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Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Tin Too Full: Inside- the history of a popular toy.

For me, some of the interesting places where cool items can be found are in the “catch-all” locations we all have. For example: Junk drawers in kitchens, workbench drawers in garages and basements, and especially in basements – random tins with bits and pieces of leftover junk from projects gone by.

Tin of Junk, found, hardware
I took a chance a few weeks ago, when nothing good could be found and saw a large cookie tin on a basement shelf.
Tin of Junk, found, hardware

“This is a dig.” I thought to myself, and purchased it sight unseen. 

Tin of Junk, found, hardware close up
My expectations were none to high, as I have a couple of my own “catch-all” tins in my garage. As I have said in the past, it’s not the kill… 

Tin of Junk, found, hardware close up
You will see that there was nothing but the usual random screws and nails in here and as I dug deeper I felt my few dollars would be wasted and I would have a story without an end. However, fate and fortune though dim, shined upon me one more time and out of the tin came a small car. 

Tootsie Toy,car
It only took a brief image search before I found a good bit of history behind this toy car.

Tootsie Toy,car

Tootsie Toy,car
In 1877, Charles O.Dowst was a bookkeeper. By 1879 he was listed under Dowst & Co., publishers, and two years later as editor and proprietor of the National Laundry Journal, when his brother, Samuel, joined him. 

A decade later, the listing was changed to "Laundry Supplies". The World's Colombian Exposition took place in Chicago during the summer of 1893, at which a new type-casting machine, the Line-O-Type, was introduced. It was natural that this should interest the publishing Dowsts, as early typeset printing machines would wear down the lead letter sets. 

The Line-O-Type could cast letter sets quickly and cheaply and one was soon installed at their plant. Before long, they recognized that this equipment could be adapted to cast more than a "Line-O-Type". Soon, laundry accessories, such as collar buttons and small promotional irons, were being turned out. This line was quickly expanded to include tiny animals, whistles, rings, ships, etc., used for prizes in boxes of candied pop-corn (Cracker-Jacks) and by confectioners in wedding and birthday cakes, etc. 

These toys had no trade name until 1922. The name Tootsietoy was registered as a trademark on 11 March 1924, having been applied for on 7 February 1923. The application stated that the name had been used continuously since 20 April 1921, but did not mention use of the name on any of their products except doll furniture. Tootsie was the name of Theodore (Ted) Dowst's daughter. 

For more on the interesting history behind this and other toy cars click here.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Bad Christmas Ads (with Video)

Not everything about Christmas is good. Especially when it comes to advertising. I found some great ads that you'll never see again in mainstream advertising. The most obvious one is Santa putting a nail in the coffin:
Old Ads, smoking, Christmas, Santa,funny
In the "Night before Christmas" he is described as a smoker, but I don't think Lucky Strike is in there at all.
This next one is just a bold strike (and not a "Lucky" one) at the disparity between the sexes in the mid 20th century.
Old Ads, Christmas,funny
"Ha Ha! You're falling down stairs!" The next scene I'm sure has him putting on the shirts without all the pins removed.
My favorite is this one for Diamond Chemicals, who is proud to remind you:
"Chemicals you live by" and for the unfortunate "Live near." Makes wrapping those Christmas presents a true joy doesn't it?
Old Ads, Christmas,funny,

Here is a montage of many Santas to the tune of Art Carney rapping "The Night Before Christmas" It is rather odd, so be prepared. "Norton!"
Happy Christmas and wishes for a successful New Year!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

How to put out a fire in 1940?

I really wanted to title this post; "How NOT to name a fire extinguisher."  this is a video documentary short (very short) of an estate sale I went digging through this December in Easton, CT. There were lots of interesting things here, but the best were several small reels of 16mm film.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Endangered Christmas Seals?

Milk bottle, Sample collar, 1941, Borden's
Around 1907, A small Delaware sanatorium was in danger of closing from lack of funds until the cousin of one of the doctors offered to try a form of fundraising that was being conducted in Denmark. Emily Bissell designed and sold the first Christmas seal stamps at a local post office for a penny each. 
Advertising collars, 1940's, milk bottle distributing

I discovered these paper “collars” which were sent from the National Tuberculosis Foundation to a likely milk delivery company in 1951. By showing samples of the previous 6 years of these ads the hope was that they would place them on all their bottles for delivery. 

Milk Man, Old image, BW photography
A visit to the American Lung Association reveals that Christmas Seals are all sold out for this year. Though it is late in the season, it seems like adding this Seal to the endangered list is a good thing. 
Christmas Seals, 2013
Next year's seals are already available, I hope they become endangered too.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Found Films: Animators Resume Reel uncovered

Among the many mysteries that unfold while digging in the past are the biography's of the people who lived in the home where I am digging. This question arises when I have come across something extraordinary.

This short animated promo for the album "Red Octopus" by Starship  (Jefferson Airplane >Jefferson Starship> Starship) was brought to life by the owner of the estate I was digging through. Being fortunate to find 3 reels of some of his work, I tried to get to know who this person was.

This second piece was done for the Grumman Corporation to help explain to clients how their antiquated methods of testing were clunky and inefficient. Using animation they can hold attention and explain with intended exaggeration how their system is superior.

 Asking around, I found out that the home had belonged to Robert Tinfo, who made his living as an animator working for various firms. In his later years, he moved from his office in the city to this home. He didn't stop animating, instead converting his home into a makeshift studio containing, at one point, an animation stand that spanned the 1st and 2nd floors.

His style was distinctive, colorful and whimsical (One son told me he was behind the animated the NBC peacock). Sadly, there is no biography on Robert Tinfo. My internet searches reveal a vague reference to a company he worked for in the late 50's and early 60's. Some of these sample clips may have come from that era, but there is no title information and most of it leaves me guessing. 

The samples I have are amazing, and prove that there are people around us doing things that merit recognition, or at least more than just a nod hello at the mailbox.

If you remember or know more about Robert Tinfo, please email me and share it in the comments.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

How To Find the Best Estate Sales (with video)

If you have been estate sale'ing before you know that finding the best one is a combination of luck and strategy. You really need to try different things to find out which is best for you.

 But How?

I had that very problem this weekend. Despite the fact that we are near the holiday season, there was no shortage of sales. Saturday morning found me considering which of my methods would get me to the best sale.

!) Tipsters - Odds are you know someone who is up even earlier than you on the weekend and knows where the good sales are. I have several friends, who will give me some leads – as long as we aren’t searching for the same items.

2) The classified ads - Despite the death of this cash cow of print media, many estate sale services and members of the public still list their ads here. I will often cross check with other sources to confirm a sale’s worthiness.

3) The Internet - There are many national and regional sites that will allow you to search based on preference and location. EstateSales.org, and Gsalr.com will both send email alerts if you register. My go-to site is Nysales.net, which covers much of Connecticut and New York in an easy to read list.

I used my favorite website this weekend and found a cool dig in an old home in a very unique part of Connecticut's waterfront properties. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see one of these homes.
Watch the video I produced below and you will see what I mean.

I had good luck this weekend because I relied upon a website that list's sales in my 2-state region as soon as they are posted. This may not work for you, and you may have found that sometimes the best method is no method. You just have to get in the car and look around and see what you find.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Video Dig Report: What's inside that 3+ Million Dollar Estate?

Not every sale is going to have what I am looking for, but if I don't look, I will never know. That's what I found yesterday when I drove into the Northern part of one of the wealthiest communities in the nation. New Canaan, CT has a large number of palatial homes, some are of a size that boggles my mind. When given the opportunity to see inside one of them, I will go.

Rather than write about what I saw, I set my still camera to record and filed this video update:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Blast from the Cover Art Past #2 ( Artist, Rea Irvin)

Here is another New Yorker cover from 1947.  This one drawn by Rea Irvin, who helped start the magazine. He thought the magazine would fold after a few issues. He would go on to be one of the magazine's iconic illustrators and art editors.  He would eventually create 169 covers for the publication.

This is one of my favorites.
You can read more about Rea Irvin here.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Found Photo: Geisha or Kabuki Theatre?

Here is a mystery. This image came out of a scrapbook somewhere in it's past so the story is lost. However, it seems to depict either a geisha house or a Kabuki Theater troop possibly from the 40's or 50's. Take a look at the image.
OK, now here is where I need your worldly skills - Who will take a stab at the Japanese characters below? I am not even sure I have this in the right orientation.
 Please leave your translation in the comments. Thanks!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Guest Author, Bob Deakin Returns with "Simple Minds = Complicated Sale"

Simple Minds featuring Jim Kerr (front) on lead vocal and Mel Gaynor (right) on drums
"Simple Minds" By Bob Deakin

Homeowner John Gillespie received a disturbing knock on his door this past Friday evening. The knuckles doing the knocking belonged to Rob Wixted, an attendee of Gillespie's tag sale the previous weekend. Turns out Wixted wasn't happy with his purchase at the sale – an old VHS tape of rock band Simple Minds from the early 1990s.

The videotape is from a 1992 concert shortly after the band's Real Life album release and features original members with the exception of drummer Mel Gaynor, who’d left the band for a brief spell during that tour.

Therein lies the problem.

Turns out Wixted's fixation with Simple Minds begins and ends with the drummer, and he was none too impressed with Gaynor’s replacement.

“If you buy a Beatles album would you expect to hear Ringo Starr playing the drums?” he asked Gillespie rhetorically, from his doorstep. “Sure, Jim Kerr’s lead vocals were great on the tape but Simple Minds is about the symbiotic fusion of art and sound and that doesn’t happen without Mel Gaynor on drums.”

“I didn’t produce the f…ing album,” Gillespie responded indignantly. “I’ve never even watched it. I just had the thing lying around and sold it at my tag sale. Who the hell is Mel Gaynor?”

“Who is Mel Gaynor?” Wixted responds with eyebrows raised above his hairline as he glances to and fro. “He only played the best drum fill in rock history.”

Mel Gaynor on drums in the 90s

Gillespie pauses then suddenly and surprisingly knows exactly the fill to which Wixted refers; the pseudo-march, reverb-laden drum fill late in Simple Minds’ biggest hit, Don’t You (Forget About Me).

“Oh yeah,” he says excitedly. “You mean that fill followed by all the la la las.”

“Duh… Yeah… That’s the one,” Wixted responds sarcastically.

“Love the way he does that roll thing then clangs on the cymbal really loud for the rest of the song,” Gillespie exhorts.

“It’s actually 32nd notes he plays on the snare with syncopated open hi-hat hits followed by 8th notes on the off-beats of the closed hat combined with down beats on the ride,” Wixted declares. “Nobody else could have played that fill and it makes the song, the band and the decade.”

“It makes their career,” Gillespie responds with a laugh. “That’s the only thing they ever did and it’s only famous because it was in The Breakfast Club movie.

At that moment a pall descends over the front porch as Wixted takes a step back in horror at what he has just heard: a hard slap in the face of his favorite band.

“Who are you!” Wixted utters in disgust, his voice quivering with revulsion. “And how dare you say that about the quintessential band of the eighties?”

Gillespie then steadies himself, lifts his head and holds his ground.

“Quintessential band of the eighties?” he asks, pompously, before launching into an impromptu critique of several of the bands lesser hits. “Let’s see, Sanctify Yourself – not exactly Stairway To Heaven. Alive & Kicking…”

Gillespie chuckles as he continues to ridicule the band and the homely looks of the lead singer.


At that, Gillespie pulls out his wallet, peels out a dollar bill and hands it to Wixted, refunding his money for the purchase of the tape before politely bidding him adieu.

“And don’t you,” he pauses, “forget about me.”

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Chain-driven, SteamPunk, Hand-held Mystery!

It's fun to go to a garage sale or estate sale and buy a box of junk, just to see what's inside. Most often all I've done is purchased someone's trash and paid them so I could throw it out. You might wonder what sense there is in that, until you find something you've never seen before.

Can you guess this gadget from the first look? I know someone can. Still stumped? Let's try another view.

Certainly there are gears and an axle, but what's it turning?
 Here's the reverse. Some copper pieces and what could be a single magnet arched over the top. More pictures? Sure.

The coloring is a little different due to my experiments using a flash. I didn't show a picture of the wire wrapped armature that spins around the axle. So, it looks like it was meant to create a charge, but for what device exactly, and what year?   If you have questions or guesses, please leave them i the comments. I gotta know.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Costumes were different in the 1940's

I saw these clippings from 40's era magazines and it made me wonder what Halloween was like 70 years ago.

 The games were different too.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Blast from the Cover Art Past #1 (1947)

Now that Halloween is here, I felt this New Yorker cover from 1947 really captures this ritual. After having rot spots show up in 2 of our pumpkins I had to make a journey to replace them. Ever try to look for an Xmas tree on December 24th? This first in a series of great cover art was created by Perry Barlow.
I picked it because of the subject matter, but I would also like to add a bio for Mr Barlow, if I could find some. He created numerous covers for the magazine, I need to dig deeper.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Liquor labels you will never see again.

(Editor's note: This is a continuation of a story I wrote for Patch. Read the lead in here.)

Julius Wile and Sons, Inc. was well known importer of liquor, which was established in 1877. It remained in family hands until 1972 when it was sold to RJR Nabisco.
That’s almost 100 years of importing summed up in 2 sentences; let’s see if I can expand on that just a bit.

I believe that the little black spiral wire notebook that I found at a sale over the summer held these labels actually belong to Julius Wile's grandson, also Julius Wile, though not the “Third.”

The original founder (older Julius) came from the Alsace region in 1840 at the age of 14. He established the importing business at the age of 51 and he and his 5 sons ran the business.

The grandson, or the younger Julius, didn’t initially go into the family business, but instead studied aeronautical engineering and graduated in 1936. The depression era held little opportunity for an engineer and so he went into the family business.

If you can imagine a career where you travel the world looking for wine and liquor to import and distribute by visiting anxious and enthusiastic wineries, then I say you’d imagined a dam good life. My favorite saying is: “Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Apparently there were no family members to continue the tradition or a family run business could likely not compete with large corporation, which led to the buy-out in 1972. Julius lived most of his senior life in Scarsdale, New York and shifted his career to the promotion of Bordeaux wines in America. He also taught at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in Ithaca, NY for 30 years. Julius died in 2006 at the age of 91.

 While it was a fact that slaves were imported to Jamaica to work in the sugar cane fields and in the distilling of rum, I don't know if this image was the best choice for the label.

 In looking up some of the labels I found an interesting site where people document the abandon sites of business and manufacturing they have discovered. The Fountain Grove Winery has a very interesting story you can read more about here

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"We're Talkin' Base-ball" 50 or more years ago...

To say I am a fair-weather-fan is kind of an understatement. I have been a fan of numerous teams, not only in baseball, but in other team sports as well.  I don't really follow the star players, or the underdog, truthfully, I just like to watch a good game.

But I do like the hoopla and the marketing of icons of the game
I'm not sure what he's calling here, could be "OUUUT!" He also may have just been hit by a foul tip. As a part of the Burroughs collection, some of these are straight out of the file listed "baseball." He could have made it easier for me, but not much.
This was one of the earliest Sports Illustrated editions. #31 before the magazine was a year old. Before this the stars of the game were wooed by advertisers for likely and unlikely products. Like Joe Dimaggio:

This was a clipping from a cigarette ad, I think he was know as "The Yankee Clipper" or "Joltin' Joe" but it seems to me that "Smokin' Joe" would have fit, too.
This 1928 ad featuring Babe Ruth is one of my favorites:
I wonder if he wrote that letter or the advertiser did it for him. I especially like that it was written in his "voice," maybe he did write it:
 Last but not least, I will leave your with this cover from Elks Magazine also from 1928. I picture that except for the style of clothing, fans pretty much still look this way.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The fastest route to find treasure...

...is sometimes the route you weren't planning. 

The hardest thing about my weekend search for a good "dig" is the inability to know exactly where the next one is. I can look in the listings and hope I will see one, but often the sales are not what they claim to be. Estate sales that aren't estate sales inside homes that claim to be from another century yet have nothing from that century except a plaque on the door.

All you can do is just head out the door, pick a direction and hope for the best. That's what I did yesterday and it actually worked out for the best. (This is a continuation of a story I began writing on Patch you can read here.)

You can tell just from the small pile of papers I found that this home was going to be a good dig:

 I decided to roll some video while on location to give readers a better idea of what this dig was like.