Getting A Leg Up in the 1930s

Last week we were in Wisconsin helping the in-laws get set up for their next estate sale.   Among all the breweriana, old cars, and used tools where a large number of old photos and photo albums.

When you go through photo albums, you never know what might catch your eye  — and in this case, several photos of this young lady struck a chord with us:

Dorothy Hess

Being one-legged wasn’t the only thing:  to be a young — late teens or early twenties — and a woman, and missing a leg, would seem to be a unique combination.   Was it an accident?  Or was she born this way?

As we pored through the albums, we saw several of her, alone and with family, and the question of how she lost her leg lingered.   But, I thought:  surely, a young woman losing a leg would be newsworthy, so I turned to the online newspaper archives I have subscriptions to.

To our surprise, not only did I find the reason for her missing leg, but it turns out young Dorothy was a nationwide sensation, bestowed with 15 minutes of fame a decade earlier.Dorothy Hess Walks For First Time In MonthsThat is 11-year-old Dorothy Hess in 1938:  this picture ran in newspapers all across the United States.   Dorothy’s leg was amputated the previous spring due to a bone infection.  She took quickly to her crutches, but her loss attracted the sympathy of one of her neighbors.

George Kiebler, president of Milwaukee district council of the U. A. W., lived just up the street from the Hess household.  A plan soon came together.

Newspapers report that “someone” close to Dorothy knew of “a man who procured an artificial leg as a premium for 46,000 cigar coupons.”  For many years — and until very recently —  collecting bands, cards, or labels from tobacco products could yet you prizes by picking an item from the tobacco company catalog and mailing the ‘currency’ in.   But, an artificial leg?   It’s a stretch, but, well, it was the 1930s, and with WWI battlefield injuries still relatively fresh in people’s memories, I suppose a wooden leg might be something you could redeem cigar bands for.

Whether or not the 46,000 cigar coupon wooden leg redemption was true, Kiebler and the Hess family put the plan into action.   Using his position in the UAW to Dorothy’s advantage, Kiebler asked union-members across the entire United States to cut the union labels from their packs of cigarettes and mail them to Dorothy, so that she would have enough by Christmas to procure an 11-year-old sized prosthetic leg of her very own.

And, those coupons started rolling in:  auto workers cut the union labels from their cigarette packs, and the postman brought them by the sackload every day, dropping them off at Dorothy’s house:

Dorothy Hess With Tobacco Coupons

The caption says that, as of October 1938, Dorothy had 43,900 coupons — just 2,100 short of the goal, according to the apocryphal story of the tobacco-currency artificial leg that started the quest.

However: whether 43,000, or 46,000, or 100,000 — the little pieces of paper in Dorothy’s hands would not be able to purchase an artificial leg, nor anything else.

Much to the surprise of the UAW leader, collecting the union labels from the tobacco packages wasn’t the currency needed to purchase anything from a tobacco catalog.

Upon finding out that they were collecting the wrong coupons, word went out quickly to begin collecting the correct tobacco labels to mail them as quickly as possible, in hopes of getting Dorothy a leg for Christmas.

By mid-December, the new influx of the correct tobacco coupons had amassed over 20,000 of the little slips of paper, which were redeemed for cash from the tobacco company.  Using the money, the UAW was able to buy Dorothy her first artificial leg, which was delivered December 19th, just in time for Christmas.

The second photo above, of Dorothy and her brother, was taken that morning.  Newspapers reported that Dorothy said it was “better than getting a new doll”, and that she was “going to practice walking very hard so {she} can throw away {her} crutches soon.”

The photos of older Dorothy, however, don’t seem to indicate she was able to go without crutches very long.  We hope that the 11-year-old-sized prosthetic leg gave her the opportunity to walk for at least a few years, but it would seem that as she grew out of the leg she didn’t replace it, returning to crutches by her late teen years.

It just goes to show you never know what you might find at an estate sale — everything might have a story, even on that connects union workers and cigarette companies to a young girl’s wooden leg.   The estate sale with Dorothy’s photos starts next Tuesday, November 1st.

The Lovely & Disturbing: The History Of Wax Dolls

In The Beginning…

Dolls, the playthings we know today, began their lives as something quite different. Called poppets or puppets originally, they were created as educational tools and for use in religious ceremonies.

wax-roman-masksAs icons, creche figures, totems, effigies, votive artifacts, offerings, masks, and other stand-ins for human figures, they were ritualistically used. Those poppets lucky enough to have survived the ceremonies were often given to children as playthings. Certainly children delighted to have them — for just as use of poppets in religious ceremonies began to wane, dolls started to become the playthings we know today.

These early poppets were like their earlier votive artifact incarnations in two ways.

1910 French P. Imans Full-Size Wax Mannequin Bust DollOne: The form they took. Like the ceremonial poppets, these early dolls were in adult rather than child form. Kid leather bodies were preferred over cloth ones because the leather was much better at forcing the stuffed poppet bodies into the shapely figure of a corseted woman. Something the fashion industry quickly latched onto, using poppets to sell the fashions of the day (until print advertising became a more economical option, anyway). This is at least partly why dolls made prior to the 1850s are not baby dolls.

Two: What they were made from. Wax had widely used in modeling to make the religious effigies and votive artifacts, dating back to 14th century. As dolls grew in popularity, it was only a matter of time before those skilled wax model makers began to see how production of dolls would expand their markets — and income.

Once people could see the beauty of these wax dolls up close, they became quite popular. By the end of the 18th century, wax dolls (wax heads attached to cloth doll bodies by sew-holes on the shoulder plate) were being produced in England, France, and Germany.

Waxing Nostalgic Over Wax Dolls

Wax may not seem to be a great material for making dolls, especially for children. But it makes sense when you compare wax to the other materials available at the time.

Prior to the manufacture of wax dolls, the dolls children had were either ceremonial cast-offs or handmade dolls of wood or cloth. Sometimes the kids themselves made crude little dolls from sticks and the odds and ends adults had cast off as garbage. Remember, there was no plastic or even composition at this time. And wax doll heads didn’t shatter when dropped, like china, bisque, or porcelain dolls.

But the true beauty of wax dolls lies in, well, the wax itself!

For many of us today, all we see are the old, aged, discolored, and cracked wax dolls. But when wax dolls are new, they are incredibly lifelike. Wax can be tinted with beautiful, realistic skin tones. The facial features, like cheeks and mouths, can be enhanced with paint. And when dusted with a fine pumice to remove the shine, the whole surface looks like translucent human skin. Those dolls must have seemed like magic!

Three Basic Types Of Wax Dolls

Antique wax dolls are categorized by the way they were made.

poured-montanari-wax-doll1) Poured Wax Dolls Poured wax dolls, sometimes called “thick wax” or “solid wax” dolls are made by pouring a molten wax blend of bleached beeswax, coloring, other additives into a heated plaster mold, resulting in a entirely wax head.

The eyes were cut open and blown or moulded glass eyes were inserted; a small amount of hot wax was used to fix the eyes in place. The hair is either mohair or human hair, quite often inserted a few strands at a time.

Usually poured wax dolls also have poured wax arms and legs, which were also sewn onto the body.

The majority of these poured wax dolls were made in England. These were the first wax dolls; and the most expensive.

wax over composition doll violet2) Wax Over Dolls These less-expensive, later, dolls were made by dipping heads made of papier mache (and even later, composition) into melted wax. This overlay of wax allowed for tinting and a more lifelike appearance than a standard papier mache head. Manufacturers experimented with single and multiple layers of wax, although the final thickness was normally no more than 3 millimeters thick.

The majority of these wax over dolls were made in Germany and France, however, the English made some wax over dolls as well. One English version is the egg-shaped or slit-head wax dolls. These wax dolls are so named for the middle incision where the doll’s hair was inserted. (This hair, usually human, was then parted and drawn to each side.) These early wax dolls usually had dark eyes, without pupils.

While these wax over dolls were much less expensive than their poured wax counterparts, wax over dolls came in many different styles.

Many of the wax over dolls have mohair wigs, but some dolls had molded bonnets and hairstyles, such as the “Pumpkin-Head” or “Squash-Head” dolls with molded hair arranged in a pompadour style and the Alice hairstyle with headband.

Wax over dolls also had variations in their glass eyes: Either fixed or sleep eyes. Yes, as early as 1825, there were sleep eyed dolls! Often called wire-eyed wax dolls, the eyes were worked by a wire (or string) which came out at the side of the doll’s waist. French versions of these dolls usually have paperweight eyes, while the German dolls have spun glass eyes which are flatter in appearance.

There were also multi-faced wax over dolls. A single head was molded with two or three faces; you turned the head around to change the doll’s face.

Body types can vary widely, including almost any number of combinations of cloth, wooden, leather, composition, or wax over limbs attached to cloth stuffed bodies. Some dolls had the Motschmann floating-joint body.

Some of these early wax over dolls even had the ability to cry by pulling a string!

reinforced-wax-doll3) Reinforced Wax Dolls Reinforced dolls are later dolls which are rather a combination of the other two types of wax dolls. First, a wax doll head was poured — and then the inside was reinforced by using either plaster or strips of cloth soaked in composition. This provided a stronger support layer to the wax.

While most of the reinforced wax dolls have closed mouths, like the other wax dolls, there are examples of reinforced wax dolls having open mouths. This is likely one of the benefits of the supportive reinforcement material. A few of these open-mouthed reinforced wax dolls even had wooden teeth.

Most reinforced wax dolls have wigs made of mohair or human hair, but some of them have inserted hair. Like the other wax dolls, they too have glass eyes.

Reinforced wax dolls had a variety of body types; the most common being a cotton or muslin body, with either composition or wax arms and legs. These dolls were primarily made in Germany.

The Wax Doll Sensation

Most wax dolls are without maker marks. (There were some later wax dolls do have stamps on the torso to identify the maker; but this is rare.) However, we do know of one of the most famous names in wax dolls: Madame Montanari.

montanari-wax-dollMadame Augusta Montanari may be the best known wax doll-maker of all time, but not much is known about her or her wax sculpture studio. We do know that she and her poured wax works first attracted attention at London’s Crystal Palace Exposition in 1851. There she and her winning exhibit of dolls created a sensation that led to imitation, the sincerest form of flattery.

Montanari’s dolls were beautiful. Each strand of human hair on the doll’s head was set directly into the wax with a hot needle and then an iron roller was used to gently but firmly roll over the head. This secured the strands of hair so well that the doll’s hair could be combed without causing any damage or loss.

Her exhibit included male and female dolls — and what is said to be the first baby doll! Many also credit Montanari with creating the first character dolls as each doll was dressed for age and occasion, like an actual person. Eventually, Montanari would create wax dolls for royalty and other wealthy persons, including wax dolls representing some of Queen Victoria’s children. These are called the Royal Wax Baby Dolls.

Very few dolls survive with proof of being made by Montanari, Occasionally, one is found with what is believe to be the Montanari signature on the cloth body. But good indications of an authentic Montanari wax doll are the well-defined fingers, chubby arms of wax (or later, composition), and a more natural-looking down-turned mouth.

Historians are not exactly sure when Montanari passed away. We know she left the studio to her son, who had worked with her making the dolls; but by 1890, the studio seems to have closed. By that time, composition and bisque dolls were so inexpensive that was dolls were on their way out. Montanari’s death seems to also mark the passing of wax dolls.

Spook-Tacular Antique Wax Dolls

It’s October, and with Halloween just around the corner it wouldn’t be right not to mention a few spook-tacular or creepy wax dolls.

As mentioned earlier, one of the earliest uses of poppets was for educational purposes. Among these were the medical dolls, like the ancient Chinese medical dolls. Since the doctors were not allowed to view or touch their modest female patients, the women were given a stick which they used to point at a small, usually ivory, medicine doll to show the doctor where they were hurt. But since we’re talking about wax dolls…

antique-human-anatomical-modelIn the late 17th century, wax modeler Gaetano Giulio Zumbo and surgeon Guillaume Desnoues, collaborated to solve a problem. At this time, there were few bodies available for dissection, and little way to preserve them — which made it difficult to properly educate medical students. However, by using wax modeling techniques it became possible to highlight specific bodily features and structures, painting and marking them, thereby making it easier to isolate and identify them and their functions. And, of course, these wax anatomical models did not decompose (or smell!). They could be stored and used again and again. That made these incredibly detailed wax anatomical models increase in popularity throughout Europe in the 18th century.

Creating these wax medical models was highly labour-intensive: Plaster casts of dissected anatomical specimens were used to produce wax copies. Structures and vessels were painted (others imitated using thread) and then varnished to protect them. The finished pieces were then assembled to provide the illusion of living tissue. Many of these wax anatomical models were so beautiful that they were also sought by museums and private collectors.

Anna Morandi Manzolini, wax sculpture created by the scientist-artist herselfLike Augusta Montanari, there was a female wax sculpture artist at the forefront of these wax pieces. Her name was Anna Morandi Manzolini. She was an anatomical wax modeler during the Italian Enlightenment. During her lifetime (1714–74), she was celebrated for her exacting sculptures of human organs and systems. Crowds of physicians, medical students, and the curious would gather in her home to watch her anatomical demonstrations. Recently, there was a book written about her, entitled The Lady Anatomist: The Life and Work of Anna Morandi Manzolini.

While these wax anatomical models were about doctors trying to save lives, there was another type of wax doll all about death.

Some of you may have heard of the many Victorian mourning practices, or mourning memori, such as postmortem photography and mourning hair art. These may seem morbid, but they were deeply valued traditions involving keepsakes to remember lost loved ones by. Another common practice in mourning at the turn of that last century was that of the effigy or burial doll.

grave-doll-wax-effigy-1860-with-bookWhen a child had passed away, it was traditional for families who could afford it to have a life-size wax effigy of the child made for the funeral. The wax doll would be dressed in the infant or child’s own clothing. Most often the deceased child’s own hair would be used to make the doll even more realistic. These wax dolls usually show the deceased in repose, eyes closed, as if sleeping. The backsides of the heads were made flat so that the doll would lay nicely when laid out to rest.

The effigy doll would be put on display at the wake. Often the doll would then be left by the grave-site. But we do know, from the effigy dolls which still exist today, that in some cases these wax effigy dolls were kept.

Wax effigies of infants would be placed in a crib, their clothes would be changed, and otherwise treated like a real baby. The bodies of these wax dolls would be cloth, weighted with sand to give it a more realistic feel when being held. Other times, the effigy itself would be framed. For older children, just the head and shoulders were created in wax effigy, also with the flat backsides, so that they could be placed in a picture frame. They were the ultimate way to attempt to reject the finality of death of a loved little one.

This practice of effigy dates back even further than the Victorians, to Roman times. But other than effigies made in marble or stone, none are left. In fact, these Victorian burial dolls and effigies themselves are extremely rare.

Some people consider these wax effigy grave dolls and the wax anatomical models to be creepy, if not disturbing. Some consider them history objects; others folk art. Still others think they are rare and valuable works of art.

Image Credits (In Order They Appear): Antique Roman wax masks; French P. Imans Full-Size Wax Mannequin Bust Doll; poured wax doll by Montanari; Wax over composition doll named ‘Violet’; antique reinforced wax doll; Montanari wax doll from Debra’s Dolls via Victoriana Magazine; antique Human Anatomical Model; wax sculpture of Anna Morandi Manzolini, created by the scientist-artist herself; wax effigy child doll.

A Cat-Losing, 1888

Ever hear the song, “The Cat Came Back?”  Poor mister Johnson has a troublesome cat that he simply can’t get rid of:

The song came out in 1893 and was popular throughout its history.   However, it may have been inspired by an 1888 event when some fellows in Cairo, Illinois decided to host a “cat-losing” contest.

JIM MANGUM’S CAT DISAPPOINTED HIS OWNER.

Feline with Wonderful Record Failed to Make Good Just When It Was Most Desirable–Cost Him Much Money.

“Ever hear about the cat-losing we had out our way in ’88?” asked the Cairo Liar.  “Never heard of a cat-losing?  Why, they’ve often had ’em out in my section since the first one was pulled off at Cairo.  The way it happened was this:  There was an old citizen in Cairo named Mangum, who bragged all during the summer of ’88 that he had a cat that couldn’t be lost.  The cat was onnery and a night marauder of the despised male gender, and Jim had tried all sorts of ways to lose that cat, he said.  He had tied four bricks to the cat’s neck on several occasions and then chucked the feline into the Mississippi, which runs pretty swift at Cairo, but every time Jim went home after doing this he had found the cat sitting on the front porch, licking himself.  Jim was determined to get rid of the cat, though, and he finally tied it up in a jute bag and handed it to a friend of his, a mail clerk on the railroad, and asked the mail clerk to ditch the cat, bag and all, at any old point not nearer than 100 miles from Cairo.  The mail clerk did this to oblige old Jim, heaving the cat out in the dark somewhere on the edge of a swamp about 125 miles from Cairo.

“Jim announced down at the post office three days later that the cat was back, looking a bit hungry and with less of its left ear than it had had before, but still in the ring and pretty nifty, considering.  Jim by this time regarded his cat as a wonder, and he made a good deal of nuisance of himself telling everybody in Cairo that, in his opinion, which he was willing to back with money, marbles, or chalk, that there wasn’t a cat in the state of Illinois, or, for the matter of that, in the whole blamed country, that had such a dead bead on home as his cat had.

Jim's Cat Didn't Come Back.

“Somebody finally suggested that the thing be tried.  This was just was Jim wanted, and so a committee of arrangements went ahead to organize the cat-losing. It was finally determined that all of the cats entered should be driven out in the woods, in a farm wagon, and then, at a point about five miles from town, chucked out of the wagon, free-footed, and left to hustle for themselves.  There were 30 entries, each man who entered his cat paying $5 for the privilege.  The cat that reached its home first was to pull down the $150 for its owner.

“A good many of the Cairo citizens who had cats entered in the event rehearsed their felines several times before the regular cat-losing was to come off, and all of the cats showed extraordinary aptitude in hustling back to their own doorsteps from distant points.  Jim didn’t rehearse his cat at all. ‘Any cat,’ said he, ‘that can scramble out of a jute bag heaved into a swamp more’n 100 miles from its own fireside, don’t need no rehearsing.  That cat’s got it in him, and he’ll be the first cat back, for money’  The betting was lively on the event for fully a week before it came off.

“Well, on the day the cats were driven out into the woods, competent and honest judges were placed at each of the 30 homes of the 30 cats, with instructions to time the exact moment of the appearance of the respective felines they were looking for.  The cats were turned loose from the farm wagon at exactly two o’clock on a Saturday afternoon, and by that time most of us who had bets down on the outcome were sitting on the courthouse steps, waiting for the first judge to turn up with the announcement that the cat he had been appointed to time upon its arrival was back.

“At exactly 2:30 a young fellow named Charley Glass came running up to the courthouse on a lope, with his cat under his arm.  The cat had its numbered tag around its neck and we all fully identified it as one of the starters.  So the $150 was Glass’, and I had won $150 from Jim Mangum.   Following that, for the space of a half an hour the judges all turned up with their respective cats–all except the judge who had been placed at Mangum’s home.  Jim’s cat didn’t come back that night nor the next night, nor ever again.  That happened nearly 20 years ago, and Jim’s cat isn’t back yet.   Jim almost went broke paying up his debts, and after that whenever he’d see a cat two blocks down the street he’d shy rocks and cuss it as far as he could see it.”

The story was reprinted, in verbatim by dozens of newspapers throughout the U.S. in May and June of 1907, all crediting the story to the “Cairo Liar”, which isn’t the name of any reputable paper at the time.  The Cairo Bulletin, however, was a real paper, but doesn’t have any proof of the original event, nor any happening since the first cat-losing.  So, it is more likely to be a case of the song inspiring a tall tale of amazing cat navigation, and the failing of hubris, many years later.

Things That Go To Make Up A Life

In What Is Left Behind, photographer Norm Diamond takes a look at what most collectors see at estate sales: the cycle of life. And then he photographs the objects. Among the artfully preserved poignant moments, a bride’s wedding dress and photo (as well as her wedding night lingerie), and a burial receipt for a young mother and her baby who had died in an automobile accident…

norm diamond brides dress and photo

vintage wedding night lingerie by norm diamond

burial receipt photograph norm diamond

Diamond is now retired, but he previously worked with very ill people as an interventional radiologist. In an interview at Slate, Diamond admits his career likely affected him and this series:

I didn’t realize it until I had retired, but I think when you deal with people who are sick and dying all the time, your outlook on life is different than people who aren’t subjected to that. You don’t tend to be a glass-is-half-full person; you see some of the poignancy of life and some of the sad, tragic things that occur and that maybe part of where I’m coming from.

Diamond photographs some of the objects there at the estate sales; others he purchases and takes home to photograph. Either way, it’s a very moving series which reminds me yet again of that perfect line in Genesis’s Home By The Sea:

Images of sorrow, pictures of delight
things that go to make up a life

You can purchase copies of Diamond’s photographs here.

Amazing Authentic Elvis Items Up For Auction!

The upcoming Auction At Graceland includes a special section of early Elvis merchandising memorabilia from various owners and includes rare items from the collection of Darlene Parker Tafua, daughter of Ed and Leilani Parker. (Ed Parker was a martial artist who ran the Kenpo Karate Studio in Pasadena, California; Parker trained Elvis Presley along with other stunt men and celebrities.)

rare 1970 promotional photo been signed by Elvis

Among the standout Elvis items are signed items — my favorite is the autographed cocktail napkin from the Thunderbird Hotel.

elvis auto on vintage Thunderbird Hotel Cocktail Napkin Vegas

And how about the original receipt for Elvis and Priscilla’s Wedding at the Aladdin Hotel in Vegas?

It was quite the shindig! More than $10,000 in charges for the chartered flight, the limos, the judge, the champagne, the fruit baskets, the security (of course), the musicians, the gloves and the floral arrangements. No expense was spared by Elvis for his blushing bride Priscilla and their guests, who assumed two suites and 21 rooms at the Aladdin. The bill was sent to the William Morris Agency in Beverly Hills and this copy to Colonel Parker at MGM Studios. We know this because of the included (and formerly paper-clipped) note concerning possibly being double-charged for the private jet flight. It is written in pencil and reads: “Jim: – Is this in order to pay – How about the plane chg [charge]? Remember pmt [payment] to Lear Jet in amt [amount] of 1774.50 – Please call me Pattie.” Accompanied by a letter of authenticity from Graceland Authenticated. Each page measures approximately 10 by 6 1/2 inches (25.4 x 16.51 cm).

vintage receipt for elvis wedding vegas aladdin ephemera

But perhaps my absolute favorite is the jacket Elvis Presley wore in Viva Las Vegas in that dance scene with Ann-Margret. Hot!

Elvis Presley Jacket from the Viva Las Vegas Dance Scene with Ann-Margret

elvis and Ann-Margret dance in Viva Las Vegas

This Elvis auction is held by Invaluable (formerly Artfact):

Elvis touched the hearts and lives of fans across the globe, and our goal for the Elvis Week 2015 Auction at Graceland was to include artifacts from across the spectrum of collecting, including items owned by Elvis, gifted by Elvis, written by Elvis, used by Elvis and created to promote the king and his career.

This Elvis auction starts at 7:00 PM CST on August 13, 2015; online bidding is available.

Wes Cowan’s Personal Antique Stereoview Collection Up For Auction

When hubby & I met Wes Cowan, one of the things we learned about him was that he was an avid collector of antique photographs. He began collecting them as a child and within 15 years, he’d amassed what was, at the time, the best collection of Frank Jay Haynes photographs & stereoviews. (Stereoviews are those cards with side-by-side photographs on them which, when placed in a viewer, appear three-dimensional; see stereoscopy.) Cowan, somewhat painfully, sold many of them to start his auction business, Cowan’s Auctions. But he didn’t quite stop collecting them either…

However, now Cowan has announced that his entire stereoview collection is going up for auction — including some by Frank Jay Haynes.

antique f jay haynes stereoviews cowans auctions

Frank J. Haynes, aka F. Jay Haynes or the Professor, was the Michigan native who started his photographic business in Moorhead, Minnesota, and is likely known by most for his work with Northern Pacific Railway and his photographs of Yellowstone.

The Cowan collection, a total of 249 lots, features many other antique images of historical value.

civil war death stereoview

antique african american slave black americana stereoviews

Along with one of the earliest known images of Buffalo Bill (holding a Creedmoor long range rifle), there are numerous Civil War era images, antique photographs of Native Americans, Black Americana slavery photos, and many other historical images.

American Indians antique photos Chief Jacob, Nez Perce, with Missionary Henry H. Spalding, Fort Lapwai, Idaho Territory

early antique buffalo bill photographs

The bidding began March 13, 2015, and closes at noon EST on Monday, March 30, 2015. You can view lots as well as bid online 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

Happy Birthday, There’s a Corpse in Your Cake!

See on Scoop.itAntiques & Vintage Collectibles

Last week I came across a photograph of an item that was, at one time, available for purchase on Etsy. A small, metal viewing coffin with the unnerving inscription, “Don’t talk so much.” From the v…

Deanna Dahlsad‘s insight:

About Frozen Charlottes & Charlie dolls.

See on nourishingdeath.wordpress.com

Is Your Trash Someone’s Treasure

See on Scoop.itAntiques & Vintage Collectibles

When conducting an estate sale, several objectives are to be considered. First, to maximize the amount of your estate assets. Second protect your property before and during the sale. Third, to divest all or near all of the estate assets.

Deanna Dahlsad‘s insight:

What to consider when it’s time for an estate sale.

See on noegretsantiques.wordpress.com

Portraits By The Pound

In this week’s Dakota Death Trip update, I posted a photo of a girl who looks much too sad to be wearing satin.   When I flipped the photo over, the back has a big rubber stamp mark from the photo studio that produced the image:

pixy-pinups-logo-back

A penny a pound?   A pound of what?!?

I got excited when I found a Flickr photo from a guy who reports the same Charlotte, N.C., studio as the source of his photo — hey, somebody else sat on the same spot as the girl in my photo!   Unfortunately, after a little research, I found that it wasn’t such a coincidence.

Dating a photo takes a whole lot of research:  what year is that car?  When was that toy under the Christmas Tree first made?  What movie is on that marquee in the back?  When was that brand name used?  There’s a whole bunch of history bundled up in every photo, even if it is just a brand of shoes or a style of eyeglasses.   So, this stamp on the back of a photo is enough for me to narrow down the origin of the photo to a timespan of a couple years.

Department stores used to be far more than the acres of products they are today.  Your mom could take you down to Woolworth’s, buy you lunch, get your hems lowered (you’ve grown, you know) by the in-house tailor, take you for a haircut, and get your photo taken, all without leaving the building.   This hasn’t entirely gone away: the J.C. Penney out at the mall — an expatriate from Downtown during the seventies — lost its restaurant in the early eighties, but it has brought along its hair salon and photo studio into the 21st Century.
pixy-pin-ups-logo-jcpenny-photo-studio

Stanley Hoke and Needham Holden were the proprietors of Dunbar-Stanley Studios, and in the 1940s or early 1950s, according to an interview in the Victoria (TX) Advocate in 1960, the two men were driving between appointments and saw a sign that offered watermelon at the amazing deal of 1/2-cent…until they read the small type below the price: “per pound”.  Holden thought that marketing ploy would work in their line of business, and began advertising baby photos priced like chuck roast: they’ll photograph your kid, at the cost of one penny per pound of the child’s weight.

Dunbar-Stanley Studios had the advantage of being the exclusive photography studio of the J.C. Penney department store franchise.  Although some stores may have been large enough to support a full-time photo studio, the smaller stores made appointments with Dunbar-Stanley to send out a photographer for a few days at a time, several times a year.

penny-a-pound-ad-january-1952

Their photography studio business first was just called “Penny-a-Pound Portraits”, as the stamp on the Flickr-user’s photo showed, but changed its name to Pixy Pin-Ups sometime around 1953.    In the 1960 article, however, they say the business outgrew the penny-a-pound model and, rather than increasing their per-pound rate, just charged a cheap flat rate.

Charging per pound of chubby baby didn’t die out, though:  Pixy Pin-Ups — later shortened to just “Pixy” — used the penny-a-pound gimmick until the late 1970s.

combined-1953-and-1979-pixy ads

Hoke and Holden didn’t just come up with a funny pricing model: their entire business was tightly controlled to make baby photogaphy as effective as possible.  The 1960 article says  they only employ “…young and unmarried women, many of whom are recruited from airline hostess schools”, and their training went beyond just clicking a shutter.  Training included child psychology, and by the end of their training, whether literally or figuratively, the employees are “required to dismantle and reassemble the camera with her eyes closed.”    A 1966 “Help Wanted: Female” listing from Eugene, Oregon, listed requirements as “Single and over 18; High school graduate; Have good character references.”   The ad outlines the benefits as well:  salary during training, a company car with all expenses paid, and after 3 years a free trip to Europe to employees with ‘satisfactory service’.  This army of young ladies, high-tech camera in hand, cruised the backroads of America from J.C. Penney to J.C. Penney, trying to get kids to smile.

dunbar-stanley-jc-penney-want-ad-1966

The penny-a-pound was their loss-leader:  for that price, mom got one 5×7 portrait.  The rest came as part of a higher-priced package, which is probably why I only have a 5×7 in this pile of photos.  Fifty cents in the 1950s would be almost $5 today, a reasonable price for a photo sitting, but the young ladies pulled away from service with the airlines were also trained to upsell to the higher-priced sets, in hopes of getting a $10 sale out of each kid’s parents.   J.C. Penney actually made the sale, sharing a portion of the profit with Dunbar-Stanley Studios, and all the film was shipped off to North Carolina for processing.   That’s why there’s people out there confused that their baby photo is stamped with a studio a thousand miles away from where they were raised.   The ‘Pixy’ name remained well into the 1990s, but the current J.C. Penney portrait studios aren’t run by Dunbar-Stanley anymore: the current business is based out of Eden Prairie, MN, and goes by the name “JCPenney Portraits” — although at least one still goes by the Pixy name.

So, after a morning of scouring old newspapers,  I can date my photo of the unhappy satin girl to somewhere around 1953 to 1958. Based on where I got these photos, mine was probably taken either in the old J.C. Penney’s in downtown Fargo, or the Wahpeton store, one of the oldest locations.

1870s Horse Race bank could top $50K at Morphy’s, May 3

See on Scoop.itAntiques & Vintage Collectibles

DENVER, Pa. – Toys, banks, robots and trains are always in demand at Morphy’s, and as any number of their regular bidders would attest, there’s

Deanna Dahlsad‘s insight:

The box is nearly as cool as the toy!

See on www.auctioncentralnews.com

Dakota Death Trip History Blog

See on Scoop.itAntiques & Vintage Collectibles

Derek Dahlsad, the hubby half of Fair Oaks Antiques / We Have Your Collectibles, was just featured in today’s Fargo Forum — on the front page, no less! The article features Derek’s Dakota Death Tr…

Deanna Dahlsad‘s insight:

My husband & his history website make the Fargo newspaper!

See on www.wehaveyourcollectibles.com

155 Years Before the First Animated Gif, Joseph Plateau Set Images in Motion with the Phenakistoscope | Colossal

See on Scoop.itAntiques & Vintage Collectibles

Nearly 155 years before CompuServe debuted the first animated gif in 1987, Belgian physicist Joseph Plateau unveiled an invention called the Phenakistoscope, a device that is largely considered to be the first mechanism for true animation. The simple gadget relied on the persistence of vision principle to display the illusion of images in motion.

Deanna Dahlsad‘s insight:

You have to click to see all these in motion!

See on www.thisiscolossal.com

When Albums Ruled The World

See on Scoop.itAntiques & Vintage Collectibles

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.

See on docutube.tumblr.com

Porsche’s First Car Found After Being Left In A Shed For 112 Years

The first Porsche ever built has been untouched since 1902. Officially called the Egger-Lohner C.2 Phaeton, this electric car from 1898 has ‘P1’ engraved onto all of the key components standing for Porsche 1, done by the then 23-years old Ferdinand Porsche himself.

See on jalopnik.com