Marilyn Monroe Still Alluring At 90

marilyn monroe blowing out candle on cakeI continually swear that I’m not going to write, again, about Marilyn; but here I am again

I may have been able to to get away with a wistful smile & a re-Tweet or two in the honor of her 90th birthday. But then I discovered of the photo show in honor of the icon’s birthday — and from there, a very important fact that I had missed for low these X years.

In 2010, a collection of Marilyn’s personal journals, poems, letters, and the like was published in Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters by Marilyn Monroe, edited by Stanley Buchthal and Bernard Comment. (Can you even imagine having access to such intimate ephemera?!)

monroe notebook

As Lucy Bolton notes at the BBC, “This shows how the process of writing was integral to Monroe’s self care and well being. She could also be honest here, perhaps in a way that she couldn’t be elsewhere.” Including both the cruel and the kind. It’s the self-talk that fascinates me the most. Again from Bolton:

In her so-called Record notebook from around 1955 she writes that her “first desire was to be an actress” and that she is striving to work fully and sensitively, “without being ashamed of it”. Her drive to work on herself and her craft was merciless: “I can and will help myself and work on things analytically no matter how painful”, and she notes in her notebook a single line, “having a sense of myself” – as if the words ground her in some way and remind her of what she needs to keep in mind.

This is not just to be coveted for the personal diary of a celebrity aspect. This is the self-reflective artist at work.

remember there is nothing you lack – nothing to be self conscious about yourself – you have everything but the discipline and technique which you are learning and seeking on your own

And it’s the documentation of a woman’s life, which I find supremely interesting, most poignant, relateable. How many of us, sadly, can relate to these words of Monroe?

I guess I have always been deeply terrified to really be someone’s wife since I know from life one cannot love another, ever, really… starting tomorrow I will take care of myself for that’s all I really have and as I see it now have ever had

This is the stuff you miss when you swear off your collecting, your obsession. Oh, but how easy it is to be pulled back in! Another book on the wishlist. No; scratch that. I think I’ll buy myself a birthday gift early. I’m convinced it’s what Marilyn would want me to do.

Help! I Was Framed – And Did Not Like It

DSC00221

Pick: Well, Grin, nice find! Those old promotional booklets from WESTVACO Printing and Publishing should be popular. Entitled “Westvaco Inspirations for Printers”, they have a lot of neat advertising pictures, ready to frame! The paper is much more solid than magazine “tear sheets”, they are nice quality pages. The pages are marked with the specialty type of paper used, pretty cool! Let’s pull some out and look for frames!

DSC00236Grin: What? Are you crazy? These will be much better as a whole booklet. Lovers of  “Advertising from the Golden Age”, the 1920s and 30s, will be delighted to have these in their collection.

Pick: But check out some of those ads. The artists are top-of-the-line and even the articles, like the one on Will Bradley, is framable! And pictures by Robert Cheveux, Cavarrubias, Will Hollingsworth, Maxfield Parish, these are incredible.

Grin: I just do not have the heart to tear these up. Although, I do agree that the page showing the Erte’ ad for nylon stockings is awesome. I can see it in a period frame, perhaps in a bathroom or on a vanity.

DSC00225Pick: So I am swaying you, huh? That’s hard to believe since you have that stubborn Austrian gene from your dad.

Grin: Stubborn? My dad and I argued all the time over who was most stubborn and I believe I won (meaning HE was more bull-headed.)
In any case, no, I am not convinced.

Pick: Well, if not separated, what will you do with them? Coffee table books have lost popularity (at least since Kramer had his pop-up book.)

Grin: Well, we have a daughter who loves ephemera and her husband is a “font-lover”, so perhaps they’d like to check them out before we decide what to do.

DSC00233Pick: Well, how would it be if you listed just one of them on-line. Maybe you’ll get some information on their value or what type of buyer might be inclined to purchase these.

Grin: That sounds perfect for Etsy. It just might work. For once, we have reached a pleasant compromise. Dad would be proud!

[Editor’s Note: Westvaco, originally the Piedmont Pulp and Paper Company and then The West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company, became MeadWestvaco when it merged with The Mead Corporation in January, 2002. You can find the first listing of these Westvaco. publications here!]

Mysterious Book-Box

The office manager at work called me into her office after lunch today: she handed me this little “book”, and I opened it:

amy-book-box-1Turns out it isn’t a book at all —

amy-book-box-2

— and inside is an accordion-folded strip, with numbers on each ‘fold’:

amy-book-box-3They’re only numbered on one side — 6, 7, 8, then “5 TO 10”, whatever that means.   Between the “In Fond Remembrance” on the spine, the bird’s-nest inside, and the numbering system, I’m baffled as to what its original purpose is.  The whole thing is tiny — maybe 2″ x 1″ x 1/2″ altogether, like two matchboxes stacked.  Anyone out there in Internetland seen this before?

 

 

 

Remember These Children’s Books?

Anyone else remember these vintage fairy tale books with the fancy “winky” cover inserts? If you are of a certain age, they are iconic as well as nostalgic.

RARE 1st Cover Snow Queen Child IZAWA SHIBA PRO GOLDEN Book 1968 PUPPET 1 ED 3D

Often called 3-D books, the iconic images on the front cover are actually lenticular designs created in Japan. Most of these books date to the 1960s. By the 1970s, the books were republished without the plastic inserts on the covers; instead, they were replaced with standard photographs of the posed puppets Those images themselves are rather iconic — to those of us who are of a certain age. This one is The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson illustrated by Shiba Productions and published by Golden Books. Via Little Slice of Heaven.

vintage Snow Queen Book 1968 PUPPET lenticular 3D

Movie Tie-In Paperbacks: Judging A Book With Matt Dillon On The Cover

In a post sure to rile up book lovers, I shall discuss the judgment of books by their covers; namely collecting movie tie-in paperbacks. It may not be big-time Collecting with a capital ‘C’ (at least in terms of dollar value), but copies of these old paperbacks certainly have more appeal to some folks than mass market sized books sans film adaptation covers. (And bonus points for those with photo pages with scenes from the movie.)

In general, such book collecting practices have perks for parents too: A) you can foster interest in reading if you let your kids (during those uninterested in reading years) buy books based on movies or the re-released film versions; and B), kids digging for “Now a Major Motion Picture!” covers remain occupied (with less whining) longer at the thrift store, rummage sale, flea market, etc.

But as with most of my collecting tales, I’ll be discussing one title in specific: Tex, by S.E. Hinton, copyright 1979 (my copy is the second Dell Laurel-Leaf printing, August, 1982).

tex s.e. hinton

It’s true that I was drawn to this paperback simply because Matt Dillon was on the cover. First, because I had a thing for Dillon back in the day. (I won’t apologize for it — but I will apologize to Jackie Earle Haley for mistakenly remembering Dillon as playing the bad boy Kelly in Bad News Bears.) And second because I figured that if Dillon — and Meg Tilly — were in some early-80’s flick that I don’t recall, it must have been down-right cheesy, and I’m a girl who loves her kitsch.

But, in a surprise left to the temple — which will undoubtedly thrill my fellow bibliophiles — this book wasn’t the breezy-cheesy-chuckle I’d thought.

My first clue came just a few pages into reading, when my 13 year old spotted me nose-deep, and asked if she could read it when I was done. I thought it was for the cover’s hot bad boy on the cycle. But it turns out, she recognized the author from a book she loved, The Outsiders. Apparently, it was read (and the film viewed) in school; but I’ll admit, I know nothing of The Outsiders.

After promising that she could borrow it (if she would write her own review — yup, that’s foreshadowing!), I returned my nose to the book and read.

The short story is that Tex is a pretty good read, which is probably why the ALA gave it the Best Book for Young Adults title. It’s full of that misfit angst, friendship stuff (including a budding romance), with plenty of anger issues forced by a dysfunctional family setting. Focused on the male perspective, boys ought to like this book for sure and there are plenty of things for girls to like too (including horses!) too.

My first thought was to mention that the story isn’t dated; but then I remembered that it isn’t dated based on my perspective… See, I grew up in a world where kids didn’t have cell phones, so maybe the lack of electronic gadgetry will ring of ye olden days to kids today. And back in the day, we kids got to hang-out at carnivals etc., without either parents or the parental fears of the dangers of strangers we have today… So maybe it is dated. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how my 13 year old feels about it. (Though I’ll admit, she doesn’t have a cell phone either; so her perspective might be tainted with our old world ways.)

In any case, I never saw the book’s reveal coming — something I can rarely say about fiction in general, let alone a book intended for teens. So Hinton’s story gets high praise from me.

Reading it brought back all those teenage feelings, a general nostalgia; picturing Matt Dillon doing all those things didn’t hurt either. The cover shot of Dillon on the motorcycle might have been a bit misleading (in true promo-fashion, it captures a dramatic scene depicting the physical action of an epiphany), but that’s the worst thing I can say. And hey, that’s what got me to pick up the book in the first place.

While most used copies of Tex sell for a buck or two (and mine was only 50 cents at a thrift store), used copies of Tex with Matt Dillon on the cover can be quite pricey.

But if you’re a Dillon fan, or a fan of the film, it’s probably worth it to spend more on a collectible copy.

tex back cover

Suitable For Framing: Illustrations by Diana Thorne | Collectors’ Blog


Diana Thorne’s history is quite intriguing. She was born in Russia in 1895 and due to the tumultuous times, her family went from Canada to Germany to England. Her first teacher in the “art world” was William Stang.

See on www.collectorsquest.com

Children & Animal Stars Lost To Film Collectors

In the December 1972 issue of Films in Review, in the regular Films on 8 & 16 column, Samuel A. Peeples laments what is available on film.

I am struck by the current lack of public acceptance of certain kinds of screen entertainment, most notably short subjects, newsreels, and child and animal stars. Television is blamed for the decline in the first two, and the greater sophistication of today’s young people for the last two.

Very few of the old films featuring animal stars have survived. The private film collector can purchase a few 8mm prints starring Rin Tin Tin, and a couple of Westerns featuring his marvelous pony, Fritz, and even a complete print of Rex, King of Wild Horses; occasionally the collector can find prints of 16mm sound features starring various cowboys and “their” horse and/or dog co-stars. But that’s about all, and even the currently popular “retrospective” programs of films of the past have yet to bring back any of the fondly remembered great animal stars.

Like every other kid who was around during the last years of the silents, I loved animal pictures.

I think you can see where Peeples is going. Similar feeling film fans can click to read the larger scans.

Images sent in by Jaynie of Here’s Looking Like You, Kid. Jaynie has shared more from this issue; see The Lovely Nazimova.

I am a Shark Collector

In my own way, I am a shark collector.

I don’t keep stuffed sharks, whether real sharks or cotton stuffed. I don’t really have much at all to show for my shark collection. Not any more at least.

It still bugs me that my brother threw away the shark book I had been given for a long ago birthday. The book was published in 1976, full of paintings of sharks done by Richard Ellis.

I’d been thinking about the book this week, but I couldn’t remember the name of the book or the painter/ author. So I began digging online. I found it.

My Mother thought it was weird to have an interest in sharks, a predatory animal from the ocean. She tried to talk to me about it and talk me out of it. I knew I didn’t have a weird interest. I’m not planning to swimming with sharks, I don’t think about trying to make friends or pet sharks or hunt them or anything else really. I like to look at the sharks, in the photographs and paintings.

I think I like their sleek lines against the backdrop of the ocean. The ocean Richard Ellis paints is quiet, sparkling and bouncing with light hitting the water and the smooth looking shark coasting through the water. I also like the photos of sharks in the waves and crashing ocean. Yes, we know they are dangerous, but there’s more to them. They are a quiet, skilled predator, at home in their universe.

Have you had a book which sticks in your mind due to the loss of the book? Is it worthwhile buying the book again, even if it isn’t about collecting it as much as being able to see and read it again?

I thought about getting another copy of the book. But, it seems unfair when I did have one. So, I decided to leave it. A book unopened, sort of. However, if I see the book somewhere else, like a thrift store, I might get it. This is an emotional decision rather than anything base on logic. Don’t judge me, as they say when they know they have given the appearance of being loopy.

So, at the moment, my shark collection is all online. Available to be shared with anyone who follows the link on Snip.it. (Note: Snip.it closed their service).

Bring Back the Real Hard Cover Books

There will always be something special about a hard cover book. I mean, a real hard cover, not what passes for them now in the world of publishing and retail outlets. Those big sized soft cover books will never be hard covers, just cheap stand-ins. It bugs me each time I see them called ‘hard cover’ because there is nothing hard at all about those covers.

I don’t know when I was given my first hard cover book any more. Likely it was from my Grandmother, she was a book person. My Dad’s Mother, people on my Mother’s side of the family aren’t much into reading. They’ve been known for cooking, baking and stealing horses somewhere in the distant past.  My Dad’s side were the educated, reading, law abiding sort of people. My Grandmother wrote and self published a few books of her own.

Not surprisingly, the first hard cover books I had were story books, fairy tales and fantasy. I can remember books by Enid Blyton and the series of Katy Did books by Susan Coolidge. Later I would read Nancy Drew. They were only out in hard cover editions then.

I miss holding a real book – the way the spine wouldn’t bend and the pages would fall open differently than any paperback book. Bookmarks suit a hard cover book. They never look so elegant and romantic in a paperback.

Depending on your age, you may remember fixing hard covers, adding a bit of tape to the bookbinding. Or, recovering your hard cover book with a soft cover of some kind which would keep the hard cover from getting messy. Some hard covers were shiny or real leather on the older books. They would show fingerprints if you didn’t give them a temporary paper kind of cover. Now there are only paperback books, the hard covers are gone. Just the word and a few elderly books are all that remain.

The Medium In The Math Lesson

When I first spotted this page in Study Arithmetics: Grade Three, a vintage school primer published by Scott, Foresman and Company, I thought of the old filmstrips we had in school. But it turns out, the film show in this old math lesson is “moving picture” film. There are actually several lessons using film as a teaching tool, which is rather cool. If the concept of movie film being understood enough at this time for the average third grader to put to use learning math amazes you, just remember that film was then more commonplace than it is today.

Not all of the lessons are as outdated as you might think! You can see different images from this book here.

She’s A ‘Lil Bit Country; He’s A ‘Lil Bit Rock & Roll

I’ve never scored a storage unit at auction, but over the holiday weekend, at Maxwell Street Days in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, I met a guy who did. He ended up buying a storage unit that had once belonged to Western Publishing, and in it was the sweet stuff of a 1970s childhood… Among the items I purchased from him these great Donny & Marie show collectibles, each copyright 1977, Osbro Productions Inc.

Donny and Marie: The Top Secret Project, by Laura French, illustrated by Jan Neely, a Little Golden Book (number 160).

Donny and Marie: The State Fair Mystery, a Whitman Tell-A-Tale Book (number 2635), story by Eileen Daly, pictures by Olindo Giacomini.

Donny & Marie, a Whitman coloring book or “color book” (number 1641) with paper dolls to cut-out on the back. Inside, there are pages of clothes to color and then put on the paper-doll Donny and Marie.

Donny & Marie, a sticker book, Whitman number 2188. There are photos on the cover, but inside, the stickers and pages you stick them on are illustrations.

Two Whitman Frame-Tray Puzzles (B4542-1 and B4542-2), each with a different photo of Donny and Marie Osmond. Each in its original factory-sealed plastic covering.

Each item is new, never used, as minty-fresh as you’d find on store shelves back in the day! I’m saving one of each for my collection, and selling some too — to bring joy to others.

(Another) Back To School Primer On Collecting Vintage Children’s School Books

It’s that time of year again, when children head back to school. While parents feel that special mixture of worry and relief, many children head back to school with a groan. But school must not be all that bad — or why else would so many adults collect vintage school books?

Of course, like any collection, a collector may begin collecting the books they had as a child but find themselves adding editions that came before (and after) the versions they were assigned… Adding more books by the same author, publisher, illustrator… And there are other books besides primers and reading books. Every school subject had its texts. There are books on geography, math, science, sociology — even text books for adult learners on accounting, typing, welding, etc. Every one of those niches has its collectors, whether they are collecting to preserve memories or the history of an occupation or industry. Literally not sticking to the subject is one way to amass great shelves full of old school books.

Some collectors primarily collect, or begin collecting, the old children’s school books for the illustrations, photographs, and images inside. For many collectors, it is the pretty pictures which they fondly remember and seek. As many illustrators of children’s books had prominent careers, with their works seen outside of school walls (and homework at the kitchen table), some collectors end up with vintage readers etc. simply collecting the careers of their favorite illustrators. Others just find old images fascinating; after all, old pictures are still worth a thousand historical (and sometime hysterical) words.

As you can see from the history of Dick and Jane books, there’s more then mere nostalgia involved in collecting antique and vintage school books.  Not in spite of — but because of — old or outdated information, assumptions, and omissions old school books document the history of educational movements and culture in general.

Of course, primers existed long before Dick and Jane, or even the two Williams (Gray and Elson) themselves. The history of primers, of literacy itself, has links to the history of the Bible and the Reformation. FromThe English Primers, 1529-1545, by Charles C. Butterworth:

The name itself was given by the people of England, as early as the fourteenth century, to what was known in Latin as the Book of Hours of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Compiled from materials used in church and monastery, the Primer was intended specially for the laity, to guide the devout layman in his private daily devotions or to help him bear his part in the services of the Church.

…It is supposed by some that the name Primer was derived from Prime, the first of the Hours. But most authorities believe that from the start the name was applied to what was naturally regarded in many households as their first book (liber primarius), either because it was in such constant service or, more likely, because it was useful in learning to read, especially in Latin. No evidence at hand is of sufficient antiquity to settle the question.

As time passed, we can thank (or blame) primers and their instruction of children and adults for the loss of Latin as a primary language and for the empowerment of the everyday person in general. These old school books educate us about more than issues and movements of religion, slavery, city life in an Industrial Age, prohibition, etc., but about the treatment of the people living through them. Depictions, descriptions, and even omissions tell the story of how we once treated women, children, the physically and mentally handicapped, the aging, native peoples, the poor, and even wealthy white men. Through these old educational books, we see the the documented history of how people were treated — and just when society demanded that we treat them better. These books are the documentation of our societal values, of our tolerance and intolerance.

Along with nostalgic collectors, scholars, and historians, many parents today are buying vintage school books and primers to use with homeschooling and helping assist their children with learning. (Since the way we instruct our children in the classroom has changed over the years, some older books are actually sought for teaching those with special needs; it’s another way to try to reach and teach.) This increases the competition for primers, readers, math books, and other books for which the information is not dated.

When selecting a book to add to your collection, condition is always an issue. Children’s books always have condition issues. Along with underlined text, attempts to solve problems, and the doodles of a bored or distracted student, many primers and texts were passed down to the next child in the family or to new students at the start of a new year. Passing through so many hands means more wear and tear. Along with more smudges, dog-eared pages, rubbed corners, and even notes from one child to the next child assigned the book, there’s the greater likelihood of torn and missing pages, fatigued or spent bindings, and lost covers. School copies, even teacher editions, will have stamps and official markings; though typically less than library copies.

Expecting antique or even vintage primers, readers, and other school books to be pristine or collectible-conditions clean is unrealistic. I’m not saying finding such a copy is impossible, but given the fact that these old texts were often tossed out for being obsolete, it’s amazing we have any around at all. Suffice it to say, the prettier the book, the prettier the pennies you’ll pay for it.

For some of us, signs of use are part of the charm. Not just the doodles, or notes which tell you of the previous owners, but even covers rubbed bare and split signs are signs one can compare to a well-loved stuffed animal. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, books can become real with love.

PS All the images here are from books I will be selling, either at eBay at our yard sale this weekend.

A Back To School Primer On Collecting Vintage Dick & Jane Books

Dick and Jane books are among the most popularly collected school books. This is because the series of books was used for over 40 years in American schools. That’s millions of children who were taught by Dick, Jane, Sally, Pam, Penny, Mike, their neighbors, families, and pets! Here’s a bit of history on the vintage Dick and Jane series of books.

In the late 1920s, Zerna Addis Sharp sought out William S. Gray, a renowned educational psychologist and reading authority from the University of Chicago, and pitched to him her philosophy that children are more receptive to reading if the books contained illustrations related to them and their lives. Gray was impressed enough to hire Sharp. While illustrations of the family Sharp created were published in earlier versions of primers by Scott, Foresman and Company, it wasn’t until later that Dick and Jane would appear by name.

In 1930, Gray and William H. Elson, along with May Hill Arbuthnot, created the Curriculum Foundation Series of books for Scott, Foresman and Company.  Here Dick & Jane and their family appeared in the first edition of the Curriculum Foundation Series pre-primer called Elson Basic Readers. In this edition, the baby sister was not named yet (she was simply called “Baby”), the cat was called “Little Mew”, and Spot, the dog, was a terrier.

In 1934, the pre-primer was renamed Dick and Jane and a second book, also a pre-primer, More Dick and Jane Stories, was added. In 1936, the series title changed to Elson-Gray Basic Readers to acknowledge Gray’s role in the series (Sharp was not acknowledged, despite what would be a 30 year career at Scott, Foresman & Company). Eleanor Campbell and Keith Ward did the illustrations, and Marion Monroe also authored some of these early editions of the Dick and Jane books.

Scott, Foresman and Co. retired the Elson-Gray series in 1940, but Dick and Jane remained in the Basic Readers and their Think-and-Do workbooks. Now the baby sister is named Sally — and she gets a teddy bear named Tim, the cat becomes Puff, and Spot becomes a Cocker Spaniel. New books in the series were introduced in 1940 and 1946. In Canada, English and French versions of the Dick and Jane books were translated and published by W.J. Gage & Co., Limited; and British English versions were published by Wheaton in Exidir in the UK. Official Catholic editions of the series, the Cathedral Basic Readers, were created to teach religious themes along with reading. For example, Sally, Dick, and Jane was retitled Judy, John, and Jean to reflect Catholic Saints and to include stories on morality. In the 1946 edition, Tim the teddy was removed and a toy duck was added. Also, Texas had its own editions of the the books in 1946. Another author, A. Sterl Artley, began writing Dick and Jane books in 1947. By the end of the 1940s, the Collection Cathedral was published for French-Canadian Catholics.

By the 1950’s, over 80% of first-graders in the United States were learning to read with Dick and Jane. New editions whose titles began with “The New” were added, and Robert Childress would become the illustrator. But it was during this decade that Dick and Jane et al. would find themselves under strong attack. Concerned groups criticized everything from misrepresentations of perfection and other cultural issues to matters of literacy itself. In 1955’s Why Johnny Can’t Read, Rudolf Flesch blamed the look-say style of Dick and Jane readers for not properly teaching children how to read or appreciate literature. While phonetics were always a part of the Dick and Jane series, there was not enough for the growing movement of phonics fans. For all of these reasons, most of the major changes to the Dick and Jane series occurred in the 1960s.

In 1962, Helen M. Robinson was the new head author, the books had new material (including more phonics), new illustrations by Richard Wiley, and Dick and Jane had matured, in age and sophisticated. The initial printings of the 1962 soft-cover Dick and Jane books increased in page size and did not have the white tape reinforcement on the spine. The covers of these editions fell off rather easily — which is why they are so hard to find with covers intact.  As a result, Scott, Foresman and Company added the reinforced taped spines and advertised the feature heavily. (These books were never issued as hardcovers; any hardcover copies were either library bindings or were rebound later.)

But in 1965, both Civil Rights school integration and President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act would continue to challenge the book publisher.

Scott, Foresman and Company worked to address the school integration and inclusion issues by once again employing Zerna Sharp’s literacy philosophy. The African-American family, including twins Pam and Penny and their brother Mike, first appeared in the 1964 Catholic School books; public school students were introduced to the African-American family in 1965. (In response to outrage from racist complaints, Scott, Foresman & Company offered alternative covers of the 1965 integrated books; these Child Art editions removed the characters from the covers and replaced them with finger-paint art designs. Later editions of Think and Do books just had solid color blocks.) Also in 1965, the Pacific Press Publishing Association published an integrated version of Fun With Dick and Jane for Seventh-day Adventists. Entitled Friends We Know, Jesus appears on the covers along with Dick, Jane and Mike.

In the mid 1960s, Scott, Foresman and Company tried to address the phonics issue by introducing books in an experimental language called Initial Teaching Alphabet or ITA. The Experimental Edition of the Scott-Foresman pre-primer was titled Nou Wee Reed. These ITA Dick and Jane books are rare finds.

In the late 1960s, the Dick and Jane books expanded to include three new series based on academic performance. For those performing below grade level, there was Open Highways. (Original printings of these books had “The Open Highways Readers” printed on the spine; later printings just had “Open Highways”.) For strong readers, Scott, Foresman and Company added Wide Horizons, self-directed readers which did not have workbooks, and for even more advanced or gifted readers, there was also Bright Horizons. Reading Inventory tests were added to the Dick and Jane series to use as a placement guide.

Despite all Scott, Foresman and Co. tried to do, the book publisher just couldn’t overcome all the objections, especially those regarding the too-perfect Dick and Jane world. The goody-goody kids and their ideal gender stereotyped simplicity was no longer relatable or desirable.  The series was officially ended in the late 1960s, replaced in 1970 with Scott, Foresman Reading Systems. (However, in 1975, the 1962 pre-primer was republished by the American Printing House for the Blind in a large type edition with black and white images for sight-impaired children.) Still, Dick and Jane books continued to be ordered and sold from warehouse stock well into the 1970s.

The books Dick and Jane collectors are searching for today are those which managed to be saved — and held onto — by teachers, staff, and students, despite the fact that many schools were even ordered to destroy all remaining copies of works in the series. For these reasons, along with the usual wear and tear of children’s books, finding vintage Dick and Jane books in pristine conditions is very difficult. Collectors learn to live with writings, doodles and marks, missing pages, etc. — or pay steep prices for not having signs of use.

Over the decades, many Dick and Jane materials were produced. Along with the readers and primers mentioned, there were other subject books, such as art, health, math, etc. There were teacher editions; books on teaching techniques; large display books placed on easels, called Our Big Book; posters and picture cut-outs for classroom display; picture and word flash cards; LP record albums; games for the classroom; and other teaching aids.

On the business end, Scott, Foresman and Co. sent out catalogs, newsletters, and promotional items, such as calendars, greeting cards, and Christmas ornaments. These items were produced in much smaller quantities and, being ephemeral in nature, are rare finds.

But Dick and Jane live on.

In 1977, George Segal and Jane Fonda would star in Fun with Dick and Jane, a film based on a Gerald Gaiser story about the failed promises of a Dick and Jane perfect world. (The film was remade with Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni in 2005.)

In 2003, Grosset & Dunlap rereleased original Dick and Jane primers, selling over 2.5 million copies in just over a year even with a publisher disclaimer that the books were nostalgic and not to be used to teach children to read. Due to the popularity of the reissue, reproductions and new related merchandise featuring the iconic imagery and catch phrases, like “See Spot run!”, has been produced.

Additional Resources:

A rather complete list of original Dick and Jane books is here.

Carole Kismaric’s Growing Up with Dick and Jane: Learning and Living the American Dream captures the nostalgia while tracing the cultural points of the Dick and Jane series.

Image Credits:
(In order they appear)

Our Big Book, Dick and Jane Teacher’s Classroom Edition, via into_vintage.

First Dick and Jane book, the 1930 Elson Basic reader, via Tiny Town Books & Toys.

Set of 11 vintage Dick and Jane readers from the 1940s and set of 13 readers from the 1950s, via Wahoos House.

The 1963 Judy, John And Jean New Cathedral Basic Reader, via Keller Books.

Set of 13 books from 1960s, via Wahoos House.

A set of 1930s Dick and Jane flashcards, via Wahoos House; vintage Dick and Jane Blackout Game, circa 1950s, and 1951 Poetry Time three-record Dick and Jane set, narrated in the voice of May Hill Arbuthnot one of the original Dick and Jane authors, via Tiny Town Books & Toys.

The 1954 Scott, Foresman and Company Dick and Jane sales catalog, via Tiny Town Books & Toys.

Elvis Presely Memorabilia & Signature Auction

The Heritige Elvis Memorabilia Signature Auction will be held August 14, 2012, in Memphis — with online bidding ending at 10:00 PM Central Time the night before. Some of the rare items included in this auction are:

A sealed copy of a first pressing of Elvis’ first album (RCA LPM-1254, 1956), which contains Blue Suede Shoes. The auction estimate is $3,000 “and up”.

If you prefer something more intimate, there’s Elvis Presley’s signature on a Humes High School library card from 1948. The card proves then 13-year old boy who would become The King checked out a copy of The Courageous Heart: A Life of Andrew Jackson For Young Readers. The card was discovered years later by a Humes High librarian while clearing some old books from inventory and is offered with the copy of the book along with a COA from Richard Consola. Estimated value is $4,000 — and up.

For your wall, a hand-painted concert poster promoting the December 10th, 1954, performance at the Eagles Nest nightclub (located on Highway 78, outside of Memphis) which was previously owned by Los Angeles KRTH-FM (101.1) disc jockey and Elvis aficionado, Brian Beirne. (The vintage concert poster is also signed by Scotty Moore and D.J. Fontana.) Auction estimate is at least $30,000.

There’s also a 1934 National Style “O” Model Resonator Guitar (Serial Number S5245) played and signed by Elvis Presely:

A 1950s Country & Western band from Harrisville, Rhode Island, named Uncle Jim and the Westones sometimes played gigs at county fairs in Tennessee, appearing on the same bill with a young upstart named Elvis Presley who occasionally sat in with them. After an occasion where Elvis played this very same resonator guitar, he signed it for its owner, Westones leader Jim Riley. The signature is between the slots on the headstock of this beautiful, original instrument. Presley apparently used a blue ballpoint pen and he pressed down hard enough to break though the varnish and leave a deep, permanent impression into the wood. Careful viewing shows much of the blue ink remaining.

Auction estimate on the guitar is $5,000 and up.

If you’re a movie Elvis fan, there’s an early Elvis Presley signed motion picture contract dated March 5, 1956:

Two pages, mimeographed copies of the original typed document, dated “March 5, 1956,” outlining the agreement Hal B. Wallis and Joseph H. Hazen of Paramount Studios made with the then 21 year old Presley as he was embarking on his film career; eleven ‘boiler plate’ points are listed, including salary [“First yearly period $15,000 / Second yearly period $25,000,” etc.], transportation [“You agree to furnish me with round-trip first class transportation to Hollywood and to allow me $50.00 a day expenses…”], and other like terms; signed on the second page in blue ballpoint ink “Elvis Presley” and in blue and black fountain pen ink by the two producers; this document was likely a file copy as it’s mimeographed, though all signatures are actual ink on paper. 11″ x 8.5″. COA from Rich Consola. Estimate: $8,000 – up.

If iconic American moments are your thing, how about the suit Sonny West, Elvis’ friend and personal bodyguard, wore during that historic meeting between Elvis and President Nixon in 1970? It may not be Elvis’, but it was literally darn close! The auction estimate is over $6,000.

Ghost Signatures and Diamond Dealers

The front page of the Pittsburg Post-Gazette for Tuesday, August 3rd, 1920, brought a mysterious story:

Diamond Merchant’s Sudden Death Closes Pages In Famous ‘Ghost Book’

Chicago, Aug. 5 — The sudden death of Samuel T.A. Loftis, millionaire diamond dealer, after a night of wine and taxis, has closed the pages of a famous “Ghost Book,’ which Loftis has kept up for 14 years.

The book was found in the dead man’s apartment. It’s pages are of glazed paper, which, after being written on, were creased down the middle, causing the writing to blot in a freakish double smear.

Loftis, friends say, gave credence to the significance of “ghost signatures.”

This verse occupies the front page of the “Ghost Book”:

“Shadows form in our ghostly past; Ho! Ho! young man. Ho! Ho! From forgotten graves they will rise at last; It is so, young man, it is so. You may run, you may dodge, you may Twist, you may bend, The flying phantoms win in the end; Ho! Ho! old man, Ho! Ho!”

No further explanation of his death is given, not even why a photograph of his ex-wife was made part of the story.

The late Mr. Loftis held the distinction of inventing a new business model for diamond dealing: selling directly to the public on credit. Loftis Bros. and Company advertised in large metropolitan newspapers, offering low monthly payments for fine diamond jewelry. Owning diamonds was now within the reach of the burgeoning middle-class, but excessive debt was also one facet of the beginnings of the lending crisis that brought on the Great Depression. Loftis’ business was launched shortly after DeBeers began their campaign to push diamonds into the forefront; Loftis’ credit system helped make the diamond the de facto wedding ring stone for people of any income.

A “ghost signature” is produced just as described in the Loftis article. The process was much more effective in the days of fountain pens, with slow-drying India ink and a loose method of depositing the ink. The ‘glazed paper’ helped the process by preventing the ink from soaking in. The book was held sideways and the subject was encouraged to sign the book on half of a page, in their official hand and leaving as much ink as possible. The page was creased in the middle and the page folded back upon itself, creating a Rorschach-like inkblot, something for the mind to interpret in innumerable ways. Faces, bodies, animals, spirits, and monsters all appeared in the squished and smeared John Hancocks of the willing contributors to a Ghost Signature book.

As you might have guessed, the business model of preying on the turn-of-the-century middle-class with a promise of acquiring unaffordable luxury doesn’t spring from the minds of well-balanced, altruistic people. In June of 1907, Samuel Loftis suffered a gunshot wound and a split scalp…caused by his brother, Joseph Loftis — one of the “Loftis Bros.” on the masthead — during a business meeting. Samuel Loftis had read a motion to remove his brother as vice president due to unignorable indiscretions; the secretary of the company, Loftis’ wife, seconded the motion. One dissenting ‘nay’, from the soon-to-be-ousted vice-president, wasn’t enough to overturn the motion. Joseph Loftis was discharged from his position, and in return he emptied all six chambers of his revolver in Samuel Loftis’ direction and then leapt upon the wounded president with the intent of finishing the job by beating him with the butt of the revolver.

Samuel Loftis declined to press charges. Joseph was sent west and was the head of the Loftis Bros.’ Omaha office until Samuel’s death.

In 1910, Clifford Loftis, the other member of the “Bros.”, was arrested, but acquitted, in the murder of Joseph Lafferty in Bakersfield, California.  Lafferty had stopped Clifford from beating a horse, which resulted in a fistfight.  Clifford wasn’t satisfied with the result and brought a gun along to renew the discussion the next day.  The New York Times reported that Clifford, a cowhand at the time, had been sent west and left out of the diamond business “to get him away from the temptations of city life.”

Mark Twain wrote that the “last fad is ‘ghost – autographs.’ You write your name down the crease, then fold & press the paper while the ink is still wet & will blot. It generally makes something resembling a skeleton.” He had made one of his own in 1905 and sent it off to his daughter, Clara. The “fad” enjoyed a brief popularity at a time when autograph books were becoming passe. From the mid 19th century until the early 20th it was a friendly gesture to exchange or collect signatures in a little autograph book as a memento of friendships and other events. The mid-19th century also brought the fun artwork of “klecksographie,” popularized by the poet and artist Justinus Kerner. The “ghost signature” overlap of inkblot art and autograph exchanges wasn’t a lasting fad, but it held enough attraction to spawn custom hardbound books designed specifically for making ghost signatures, like the one owned by Samuel Loftis. At the height of the fad, around 1909, ghost autographs were solicited from presidents, dukes and dutchesses, and other celebrities.

In 1909, Samuel Loftis and his wife, Harmon — the company secretary — dissolved their marriage in a fit of hostility. Harmon cited abuse and neglect, stemming from Samuel publicly striking Harmon in the face at at the South Shore Country Club ballroom. Samuel responded by charging his wife with drunkenness and infidelity. The divorce was granted in 1912, and Harmon moved to California with a $125,000 check in her pocketbook.

Samuel T. A. Loftis

Samuel, free of the shackles of marriage, set himself on a path marked by wine, women, and song, and his multi-million-dollar diamond business allowed him to afford all the indiscretions his heart desired. The housekeeper of his Chicago apartment described dozens of women coming and going over the months he resided in the apartment, which would prove to be his final residence. On August 30th, 1920, a drunk Samuel Loftis brought a girl to his apartment, Miss Ruth Woods, the fiancee of a business partner. By the end of the night, the fiancee, furrier Roy Shayne, was at the apartment, and Loftis was dead from a blow to the head. Woods claims she called Shayne for help after Loftis fell and hit his head on the floor. The story the police believed was that Loftis had attempted to ravage Miss Woods by force; she summoned Shayne for assistance, and a liquor bottle to the head ended Loftis’ conquest. An inquest was held, both Woods and Shayne were questioned, and when the inquest ended on August 4th the death was ruled accidental, due to a fall. On August 8th, ten days after Loftis’ death, Shayne and Woods were married in Milwaukee, after receiving a special dispensation to waive the five-day waiting period on Wisconsin marriage licenses.

The original, complete wire story about Loftis’ death included many more details of Woods’ and Shayne’s testimonies, and more information about Loftis’ life. Whether due to sloppy editing or a taste for the bizarre, most newspapers cropped the story down to end just where my quote above finishes: Loftis died, and he had a book of ghost signatures. The sensationalism of the reporter who composed the original wire story appears to have attempted to tie together the reckless life of the Loftis clan to the occultism of the 1920s, and to start a much longer story with an attention-getting zinger. Reporters visited crime scenes, and the book probably caught the eye of a beat reporter looking for something interesting to punch up the article.  Loftis was probably just hip to the fads of the time, and used it as a conversation piece, collecting the autographs of friends and marveling at the mysterious shapes. Loftis’ actual life was far more sinister than the so-called “ghost book” of the news reports.

The poem the newspaper quoted from the forward of Loftis’ ghost book helps identify his book as The Ghosts of My Friends, the most common of the preprinted spirit autograph books from the first decade of the 20th century. The poem is by Gerald Villiers-Stuart, and appeared in his book The Soul of Croesus. Ghosts is attributed to Cecil Henland, who had made a name for herself by producing other books of the same format, with some front material and then blank pages for the purchaser to fill in, and in founding the National Society of Day-Nurseries. Henland married Lieut. Col. Arthur Percival at age 38 in 1907, but was widowed in World War I. Heland’s next most popular book was The Christmas Book, which included blank pages for people to write their wish-lists, and additional pages laid out to record the celebrations and events of the Christmas season.

The Ghosts of My Friends is somewhat common in online stores and websites, with the price varying quite wildly, but mostly sells for around $40. In 2009, a copy belonging to Fred Astaire, or someone in his family, was placed for auction and sold for several hundred dollars. Your Hidden Skeleton is less common and tends to bring a little higher price. People who own copies of either book tend to be rather proud of their ghost signatures, frequently posting samples online. If you’d like to make one of your own but without damaging an antique book, there is a company producing ghost autograph books similar to Cecil Henland’s, which can be purchased from Reflections of My Friends.

 

An Imp For A Centime

Many of my literary tastes were forged in an 8th grade English literature class. I find myself going back to many of those short stories, fond memories of classic and modern literature in little bits with some analysis and language learning involved. One particular tale blew my mind, and planted a seed that has lasted decades — regarding international money systems. I know, I tend to grab on to the boring parts, but bear with me a bit, here.

The story is The Bottle Imp, a short horror-thriller by Robert Louis Stevenson. Keawe, the main character, buys a ‘genie in a bottle,’ so to speak: a bottle imp, a trapped magical being who grants wishes, but with the trope of there being tragedy in the reward. One of the rules of the bottle imp is if you die with it in your posession, your soul is lost. The only way to part with the imp is to sell it, in coin, for less than it was purchased for. Its original purchase was an immeasurable fortune; by the time Keawe gets it, the price is down to $50. Through the story, the price drops and drops, a game of hot potato with the immortal soul as its prize, until Keawe buys back the bottle for a penny.

Here’s the twist: Keawe learns that there are French Polynesian coins worth less than a penny. A centime, he hears, is worth a fifth of a cent, so the hot-potato game goes on until an unlucky sailor ends up with the imp for a single centime, and resigns himself to Hell with nary a complaint.

I believe my teacher explained the centime like a pre-decimal British half-penny, part of a monetary system with many more subdivisions than the U.S. dollar, but she was incorrect: just as there are a hundred pennies to a dollar, there are a hundred centimes in a franc. The truth has more to do with my last article. Keawe exploits the difference in value of international currencies — let’s do the math here. If you’ll remember, the Stella was set at $4 because 20 francs was worth about $3.92. That makes a franc worth about nineteen-and-a-half cents. So, you divide a franc into a hundred parts, and what do you get? Each centime is worth slightly under a fifth of a penny, just as Keawe discovers.

So, you have to give Robert Louis Stevenson a bit of credit for defeating an ancient horror through the vagaries of international currency conversion. Once Keawe is down to a penny, he sells the imp for five centimes — which doesn’t break the rules, because five centimes is ever so slightly less than a U.S. penny in value. Unable to break the currency down even further, and with an odd number of transactions to be made, Keawe is guaranteed to end with a single centime in his pocket and the bottle in the hands of another.

If you want an idea of just how worthless the centime was, fast-forward to 1960 and the introduction of the “new franc”. The nouveau franc was worth 100 of the deprecated franc, making the pre-1960 centime worth 1/100th of a new centime. By the time the 1980s rolled around, even the new centime was removed from circulation due to further devaluation making the coin useless. That centime was worth 0.15 of a eurocent at the time of conversion, or even less than the centime-to-penny conversion of the late 19th century.

If you held on to your centimes since the 1890s, you’d actually make a tidy profit in the collector’s market. 19th century centimes sell for a few dollars at sites like eBay, and are less common than the ten- or fifty-centime coins of the early 20th century. The progressive devaluation of the franc from the late 19th century into the mid-20th century resulted in a variety of changes in designs and metal content, making for a much more interesting collection compared to a complete set of U.S. pennies or quarter-dollars of the same time period. Just make sure you keep a handful of centimes handy: you never know when your eternal soul might be on the line in your international currency exchanges.

A Dickens Of A Big Birthday Celebration: Charles Turns 200

The world is celebrating Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday this year, and one of the many events includes a world tour, retracing the historic steps that Charles Dickens made during his famous American tours, by Gerald Charles Dickens, great great grandson of the author himself. Two days of the historic tour will be celebrations involving Vaillancourt Folk Art, makers of fine chalkware collectibles. (I interviewed Luke M. Vaillancourt, the son of founder & artist Judi Vaillancourt, back in 2009.)

On Friday, September 21, 2012, Gerald Charles Dickens will honor his great great grandfather by doing as Charles Dickens himself did in 1868: performing A Christmas Carol at the Mechanics Hall in Worcester, MA. On on Saturday, September 22, 2012, there will be two performances at Vaillancourt Folk Art in Sutton, MA; at 2:00pm, The Republic of My Imagination and Oliver Twist, and at 7:00pm, A Child’s Journey with Dickens, and The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby.

I know this is a bit early — but it’s a pretty big deal for Dicken’s fans! Get more details and tickets here. And watch for news on more Vaillancourt Dickens’ Christmas items too.

Join The International Bookmark Collectors Exchange

Antique Bookmark

Bookmark collectors may wish to take note of this list of bookmark collectors who are interested in trading bookmarks — worldwide!

 

Send an email to mail@miragebookmark.ch to register in the lists below…
To register, we need your full address, your email address and a personal message from you.
Due to security reasons, we’ll publish only the town and country of your residence.

Currently they have 183 collectors from 36 different countries on the list.

Note that you can also look for collectors to trade with by country too.

To see the latest additions to the exchange list, just scroll down past the offer to purchase 50 bookmarks.

Image from The Art of Bookmark Exhibition.

This Week’s Antiques & Vintage Collectibles Link Round-Up

Collecting Stuff

Derek sheds light on a ghost ad for the Harold Lloyd film Grandma’s Boy which was unearthed in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Our very own Pickin’ of Antiquips, aka Val Ubell, weighs in on the scale and shape of collectibles.

I cover the record number of record collections and obsessively research the history of the Jay Herbert fashion labels.

Cliff reviews The Story of Cigarette Cards (1987) by Martin Murray.

Image via Shorpy.

Books On Film That Bibliophiles Will Approve Of

Whether you’re a member of the Hollywood elite with a book addiction or a less notable bibliophile, you’ve probably desired to see the insides of a book up for auction but haven’t had the time or money to fly to the auction location to inspect it. While many auction houses have made it easier for you to bid long distance, with online and phone bidding, getting a good look at the goods (or bads) remains a problem.

This is especially true of books. But Joe Fay, Manager of Rare Books at Heritage Auctions, explains how the auction house is addressing the issue for book collectors:

Books are especially difficult to fully represent with photography, or to completely describe to someone else in words. A 300-page book has about 320 surface areas to show, counting the covers, all sides of the book, any preliminary pages, and so on. So, here in the rare books department, whenever we can, we take advantage of Heritage Auctions’ continued commitment to employ technology to make the auction process easier, faster, and more transparent, and to deliver to bidders as much information as possible in order to help them make an informed decision about a lot. One particular way we do this is through the use of Video Lot Descriptions (VLDs) for premium lots in our auctions.

A Video Lot Description is a two to four minute video presentation of an auction lot, produced entirely by Heritage Auctions, and hosted on a given item’s webpage once online bidding opens.