Saturday, April 28, 2012

Gangs of New York, c. 1964

We don't need no stinkin' May Pole!  We're the Jets, we're famous!

Actually we were project girls --Amsterdam Houses  in New York City.  This is the section of the housing project closer to West End Ave. The top photo was taken in the playground we called The Boats and Barrels because that's what it featured for us to scamper around on, plus sliding pond and  monkey bars, without that thick padding underneath that kids get today. The bottom two pictures were taken in The Little Park, right in front of the Boats and Barrels.

We were very confused project girls. We loved "West Side Story," and we identified with the Jets. But every girl in this picture has Puerto Rican or Mexican or Cuban heritage! Our mothers all spoke Spanish at home. Huh? What can I say, I think it was the song that did it, you know "When you're a Jet you're a Jet all the way from your first cigarette to your last dyin' day." As I got older,  I saw "West Side Story" with fresh eyes and realized that more than anything else I wanted to be Anita, dancing like crazy on a tenement rooftop. Or at least Rita Moreno playing Anita.

That's me with the poor fitting spring coat and baggy pants-- as the youngest, I got the hand- me-downs from two older sisters.  (I changed to tights and Mary Janes in the last picture, with jump rope slung over my shoulder--don't mess with me, pal). My sister Maria is the tall girl with skinny jeans and ski jacket. My sister Elaine probably took this picture with her Brownie camera. Most of the girls in this picture I'm now in touch with via Facebook.

Click below to see who else is gathering around the May Pole theme...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Automobile costume, 1911

Polly's Paper Playmates: Sister Prue's Automobile Costume, March 5, 1911, The Boston Post. What an adventure that must have been, driving in those early open automobiles on dusty roads. Sister Prue was prepared.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

S.H. & M. Skirt Bindings, c. 1900

A lovely advertising paper doll, the gown of which cleverly displays the item on offer: a bias velveteen skirt binding. The doll has been named "Mabel" but the dress has the name "Florence Bishop." A story lost to time.

Monday, April 23, 2012

At the rink, 1911

Polly's Paper Playmates, "Cousin Janet at the rink, " The Boston Post, Jan. 22, 1911. Note the roller skates on left, ice skates on right. One of many finds at Jayne Keller's paper doll luncheon last weekend.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Stanley's garden, 2005

This 2005 postcard was an invitation to celebrate the 100th birthday of the poet Stanley Kunitz, at Poets House, which he helped establish. I'd heard Kunitz read at the Dodge Poetry Festival, and picked up a couple of his books. Kunitz (1905-2006) was also a gardener, according to Wikipedia:
Kunitz divided his time between New York City and Provincetown, Massachusetts, for most of his life. He enjoyed gardening and maintained one of the most impressive seaside gardens in Provincetown. He was a founder of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, where he was a mainstay of the literary community, and of Poets House in Manhattan.
I'm assuming this photo of Kunitz was taken in his Provincetown garden. The photo, by Marnie Crawford Samuelson, is from his last book, "The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden."

Here is a poem from his 1995 collection, "Passing Through." 

Touch Me

Summer is late, my heart.
Words plucked out of the air
some forty years ago
when I was wild with love
and torn almost in two
scatter like leaves this night
of whistling wind and rain.
It is my heart that's late,
it is my song that's flown.
Outdoors all afternoon
under a gunmetal sky
staking my garden down,
I kneeled to the crickets trilling
underfoot as if about
to burst from their crusty shells;
and like a child again
marveled to hear so clear
and brave a music pour
from such a small machine.
What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire.
The longing for the dance
stirs in the buried life.
One season only,
                          and it's done.
So let the battered old willow
thrash against the windowpanes
and the house timbers creak.
Darling, do you remember
the man you married? Touch me,
remind me who I am.

Passing Through:
The Later Poems, New and Selected

W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Free with a pair of shoes, 1880s

A.R. Hougendobler was a merchant of boots and shoes, according to the 1880 census. He lived in Columbia, Lancaster, Penn. with his wife Maggie and 9 children -- six daughters and three sons. His daughters no doubt had a full set of these paper dolls.

I won't be far from the old Hougendobler homestead this weekend. Jayne Keller's annual Morgantown luncheon is always a treat. You'll find these paper dolls on Carol Carey's sales table.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Clark's Thread Works, Newark, N.J. 1907

Miss Eva M. Parks of Mt. Tabor, N.J. received this postcard in May, 1907 from B.D.:
Hello there! I suppose you are working hard as ever. When you write, send me your photo.  And I will send you one of myself. Write soon.
Pen pals? The address "95 Washington Ave." is also scrawled on the postcard front.

Mt. Tabor, where Miss Parks lived, was founded as a Methodist summer camp ground in 1869, but soon the more affluent members built Victorian cottages on the small lots where they once pitched tents. I visited the town once, it's in Morris County, near Parsippany-Troy Hills and it is a magical hilly enclave, with dozens of  charming small cottages on winding roads, surrounding a village green.

The factory pictured here survived into the 1990s, on the Passaic River in Newark. I believe Union Army uniforms had been made there at one point. A fire destroyed the building sometime around 1998.

Clark Thread issued many colorful trade cards and paper dolls over the years. ONT stands for "our newest thread."

From the "Minuet" Series.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


Peter Pan, 1960. Mary Martin. My all time favorite childhood fairytale-TV special-Peter Pan actor.

It is my heartfelt belief that the best portrayals of Peter Pan have been by women, and they have delivered a not- so -secret message to girls everywhere through the years-- about freedom and possibility.

Take wing, click below.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Willimantic paper doll

Paper doll c. 1880s

No markings. A find at the Ephemera Conference. It resembles an advertising cut-out that I have somewhere...
UPDATE: Those Fascinating Paper Dolls by Marian B. Howard shows the paper doll  on page 189. This is "Louise." Part of a trio of paper dolls first published in Germany and known as "French Dolls" they were published as early as 1884 if not earlier. Also listed in McLoughlin's 1894 catalog.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The New York Public Library

One of my favorite stories of New York City history is that the Croton Reservoir once stood on the site of the 42nd Street library.
The reservoir was opened in 1842 as an above ground, man-made lake, holding 20 million gallons of water. It became a place for people to promenade.

There was a walkway on top of it. Edgar Allan Poe enjoyed strolling around the massive structure. In 1853, right behind the reservoir, The Crystal Palace was erected for an exhibition on what is now Bryant Park. The reservoir was no longer needed by the 1890s, and was torn down.

In 1911, the library officially opened. It is a great and beautiful building. Wikipedia informs that some of the reservoir's original foundation can be found in the South Court of the library. I'll have to look for it next time I'm there.

These early images of reservoir and library are taken from the New York Public Library Digital Archive.

The research room in 2006. Photo by David Iliff. Changes are pending in the beloved library. Will stacks of books be removed to open more of this glorious space to the public? Will it lose the peace and quiet and easy access to a deep archive that attracts scholars and researchers? After reading this article in The Nation, I am worried.

One of my childhood treasures.

Be sure to browse the other pages of Sepia Saturday; click below.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sabbath meal

A vintage scrap showing a Jewish family at the table (click image to enlarge). I see what looks like a loaf of bread in front of the woman in red, so that tells me this is not a Passover seder. The candelabra does not have the nine arms of the Chanukah menorah, so it is not that holiday, either. Now I am just realizing that the whole scene is framed by trees and leaves, and so it leaves me to believe this family is celebrating Sukkoth, an autumn festival. From the Encyclopedia Britannica:
The festival is characterized by the erection of huts made of branches and by the gathering of four species of plants, with prayers of thanksgiving to God for the fruitfulness of the land.
A lovely scrap that might have been a merit award from a Hebrew school, according to the dealer who had it for sale.  Below, another vintage scrap showing Jewish men at prayer.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mrs. Whipple's place card, c. 1930s

A place card for a bridge luncheon, no doubt. I like to think Mrs. Whipple had a fine time, and kept this as a souvenir, perhaps placed it in a scrapbook or shoe box for awhile.

Below, catching up on the Dayton convention. Registration packages are starting to arrive in the mail. I've been enlisted to give a presentation; more on that later. 

Take it away, Garth!

                                COME  FLY  WITH  US !
                                          Email #4
                       THE WORLD'S FINEST AIR MUSEUM !!
Just over 5 miles southwest of your Convention Hotel is the oldest, and
the finest Air Museum in the world - - the National Museum of the
United States Air Force.
Perhaps you or a spouse was in the US Air Force or US Air Corps,
or one of your parents - - or grandparents - - or uncles or aunts.
Perhaps they flew in aircraft that today are seldom seen - - the North
American F-86 Sabrejet, the Lockheed Constellation, the Martin
Marauder, the famed B-17 Flying Fortress, the Lockheed P-38
to mention just a small number of the actual aircraft there.
There are far, far more aircraft - - even the  aircraft of legend from the
earliest years of aviation - - the Wright Brothers 1909 Military Flyer,
the Curtiss 1911 Model D, the SPAD VII, the Curtis Jenny, the Sopwith
Camel, the Bleriot Monoplane, the Nieuport 28, the Fokker D VII,
the DeHavilland DH-4 and so many, many others!
Here, in one location, in three gigantic hangers, plus an outdoor
air park, are the aircraft flown by the US, Great Britain, France,
Germany, that will stir the memories of those who recall them
and perhaps who flew them.
And it's even located at historic Wright Field, where the Wright
Brothers conducted their test flights after Kitty Hawk proved the
feasibility of heavier-than-air flight.
And it's just over five miles from your Convention Hotel !!
And it's free!
Is someone in your family fascinated by engines? Just about
every aircraft engine ever made is here, along with armament;
photographs; exhibits about the Four Chaplains, the Tuskegee Airmen.
the famed Sperry bombsight, the Ferry Command, and the WASPs
- - everything about aviation!
Including a Moon Rock (brought back by Apollo 16), and
the World War II 8th Air Force Control Tower.
There's even a Missile and Space Gallery, with a Mercury Capsule,
a Gemini Capsule, and the Apollo 15 Command Module! Plus some
major IRBMs and ICBMs - - the Jupiter, the Thor, Titans, and
Minuteman that you can view from the ground (they're tall!) or
from an elevated platform.
And - - there's the Research and Development Gallery !!
Sound dry? Lots of bald guys with white lab coats wandering
around writing strange mathematical equations on vertical surfaces?
To the contrary!  The R&D Gallery contains some of the most
storied experimental aircraft in history, and I'll bet that you've heard
of them:
 - the Bell X-1B. The Bell X-1 was the first to break the sound barrier.
 - the XB-70 Valkyrie, the first to fly 5 times the speed of sound.
 - the Bell Textron XV-3, world's first successful vertical takeoff
    and landing (VTOL) tilt-rotor aircraft 
 - the Hawker-Siddeley XV-6A Kestrel, designed for vertical or short
    takeoff, while retaining full speed in normal flight, the Kestrel was
    the predecessor of the famed Harrier aircraft in the Royal Air Force.
 - the Lockheed YF-12A, the predecessor and design basis for the
    SR-71 "Blackbird"
 - and many, many, many more.
Oh, did I mention the Presidential Aircraft ??!!
In a special section of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base are
a number of aircraft that have served Presidents of the US:
  - the Sacred Cow, the only VC-54C ever constructed, flew
    President Franklin Roosevelt to the Casablanca Conference
    with Prime Misister Churchill and General DeGaulle in1943.
 - the Independence, a Douglas VC-118, flew President Truman
   to Wake Island in October 1950 to discuss the Korean situation
   with General Douglas MacArthur.
 - the Columbine III, a C-121, the military version of the Lockheed
   Constellation, was the aircraft used by President Eisenhower
   from 1954 to 1961.
 - Air Force 1, a VC-137C, was the aircraft used by Presidents
   Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, and also served their successors
   through President Clinton. This was the aircraft on which
   Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as the new President on
   November 22, 1963 - - and you may recall the famous photograph
   of Vice-President Johnson taking the oath of office from
   Judge Sarah Hughes, with Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Kennedy
   watching. That scene took place in this aircraft.
In the Presidential Gallery, you'll be able to board the Sacred Cow,
the Independence, the Columbine III, and Air Force 1, and view
several other smaller Presidential aircraft.
I mentioned that the Presidential Gallery (as well as the adjacent
Research and Development Gallery) is in a restricted section of
Wright-Patterson. Wright-Patterson has some highly restricted areas,
and we can't just go wandering through them. There's a special
shuttle bus that transports people to the restricted area (and back)
four times each day - - 9:30 AM, 11:15 AM, 1:30 PM, and 3:15 PM.)
You must sign up for a particular shuttle bus run, and it's strictly
"first come, first served".
Here's what you'll need to show them to register and board the bus:
For US Citizens, a current government-issued photo ID
  (original passport, State photo ID, State Driver's license)
For Canadian citizens, an original passport (not a copy or image),
  or a NEXUS card.
For all other non-US visitors, an original passport (not a copy or image)
Those under 18 must be escorted by an adult (1 adult per 2 children)
Children under 18 are not required to produce ID when accompanying
 their parents.
I cannot begin to mention, let alone describe everything that's here.
There is so much to see in this incredible Museum that you really
should allocate the entire day. Get there early (9 AM or so) so you
can sign up for the shuttle bus to the Presidential Gallery and the
Research and Development Gallery.
One more caveat - - Shuttle buses are not handicapped accessible.
Individuals requiring special assistance to board the bus should contact
the museum's Operations Division in advance at (937) 255-3286 to
arrange transportation.
Now, what about Tours of the Museum?  Let's look at them.
1. Self Tour.  Because the museum is laid out in chronological order,
    beginning with the Wright brothers and going through today's stealth
    aircraft, it's easy for you to self-tour the facility. (You can even take
    a virtual self-tour of the Museum to help you plan your visit.)
2. Heritage Tours.  These are free guided tours that are open to the
    general public. Tours are offered daily at 1:30 p.m., with an additional
    tour at 10:30 a.m. on Saturdays. All tours begin at the entrance to the
    Early Years Gallery (through the Gift Shop and turn right).
    Advance registration is not necessary.
3. Behind the Scenes Tours. These are regularly scheduled, free
    guided tours of the museum's restoration area. Participants are
    shuttled to the restoration hangars, located about one mile from
    the main museum complex. Tours are offered nearly every Friday 
    at 12:15 p.m. Advanced registration is required.
    Registrations are currently being taken for tours through May 2012.
    (If you're interested in the Behind the Scenes Tour, let me know and
    I'll tell you when you can register for an August tour.)
4. Presidential and R&D Galleries Tours.  I told you about these above.
    They're located on the controlled-access portion of Wright-Patterson
    Air Force Base, are accessible using the shuttle bus service from the
    main museum complex. This service is offered on a first-come,
    first-served basis, so you'll want to sign up as soon as you arrive at the
    Museum, since the shuttle buses will fill quickly. Be sure to review the
    ID requirements that I listed above.
When you go to the National Museum of the US Air Force, remember
that while there are chairs and benches in the exhibit hangers, the
floors are concrete, so be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes !!
Yes, there's a cafeteria, the Valkyrie Cafe, located on the second floor
of the Museum. They serve a chicken dinner, a nice variety of
sandwiches both hot and cold, soup, chili, salads, pizza, desserts.
Even breakfast if you get there early. The prices are quite reasonable.
Those who have attended Conventions know all about the "Helper" Prizes.
For those who haven't attended yet, the "Helpers" are wonderful paper
doll or paper doll-related prizes that are donated to the Convention, and
raffled off. The raffle is an exciting time and one of the high points of any
Elaine Price is in charge of the Helper prizes this year, and since many
people have registered already, Elaine would like to get started on the
Helper prizes. So, those who have Helper prizes that they'd like to
donate to the Convention may send them to:
Elaine Price, 5492 Asbury Lake Dr.,#62, Cincinnati, Ohio 45247.
Or - - you may contact Elaine to tell her what you'll bring by writing
to her at the above address or emailng her at
For their protection, be sure that donated items are encased in plastic
and your name and address are on a card enclosed with each item.
In three weeks, we'll be back to tell you of some wonderful buildings
that you can visit - - including a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house,
an 1804 Federal style home, and an 1803 Inn that has hosted
12 US Presidents plus many other notables.
- - Garth
                               August 9 - 12, 2012
                Hope Hotel, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base                             
                                   Dayton,  Ohio                                                                     
                          CONVENTION REGISTRATION
CITY_______________________STATE_______ ZIP/PC__________
Registration:  $185,00 USD 
Absentee Registration:  $75.00 USD
  (Absentee Registrations are limited in number.)
Guest Registration (3 Meals) $85.00
  GUEST NAME:__________________________________________
Make Checks payable to:  Louise Leek 
Mail to:
Mary Young
P.O. Box 9244
Dayton,  OH    45409

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Broad St., Newark, N.J., 1913

Dear Mother, --as the stores at N.Y. closes at noon we will not have anytime for shoping so Julia Lear & I are going over again next week. Was tickled to read your letter this morning. Have written the boys. Give them my best regards. Love to Harry & all. Lovingly your daughter.
I can't make out her name--Bertye? In any event, a sweet note to her mom, Mrs. L. Smith of German Valley in New Jersey.

Earlier pictures I posted near this intersection of Broad and Market (1906 here, and 1908 here) showed different angles on the street, but always bustling with activity. By 1913, the city looks more urbane, with more cars and more money. Autos still share the street with streetcars and horse carriages. The large buildings and signs speak of aspirations, and the growth to come.

To see some modern day streetcars, check out the article at The Atlantic Cities blog,  "The Streetcar as a City's Moving Symbol." The Milan model is quite appealing.