Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tram Tuesday - Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore wasn't the first American city to have streetcars, but it was at the forefront, especially when it came to the development of electrified lines. In 1885, Leo Daft electrified a horse-drawn streetcar line in Baltimore using a third rail electric traction system. Although it had its problems (loss of power,  during rain storms and electric shocks to the horses), it was clear that electric power was the wave of the future. This card shows a view of Light Street around 1920 with an electric streetcar and overhead wires.

Despite their early success and importance in transporting people, streetcars in Baltimore suffered the same fate as in many other cities.  Trolleybuses and then automobiles began to take over in the 1930s. Even so, photographs of Baltimore streetcars in the 1940s show full cars and a variety of passengers, including adults and school children and unsegregated black and white passengers. Baltimore streetcars made their final run in 1963.

Source: Library of Congress, Marjory Collins, around 1943
Today, there is no streetcar service in Baltimore, but there is an impressive Baltimore Streetcar Museum that offers rides on historic streetcars. You can find out more about the history of streetcars in Baltimore at the Maryland State Archives.

Here's the back of the card, sent to Elmer E. Miller in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1920.

The message reads:

I've received your card and sure glad to hear from you. I'm again enjoying good health and hope you are doing the same glad to hear that you are enjoying yourself. 
Frank T Plivacki

Monday, January 30, 2012

Kit, The Arkansas Traveler

I have looked at this 19th century trade card numerous times and tried to find some history on it. Each time I have given up and put it away for later. Who or what was Chanfrau's Kit? What were the Beats? I found nothing on the internet, but I did find a few journal articles that gave me a clue. Here's where the trail of clues took me.

Frank Chanfrau (1824-1884) was a popular 19th century actor. He managed New York City's Bowery Theatre and was famous for his role as Mose in New York As It Is,  a play that broke all records for attendance and became the most popular play in the United States.

 Here's a photo of Frank Chanfrau.
Source: Wikipedia
Chanfrau later played the part of Kit, the Arkansas Traveler, a role that had been adapted for him based on the popular story and fiddle tune. The story, as described by Gene Bluestein, author of "The Arkansas Traveler" and the Strategy of American Humor, goes like this:

A traveler who is lost in a backwoods area inquires for the route home from a squatter or farmer. The squatter is usually seated on his front porch playing the fiddle or picking a banjo. After each section of dialogue, the squatter plays the first part of the tune. (It has become so well known it is often used to introduce or identify rustic characters.) 

Here's a typical exchange:
SQUATTER: Hello, Stranger. 
TRAVELER: Which one of those forks in the road do you take to town? 
S: I don't know. I keep my forks up on the shelf. (Here SQUATTER plays the first part of the tune.)

It goes on from there with lots of misunderstandings, the humor being derived from the differences between the sophisticated eastern traveler and the backwards country dweller. While the State of Arkansas eventually protested and declared that untold damage had been done to their reputation by these stereotypes, the sympathies of the drama seem to lie firmly with the country folk. It is the city dweller who is being outwitted by the country dweller, who merely pretends to be dense in order to withhold information.

Bluestein compares the city dweller/country bumpkin conflict to the conflict between Europe and the New World:
In response to this identification, the American has consistently faced his European antagonists with a show of bravado. But he has as often relied on just the kind of dissembling "The Arkansas Traveler" depicts. In fact, if one enlarges the scope of the antagonism between the squatter and the traveler, he perceives the outline of the more basic conflict. The traveler is not only a city-dweller, but an easterner who, in his point of view toward the backwoodsman, shows himself to be a European. The squatter, on the other hand, is not merely a farmer or rustic; he takes on the characteristics of the aboriginal American as well... The strategy of humor "The Arkansas Traveler" employs is uniquely American because it is based on the theme of cultural conflict between the European and the American. The traveler-squatter antagonism masks a deeper tension between the European traveler, who is smug and condescending, and the American native, who cleverly reverses the roles.

I find this particularly interesting in view of the recent criticism of presidential candidate Mitt Romney for speaking French. It makes a lot more sense now.

The Major and the Judge, depicted in the card above, are characters in the play along with the card sharp, the old man with the flirtatious young wife, and the German Hausfrau. I still don't know what they mean by "The Beats", but at least I feel like understand the greater story.

Frank Chanfrau died in 1884  at the age of 61. At the time of his death, he was still actively performing as Kit, the Arkansas Traveler. The New York Times death announcement on October 3, 1884 reported that large audiences had viewed his performance on Monday and Tuesday, but after dinner on Wednesday he was stricken with apoplexy and died the next morning at 5 am. 

For those of you who are curious, here's what the Arkansas Traveler music sounds like.

If you want to know more about The Arkansas Traveler, here are some good sources:

"The Arkansas Traveler" and the Strategy of American Humor Author(s): Gene Bluestein Reviewed work(s):Source: Western Folklore, Vol. 21, No. 3 (Jul., 1962), pp. 153-160 Published by: Western States Folklore Society.

"The Arkansas Traveller:" Southwest Humor on CanvasAuthor(s): Sarah Brown Reviewed work(s):Source: The Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. 46, No. 4 (Winter, 1987), pp. 348-375Published by: Arkansas Historical Association.

The Success of Kit, the Arkansas TravelerAuthor(s): Robert L. Morris Reviewed work(s):Source: The Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 4 (Winter, 1963), pp. 338-350 Published by: Arkansas Historical Association.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Paris Opera - Palais Garnier

On Monday I posted a card of the Hippodrome in New York. Then I saw that this week's Sepia Saturday theme is theaters (or theatres, depending on where you live.) So, I decided to post a couple more, including the Frankfurt Opera house and La Scala. I will have additional theater-related posts over the next few weeks, but I'll intersperse them with others, because I know some of you have already had enough of opera and theaters. But today, we're off to Paris.

The Palais Garnier certainly dominates the focus of the Place de l'Opéra. The building housed the Paris Opera from 1875 until 1989, when the new larger Opéra Bastille was built. The Palais Garnier is now primarily used for ballet performances. I have visited the building and the Paris Opera Library-Museum, but I have never been to a performance there. I did see a performance of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra at the Opéra Bastille in 2007, which was roundly booed by the audience, in part because of the modern reinterpretation and the spare set with its glaring gold backdrop.

Here's the Palais Garnier at the turn of the century. The card is embellished with lots of glitter, which unfortunately doesn't show up well on the scan.

And another view from decades later.

Here's the back of the first card, sent in 1906 to Cherry Morgan, staying at the Mount Hotel in Scarborough, England. The message reads:

Dear Cherry
We have put across the Channel. Some of the Channel was on ___of us Rough. Paris is very gay - hope you and your Ma are enjoying yourselves. Send love.
E.M. Costaline (?)

This is a post for Sepia Saturday, which is as entertaining as any theater. Click the box below to be transported.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

La Scala - Milan, Italy

The building we see here was inaugurated in 1778 and named after the church (Chiesa di Santa Maria alla Scala, built in 1381) that was demolished to make way for the opera house. Over the years, numerous operas by Verdi, Puccini, and Rossini, among others, premiered at La Scala. The first performance at La Scala was the performance of Antonio Salieri's Europa riconosciuta.

It may not look like much from the outside, particularly on a black-and-white postcard, but it seats 2,800, and the interior looks pretty fabulous. I have never been to La Scala, but if I did I would want to sit in the cheaper nosebleed seats (known as the loggione) above the box seats. If you sit there, I imagine you can watch the opera and all the people in the box seats too.

La Scala was severely damaged by bombing in 1943, but was rebuilt in 1946.  The opera house is currently facing a tough budget year, with a drop in both private and public contributions.

Source: Wikipedia

Here's the back of the card.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Opera House - Frankfurt, Germany

The grand old Frankfurt Opera House still stands, although it is now known as the Old Opera, having been replaced by a newer building. The original Opera House was inaugurated in 1880. Kaiser Wilhelm attended and remarked that he would not be allowed such an extravagance in Berlin.

Carmina Burana premiered here in 1937, but only seven years later, a bomb nearly destroyed the opera house. It lay in ruins for many years amid proposals to demolish it and build an office building. Instead, a citizens' initiative started raising money for a reconstruction fund in the 1950s. The opera house was finally reopened in 1981.

At the time this card was sent (sometime before 1907), senders were not allowed to write a message on the back of the card. Many people scribbled message over or around the picture on the front. Salomon Marx simply imprinted the front of the card with his personalized stamp.  He sent the card to Rachel and Esther Rousseau of Ghent, Belgium.

I couldn't find anything on the Rousseau sisters, but I did find that Salomon Marx was born into a prominent Jewish family in Frankfurt. I can only assume that this is the same Salomon Marx. He was born in 1863 and was able to emigrate (to the United States?) sometime after 1933.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

More on Sarah Craven

Sarah Craven of Lawrence, Massachusetts was the recipient of the card from Chas that I posted yesterday. Chas sent the card from New York in 1910 and said he might go ashore. Was he on a cruise? Nope, Chas was a sailor on board the USS Idaho. Based on the next card, we can assume that there was some romantic connection between Chas and Sarah, at least in some people's eyes.

The card appears to have been sent from a young male relative of Sarah's who lived in the same town, maybe a nephew.  The message reads:

Received your postcard you was trying to fool me this is you and Charles kissing each other good by from Edward Craven.

Oh, but then I have this other postcard sent to Chas Walter on the USS Idaho from somebody named Clara who also lives in Lawrence, Massachusetts. She seems to think that Lawrence is HER guy.

The message reads:

Dear Chas I received your cards wish I could see you play football. I would give you a cheer. When are you coming to Boston XXXXXXXXX Clara Schneker (?)

This card was sent in 1908, so perhaps Clara was out of the picture by the time Sarah came along.

Monday, January 23, 2012

New York's Hippodrome

Imagine visiting New York's Hippodrome Theatre in 1910. At the time, the huge theatre, which seated 5,300, was only five years old. You might have seen Harry Houdini make a 1,000 pound elephant disappear here or watched a Charlie Chaplin film when it first came out. The theatre had an 8,000-gallon water tank which could be raised from below the stage for diving shows. The huge stage had no trouble accommodating circus animals. The Hippodrome passed through many incarnations--as a vaudeville theatre, a budget opera house, and a sports arena--in an effort to make money. Unfortunately, the operating costs were high, and the Great Depression just made matters worse. The theatre was closed down and demolished in 1939.

It was replaced by this building.

Here's the back of the card, sent to Sarah Craven of Lawrence, Massachusetts. The message reads:

New York, Sep. 25, 1910
Dear Sarah.
We are in new York. I think I will go ashore. Will write you a letter. Hope you are in the best of health. From your friend Chas

Friday, January 20, 2012

Valley of the Dolls

When the call went out for photos of dolls for this week's Sepia Saturday, I thought for sure I would find lots of material.  Looking back through family photographs though, I realize that sticks and rocks were the toys of choice in my family, and dolls were fairly rare. Perhaps dolls were associated with embarrassment.  When my mother was a child, her parents took a picture of her with a doll, but they also put a lampshade on her head. Although she grew up to be normal, I suspect that the experience colored her view on life and specifically her view of dolls and light fixtures.

The true test came when I requested a Barbie doll as a child and the request was categorically denied. You know as well as I do that it had something to do with the lampshade.

Source: Tracy's Toys

I was given other options though, including trolls. Wait a minute! This one has a lampshade on its head too.
Source: Tracy's Toys

At the age of 6 or 7, I was presented with a lovely bisque Deanna Durbin doll (Durbin was a movie star in the 30s and 40s.) Deanna had real (human!) hair and sleep eyes and was quite lovely, but she was not as durable as a Barbie doll.  A direct hit from a basketball thrown by one of my brothers broke one of her legs. She has since been repaired and seems to be fine. It also appears that she actually ate the marshmallow I tried to feed her as a child or it dried up and disintegrated. As lovely as she was, I had to decline invitations to Barbie parties, because you simply do not walk into a Barbie party with a bisque doll of any kind. It would be sort of like wearing a lampshade.

My mother bought me some other dolls too, including a Native American doll and a plantation doll of unknown origin (Caribbean?). They have since been joined by a doll I bought in South Africa in the 1970s, a Hungarian doll, and the gregarious Don Ho bubble doll. 

When I lived in Hawaii, I passed a huge cart of these Don Ho dolls that were being given away. I'm not sure why I only took one. The tag around his neck says "Don Ho blows tiny bubbles and big ones too." His head screws off and then you press on his chest and a bubble wand emerges from his chest cavity. A quick blow and there you go...tiny bubbles and big ones too.

Just in case you're interested, I leave you with a clip of Don Ho singing Tiny Bubbles

And here's Deanna Durbin.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Wilds of Lewis County

This card was sent from the wilds of Lewis County, Washington to C.E. Shea of Portland, Oregon in 1917. Even today, the population of Lewis County is only about 75,000. The largest city is Centralia, with a population of just over 16,000. There's plenty of rural land, and the eastern end of Lewis County is national park and forest. Unfortunately, we don't know where this photo was taken in Lewis County, especially since it was sent from Seattle.

 The message on the back reads:

Picture taken in the wilds of Lewis County. Notice the dog. I can get a separate picture of him very lovely looking.
Have you seen Aunt Hattie lately. I am contemplating taking the G.N. train which goes through Rainier and thought I would let them know.

While we don't know who the people in the picture are, I am fairly certain that the card's recipient was Cora E. Shea, born in about 1870 in Illinois. She and her husband, James Shea, lived in Portland with their three children Leo, John, and Margaret. I wonder if the son, Leo, sent this card to his mother. Leo would have been 26 at the time. Although the Census records show the name as Leo, I guess it's possible that his full name was Leon.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Great Underwear Emporium

If you ever wondered why people didn't smile in old photographs, this may be the answer: wool underwear. Wool underwear would certainly put a serious expression on my face. As you can see, the child in this picture, an advertisement for the Great Underwear Emporium of Tioga County, is probably wearing those wool undergarments too.

Here's where you can go to stock up on your Shetland knit underwear.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tram Tuesday - Lynchburg, Virginia

Lynchburg, Virginia has a rich and colorful history. Back in 1757, it was just a ferry crossing from Lynch's Landing across the James river. The ferry service was provided by 17-year-old John Lynch, who a few decades later petitioned the Virginia General Assembly for a town charter. Years later, the city was spared from any severe damage during the Civil War because General Jubal Early ran empty train cars through the area to make it look as if reinforcements were coming into Lynchburg.

In 1880, fifteen years after the end of the Civil War, the first horse-drawn streetcars started operation in Lynchburg. Streetcars didn't last as long in Lynchburg as they did in many other American cities though; they were gone by 1941.

The message on the back of the card appears to have been written in 1911.

The message reads:
Arrived here about 7;30 and hope to leave tomorrow. Feel well and hope you are to

Here are a couple of before-and-after views of Lynchburg, courtesy of Kipp Teague, Lynchburg resident and generous host of a Retroweb, which features many old and new views of Lynchburg.



Monday, January 16, 2012

The French Influence

These are American trade cards from the 1880s with French writing on them. But who reads French anyway? Best pretend not to,  or you may see yourself featured in some unflattering television spots.

 Here's what the back of the cards looks like.
 I'm not sure what Arnaud sold, but I would love to see what the shop looked like.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Hats and the People who Wear Them

I realized, when I was looking for photos of people wearing hats, that people in my family just didn't wear hats very much, at least not very exciting ones. My husband's family has a few photo postcards of people with hats; the only problem is that we're not sure who they are, maybe cousins or in-laws. However, it's probably safe to assume that they were recent immigrants to upstate New York from Moravia or Bohemia at the time the photos were taken. Her hat looks classic 1920s.

Never mind his hat, I'd love to know more about the pipe.

I have plenty of cards that show big beautiful hats, including this one, with the generous addition of glitter.

It also has an amusing message on the back.

 The message to Lloyd Robbins of Frankfort, New York was sent in November, 1907:

Would like to exchange postal if this card is ans. I will send better one
Lillian Rhodes
31 Maple Street

I didn't find anything definite about Lillian Rhodes, but Lloyd Robbins, born in 1897, seems to have been inducted into the military in 1918.

More exciting hats can be found at Sepia Saturday.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Good For What Ails You #5

I was going to post something celebrating this blog's 100,000th visitor yesterday, but I'm a little under the weather and just didn't have the energy. Instead, I am on the search through these trade cards from the 1880s for a remedy that will make me feel better.

I don't really have a cough, but the cough drops might make me feel better anyway, especially if they're the old fashioned kind.
The backs of these cards promise me that they are cheap, harmless, pleasant, and effective.

There are some other brands I could try too.

The Red Cross Cough Syrup says it's good for whooping cough too. Nichols Bark and Iron seems to cover everything, including malaria, general debility, nervous prostration, and hypochondria. It must have a very high alcohol content! It also has Calisaya bark and iron in it. Where's the laudanum?

I don't know.  I'm feeling a little tired, but maybe I need to mix up my own elixir. I turn to my best resource book: Dr Chase's Recipes or Information for Everybody, published in 1867. The book contains sections for farriers, painters, and leather workers, in addition to the medical advice. I sometimes wonder if they get mixed up, since linseed oil does appear in some of the medical recipes. Maybe it just slipped over from the furniture refinishing department.

In any case, here are a few recipes for your amusement. Good luck finding the ingredients. I guess people just used to go to their grocer or pharmacist for these things? Try going to your pharmacist and asking for an ounce of Turkey opium.

Paregoric is also prepared with opium, just in case you thought this recipe was opium free.

  I know that a number of these recipes call for laudanum. Here's a recipe for that.

It seems that my pharmacist is out of Wahoo, spikenard root, and tamarack bark, so I think I'll just go to bed.


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