Monday, August 31, 2015

The Funnies - Up To Him (1922)

Mother: Bobbie, why can't you be good?
Bobbie: Well, Mother, I've asked the Lord a dozen times to make me good, an' I guess now it's up to him.
Life Magazine, 1922

Monday, August 24, 2015

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Bonus for Bee Day - The Bumble Bee Characteristic Rag (1909)

I thought I'd do the bees up right today. Harry Tierney was born on May 21, 1890 in one of those towns that usually only shows up in Loony Toons, Perth Amboy, New Jersey. The Bumble Bee Characteristic Rag was Tierney's first composition, written in 1909 while he was working as a composer in London. Many of his later compositions featured in Ziegfeld's Follies and he has the distinction of having one of the most successful Broadway hits of his era (Irene). His 1927 Rio Rita became one of RKO's first silver-screen musicals and it was followed by movie recreations of his Kid Boots, Dixiana, and Half Shot at Sunrise.

Tierney's covers are always striking, one day I'll get a copy of The Fanatic, his second composition posted. The Bumble Bee shows he was destined for Broadway since the bee-girl looks like a dancer from one of RKO's big musical productions. And as a bonus we've got a (admittedly midi) rendition of the piece for your enjoyment!

Happy National Honey Bee Day

According to Greek mythology, it was a mountain nymph named Melissa who hid Zeus from his cannibalistic father, Cronus. She cared for the young godling, feeding him on milk and honey and keeping him safe. When the titan found out about her deceit, he transformed the nymph into an earthworm. It was Zeus who took pity on her and transformed her into a bee. Mankind's association with the honeybee is an ancient one. In 2007 thirty intact straw and clay beehives dating back to the ninth century BCE. The hives were organized into rows of one hundred, showing evidence of organized apiculture in the ancient world.

Today beekeeping is moving back into the city and the presence of stinging bugs buzzing around suburbia has rubbed some people the wrong way. It's probably not surprising that there is a beekeeping organization lobbying to break bans and ordinances against the practice. That is the stated goal of National Honey Bee Day 2015.

Now that we've got the official stuff out of the way, what about a little music and fun? I'm Gonna Let the Bumble Bee Be isn't really a honey bee song, but it is a bee song. It came out in 1925 with words by Addy Britt and music by Jack Little. Little was born in Britain and his tunes featured in several movies of the era. He would eventually commit suicide two months after being name-checked in an episode of The Honeymooners.

A little dark there, let's lighten things up with a tune from Little's heyday.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Rubber Limbs and the USS Oneida

Running a blog that thrives on old periodicals means constantly pouring through moldering magazines and newspapers in search of the odd and intriguing. In the six or so years I've been publishing my missives on the past I've seen hundreds of ads for cars, trains, ships, planes, canned goods, candy, and vacations around the world, but this week I stumbled across a first: an ad touting artificial limbs. 

A. A. Marks wasn't the first company to manufacture artificial limbs. The earliest example comes from Capua, Italy where a bronze, iron, and wood leg dating back to 300 BC was unearthed during an 1858 excavation. Through history the art of replacing lost limbs ebbed and advanced, often in step with the history of human conflict. In the early 14th century a German mercenary invented the first hand with movable joints. Through the 17th and 19th centuries advances in articulation continued and with the scourge of amputations that attended the American Civil War, companies like A. A. Marks continued to push the prosthetic envelope.

The ad comes from the April 1893 edition of Railway Carmen's Journal and features a stalwart looking gentleman in US Navy uniform wearing a cap that bears the name of the U.S.S Oneida. The Oneida met its fate twenty-three years prior to the running of Marks' ad and she saw action in the Civil War, either of which would explain the gentleman's advanced age. It's hard to be certain, but a further look through the magazine revealed I'd apparently just been ignorant of just how many ads for prosthetic limbs were running at the time. It's hard to know if the reason owes to the dangerous nature of the railroad industry at the turn of the last century or if it's a testament to the number of men who would have been in the market to upgrade the prosthesis they'd been living with since the war.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Funnies - Just Their Luck (1922)

Just Their Luck
To walk half a mile in the rain to get the correct time and find the darned thing has stopped.
Life Magazine, 1922

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Thirsty Thursday - The Poet's Dream

The internet is like the Ouroboros, feeding on itself a constant cycle of repetition where blogs pick up information from blogs and Wikipedia passes as thorough research. Take today's cocktail for example, The Poet's Dream.

If you surf the blogosphere you'll find assertions that the Poet's Dream came from either an 30's English bar guide or the 1935 Old Waldorf Astoria Bar Book. While that's all well and good and it may have appeared in the Astoria book, but it also appeared in Jauques Straub's 1913 Straub's Manual of Mixed Drinks. 

According to a 1910 issue of the Oakland Tribune Jaques Straub was a wine steward at the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago. He hailed from Switzerland and never drank, he simply knew his stuff, understood the way flavors interplay, and made the most of his skills even writing the cocktail manual Straub's Manual of Mixed Drinks. He worked at the Blackstone until prohibition did in the wine business.

Anyway, I guess the point is it's hard to know exactly where these cocktails come from. You hit on a recipe book, think you've got the source, and then a month later you find a book containing the same recipe that's a decade older. In the end, do you research, identify three agreeing sources, and you're good.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Funnies - Good Baby (1922)

"Has baby been naughty to-day?"
"No, he's been so good I almost sent for the Doctor."
Life Magazine, 1922

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Thirsty Thursday - The Coronation

On August 9, 1902 the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra as king and queen of the United Kingdom finally took place. Edward was 59 and never had been the model of health and vitality. He smoked upwards of twenty cigarettes and a dozen cigars a day and indulged in overeating, so it probably isn't surprising that he fell ill just before his coronation. Three days before he was to be crowned, surgery was performed on a table in the music room at Buckingham Palace. The festivities which had been scheduled for June, were moved back to August. As a result prospective guests filed who lost money on hotel rooms filed a raft of “coronation suits” and most of the foreign dignitaries who’d come to London for the ceremony returned home and missed the crowning. In the end the 59 year old monarch would be crowned by an archbishop who’d be dead in less than a year and he would join the him in eight more. Still the crowning of a new monarch, no matter how short lived, was cause for celebration and commemoration and in the case of Edward, a namesake cocktail.

Joseph Rose, creator of the Coronation from Mixer and Server No. XII, January 15, 1903

Joseph Rose was a Newark bartender, a young man working the counter at Murray's Buffet Cafe  a forgotten but once popular watering hole for local businessmen. Possibly inspired by the ascension of old King Edward he introduced a new libation: the Coronation. And exactly how did young Rose make his Coronation? Well, it's tough to say, or at least there aren't any period cocktail books laying out the recipe. The best I could come up with was a 1913 copy of Straub's Manual of Mixed Drinks, I guess that'll have to do.

The Coronation
1/3 Jigger French Vermouth
1/3 Jigger Dry Gin
1/3 Jigger Dubonnet
Mix and serve.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Funnies - Special Edition: Happy International Clown Week!

Prepare yourself Coulrophobes, August 1st through 7th is International Clown Week! Yes, a week when roving groups of clowns wander the street unchecked. They may be coming for you right now!

International Clown Week stared in the 1950's, but it wasn't until 1967 that the Clown Club of America (yes, they have a club) began urging its members to write their congressmen and senators to request a presidential proclamation to name August 1-7 as National Clown Week. In 1969 Arkansas Senator John McCleallan, chairman of the US Senate subcommittee on Observances and Holidays (another clown club) met with the members of the CCoA and Public Law 91-443 establishing clown week was presented to Richard Nixon for signature.

In honor of the week, I decided to select a special clown-centric strip from Life Magazine's archives.

How He Escaped from His Border
Life Magazine, November 17, 1904

This un-credited strip ran in 1904 and it reminds me of the work of one of my favorite turn-of-the-century comic artists, Winsor McCay. His strip, Little Nemo in Slumberland launched in October 1905 making it possible this clown is an early example of McCay's groundbreaking style. For comparison, just check out his work from one of the Little Nemo strips below.

The Nemo strip featured a little boy (Little Nemo) facing the incredible inhabitants of the dreamscape of Slumberland. The strip ran in the New York Herald from October 1905 through July 1911. Afterward the strip was renamed In the Land of Wonderful Dreams and ran in William Randolph Hearst's New York American from July 1911 through July 1914. After his run with Hearst, McCay returned to the Herald, restored the strip's original title, and ran it from August of 1924 through December 1926.

McCay was an innovator in the way comic strips flowed across the page. He experimented with panel size, shape, perspective, as well as other details of how images flowed, conforming his strip's look to the details of the story rather than the geometry of the page on which it was printed. His drawings put you into the panel with the characters, when mushrooms grow to gigantic proportions so does the frame that contains them, leaving the characters tiny by comparison. I'll put together a post on Nemo and McCay at a later date, there's plenty to say about him, his creation, and his influences and my intention today was to do a tribute to National Clown Week, not Winsor McCay!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Quote for August

"Prayer is an August avowal of ignorance."

Victor Hugo

Poem for August

Dorothy Parker

When my eyes are weeds,
And my lips are petals, spinning
Down the wind that has beginning
Where the crumpled beeches start
In a fringe of salty reeds;
When my arms are elder-bushes,
And the rangy lilac pushes
Upward, upward through my heart;

Summer, do your worst!
Light your tinsel moon, and call on
Your performing stars to fall on
Headlong through your paper sky;
Nevermore shall I be cursed
By a flushed and amorous slattern,
With her dusty laces' pattern

Trailing, as she straggles by.