Saturday, August 31, 2013

Once in a Blue Moon

Today is the day for any unlikely event you care to see come to pass because tonight will be a genuine blue moon. A blue moon is the second full moon occurring in a calendar month, and that’s what you’ll get (weather permitting) tonight. The origin of the term blue moon is a little less clear. According to Wikipedia (oh dispenser of undisputed truth):

“The suggestion has been made that the term "blue moon" for "intercalary month" arose by folk etymology, the "blue" replacing the no-longer-understood belewe "to betray". The original meaning would then have been "betrayer moon", referring to a full moon which would "normally" (in non-intercalating years) be the full moon of spring, while in intercalating year, it was "traitorous" in the sense that people would have had to continue fasting for another month in accordance with the season of Lent.”
This explanation seemed a little contrived for me, though. I mean a lot of the English language can trace its origin back to biblical references, but Lent is a once-a-year thing and to have a moon named after something that's rare at best doesn't sit well with me. Digging into the Old Farmer’s Almanac confirmes the belewe reference, but also gives a second possible origin of the term:
“…in the March 1999 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine, author Phillip Hiscock revealed one somewhat confusing origin of this term. It seems that the modern custom of naming the second full Moon of a month "blue," came from an article published in the March 1946 Sky & Telescope magazine. The article was "Once in a Blue Moon," written by James Hugh Pruett. In this article, Pruett interpreted what he read in a publication known as the Maine Farmers' Almanac (no relation to this Farmers' Almanac, published in Lewiston, Maine), and declared that a second full Moon in a calendar month is a "Blue Moon."
However, after reviewing the Maine Farmer's Almanac, Hiscock found that during the editorship of Henry Porter Trefethen (1932 to 1957), the Maine Farmers' Almanac made occasional reference to a Blue Moon, but derived it from a completely different (and rather convoluted) seasonal rule. As simply as can be described, according to Trefethen's almanac, there are normally three full Moons for each season of the year. But when a particular season ends up containing four full Moons, then the third of that season is called a Blue Moon! To make matters more confusing, the beginning of the seasons listed in Trefethen's almanac were fixed. A fictitious or dynamical mean Sun produced four seasons of equal length with dates which differed slightly from more conventional calculations. So, basically the current use of "Blue Moon" to mean the second full Moon in a month can be traced to a 55-year-old mistake in Sky & Telescope magazine.”
Regardless of which origin you believe, the term blue moon has influenced everything from beer to music to literature. It has a kind of poetry, a wistfulness and quiet desperation that nests deep inside so much good literature. A current favorite of mine is the poem The Blue Moon by James Francis Carlin MacDonnell.

The Blue Moon
 
Memory is as blue
As the small flax-flower’s dew,
The twilight’s distant skies
And your far eyes:
Blue as the meadows seen
In reality as green;
Blue as the broad moon-light
That is really white. 

Memory is as blue
As the world that relates to you,
From the heavens over all,
To your blue shawl:
Blue as the roads that may
Once more be dusty grey,
For one whose sight of mind
Is color-blind. 

Memory as blue
As the winds that sally through
The dark blue shadows, deep
In your blue sleep:
Blue as your lips, to be
That red reality,
Which I shall meet when the light
Of the moon is white.

So, get out there under that old blue moon with the one you love and make the most of this August night!

Friday, August 30, 2013

100 Years Ago - Foul Ball!


Today in 1913 umpire Bill Brennan entered baseball history by throwing a game to the New York Giants in spite of the Philadelphia Phillies holding an 8-6 lead. Lynch made the call when Mickey Doolan, acting manager of the Phillies, refused to have spectators removed from the center field bleachers after Giants manager John McGraw claimed they were distracting his hitters. The decision resulted in a near riot and the decision eventually was overturned by NL President Tom Lynch. The Giants turned to the National League Board of Governors who determined both Brennan and Lynch had been wrong, ordering the remainder of the game to be replayed from the point it had been interrupted. The reversal cost Lynch his job, and umpire Brennan switched to the newly-formed Federal League the next season.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Nervous BO!


When I see this 1940 ad for Lifebuoy soap the first thing I have to ask is whether anyone ever had calm body odor? I mean the sort where you're saying "I'm really comfortable and confident, but jeesh I stink!"

Second question, what kind of drivers are these people? Look at the car scene. I'm thinking this same imageThis scene is familiar? Where do these people live, Thunderdome? Are they commuting to a Keystone Cops convention?
could have been used in an anti-drunk driving campaign of the era. Bill though he had everything under control, little did he know demon gin was at the wheel! The copy says "Driving in traffic is a familiar example..." Familiar?

Finally, anytime I see a Lifebuoy ad there's only one thing I can think of...soap poisoning!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Unusual isn't Always Good


$25000 worth of unusual recipes. That was Heinz's pitch line for their 1957 cookbook 57 Prize Winning Recipes. I probably shouldn't judge the book by its proverbial cover, though. I mean ad executives sometimes make poor word choices when putting their copy together and there's over fifty years of cultural change to think of too. Okay, so the ad does feature a recipe that involves ketchup and pear halves, but classy restaurants all over serve pears on dinner salads, so that's not that unusual when you really think about it. The rest of the book probably doesn't contain anything more unusual than meatloaf and stuffed bell peppers, right? Let's take a look inside...



Okay, I take it back...this is one messed up cookbook.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Buick xp-300

It might be cheating to choose the Buick xp-300 as this Sunday’s car, but I couldn't resist its Jettisons looks. The xp-300 was one of Buick’s 1951 concept cars and introduced style elements that eventually found their way into later Buick models. With a cockpit that more closely resembled a jet fighter than an automobile and a V8 fed by a combination of methanol and gasoline, the xp was never destined for showroom floors. Like all concept cars, it was an experiment in what could be done – no matter how impractical.


National Whiskey Sour Day


I kid you not, today is National Whiskey Sour day. There's a lot of mumbo-jumbo on the web linking the classic sour to scurvy treatments administered shipboard during the 1700s, but to me that explanation sounds more than a little contrived.

Ships provided their crewmen rations of grog as a part of their pay, this much is true. Grog is a combination of small (weak) beer and some other spirit such as rum. By 1707 whiskey had become exorbitantly expensive due to the Acts of Union which merged England and Scotland and in 1725 the price of whiskey rose even more due to malt taxes. With whiskey fetching such a high price (whether it was legally produced or bootleg) no ship's captain would waste a bottle of the stuff on keeping their powder monkey fit.

In 1740 the British Navy began adding citrus juice (usually lemon or lime juice) to the recipe for grog, but this addition was merely intended to make what essentially was spoiled beer and rancid water more palatable. This addition, though they did not understand why, resulted in healthier sailors. In 1747 James Lind proved scurvy could be treated and prevented by supplementing the sailor's diet with citrus fruit and in 1753, Lind published A Treatise of the Scurvy, explaining how scurvy could be eradicated. His attempted to market lime juice as a medicine proved unsuccessful though and citrus wasn't adopted as a scurvy treatment until the 1790s, and the idea that any acid would suffice continued in Britain into the late 19th century.

To put it simply regardless of what About.com says, the whiskey sour was not invented to stave off scurvy nor was it served on any ship prior to the advent of the ocean liner.

Let us check a more reputable reference, say The Cocktail Chronicles blog which states:

"While not fancy, the whiskey sour has a history: It belongs to one of the old families of original cocktails, appearing in Jerry Thomas’ 1862 drinks book alongside the other cocktail ancestors, the juleps, slings, sangarees, cobblers and smashes that are mostly lost to the ages."


Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday Weekly Writer's Wrap Up - Mr. Leonard's Rules


This week we mystery writer lost Elmore Leonard, so as the writer’s week wrap up here are the great mystery author’s ten rules of writing:
  1. Never open a book with weather.
  2.  Avoid prologues.
  3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
  4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
  5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100000 words of prose.
  6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
  7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
  10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Speed Queen!

I have a personal connection with the Speed Queen washing machine pictured in this 1949 ad. When my grandfather passed away I took the job of caretaker for the home where he lived in for over sixty years. It was an late 30’s era bungalow in a run-down neighborhood not far from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and like most homes of its age, the builders had a different idea of what constituted "all the comforts of home". 

Originally there had been no indoor facilities, but before I came along my grandparents had built on a bathroom with a bath tub (no shower, just a tub). In spite of a decent retirement from Detroit Diesel Allison, the grandparents never spent the money they had socked away. I guess memories of the Great Depression kept them frugal to the end of their days. Grandpa drove a battered, third-hand truck and grandma dressed appropriate to the Eisenhower administration. They never had air conditioning, in fact the height of comfort was when my father installed a ceiling fan to stir the hot air around the tight confines of the house, and when I moved in the washing machine in residence was a Speed Queen upright identical to the one in this ad.

For three years I used the Speed Queen to do my laundry and the experience has led me to the conclusion that the modern definition of convenience is somewhat different than that of our grandparents. The safety that grandma probably considered a finger saver proved to be an eternal nuisance for me, popping every time I ran a pair of jeans through the wringer. Filling the machine with water involved carting buckets of hot water from the kitchen sink to the garage where the beast lived and, when washing was completed, draining it meant rolling it out the back door and onto the walk, unhitching the hose that connected to the tub’s drain, and releasing a torrent of laundry effluent into the lawn. It took a whole Sunday for me to complete three or four loads (I'm still trying to figure out what the advertising executives were smoking when they implied you could do seven loads in an hour). 

All I can say is I hate to think what using the Speed Queen Ironer must have been like!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Full Sturgeon Moon

The Old Farmer’s Almanac is a little spare on their information about August’s full moon. They're also apparently having problems with YouTube and linking to videos so you'll have to click on the link above to actually view the video. Their website goes a little further; adding the fact some tribes called the August full moon the Full Red Moon due to the fact that as it rises, it takes on a reddish hue due to the summer’s haze. Other names included the Green Corn Moon and Grain Moon.

Blue Moon Music

There's a blue moon out tonight, so here's a little music from Dave Diddle Day to enjoy in the moonlight - maybe while drinking a little moonshine.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Happy Birthday H. P. Lovecraft

It would be easy to describe the life of Howard Phillips (H. P.) Lovecraft as sad and tragic. He was born  into a working class family, in the working class home at 194 Angell Street in Providence, Rhode Island.  He grew up an only child, the son of a traveling salesman and a mother who traced her ancestry to the settlers of Massachusetts and he would see loss and madness close up before he grew to manhood.

Lovecraft created the genre of weird fiction along with its bleak premise that not only is humanity is insignificant in the cosmos, it cannot even grasp the truths that the universe holds. Though Lovecraft never achieved widespread recognition during his lifetime, his work has influenced a great deal of what we know as horror and science fiction to this day. During his career Lovecraft collaborated with Robert Bloch (author of Psycho), Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan the Barbarian), and August Derleth (who codified and added to the Cthulhu Mythos). Author Stephen King said of Lovecraft:
"Now that time has given us some perspective on his work, I think it is beyond doubt that H. P. Lovecraft has yet to be surpassed as the Twentieth Century's greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale."
I wish I could say that I came across Lovecraft out of a deep interest in horror and weird fiction as well as a questing imagination, but to be honest role playing games were my first introduction to his Cthulhu mythos. I spent hours pouring over Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu rulebook only to fall out of love with the game when it became apparent that the story arc of any character could be summed up as curiosity - discovery - madness - death. When I read Lovecraft's work, I discovered that the same could be said of any of his major characters. You don't read Lovecraft for the happy endings, his world is dark and cold, devoid of human comfort and understanding.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Happy National Aviation Day

On this date in 1871 Orville Wright was born to Bishop Milton and Susan Catharine Wright in the sleepy town of Dayton, Ohio. Orville and his brother Wilbur grew up in a family that, by all accounts, was loving and encouraged the intellectual curiosity which would eventually lead the pair achieving one of the most influential accomplishments of the 20th century.

Orville went on to serve as one of the founding members of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and remained an active member for 28 years. He received the Daniel Guggenheim Medal for great achievements in aeronautics on April 8, 1930 and became a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1936. In 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed Orville’s birthday as National Aviation Day, an observance meant to celebrate the history and development of aviation.

Orville passed away on January 30, 1948 having witnessed aviation’s transformation from what was considered a hobby for crackpots to a force which shaped nations and, to a large extent, determined the outcome of two world wars.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Indiana State Fair - The Better Babies Contest

At its heart every State Fair is a celebration of mankind’s control of nature. Proud farmers from across the state come to Indianapolis with the best of their hybrid crops and selectively bread flocks, judges tally up pluses and minuses based on how well each conforms to established breed standards, and ribbons and prizes are awarded for the best representatives in each category from cabbage to cattle. It’s a tradition that’s nearly as old as agriculture itself – pride and competitiveness paired with a festival on the downhill side of the growing season and I enjoy digging through the records of the past to bring up little quirks and interesting tidbits. Unfortunately, not every aspect of the Indiana State Fair’s history is quaint, bright, and nostalgic. Our American past is troubled and murky, and as a people we've stumbled in the darkness of ignorance as often as we've stood tall in the sunlight. I end this year’s fair season with a post about a shadowy facet of the Indiana State Fair, one that combines advances in healthcare with the ignorance of bigotry and pseudoscience.

In the early 20th century a growing awareness of the importance of the health of mothers and babies swept across Indiana and in 1920 this new wave of awareness manifested in the form of a new competition at the Indiana State Fair. I’ll admit, when I first saw pictures of the Better Baby Contest I thought that’d I’d be writing a comic piece. Frankly, the thought of mothers and fathers displaying their offspring for a panel of judges in an attempt to win a blue ribbon and cash prize sounded like fodder for a mocumentary or maybe one of those child beauty contests that plague reality television.

But the Better Baby Contest was a symptom of something more sinister. Yes, it marked a shift in the understanding of the nature of childhood and motherhood, but it also embodied an attempt legislate the sort of selective breeding that had to that point only been seen in raising livestock on the human population. Eugenics sought to “strengthen” humanity by restricting and controlling procreation. It sorted people based on measures of genetic worthiness and desirability. The poor, mentally ill, blind, deaf, developmentally challenged were deemed “defective” and a danger to the strength and purity of mankind. Likewise women deemed promiscuous, homosexuals, and non-whites were identified as “degenerate” and, therefore potentially dangerous to the health of the nation’s population as a whole. Under the guise of racial improvement governments put in place policies of segregation, institutionalization, sterilization, and even euthanasia.

In Indiana the eugenics movement took the guise of a drive for better Hoosier children and a direct outgrowth of this was the Better Babies Contest held at the Indiana State Fair from 1920 through its discontinuation in 1932. Parents from every county in the state brought their children to the Better Baby Pavilion located on what is now the western end of the Fairground’s Main Street where they would be would be weighed, measured, and tested by physicians and psychologists affiliated with the State Board of Health's Division of Infant and Child Hygiene.

At the forefront of Indiana’s better babies program was Dr. Ada E. Schweitzer, a rare feminine presence in the medical profession who worked tirelessly and in the course of just over a decade constructed a nationally recognized health agency which promoted the application scientific methods and modern medicine to motherhood and child rearing. By 1907 Indiana enacted its own Pure Food and Drug act as well as a Vital Statistics act requiring accurate birth and death records. The dark side of the movement showed through and that same year Indiana put in place the country's first eugenic sterilization law. By 1915 The American Medical Association (AMA) ranked the Indiana State Board of Health sixth in the nation and it seemed there would be no stopping her Division of Infant and Child Hygiene.

The Better Babies Contest acquainted Hoosiers with the current opinions of child specialists, reinforced pediatric norms, and gave university-trained experts a sort of unquestionable authority in all matters pertaining to the biology, physiology, and psychology of children. The introduction of sponsorship into the contest helped connect consumerism with motherhood and childhood and Indiana businesses such as the Hoosier Fence Company and the Weber Milk Company became Better Babies Contest sponsors. The contest excluded African American children, reinforcing segregation in Indiana and promoting the idea only white babies could achieve perfection. Schweitzer herself declared the contest “a school of education in eugenics”, promoting racial intolerance and prejudice while purportedly seeking the betterment of Hoosier children.

It’s important to state that though immensely popular; the Better Babies Contest isn't a product of Indiana. The first contest was held at the Iowa State Fair in 1911 with Mary T. Watts’ question to Iowans, “You are raising better cattle, better horses, and better hogs, why don't you raise better babies?” Watts used the model applied to livestock to judge superior infants, developing scorecards which tallied physical health, anthropometric traits, and mental development. Soon after Woman's Home Companion magazine embarked a better baby campaign of its own, sending an editor to promote the contests in Colorado. By 1914 the contests had become a fad and Woman's Home Companion proudly proclaimed that the existence of contests in every state (except West Virginia, New Hampshire, and Utah) and the examination of more than 100,000 children a laudable mark of progress.

In Indiana Children’s Bureau workers took part in organizing, officiating, and facilitating the Better Babies Contest joining with the AMA to standardize a scoring system acceptable to the pediatric establishment. This collaboration led to alternative children's health conferences, which conformed to the credo and flawed assumptions of the contest but lacked the competitiveness. Still, by the mid-1920's, Schweitzer went on the radio airwaves and in magazine articles promoting Better Babies Contests as a means for establishing a yardstick for childhood heath standards against which parents could compare their own children. She promoted the eugenic theme that race betterment (referring to the white race only, of course) depended on restricting the right to bear children to only the fittest and “protecting” genetic health through marriage and sterilization laws. Chillingly she stated, “You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, neither can we make a citizen out of an idiot or any person who is not well born.”

I’d love to say that this contest met its end when its inherent racism and classism were recognized for what they were and that the good and honest people of Indiana rejected the tenants of eugenics, but I can’t. To be honest, the last Better Babies Contest held in 1932 was wildly popular. Its end came at the hands of the sexism of a medical establishment which could not tolerate the predominately female Indiana Children’s Bureau and the financial strictures of the Great Depression. The bureau ultimately was disbanded and its chief architects run out of healthcare. Indiana’s eugenic-driven sterilization laws would remain in place until 1974 when it was struck down by Governor Otis Bowen. The last concrete legacy of the contest is the two pavilions constructed to accommodate judging and a plaque on the statehouse lawn commemorating the end of the Sterilization Act.


The Hudson Hornet



Hudson got its name from one of its financers, a Detroit department store entrepreneur named Joseph L. Hudson. The company’s first car rolled off its assembly line on July 3, 1909. From the start, Hudson proved to be an innovator in automotive design. Hudson cars were the first to feature dual brakes, dashboard-mounted “idiot” lights, and balanced crankshafts. This last innovation allowed Hudson to develop the straight-six engine. Dubbed the Super Six, Hudson’s inline-six cylinder engine would power the majority of their vehicles until the late fifties.

In 1932, Hudson started to phase out its budget Essex nameplate and introduce one of my personal favorites, the Terraplane. Amelia Earhart helped launch the line, christening the first Terraplane with a crack from a gasoline filled champagne bottle I’m sure played holy hell with the finish!


Hudson expanded, adapting and advancing to keep pace with technology and their competitors, even becoming the first female automotive designer in the US, Elizabeth Ann Thatcher. But Hudson’s success didn’t insulate it against the storm of World War II. As the US swung industry into the war effort, automotive companies were ordered to shut down and convert their production lines to the manufacture of wartime goods and Hudson was no exception. They manufactured aircraft parts, naval engines, and anti-aircraft guns.
When the War ended meant the return of the men who'd been fighting on the front lines and a return to producing consumer automobiles. Hudson launched its step-down body which featured a passenger compartment mounted down within the perimeter of the frame. The 1941 – 54 Hornet dominated NASCAR races and set records that still stand today, but the marketplace was changing and the forces of the market turned on smaller companies like Hudson, Kaiser, Packard, and Studebaker.

As the fifties progressed the Big Three began to squeeze smaller manufacturers. They could afford constant development and styling changes, giving their vehicles a fresh look each model year. Hudson's step-down body also made style changes difficult and expensive. Sales tumbled and only Korean War military contracts kept the Hudson afloat. The Hudson Jet failed to generate sales and Hudson was acquired by Nash-Kelvinator (makers of the Nash Rambler) in 1954, merging to create American Motors Company (AMC).


The last Hudson rolled off the assembly line in Kenosha, Wisconsin on June 25, 1957 without ceremony. In the minds of AMC’s management there was hope of continuing the Hudson and Nash names into the 1958 model year, but AMC's President George W. Romney (of failed presidential candidate lineage) decided the only way to compete was to focus on compact cars. Romney phased out Nash and Hudson at the end of 1957, making the decision so quickly that pre-production photographs of the 1958 Rambler Ambassador show Nash and Hudson versions.





Saturday, August 17, 2013

Indiana State Fair - 1936 License and Registration Please!


I’m having a tough time with this image. It shows an exhibit put on by the Indiana University Department of Psychology at the 1936 Indiana State Fair and it is supposed to test reaction time. What on Earth could a Scotty dog have to do with reaction time? Whatever the connection, the woman in the driver’s seat looks a bit like the officer standing at her side has just asked for her license and registration and the kid watching looks like he’s in shock.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Indiana State Fair - 1852 Best Plowing


We’re used to seeing ribbons awarded to prize winners at state fairs, but in 1852 contestants were recognized with diplomas. This one from the archives of the Indiana Historical Society recognizes Michael Ingermann of Hamilton County for “best plowing for a boy under 15 years of age”. Nice furrows, young Mike!

1920: The Corona Personal Writing Machine

I have to admit that this possibly looks like the most perfect job either. Imagine sitting up close to the game with your portable, typing copy for the late edition’s sports section, and getting paid for the privilege. I know, the life of a sports writer isn’t week-day double-headers and enjoying the game, but I can’t help hearing the sound of the peanut vendor and smelling the freshly cut grass and thinking it’d be a pretty good job to have.
 
This Corona ad comes from the August 1920 issue of Popular Mechanics, hence the male-centric sports writer angle. Corona produced a number of customized small typewriters with a variety of accessories including a tripod with a folding note table that would let the typewriter literally be used in the field. In 1926 Corona merged with the L.C. Smith Typewriter Company and form the Smith-Corona company was born. In 2000 Smith-Corona would file for bankruptcy and by 2005 a nearly 100 year history of producing typewriters came to an end.
Nothing stays the same. Mechanical typewriters gave way to electric ones, then came the era of computer-typewriter hybrids, finally the personal computer killed the typewriter all together. Somehow this ad wouldn’t be the same if our straw-hatted sports hack was one-fingering a laptop and uploading his copy to some corporate-owned server via the internet. Sure, I’ll admit that I don’t want to go back to the era of whiteout and correction tape, but I can’t help feeling that the wheels of progress crush the good along with the bad. Mental note to enjoy a day game, a box of Cracker Jacks, and a warm summer day before every game is played on an air-conditioned holographic field under a simulated sun.
An interesting note about this ad, the scrap of text shown mentions Kopf’s triple in game two of the World Series. This is the infamous “Black Sox” game when members of the Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing games. Larry Kopf played shortstop on the opposing Cincinnati Reds during that series and a quote given in his obituary indicated he had doubts about the validity of the scandal. When this issue of Popular Mechanics hit the racks the controversy about the Sox hung in the air over any park where the Chicago team played. Eventually eight Sox players would be banned from professional baseball for life.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Indiana State Fair - 1933 Cotton Candy

You're getting a bonus food post today. I couldn't resist putting down a few words about two classic fair foods: Cotton Candy and Funnel Cake.

What those of us in the US and Canada know as cotton candy goes by other names across the globe. In the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, and South Africa it is known as candy floss and in Australia it goes by the moniker fairy floss. In all cases, though, it’s simply spun sugar. The first record of cotton candy shows up in Europe in the 1700s, but a mechanical means for producing the confection didn't appear until 1897. Ironically, the mechanism we use to create cotton candy owes its existence to a dentist. Dr. William Morrison teamed up with confectioner John C. Wharton to introduce their machine-made Fairy Floss at the 1904 World's Fair. Their product went over well and the team sold 68,655 boxes at roughly the equivalent of $6 a box in today’s terms. In 1921 another dentist, Dr. Joseph Lascaux, invented his own (similar) cotton candy machine and it is Lascaux’s patent which assigned the name “cotton candy” to the confection that shows up on midways across the country.

Another midway staple is the funnel cake, a deep fried pastry that typically is doused in powdered sugar or some sugar-laden fruit syrup just in case the oil from the deep fryer didn't add enough calories. The history of this pastry probably came to American shores with the Pennsylvania Dutch. The name, of course, comes from the cooking method – a funnel-shaped contraption is used to dispense a stream of batter into the hot oil.


 This lovely image of a little girl enjoying a cloud of cotton candy nearly as big as she is comes from the 1933 Indiana State Fair. In the heart of the depression, when everything was uncertainty, it's joy on a stick.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Indiana State Fair - 1939 Lard


You've heard of butter sculpture, well in true fair form here's a lard sculpture! I've always had mixed feelings about any food product that's gleefully promoted by the animals it's made from. It has a high creep-factor! According to the description on the Indiana Historical Society's site this photo was taken in the Horticulture Building and the sculpture sponsored by the National Livestock and Meat Board.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Indiana State Fair - 1946 Popcorn


This is Popcorn year at the Indiana State Fair, so what more appropriate image than that of a popcorn magnate handing out a prize at the fair? The tow-headed fellow on the right is John Coltrain, a farmer from Darlington, Indiana and he's being presented with an Angus heifer by none other than Mr. O. C. (Orville) Redenbacher of almost every kernel pops fame. At the time of this photo, Orville was a successful farmer and owner of Princeton Farms. Strange how history is written in circles!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Indiana State Fair - 1934 Kittens!

Yes, I'm a sucker, I couldn't resist a picture of kittens. The 4-H Cat Show still goes on at the fairgrounds.


New from Alan Hawes Manufacturing and Display Company, the coin operated child traumatizer! Nothing like being strapped into a ride with a mechanical clown or deranged bunny!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Indiana State Fair - 1935 Oxen


A team of oxen yoked to an advertising wagon for the 1935 Indiana State Fair. The building in the background is the Administration Building. According to the Indiana Historical Society digital collection entry, the opposite side of the wagon says "Lum and Abner in person, Armature Contest, Coliseum Sat. Aug. 31 - 8 P.M.".

Lum and Abner was a radio comedy that aired from 1931 to 1954 created by Chester Lauck and Norris Goff and featured the exploits of the title characters in a small town based on Waters, Arkansas near where the authors grew up.

GM Main Street


I’m making Sunday’s car ad day and starting off with a two-page spread from General Motors. This little gem comes from the August 1951 issue of Life Magazine, a street scene that reminds me of one of those Where’s Waldo puzzles. Can you spot the model plane? The kid looking at the camera? The man carrying a big stick? The rib roast?

The artist seemed to have a thing for packages. There are no less than nine that I count. Maybe there’s a package liquor store nearby? Maybe this Main Street is less wholesome than the advertizing copy indicates? It is interesting to see what passed for normal in 1951, though: lots of smoking, a fuel oil truck making a delivery, and the ubiquitous guy reading the paper on the street. Does anyone really read the newspaper on the street? And check out the chrome! The black car coming down Main Street looks more like an electric razor gone rogue than anything drivable!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Welcome to the Preseason!


 
Welcome to NFL preseason, the time when hope reigns supreme and every fan believes deep within their being this could be the year! Preseason is that magical time when true believers tout each victory as evidence of the regular season’s bounty and write off every defeat as working through the roster and clearing out off season rust. Soon reality will set in. Half the teams that play on opening day will be winless, the other half undefeated. From there on skill will combine with luck, the machinations of league scheduling, injuries, weather, and a thousand intangibles and the 2013 season will wend its way toward the crowning of Super Bowl XLVIII’s champion in the Meadowlands. So pop open a cold one, fire up the grill, settle into your favorite easy chair, tune into the game, and enjoy the moment – this weekend your team has a perfect record, they are undefeated, and if they should lose just remember it doesn’t really count anyway.

Indiana State Fair - 1938 Northwest Territory Pageant

During this fair season I've spent most of my effort digging up (hopefully) interesting pictures and ads, easy reads that connect those of us who enjoy attending the fair with the people who felt the same in the past. Today I’m going to dig a little deeper and take a look at the 1938 Indiana State Fair and the Northwest Territory Pageant which played a major part in that year’s festivities. The Pageant was conceived as a celebration of the opening of the Northwest Territory to settlement.

In 1786 the Ohio Company of Associates was organized to promote the establishment of a settlement in what at that time was the western country. They raised funds and sent a representative to Congress to apply for the purchase of the necessary land. By 1787 the Northwest Ordinance had been passed by the US congress and a territory larger than any country in Europe (except Russia) was opened to settlement. The men of the Ohio Company set forth on December 3rd, 1787 and arrived in what would become Marietta Ohio on April 7, 1788 where they set up the first civil government under the Ordinance west of the Allegheny Mountains.
150 years later, the Northwest Territory Celebration Commission began preparations to celebrate the contribution of these early settlers. They recruited a caravan of thirty six collage students to reenact the trek of the Ohio Company, bought two yoke of oxen, five cavalry horses, and assembled a Conestoga wagon from antiques salvaged from barns and carriage sheds in Pennsylvania’s Conestoga Valley.

Suited up in period gear, the commemorative party set forth from Ipswich, Massachusetts on December 3, 1937 and reached West Newton, Pennsylvania in fifty two days. In West Newton the party built flatboats, canoes, and a pirogue (a small flat-bottomed boat). They floated down the Youghiogheny River toward Marietta, Ohio, arriving on April 7, 1938.
Having completed the reenactment, the party made a tour of the states that rose from the Northwest Territory (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan), performing at festivals and fairs along the way. The planners of the sesquicentennial had created promotional materials for this phase of the celebration including four-color maps showing the phases of settlement and the native peoples who were displaced as the settlers moved westward. These maps included the text of the Ordinance of 1787 and were distributed to school children as educational material. A bibliography listing all known published materials on the settlement of the Northwest Territory also was created for and distributed for free to teachers within the territory. 
Ordinance of 1787 Stamp
1938 150th Anniversary Stamp
Two commemorative stamps were released for the sesquicentennial. The first, known as the Ordinance of 1787 stamp, was issued on July 13, 1937 and first day sales held in New York City as well as Marietta, Ohio. The second was issued on July 15, 1938 and commemorated the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the first civil government west of the original thirteen states. Commemorative ox team mail was offered, carrying letters along with the Pioneer Caravan from Ipswich to Marietta. A special cachet of letters was issued by the commission and the letters stamped and postmarked at Ipswich and again upon arrival at the Marietta Post Office. From Marietta they were re-mailed to the original addressee through regular mail.
The Commission also produced a historical novel in association with the commemoration. The novel was intended as an aid in teaching American history to high school students. Meade Minnigerode penned The Black Forest, combining historic facts with a romantic plot line.
Additionally there were school contests and local celebrations, but the main and most visible feature of the commemoration had to be the Northwest Territory Pageant linked with the caravan reenacting the trek of the Ohio Company. The Pageant directly involved each of the states which made up the Northwest Territory and through it the entire name became more aware of the sesquicentennial. The speed of the caravan was dictated by the plodding pace of its oxen and children along the route were able to touch the beasts of burden, connecting physically and conceptually with the life and struggles of the early settlers of their states.
Sioux Leaders at 1938 Indiana State Fair
In 1938 the caravan reached Indianapolis, putting in an appearance at the Indiana State Fair where they pitched camp near a band of Sioux who were taking part in the pageant. According to a doctoral paper written in 1948 by Carl Applegate on the topic of the Northwest Territory Celebration:
“To the left of the caravan the merits of a two-headed cow were being extolled by her proud owner. Though the area was filled with side-show people, the long hair and well trimmed beards of the "pioneers" attracted attention. They heard the query of the carnival folk who said, "Where you been, how'd you do, where you goin' next?"
The pageant was staged at the fairground’s mile oval racetrack, but the effort proved a mistake. A horse-pull was being staged on one side of the track while the other hosted an exhibition of dairy cattle, leaving spectators watching three events simultaneously. On September 17th the caravan arrived in Vincennes in a rainstorm with just twelve days remaining in their trek.
Staging the Pageant at the 1938 Indiana State Fair
One last Indiana connection can be made through one of the dogs which accompanied the caravan along its route. Stogy (short for Conestoga) deserted the party somewhere in Indiana. The exact location where Stogy took his exit is a mystery, I didn’t find any reference aside from a citing in Applegate’s paper, but somewhere in Indiana lay the bones of dear Stogy.

I’ll end by echoing the sentiment expressed in Applegate’s work, though we no longer look westward and load up Conestoga wagons or flatboats to set off for unexplored horizons doesn’t mean we’re finished with being pioneers. We’re a questing people, an inherently incomplete and imperfect nation seeking something we cannot even define. The most valuable thing we can take from our forefathers isn’t the need for more territory or the blind desire to impose their social norms on other peoples, it is the ability to endure, forebear, and persevere over all obstacles no matter how impenetrable they may seem.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Indiana State Fair - 1900


A Victorian era crowd milling about the fairgrounds on a hot summer afternoon. No better way to spend the day!

Kool-Aid Days

I’ll always remember Kool-Aid as the drink that wasn’t soda pop. Even though I grew up in the sixties and seventies, my mother could have been taking advice from this 1948 ad from Boy’s Life. The cheapness of Kool-Aid and its dubious imitators appealed to her penny-pinching nature and like Frank Herbert’s spice addicts, my brother and I bore stained lips through the summer months. Unfortunately, we never were able to fold space and time.

August 9th through IIth is, according to the corporate website, Kool-Aid Days. Personally I don’t think a corporate entity can declare any sort of days. Next we’ll have National Rolaids Week to follow Thanksgiving, National Weight-Watchers Week to proceed swimsuit season, and National Alka-Seltzer Day on January 2nd.  Anyway, for those old enough I suggest the only glass of colored water you drink is whiskey and soda.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Indiana State Fair - 25 Years of Construction

 An article from the 1955 issue of The Billboard Magazine featuring the Indiana State Fairgrounds. 25 years worth of construction, that sounds a little like the Department of Transportation!

Minute Rice!

Minute Rice, I’ve finally stumbled upon an ad for a product that actually takes up some shelf space in my pantry. The name is a misnomer, though, since it actually takes 10 – 15 minutes to cook a batch of Minute Rice. Then again, Minutes Rice doesn’t have the same ring.

What drew me to this ad was the dish on the upper right, keen for the kids. The only thing swell about this recipe is the effect it’ll have on your youngsters’ arteries. I mean, come on, bacon and rice? I can’t exactly see the kids going bonkers over breakfast colliding with a dish of Spanish rice. Then there’s the lower left, Easy ‘N Elegant! I looked at this picture for five minutes before I figured out the bean part – they’re the lifeless, blackish-green things around the edge of the lifeless pinkish things.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Indiana State Fair - 1936 Home Economics Club


You are looking at the women of the Indiana State Fair School of Home Economics wearing the finery they made and modeled for the 1936 4-H Dress Review. It never fails to amaze me when I see an image like this. Normally, when I see a historic photograph which features the clothing of a particular era I wonder who the maker was, but in my mind I'm envisioning a company. This shows how talented many people were at making their own clothing and not just flour-sack dresses, we're talking stuff that would look at home on a rack in your favorite high-end department store. All I can say is maybe consumerism isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Another thing that strikes me? Check out the right-leaning hats! It's like tilting your bonnet to the right is some kind of Econ-Club uniform that goes along with a secret handshake and midnight meetings to weave cloth for ceremonial gowns.

The building in the background is familiar, though I'm having problems placing it at the moment. When I make my annual pilgrimage to the fairgrounds this month I'll make it a point to look for the buildings in these images.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Bring on the Clowns



Welcome to International Clown Week, a perfect time to take in Pagliacci or get help for your Coulrophobia!

Indiana State Fair - 1873 Premium List


I found this 1873 Premium List for the Indiana State Fair in the digital archives of the Indiana Historical Society. Premium lists provide potential exhibitors and vendors with a list of rules and requirements they must meet if they want to be part of an event.

I'm not sure of the identity of the building featured on the list's cover. The Indiana State Fair didn't find a permanent home in Indianapolis until 1892, almost twenty years after this publication, so it's not located within the modern fairgrounds. I checked and the E. C. Atkins and Company did have a factory in Indianapolis during this era, but from what I've seen it didn't resemble the cover illustration. I can only conclude that the book depicts the location where the 1873 fair was held, but I've had no luck identifying the location or anything other than this image. If you have any ideas about the identity of this Victorian edifice, send them in!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Indiana State Fair - 1943


Technically this isn't an ad for the Indiana State Fair, but it is a fair themed magazine cover. The Billboard Magazine eventually shortened its title to Billboard and shifted its focus to music, but back in the 40s and 50s they ran an annual Fair Issue which featured ads for fairs and celebrations from across the country. The two ads I've featured so far came from Billboard and I'm sure I'll be posting a few more before the state fair's run is over.

Like everything you find in magazines published during World War II, this cover has a war theme. Soldier and sailor testing their manly shooting skills on some boardwalk or midway during leave and all for a fistful of cheap cigars and the adoration of a lady. Note the targets in the shooting galleries - little Hitler, Hirohito, and Mussolini heads. Judging from the soldier boy's take, that carnie better bend the sites on that rifle a little more.

The 1951 Kaiser DeLuxe


The Kaiser Motor Company was one of the car companies that rose in the wake of World War II. After being denied new cars through the ration-years of the war, the public eagerly snapped up new automobiles and independent brands flourished. Eventually the big three out-competed Kaiser and four years after this ad aired in Life Magazine the company would cease production in the US. It would hold out until the 60s in Argentina under the name Industrias Kaiser Argentina (IKA) but eventually even its offshore plants would close their doors. Kaiser is best known for producing Willy and Jeep, though it eventually sold the Jeep line to American Motors (AMC).

What does this have to do with August? Well, nothing if you discount the fact I got the ad from the August issue of a magazine. I did like the shape of the Kaiser DeLuxe sedan with its widow-peaked windshield that looks like it’s waiting for Disney to install a pair of googley eyes. I also liked “Triumph of Anatomic Design”, a phrase so labored that the ad execs had to add an asterisk just to make sure you knew the thing didn’t have a spleen. Today we’d call that ergonomic, but back in the early 50s they went with straight up anatomy.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Indiana State Fair - 1953


As advertised in this clipping from The Billboard Magazine, 1953 marked the 100th anniversary of the Indiana State Fair. This year the Girl Scouts of Indiana are celebrating their 100th anniversary by selling their traditionally tempting cookies, but with a fairgrounds twist: they will be deep frying cookies on the midway. Ah, only at the fair!

Mayonnaise of Exquiste Flavor!


I’m enough of a nerd that any time I see a phrase structured noun of adjective noun I'm immediately taken back to Gary Gygax’s Dungeons and Dragons. Digging into the tables at the back of the Dungeon Master’s Guide a player could find tables listing the enchanted items that characters could find while trawling through the depths of a dungeon. These magical treasures had names like the Amulet of Inescapable Location, the Book of Exalted Deeds, the Beaker of Plentiful Potions, and the Periapt of Foul Rotting. Seeing this ad in the August 1939 issue of Life Magazine for Mayonnaise of Exquisite Flavor took me back to my geeky youth and left left me pondering the sort of wizard who would create enchanted condiments. Maybe Gaston of Crossed Forks or Mel of Distant Diner? Did they also create a Catsup of Tantalizing Taste and a Mustard of Incredible Savor? Some questions are lost to the ages.

As for the ad, I really have to wonder why anyone serves mayonnaise with Jell-O. I mean, I knew that cooks of the 50s believed everything tasted better if encapsulated in a thick layer of transparent gel, but I didn’t realize condiments were required too. The phrase “And the smooth texture so important to mayonnaise is achieved by a remarkable blender which is exclusive with Kraft” seems curious too. I mean it sounds like Kraft has a special relationship with this blender. Maybe they’ve gone past going steady and rings have been purchased?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Indiana State Fair - Fair Season is Here!

In case you didn't know, the Indiana State Fair opened today! Break out the fried Ding-Dongs and midway rides the fair is open from August 2nd through 18th and during that time I'll be posting fair-related stuff for your enjoyment!