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Posts Tagged ‘Postcards

“What goes around, comes around”*…

 

postcards

 

Much as internet surfers — i.e. everyone in 2018 — enjoy sharing silly and picturesque JPEGs with one another that feature clever quips or inspirational sayings, Americans of a century ago passed around similar memes. They were called postcards, or souvenir cards, and mailing them to friends and relatives was immensely popular for sharing a gilded, snowy holiday scene or even a lolcat.

One hundred years before e-mail inboxes crowded with pictures of cats adorned with text like “I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER?” and “CEILING CAT IS WATCHING YOU,” lolcats (and loldogs and lolrabbits) were already at the height of fancy. The rise of postcards at the turn of the century enabled Pennsylvanian Harry Whittier Frees to build a career out of photographing cute animals donning hats and britches…

More of Frees’ story– and work– and a reminder that there’s very little truly new under the sun: “The Cat Meme Photographer from a Century Ago.”

* Paul Crump

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As we pass it along, we might spare a thought for Edgar John Berggren– better known by his stage name, Edgar Bergen– he died on this date in 1978.  Perhaps best known today as the father of Candice Bergen, he was a huge star in his own time, performing as an actor, comedian, and radio performer, most famously as a ventriloquist working with his side-kicks Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd.

Indeed, some attribute Bergen’s massive popularity with “saving the world”: on the night of October 30, 1938, when Orson Welles performed his War of the Worlds radio play, panicking many listeners, most of the American public had tuned instead to Bergen and McCarthy on another station.   (Dissenters note that Bergen may inadvertently have contributed to the hysteria: when the musical portion of Bergen’s show [The Chase and Sanborn Hour] aired about twelve minutes into the show, many listeners switched stations– to discover War of the Worlds in progress, with an all-too-authentic-sounding reporter detailing a horrific alien invasion.)

EdgarBergenandCharlieMcCarthyStageDoorCanteen1 source

Written by LW

September 30, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Send me a postcard”*…

 

“This is the Life.”

From @PastPostcard, images of old postcards, along with transcribed text from their backs. As Rebecca Onion (from whom, the tip) remarks, “a simple idea, and a great one.”

For more on the history of the postcard, see the Richard Carline work cited here.

* lyric from a song of the same name, recorded in 1968 by The Shocking Blue.

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As we mail it in, we might say the magic word and collect $100, as it’s the birthday of Groucho Marx, born this date in 1890.

From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it.
– To S.J. Perelman

PLEASE ACCEPT MY RESIGNATION. I DON’T WANT TO BELONG TO ANY CLUB THAT WILL ACCEPT PEOPLE LIKE ME AS A MEMBER
– telegram to the Friar’s Club

Groucho

Written by LW

October 2, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future”*…

 

Robot-assisted farming

It’s easy to chuckle at the prognostications of yore– where’s my jet pack?!?  But as long-time readers will recall, there was one writer whose predictions were uncannily on the money:  Jules Verne.

His Paris in the 20th Century, for example, describes air conditioning, automobiles, the Internet, television, even electricity, and other modern conveniences very similar to their real world counterparts, developed years– in many cases, decades– later.   From the Earth to the Moon, apart from using a space gun instead of a rocket, is uncannily similar to the real Apollo Program: three astronauts are launched from the Florida peninsula– from “Tampa Town” ( only 130 miles from NASA’s Cape Canaveral)– and recovered through a splash landing.  And in other works, he predicted helicopters, submarines, projectors, jukeboxes, and the existence of underwater hydrothermal vents that were not invented/discovered until long after he wrote about them.

Verne’s writings caught the imagination of his countrymen.  As Singularity Hub reports,

Starting in 1899, a commercial artist named Jean-Marc Côté and other artists were hired by a toy or cigarette manufacturer to create a series of picture cards as inserts, according to Matt Noval who writes for the Smithsonian magazine. The images were to depict how life in France would look in a century’s time, no doubt heavily influenced by Verne’s writings. Sadly, they were never actually distributed. However, the only known set of cards to exist was discovered by Isaac Asimov, who wrote a book in 1986 called “Futuredays” in which he presented the illustrations with commentary…

In what some French people might consider an abomination, one illustration depicted the modern kitchen as a place of food science. While synthetic food in commercial products is sadly more common today than we’d like to admit (sorry Easy Cheese lovers, but I’m calling you out), the rise of molecular gastronomy in fine dining has made food chemistry a modern reality. It may seem like food science has its limitations, but one only needs to consider efforts to grow meat in a laboratory to see how far technology may go…

“Food Science”

See them all at “19th Century Artists Predicted the Future in This Series of Postcards.”

[A re-post, inspired by this piece in Upworthy.]

* Niels Bohr

###

As we console ourselves that, while the future may be another country, we may still speak the language, we might recall that it was on this date in 1888 that William Seward Burroughs of St. Louis, Missouri, received patents on four adding machine applications (No. 388,116-388,119), the first U.S. patents for a “Calculating-Machine” that the inventor would continue to improve and successfully market.  The American Arithmometer Corporation of St. Louis, later renamed The Burroughs Corporation, became– with IBM, Sperry, NCR, Honeywell, and others– a major force in the development of computers.  Burroughs also gifted the world his grandson, Beat icon William S. Burroughs.

 source

 

“If there really is such a thing as turning in one’s grave, Shakespeare must get a lot of exercise”*…

 

Your correspondent is off on a whistle tour of the Midwest.  While altogether auspicious, it packs what may be too many stops into too few days…  Thus, regular service will likely be interrupted until late this month…  See you all again as Independence Day approaches.  Meantime, something to keep you amusedly occupied…

A newly redesigned website from Emory University, Shakespeare & the Players, displays a collection of nearly a thousand photo postcards of actors depicting Shakespearean characters on stage, in the late -19th and early-20th centuries. The site is browsable by actor, character, and play.

In the 19th century, scholar Lawrence W. Levine writes, many Americans, even if illiterate, knew and loved Shakespeare’s plays; they were the source material for endless parodies, skits, and songs on the American stage… in the first half of the 19th century, theater “played the role that movies played in the first half of the twentieth … a kaleidoscopic, democratic institution presenting a widely varying bill of fare to all classes and socioeconomic groups.”…

from The Taming of the Shrew

Richard Carline, writing in 1971, says:

Those who only know the postcards of today can scarcely be expected to appreciate what they meant to people sixty or more years ago. Many of us seldom think of buying a picture postcard, except as a matter of convenience; but during the quarter of a century that preceded the Great War in 1914, it would have been hard to find anyone who did not buy postcards from genuine pleasure…

More at “Browse Nearly 1,000 Photo Postcards of Late-19th-Century Stage Productions of Shakespeare,” and at the curator’s preface.

* George Orwell

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As we bark the Bard, we might recall that it was on this ate in 1910 that Florenz Ziegfeld, in a blow against racial prejudice, opened the Ziegfeld Follies of 1910, with actor Bert Williams as co-star, marking the first time white and black entertainers appeared on stage together in a major Broadway production.  Williams was one of the pre-eminent entertainers of the Vaudeville era and one of the most popular comedians for all audiences of his time. He was by far the best-selling black recording artist before 1920. In 1918, the New York Dramatic Mirror called him “one of the great comedians of the world.”  Fellow vaudevillian W.C. Fields, who appeared in productions with Williams, described him as “the funniest man I ever saw – and the saddest man I ever knew.”

 source

Written by LW

June 20, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Wish you were here”*…

 

Before it earned its reputation as a little town with first one, then two world-class music studios, Muscle Shoals was known for its hydroelectric facilities– as memorialized in this card, printed in 1948.

In 1898, the American government allowed private postcards to be sent with one cent stamps. Cheaper than the prevailing letter rate, this began the widespread use of postcards by the public– and the equally widespread use of postcards as an advertising tool by civic boosters.

From the 1930s through the 1950s, tourists taking their first road trips in their newfangled automobiles would frequently stop along the way to pick up a few colorful postcards to mail to the folks back home. The most popular form of eat-your-heart-out greeting was the large-letter postcard, which had been around since the first part of the 20th century but whose heyday was during what we know today as the linen-postcard era. Made of textured paper rather than actual cloth, linen postcards were printed by companies such as Curt Teich & Company of Chicago, Tichnor Brothers and Colourpicture of Boston, E.C. Kropp of Milwaukee, Beals Litho & Printing of Des Moines, and Dexter Press of Pearl River, New York, among many others. Their souvenir postcards for states, cities, military bases, and tourist attractions were usually heralded at the top by the words “Greetings From,” below which were large, blocky, dimensional letters filled in with illustrations or photographs of the destination’s most scenic or noteworthy sights.

In 1945, Dunkirk, New York, on the shores of Lake Erie, must have been known for its grapes… or so this large-letter postcard would suggest.

Since 2009, the primary resource for fans of this popular postcard genre has been “Large Letter Postcards: The Definitive Guide, 1930s to 1950s,” written by Fred Tenney and Kevin Hilbert. Published by Schiffer, “Large Letter Postcards” features more than 2,200 examples, from several dozen versions of Atlantic City cards (Curt Teich’s first linen large-letter) to cards for Coney Island, Niagara Falls, and Death Valley. Also included are several examples of how large-letter postcards were created, from the card’s initial sketch to its final design, courtesy of materials loaned to the authors by the Curt Teich Postcard Archives

Southern Illinois, where the Mississippi and Ohio rivers meet, is known as Egypt or Little Egypt. Some cards, such as this Curt Teich from 1945, included maps as well as scenic shots in their design.

Read more, find more wonderful examples and links to still more at “When Postcards Made Every Town Seem Glamorous, From Asbury Park to Zanesville.”

* Archetypical postcard message

###

As we pack our bags, we might recall that it was on this date in 1910 that the first American-born female police officer was sworn in, as Alice Stebbins Wells became a full member of the Los Angeles Police Department.  (Marie Owens, born in Canada, was the first female police officer in the United States, hired in 1891 in Chicago.)  Prior to this time, women were employed as non-commissioned personnel to oversee the care of female prisoners.  Two years after Wells joined the force, two other female officers were sworn in; sixteen other cities and several foreign countries hired female police officers as a direct result of Wells’ activities by 1915, when Wells created the International Policewomen’s Association.  The University of California created the first course dedicated to the work of female police officers in 1918, and Wells was made the first president of the Women’s Peace Officers Association of California in 1928.

Wells wearing the uniform she had to sew for herself, the first police woman’s uniform in the United States

 source

 

Written by LW

September 12, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future”*…

Robot-assisted farming

It’s easy to chuckle at the prognostications of yore– where’s my jet pack?!?  But as long-time readers will recall, there was one writer whose predictions were uncannily on the money:  Jules Verne.

His Paris in the 20th Century, for example, describes air conditioning, automobiles, the Internet, television, even electricity, and other modern conveniences very similar to their real world counterparts, developed years– in many cases, decades– later.   From the Earth to the Moon, apart from using a space gun instead of a rocket, is uncannily similar to the real Apollo Program: three astronauts are launched from the Florida peninsula– from “Tampa Town” ( only 130 miles from NASA’s Cape Canaveral)– and recovered through a splash landing.  And in other works, he predicted helicopters, submarines, projectors, jukeboxes, and the existence of underwater hydrothermal vents that were not invented/discovered until long after he wrote about them.

Verne’s writings caught the imagination of his countrymen.  As Singularity Hub reports,

Starting in 1899, a commercial artist named Jean-Marc Côté and other artists were hired by a toy or cigarette manufacturer to create a series of picture cards as inserts, according to Matt Noval who writes for the Smithsonian magazine. The images were to depict how life in France would look in a century’s time, no doubt heavily influenced by Verne’s writings. Sadly, they were never actually distributed. However, the only known set of cards to exist was discovered by Isaac Asimov, who wrote a book in 1986 called “Futuredays” in which he presented the illustrations with commentary…

In what some French people might consider an abomination, one illustration depicted the modern kitchen as a place of food science. While synthetic food in commercial products is sadly more common today than we’d like to admit (sorry Easy Cheese lovers, but I’m calling you out), the rise of molecular gastronomy in fine dining has made food chemistry a modern reality. It may seem like food science has its limitations, but one only needs to consider efforts to grow meat in a laboratory to see how far technology may go…

“Food Science”

See them all at “19th Century Artists Predicted the Future in This Series of Postcards.”

* Niels Bohr

###

As we console ourselves that, while the future may be another country, we may still speak the language, we might send creative birthday greetings to Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès; he was born on this date in 1817.  A rough contemporary of Verne’s, Mège-Mouriès was surely one of the reasons for Verne’s optimism:  Mège-Mouriès began his career at age 16 as a chemist’s assistant. By the 1840’s he had improved the syphilis drug, Copahin, after which he patented a variety of creations including tanning, effervescent tablets, paper paste, and sugar extraction.  By the 1850s he had turned to food research and developed a health chocolate (featuring a proprietary calcium phosphate protein) and developed a method that yielded 14% more white bread from a given quantity of wheat.  After 1862, he concentrated his research on fats– the primary product of which was his invention of margarine (though he also scored yet another another patent, for canned meat).

 source

Written by LW

October 24, 2012 at 1:01 am

Happy Holidays– or else!…

“Help us!”

Via Retrospace; more at the Flickr Kitch People Postcards Pool.

As we strike our poses, we might hum at the memory that it was on this date in 1861 that abolitionist, activist, and poet Julia Ward Howe set to paper the words to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”  (It was first published the following February in The Atlantic Monthly, and set to music that William Steffe had already written.)

Sheet Music

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