Monday, September 29, 2014

The Funnies - A Time for All Things (1910)

The Century Illustrated Magazine, May 1910

Strikes me as a typical Monday. Only on a day as evil as Monday would the chickens conspire to wait until the farmer has planted all his seeds before eating them. In case you wondered, "Chanticleer" is French for "one who sings clearly", therefore I guess it's a good enough name for a rooster.

Robert L. Dickey was an illustrator of some note, born in Marshall, Michigan in 1861 he was most well known for his renderings of dogs, birds, and horses.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

More About the Mysterious Ouija Board

Earlier this year I posted a piece on the history of the Ouija, the talking board that's become the hackneyed demonic gateway for all kinds of cheap horror flicks. Well, while combing the Google archives, I stumbled across an early Ouija ad. This one comes from the October 1913 issue of Toys and Novelties magazine.

In Toys and Novelties the board was advertised under the name "Ouija the Egyptian Luck Board", a term that was a new to me. Apparently, to differentiate his oracle from its imitators and cater to period desires for the exotic, William Fuld  marketed his oracle under the names Egyptian Luck Board as well as Hindu Luck Board. Now, if you go to Wikipedia you'll find a bunch of inaccurate rot on when Fuld began marketing his board under its two new monikers. My favorite internet repository for misinformation points to 1919 as the date of creation both the Egyptian Luck Board and the Hindu (sometimes spelled Hindoo) Luck Board names. Of course I know better than to blindly accept anything Wiki tells me, so I went looking for actual, period records and found different story.

The Egyptian Luck Board name appears as early as 1891 in an American Stationary magazine piece touting the mysteriousness and accuracy of the oracle (right). From what I was able to find, "Ouija the Hindu Luck Board" came much later. The patent application for the Hindu moniker didn't come until 1920 as found in the 1921 Official Gazette of the United States Patent Board. Over time it seems both names disappeared, replaced by the generic term Ouija. The search did lead to some interesting findings, though. For example, the American Stationary clipping features an illustration of another mysterious, planchette-based oracle of the late 1800's, the Sturmberg Planchette was an automatic writing device, equipped with a pen to scribe messages from the great beyond. I bet those Victorian ghosts were appalled by their spectral handwriting!

Every time I delve into a subject like this, I make a new discovery that stimulates my writer's brain. This time around it was an ad from a 1894 issue of Clegg's International Directory of the World's Book Trade featuring the London shop of one Mr. James Burns. Burns purports to be a seller of "all the extant works on hypnotism, mesmerism, occultism, and all branches of psychic science." My mind's eye sees a dark little Southampton Row shop, cabinets and shelves crowded with books, antiques, and jars containing herbs and unguents from the far east and beyond. The smoke-stained walls are decorated with star charts and illustrations of the symbols and glyphs from the Book of the Dead and other rare and forbidden texts. You step inside, shutting the door against the cold, soot-bitter London wind and turn to find a smallish man with a waxed mustache and a pair of pince nez smiling at you from behind the counter.

"I had began to wonder whether you'd changed your mind," he says, a little smile crossing his round face. "I believe you have a problem you wish to discuss?"

You remove your hat and cross the room, following the shop's proprietor to a small sitting room at the back of the shop where he takes your coat and bids you make yourself comfortable in an armchair while he brews a cup of tea.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Funnies - Open Season (1900)

Happy accident that I could post this one on the beginning of urban deer hunting season here in Indiana.
Life Magazine, December 20, 1900

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Steampunk Saturday - The Mother of Airplanes!

The article in Popular Mechanics dubbed this "The Mother of Airplanes", probably because they hadn't coined the word carrier back in October of 1925 when it ran. It reminds me of something I drew in grade school, complete with little biplanes and ships steaming toward some conflagration in  foreign land. Note the tail cannons mounted below the landing deck on the airship? Poised to blow the rudder right off the tail and send the blimp into a horrible uncontrolled circuit above the enemy battlefield that takes the ship through withering fire until someone gets lucky and sends her plummeting earthward.

Still, I love the idea. It appeals to my inner Jules Verne, I imagine the captain's quarters to be Victorian, filled with dark wood accents and a good silver service. The engines are powered by aether, of course. A process created and perfected by your good captain; harnessed for his plans to take over the world...

Thursday, September 4, 2014

100 Years Ago – L. C. Smith and Brothers Typewriter

Before Smith Corona became the name in typewriters, the L. C. Smith and Brothers Typewriter Company produced, well, typewriters.

L. C. Smith didn’t start out manufacturing business machines, though. In 1873 he opened a livestock commission business in New York which failed. Afterward he relocated to Syracuse and took a job as a clerk. Having recouped from the failure of his livestock business, Smith took another stab at entrepreneurism and started a lumber business – which also failed. Smith eventually joined with his older brother and firearms designer William H. Baker to produce shotguns in Syracuse, but L. C. maintained his run of bad luck and in 1880 his brother and Baker left the company to found the Ithaca Gun Company. L. C. continued manufacturing shotguns under the newly named L. C. Smith Shotgun Company, but Smith’s claim to fame would come in 1887 when he joined with L. C. Wilbert, L. Monroe, and H. W. Smith to form the Smith Premier Typewriter Company.
In November of 1904 the first L. C. Smith and Brothers typewriter (ironically the Model #2) shipped and by February 1905 Smith and Brothers typewriters were being sold to the New York Herald. L. C. wouldn’t live to see the 1958 merger of his company with Corona Typewriters Inc and the birth of Smith Corona, but he’d probably be happy to know that his typewriters changed the business landscape for decades to come.
This particular ad comes from the September 1914 issue of The Rotarian, probably obvious by the shameless appeal to Rotarian pride included in the advertising copy. The Measure of Worth booklet mentioned in the ad has eluded me so far, but I’ll put a few images up if I find a copy.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Honey Season

September is honey harvesting time and in honor of that fact, here's a little ad from the 1949 issue of Life Magazine. Sioux Bee Honey later changed its name to Sue Bee Honey, purportedly to simplify pronunciation. In spite of the Native American motif of the ad the only connection the brand has with the actual Sioux is that the Sioux Honey Association is located in Sioux City, IA. That's a shame, in my mind I'd envisioned a collective of Native American beekeepers selling their wares and making a name for themselves.

Notice that the honey in the photo looks a lot more like mustard than anything you'd get from a beehive. Maybe it's a plate of honey mustard and biscuits? Maybe that's what you serve with corrugated butter?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Happy Labor Day - Goodbye Summer 2014

Labor Day Crowds, 1938 Indiana State Fair
It's that time again, summer's had its splendid hour and autumn is waiting in the wings with her bright colors and bitter frosts. Kids are back to school and the holidays too far off to worry about. Time for the final cookout of what's considered the "official" grilling season, a cold one on the deck, and maybe a swim before the pools are drained.

The image at the top of this post comes from the 1938 Indiana State Fair, crowds of people strolling (I believe) in front of the Coliseum on a bright sunny day, enjoying the weather while they still could. Having strolled in that same spot, I hear the scene in my head - the distant music of the midway, the sounds of animals in the exhibit barns, the jumbled conversations, and the excitement of children. It's a time machine of the most effective sort, no chance of stepping on the odd butterfly, but all the emotional impact.

To say a final so-long to summertime 2014, I'm going back to 1905 and the master of summertime music, Philip Sousa's In the Good Old Summertime. Take it away, Phil!

Quote for September

But now in September the garden has cooled, and with it my possessiveness.  The sun warms my back instead of beating on my head ... The harvest has dwindled, and I have grown apart from the intense midsummer relationship that brought it on.

~ Robert Finch

Poem for September

~ John Updike

The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel-
Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Burning brush,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.
The bee, his hive,
Well-honeyed hum,
And Mother cuts
Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze.

The Funnies - Landing on Hay (1914)

A little early flight humor from Life Magazine, 1914