Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ham Time!

I think their ham looks a little...dry. 1947 as from the American Meat Institute shilling ham for the Easter season.

100 Years Ago Today - the Seeds of World War I

If you remember from our last visit to the run up to World War I Mehmedbašić, the would-be assassin of Bosnian governor Oskar Potiorek, had been forced to throw his weapons from a Bosnia-Herzegovina-bound train window when police searched it for a thief. The search for replacements delayed Mehmedbašić's attempt on Potiorek and on March 26th, 1914, before he was ready to act, Mehmedbašić  was summoned to the city of Mostar. There separatist leader Danilo Ilić passed on the news that the Black Hand leaders in Belgrade had selected a new target. The new plan was to murder Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

The target would not change again, from this point forward the assassins had only one aim, to kill Ferdinand and it would be this mission that would ignite Europe.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Funnies - Froggie Tango (1914)

Life Magazine, April 1914

I thought I'd get this one out in time for frog season here in Indiana. Soon the woods will be filled with the courtship songs of frogs. We've got quite a few ponds nearby and on a warm night when the windows are open you can sit and listen to the thrumming of amore. Nothing like it to cure insomnia.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Green Giant Peas!

In honor of the recently passed St. Patrick's Day, may the luck of the peas be with you...

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

The Funnies - Signs of Spring (1914)

Life Magazine, April 1914

With the first day of spring coming Thursday, I thought it'd be appropriate to kick the week off with a little comic that's just as fitting today as it was when it ran in 1914.

A St. Patrick's Day Reminder

A while back I received a summons for jury duty and wound up serving for a case that related to a traffic accident that occurred on St. Patrick's Day when a pair of (former) friends had one too many and wound up in a traffic accident. Now, there's nothing particularly "St. Patrick's Day" about drinking, especially drinking too much, but I thought it'd be a good time to delve into the TGFI film vault for a little information about the intoxicating effects of alcohol and to offer a word of caution.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

March Full Moon - Moonlight Saving Time

With March 9th being the beginning of Daylight Savings Time, I figured I'd pay tribute to March's full moon with a little ditty by Dick Robertson and his Orchestra, Moonlight Saving Time.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Beware the Ides of March

Caesar: Who is it in the press that calls on me? I hear a tongue shriller than all the music cry "Caesar!" Speak, Caesar is turn'd to hear.
Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.

Caesar: What man is that?
Brutus: A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

In 44 BCE the fifteenth of March gained notoriety and became one of the turning points of Roman history when rivals assassinated Caesar on the steps of the senate. Shakespeare immortalized Ceasar’s demise in his work Julius Caesar and coined the phrase “Beware the Ides of March”, a warning that has remained in the vernacular since.

While there’s probably a chance of figuratively being stabbed in the senate in modern American politics, there hasn’t been a violent play for power in the Senate or House since Preston Brooks beat Charles Sumner. We prefer assassination by a thousand sound bites, its cleaner and everyone can watch from the comfort of their living room.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Bird's Eye Frozen Vegetables

Here's another item that'll be familiar to those of us who spend a little time in the frozen food aisle at the local supermarket. Bird's Eye frozen foods was created in 1923 by Clarence Birdseye.General Foods bought out Birdseye's patents for flash-freezing foods in 1929 for $22 million, an amazing sum for that era.

When you read the recipe for Emerald Isle, it doesn't sound nearly as bad as it looks. This ad comes from 1946, so we're entering that weird era of food photography here. I'm not sure if it's the lighting or film or the translation from print to digital, but any food photographed in the 40's or 50's looks hideous. The brilliant humorist and newspaper man, James Lileks, has several wonderful books of hideous foods including his Gallery of Regrettable Foods which I highly recommend if you really want to plumb bad foods. This particular dish has a Lovecraft-ian look to it, all goggling eyes, seeping ichor, and waggling tentacles.

The last thing that struck me was the box shown in the lower right. Is it really supposed to contain fruits, vegetables, poultry, meats, and seafood? I haven't seen this Bird's Eye variety in my freezer section, and I'm kind of glad.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A&P's Hot Crossed Buns

I've touched on A&P before, but this ad captured my attention. It's the first ad I've seen for a product produced by A&P's in-house bakeries. Hot cross buns are a sweet roll, sometimes made with raisins or currents and decorated with a 'cross' of icing across their tops. Traditionally they are eaten during Lent between Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. I always wonder what a shrove was, guess I'll never know.

The ad itself is a pretty typical piece of 1940's photography. The rolls have been decorated with shoestrings and they're being served with chum tartlets. Nothing says the Lenten season has arrived like a good chum tart. Mmm, good!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Welcome to National Peanut Butter Month

Welcome to National Peanut Month! In March we celebrate the humble ground nut, the goober pea, the nut George Washington Carver turned into the staple of lunchboxes across the United States. According to the National Peanut Board:

"European explorers first discovered peanuts in Brazil. As early as 1500 B.C., the Incans of Peru used peanuts as sacrificial offerings and entombed them with their mummies to aid in the spirit life. Tribes in central Brazil also ground peanuts with maize to make a drink."

It wasn't until the early 1800's that the peanut became a commercial crop in the US, and even then it they were primarily grown for their oil, as a cocoa substitute, and as animal feed. The Civil War introduced peanuts to Union Soldiers who brought them north.

In the late 1800's the popularity of the peanut grew as vendors with PT Barnum's circus sold roasted peanuts to circus-goers. Soon street vendors were selling roasted nuts from carts and hawkers were selling them at baseball games.

It wasn't until 1900 that practical cultivating machinery loosed the nut's mass appeal. Peanut oil, roasted and salted nuts, peanut butter, and peanut based candies hit the market and the peanut supplanted cotton as the cash crop of the south.

So, let's celebrate with a little recipe from the July 1918 issue of Housewives Magazine:

The Funnies - The Duck and the Chick (1900)

Life Magazine, July 19, 1900

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Winter Storm Titan?

For those of you on the East Coast, sweating out the approach of deadly Winter Storm in the Indianapolis area it's turned out to be more like Winter Storm Tin Tin. We got the typical predictions of doom and hand-wringing over double-digit accumulations through the week. So far we've gotten less than two inches of snow. I should have taken up meteorology, aside from NFL and NBA referees it's the only profession I know of where you never have to be right.

Winton the King of Automobiles

This ad for the Winton Motor Carriage Company could fall into the Everything New is Old Again category. Those of us who look at consumer ratings online will be familiar with the sort of fake, hyperbole-filled testimonial featured in this ad. Doubtless Winton's ad agency selected the name Mr. S. L. Schoenfield for its perceived appeal to the target market. "People trust the name Schoenfield," I hear them saying. "Besides, who would think we faked that name?" The ad comes from the October 1904 issue of The Auto Era magazine and, like most automobile ads of its era, isn't very interesting to look at. The Winton itself shows the link between carriage making and automobiles, looking as if it could be pulled by a pair of horses without drawing so much as a second glance from passersby.

As indicated in the ad, the Winton Motor Carriage Company was a Cleveland, OH based manufacturer of early automobiles.The founder, Alexander Winton, immigrated from Scotland in 1896 and decided to change his bicycle business to the manufacture of single-cycle automobile engines. Winton's first cars were hand-built and included gas lamps and B. F. Goodrich tires.

The Winton came to the American market during a time when the public was skeptical of automobiles. To prove the durability of his product, Winton performed an 800 mile road test driving from Cleveland to New York (an accomplishment in the era before highways or even paved roads). In 1898 Winton sold its first automobile and late that same year 21 more were sold. Interestingly one of those 21 Wintons was sold to James Ward Packard who, after complaining about the Winton's performance and being challenged to "do better", would go on to found the Packard Motor Company.

By 1899 Winton had become the largest manufacturer of automobiles in the United States with sales of more than one hundred vehicles. The Vanderbilts became investors in Winton and the following years would see a steady stream of accomplishments (including setting a new land speed record of 70mph and being the first automobile to travel across the United States). As automobile ownership became part of the American dream, competition increased and newer, trendier makers began to eat into Winton's sales. In 1924 Winton stopped manufacturing automobiles, focusing on marine and other engines. In 1930 Winton was sold to General Motors, continuing to manufacture engines (including those used in submarines). In 1937 GM reorganized the company, renaming it the Cleveland Diesel Motor Division of General Motors a moniker under which it made engines for the US Navy throughout World War II.

The Cleveland Diesel Motor Division of General Motors closed in 1962.

National Sleep Awareness Week

 The calendar is littered with odd holidays and observances, but one of my favorites has to be National Sleep Awareness Week. Strange to be aware of sleep, don’t you think?

Here’s a Tuska Radio ad from the December 1922 issue of Popular Science advertising the fact that your children can listen to the Sandman’s Story.  I’m guessing that this is a reference to Hans Christian Andersen’s 1841 folk tale Ole Lukøje. Andersen wrote:

"There is nobody in the world who knows so many stories as Ole-Luk-Oie, or who can relate them so nicely. In the evening, while the children are seated at the table or in their little chairs, he comes up the stairs very softly, for he walks in his socks, then he opens the doors without the slightest noise, and throws a small quantity of very fine dust in their eyes, just enough to prevent them from keeping them open, and so they do not see him. Then he creeps behind them, and blows softly upon their necks, till their heads begin to droop. But Ole-Luk-Oie does not wish to hurt them, for he is very fond of children, and only wants them to be quiet that he may relate to them pretty stories, and they never are quiet until they are in bed and asleep. As soon as they are asleep, Ole-Luk-Oie seats himself upon the bed. He is nicely dressed; his coat is made of silken fabric; it is impossible to say of what color, for it changes from green to red, and from red to blue as he turns from side to side. Under each arm he carries an umbrella; one of them, with pictures on the inside, he spreads over the good children, and then they dream the most beautiful stories the whole night. But the other umbrella has no pictures, and this he holds over the naughty children so that they sleep heavily, and wake in the morning without having dreams at all."

It seems odd to me that the ad execs at Tuska were so specific about the fairy tale. It would have been good enough to have said the kids can listen to their favorite fairy tales and then you can enjoy adult programming after they’re tucked into bed. The oddities of old ads, I guess.
Tuska Radios were manufactured by Clarence Denton Tuska. He graduated Connecticut’s Hartford High School in 1915 and by 1916 was secretary of the American Radio Relay League in Newington while at the same time attending Trinity College. From 1922-25 he manufactured radio receivers such as the one advertised in Popular Science. Tuska would serve during World War II and died on July 1, 1985 at the age of 89.

We’ve traveled pretty far afield of Sleep Awareness Week, but I can tie it together nicely. When I was a boy I used to sneak a little transistor radio into bed with me. Once the house got quiet and my parents were asleep I’d turn it on and scan the airwaves. I’d listen to just about anything, baseball games and talk shows, music and news, what mattered was the magic of catching a whisper on the night air and transmuting it into a voice. Inevitably I’d get caught and scolded for listening to the radio or I’d manage to keep my secret, fall asleep, and wake to a dead battery. The magic drew me in, regardless of the cost and though Tuska never became the household name like General Electric, Philco, or RCA I have to believe the same magic that captured me, captured Clarence.

So, sweet dreams Mr. Tuska and thanks for the part you played, thanks for bring the airwaves to life.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Quote for March

What's good about March? Well for one thing it keeps February and April Apart.

- Walt Kelly

Poem for March

The March wind roars
Like a lion in the sky,
And makes us shiver
As he passes by. 
When winds are soft,
And the days are warm and clear,
Just like a gentle lamb,
Then spring is here.

-  Unknown