Saturday, August 17, 2019

Charlotte Lederer illustrations within 1928's "The Story of the Gypsies"

I have a falling-apart copy of the 1928 hardcover The Story of the Gypsies, which was written by Konrad Bercovici (1882–1961). Bercovici was born in Romania and was raised in a multicultural environment, learning to speak Greek, Romanian, French and German. His family also had close ties with local Roma people. He later became a journalist (among many other life adventures) and was well-known for literary fiction exploring Romani/gypsy themes. He traveled widely to research enthnographies and other books, and hobnobbed with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Charlie Chaplin, the latter who had to pay him $95,000 to settle a lawsuit over the authorship of the script for The Great Dictator.

There's not much about the original The Story of the Gypsies (which was republished in 1983 as Gypsies: Their Life, Lore, and Legends) available online. But J. Cox wrote an eloquent piece as an Amazon review in 2016. Here are some excerpts:
"This is a strange and beautiful book. More of a mix of journalism, folklore, and the oral tradition than straight history, Mr. Bercovici was obviously in love with the people whose lives he described. ...

"This book was written and in 1928. The author ... is fearful for the future of the people who's lives he describes. Though Germany was solidly democratic at the time, Bercovici particularly cites the German addiction to strict law and order and the demand for cultural and ethnic homogeneity as the great threat to Gypsy survival and the Bolshevik ambition to transform society as a threat to Gypsy freedom. Given what what was coming in ten years time, the Porraimos, the Devouring, the systematic extermination of the European Gypsy communities by Nazi Germany, and its sad coda, the forcible assimilation of the remaining Gypsy communities in the post-war Communist regimes, this book ultimately strikes a note both heartbreaking and prophetic."
And then we come to the book's illustrator, Charlotte Lederer. We don't know much about her, specifically. She was likely born in Hungary in the late 19th century, and her maiden name was Charlotte Bacskai. We know this because her daughter, Anna Marie Rosenberg (1902-1983), achieved a more lasting fame. Anna and her family came to the United States as immigrants in 1912, and Anna's impressive resume included working as a student nurse, a seller of Liberty Bonds, a regional director for the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933, a regional director for the War Manpower Commission, and, ultimately, she was confirmed as the first Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Personnel, despite strenuous opposition from U.S. Sen. Joseph "Red Scare" McCarthy. She remained, I believe, the only woman to hold that post until Stephanie Barna had the job from 2014 to 2016 in President Barack Obama's administration.

But back to Charlotte Lederer. We know that some other books she illustrated include Tales from the Crescent Moon, Malou: A Little Swiss Girl, The Children of the Rising Sun, The Magic Cock, The Golden Flock, Ginevra, Made in Hungary, and Tinka, Minka and Linka.

Here are her four beautiful color illustrations from 1928's The Story of the Gypsies:

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Book cover: "So you want to be a Ham"

I thought this post would be thematically appropriate, given all the QSL cards that have been featured on Papergreat over the years...

  • Title: So you want to be a Ham
  • Author: Robert Hertzberg (1905-1992)
  • Cover artist: Unknown
  • Publisher: Howard W. Sams & Co., Inc., of Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Publication date: 1977 (Seventh Edition, Second Printing)
  • Original publication date: 1955
  • Seventh Edition price: $5.95 (That price in 1977 is the equivalent of about $25 today, so this was a pricey tome.)
  • Price I paid: $3.50 at The York Emporium
  • Pages: 189
  • Format: Paperback
  • Back cover excerpt: "Modern radiocommunications is one of the most fascinating technological advancements of our time. It has played a major role in making the world appear smaller than it is. An amateur radio operator, using only a small amount of power, can talk to fellow hams in distant countries. What better way is there to learn more about the world than to talk to someone who lives in another country thousands of miles away?"
  • About the author: Col. Robert Edward Hertzberg, who used the call signs 2ABK, W2DJJ and K4JBI during his lifetime, is profiled on the Quarter Century Wireless Association website. This is his mini biography that appears on the back cover of So you want to be a Ham:
    "Robert Hertzberg was only 15 years old when he received his amateur license on December 17, 1919. The next day, using a buzzer transmitter and a crystal receiver, he worked his first station. It was only two blocks away, but he has never forgotten the thrill that it gave him. Over the years that followed, his equipment has progressed from crude spark to sophisticated sideband, and to this day he gets a kick out of every new contact, local or DX.

    "While in college, Bob received $5.00 from an early radio magazine for a description of a homemade code-practice oscillator. Almost immediately, he turned his interests toward technical journalism. During a busy career as both editor and writer, he has authored more than thirty books and countless magazine articles.

    "In the late 1920s, he helped organize and promote the Army Amateur Radio System. This led to a commission in the Army Reserves, to five years of active duty during World War II, and to eventual retirement as a Colonel."
  • First paragraph: "It is late in the afternoon of a wintry day and you're killing time before supper. All you can find on TV is an old Western in which the 'good guy' manages to coax nine or ten shots out of a six-shooter without reloading. For relief, you turn on the old all-wave console radio you have retained for just such emergencies. As the set warms up, a lot of grinding noise comes out of the speaker."
  • Last paragraph: "As a hobby, ham radio seems to be closely related to shooting and photography. It is interesting to read the classified ads and to note that receivers, transmitters, rifles, pistols, cameras, and enlargers are always for sale or wanted."
  • Well, that's disturbing: Yes.
  • Random sentence from middle: "A picnic in the country becomes doubly enjoyable if you park your car in some quiet, secluded spot, preferably on a hill, where reception and transmission are both good."
  • Excerpt from a review: Written by W4KYR on Halloween 2016 for
    "This is the Fifth Edition, published in 1971 by Howard Sams & Co. This book was in my local library around the very early 1970's. When I saw this on one of the online bookstores going for under $5 I snapped it up.

    "From a purely historical point of view, this paperback classic is filled with photos of hams at their stations using now what we call vintage equipment. One picture was of a lady ham from Iowa who could send and receive at an impressive 60 wpm. Another picture is a ham who has his rig on the floor behind the driver's seat! The rig was so big that he couldn't even fit it under his dash. ...

    "If you are an older ham, this book should bring back some memories. If you are a newer ham, then buy this book for an exciting snapshot of our past. You should be able to pick this book at one of the online used bookstores for a few dollars. The historical pictures alone just about makes it a must buy. This book gets an 5 out of 5, but purely from an historical point of view."

Bonus interior photo

"Mrs. Eileen Cline ... often flabbergasts other hams by sending at 60 words per minute"

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Mystery real photo postcard:
Girl in the yard with pillow

I've been working on a longer post, but in the meantime here's a stained real photo postcard of a girl standing in a yard. She's holding what appears to be an embroidered pillow that's set upon a small table. Did she make the pillow? Was it a gift? A family heirloom?

Interestingly, she has a ring on the middle finger of her left hand. (You'll need to click on the photo and magnify to see it.) Anyone know if that signifies anything? Note, too, that she's wearing high-laced boots and has elaborate pigtails with ribbons. The yard itself isn't very interesting or filled with clues.

The back of the postcard has no writing and NO STAMP BOX, which is rare for the RPPCs I've encountered. That left me seemingly up a creek. But it turns out that the amazing has a page that allows you identify a real photo postcard just by the typography of the word POSTCARD on the back. And so it turns out that this postcard was published by Kregal (or Kregel) Photo Parlors in St. Paul/Minneapolis, Minnesota, between the years of 1910 and 1918.

So that's nice, but of course none of that is likely to ever help us identify this girl.