Saturday, October 24, 2020

Postcrossing roundup, Part 2
(Late Summer/Autumn 2020)

 (Read Part 1)

It hasn't been the typical autumn of being out and about and discovering the foliage and fall atmosphere in-person across Pennsylvania (other than my neighborhood). But one thing that's helped to make that disappointment a little better is all of the autumn-themed Postcrossing postcards from around the world that have arrived in my mailbox.

Here's a look at photos and illustrations of The Best Season of the Year, from all around Earth. (Some of these have some "battle scars" from having traveled through the mails, but I personally think that just adds to their charm.)

From Germany, it's Castle Neuschwanstein! Always a great one to lead off with.
A depiction of 19th century Russia, from first-time Postcrosser Soniya.
From the Netherlands, a nature scene near Ambt Delden (now part of Hof van Twente). The writer states, "I'm from the south, the part that has many forests, heathlands and boggy peat areas. In ancient folklore, it is said that those areas were inhabited by the 'witty women', a kind of fairies."
From Dasha in Russia.
From Germany.
From Germany.
From Germany.
"Greetings from FORMOSA," from Mei-Yu Chen in Taiwan.
From Finland, where Kati says "the fall colors come really fast and strong up here." (Kimmo Pälikkö illustration)
From Germany, which is clearly one of the best places to experience the autumn.
From Anna in Poland, who says summer is her favorite season.
From Naoko in Japan, who writes, "This illustration is a Japanese apparation 'Amabie.' It's a topic to control plague. Please be careful about your physical condition." (The amabie has been an interesting angle to COVID-19 in Japan, as detailed by NPR in April and the anthropology magazine Sapiens last month.)
From Lia in the Netherlands, who says she sometimes sees deer and wild boars in her nearby forest.
From Finland.
From Russia, a gorgeous postcard titled "The Four Seasons."

Mr. Bill & the Beistle cat

Mr. Bill, who has a long association with Halloween here at Papergreat HQ, takes a break from monitoring the wildlife1 in order to check out this vintage, embossed Beistle black cat decoration, which measures about 6 inches wide by 7 inches tall. I bought it last year at The Dark Parlour, a fantastically creepy curiosity shop in York, Pennsylvania. (Like many small businesses, it has taken a foot-traffic hit during this pandemic, so check out its online store if you're so inclined.)

The decoration might date to the 1930s, according to The Dark Parlour. Pennsylvania-based Beistle is still around and has a long history of selling decorations, paper products and more. It was started around 1900 by Martin Luther "M.L." Beistle, according to the company website:
"Always looking for opportunity that involved decorative products made from paper, M.L. made a trip to Heidelberg Germany and while there, he observed a honeycombing technique and being a visionary entrepreneur, skillfully conceived and designed a process to honeycomb tissue paper, and with the addition of these new decorative products, The Beistle Company was formed."
The company started in Pittsburgh but is now located in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. It declares itself to be "the oldest continuing manufacturer of decorations and party goods in the United States."

It has a separate website,, for the sale of its classic holiday offerings from the past century (or more). The Halloween offerings include a reproduction "Scratch Cat" similar to the one standing next to Mr. Bill. It's larger and more elaborate, with movable joints and brass fasteners. 

1. The tiny picnic table is for the chipmunks, though the squirrels and blue jays also grab peanuts from it. At night, it turns into a dinner table for the semi-resident raccoon. The yellowish gourds further in the background are set out as "sacrifices" for the raccoon, which likes to chew a half-dollar-sized hole in them and pull out the innards for a snack. 
2. This month, the lead items promoted on Beistle's main website are face shields for COVID-19.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

"Cousin Katie" and three dolls

Too-late trigger warning: More dolls.

Sorry about that. But this is the kind of variety you've come to expect from Papergreat after nearly 10 years and more than 3,200 posts, right? Jumping from vintage Pennsylvania Dutch sweets one day to strange and creepy old photographs of dolls the next.

I'm pretty sure this is the last of the disturbing dolls snapshots for Mild Fear 2020. I'm not 100% sure, because I never know what Igor the Intern is going to dig up at the last minute. But let's don't worry about the future and just appreciate this photograph, which has survived — barely — to present day. 

It has nicks, creases, one big tear and remnants of those old scrapbooking photo corners. It's 4¼ inches wide. And it features three women (one in uniform!), two young girls and three dolls. The only thing written on the back — and it's extremely unhelpful — is "Cousin Katie." Is Katie the one in uniform? And what is that uniform? When was this photo taken? We'll never know. So many mysteries.

And so many dolls! Here's a better look at the three of them, for your Halloween month enjoyment.

The last one is the creepiest, I think. Why does it look like an old man?

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Every day is a good day for Pennsylvania Dutch sweets

Every day is a good day for some sweets! Here are some recipes for old-fashioned goodies from the 1936 edition of Pennsylvania Dutch Cook Book of Fine Old Recipes, by Culinary Arts Press.

I don't think any of these recipes have appeared on Papergreat before, so if you want to go down the additional rabbit hole of Pennsylvania Dutch culture, the links in this May post are a good place to start. Or if you prefer, just check out the Recipes label for more than 100 posts from the past decade covering the (sometimes odd) world of food and cooking.

Lebanon County Peach Cake

  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup milk
  • fresh peaches

Sift and mix together the dry ingredients (with the exception of the cinnamon), cut in the shortening and add the egg and milk which have been mixed together. Mix thoroughly. Pour into a well-greased oblong pan and cover with peeled peach halves. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and bake in a moderate oven (350° F.) about 35 minutes.

Lehigh County Oatmeal Cookies

  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups Quaker oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Mix all the dry ingredients together; add the butter, extract and egg, and mix thoroughly. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet and bake in a moderate oven (350° F.) about 5 minutes. Remove from pan while warm.

Moravian Scotch Cakes

  • 1 1/2 cups butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds

Mix the flour, caraway seeds and sugar together. Work in the butter with the finger tips until well blended. Roll out about 1/3 inch thick on floured board. Cut in small squares. Bake on a greased cookie sheet in a slow oven (325° F.) about 15 minutes. When cold, cover with boiled icing and sprinkle with colored sugar.

Butterscotch Pie

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 eggs, well beaten
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 baked pie shell

Cook the sugar and water until it will spin a thread. Add butter, beat the eggs and stir in the flour which has been mixed with 1/2 cup of the milk. Add balance of the milk and vanilla. Pour into the hot syrup and cook until mixture is thick. Pour into a baked pie shell and set aside to cool. When ready to serve, cover with whipped cream.

German Strickle Sheets

(I can't find a picture of these anywhere on the internet. Anyone have one?)

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs, well beaten
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 yeast cake, dissolved in 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • flour

Scald mild and add the eggs and butter. When cool, add the dissolved yeast, salt, sugar and enough flour to form a thin batter. Beat all together about 7 minutes, cover well and set bowl containing mixture in warm place for seven or eight hours. After time has elapsed, add enough flour to make a soft dough, knead lightly and set to rise again. When well-raised, roll dough to one inch thickness and cut in biscuit shapes. Allow to rise a second time. Before placing in oven, spread with the following mixture: Mix 2 cups sugar with 4 tablespoons flour and add 1/2 cup butter and cream well, add 4 tablespoons boiling water and beat mixture into a sauce. Bake in a moderately hot oven (400° F.) about 20 minutes.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Postcard: "Hallowe'en Booh" and James' cheerfulness

Today's vintage Halloween postcard, mailed on October 30 in 1911, features a young boy and a pair of cheerful-looking carved pumpkins. 

The postmark on the back is very faded, and the handwriting on the address provided some challenges. Here's what I started with:

POSTMARK = __?__-CA, N.Y.

Homoe. Opathic Hospital
Genesse St.

That's it. It just had the word "City," which I took to mean that the postcard was staying in the same place in which it was mailed. After some pondering and sleuthing, it turned out the answer was Utica Homeopathic Hospital, which opened in 1895 on Genesee Street in Utica, New York. 

And so the recipient of the postcard, named James, was a patient at the hospital.

This is what the note says, to the best of my transcription of the cursive writing:
Dear Friend James,
I hope you are feeling better. Keep as cheerful as possible. That will help a whole lot. I will see you soon.
I'm not even going to guess on the signature, which is just a first name.

Also, I don't think this will be the post for an in-depth discussion of the history and credibility of  homeopathic medicine. We'll leave that to the experts. I did find this one interesting tidbit, though: Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital, which operated from 1874 to 2006 in Middletown, New York, used baseball as a form of therapy for patients with mental disorders. The team was called the Asylums, and it became so talent-laden that players were recruited directly from the Asylums to professional baseball teams. According to Wikipedia, Asylums alumni included Alfred Lawson, George "Tuck" Turner, Jack Chesbro and Art Madison.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

UK ghost tales book: "The Haunted North Country"

  • Title: The Haunted North Country
  • Subtitle: A Ghost Tour of the Northern Counties
  • Author: C.T. Oxley
  • Interior photographs: J. Leach
  • Publisher: Unclear. Possibly Dobson/Dobsons of Harrogate, which I believe printed the book
  • Price: 35 pence
  • Dimensions: 5 inches by 7¼ inches
  • Pages: 76
  • Year: Possibly 1975. This is the "Second impression with appendix" and there are other online references indicating that makes this publication date 1975. There's also a reference in the text to January 1973, so the book must have come out after that.
  • Is there an appendix? No.
  • Format: Staplebound
  • From the introduction: "Some ghosts it seems are humorous, others grim and malicious, and many appear to have no apparent reason for haunting a particular spot. ... Man knows a great deal concerning his immediate environment, but there is a great deal on the misty boundaries of this life of which he knows nothing. ... The stories and accounts haunted places in this booklet are merely a selection, there are many others."
  • Sampling of hauntings detailed within: The Gray Man of Bellister, the White Lady at Blenkinsopp Castle, the Martindale Boggle, the Radiant Boy of Corby Castle, the Grey Lady of Levens Hall, the skull of Wardley Hall, the Bloody Footstep of Smithhills Hall, the phantom horseman of Wycoller Hall, the haunted chamber of Bolling Hall, "Charlie" of Lumb Hall, and the knocking ghost of Morley.
  • Bonus witch content: There's mention of a "notorious" witch near Samlesbury Hall named Grace Sowerbutts. But according to this Wikipedia article, Grace was the accuser, not the accused.