History Of The Silver Screen

In the early days of motion pictures, movie theaters were experiencing a number of public attacks as to their safely for patrons. Among the numerous concerns regarding the dangers movies and theaters presented to families there were the fears for women, primarily of the white slave trade, and the usual new media concerns of eye strain. Naturally, the movie industry sought to calm the public down, including offering movie-goers premiums, which were primarily targeted at women. They also sought to approve amenities, including the screens that the movies were shown upon. Of course, this lead to fierce competition between companies who sought to capitalize on all the money to be made in the film industry.

Many of these ground-breaking and creative companies did not last long. But even if they dominated the industry for a time, both the companies themselves and the technology they provided remain but a footnote in books on film history. This is why ephemera, particularly advertisements from the period, remain so important.

At some point in the 1910s, the Wisconsin Theatre Supply Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, produced this bulletin solely promoting the Gardiner Velvet Gold-Fibre Screen:

Gardiner Velvet Gold-Fibre Screen Wisconsin Theatre Supply Company Advertising

Testimonials on the back page include The Thomas A. Edison Electrical Establishments, the Nicholas Powers Company, Havana’s “The Fausto”, the United States government, John H. Kunsky of Detroit “who probably controls more high class picture houses than any single man in America or probably in the world” and many others.

In the 1920s, the Glifograph Corporation (located at 280 Broadway, New York City) promoted their Glifograph movie screen with this brochure. Glifograph said their screen “makes every seat a good seat”, with “perfect pictures from any angle” due to “stereoscope view”. Promised “no eye strain — no distortion”.

Glifograph Movie Screen Brochure Stereoscope

Also, in the 1930s, there was the “Lustro-Pearl” made by Mandalian Manufacturing Co., of North Attleboro, Mass. If that name sounds at all familiar to you, it’s because Mandalain made those metal mesh purses! Well, at least until the company was bought-out by Whiting & Davis. But just imagine, a film screen made of mesh metal!

Miniature Bibles On Greeting Cards

Did you know you can get a patent for a Bible? Not a copyright, but a patent? If so, why did it take until the 1940s? These were some of the questions I had when I discovered this vintage Christmas card with a miniature Bible on it.

christmasbiblecard

The small Bible, measuring 1 by 1 1/2 inches, is tied onto the card with a ribbon. Untie the ribbon, slide it out of the card, and you have a miniature Bible. According to press at the time, the miniature Bible contains 220 pages of the New Testament plus the 23d Psalm.

Made by the Sorin Bible & Card Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio, the back of the card carries the following information:

Copyright 1943 — Patent No. 136006
The use of a miniature Bible and Prayer book on a greeting card is prohibited unless by permission.

In performing searches, I’ve found various other greeting card themes with the little Bible, including this very patriotic one.

As far as I was able to ascertain, the patent lasted about three years… If anyone can add to the story, please share!

Dolls Connect Generations: 11 Tips For Taking Care Of Your Collectible Dolls

I Bet There Were A Lot Of Handmedown Dolls In This Family!
I Bet There Were A Lot Of Handmedown Dolls In This Family!

Unlike other toys which may come and go in popularity, dolls continue to connect generations.

Little girls have long played with dolls, emulating their mothers. Meanwhile, little boys played with model railroad sets. (Well, sometimes little boys watched Dad play with the model railroad; the boys themselves waiting until they were old enough to be allowed to play too!) But as less railroads criss-cross the country now, as technology advances creating remote control cars and new-fangled gadgets to play with, the generational connections once made via model trains and even other transportation toys has nearly faded into the past. Of course, parenting and caring for babies and children hasn’t become a thing of the past; so dolls remain popular and continue to connect generations.

It’s this continued shared love of dolls which keeps dolls at the top of “most popular” lists for antiques and collectibles year after year!

However, if you want your doll to survive so that it can be handed down to the next and even future generations, you’ll want to take precautions to preserve it.

Caring For Your Dolls

 You know those TV commercials for dental whitening products that say, “If you aren’t whitening, you’re yellowing”? Well, dolls can be seen in the same way. The deteriorating effects of aging are breaking them down, and, if you aren’t preserving, you’re just letting the damage happen — maybe even compounding the problems.

While you can’t stop the aging (of yourself or the dolls!), you can slow it down with these eleven tips for doll care.

1) Protect your dolls from light. Sunlight, especially direct sunlight, is the worst; but florescent and incandescent lighting is also damaging. Not only will bright light fade the colors of most textiles, but it can also fade and damage various doll materials, including the vinyl and other plastics. Direct and/or bright lighting can also create a lot of heat, which can also cause a lot of problems for dolls. Use lighting and/or glass with ultra-violet filters for the best protection.

2) Protect your dolls from dust, smoke, pests, pets, and other environmental contaminants. Display your dolls in a glass cabinet (with proper lighting, that can be turned off when it’s not necessary) whenever possible. Glass shelves are non-reactive and therefore are safe for displaying dolls and their costumes.

3) Safely position dolls. Crowding dolls is dangerous. Not only does reaching for one risk knocking another over — or worse yet, a domino effect! — but you risk snags, scratches, and other damages. Crowding can also result in damage your doll outfits by crushing the textile fibers. Sleep dolls, dolls with inset eyes, and bisque dolls with eyes that move must be stored face down or displayed upright. The eye mechanisms are heavy, and if the doll is laid on its back, gravity will pull the eyes back into the doll’s head and/or break the mechanism itself. Beware doll stands. While your doll may look more presentable on a stand, the stress of her own weight against the stand can cause damage to the doll. Also, the metal of the doll stand itself may react with the doll or the doll’s costume, causing staining and tears. Support the bisque heads of dolls, even when they are sitting, as vibrations from general house activities may cause the heads to topple off the doll and break.

4) Beware of acids. Dolls should not be kept in their original boxes, as the acid in the cardboard and paper can actually damage the dolls and the costumes with a slow acid burning which appears as tanning. When storing dolls, remove the doll’s clothing or place acid-free tissue between the doll and her clothing. Unless you are using archival acid-free boxes, use more acid-free paper to protect the doll and clothing from the acid in cardboard boxes. The same is true of wooden surfaces, such as shelves, as the dangerous part of regular tissue, cardboard, or other paper is the acid from wood called lignin. A few layers of acid-free paper or unbleached muslin is enough of a barrier of protection. Dolls should not be stored wearing jewelry or clothing and shoes with metal buckles, etc., as the metal can create the dreaded “green spots” on vinyl dolls, rust on textiles, snag or scratch dolls and their outfits.

5) Pad cloth dolls and costumes. Use acid-free paper or unbleached muslin to support joints and other weak areas of cloth bodied dolls in storage. Parts of doll costumes, such as full sleeves and skirts, may need to be supported while in storage or on display too. Acid-free tissue paper will also help keep the garment’s shape while preventing textiles from creasing or touching, and accelerating damage.

6) Keep your dolls and their clothing clean. Even dolls in display cases can become dirty. Dust your doll collection regularly, and inspect the dolls for signs of pests or damages. For wigs, clothing, delicate trims, etc. you may use a vacuum with a nylon stocking over the hose to act as a screen which protects such light materials from the suction action.

7) Avoid water. Avoid washing your dolls, doll wigs, and clothing, as most dust and dirt becomes very acidic when mixed with water. Wooden, composition, and paper mache dolls should never be washed as water is their enemy. Caracul, mohair, wool, and wigs made of human hair do not like to be washed or wetted either. Regular dusting alleviates the need of washing.

8) Store dolls in safe places. If you have a large number of dolls, so many that you cannot display them all, beware storing them in attics, basements, closets along outside walls, and other places with temperature extremes or swings in temperatures. Similarly, humidity is a danger. Heat degrades composition and plastics (celluloid can even explode from heat!); excessive heat or too little humidity can cause dehydration of the fibers; and high heat and humidity can make the doll’s clothing bleed and stain the doll, her accessories, and other parts of her dress. Very cold temperatures can crack or craze composition and papier mache; too much humidity encourages the growth of mold, mildew, and fungus. Repeated swings and fast changes in these environmental changes exponentially hasten the damages. Thankfully, dolls do well in the same general temperatures and humidity levels we humans are comfortable with.

9) Avoid storing dolls in plastics, like rubber bins and plastic bags. These can trap in moisture, leading to mold and mildew. Plus, plastics give off gases that can damage dolls and and doll clothing alike. If you opt for plastic storage, puncture air holes to allow for circulation which allows the gasses to escape.

10) Beware the chemical reactions of mothballs. Mothballs and moth crystals contain chemical pesticides which can have bad reactions with vinyl, metal, and even feathers. If you must use mothballs or moth crystals to store dolls and fashions, be absolutely certain they do not come in contact with the dolls or textiles.

11) Don’t forget about your dolls. Think of display and storage as temporary situations. Remember to periodically take your dolls out from where they sit, dust them off, and inspect them for signs of pests or damages. Any dolls or items having — or which are suspected of having — insects or mold or fungus should be removed and isolated from the rest of the collection to avoid contaminating the rest of the collection. Regular inspection and repositioning of your dolls also gives your dolls, their clothing, and accessories time to breath, which helps avoids other decay issues.

Whether your dolls are in an old fragile state, freshly repaired, like-new, or brand new, these tips will ensure your dolls will live to connect to the next generation.

My Dad With Polly Dolly - Click The Photo For The Full Story
My Dad With Polly Dolly – Click The Photo For The Full Story

Mapping Out Your Antiquing

Whether your antiquing trips are local or you hit the road to search far and wide, there are a number of antique networks offering maps to help you discover places to haunt & hunt.

antique shopping mapThe Minnesota Antique Network, along with sister state sites Illinois Antique Network.com, Iowa Antique Network, Missouri Antique Network, Nebraska Antique Network, & Wisconsin Antique Network (with plans for more states to follow), offers an easy means for you to map out your antiquing destinations. Along with maps, these sites offer a glimpse into the shops themselves, with photos and descriptions of items available, shop news & events, specialties, etc. This offers the collector, decorator, or avid junker the chance to create a travel or shopping plan that is most likely to appeal to your specific interests and tastes. It is especially helpful if they offer shop hours, so you can plan to get their when they are open.

Of course, some state travel sites and local antique dealer associations offer similar help, as do sites such as AntiqueMalls.com. And I Antique Online offers some shopping directories too. But this currently mostly Midwest network of antique shops by state often makes it easier to start. Plus, each of the state sites has a FaceBook Page as well, which is especially nice for connecting to antique shops in your area. (The shops that have FaceBook pages, anyway.)

Since the shops must pay for placement at these sites, it’s a good idea to always ask the antique store staff what other antique shops are nearby as well as grab the other literature found in the shops so that you won’t miss anything.

PS If you prefer antiquing apps, there’s also the Antique Week app; sadly, it’s only currently available for Apple products like iPhones and iPads. Though there are electronic versions of their Shop Guide directories to use with GPS devices such as Garmin & TOMTOM. The aforementioned antique networks organized by state are also working on mobile versions — fingers-crossed that tech comes soon!

Happy New Year’s From Rose O’Neill & The Kewpies

A vintage Rose O'Neill holiday postcard featuring the Kewpies!

New Year’s Luck for You
At the mystic hour of midnight,
If your eyes are bright,
you’ll see the Jolly Kewpies
bringing New Year’s luck to you from me.

In February of last year, I wrote about Kewpie dolls for the Dolls By Diane newsletter; leave a comment or email me if you want me to send you a copy!

vintage kewpie new years eve postcard

The Halloween Tradition Of Romantic Tricks & Treats

Halloween was once steeped in the tradition of belief that the veil between this world and the next was thinnest at this time of year and so was considered a time when fortunes could be best told. Not even the Victorian era and it’s designs to clean-up the naked bonfire bawdiness could quash that Hallowe’en tradition. In fact, the Victorian notions of romance and marriage quite fed such things. Especially the romantic sort of fortune telling, predicting whom you might marry.

halloween-bewitching-vintage-postcardIncluded in this historical paper trail are the antique and vintage Halloween postcards. There, among the now-so-traditional Halloween fare of witches and black cats, are the romantic Halloween postcards. Sometimes these are simply postcards with romantic prose, courtship rituals, or even wistful, hopeful sentiments. But there too, along with icons or symbols of witchcraft (such as caldrons, clocks, mirrors, and potions), there are the utterly charm-ing old postcards of spell-casting or divination. These discuss the magical steps one might take to find love and bind lovers. Some are quite clearly the stuff of parlor games.

There were quite a number of fortune telling games. Some, like the postcards, provided instructions. Others were of the oral tradition. For example, among the myriad of seasonal apple traditions is the one in which single ladies peeled an entire apple and then tossed the long peel behind them. The shape the apple peeling took was said to form the first letter of the first name of their future mate.

Along with these sorts of party games, there were dolls who might help a single lady out.

In the 1800s, both France and Germany made wooden, and porcelain, dolls with skirts over paper petticoats, of sorts. It was on the paper pages of the skirting that one found one’s fortune. Much like a fancier version of the paper fortune telling games played in schools now!

German Porcelain Miniature Fortune-Telling Doll Wooden Tuck Comb Doll as Fortune-Telling Doll

This is an antique wooden Grödnertal fortune telling doll. (So-named for the Grödnertal region of Germany where the original peg wooden dolls were made.)

Grödnertal Wooden Doll as French Fortune Teller antique

antique witch fortune telling doll

antique french fortune telling doll

In French these fortune telling dolls are known as “bebe a bonne aventure” dolls.

They are often depicted as witches or gypsies, which is rather keeping in the Halloween tradition.

See also: Collecting New Age Items From Old Eras.

Image Credits: Antique fortune telling dolls via, via, via.

Salvaged Antique Church Fixtures and Furnishings

This past July, a fire broke-out in the historic St. John’s Lutheran Church on the grounds of Bonanzaville in West Fargo, North Dakota. Bonanzaville, a pioneer village with 12 acres, 43 historic buildings, 400,000 artifacts, “and millions of memories” is operated by the Cass County Historical Society. The church was not only a preserved historical building, but it still served as a place for many weddings. After the fire, pieces were salvaged from the church and they, along with hundreds of other items deaccessioned from the collections, were auctioned off to raise funds for the organization — including bringing in a new-but-old church to Bonanzaville.

Hubby and I attended the auction yesterday and stood among all the others in the cold morning air. (It was so cold, objects had frost on them!) We did purchase a number of things (Stay tuned here — and here — for more details!), but we didn’t purchase anything from the church. We did, however, take lots of photos. You can view them below. (Photos of other items from this auction can be seen here, here, here, here, and here.)

How To Wash & Care For Antique China, Vintage Glass, Silverware & Other Fine Tableware

(It’s More That “Just A Tradition!”) At holiday time, we all bring out the fancy china and silverware —  the old china and silverware if we are lucky enough to have it. Age, material, and condition issues…

Source: www.ebay.com

The Return Of The Typewriter!

We love typewriters; we sell a few of them too. So naturally I noticed this news article about The Times adding the sound of typewriters back into the newsroom. But it isn’t quite what you think…

To the surprise of Times journalists, a tall speaker on a stand has been erected in the newsroom to pump out typewriter sounds, to increase energy levels and help reporters to hit deadlines. The audio begins with the gentle patter of a single typewriter and slowly builds to a crescendo, with the keys of ranks of machines hammering down as the paper’s print edition is due to go to press.

This is only a test, so who knows how it will fare?

Also mentioned in the article is news about the Hanx Writer App from none other than typewriter aficionado Tom Hanks. (You might know him best as a movie star; but he’s a typewriter nerd too!)

Tom Hanks has developed the Hanx Writer app, which simulates the sound of an old-fashioned typewriter and has gone to the top of the iTunes app store in the US. Hanks, it noted, can tell the difference between the sounds of an Olivetti, a Remington and a Royal typewriter model.

Viva la typewriter!

PS More on the Hanx Writer at Mashable.

hanx writer typewriter app

Sophie Gimbel Designs For Saks — And Dolls!

Because you know I obsess over things… Like Gimbels department stores

I was working on another set of doll articles for Diane’s Doll Hospital (this time on vintage walker dolls from the 1950s; sign up here to get the articles), when I stumbled into Sophie Gimbel.

Sophie began her fashion design work as a young girl making clothing for her dolls and grew into an adult who hired as a stylist for Saks. She was hired by none other than Adam Gimbel, whose grandfather was the founder Gimbels. (Kind of ironic, hey?) In 1929, at the age of 31, she was lead fashion designer and manager of the Salon Moderne of Saks Fifth Avenue; by 1931, she would marry Adam Gimbel. Her designs, originally sold under the “Sophie Gimbel” label were so fabulous, she became recognized as an innovator in New Look fashion. By the 1940s, the label was changed to “Sophie of Saks”, and, on September 29, 1947, Sophie would become the first American fashion designer to grace the cover of Time magazine. (Elsa Schiaparelli was the first fashion designer in the world to be on the cover of Time in 1934.) So by the time this news article I’m going to share was published, Sophie was firmly established as a leading force of mid-century American fashion.

sophie gimbel fashions saks 1950s

The article was in the Montreal Gazette, June 17, 1950, and was about a Sophie fashion show which had been held the day prior at Saks Fifth Avenue.  She had designed not only doll clothing for Wanda but a series of matching doll and children’s fashions!

The costumes, which were presented simultaneously on dolls and little girls, are available in children’s sizes three to six and seven to fourteen. They include a pink organdy party frock, a gray flannel jumper suit, a plaid cotton dress, and a blue reefer coat.

I suspect this Sophie’s Original’s For Saks doll outfit may be one of these ensembles, despite being sold as a set for composition dolls. (Wanda Walker and her doll companions were rather pudgy in the tummy in order to accomodate the walker mechanics.)

sophie originals doll outfit

vintage sophie originals doll clothes cloth label

Here’s an ad from Christmas 1950 promoting some other fashions made for the Wanda Walker doll (by Advance Doll & Toy Corporation and/or Walkalon; that’s a long story I’m covering in the doll articles!): “Organdy hat and dress in pink, yellow, or blue are designed by S.F.A.’s own Sophie!”

saxs fifth ave sophie fashions walker doll

This is quite possibly one of those Sophie’s Originals for Saks dresses mentioned in the ad, which was made for, and shown here on, a Wanda Walker doll.

vintage wanda walker doll wearing sophie saks fashions

vintage 1950s hard plastic walker coll with fashions by sophie

sophie originals tag for wanda walker doll clothes

Of course, Sophie continued to design high fashion for adult human females long after this (including creating the red coat and dress Lady Bird wore to LBJ’s 1965 inauguration); but it is more than fitting to include Sophie’s fashion costumes for dolls in her story. After all, Sophie Gimbel began her design work making clothing for her own dolls.

Additional Image Credits:

1950s photo of Sophie Gimbel with models via Patricksmercy.

6 Very Cool Items From The Auction At Graceland

The first-ever Auction at Elvis’ Graceland is taking place August 14, at 7:00 p.m. at the Graceland Archive Studio — and online.

While none of the 72 items are from the official Graceland collection (the collection, Graceland Archives, etc. continue to be owned by Lisa Marie Presley and are not for sale), there are some very cool items.

This auction includes Elvis’ own copy of the original movie script for Love Me Tender. Love Me Tender (with Debra Paget and Richard Egan) was Elvis’ first movie. Originally, the role was a small one; but the part was revised to accommodate the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s rabid fan base.

love me tender movie script elvis copy

Book lovers as well as Elvis Presley fans will like the library card. This library card from Tupelo has one of the earliest known signatures of Elvis. The signature is so early, that even the Graceland Archives has none pre-dating it — and the auction lot includes a letter from the Graceland Archives stating that the archives has no full Elvis Presley signature pre-dating the one on the library card.

elvis presley library card signed

Speaking of kings… This 18-karat gold lion’s head (with two emerald eyes, a ruby mouth, and diamond eyebrows whiskers) was designed specifically for Elvis. It is one of those pendant-brooch jewelry pieces. Elvis wore it as a pendant for his meeting with President Nixon, among other places.

the king's lion pendant

And what king doesn’t need a throne? This “Gold Throne” chair was used by Elvis in his dining room at Graceland. (I am more partial to this chair myself.)

elvis presleys gold throne chair

Of course, when it comes to Elvis, it’s mainly about the music. So why not grab his Martin D-28 guitar?

elvis Martin D-28 guitar

Looking for something bigger? The 1977 burgundy and silver Cadillac Seville V8 automatic being offered was not only the last Cadillac Elvis purchased for his personal use, but the very vehicle driven by Elvis himself on the day prior to his death.

elvis 1977 Cadillac Seville

Elvis fans and collectors can register & bid online online here.

Pawn Stars Casting (An Exclusive Interview)

Of all the TV shows about antiques and collectibles, we’re still huge fans of History’s show Pawn Stars. So we were thrilled to receive a casting call announcement from the show — and turn it into an exclusive interview with the show’s Casting Director, Martin Hardy!

Pawn-Stars-Wants-You

How does the casting process work?

We are always looking for real sellers of unique, new items and encourage anyone who is interested in selling or pawning an item to contacts us through our casting email: pawnstarstvshow@leftfieldpictures.com. We get hundreds of submissions daily from potential sellers who are looking to sell their items on the show. Our casting department works very hard identifying rare and unique items that we have not shot with before but that also tell an interesting historical story.

Once we receive a great item that we feel is right for the show, we generally notify the seller to grab some more key information about it. Then we present it to the guys at the Gold &Silver Pawn shop to see if it is something that they would be interested in purchasing. Once we get the go ahead from Gold and Silver, we tell the seller their item has been approved and we schedule a date for them to come in.

Is there any compensation for being on the show? Do you pay for transportation, lodging?

Because we use real sellers of real items, we don’t provide any compensation for being on the show. Each seller has the opportunity of making a deal and being compensated for the purchase of their item.

We know that not everyone on the show sells their item; but does a person have to at least be willing to sell? Or can they just want to show off their item, get an appraisal, find out more information, (just meet the Pawn Stars!) etc.

At this time we are only able to cast sellers who are serious about selling their item. Of course they need to be comfortable with terms of the deal they reach with the shop, but we always hope they make a sale. We do not offer any appraisals for anyone who does not appear on the show with that item.

Are there any categories that you are more interested in than others?

At the moment we are really interested in anything that is rare and unique (books, autographed originals, artwork, historical documents and coins etc.)

Should a person get on the show, how much of a time commitment does it require?

Depending on the item, the filming of scenes generally last anywhere from 3-4 hours.

If you have something you think is rather rare and special — or wonder if it is, why not contact Martin and casting team? They’ll tell you if it makes the Pawn Stars grade. And we’ll all learn a little something along the way.  More information is in the casting flyer below (click to see a larger version). You can contact them at pawnstarstvshow@leftfieldpictures.com (and you can mention Inherited Values sent ya!)

Pawn Stars Casting Flyer

EBay Says “Win Big With Collectibles”

Among the steps eBay is taking to try to bring back their antiques and collectibles presence, is a new series of Collector Events:

Discover another world of shopping — with items from around the world. Exclusive selection and value on art, antiques, memorabilia, coins, stamps, and more.

Those who subscribe to receive event digests, sale and promotion alerts, etc. will be entered in contest to win a $2,500 (PayPal transfer) and other prizes. Interestingly, the information sent along in the email I received March 30 (2014) about the sweepstakes listed events that would end that day already. To me, that says the Collector Event series isn’t going as well as they’d like.

ebay collector events sweepstakes

Add to that, the fact that the eBay affiliate program is also pushing collectibles, and I think this rat senses a ship in trouble. I’m not saying that eBay’s a sinking ship; but they may have waited far too long to address an issue that collectors and dealers, buyers and sellers, have been screaming about for years now. EBay says, “Win big with collectibles” — but did eBay already lose collectors?

FYI, below are the categories that eBay has designated at “collectibles” at least in terms of their affiliate program. (The number in parenthesis is the eBay category number; see how the collectibles category is number one — it’s what eBay was built on.) And note how vintage clothing is not considered part of the collectibles categories.

EBay sweepstakes fine print:

No purchase necessary. Void in Puerto Rico and where prohibited. Sweepstakes begins at 12:00:00 AM PT on March 30, 2014, and ends 11:59:59 AM PT on April 13, 2014. Open to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia, who are 18 years of age or older, and who are physically located and reside in the United States of District of Columbia, who are registered members of www.ebay.com at the time of entry. For Official Rules, click here.

Ten Reels Of Explosives

My research regarding this photo probably got me put on a half dozen watch lists, thanks to early film technology.  Here’s Kay Johnson to explain, from the September 1930 issue of Screen Romances:

how-much-materials-to-make-nitrocellulose-screen-romances-sept-1930

The caption reads:

Do you know what a motion picture is made of?  Kay Johnson shows us the actual chemical constituents of gelatine, water, camphor, acid silver and cotton that went into the ten reels of “Madame Satan.”

As best I can read from the captions in the photo, that’s 40lbs of cotton, 3¾ pounds of gelatine, 3½ pounds of camphor, 2½ pounds of water and nitric acid, and ¼ pound of silver.   The silver is inconsequential: that was used in the image itself, hence the widespread destruction of films over the years to salvage the precious metals.   Madame Satan is partly lost to the sands of time: according to Wikipedia, there’s one lost scene, and all of the original Technicolor prints have been lost.

But, none of those facts are the reason I’ve been making questionable Google queries.  In today’s world full of terrorism and violence, Kay Johnson up there might have gotten a visit from the ATF for having so much of those materials together in one place.

Early film stock was made from something called nitrocellulose.   It was relatively stable, good enough since they considered films to be temporary, not permanently stored.    However, if you compare nitrocellulose’s explosive power, according to Wikipedia, it falls between TNT and Nitroglycerin on the scale.  In small doses, magicians use it for fire effects.   In large doses, CNN worries about teddy bears stuffed with it taking down airplanes.  It’s no wonder movie theaters burned down with such ferocity during the early part of the 20th century:  a 10-reel film by Cecil B. Demille had almost 50 pounds of guncotton wrapped into tight spools, so energetic that it can burn underwater.  Here’s just one reel of film burning, emphasizing why you wouldn’t want to be around when ten reels catch fire.

burning-a-reel-of-nitrocellulose-cellulose-nitrate-film_2

Kodak invented their “safety film” in 1908, made from a less-flammable acetate, but as you can see the cheaper cellulose nitrate film was still being used for big-budget films in 1930. Kay Johnson’s first credited film on IMDB may be called Dynamite, but I found no evidence of her ever being closer to explosives than in the picture above.  She retired from acting in the forties, just one film in the fifties, and passed away in 1975. Even at the time of Madame Satan, cellulose nitrate film was on its way out, and it was banned entirely in 1951.  Nitrocellulose still has a purpose in media, just not film, and you can buy it in bulk from Dow Chemicals.  Sorry, Homeland Security, I wasn’t actually looking for explosives, I’m just researching the dangerous history of film.

Polly Dolly (Or, Of Boys & Dolls)

I don’t write about dolls here much because I write about them for Diane’s Doll Hospital. In January, I wrote this piece for their newsletter; but since it was such a personal story, they graciously gave me permission to publish it here.

In 1972, the Ms. Foundation for Women produced Free to Be… You and Me, an illustrated book and record album set. Initiated by Marlo Thomas, the mission of the Free to Be… You and Me project was to provide healthy messages refuting and rejecting gender stereotypes while encouraging the positive and empowering post-1960s ideas of gender equality, individuality, comfort with one’s identity, and tolerance. Using her celebrity clout, Marlo Thomas got a number of her celebrity friends to create, write, and perform the modern day lessons to children in song and story form. No doubt the hope was that the parents and other adults in children’s lives were listening — and learning — too.

Just two years later, in March of 1974, ABC aired the Free to Be… You and Me television special. The TV special also had the celebrity cast of singers, performers, and narrators, known as Marlo Thomas and Friends. For the special, the LP tracks were often produced with animated cartoon visuals, designed to capture the attention of children who were used to being fed a steady diet of Saturday morning cartoons. (By this time, Schoolhouse Rock! was already seeing great success with its educational animation work.) A number of the segments from this TV special were also reformatted for educational use in schools, including audio-visual materials such as filmstrips. As a result of this heavy media saturation, many adults today readily remember Free to Be… You and Me. In fact, the principles behind Free to Be… You and Me combined with the nostalgia continue to drive the foundation and push sales; the record has remained in print all this time (as well as put onto CD) and a newly remastered version of the television special was released on DVD in 2010.

Among the most memorable and iconic Free to Be… You and Me stories was William Wants A Doll, based upon Charlotte Zolotow’s children’s picture book William’s Doll (1972). The animated TV version of William Wants A Doll, performed by Alan Alda and Marlo Thomas, was about a little boy who really, really wanted a doll. But William’s desire for a baby doll wasn’t encouraged.

william wants a doll

His friends told him not to be a “sissy”. His brother said not to be a “jerk”. His father tried to distract William with more manly toys, giving his son a basketball, a baseball glove, and other sports items as gifts. But none of this deterred William. In spite of all the mocking and manipulation, he still wanted a doll.

Eventually, William’s understanding grandmother gets William a doll! The boy is elated!

william and his doll

But William’s father is concerned by the gift, and it’s up to the grandmother to explain that it’s OK. After all, William just wants to love and care for a doll — and that’s how he will learn care for his own baby “as every good father should do”.

William’s lesson of boys and dolls was given over three decades ago. Since then, many studies have been done and many articles have been written. Over and over again they indicate that dolls are perfectly fine toys for boys. But still, the social pressure of “the boy code” persists so strongly that many people today remain shocked that little boys would like to play with dolls. Or that grown men would collect dolls. Thanks heavens for all the boys and men who ignored those people and just continued to love dolls!

[Break]

I was just 10 years old when William Wants A Doll hit television and I still remember it vividly. Not just for the whiny and grating (yet somehow infections) chorus of “A doll, a doll, William wants a doll”. (It is quite catchy!) Nor for the hoards of kids who sang it, matching the whiny and grating sound with mocking and contemptuous sneers. What made William Wants A Doll so memorable then was the shock I received seeing and hearing it — I was flabbergasted that it even existed.

How could the idea of a boy loving a doll even be “a thing” — let alone a thing so big that there had to be a counter-movement against it?

Now, you might say that I was a wise and accepting kid. Or that all kids are wise and accepting, at least until someone teaches them not to be. Or maybe you think I was just naive. …It is true that I didn’t have any brothers, so what did I know of male gender roles and doll troubles? But the truth is, I knew a little boy who had a doll — or, I should say, I knew of a little boy who’d had a doll growing up. That boy was now a man. And that man was my father.

This is my father, Dean, with his doll, Polly. Actually, to the family she is known as Polly Dolly.

deanwithpollydolly

Though Polly Dolly bears no marks for maker or origin, she is likely a German-made, soft-bodied, composition doll.

We aren’t sure exactly when Polly Dolly was made; but we do know that she was really born the day she was given to my dad and he christened her “Polly Dolly”. Not that my dad remembers that day. As far back as his memory goes, there’s always been a Polly Dolly. The best he can guess is that he was given the doll when he was about three years old. Since my father was born in 1942, that would be about 1945.

It was during those years that America, like most of the world, was involved in WWII. Even if you had a lot of money (and his family didn’t), toys were quite rare due to wartime rations. Now, as an adult, my father believes that Polly Dolly was a secondhand doll, likely given to his mother by a neighbor or family friend. Not that it mattered to the three year old boy. It was a toy — and it was his, all his!

At least for the next few years.

You see, my dad has a younger sister. Being three years his junior, her arrival was around the same time as Polly Dolly’s. That’s probably not a coincidence. More than likely, news that a baby was on the way was what motivated someone to give the doll away. Here was a little boy who needed to learn how to be gentle with a real baby coming into the house; some wise and generous person know a doll was in order!

Baby sister grew. And young Dean learned to share. First, he had to learn to share the bedroom he already shared with his grandmother. And then, he had to learn to share Polly Dolly too.

One day, when my dad was about seven or eight, his mother took his little sister on a walk down the block to the park — and his sister insisted upon taking Polly Dolly along. But when mother and daughter came back from the park, little Dean discovered that his sister had left Polly Dolly there!

Being that she was so little, it was up to Dean to go back to the park and get the doll. He was furious! This was more than just some annoying thing a big brother had to do to help his little sister; this was her mistake, and she should fix it. This was inexcusable! It was one thing to walk down the block to the park and let his pals see him running errands for his sister — but it was something else to be seen carrying a doll! Remember, this was 1949-1950, or so. Boys didn’t play with dolls. Teddy bears? Sure. But a doll for a guy was different. Heck, G.I. Joe hadn’t even been invented yet! (Not to mention, as my husband and all the other men in my life remind me all the time, G.I. Joe is an “action figure”, not a “doll”). Little seven or eight year old Dean did not want to be seen carrying a doll!

But — it was his beloved Polly Dolly; he had to go get her!

No one else was going to do it; it was up to him.

So young Dean waited as long as he possibly could before he went to rescue Polly Dolly. He figured the later it was, the less of his friends there would be at the park to see him fetch the doll. I obviously wasn’t there that night, but, as a parent myself now, I know the boyhood version of my father had to have a knot in his stomach waiting as he did, worrying with every passing minute whether Polly Dolly would be there… The longer he waited, the greater the risk that someone else could take her or break her… Was the potential embarrassment worth such a risk? What a gamble it all was!

I envision my father as a boy venturing out on Operation Rescue Polly Dolly… I picture him sticking to the lengthening shadows as much as possible to hide his face — his flushing, sweating, anxious face. I imagine his joy when he spots his doll, safe and sound, at the park… Perhaps some tears spring to his eyes; one part relief, another part shame at having risked, for the sake of his boyish pride, never seeing his friend again. I see him scooping Polly Dolly up and turning quickly to make that uncomfortable run home, still trying not to be spotted by any of his friends, as his emotions twist and turn into anger at his sister once again.  And how he ends up at home, winded and spent, just glad to be able to return Polly Dolly to her proper place in his bedroom.

So you see, even at 10 years old, I didn’t need William Wants A Doll to tell me that boys can love dolls. Nor today do I need a bunch of studies or articles to tell me how boys who play with dolls grow-up to become nurturing parents and caregivers. I’ve always had my dad to show me those things.

dean with polly dolly

[Break]

As you can see, Polly Dolly has seen better days. Or, as we learned in The Velveteen Rabbit, Polly Dolly has been made Real by someone who REALLY loves her. Like the Skin Horse in the book explained, “These things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” And we all understand.

Along with the damages to her pretty face and head, Polly Dolly also has some issues with her fingers and is completely missing her toes.

polly dolly vintage composition doll

back of polly dolly's head

composition doll's hand

momma crier doll hole

And there’s a hole punched through the fabric on her soft body, exposing that she once was a mama crier doll (though my father never recalls her having made any noise; the crier was likely damaged before he ever got her).

…OK, Polly Dolly may be a bit too Real. While I completely believe in what the Skin Horse says, that “Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always,” dear old Polly Dolly is in need of some serious repairs — if only to make sure she will be able to survive to supervise the stories about her as they are told to future generations.

polly dolly face

 I’d like to thank Diane’s Doll Hospital, again, for allowing me to post this article here. February is the month of sweethearts for me; not only for Valentine’s Day, but my daddy was born in February. So I am happy to celebrate him — and Polly Dolly — this month!

PS If you collect dolls, or just love them, you really should subscribe to the free Dolls By Diane newsletter. *smile*

When Albums Ruled The World

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Between the mid 1960s and the late 1970s, the long-playing record and the albums that graced its grooves changed popular music for ever. For the first time, musicians could escape the confines of the three-minute pop single and express themselves as never before across the expanded artistic canvas of the album. The LP allowed popular music become an art form – from the glorious artwork adorning gatefold sleeves, to the ideas and concepts that bound the songs together, to the unforgettable music itself. Built on stratospheric sales of albums, these were the years when the music industry exploded to become bigger than Hollywood. From pop to rock, from country to soul, from jazz to punk, all of music embraced what ‘the album’ could offer. But with the collapse of vinyl sales at the end of the 70s and the arrival of new technologies and formats, the golden era of the album couldn’t last forever. With contributions from Roger Taylor, Ray Manzarek, Noel Gallagher, Guy Garvey, Nile Rodgers, Grace Slick, Mike Oldfield, Slash and a host of others, this is the story of When Albums Ruled the World.

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