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Posts Tagged ‘collectors

“Amaze your friends!”…

 

timms_catalog_ventrilo_1938_retrospace

 

Flatulence humor goes back to the first known joke, recorded by ancient Sumerians. Since then, it’s lingered for thousands of years, wafting from Medieval illuminated devotionals to Shakespeare’s plays. So naturally, employees of JEM Rubber Company in Toronto, known for making tire repair patches, were delighted when they figured out how to turn its scrap rubber into literal windbags around 1930. They approached Soren Sorensen “Sam” Adams—whose S.S. Adams Company was responsible for giving the world Sneezing Powder and the Joy Buzzer—but the cushion that blows a loud raspberry was just a bridge too far.

“They came to Adams because he was a big producer of novelties, hoping to sell it to him as a product to distribute in the U.S.,” says novelties collector Mardi Timm. “But he was so incensed about the indelicacy of the joke that he refused it.”

Undeterred, the representatives of JEM took their fart joke to Alfred Johnson Smith, whose popular Johnson Smith & Co. catalog was a Bible for mischief makers, offering novelties, magic tricks, and popular pranks like trick cigarette cases and squirting flowers. “Mr. Smith looked at it and said, ‘What a great gag!’ and put it in his catalog,” Mardi explains…

This is the world of Stan and Mardi Timm. Perusing their collection of products sold by Johnson Smith and other novelty firms is an experience akin to Pee-Wee Herman’s gleeful romp through Mario’s Magic Shop, trying out squirting mustard bottles and buying trick gum… the Timms’ vast collection of roughly 1,800 artifacts, focused on items from the Johnson Smith catalogs from the early 20th century and beyond, is more than juvenile pranks—it includes cheap toys and quirky but practical inventions like flashlights, twirling spaghetti forks, and electric tie presses, as well as guides promising to teach valuable skills like detective work or jiu-jitsu.

“Novelties are so much more than goofy, silly things,” Mardi says. “Everything that comes on to the marketplace starts out as a novelty. They’re things that are not common, things that make you say, ‘Wow, I’ve never seen one of those before!’ or ‘What is that thing?’”

The collection documents U.S. (and UK) popular culture from the mid-1910s through today…

timms_smoking_explosivecigaretteads

More– much more– at “Fun Delivered: World’s Foremost Experts on Whoopee Cushions and Silly Putty Tell All.”

* Boy’s Life

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As we ponder pranks, we might recall that it was on this date in 1993 that Doogie Howser, M.D. ended it’s fourth and final season.  Created by Stephen Bochco and David E. Kelley (both rather better known for police, legal, and medical procedural dramas like Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, Chicago Hope, and Boston Legal), the series featured Neil Patrick Harris as the youngest doctor in America (“can’t buy beer… [but] can prescribe drugs”)… with a best friend– “Vinnie Delpino”– who was pretty surely a customer of Johnson Smith.

doogie and Vinnie

Doogie and Vinnie

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Written by LW

March 24, 2020 at 1:01 am

“Let us give ourselves indiscriminately to everything our passions suggest, and we will always be happy”*…

 

Walter Rothschild with a member of his menagerie

Some men shoot tigers. Some men love bears. Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild, Major in the Yeomanry, Conservative MP for Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, heir to one of the greatest banking fortunes in history, and collector of the largest zoological collection ever amassed in private hands, had a specific and incurable addiction to cassowaries. He bred them. He stuffed them. He gathered living representatives of every known species and sub-species at his parents’ manor house in Hertfordshire. Bewitched by their beautiful and highly variable neck wattles, he identified new species where there were none. He wrote a book, A Monograph of the Genus Casuarius, about them and made excuses for them, and he could never get enough…

From A Monograph of the Genus Casuarius. London: 1900.

More on the curious connection between cassowaries and their champion at “A Natural History Of Walter Rothschild.”

* Marquis de Sade

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As we ponder passion, we might recall that this date in 1970 was the first Earth Day.  First suggested by John McConnell for March 21 (the Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, a day of natural equipoise), Secretary General U Thant signed a UN Proclamation to that effect.  But Earth Day as we know it was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (who was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award for his work) as an environmental teach-in to be held on on this date.  The first Earth Day had participants and celebrants in two thousand colleges and universities, roughly ten thousand primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities across the United States.  Later that year, President Nixon signed the Environmental Protection Agency into being.  Earth Day is now observed in 192 countries, coordinated by the nonprofit Earth Day Network, chaired by the first Earth Day 1970 organizer Denis Hayes– according to whom Earth Day is now “the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year.”

Earth Day Flag created by John McConnell

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Written by LW

April 22, 2016 at 1:01 am

Significance is where you find it…

 

 At CoolSerialNumbers.com, Nashville musician and currency collector Dave Undis brings together like-minded digit-heads who have little interest in the history of money or even the denomination of a given note. Instead they are after certain patterns and series that fall under the flexible heading of “fancy” serial numbers.

Low serial numbers, from 00000001 to 00000100, are sought after, as well as palindromes (23599532), solids (with a digit that repeats eight times), seven-of-a-kinds (66666665), ladders (45678901) and important dates (12071941). The criteria get even more obscure from there: Undis is seeking a pi note, with the number 31415927. But the more apparently jumbled the digits, the less likely it is that anyone with the bill in their wallet will ever notice.

Which is too bad when you consider how much these fancy numbers can sell for—quite a bit more than the bill’s face value, in some cases. Right now, on Undis’ website, you can buy a $1 bill with the serial number 00000002 for a whopping $2,500. If that sounds like chump change, consider that a $5 bill with the number 33333333 goes for $13,000.

You can also peruse the Cool Serial Numbers collection, displayed via Google+, and get a sense for how oddly soothing a row of zeros can be, although “radar repeaters” have an interesting effect of their own, and who could resist collecting the elegant numbers of the Fibonacci sequence?…

Read all about it at “A ‘fancy’ serial number can make a $1 bill worth thousands.”

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As we comb through our currency, we might recall that it was on this date in 1920, his first season with the New York Yankees (after being traded from the Red Sox), that Babe Ruth hit a record 54th home run.   While seven years later Ruth raised the record to 60– a mark only topped in 1961 by Roger Maris– it was this first year in pin stripes that changed baseball forever:  at Boston, Ruth had been a starting pitcher; but the Yankees moved him to right field, making him a regular hitter.  And hit he did.  Ruth ushered in the “live-ball era” of the sport, as his big swing led to rising home run totals that thrilled fans, but more fundamentally helped baseball evolve from a low-scoring, speed-dominated contest to a high-scoring power game.

And, of course, he did it without the aid of modern performance enhancements… just cigars and booze.

Ruth in 1920

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Written by LW

September 29, 2013 at 1:01 am

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