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Sunday, January 25, 2015

An 1871 School Book is Discovered and You Won’t Believe What Was Inside!

(Editor's note: the following is my fictional account of how this "find" came into being.)

"The year is 1880. What is is like for a boy growing up? Aside from all the chores inside the house, there are numerous chores outside as well. There are no alarm clocks - everyone rises with the sun or earlier if the home is also part of a farm. A 12 year-old boy would get to school either by walking or by a parent on horse or by wagon. 

While at school he grouped with other students, not by age, but by reading level. He is asked to read from books out loud as a way to practice his elocution or share facts with other students. The books he might carry are small and there is one for each subject - math, history, reading, geography. 

Learning new things interest him but his thoughts drift to the outside world. He has heard things from the other boys and visiting relatives that excite and fascinate him. Catalogs and newspapers offer the promise of big events, sports and other leisure activities. His parents see this and warn him of the distraction. Too much wayward thinking and dreaming will cause him to languish between responsibility and his true calling. Such leisures are for the lazy and the only way to guarantee a future is a strong mind, farm and family. School books are allowed but catalogues are not!

One catalog makes its way to his hands and fascinates him more that any other. “Peck and Snyders Catalogue of Out and Indoor Games and Novelties, etc.” This book so excites him that he will do whatever necessary to keep it nearby. But how? 

Somewhere he gets the idea to hide it in such a way that no adult can find it. Digging through a chest of older school books he finds a copy of “First Lessons in Geography for Young Children” (1871). Who would miss it? Planning carefully, he borrows a few tools from his father’s workshop and finds a quiet place behind the wood shed. He begins cutting, carefully separating the boards from the pages. Hand colored maps and pages of text fall gently to the ground.

Looking around to make sure there are no brothers or sisters nosing about, he takes the sports catalogue and slides it in place of the geography pages. From a pocket he produces yet another small indiscretion: a thick needle and a length of woolen yarn from mother’s sewing basket. Using an awl and a hand drill, he pokes holes along the binding and follows with the needle and yarn, moving in and out with the only stitch he knows. Tying off the loose ends, he checks to see that his work is holding tight. 

Next, the coping saw is used to cut the boards to fit the smaller pages of the catalogue. Though the title is nearly cut, he feels confident that the book looks so realistic no adult will notice.

It works! He finds he can carry it anywhere, even to school and the teacher has no idea. He shows it to his buddies outside the one-room schoolhouse and revels in the envy on their faces. Can he do one for them? Not likely, the risk he took to create this one, which included the sacrilegious disposal of the original pages down the outhouse hole, has made him wiser in many ways." 

I hope you enjoyed my speculation as to how this book came to be. The book was likely stowed in a box with others like it - possibly having been returned to the storage chest when it was discovered missing - and then transferred to a cardboard box. Now, fast forward to 2015 in the basement of the family home in Putnam County, New York. As the estate sale is being set up I am on site with permission to poke around the basement. Stumbling across several boxes, in one I find there is a cache of old school books. Carefully inspecting each book hoping to find something tucked between the pages, I discover the innocent subterfuge created so long ago.  

Flipping through the pages of The Peck and Snyder catalogue, I can see why this young man went to great lengths to keep it. It is over a hundred pages of baseball accessories, sporting goods of all kinds, games, science kits, magic tricks, guns and much more. 

The company was started after the Civil War in 1866 by two partners who knew the country needed distraction from the aftermath of such a massive division. Baseball, which had been around since 1840 was becoming popular again and their catalogues recognized this by leading with a detailed inventory of balls, bats, uniforms and accessories.

Peck and Snyder’s had begun using advertising cards to help their business expand. It only made sense to use a photograph of the Cincinnati Red Stockings with team information on one side and their store’s information on the back. Unwittingly, they had created one of the first baseball cards and one of the most valuable collectables today. 
No, I didn't find this.

They had built a good business with a wide inventory and customer base, and in 1888, traveled the world with another well-known sporting goods businessman to promote the game of Baseball. Albert Spaulding started his business while still a pitcher and manager for the Chicago White Stockings in 1876. They eventually sold out to Spaulding to seek out their interest in manufacturing.

It is early in 2015 and I have already found one of my all-time favorite finds. I think the most revealing part of this discovery is how it shows that 135 years later, boys have not changed at all.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Mood Master: I'm in the Mood for some 70's Lighting

I wish I had some catalogs of this fixture, actually switch, in action. I don't, but something about the style of the packaging had e pulling out my camera at this Westport, CT estate sale to capture the Mood Master.

"Saves Energy" However, the mood seems to be subservience more than liberation. 
Or, was the manufacturer marketing this to the lady of the house? That's a switch!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Nothing Tastes Better Than a Tongue - Gross Ads 1944

I thought I'd seen it all, but every time I go looking for old ads, I find something more shocking. This is an ad from Woman's Day magazine, 1944. I realize there was a war on between shortages and the need to create meals that could also be consumed on the front lines - these specialty meats became more prevalent.  Limited options and high prices are what likely put these on the table. Take it from Hattie the Hackie.
Woman's Day ad from 1944 Derby meat products
Maybe it was tasty, and thanks to 40 summers of hot dogs, I have already consumed my share of tongue and other sections that shall be nameless.

Tongue is just one of those marketing words for "end bits that have no name," right? It isn't really tongue, as in tongue tongue?  Wow. War really is hell.
Tamales in a jar?

Friday, January 16, 2015

6 Degrees of Ring Ding Separation

I was expecting a box full of old papers and imagine my surprise when I found this -
Sorry for the click bait opening sentence, but we actors must do what we must...

I kept this because I thought, "What better way is there to measure the incongruity of a prize like this inside a box of Ring Dings than with a Drake's Protractor?"  It's kind of a self-fulfilling vicious circle (which measures 360 degrees!)

I grew up with Drakes cakes (and Hostess), they were everywhere. They passed them out to us like, like - you get the idea. When the company went bankrupt and the shelves emptied, a little piece of me - the creme filled part - died inside.

After they returned to the shelves, the thrill had gone. I was off the stuff and no Funny Bone, Devil Dog or Ring Ding has touched my lips. 

I, too, once told my daughter, "I had it tough. I had to walk to elementary school, uphill. In the winter - both ways."  Daughter rolled her eyes - unimpressed. Then she said, "Didn't they used to serve Ring Dings in your school cafeteria?"
"yup." I replied. 
"Sounds real tough, dad, real tough."
Maybe placing a protractor inside a box of Ring Dings would somehow justify the distribution of these zero-nutrition-empty-calorie snacks to schools?  School nutritionist: Just keep telling yourself, "it's educational. It's educational." 

Monday, January 12, 2015

More or Less Subliminal and Strange Whiskey Ad

There's nothing I like better than a vintage ad with a mixed message, sometimes its subliminal, and sometimes its right in front for all to see.
Sunny Brook Whiskey Ad
Did you see it? Old Sunny Brook had a storied past. Started by the Rosenfield brothers in 1891 it became the top selling whiskey around the turn of the century. As the Roaring Twenties neared, prohibition legislation began to creep in and would eventually bankrupt the business by 1917. It was sold to National Distilling Company in 1933 after one of the brothers passed away and the name remained until 1975 when the distillery was demolished. I found another website that claims the name was bought and is now owned by the Jim Beam company. If you didn't see it I'll give you a closer look...
Have a sip and chase a turkey
 This image in the upper left keeps me guessing. Is this what a customer of Sunny Brook can expect after a drink or two? Maybe this is preferable to the pink elephants?  Don't ask this guy...
Not a care in the world

He's 3 sheets to the wind already.

Credit for the backstory bits goes to this site here. You can find more detail there, and some good early signage as well.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

"BUNG" It's a Funny Word with a Hole Lot of History

Some words connected to some ads just strike me funny. This one was no different. What amazed me was that there was such a company (or companies) that made just bungs. There are companies that made more than just bungs, but not any that I could find that made barrels also. What is a bung?
This is a solid bung, however, they can be bored - as I imagine you might be now. If not a search would lead you to a long discussion, testimony actually, on the taxation in rail traffic of bung quantities. Really! go here if you dare.

My search lead me to a much more interesting site by an interesting soul who researched the background of a young boy of 15 who lost his arm in a bung manufacturing company. To read this interesting slice of the past and more - go to his site here. it cost Luther Watson his arm but it won't cost you a cent. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Dad's Workshop: The Pistol Club

Pistol Club Komic Card
No kidding, This really did come from a random workshop at an estate sale I visited this fall. There are several others, but this was one of the few that are appropriate for all audiences. I am slowly (and unintentionally) amassing enough material for a "UA-After Dark" section of this website. 
Though it may seem strange to see the "Not for Mailing" warning, it has nothing to do with the content. There were some cards in the pile that are over-sized postcards. I'm all for gun control, but if I am drinking until midnight, there's no way I'll have gun control until 2.

Life Preserver Works like Sunken Circus Tent (1914)

The best way to cheat death in an emergency is to scare the hell out of it...I guess. 
popular mechanics, 1914 life preserver
This Popular Mechanics article from 1914 is a gem. Another idea developed by the clearly opium induced editors. However, the illustrators are to be commended for being able to take these ideas and turn them into something that was al-most believable. Almost.