Tag: Richard Sheaff

“Secure the shadow, ere the substance fades”

“Secure the shadow, ere the substance fades” was one of the earliest advertising slogans used by photographers, as carte de visite (CDV) photographs became all the rage. The phrase urged one and all to capture the image (Secure the shadow) before beloved family members were dead and gone (the substance fades).

Photographs in the handy carte de visite size, generally 2 3/8? x 4 1/4?, were initiated by the Frenchman Disderi in 1854, and became wildly popular from 1857 through the end of the century (and lingered on until about 1920 or so). The craze was called photomania or cartomania.

“The year 1861 is memorable for a revolution in pictures . . . the card photograph has swept everything before it, and it is the style to endure.” (American Journal of Photography, 4:360, 1862). Millions and millions were produced. “Secure the shadow, ere the substance fades” especially applied to photograph the bodies of those who had died before they were soon buried (“post-mortem” photographs).

Beginning in the 1880s, the larger format cabinet cards gained popularity and the carte de visite format faded away.

One of the first types of ephemera I began to collect was the carte de visite, not for the photographic image but for the photographer’s backmark or imprint found on the back of many CDVs. These advertisements essentially make CDVs into trade/business cards for the photographer. It is still my favorite collection, and I constantly search for graphic examples I do not yet have.

Below are some examples; many more can be viewed on my non-commercial, ephemera-related website, at http://www.sheaff-ephemera.com/list/untitled_text.html and at: http://www.sheaff-ephemera.com/list/untitled_text.html

All is well on the front lines!

Every once in awhile I come across a particular kind of WWII message-to-the-folks-back-home postcard, a novelty cartoon card with a photograph of the soldier or sailor sandwiched inside, his face appearing in a window.

This one (below), mailed to Syracuse by Private Michael Herezak, stationed at Camp Blanding, Florida, puts his face on a television set . . . a high-tech novelty in the 1940s.

There are roughly 1.2 zillion WWI cartoon propaganda cards picturing Americans striking fear into the hearts of Hitler, Tojo, and Mussolini; this version presents the sailor as a hero heralded around the globe . . .

Mailed from Camp Crowder, Missouri by Cpl. A. H. Schreter on June 12, 1944, to his wife in Baltimore.

The humor of this one is not very clear, but nonetheless it serves to assure the folks at home that the soldier seems happy and well . . .

If anyone out there has other examples, I’ll be happy to add them to this post.

Keep your powder dry!

For some reason lost in the fog of time, baking powder had usually been packaged in cylindrical cans with bright graphics in eye-catching red, yellow and black. Baking powder is, of course, a leavening agent used in the making of bread and other foods. It is a chemical leavening agent, which generates carbon dioxide gas bubbles following the mixing together of a base, usually sodium bicarbonate, and an acid (one or more acid salts), in the presence of water.

Ephemera and Baking Powder
Ephemera and Baking Powder - Davis Baking Powder
Ephemera and Baking Powder - Royal Baking Powder

Duck and cover!

During the Cold War days of the 1950s and 1960s, it began to seem inevitable to one and all that atomic bombs might well soon rain down. At first, mass hysteria ensued, slowly replaced by resigned shrugs as public attention wandered elsewhere.

At the height of the phenomenon, bomb shelters grew like mushrooms in basements and back yards. Government agencies papered the country with pamphlets of information on how to protect oneself, how to build a bomb shelter, how to stock a fallout shelter. One nervous joke at the time said that the way to protect yourself was to lean forward, tuck your head between your legs, and kiss your butt goodbye.

There is a lot of collectible atomic ephemera out there. Here is a sampling.

The atom bomb became a part of American culture as soon as the first ones were dropped on Japan to end WWII. Here is a 1946 party invitation, to an “AT-EM-BOM” party . . .

The USA tested two atom bombs in the South Pacific; here is the second test on Bikini Atoll on July 25, 1946, named “Baker”. . .

The Bikini tests were dubbed “Operation Crossroads”; below is a postcard sent from there to NYC on 18 May 1946 . . .

For quite a while, open-air tests in Nevada and New Mexico were commonplace events. The postcard below shows the mushroom cloud from one such test quite close to Las Vegas. The open-air tests stopped in 1962 when they were moved underground.

During the Nevada open-air testing days, the government reassured the populace in various ways that the testing presented no dangers and that any inconveniences were a matter of patriotic duty. The postcard below had paragraphs of such text on the other side.

Nevada, 1957 . . .

A birthday card to Dad (“A spectacular POP!”) . . . .

A corporate Christmas card . . .

And legendary San Francisco counter-culture cartoonist Robert Crumb offered his take on the subject . . .

“Your vacation starts when you step aboard!”

Yeah, right.

These days I hate to fly, avoid it whenever I can. Long gone are those halcyon days when taking a commercial flight was a joy when everyone put on their Sunday-go-to-meeting duds to fly when travelers were pampered.

Nowadays airline advertising is filled with heart-warming, empty promises of friendly skies and caring treatment when the reality is that for too much money paid, we are all packed into cattle cars with uncomfortable seats and almost no legroom.

Passengers dress like they are laying around the house, in flip-flops, wife-beater t-shirts, short shorts with words printed across the butt. Food—if available at all—is both expensive and forgettable. Add-on fees are charged for anything and everything the airline can get away with.

There was a time when a flight was a special pleasure . . . restaurant quality fine foods in multiple courses served on linen tablecloths, fresh fruits, walk-around cocktail lounges, fabric window curtains, tables for card playing.

It all seems like such a dimly remembered dream now.

The only thing that has changed for the better is that smoking is no longer allowed.

Baltimore’s Order of the Oriole Pageants

In the 19th century, Baltimore was a thriving city. Many of the town’s influential burghers formed a highly secretive society, The Order of the Oriole, which organized what was intended to be a hugely extravagant pageant parade in 1881. It did take place, but was in many ways a disappointment; undeterred, they put even more effort into the 1882 and 1883 versions.

I recently acquired a copy of the colorful over-sized ( 9 1/2? x 12?, 64pp ) Official Programme for the 1883 pageant, a rather wildly extravagant and phantasmagorical affair. The book was chromolithographed by Hoen & Company. The pageant is also described as a “Summer Night Carnival”. The climactic final evening parade in 1883 featured 42 horse-drawn tableaux floats, illustrating wildly over-the-top theories about the alleged lost continent of Atlantis, and “The Lost Kingdom” in the mid-East.

The program’s running narrative spins a detailed chronology and history of these subjects, and the parade floats were all served to illustrate aspects of these themes. Whether the members of the Order of the Oriole actually believed in all these whimsical tales as their secret body of knowledge, or not, is difficult to tell.

What is certain is that these were massive and well-attended affairs, with citywide activities for three days and nights (two in 1881), including special B&O railroad services to bring people in, band concerts, dance balls, military drills, parades of boats around the harbor lit up with strung new-fangled electric lights blazing.

A good overview of the 1881, 1882 and 1883 pageants can be found at: http://charmcityhistory.blogspot.com/2014/02/baltimores-secret-order-of-oriole-and.html

The 1882 pageant the previous year had focused on the mysticism of India rather than that of the Holy Land . . . the Rama-Chandra and Rama-Avatara, taken from the Ramayana. There were 15 tableaux floats in 1882, and the distributed program featured a translation of The Epic Of India.

Anthony and Cleopatra, in the 1883 parade (Harper’s, October 1881) . . .

The program is illustrated with the tableaux scenes to be created as the horse-drawn floats . . .

The book also includes much graphic advertising, both black-and-white and in full color; here are a few of them . . .

The Birdsall Traction Engine . . .

These pageants also had promotional materials distributed in conjunction . . .

And souvenir tokens . . .

What’s So Interesting about THAT?

One of the pleasures of collecting ephemera is coming across details that are intriguing or surprising or revelatory or surprisingly relevant or interestingly obscure.

The banner running around and through the word “DUNHAM” does something sophisticated, rarely attempted in wood engraving: emulating transparency. The banner is rendered as if one can see through it to the letters beneath . . .

Here is a similar effect, in chromolithography . . .

After viewing tens of thousands of Victorian trade cards over the years, this is only the second example I’ve ever seen of a merchant simply writing in his information on a stock card, rather than having it printed . . .

Here we have animals encouraging folks to eat a different animal . . .

A musician’s joke: “Sometimes sharp, never flat, always natural” (Not really a knee-slapper, but perhaps one had to be there.) . . .

This postcard has affixed a playable 78 rpm Tuck gramophone record . . .

This promotional card for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad illustrates its rail lines much like the heavenly constellations are often shown as if together depicting a human figure. And, for good measure, it throws in a pun . . .

This very rare test cancellation was used for only three hours (!), from 2:00 to 5:00 pm on January 2, 1895 . . .

A real photo advertising postcard using type to effectively communicate worries swirling around in a restless night . . .

One pun after another . . .

“I love my husband—but Oh, you vote” . . .

An attempt to influence social etiquette on the new-fangled telephone. (Helpfully, it also provides a place to write your name, in case you might forget it.) . . .

This card for a paint company brags about offering all the colors of “any reasonable” rainbow, but prints its rainbow in only black and brown! And it even seems to point out this logical inconsistency, saying “There is something out of the ordinary run in this rainbow.”

Each of the following three items is right on target as a reflection of the predominant art style of its respective era . . .

A bounty of $1 per bushel of dead grasshoppers . . .

This folder sure looks like a social protest item, but in reality, is an advertisement for pocket watches . . .

This 1906 postcard has a genuine Indian Head penny attached . . .

A rather fragile souvenir of New York City, which features a dried real leaf from a Bauhinia tree (also known as the Hong Kong Orchid tree) . . .

When I was a kid, we still had in our neighborhood two small grocery stores put together like the 19th century one below, with a door on one end and a U-shaped counter around the other three sides, the merchandise on shelving against the walls. Items on the higher shelves were lifted down by the shopkeeper using a long pole with a squeeze grip on the bottom and pinchers at the top.

This image was drawn with one, continuous spiraling pen line . . .

A rather lukewarm Valentine message . . .

The snake oil salesmen would stop at nothing to promote their nostrums, but showing a dead fellow who had neglected to take the potion was unusual . . .

A trade card printed on real wood veneer . . .

The USA and Cuba, friends back in the day and now again in 2015 . . .

Well, it has come to be. Get used to it. The blatant racism in much early material is shocking to modern eyes.

Variants: LePage’s Glue Trade Card

Many collectors of trade cards also collect variants of certain cards, which indicate different print runs. Sometimes the word content changes, sometimes the changes are more subtle. Generally one finds but two or three variants of a given card, but some cards have more variants than that. For one trade card, I have found ten different variants so far, of basically the same design. One must wonder why a company would have gone back to press so very many times; perhaps each print run was relatively short for some reason, and the company kept needing more . . . ?

That trade card with ten known variants to date is the LePage’s Liquid Glue card with policemen attempting to lift a man glued to a public (train station?) bench, presumably because they thought he was loitering under the “NO LOAFERS ALLOWED HERE” sign.

I keep a listing of these cards, assigning a different “Type” number to each individual variant. For most of them, several differences from the others can be found upon close scrutiny, but in my Types listing below, I give only the most easily noticed differences.

(Note: The British-style “custodian helmets” worn by the policemen were at times used in New York City and certain other American cities.)

TYPE 1

LePage Glue Trade Card #1 - Ephemera Society of America

Two cops pulling, no additional cops en route, no printer ID

TYPE 2

LePage Glue Trade Card #2 - Ephemera Society of America

Two cops pulling, no additional cops en route, Frank G. Bufford, Lith.

TYPE 3

LePage Glue Trade Card #3- Ephemera Society of America

Two cops pulling, no additional cops en route, Forbes. Co. Lith.

TYPE 4

LePage Glue Trade Card #4 - Ephemera Society of America

Five cops pulling, three additional cops en route, no printer ID, no wording on left or right side

TYPE 5

LePage Glue Trade Card #5 - Ephemera Society of America

Five cops pulling, six additional cops en route, Bufford Lith. Boston. Comma and dash in bottom text between “Pullin” and “I’m stuck”.

TYPE 5A

LePage Glue Trade Card #6 - Ephemera Society of America

Five cops pulling, six additional cops en route, Bufford Lith. Boston. NO comma or dash in bottom text between “Pullin” and “I’m stuck”.

TYPE 6

LePage Glue Trade Card #7 - Ephemera Society of America

Five cops pulling, six additional cops en route, Morgan & Co., Cleveland

TYPE 7

LePage Glue Trade Card #8 - Ephemera Society of America
LePage Glue Trade Card – Ephemera Society of America

Five cops pulling, six additional cops en route, no printer ID, end quote after GLUE. at bottom right, pinkish wall behind the “NO LOAFERS” sign

TYPE 8

LePage Glue Trade Card #9 - Ephemera Society of America

Five cops pulling, six additional cops en route, no printer ID, NO end quote after GLUE. at bottom right, yellow-ish/tan wall behind the “NO LOAFERS” sign, “NO LOAFERS” sign has a single line at top, man on bench has a blue-ish hat

TYPE 9

LePage Glue Trade Card #10 - Ephemera Society of America

Five cops pulling, six additional cops en route, no printer ID, NO end quote after GLUE. at bottom right, man on bench has a solid black hat, “NO LOAFERS” sign has a double line at top, the period at the end of the text at top aligns with the right-side rule below (which is not true for any of the other variants)

Stitching Together a Catchy Tune . . .

In our modern world of iPods, CDs, internet streaming services, live concerts, NetFlix, 3-D movies, video games and a thousand other ways to be entertained, we rarely stop to realize how very different the world was in centuries past. Back in the proverbial day, infinitely less entertainment was to be found; often, if folks wanted entertainment, they made it themselves.

I give you The Garvie & Wood Patent Musical Sewing Machine Cover. As this woodcut from a 19th-century trade card makes clear, a device could be added onto the top of a treadle sewing machine, such that pumping the cast iron foot treadle would power a perforated paper roll through a device that would output music. Note the perforated paper roll banner at the bottom. Mom pumps and the kids can dance.

The firm of Garnie & Wood was located at 12 Union Square in NYC. They exhibited this product at the American Institute Fair, held annually in New York.

Theirs was not the only such device, known as a dulciphone, or an organette. The Monroe Organ Reed Company produced the 14-note musical sewing machine cover below (Lot 81in the August 2013 sale of Aspire Auctions).

Here is a video of this machine in action:

A sewing machine piece of sheet music, The Battle of the Sewing Machines, can be found in the collection of the Library of Congress (I wonder if one could buy a roll of this particular tune to, in fact, play on a sewing machine?) . . .

Nowadays, for those with a nostalgic bent, the irrepressible Chinese offer a music box in the form of an old-timey treadle sewing machine, which somehow seems to bring things full-circle . . .