Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year

My pals and I would like to wish you the happiest of New Years, may 2015 bring you health, wealth, and prosperity!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas to All!

Peeping Santa wishes all of you the Merriest of Christmases and so do I. Here's hoping you're safe and warm with your loved ones this Christmas Eve. May you find your heart's desire under your Christmas tree...or maybe the mistletoe!

Two Hundred Years Ago - The Sunset of the War of 1812

Two hundred years ago today, in the Flemish city of Ghent, two combatants sat down across from each other to sign a treaty ending two years of war and forging an unlikely alliance that would weather two World Wars and change the course of world history. Though Andrew Jackson famously defeated the British at New Orleans in January of 1815 and the treaty wouldn't be ratified by the US Congress until February 18, 1915, the Prince Regent's signature officially put hostilities to an end and restored the pre-war borders of both countries. Ironic that Britain and the United States would be involved in another war a century later, this time fighting side-by-side in the trenches. Time makes strange bedfellows.

12 Smokes of Christmas

Since first hearing T'was the Night Before Christmas many of us have probably imagined Santa with a brier pipe held in his teeth as he goes about the business of filling stockings and placing packages under the tree. Maybe that's what makes the eradication of smoking so hard, the ancient attachment and primitive magic of taking fire into ourselves.

Here's hoping your fire burns bright this holiday season and that you and yours gather around it, warm yourselves while you enjoy the company of those you love. Merry Christmas and to all a good night!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

12 Smokes of Christmas

Webster Cigars, the gift that says silent loathing. Sometimes a cigar is just a reminder that that nuisance brother-in-law of yours will be staying until New Years Eve.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Funnies - Mermaid's Christmas Tree (1900)

Life Magazine, December 1, 1900

12 Smokes of Christmas

The oldest of the 12 Smokes of Christmas ads (1915), Tuxedo pipe tobacco promised peace on earth and goodwill to men if you didn't count secondhand smoke-related illness.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

12 Smokes of Christmas

A pretty generic Pall Mall ad from 1953 - Christmas red, ribbons, holly, bow, and denial.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

12 Smokes of Christmas

Does this mean they are actually transforming into Chesterfield cigarettes? A neat trick, but I'm not sure it's a selling point!

Friday, December 19, 2014

12 Smokes of Christmas

Wrapped for Christmas, no less. I wonder if that refers to the Santa cigar box shown in the ad.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

12 Smokes of Christmas

You've seen the organ grinder's monkey outfit, well here's Philip Morris' version. Something tells me this kid has the voice of Peter Lorre and the mannerisms to match. Just try imaging Lorre delivering the tagline from this ad without getting the creeps.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fun with Food - Piles by Hunts (1949)

To be honest, I'm surprised the "greatest generation" was able to win World War II. I've seen hundreds of food ads from the 1940's and 50's and, having witnessed the crimes against comestibles committed during those eras, I wouldn't have thought they'd have the energy. I mean, look what they were eating? I mean look at this. Hunt's would like us to believe it's "oven croquettes", but I'm telling you it looks more like a steaming plate of hemorrhoids with tomato sauce. I mean food shouldn't be pyramidal. It just shouldn't.

12 Smokes of Christmas

Possibly the oldest ad in our 12 Smokes of Christmas journey, this Murad piece shows us what Santa did after kissing mommy. Kind of gives a new meaning to the tagline "what could you enjoy more this Xmas than Murad?"

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

12 Smokes of Christmas

And we thought typographic shorthand like LOL and ROTFL. Almost seventy years ago Lucky Strike came up LSMFT, all that and a holly wreath.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Little Christmas Music - Jingle Bells (Nat King Cole)

One of the warmest and swingingest versions of the old bell/sleigh tune I've ever heard is the one done by Nat King Cole. Take it away, Mr. Cole.

The Funnies - What If... (1900)

Life Magazine, December 1, 1900

12 Smokes of Christmas

I'm not sure how effective it is to say, "hey, at least we don't cost more than the other guy's cigarettes...", but that was Fatima's angle. The only thing holiday about the "smart carton" Fatima came in was the red bow and holly leaves, then again a Christmas ad shilling cigarettes made from Turkish tobacco that bear the name of the daughter of the prophet Mohammed...well, you're probably on shaky ground to begin with.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Little Christmas Music - The Santa Claus Express (Henry Hall and the BBC Dance Orchestra)

Twelve days 'till Christmas and the Santa Claus Express is pulling away from the station! Love this goofy little 1933 tune!

12 Smokes of Christmas

Something tells me the kind of discrimination this lady's into isn't the sort one associates with good taste. Though this ad dates to the 50's, you'll notice that the cigarette pack touts Tareytons as cork tipped. The cork filter dates back to the early twenties, at the time making Tareyton's smokes a throwback to grandpa's cigarettes. Love the tagline, "there's something about them you'll like". They aren't sure what, but surely there's something!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Steampunk Saturday - The California Tank

Behold the tank as imagined by designers in California back in 1917. The design steals from the British tanks present on the battlefields of World War I with one exception, a single front wheel and armor that would make it utterly useless on the battlefield. Even the article in Popular Mechanics stated that the California design would be hopeless in a landscape of shell craters, obstacles, and trenches. Still, it does look a little like the love-child of H. G. Wells and Leonardo Da Vinci. Worthy steampunk fodder, I'd say.

Steampunk Saturday - Perpetual Motion Machines

It's not surprising that perpetual motion machines have fascinated crackpot inventors since before Leonardo da Vinci. Mankind loves the idea of something for nothing. It's what drives us to cut coupons, buy two-for-one deals, and believe burning fossil fuels couldn't possibly impact the environment. Perpetual motion is the Fountain of Youth of the inventor's world, undying power - mechanical immortality, and it drew the attentions of notables such as Robert Boyle (of Boyle's Law fame) and Nikola Tesla. In the end, like the Fountain, perpetual motion proved to be nothing but a myth, a lovely idea that hucksters and hoaxers used to part suckers from their hard-earned cash.

A collection of perpetual motion machines as shown in the October 1920 issue of Popular Science

In 1920 Popular Science Magazine printed an article driving another stake in the heart of the mythological beast, but the beast that is perpetual motion survived. In 1977 Emil T. Hartman patented a magnetic system with the distinctly unromantic acronym of SMOT which purported to change magnetic energy into kinetic energy which exceeded the amount of required to power the magnets. It never has worked. And, less you see the fad of perpetual motion as dead and gone, as recent as 2006 Steorn Ltd. claimed to have created a magnetic device which would withstand scientific scrutiny, in 2009 the jury of scientists they solicited stated the device did not work.

The facts are interesting, but this is a Steampunk Saturday post and, as such, we should take a look at something that looks like it could have come from the mind of Jules Verne or H. G. Welles. Not to disappoint, I give you mass-transit done perpetual motion-style.

From the October 1920 issue of Popular Science Magazine, an outtake supposedly from the September issue of the Galaxy Illustrated Magazine

Though Popular Science didn't reveal the inventor's name a search showed that an article regarding perpetual motion and "self-moving carriages riding on conical wheels" appeared in the September 1871 issue of The Galaxy Illustrated Magazine and I even managed to find a line drawing of one of the carriage cars. Unfortunately, Google's repository of scanned ephemera doesn't contain the issue of interest. I'll keep looking, maybe it will appear eventually. Regardless, if you need a topic for your steampunk crackpot scientist to obsess over, perpetual motion just might do the trick!

From the September 1871 issue of the Galaxy Illustrated Magazine

12 Smokes of Christmas

Old Gold, for a treat instead of a treatment. What the heck does that mean? Well, for one it marks the beginning of the recognition smoking causes health problems. For decades afterward cigarette manufacturers would engage in creative language to disguise or deny the detrimental effects of smoking. They'd put out low tar, light, and even ultra-light cigarettes while simultaneously engaging in a program of obfuscation to protect their billion-dollar industry. But hey, Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 12, 2014

12 Smokes of Christmas

Camels in a carton...and Prince Albert in a can! Let 'em out!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Thursday, December 4, 2014

What Were They Thinking? Cannon Sheets (1946)

Lois Lane figures out Sups was Clark Kent all the time, and goes over the edge.

FAO Schwarz Toy Store Ad

Santa's making air drops of toys for all the good girls and boys! FAO Schwarz ad from the December 1911 issue of McClure's Magazine. I'm trying to imagine what novelties a kid might want for Christmas, but I'm coming up empty.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Little Christmas Music - Greensleeves, The Beverly Sisters (1956)

As the group's name implies, the Beverly Sisters consists of three sisters (Joy, Babs, and Teddie) who crafted their singing style in the image of the sister groups which were popular during the 1940's. They grew up in wartime London, being evacuated to the Midlands to avoid the German blitz where they became part of a group of child singers known as the Ovalteenies (yes, promoting Ovaltine). Jock Ware, conducting the Ovalteenies audition, recognized the sisters' potential and signed them for the sum of 15 Guineas.

Through his connections with Cecil Madden, head at BBC Alexandra Palace, Ware secured an appearance for the sisters at the BBC's wartime location in Bedford. During this session the Beverlys met Glenn Miller who, impressed by their performance, offered the choice of any of his musicians to help them make their recording with the proper accompaniment. Unfortunately fate dealt a blow to the Beverly Sisters when Miller died in a plane wreck in 1944.

The Beverly Sisters appeared on BBC TV after the war and eventually appeared on NBC with the remainder of Glenn Miller's band backing their performance. After a successful Palladium appearance with Danny Kaye, the sisters were given their own BBC show. Three Little Girls was eventually renamed Those Beverly Sisters and ran for seven years.

Like most artists of the era, the sisters recorded an album of Christmas tunes. Theirs, entitled Christmastime, featured a hit version of I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause, but due to my allegiance to Spike Jones' version, I couldn't choose that one to kick the season off. Instead I went with Greensleeves, a song that has a lot of personal meaning for me.

What happened to the Beverleys? Well, I'll let AllMusic's biography do the talking:

"During the 1960s and 1970s the sisters, who had five children in their families by now, only took local London bookings, preferring not to travel far from home. In the 1980s the children -- who had inherited their mothers' talent for harmony -- began singing under the stage name of the Foxes so as not to use the Beverley Sisters name. One night at the London Hippodrome nightclub where the Foxes were playing, Peter Stringfellow requested that the mums, although by then in semi-retirement, appear on stage themselves, and although this was not their sort of venue (with loud amplified music and laser light shows), they finally agreed. The reception they received was beyond their wildest imagination and led to two entirely new careers: performing for the troops overseas as a nostalgia act, and on the gay circuit as a camp act (even releasing a dance version of their song "Sisters"). They are still active in the 21st century, performing for the Queen as part of her Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002. They also signed up for a ten-date tour with Max Bygraves to re-create the 1952 Royal Variety Performance in which they appeared together for the first time. They took part in the D-Day 60th anniversary memorial in 2004, and in January 2006 all three sisters were awarded MBEs in the New Year's honors list."

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Little Christmas Music - I've Got My Love to Keep me Warm

Les Brown and the Starlighters turning the heat up to keep our tootsies toasty!

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Funnies - Store Discount (1927)

He: How would you like some lingerie for your Christmas?
She: I'd adore it! Listen, I can get it at fifty per cent off where I work.
He: That's an idea.
She: Sure it is. You can buy me something else with that discount.
Life magazine, December 1927

A Little Christmas Music -Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians

Back in 1954 General Electric sponsored a show featuring Christmas Music by Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians. I wonder what ever became of the announcer...

Quote for December

" are April when they woo, December when they wed. Maids are May when they are maids, but the sky changes when they are wives."

As You Like It, Act 4, Scene 1
William Shakespeare

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving Leftovers - A Cup of Coffee, A Sandwich, and You (1925)

With all that turkey in the ice box, it's time for leftovers. So how about A Cup of Coffee, a Sandwich, and You by Roger Wolf Kahn and his Orchestra?

Friday, November 28, 2014

Singing for Thanksgiving Dinner - It's Illegal, it's Immoral, or it Makes You Fat (1962)

The post-Thanksgiving season is upon us and, though most of us are probably more worried about Black Friday instead of our holiday dietary decisions, I thought I'd post a cautionary song. This little 1962 ditty is by The Beverly Sisters who we'll hear more from in the Yuletide season.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here's wishing all of you the happiest of Thanksgivings, may your turkeys be dressed, your potatoes be mashed and buttered, your tables be full, and your loved ones be near!

Singing for Thanksgiving Dinner - Does the Spearmint Lose its Flavor (1924)

I remember a version of this song from the Dr. Demento show, with "spearmint" being replaced by "bubblegum". None the less, nothing like an after dinner mint to settle the stomach! Here's Billy Jones and Earnest Hare with Does the Spearmint Lose its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Singing for Thanksgiving Dinner - Peaches and Cream (1906)

Ada Jones started out as a mezzo-soprano before turning to the pop-music of the early 1900's. This, not really food offering of Peaches and Cream came out on a Victor 78 in 1906 and it has the conversational feel of a lot of that era's popular music. Her accompaniment, Len Spencer, recorded various back-and-forth banter songs up into the 1920's. I hope you enjoy the first offering of our Thanksgiving desert course!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Singing for Thanksgiving Dinner - Good Gravy Rag (1913)

No Thanksgiving dinner is complete without a little giblet gravy to go over those mashed potatoes! The Good Gravy Rag was written in 1913 by Harry Belding and performed here by Bill Mitchell at RagFest 2006.

Belding wasn't one of the big time composers of the ragtime era. He was born in Jefferson Iowa to a mother who taught music and from whom he probably received some musical instruction. Some time around 1889, Harry's father began selling pianos and organs (of the musical sort, not the kind used in giblet gravy), so it's fair to say he came from a musical family. By 1910 Harry had moved to the ragtime hotbed of St. Louis, MO where he managed a vaudeville theater and the exposure led to his taking on a partner and going on tour during 1912 and 1913 under the moniker Alexander and Belding. This was the act that introduced Good Gravy Rag in 1913The following season Belding teamed up with a singer named Myrtle Sounders and in late 1913, Belding released his only other known piece, Apple Sass Rag. 

Belding virtually disappears after 1914, he either left show business or didn't find a receptive audience. In 1918 he shows up with his wife Minnie and daughter Dorothy in Los Angeles where his draft records show his occupation as farmer employed by his father. Eventually he would remarry, move to San Diego, and become a successful real estate agent and part-time performer. He died in 1931 at the age of 49 after falling down a flight of stairs.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Singing for Thanksgiving Dinner: Moe Zart's Turkey Trot

Red Ingle and the Natural Seven, ah, mayhem. Red was born in Toledo, Ohio in November of 1906 and from an early age began his musical training. He eventually received a music scholarship at the Toledo American College of Music and was playing professionally by his late teens. In 1931 he joined Ted Weems' Orchestra and Perry Como remarked on Red's natural talent. Red's talent didn't end with music, though, he was a pilot and leather worker (a saddle created by Red was displayed at the Golden Gate International Exposition World's Fair in San Francisco in 1939).

After being rated 4F due to his eyesight, Red joined Spike Jones and his City Slickers. Jones featured Red through 1946 and Red played a big part in the band's hit recordings of Chloe, You Always Hurt the Ones You Love, and Glow Worm.

After parting ways with the Spike, Red had a hit with a parody of a Perry Como song Temptation after which he formed his band, The Natural Seven. By the 60's Red had more-or-less retired from music and he died in 1965

So, now that all the formalities have been formalized and the technicalities technified, Mr. Ingle, please cut the holiday bird.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Singing for Thanksgiving Dinner - All That Meat and No Potatoes (1941)

We can't get through the main course without something from Fats. Fats Waller has always been a favorite with me, he ranks up there with Jellyroll Morton when it comes to lyrics that can be taken more than one way. Here's All That Meat and No Potatoes for the buffet.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Singing for Thanksgiving Dinner - Waffles (1926)

Okay, you're not likely to have waffles on your Thanksgiving table, but who knows? In Chicago they like chicken and waffles as a late-night snack. I'm not going to put a ban on waffles and turkey! Here is Waffles by Irving Aaronson and His Commanders, sounding a whole lot like Fred Waring's band!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Singing for Thanksgiving Dinner - Pork Chops 'n Gravy (1939)

Ah, the main course is going strong and here's a more modern band. The Ink Spots with their rendition of Pork Chops 'n Gravy.

The Funnies - Club Sandwich (1910)

The Century Illustrated Magazine, June 1910

Charles Nuttall was born in Fitzroy, Victoria in Australia and trained at the National Gallery of Victoria under the artist Frederic McCubbin. Nuttall penned illustrations for The Century Illustrated Magazine, Life, Harper's, and other periodicals. He moved from Australia to the United States in 1905 and in 1910, at the time this piece aired, he would have been touring Europe. After returning he went back to Australia where he continued to draw, write, and even became a broadcaster, passing in 1934 at the young age of 44.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Flu Season is Upon Us

Tis the season, the season for sniffling and coughing, the season for giving...the flu. Already the office is filled with dutiful little germ bombs, people who refuse to stay home just because they're coughing, running a fever, and practically useless in every way. It won't be long until most of us start showing the symptoms of old-man flu's evil influence, and I'm hoping each of you decides to spend a few days at home with a hot toddy and reruns of your favorite sit-com instead of sharing your viral bounty.

Let's pause a moment for an educational film from Coronet's archives. Joan, take  it away!

Singing for Thanksgiving Dinner - Hambone Am Sweet (1930's)

I wish I could find a little more information about the Four Southern Singers. The sound reminds me of Oh Brother Where Art Thou, primitive and earthy. Unfortunately, I can't find any biographical information on the Four Southern Singers, all I can say is they were an African American group that seems to have formed sometime during the 1920's or 30's.

Luckily for us, their rendition of Hambone am Sweet is available through the auspices of YouTube. So tuck in your napkin, pull yourself up to the table, and enjoy.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Singing for Thanksgiving Dinner - Combination Salad Rag (1916)

Yet another mysterious composer on our first course menu. Julius L. Bafunno composed Combination Salad Fox Trot in 1916 and it's a nice enough tune. I did a little digging and found a copyright for a 1917 tune entitled Desert Moon with words and music by J. S. Bafunno, the rights of which go to Julius L. Bafunno of Chicago. I found mention of Julius playing piano for the annual banquet of the Chicago Coal Merchants Association in the May 26, 1917 issue of The Black Diamond, a coal trade paper (right). He accompanied a chorus singing Romance Land, a tune I couldn't run down in a brief online search.

After that, the trail goes cold. There are no more copyright entries for Bafunno (L or S) and no more mentions in the periodicals that have been scanned to Google's ever-growing library of old documents. Maybe Mr. Bafunno was a one-hit-wonder of his era, though I can't say Combination Salad or Desert Moon exactly seem to be hits. I guess the point is we'll never know.

The cover of the rag is very entry level. Nice, but nothing I'd hang on my wall. The simplicity is kind of sad, though. I can't help but travel back through time to put myself in his shoes. Imagine the first time he walked down the block to the local music shop and saw his name on the cover of a copy of sheet music. Imagine how excited he must have been, how he must have been thinking, "this is it, I've finally made it, soon the world will be beating a path to my door..." Then 1917 came and his next composition. Then...nothing...

Well, I don't want to cast a shadow over the festivities. After all we're here to eat combination salad, not mourn it. Therefore, I offer you an admittedly MIDI version of the tune by Julius L. Bafunno. Raise your glass and offer a toast to all the dreams we've had this year, may the best of them come true and may they live at least as long as this tune has.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Singing for Thanksgiving Dinner - Beets and Turnips Foxtrot (1914)

Another great ragtime era cover, the Beets and Turnips Foxtrot, this one is 100 years old this year. So, happy birthday, Beets and Turnips!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Happy Veteran's Day

Here's hoping next Veteran's Day finds all our servicemen and women at home, thinking about how to fit their families around the table at Thanksgiving instead of whether they'll see those same loved ones again. Here's saluting the sacrifices you've made and hoping you never have to sacrifice again.

Singing for Thanksgiving Dinner - Red Pepper, A Spicy Rag (1910)

My father-in-law, Bob, really introduced me to ragtime music. I'd heard a little of it growing up, mainly The Entertainer from the movie The Sting, but that was about it. Bob introduced me to the variety of the music and the wonder of the sheet music covers that I've featured so often in my blog. Right now, sitting at my keyboard, I can see no less than five framed covers that decorate my office walls, and I'm sure I'll add to the collection as time goes by.

The cover for Red Pepper is pretty simple in comparison to many covers. It reflects the arts and crafts movement, with stylized peppers jauntily running across the page. It was composed in 1910 by Thomas Henry Lodge of Lymansville, Rhode Island to distinctly non-musical parents. Thomas showed a talent for the piano, though, and got a job demonstrating pianos after high school. Red Pepper followed Lodge's breakout hit Temptation Rag. By 1912 Lodge and his family had moved to New York where Henry teamed with famous dancing duo, Irene and Vernon Castle. Lodge played piano for their lessons. He also began working on higher-end music, more complex rags like his waltz, Geraldine.

In November of 1917, Lodge got a contract with M. Witmark and Sons who owned the rights to much of his previous music. The family relocated to Atlantic City where his wife would die in August 1918, just a month before he found employment as a musician at the Martinique Cafe.

In 1920 Lodge worked in Manhattan, shifting his attention from composing to writing and working for the burgeoning New York movie industry. In May of that year Variety and the New York Times showed Lodge had formed Henry Lodge Photo Plays for the sum of $100,000 out of  an office at 1545 Broadway, but the venture disappears after that point and Lodge eventually started working with an orchestra in Palm Beach, Florida in the early 20's. For a short time Lodge would live in Los Angeles, California where the 1930 census shows him employed as an author of fiction (fist bump to Henry). Eventually he returned to Boston, though and spent his last years between it and Palm Beach where he unexpectedly died at the age of 49.

With that long intro, I chose a nice player piano version of Red Pepper as our veggie course selection today. I wanted to thank the contributor, mechanicmusic45, for posting this piece with the simple video of the amazing feat of engineering that is the player piano. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I did!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Singing for Thanksgiving Dinner - Pork 'n Beans (1913)

I've always loved ragtime music, so I was happy to find Pork 'n Beans available on YouTube, however I have to dispute the date given on the recording. Pork 'n Beans came out in piano roll form in 1913 and credited to Luckey Roberts. Unsure if this version was performed in 1947, but it's a smokin' version none the less!

The Funnies - Worms for Thanksgiving Dinner (1900)

Life Magazine, November 29, 1900

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Singing for Thanksgiving Dinner - Good Cabbage (1937)

The first course is filled with good veggies, and today that means Good Cabbage by Victoria Spivey. Victoria was born in 1906 in Houston, Texas where, in 1918, she took up singing after the death of her father. This kicked off a career that would last over forty years and include working with notables such as Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Clarence Williams, Luis Russel, Lonnie Johnson, and Bob Dylan. Her compositions include Black Snake Blues, Dope Head Blues, and Organ Grinder Blues. In 1962 she started Spivey Records which continued to operate until 1996.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Steampunk Saturday - Tide and Time

E. G. Fischer's Tide Calculating Machine No. 1
Fresh from one of Charles Babbage's dreams comes this mechanical beauty. In 1905 the US faced a problem. Its influence was spreading across the globe, exported to places like Venezuela and Panama, on the decks of dreadnoughts in what Teddy Roosevelt would call The Great White Fleet under the moniker of "gunboat diplomacy", but these seagoing behemoths became useless if they ran aground while coming into port. What was needed was an accurate and fast way of calculating the depth of a harbor at any certain point in time, and that is where E. G. Fischer's little thinking machine came into play.

The instrument, touted as "a most intricate and wonderful machine" was encoded with information obtained through human observations and allowed an operator to set 19 variables on its dials, then turn a crank to get predictions on tides at a specific point for which it had been programmed at any desired time. In 1905 when this article ran in Popular Mechanics an updated version of the tide calculator was being produced, a more accurate version which would take 39 variables into consideration when making calculations, be powered by clockwork rather than hand-crank, and print its readouts as curves on a paper tape.  This improvement, dubbed Tide Predicting Machine No. 2, would finally come to fruition in 1912, a more massive and industrial beast for the dawning age of mechanization that would come with World War I.

E. G. Fischer's Tide Calculating Machine No. 2
Either machine would be perfectly at home on Captain Nemo's Nautilus, a ticking brain to help plot his terrorist takeover of Earth's oceans. Right there in the wheel house, the first officer setting the dials and reading off the results so that his commanding officer could decide when best to make his move.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

What Were They Thinking - Eversharp (1946)

Time for a new feature, a little thing I'm going to call "What Were They Thinking". If you pour over old magazines you're bound to come across some ads that simply make you ask, what the heck were the ad execs thinking? These ads feature a range of products and they employ everything from psychotic looking children to self-mutilating animals to supposedly entice the consumer into, well, consuming. Personally, when I come across one of these insults to the advertiser's dark art, the only urge that hits me is a desire to turn the page as quickly as possible.

So, without further delay, let's jump right into the big bin o' rotten ads. Maestro, if you'll cue the kitsch fifties intro music...

Eversharp started in 1915 with a patent for a mechanical pencil and they continued successfully through the 1940's, finally being bought out by Parker Pens in 1957. Apparently, in 1946 when this ad ran, the execs at Eversharp thought they should cash in on the nearly continuous state of war that existed between the beginning of WWII and the end of Vietnam, touting their machine gun-like repeater pencil.

But, just in case the war references weren't enough, they decided to go with something that says pencils...a vapid, slack jawed model. I mean, what says smart buy like a model who can be amazed by the simple clicking sound? I mean that's the pencil I want! The Brain-Stunner 7000, stores a year's worth of lead and reduces your IQ by 120 points per click!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Singing for Thanksgiving Dinner - The Brazilian Nut (1915)

My apologies for choosing such a MIDI tune, but a memory from my past made me want to have this tune on the appetizer tray and this was the only version I could find. My grandfather always had a bowl of mixed nuts out during the holidays, they were shell-on nuts that had to be cracked by hand and I don't know if anyone ever touched them. For all I know, he could have been putting the same nuts out every year. It's that bowl of nuts that made me think of The Brazilian Nut One-Step Rag for my Thanksgiving offering. Just don't get shells all over the floor.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Singing for Thanksgiving Dinner - Dill Pickles Rag (1906)

No relish tray is complete without a few Dill Pickles. The composer, Charles L. Johnson was born in the ragtime hotbed of Kansas City in 1876 and he lived out his whole life in that city. He's a heavyweight, publishing over 300 songs, nearly forty of which were ragtime compositions. His best selling piece, Sweet and Low, sold over a million copies and there's some belief that if he'd lived and worked in New York City, he would have ranked alongside other ragtime greats such as Scott Joplin, James Scott, and Joseph Lamb.

The Funnies Bonus - Election Day (1901)

Happy Election Day, everyone. Get out to the polls and express yourselves. This cover from a November 1901 issue of Life Magazine.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Singing for Thanksgiving Dinner - Coffee Rag

A good cup of coffee before or after dinner is always a good thing, how about a cup of the Coffee Rag? This one performed by Andrew Kasab, a heck of a guitarist.

The Funnies - Ye Olde New England Thanksgiving (1900)

Life Magazine, November 29, 1900

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Day of the Dead and Remembrance

The Day of the Dead has come and nearly gone, a time of remembrance for loved ones lost, a time of memories as autumn fades into winter. This weekend I've attended two memorial services, one for my uncle and another for a close friend both of whom passed this October. It's a reminder of how little time we have, a memento mori at the end of the season of life. Welcome to winter and the season of sequestered recovery. In spring life will return, until then we must retreat into our burrows and huddle together for warmth.

So here's remembering you, Lee. Remembering my childhood when you lived just around the block and how my dad bought my first 'real' bike from you and your son. Here's remembering how you were one of the only bosses that could have made my first summer job bearable. I'll always see you as that guy who always was laughing, who always was a hit with the ladies, who had a gentle soul. I think that gentleness is what this world will miss most, it's turned into a hard place that needs all the kindness, humor, and patience it can get. Today there's a little less of that to go around, and the world's a sadder place for the loss. I'll always strive to remember how you made me feel when I was a dumb kid, just out of school and without an idea how to maneuver in the world, and I'll try to offer the same, gentle guidance to the bumbling lost souls I run into out there in the world.

Here's remembering you, Dan. A rapier wit wielded by a velvet-gloved hand. My first "career" job was to take a job at a local bio-med manufacturer and it wasn't long after my first day when I first saw you on the manufacturing floor. You were one of the most striking men I ever met, handsome and charismatic, a magnet that drew everyone into your orbit. Over the years we drifted apart and then back together again, and I consider myself lucky to have gotten the chance to really get to know you in the past two years. You reminded me of the value of having an open heart and your encouragement to pursue dreams with the full force of my being wasn't lost (even if I didn't always listen). The golden light of autumn is colder for not having you here, but the warmth you gave will linger and I promise to keep it alive.

Singing for Thanksgiving Dinner - Chow Chow Rag (1909)

Seeing the title Chow Chow made me think of an episode of the Andy Griffith Show. In that episode, Aunt Bea fusses with Andy over a trip he's taking, and insists on packing a jar of Piccalilli relish for him "in case he got hungry on the bus". Chow chow is similar, a type of sweet and savory vegetable relish made mainly from bell peppers, green tomatoes, onions, and cabbage. If you're interested, you can find a recipe here.

The Chow Chow Rag by Philip Schwartz, however, suggests an Indian origin for the dish, which may owe to an ingredient of chow chow, chayote, is known as chow chow in India. Who knows, the turbaned guy on the cover may be carrying a plate of chayote.

I wasn't able to find any information on Philip Schwartz in my usual ragtime music databases, this may have been his only composition or he may have worked under another pen name, it's hard to be sure. Unfortunately, I also couldn't find anything but a MIDI version of the tune, so our relish tray will have to have a synthetic taste. I hope you enjoy, though!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Singing for Thanksgiving Dinner - I've Never Seen a Straight Banana (1927)

I'm kicking off Singing for Thanksgiving Dinner with a selection from the fruit basket. Waring's Pennsylvanians are one of my favorite bands of the 20's. They went on playing until Fred Waring's death in the 1980's, a career lasting 60 years. Here's I've Never Seen a Straight Banana from 1927 featuring the vocal talents of Poley McClintock who might or might not have been the inspiration for the voice of Popeye.

Kicking Off the Thanksgiving Season

The holiday season is upon us again, over the hills and through the woods and all that stuff, Thanksgiving is near again! I thought I'd start the season with this lovely cover from the November 29, 1900 issue of Life Magazine. I feature a lot of artwork from the early issues of Life Magazine, but they really are striking and they cater to my love of the art nouveau style. This particular cover reminds me of Mucha with the stylized chrysanthemums in the Indian maiden's hair and the simplified, natural lines.

With the holidays approaching, you can look for new editions of Singing for Thanksgiving Dinner (starting today) and A Little Christmas Music (coming in December). I hope you enjoy both as much as I enjoy searching through the internet archives for the material!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mr. Ghost Goes to Town - The Five Jones Boys

I wasn't able to find any specific information on The Five Jones Boys, the band that voiced this 1936 version of Mr. Ghost Goes to Town (yes, 1936 not 1938 as the video implies). I only know the date of the recording due to the good work of Mike the Barber and his wonderful weekly WFMU radio program, The Ragged Phonograph Show. I thought it'd make a good Halloween tune, though!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Funnies Bonus: Economies (1914)

Life Magazine, December 31, 1914

Something to consider when going to the polls this election day.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Funnies - New York (1901)

"Excuse me, is his Majesty in?"
Clerk: "No sir, he's in New York."
"When do you expect him back?"
"We don't expect him back."

Life Magazine, August 22, 1901

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Funnies - A Taste of War (1914)

If those who bring about war were given a taste of it.
Life Magazine, October 1, 1914

A special 100 Years Ago comic from the pages of Life Magazine. History has given World War I the moniker "The Great War", but clippings of the time show a much different sentiment as men and material were fed into the meat-grinder that was trench warfare. All the patriotic songs and star-spangling can't change the fact the trenches and no-man's land of northern France was a blood-soaked killing ground for the world's youth. The sad thing is it would remain so for another four years.

I'll be airing another update on the anniversary of World War I in the near future, stay tuned!

Earl Motors

Earl Motors of Jackson, Michigan never rose to the level of Studebaker, Nash, or Packard. It came into being with the automobile fad of the jazz age, incorporated in 1921 and it died a quiet death in 1924 having produced less than 2000 cars. Earl sprang from the Briscoe Motor Company, offering touring cars for $1285 and offering extras such as linoleum floorboards and front and back carpets.

Benjamin Briscoe appointed Clarence Earl as president of his Briscoe Motor Company in March of 1921 and abandoned the automotive business that same year. Earl renamed the company, announcing that the opening salvo of the newly minted Earl Motors would be a brand new four-cylinder car which actually was just the Briscoe with a new name and a few modifications to improve power and make the automobile larger.

The troubles that had driven Benjamin Briscoe didn't leave when he abandoned his company. Earl found himself saddled with a large debt and a board with which he clashed. In November of 1922, Earl resigned and turned Earl Motors over to its board which drove the company into the ground. In Early 1924 Earl Motors was sold to Standard Motor Parts Company of Detroit and mothballed.

This ad comes from the August 1922 issue of Automobile Topics, a time when Earl was at the helm and locked in a battle with his banker board members. This was before the board took charge and began trimming Earl's offerings to low-cost models. It's a spare ad, nothing like you see from Dodge or Ford during this same time. There are no image of feckless youth, no idle rich, no feel for the Earl brand. Just copy and line drawings, lingering like ghosts at the margins.

Monday, October 6, 2014