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