barracks, Jumper's Bastion, King's Bastion, Breakneck Battery, Detached Mole Battery, Devil's Gap Battery, Devil's Tongue Battery, Oil Tanks Battery, Signal Hill Battery (an older version of which might be shown on this postcard), Montagu Curtain, Ragged Staff Gates, Admiralty Tunnel, Stanley's Clock Tower, Tower of Homage, and West Place of Arms.

1. I'm still not advocating e-books.

How to improve your luck in 1936

These two advertisements appear toward the back of the The Illinois Herb Company Almanac for 1936 (which I will surely be writing about separately in the future).

The first advertisement touts the "benefits" of a lodestone, which is a naturally magnetized rock mineral. The breathless copy, targeting folks susceptible to the belief that they need a little magic in their lives, states: "There is something mysterious and attractive in the magnetic power of this Full Strength Magnetic Lodestone. Many people call it the Luck Bringer. They carry it as a Luck Piece, claiming they are Lucky and Successful in Everything they undertake and would not be without it for any price."

Regarding price, the cost of this genuine lodestone advertised 82 years ago, in the midst of the Great Depression, was one dollar. The single dollar could have also bought a 1936 family (these are rough estimates) 6.5 pounds of pork loin roast, at least 10 loaves of bread, 20 pounds of bananas, or five dozen eggs.

* * *

For a less money — 50 cents, the equivalent of $9 today — you could have purchased the Lucky Number Dream Book. This advertising copy states: "Not only does the Lucky Number Dream Book give you the explanation of your Dreams but it also gives your Lucky Days and Numbers; Good Combinations to play; the rules of learning saddles, gigs and horses..."

Oh, so you're spending less money up front, but this book would "help" to "guide" you in spending the remainder of your bread money on gambling and horse racing. Wonderful.

It also states that the book contains Napoleon's Oraculum. According to The Public Domain Review: "The Oraculum had been originally discovered in one of the Royal tombs of Egypt during a French military expedition of 1801, and at Napoleon's request was translated by a famous German scholar and antiquarian. Apparently consulting it 'before every important occasion', the book became one of the emperor's most treasured possessions. It was found among his personal possessions after the defeat of his army at Leipzig in 1813 and translated into English in 1822."

Friday, July 27, 2018

#FridayReads roundup: Links to important & quirky articles

Instagram photo of Gifford Pinchot State Park by me.

Need some lunch-time, hammock or survival-cabin reads for the summer? Here you go, with Papergreat's latest roundup of journalism and essays from around the Internet.

Heavy Stuff

Less-Heavy Stuff

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Colorful postcard of Bogatyrs

I received this Postcrossing postcard this week from Russia. The sender, who says she's a fan of anthropomorphic animals and The Walking Dead, wrote:
"Greetings from Russia! My name is Natasha. I live in big city Novosibirsk. Postcard shows three of the most famous heroes (Bogatyrs): Ilya Muromets, Dobrynya Nikitich and Alyosha Popovich. +89° F"
Regarding Bogatyrs, Wikipedia has this to say: "A Bogatyr is a stock character in medieval East Slavic legends, akin to a Western European knight-errant. Bogatyrs are mainly found in Rus' epic poems called Bylinas and came into existence during Vladimir the Great's reign as part of his elite warriors, akin to Knights of the Round Table except, King Arthur accompanied his men on most of their adventures unlike Prince Vladimir. Bogatyrs are described as warriors of immense strength, courage and bravery, rarely using magic while fighting enemies in order to maintain the 'loosely based on historical fact' aspect of Bylinas."

Ilya Muromets, son of a farmer, was given super-human strength by a dying knight and battled Nightingale the Robber, who was also a monster.

Dobrynya Nikitich disobeyed his mother and spent his life battling dragons.

Alyosha Popovich was a bit of a rogue and joker who appears to have gotten into a lot of knife fights.

Mystery photo: Lady by the pond

This 2⅞-inch-wide snapshot has a circular stamp on the back indicating the print was made in September 1938 — 80 years ago! — in La Crosse, Wisconsin. But there's no writing on the back indicating where the photo was taken or who this woman was. She's wearing an unfussy dress, has a cheery smile and is holding something I can't identify in her hands.

This pond and surrounding area look like a pleasant place for solitude and relaxation. I wonder how many frogs there are, though!

Final note: I think there's a reasonable likelihood that this is the same pond that's featured in this mystery photo from October 2016.

Jumping off point for more mystery photos here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Vintage Frith's Series postcard of Land's End

As "Water Always Wins" week continues here in super-soggy central Pennsylvania, it seems appropriate to post this unused vintage postcard showcasing Land's End, the westernmost point in mainland England and Cornwall. It's also a general area, with nearby Penzance and Sennen Cove, that was a deep part of the fabric of author Ruth Manning-Sanders' life.

Here is a bit from Wikipedia about the area:
"Land's End has a particular resonance because it is often used to suggest distance. Land's End to John o' Groats in Scotland is a distance of 838 miles (1,349 km) by road and this Land's End to John o' Groats distance is often used to define charitable events such as end-to-end walks and races in the UK. Land's End to the northernmost point of England is a distance of 556 miles (895 km) by road. The cliffs are made of Granite that is an Igneous rock, which means that the cliffs will be more resistant to weathering, and will have steeper cliff faces."
There is plenty of folklore regarding Land's End and this region of Cornwall. One piece involves speculation that the "Lost City" of Atlantis is located about 100 miles from Land's End; Russian explorers dove headlong into this theory in the late 1990s. Of course that's just one of many, many rumored locations of a sunken city that probably doesn't exist.

Speaking of Russians and Cornwall, there is also a bizarre story that is well-described by this CornwallLive headline: "The strange tale of the mad Russian hermit who lived in Cornish caves and survived on blackberries."

The back of this Frith's Series postcard features a triangular purple stamp with LANDS END printed inside. On both the front and back, it's clear that the British didn't see a need for including an apostrophe in Land's End.

Lost Corners: Ephemera blogger Chuck Whiting checks in

In April, I published a "Lost Corners of the Internet" installment about a couple of ephemera blogs authored by Texas bookseller Chuck Whiting.

Chuck was in touch recently and kindly shared this story about the history of his online ephemera-sleuthing. Here's what he wrote:
Thanks for the kind words about my blogs. I prefer to think of them as being on an unintended and extended hiatus. I never meant to quit writing for them; business and life slowly eroded my spare time for such pursuits. But I have about 50 drafts still waiting to get fleshed out and I hope to return soon.

Bibliophemera was focused solely on book trade-related ephemera. As I collected more and more interesting ephemera that had no connection to bookselling, but still mattered to me, I started Paper Matters. Its "focus" was everything else paper.

Both were preceded by a blog called Archaeolibris (, which dealt with interesting things found among the leaves of old books, either a physical object left as a bookmark or an interesting passage or theme in the printed text. That one probably is shuttered. Its focus tended to wander, but it gave me the idea for another one that dealt with writing found in books — marginalia, provenance, etc. That one I called Writing in Books ( It was fun and most entries were relatively brief. I still come across interesting marginalia and notation in the books I acquire for my inventory, but the time thing got in the way with that blog also. Hope to get back to it as well.

I've just discovered your blog and have enjoyed the little I've read very much. I look forward to reading more. I had even thought a few years back I would just roll all my blogs into one, similar to yours, and not have four or five to deal with (there's an ill-fated fifth out there that dealt, or wanted to deal with, verse about books).

Anyway, good to come across your writing and I'll add a link to it on my blogs for whomever still finds them.

Kind regards,
Thanks, Chuck. All four of your above-linked blogs are outstanding, and worthwhile for folks to check out, even if they're shuttered or on hiatus. They are still important historic digital documents.

I would never have enough discipline to manage multiple blogs, which is indeed why I just roll everything into Papergreat. This blog has certainly expanded and transmogrified over the years from its original ephemera focus and become a personal journal and sandbox for rants, trips down memory lane, and social commentary at times.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Mystery photo: Pair of young realtors

This 3¼-inch-wide snapshot features a young child and a toddler standing nicely in front of a For Sale sign at an unknown residence. Did their family just purchase this house? Are they trying to sell this house so they can move elsewhere in search of The American Dream™ ?

One thing we can agree on, though: Those are some excellent shoes and socks.

A clue for this comes from the sign itself. The phone number listed underneath The Suburban Co. Realtors is: HOPKINS 0640

Thus, my best guess is that this photo was taken in Maryland. I have found 1940s references to both The Suburban Co. operating in Maryland and HO being used as a telephone prefix in Maryland. In both cases, however, those elements are easily generic enough to both be found elsewhere.

Jumping off point for more mystery photos here.

Monday, July 23, 2018

1907 blue-tinted postcard featuring Europe's first high-rise

This postcard was mailed 111 years ago, in 1907, and it's certainly showing its age, with scratches, creases and rough corners. To me, that just enhances its beauty and propels it into the potential ranks of Water-Stained or Otherwise Damaged Works of Art.1 The blue-tinted card showcases a historic European building that was then in its first decade of existence.

The structure is the Witte Huis in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Constructed in 1898 and standing 10 stories tall, it is arguably the first high-rise building2 in Europe, though it competes with the much taller (and much later) Boerentoren in Antwerp, Belgium, semantically speaking, for the "official" honor.

Witte Haus was constructed in the Art Nouveau style, with a rooftop observation deck, central heating and electric elevators. No wood was used within the construction, for fear of fire, so the roof was built of iron with cork insulation. The building was one of the few in central Rotterdam to withstand the German bombing raids of World War II, and furthermore it served as an important elevated location for the Dutch military in trying to repel German forces.

The Witte Huis still stands today and is a National Heritage Site in the Netherlands.

This postcard was mailed from Rotterdam to Media, Pennsylvania, in 1907, with a red, five-cent stamp featuring Wilhelmina Helena Pauline Maria (1880-1962), who became Queen of the Netherlands in 1890 at age 10. Discover everything you ever wanted to know about Netherlands stamps of 1898 to 1924 in this article at Stamp Collecting World.

1. See also:
2. The Dutch word for high-rise is hoogbouw.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Colorful linen postcards: Sharks and windmills

Here are a couple of vintage postcards to brighten your Sunday afternoon...

This Genuine Curteich-Chicago postcard, published by Duval News Company of Jacksonville, Florida, features the "Sharks and Shipwrecks of Marine Studios" in Marineland, Florida. Marine Studios, still in operation today as Marineland Dolphin Adventure, opened 80 summers ago, in June 1938. The idea of enclosing sea mammals was a spectacle at the time — not provoking the outrage it does today — and thousands of tourists jammed up Florida's Highway A1A in their attempts to see the bottlenose dolphin there.

This postcard was mailed in 1953 to a boy named Clayton in Union, New Jersey. The short note states:
"Hi Clayton
This is something to see. Go swimming everyday.
Peter & Bruce"

* * *

This second linen postcard, also a Genuine Curteich-Chicago creation and published by United News Company of Detroit, Michigan, features the Cape Cod Windmill at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. It is thought by many to be the oldest windmill in the United States, having been constructed between 1630 and 1650 in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

In the 1930s, not without controversy, it was gifted to Henry Ford and moved from Massachusetts to Michigan, which would surely be no small feat in any era.

This card was mailed to Elizabeth, New Jersey, in 1947 with this short note:

"Do you think you could build one of these?"