Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone, may your frog-opened bottles of hooch contain horse shoes and magic mushrooms!

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Funnies - Goodbye Christmas (1909)

Fletcherizing - Considerations for Your New Year's Resolutions

Whatever your opinion of modern medicine, you can always find something crazier in the past. Take this little comic from an August 1909 issue of Punch Magazine.

The Disciple - Now, waiter, you may bring me the fish.

Fletcherism or "The Chewing Diet" got its name not from a doctor, but from a San Francisco art dealer who purportedly lost more than 40 pounds through chewing his food until it became liquefied and the spitting out what was left. He also advised chewing not only solids, but masticate that coffee, fella. And he believed you should only eat (if that's what you call chewing stuff up and spitting it out) when "good and hungry", angry, or sad...personally, being made to chew my tea only to spit it out would make me both angry and sad.

Fletcher saw the machine as an analog for the human body. He compared food to fuel, blood to steam, the pulse to a steam gauge, the heart to an engine, and waste to ash. It was the ash that seemed to fascinate him most, though. He advocated teaching children to examine their own waste, claiming if they were healthy it wouldn't smell and would have no evidence of bacteria.

Nine years after this cartoon ran, Fletcher died of bronchitis, or as he might see it a bad air filter. By that time calorie counting had already started replacing Fletcherizing. I never thought I'd be glad to count calories.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas

As 2017 draws to an end here's wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas...and I'm also hoping you're not confronted by a pudding monster anytime in the near future. If you're inclined toward the Victorian, you might consider making a traditional Christmas pudding yourself.

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Funnies Prohibition Special: The Catch of the Season (1920)

"She seems to have a great many admirers."
"My dear Ethel, she's the catch of the season. Her father left her the best-stocked cellar in this country."
The Judge Magazine, July 1920

In honor of the second day of the House of Representative's ratification of Prohibition.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Funnies Special Prohibition Edition: Columbia's Sweetheart (1920)

Columbia's Sweetheart
The Judge Magazine, July 1920

The now defunct three-mile limit refers to what used to be the limits of international waters, back in a day when how far a country's territorial claims was linked to how far a cannon could fire. Even in the 20's when this cartoon came out, military hardware had probably exceeded a range of three miles. The point, though, is that America's prohibition on liquor extended only as far as its waters and three miles out you could enjoy a cool drink without fear of arrest. So, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the House of Representatives ratifying the constitutional amendment prohibiting the sale or consumption of liquor, I give you a time when candy was, indeed, dandy.

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Years Without a Santa Clause: Soft Lite Lenses (1944)

What says Christmas more than a pair of drugstore cheaters? Yep, buy cheap non-prescription glasses for granny, that'll go over like a sack of coal. Apparently they were big once, they had offices in New York, Toronto, and London and now they're gone from the face of the Earth. Maybe they only serve elves?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Years Without a Santa: BVD Pajamas (1943)

1943 and Santa's disposed with the jeeps and army helmets, stopped mentioning the war, and started selling underwear. Things are grim folks. Still, I dig the paisley jammies. The guy in tan looks like a Star Trek extra.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Years Without a Santa - Big Yank (1944)

Now Santa's gone all lumberjack. It's like the guy on the Brawny paper towel package put on a Santa mask and hat. And the message, well nothing to do with the holiday. No product pimping. No encouragement to buy. Just...the war - always the war.

I've started to miss those Whitman ads. Chocolate fell victim to rationing along with bacon, rubber, gasoline, and new cars. Everything became preserve, reuses, and recycle. Everything was channeling into the war effort.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Years without a Santa: Camel Cigarettes (1943)

Prince Albert in a Can? Santa's back to selling monkeys for your back. Now in the nice gingerbread cancer ward style.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Years Without a Santa: Pennsylvania Railroad (1943)

Before the war the rich could board a Constellation or Clipper for exotic locals but for the average Joe and Jane it was trains and automobiles and the occasional ocean liner. War changed all that. The skies (and seas for that fact) weren't friendly and even if they were wartime rationing would have curtailed non-military travel.

Still, a the December 1943 issue of Life Magazine Pennsylvania Railroad ran this ad touting its war-effort tonnage. I've started calling this sort of ad "patriotism banking", the hope that touting a company's patriotism would equal dollars in the post-war economy.

So this Christmas, while Aunt Martha is alone on the coast instead of safe in the bosom of her family, just think of all those tanks that made the trip she couldn't.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Years Without a Santa: Stromberg-Carlson (1943)

1943 and reality has come home for Christmas. This realization is shown eloquently in this ad for Stromberg-Carlson radios, morphing from pre-war ignorant bliss to early days "we're going to show 'em how it's done" bravado, to the long bloody trail to the war's end. It is interesting that Stromberg-Calrson hasn't de-German-ed their name, though.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Years Without a Santa: Whitman Sampler (1942)

A spot of color from 1942! While pouring over ads from that year, this one practically screams at you for its use of color. No black-and-white and grim Santa Clause, just a box of chocolates and some holly. In fact the only mention of the war is the admonition not to forget those in the service. Apparently the war hadn't come home to the Whitman company. That would change when sugar rationing hit the US. But, for the moment, they still were selling their samplers in the same way they'd always sold them.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Years Without a Santa: Old Gold (1942)

Another wartime Santa, this time riding a jeep through the sky in spite of gasoline and rubber rationing. Jeep Santa distributes Old Gold Cigarettes he flies through the sky. Bad being beaned by a carton of smokes, worse by a dictionary.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Years Without a Santa: Roadmaster Bicycles (1942)

I had a Roadmaster bike as a kid. It was what hipsters would call a 'fixie' - no gears and pedal brakes. I rode that bike all over, it was my first means of freedom. I would have been out of luck in 1942, though, because The Cleveland Welding Company, makers of Roadmaster bikes, was a vital war industry and had switched production. A decade after the war they'd be bought out by AMF and eventually become known for shoddy, low-quality bicycles.

The ad features a somewhat less war-mad Santa. He's not shoving cigarettes or bayonets into the kid's hands. I guess that makes him more the jolly old elf we know nowadays.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A Wartime Santa

Remember when a carton of cigarettes was a good Christmas gift? Me either. I certainly remember a lot of smoking during the holidays. I remember coming home with smoker's cough from a long Christmas Eve at the grandparents' house at the age of nine. I can remember lying on my back by the Christmas tree, breathing the cool, clear air, and staring up at the fog-bank of second-hand smoke that hung just a few feet above where I lay. It was like being in an episode of Emergency, only without sirens or Randolph Mantooth.

Anyway, the ad's from 1942 - gasoline rationing had just started, the US had just bombed Italy, and there was a long and bloody road ahead before peace would return. But light up boys, you may be dead tomorrow so why worry about a little lung cancer?

Monday, December 4, 2017

Don't Call Long Distance - 1942

Santa Grinch would like to dissuade you from talking with your friends and loved ones at Christmas time. 1942 was a grim time, grim with war, grim with rationing, grim with ads that shamed you if you had any holiday cheer. Even Santa had turned to a boiled-faced shrew, chiding that the phone lines were too filled with the calls of people more important than you with better things to do that wish your 92 year old granny merry Christmas. Merry Christmas? Bah, any fool who calls to wish Merry Christmas should be buried with their ration book shoved down their throat.

Funny, now practically nobody makes long distance calls. The rise of the cell phone and national coverage plans has nearly eliminated the phrase from our lexicon along with operators and phone books. An entire hipster culture is waiting - the culture for hard-wired, dial telephones mounted in artisan booths with hand-crafted books of phone numbers. Maybe there'll be a Brooklyn eatery where you have to put a dime into a pay phone to call the operator who will connect you to the wait staff. One moment please...

So this year give the gift of a cold shoulder. Santa Phone is watching you and he knows if you're buying black market ration stamps or not.

The Funnies: World War I Santa (1917)

"What's the matter with having Santa Claus make his entrance in one of them tanks?"

An odd combination this Monday. Santa arriving on a tank is a byproduct of World War I and the emergence of all things mechanized. Nothing jolly about being a "tanker" in the Great War. Their insides were cramped, deafeningly loud, internal temperatures frequently rose above 120 degrees, and their armor wouldn't turn German artillery. Nothing merry about having a German '88 detonate your fuel and armaments while you're sealed inside, I'll wager.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Gifts for the Good Little Elves - The 1937 Zenith Long Distance Radio

It's amazing how time gets away. One moment it's spring and the next minute the candle of the year has burned down to a stub and the room is getting dark. It's been a tough and eventful summer for me and the unfortunate result is my ignoring my blog while I dealt with more pressing matters. Hopefully I'll have a little more time to post now and I can get back to posting regularly. And what better way to start than delving into the stacks of musty magazines for some time-worn tat that would make good gifts for the lover of all things vintage? The item on today's gift list is the ultra-modern Zenith Long Distance Radio from 1937.

Check out those Art Deco lines! As the Zephyr name suggests, this is a radio that looks like it's moving at 100 mph even when it's sitting in your living room. It's the embodiment of Art Deco's ethos of mass manufacturing as art - a piece of furniture that rolled out of a factory with style. Today every car looks pretty much like every other car, every toaster looks like every other toaster, and furniture has become practically disposable press-board cutouts.

I've come across a few similar radios in antique stores, but they're usually in really rough shape or unbelievably expensive (as of the writing of this  eBay had one listed at $2000+). Also it's interesting to know that, though Zenith's ad touts console radios as old and out, their Zephyr range included console radios. Maybe they were hedging their bet. Still, nothing add a certain flare to the study like a nice vintage radio end table sitting next to the Art Deco chair with a deco cradle phone nearby.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Throne to the Dogs - 100 Years Ago Today

The life of a king isn't all it's cracked up to be, well, at least sometimes. In the case of two kings of the 1920's, Alexander I of Greece and Christian X of Denmark, the problems that trouble the royal head manifested in very different ways.

Alexander I's father, Constantine I, was a supporter of his brother-in-law, Kaiser Wilhelm II, in his war against the allied forces. This stand put him at odds with his prime minister who wanted to join the British, French, and Russians in support of Greek minorities in the Ottoman Empire in hopes of territorial gains. This split resulted in the formation of a parallel government. In July 1916, arsonists set fire to the Tatoi Palace and the royal family narrowly escaped with their lives. Constantine surrendered his power on June 10, 1917 and entered self-exile while maintaining the crown. The Allies selected Alexander as the man to assume the crown, he was their third choice as new monarch, owing to other candidates' German leanings or unwillingness to take on the role.

Imagine the fate of a king, installed by conquerors, stripped of power, and told by his father that he held the crown in trust only. Alexander's family departed for exile, leaving him at the Tatoi Palace surrounded by supporters of the prime minister who'd engineered his family's downfall. The Greek revolutionaries and Allies didn't like him, the palace was staffed with anti-royalists and enemies of the former king, and the king's ministers openly called him the son of a traitor to Greece. Alexander was surrounded by enemies and spies and a virtual prisoner in his own palace.

A day after assuming the crown, Alexander revealed what would become known as his scandal. He had been involved with a woman named Aspasia Manos, a Greek commoner, whom he wanted to marry. On his way to exile, Alexander's father made him promise to hold off on the wedding until the end of the war, however isolation led him to disobey this order. It would take the aid of Aspasia's brother-in-law and three attempts before the couple was secretly joined on November 17, 1919. The kings prime minister leaked news of the wedding and Aspasia was forced to leave Greece, finally ending up in Paris. Six months later Alexander was allowed to join her there, but the couple were forbidden to attend public events together.

The couple were allowed to return to Greece in 1920 and, though their marriage was legalized, Aspasia would not be granted the title of Queen. On October 2 of that same year, Alexander was bitten by a monkey and contracted septicemia and was dead by October 25th.

The crisis faced by King Christian X of Denmark wasn't one of love, but pride. Christian was an authoritarian ruler who strongly believed in the rights and powers of royalty. In the wake of World War I, Denmark was faced with the question of how to handle the reunification between Denmark and Schleswig which had been a Danish fiefdom before the war. Denmark had lost the region to Prussia during the Second War of Schleswig in 1864 and Germany's defeat offered an opportunity to bring the territory under Danish rule.

The Treaty of Versailles stipulated that the fate of Schleswig be determined by two votes: one in northern Schleswig and another in central Schleswig while southern Schleswig would remain German owing to its overwhelmingly ethnic German population. The result put northern Schleswig in Danish control while the central region voted to remain German. Danish Prime Minister Carl Theodor Zahle determined that reunification with northern Schleswig should go forward with the central and southern regions remaining part of Germany, but settling the matter wouldn't be so easy.

King Christian sided with Danish nationalists who desired to see Germany permanently weakened after the war and ordered the Prime Minister to break up the central region, ceding key parts to Denmark. The Prime Minister, citing the fact Denmark had been a parliamentary democracy since 1901 refused to carry out the king's orders and resigned within days. In the wake of Zahle's resignation, the king dissolved parliament and attempted to put a "temporary caretaker cabinet" in place which leaned toward his conservative, royalist sentiment. Demonstrations and a nearly revolutionary atmosphere mushroomed in Denmark and it seemed the monarchy would topple until the king reversed course, opened negotiations with Social Democrats, and eventually stood down, dismissing the government he'd installed and putting a compromise cabinet in place until elections were held later in the year. This stumble would become known as the Easter Crisis of 1920 and would be the last time a Danish monarch took political action without the full support of parliament. Fortunately for King Christian, his actions in World War II would return the shine to the Danish crown.

Throne to the Dogs
King of Greece (to Danish King) - Yes, these are rotten times for men in our line.

Two different kings and two very different problems, but both show up in the same cartoon. Appearing in the July 1920 issue of The Judge Magazine, King Alexander and Christian are depicted sharing their royal woes on a train ride. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

100 Years Ago - Unicycle Dispatch

100 years ago a large swath of Europe had been reduced to a trench-marred killing zone and German bombers had brought the war to London as World War I ground on toward its eventual and inconclusive end. Minds turned toward mechanized warfare, concocting ideas both horrible and ridiculous. In an era before the walkie-talkie, battlefield communication relied upon a combination of semaphore, flares, whistles, and written messages delivered by dispatch. Commanding officers, often located miles from the front, had to rely on outdated and often inaccurate information when making important decisions, adding to the stalemate that symbolized much of World War I.

With this problem vexing military minds, the same fervor for mechanized warfare that had militarized the biplane and created the tank awkwardly pivoted toward improving communication. It would be over twenty five years before reliable two-way radio communication came to the military, so the natural answer seemed to be increasing the efficiency and speed of the dispatch and thus the September of 1917 Popular Mechanics ran this cover.

Popular Mechanics called its big idea "The Unicycle Dispatch Rider" (in spite of the illustration clearly showing two wheels), a machine which essentially amounted to an inverted, prop-driven, velocipede. The idea never took off for a pretty basic reason - trench warfare developed to shelter fighting men from the raking fire of another World War I invention, the machine gun, and riding a big unicycle would be a little like strapping on a big target. Besides, the landscape of the front with its sandbags, shell craters, barbed wire, and other obstacles didn't make for much of a bike path.

Regardless, I like the steampunk feel of the cover, it kind of has a Jules Verne/H. G. Wells feel that speaks to the sci-fi writer in me.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Funnies - Forgiveness (1914)

"Now, Ethel, Harold says he's sorry he broke your doll, so I want you to forgive him."
"I'd feel more like forgivin' him, Mother, if I could swat him one first."
Life Magazine, October 22, 1914

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Funnies - The Cost of Living (1920)

Everyman - Here's $5. Give me a piece of pie and a cup of coffee.
Waiter - Say! We don't serve half portions here!
The Judge Magazine, July 1920

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Funnies - Fighting the Flames (1914)

Fighting the Flames
Life Magazine, October 22, 1914

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Funnies - Portrait of a Firecracker (1914)

Life Magazine, July 2, 1914

More firework hating from Life Magazine. I have to wonder if the publisher back in 1914 had a really bad encounter with a sparkler when he was a kid. He sure seems to be traumatized by pyrotechnics!

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Funnies: Americanism (1920)

History repeating itself with a different accent?
Give the American bluegrass a show
New York Times, 1920

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Funnies - Bonus July Calendar

Our Cute Efficiency Vacation Chart for July or the Nifty Aid for Undetermined Souls with a Lust for Loafing
The Judge Magazine, July 1920

Monday, June 26, 2017

Monday, June 19, 2017

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day

Little Father's Day gift for the common fellow, franks and Seagram's 5 Crown from Life Magazine, June 1945. Looks like the beginning of a good day to me!

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Funnies: New Dance Steps (1914)

"Yes, I find there's nothing like a motor for giving me ideas for new dance steps."
Life Magazine, December 31, 1914

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Funnies - Trial by Peer (1914)

If the average trust magnate were tried by a jury of his peers
Life Magazine, October 15, 1914

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Gentlemen Start Your Engines

As the drivers of start their engines for the 2017 Indy 500, here's a quick look at the starting field for the 1919 race.

Flowers for Memorial Day

Need some flowers for Memorial Day? Well, if you have a time machine you can visit turn of the century Chicago and get some bargains!

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Funnies - Interior Decorators and Cars (1920)

When Our Interior Decorators go in for Automobile Designing
The Judge Magazine, July 1920

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Funnies - Those Inconsiderate Pedestrians (1920)

Those Inconsiderate Pedestrians
Motor Fiend - Confound the careless fellow! He must have had nails in his pockets when we ran over him.
London Opinion via The Judge Magazine, July 1920

Monday, May 8, 2017

Kienzle Uhren Part II - Return to Life

I have to say I wish I'd taken pictures of the resurrection of the old Kienzle Uhren. I'd intended doing a good pictorial of its reassembly, but in the end it all turned out to be a lot simpler than I'd imagined. On Saturday I got a new shelf for the mechanism, this one cut out of some composite material my father-in-law harvested from an desk that was bound for the dumpster. He used the old clock shelf as a template, traced the pattern onto the new material, and used a jigsaw and drill to create the new shelf. It worked perfectly and soon the mechanism was mounted.
Our retrofitted shelf holding up the clock movement

The harder part of the refurbishment was aligning the chime hammers with the chimes since, when the mechanism and shelf were in place, it was impossible to see the hammers striking the chimes let alone make any adjustments. We bent and re-bent the hammers until they struck true and after about four hours of fiddling and adjusting, we had a working clock.

Even though I didn't take pictures, I did learn an important lesson from the experience of repairing this 120-plus year-old clock. It's important to remember that an antique clock and just like an arty girlfriend, it has a history and you probably won't know about it until you're deeply involved. As a first project, the Kienzle was in pretty good shape. It was relatively complete and what needed to be fixed was relatively simple. Still, when we disassembled the clock we found evidence of other hands. For example, the positioning of the chimes had been altered by adding shims made from a cigar box. This was done to allow for the retro-fitted wall hanger that had been added to the clock's casing. Part of what made the "Greatest Generation" (and their parents and grandparents) so "great" was their ability to improvise. You don't notate improvisation, you just hang on and play along as best you can - after all, if you wanted a clock that conformed to the maker's diagrams you'd buy a new one, right?

The finished product, mounted and keeping time again

The Funnies: The Car You Can Get at a Bargain (1920)

The Car You Can Get at a Bargain
Garage Mag - Well, I tell ye, it needs a new engine, but the body ain't worth it.
The Judge Magazine, July 1920

Monday, May 1, 2017

Happy Clean Up Week!

Shortly after the turn of the century...that's the 20th century...the Red Cross and local governments were facing the question of what makes a healthy city. The American population was becoming more urban and with bigger populations, American cities were increasingly crowded and dirty. Imagine living in an era before vaccines, when catching a cold or getting an infection could easily be a death sentence. In 1918 Spanish Flu would infect 500 million people worldwide and kill 50-100 million within days of their contracting the illness. The specter of death is a good spokesperson for national callings and (with a little help from Johnson and Johnson) Clean Up Week was born.

The idea was simple - clean up with antiseptic soap and you won't get measles, polio, or diphtheria,,,the science was only partially right, but the idea wasn't bad. So ads, articles, and pamphlets were circulated encouraging the populace to clear out clutter, dispose of junk, sweep the streets, and throw out trash. Do all this and your community will become a healthier, happier, and more contented place.

But there's a problem to be considered. When humanity doesn't understand what causes or cures a disease, it tends to fall back on its prejudices. Therefore the problem of disease became a problem of "the other" invading the good, clean, American community. Clean Up Week didn't just appear inn the pages of Cosmopolitan or Johnson and Johnson's Clean Home booklets, they ran in screeds like The American City along side articles like How to Americanize a City. It went hand-in-hand with efforts to clean up the language of youth by eliminating "un-American" words and the implications that "un-American" foods were unwholesome and could lead to immoral behavior. With this mindset sweeping away the filth is synonymous with sweeping away anyone who doesn't look, act, talk, or worship like you.

So, happy Clean Up Week. We all have an old old mattress to toss out or a bunch of cans and bottles to recycle, but while we're at it we might want to take a long hard look at our ideas and preconceptions. Some of those could be set by the curb too and the world just might be a lot healthier for the effort.

The Funnies - Sleepy Hollow (1919)

In Sleepy Hollow
There might have been worse things than the "Headless Horseman"
Life Magazine, 1919

Friday, April 28, 2017

Everything New is Old Again: The Moscow Mule

Ah hipster, un-originality is thy name. The latest blast from the past to grace the drink menus of every bar and restaurant I've visited in the last three months is the Moscow Mule. Sure, it gets twisted and "reinvented' with rum or whiskey or artisan, hand-crafted tiddlywink juice from South Jub-Jub, but we all know under the frill and garnishes it's the same drink dressed up in funny clothing.

The first Moscow Mule was concocted in 1941 and served in the Cock and Bull Restaurant in LA. It's origin is most likely as described in a 2007 Wall Street Journal interview with Cock and Bull bartender Wes Price, "I just wanted to clean out the basement, I was trying to clear out dead stock..." Necessity, mother of invention and cocktails! As for the copper mugs, well signs point to John G. Martin who traveled the US promoting Smirnoff vodka and the Moscow Mule with specialty copper mugs. Since then the vessel has become the traditional container for the mule.

The ad to the left is from a May 1950 issue of Life Magazine and falls neatly into Martin's promotional tour. I'm assuming the "Gold Coast" mentioned in the ad copy references California and not Guinea Africa, but advertising never has had much to do with truth. The recipe very specially points you to Smirnoff and the Cock and Bull's house brand of Ginger Beer, though no copper mugs are specified (though Mr. Mule is holding one).

So, next time you're settling down in your retro pop-up commando food crafting hot spot and you pick up the bed pan ironically turned menu and see a handcrafted Haitian Mule...remember, you're not a special snowflake after all.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Kienzle Uhren - A Clock from the Past

If you’ve read any of my blog posts, you’ll know I do a lot of living in the past. Not socially - I’m not dressing up in a mourning coat and going to tea parties, but I do wear the good old rose-tinted glasses when viewing some parts parts of history and I live in a house filled with antiques, which brings me to the subject of this post.

I’ve always had a love of clocks. I think it started with the funky flip-card clock my mother bought at a garage sale. I remember sitting in my room and watching the small, spinning second wheel in anticipation of the next card falling. From there my horological obsession progressed to the grandfather clock that sat in my brother dining room house and spread out to just about every antique clock I’ve ever met which means it’s no surprise I’ve started collecting my clocks of my own.

My collection began about twenty years ago with a little Sessions mantle clock that I bought at a property sale. It’s a simple camel-backed clock that sits in our hallway and still bongs out the passing hours. Next came a cathedral Kenmore (yes as in washing machines) early electric clock. It’s old enough that the motor has to be hand-started when the power goes out. And the latest addition is the real reason I’m writing today.

I’ve been looking for a nice wall clock with some presence for a while and recently I found a promising one in an online auction. I put in a bid and lo and behold, we had a new addition to our family. After a few weeks and negotiating the minor rapids of shipping fragile antiques across state lines, a huge and heavy box arrived and we unpacked the long anticipated delivery.

In the auction the clock was simply listed as an “Antique German Wall Clock” and described as “working when left house”, however there’s always a risk when buying sight unseen. The clock arrived not only not working, but with the minute hand lodged between the glass and wood of the front case so that it couldn’t be opened. It didn’t take long to realize that the movement had shifted, sliding upward during shipping and jamming the hand. I managed to open the case without tearing a hand off the movement and discovered I had a project on my hands.

A case clock essentially consists of an exterior housing (the case) which contains and protects the mechanics of the clock (the movement) and dial. The movement is either mounted to the case or it sits on a shelf which may or may not be removable. In my clock this shelf had been replaced sometime in the past with a relatively flimsy piece of what looked like paneling. This had broken in half and subsequently been shoddily repaired which had, either prior to or during shipping, the repair had given way. Closer inspection also revealed that the hammers which strike the chimes had been badly bent, probably when the movement slid up inside the case. Relatively simple repairs (I hope).

My first move was to remove the movement from the case and detach it from the shelf, easy enough. I then made a preliminary effort to straighten the hammers, something I’m sure I’ll need to make adjustments to align the hammers with the chime bars once I remount the movement and put it back into the case. In the meantime I thought I’d do some research on the clock itself.
Often a clock will have the maker’s mark on the face of the dial, however mine only contained the words “Made in Germany”. I removed the movement to replace the shelf, so I checked the back and found a mark - a clock face with wings. A little internet wizardry revealed that this is the mark of the Kienzle Clock Company. Kienzle was founded in 1822 by Johannes Schenker and by the 1890’s had branches in Milan, Paris, and London. They started producing pendulum wall clocks, but eventually branched out into watches and alarm clocks and, by 1900, they were making time clocks. The company was innovative, adopting the “American Method” of making clocks with standardized parts and producing some of the first European wristwatches. Near the end of the thirties, Kienzle produced two of its most iconic clocks: the Zodiac and the World Time Clock, designs that reflected the Art Deco principles of streamlined, geometric design. But there’s always a problem when looking into the history of German products - World War II and the Nazis.

Kienzle’s hands aren’t clean when it comes to committing atrocities against the peoples of Europe. During the war they manufactured wrist and pocket watches for the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe as well as chronograph 8-day clocks for use in Messerschmitt and Heinkel aircraft. Their factories employed slave labor from Poland and other conquered areas, meaning any watch or clock produced between 1933 and 1945 probably was produced by labor drawn from concentration camps and its cogs are likely oiled with the blood of oppressed people. You can probably understand my relief at finding the trademark on my clock dated its production to sometime in the 1890’s.

Kienzle survived the war, going on to produce dashboard clocks for Rolls-Royce and Bentley as well as some of the first self-winding, solar, and quartz clocks. In 1997 Kienzle was taken over by Highway Holdings Group, but it returned to Germany five years later as Kienzle AG. Where it used to have offices around the world, it now employs just 450 workers in Hamburg where it originally began.

So, now I embark on repairing the old 120 year-old ticker. With luck she’ll keep good time for another 100 years, marking minutes long after everyone’s forgotten my name. I’ll keep you updated on her progress.

The Funnies: Chasing Wild Cats (1920)

The work of William Donahey from a 1920's issue of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, It also appeared in Cartoons Magazine's May 1920 issue. His characters dead, empty eyes remind me of Harold Gray, the artist who gave the world Little Orphan Annie. Donahey would achieve fame for his Teeny Weenies strip which would run for 2100 strips and see merchandising as dolls, decals, clothing, handkerchiefs, and tins. He even had the mites shilling Monarch Foods and Reid-Murdoch.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Everything New is Old Again: Oxtail Soup

Being an avid watcher of cooking television, I've noticed some of the more hipster oriented shows have been venerating a certain bovine dish. To be fair, they're not claiming it's new; on the contrary they're hailing it as a classic, but if you're like me the hype eventually begins to get on your nerves. So here's to the tardy end of the ox - the tail - and the soup it becomes.

To be honest, ox tail soup probably has existed since before mankind domesticated cattle. I'm sure hunter-gatherers were figuring out ways to use the last part of the water buffalo to pass through the door, after all those were the days of waste not want not. However, the oldest recipe I could find for Ox Tail Soup dated back to 1896, the same year Fannie Farmer published her famous and still in print cookbook. The Handbook of Substance Stores: for the Use of the Army of the United States was published by the US War Department in the age of westward expansion and gold fever and was intended as a guide for stocking the strings of forts that enforced America's emanate domain. As you'd expect from a government publication, the instructions on how to make good ox tail soup is less than clear:

As you can tell, the intent was more how to purchase ox tail soup than to make it. I have to admit, though, that the lack of a detailed recipe is nothing new to anyone who pours over old cookbooks. It seems there was a time when a "cookbook" was less an instruction manual on how to cook certain dishes than a list of hints and tips intended to guide an already seasoned and schooled cook to success with their dishes. Note that the recipe above talks about the proper consistency, the amount of bones found in the ox tail, and the fattiness of the soup, but doesn't get specific about ingredients or amounts.

At about the same time the US Army was producing its field guide for stocking the larder a little company from New Jersey was getting its act together. Fruit vendor Joseph Campbell and ice box manufacturer Abraham Anderson banded together to form the Joseph A. Campbell Preserve Company - a catchy name, isn't it? In  1897 the company hired Dr. John Dorrance who would invent the process which would make Campbell's fortune - condensed soup. In 1904, with an advertising blitz which introduced the pudgy, be-freckled Campbell's Soup Kids, the company's full line of 21 different soups were introduced to the public - including ox tail soup.

As with any company that has been around for over a hundred years, offerings change as the tastes of the public change and somewhere in the dusty bins of time, Campbell's Ox Tail Soup was shelved. I doubt that the hipster rediscovery of this culinary artifact will bring about a reintroduction, the trends of the twenty-something generation are too fleeting and the moment a big corporation catches on the fad has jumped the proverbial ox cart. None the less, an interesting trip down memory lane...I wonder if mock turtle soup will catch on next?