Archive for January, 2008

The Fear Of Death

Monday, January 21st, 2008

I bought a couple of these interesting postcards at a antique show recently. The drawings caught my eye, but the messages on them are a bit more striking as I’ve been figuring out what they say. They date from the very early 20th century — this one from 1909 — and they are all blatantly anti-religious, focusing on Christianity. This one doesn’t directly target the church itself, but the followers. The phrase “strach před smrtî“, as closely as I can translate, means “The fear of death.” To believe in something solely over fear of your eternal soul, the producer of this card believes, is a poor choice for faith. I’m still researching the postcards’ origins: they seem too early to be Communist, but religious opposition had many sources in that period. I should know a little more as I get to the other cards in the future.

Laziness and the P.W.A.

Sunday, January 20th, 2008


In 1933, the US government starting putting a large amount of money into public works, helping the economy, building communities, and keeping people working. The PWA, or Public Works Administration, did a lot of high-profile work, but the PWA helped communities and projects of all sizes. This picture was captioned “P.W.A. Workers” — however, they look hardly like a PWA project. The owner of the photo album had a sense of humor; the PWA (and its relative, the WPA) had a somewhat undeserved reputation for laziness. Ms. Photographer, it seems, saw a woman in the field — and the guys not working — as representative of the PWA, whether or not their paychecks came from the New Deal or not.

see also: the pwa *pwa thoughts * *pwa and nat’l parks * the wpa * wpa murals * wpa in georgia * wpa posters

1930s Nicknames

Saturday, January 19th, 2008


High school — a time of nicknames and rivalries no matter when you were born. This photo, from a photo-album of the late 1930s, has some evidence on the front. That girl in the front row in white — right in the middle — has her eyes blacked-out with pencil (you can see it in the large version). On the back were, presumably, well-wishes from student’s friends, names written in the hand of the signer. Underneath the photo, written on the page in the photo album, are a clearer picture of the students identities: “Bruno”, “Giggling Gertie”, “Ossie” — and I think that’s just the girls.

Pfister Hotel Barber Shop Staff, 1960

Friday, January 18th, 2008

The couple in the front, members of the “Pfister Hotel Social Club” spent more time at the Pfister than just as customers: they appear to be the proprietors of the hotel barber shop. Several photos were taken, in hopes of getting a good shot where nobody’s blinking, everybody’s looking at the camera, and you can see everyone’s faces…they didn’t succeed.

Retro Keep Clean Sign

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

All the trash cans in a I94 rest area near Fergus Falls have this sign; I don’t think I’ve seen it at any of the other Minnesota stops we’ve made. I’ve tried to see if the illustrator is credited, but no luck. Whoever came up with this sign did a very effective job – it’s very eye-catching and it has some style. The use of thick lines and watercolory stripes has a very seventies feel. Using no-caps Helvetica is a little pretentious, but fits with the style of the image. I’m rather surprised it hasn’t turned up elsewhere — maybe off the freeway, somewhere.

4H IH Scout

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

The float aside, that bright red truck is the focus here (also seen here, and here) The owner of this truck was a forward thinker: the shiny, new truck seen here was from the first year International Harvester made the Scout, its answer to the Jeep. At the time, tractor manufacturers weren’t specifically tractor manufacturers: they made all kinds of motorized stuff beneficial to farmers. IH saw a need for a heavy-duty farm vehicle that Willis’ Jeep was fulfilling, and came up with the Scout. Ford eventually followed with its Bronco, but the gas-conservation of the 70s mostly killed off these smaller versions of what we’d call an SUV. You may not know, but IH made the Scout until 1980: that’s almost 20 years on the road.

Cranky, Cranky Kids

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008


Oh, my — I know kids hate to get dressed up, but the dress clothes of today pale in comparison to the kids of the early 1900s. That sailor suit on the right? It would cause a riot among modern kids. The photo appears to me to be from a travelling photographer; the ground is dirt and grass, the chair is simple (probably recruited from the nearest building), and the backdrop is simple. Despite the outdoors, the camera is of a vintage without a speedy shutter, resulting in some blurriness. It could, however, also be an attempt to emulate a more expensive photo studio by hanging a sheet over the washline and getting the kids dressed up to the tees. Either way, the kids weren’t happy about it.

see also: edwardian kids clothes * poor during Progressive era * progressivism and children

Three Gents in Snappy Hats

Monday, January 14th, 2008

What’s these guys’ stories? Sometime in the 1910s, maybe twenties, three lads got together for a group shot — and it must’ve been important that they be wearing hats. The style of hat is called a ‘newsboy’, ‘Gatsby’ hat, or driving cap, and was popular with the trendy kids of the early 20th century. The button-close breast pockets on the two gents on the right has a very military feel to it, and echoes the late 19th century. The lad on the left shops at a different tailor: sans vest, modern shirtcollar, his collar is lower, wider below the collar on the notched lapel, and is missing the breast pockets. Maybe he’s older, and doesn’t rely on Mom to do his clothes-shopping. Any which way, they’re a sharp looking group of guys.

Riding the Red Comet

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

From an overexposed image, adjusted with Photoshop. This Red Comet, a fine steel wagon with rubber wheels, was probably a big gift for a kid back ‘in the day’ – no Toys R Us, and not a lot of money, meant not a lot of toys to go around. A wagon gave a kid transportation: load up the dog, fill it with rocks, drag around a sibling, all kinds of things beyond the scope of two little arms. Also, for a mom whose arms are already burdened with all kinds of carrying, a kid can be pulled along behind when working in the yard. Big rubber wheels and high clearance allowed for off-road travel.

See also: radio flyer * how wagons are made * thoughts on red wagon origins

J. D. Muldowney and Bro’s Kitty Chorus

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

It’s sad when something doesn’t come up in Google whatsoever. J. D. Muldowney & Bro. – nothing. Neither address brings anything up. 164 Main looks like a parking lot now on Google Maps, but 373 could still be an old building. Not even the illustrator, J. H. Ives, shows up in search results. So, this little advertising card holds a bunch of mysterious info, guarded by a chorus of partially-anthropomorphized kitties. It’s printed on a stiff card, not as thick as a postcard but thicker than paper, and it looks like it may have been gummed.