Friday, July 29, 2022

York Safe and Lock Company's April 1944 in-house magazine

For decades, York Safe and Lock Company, located in York, Pennsylvania, made perhaps the sturdiest safes in America. And they are still sought-after in the 21st century. As my former boss, Jim McClure, noted on the York Town Square blog in 2012, "York Safe & Lock safes and vaults are everywhere around the world. They simply don't wear out."

During World War II, York Safe and Lock was among the many companies that modified their production facilities to help the war effort. It even expanded to multiple plants around York County in order to provide ordnance and other necessities for the Army and Navy.

But also during the war, in April 1942, company president S. Forry Laucks died. That was perhaps the beginning of the end for the company, as Stephen H. Smith explained on the blog YorksPast in 2012: "In 1944, the Levine Brothers, of Leominster, Massachusetts, sensed an opportunity, systematically began buying out York Safe & Lock Company stockholders at large prices; by year’s end they owned the company.  While this was going on, the Navy Department in essence took over the York Safe & Lock Company because of the essential war materials being produced."1

After World War II, Harry Levine was named president and subsequently changed the name of the company to York Industries, Inc. Smith added: "In conjunction with the name change on January 3rd 1946, Levine sold the entire pre-war product line of safes, vaults and vault equipment; including trade names, patents, sales offices and franchised dealer organizations. This sale was to Diebold, Incorporated, they had been the second biggest manufacturer of safes and bank vaults in the country prior to the war."

And thus marked the end of York Safe and Lock.

During the war, it had this in-house company magazine, The Safe Combination. The first issue was in July 1943 and features Laucks, in memoriam, on the cover. I came across a handful of the magazines more than a decade ago and today I want to share just a few items from inside issue No. 10, from April 1944.

D.W. Wardrop was the editor of the magazine at that point, with Thomas Robison and S.T. Edwards serving as associate editors. Nineteen individuals from across the various York Safe and Lock plants are listed as "reporters." This issue's cover photo was taken by J.R. Miller of Dept. 458, Special Ordnance Plant.

Most of the news, of course, is related to the company's World War II efforts. There are updates on employees and their relatives who were serving in the military. There are also wartime items on gardening, gasoline conservation and the like. Finally, there's the social news you might expect to find in any company newsletter: banquets, sports leagues, etc.

The issue leads with this telegram about the USS Philadelphia on Page 3:
The center pages of the issue are dedicated to those service members and Merchant Mariners who had been killed in action on various fronts of the war, including this notice for Martin D. Irvin.
There are also letters from service members telling their tales from the front and/or expressing their gratitude for issues of The Safe Combination received in the mail. This one is from Pvt. Vernon F. Shepp. (Shepp survived the war. He died in York at age 69 in 1988.)
Here are some additional snippets of the magazine's interior, including a profile of Fritz Ahlfeld, a member of the company's management.
1. Smith's in-depth and fascinating post also explains the role that Capone-buster Eliot Ness played in York Safe and Lock's demise.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Peering inside and preserving 1962's "Dragons, Fairies and Fun"

For a book published in 1962, Dragons, Fairies and Fun by Dora Broome seems to be fairly obscure. It was published by Cultural Publications Ltd. of Nottingham, England, and it's a small-size, 152-page hardcover, measuring 5 inches by 7.5 inches. As of this writing, I can't find any other copies for sale online, and there are no reviews or websites that discuss it, to my knowledge. Perhaps documenting it here will help in a minor way to preserve it for history, lest it fade away completely. And if anyone in the United Kingdom has memories of this book, I'd love to hear them in the comments section. 
There are some signs of provenance inside the book. Pictured above is the plate that's been affixed to the inside front cover. Written in Welsh, it explains that the book is part of the Ceredigion school library and provides details on how students can check out the book, in similar fashion to the way we do so in the United States.

The message is signed by Alun R. Edwards (1920-1986), who was a longtime librarian in Wales. In fact, he's been remembered at a ceremony next month (August 2, 2022). The Ceredigion County Council website notes that Edwards "was first appointed librarian for Cardiganshire in January 1950. Over the next quarter century, he revolutionised Ceredigion's library services and indeed the book industry in Wales as a whole. Among his visions that were realised were the expansion of travelling library services, the College of Librarianship in Aberystwyth, the counties’ book purchasing scheme, the Welsh Book Council and the establishment of reading and discussion groups. Following the re-organisation of local government, he was appointed Librarian of Dyfed in 1950. He worked as the County Librarian for 30 years until he retired in 1980."
On the next page is a faded purple stamp indicating that the book has been withdrawn from circulation at Myfrgall Dyfed Library [?] and is available to buy for 10c. And on the page after that, pictured below, a child long ago indicated their clear ownership of the book. (I believe we all did this at times during our childhoods.)
Here's a rundown of the book's stories from the Contents page:
  • Hezekiah's Dragon
  • The Knight of the Dustbin
  • Hey Diddle Diddle
  • Will o' the Wisp
  • Aunt Quenelda and the Magic Mirror
  • The Magic Carpet
  • Little Bess
  • The Story of Odd
  • The Sugar Plum Fairy
  • Buffy
  • The Chimney-Sweep and the Mayor's Procession
  • The Cuckoo that went on Strike
  • The Fish Maid
  • Goodfellow
  • The Travelling Glow-worm
  • Mrs Goblin's Christmas Shopping
The illustrator is listed as B. Gerry, and I can't find any solid information on them, given that little information. For that matter, I can't find much about the life of author Dora Broome, either. She wrote 1951's Fairy Tales from the Isle of Man and 1970's More Fairy Tales from the Isle of Man, and her other titles include The Magic Journey, The Lifeboat Fish, Matilda the Radio Mouse, Lancashire Tales, Mary-Jo's Elephant, Royal Peke, Circus Pony, Ship's Monkey and Fairground Billy. With her mixture of interest in both fairy tales and the circus, she seems to have much in common with Ruth Manning-Sanders!
Gerry's cover illustration of the dragon is probably the best of the lot. There's little that's fantastical about most of the other illustrations, beyond perhaps this one.
And that's pretty much it. Again, I'm sure there are some folks out there with memories of this book. It would be great to hear from you and to share your thoughts for posterity. 

Monday, July 25, 2022

1911's "The Isle of Wight," its provenance and Joseph Sadony

Today we're taking a look at The Isle of Wight — "pictured by Ernest Haslehust" (E.W. Haslehust on the title page) and "described by Edward Thomas." It's interesting that illustrator Haslehust gets a higher credit on the cover than poet/author Thomas, who was killed in action in World War I in 1917.

There's no date of publication printed inside the book. According to WorldCat, which keeps a database of institutional library collections, it was published in 1911. Other online listings state 1915, 1915[?] and "circa 1920." There's a lot of sloppiness and misinformation on the internet, of course. I think we should go with WorldCat. Additionally, a previous bookseller has written "1911 1st ED" on one of the first pages of this copy.
The 64-page hardcover book was published by Blackie and Son Limited of London, Glasgow and Bombay. Wikipedia tells us that this publishing house was in business from 1809 to 1991. Some of the series it published over the decades include Beautiful England, Beautiful Ireland, Beautiful Scotland and Beautiful Switzerland. The Isle of Wight is part of the Beautiful England series, which was originally published from about 1910 through the 1925, but apparently saw reprints through the 1950s. According to Wikipedia, Haslehust was the illustrator for the approximately three dozen volumes.
Moving to the inside front cover, there are some inscriptions of provenance:
I'm not sure what/which Blenheim is referred to in the first inscription. That's the name of at least two places in the United Kingdom. Newport and Carisbrooke are located on the Isle of Wight, a 148-square-mile island off the southern coast of England.

At first I thought The Cedars might be a neighborhood within Carisbrooke. There's no mention of it as such in Wightpedia (the wiki of Wight history) or elsewhere that I can find. But The Cedars is the name of a cozy pub on the Isle of Wight that looks like it could easily date back more than 100 years and could have also served as a residence. A 1903 church directory lists a Mr. A. Kemp at The Cedars in Carisbrooke, for what that's worth.

Then we have the bookseller's label for A.G. Bird, Bookseller, Newport, I.W. I found an obituary for Archibald Gaydon Bird that was published by Isle of Wight County Press on October 10, 1959. It states, "Mr. Bird was a native of Barnstable, where his father was a wine and spirit merchant. He spent some time in business at Croydon before coming to the Island, and in 1908 he purchased the old-established business of bookseller and stationer hitherto carried on by the Gubbins family at premises in High Street, Newport. The business has since become well known all over the Island under the style of A. G. Bird, and has now been carried on unbrokenly for well over a century."
Also in terms of provenance, there's an embossed stamp from a previous owner on the title page. It states "JOSEPH A. SADONY" and "PRIVATE." I have on my shelves another book with his stamp, Swedish Life in Town and Country (1904). Assuming I have the correct Joseph A. Sadony, he lived from 1877 to 1960 and was quite an intriguing figure. Buckle up.

First up, the Michigan estate he lived at was called The Mouth. The website features Sadony's 1960 obituary from the Muskegon Chronicle. An excerpt:
Joseph A. Sadony, enigmatic sage of the Valley of the Pines in White River Township, died Friday evening at Hackleys Hospital, Muskegon. He was 83 years old.

"One of the best known and least understood men in Michigan," that was the opening statement of an article on Mr. Sadony in the Muskegon Chronicle on his 83rd birthday anniversary last Feb 22.

Mr. Sadony, in his cloistered life on his estate at The Mouth, devoted his years to the study and development of his theories as to the physical sciences, his theories as to the working of the human mind, and his theories as to the spiritual side of man. The insatiable curiosity of his unusual mind ran the gamut of all facets of human existence.

It was in the realm of mental phenomena that Mr. Sadony aroused the greatest curiosity and interest as to his theories. He was considered one of the world's foremost authorities on the subject of mental phenomena. It was this phase of his work which sometimes led to a misconception of the man. Mr. Sadony contended his theories of mental phenomena were based on sound psychological grounds, that there was nothing of the "clairvoyant" or "supernatural" about his mental capacities.
Sadony was the author of several books. Perhaps the most notable was his 1948 autobiography, Gates of the Mind. A review of the book at the website offers this conclusion: "What was Sadony's overall purpose for writing Gates of the Mind? He wanted to 'rescue the truth,' as he puts it, by exposing the charlatans and psychic racketeers who deceive us with tricks. He diligently demystified clairvoyance, extrasensory perception, precognition, telepathy, etc. by explaining and illustrating such phenomena in ordinary terms, and through personal examples in his life. Most of all, he wanted to show that inspiration and feeling compose the core of our heart, without which humanity would be but uninspired automatons with no purpose."

Meanwhile, there's also part of the estate called Mouth Cemetery. Jennifer Jones writes on The Dead History website that the ruins of Sadony's laboratory are visible from the cemetery. (Now this is sounding like a James Whale film.) Jones' post gets into all kinds of weirdness that goes beyond what I've already presented here, and is a fun read.

This is really only the tip of the iceberg on Sadony, who's a bit of a cult figure in certain circles. There's a website called The Valley of the Pines, The Official Joseph A. Sadony Website! (The exclamation point is theirs, not mine.) It's the official website of Sadony's estate, which is said to include "thousands upon thousands of pages of letters, books, photographs, scrap books, articles [and] journals." But it's not clear that anything new has been posted to the website in over a half-decade. There are some interesting photos, past and present, of the shops, barns, chapel, laboratory, cabins and more that are part of the estate. I'm not sure when the 30,000+ volumes from his library began trickling into the public sphere for sale as used books, but it's kind of neat that two of them have found their way to my shelves. 

Well, we've veered all the way from picturesque, century-old views of the Isle of Wight to cemeteries and psychics in Michigan, but that's what can happen when you investigate an old book's provenance. Let's finish by returning to one of Ernest Haslehust's bucolic illustrations.