Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Heartwarming Story from the Past

The holiday season is one of caring, giving, and warmth of the human spirit (apparently, enough to keep away any snow today). Today, we sign off for the holidays with a story of this sort published on page 3 of the December 17, 1908 Winchester News.

(*Note: Click on the image for a larger view, or click this link to view original page in KDL)

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Wishes

Jolly Old Saint Nicholas,
Lean your ear this way;
Don't you tell a single soul,
What I'm going to say.

Christmas Eve is coming soon;
Now you dear old man,
Whisper what you'll bring to me;
Tell me if you can.

When the clock is striking twelve;
When I'm fast asleep,
Down the chimney broad and black,
With your pack you'll creep;
All the stockings you'll find
Hanging in a row;
Mine will be the shortest one,
You'll be sure to know.

Johnny wants a pair of skates.
Susie wants a sled.
Nelly wants a storybook -
One she hasn't read.
As for me, I hardly know;
So I'll go to rest.
Choose for me, dear Santa Claus,
What you think is best.

So, what do YOU want for Christmas? Santa Claus is still taking orders from all good little archivists & librarians!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Controversy in the "Blue-Grass"

During a month rife with remembrances from many major world religions & cultures, a man was born who challenged them all - ironically, the grandson to another who shared in the birth of contemporary religious thought.

Yesterday (December 20), in 1837, Charles Chilton Moore was born on a small farm outside Lexington, KY. His mother was the daughter of Rev. Barton W. Stone, who helped spark the Great Revival with the Cane Ridge Revival and co-founded the Christian Church, the Disciples of Christ, & the Church of Christ only a decade or two earlier. After attending Transylvania University, and graduating from West Virginia's Bethany College in 1858, Moore was ordained into his grandfather's church by 1864. But not for long!

After a short time as a pastor in Versailles, Moore resigned his pastorate to work in a series of newspapers. Eventually he founded his own in 1884. This was the nationally-known & quite controversial Blue-grass Blade (that's right - the paper turns 125 this year!). Though sporadically published for assorted reasons (not the least of which were financial & legal), the Blade vigorously challenged contemporary religious views, particularly Christianity & the Bible. Editorial contributions championed social causes of the day, including women's suffrage & prohibition. Moore's personal contributions also argued for agnosticism and, it is sometimes argued, atheism. He is even considered by some as the "Father of American Atheism."

Moore's antagonistic writings led not only to turbulent publishing runs, but also a turbulent life. He dealt with assassination attempts & even imprisonment for the Blue-Grass Blade in 1899. More specifically, for mailing obscene materials. He only served 6 months after President William McKinley pardoned him. This time did not stop his writing. Instead, it led to an autobigraphy. Even his death on February 7, 1906 (he subdued to an illness rather than another human) did not stop the controversy he began in life! The Blade continued publication for another 4 years after his death, courtesy of publisher, James Edward Hughes.

For more on the Blue-Grass Blade, including the many of the issues in its sporadic runs, visit its browsing page & title history on KDL Newspapers:

Friday, December 18, 2009

Santa Claus is Comin' to Town

It goes without saying that Santa Claus, AKA Old St. Nick is a Christmas icon. But what does he look like? Does anybody REALLY know? Everybody has their personalized image embedded from childhood, whether from a storybook, TV shows, Christmas cards, songs, and so on; and it varies from culture to culture, and region to region. There even seem to be some general characteristics that bridge this iconic imagery. But has it changed over the past century? We'll let you judge by presenting St. Nicholas, depicted in Kentucky newspapers from 100 years ago. Which one, if any, is your Santa Claus?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Commercial Branding - Then & Now

In previous blogs, I've integrated ads from enduring brands you may recognize, including Kodak, Coca-Cola, Arbuckle's coffee, and I.W. Harper Bourbon. These companies all had foundations tracing back to the 19th century, yet still exist in some form. Today's blog is going to focus on a few familiar brands that have lasted through the years, how they got their start, and their ever-evolving story in contemporary America.

Food offers probably the most recognizable brands in our lives, whether we realize it or not. It may simply be a jingle stuck in our head or a canister sitting on our shelves, we know it when we see (or hear) it! It's often incredible to think how long these simple staples in our lives have been around. Taking a walk down the cereal aisle can easily be a walk through history! Grape-Nuts, for example, came out of the home of breakfast cereals: Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1897. C.W. Post (ironically, a patient of Dr. Kellogg's, but a later competitor) was inspired to develop his first breakfast cereal after visiting Dr. Kellogg. Though not as popular as it used to be, and it has traded hands through the years, it still retains it's advertising campaign as a health food, full of nutrients, as per this 1906 ad.

Of course, back then (in the alleged "good ol' days"), not everything was pre-made & pre-packaged. These conveniences were still in their infancy! People still baked, cooked, and grew their own food (or at least some people did). Fortunately, this tradition has not died out. Hence, neither has some items that facilitate these activities. The 1907 Royal Baking Powder ad above features not only what made them famous (not the lighthouse! Their formula, silly!), but also recognition of the recent Pure Food & Drug Law that regulated manufactured food & medicine in the US. Though competition was great for this company, which traced back to 1873 (a little further if you count the pre-investor years), Royal Baking Powder survived because they followed a unique formula in a European tradition - one that excluded aluminum (purportedly linked to diseases, such as Alzheimer's). Today, Kraft Foods owns the product & the brand.

Self-sufficiency was perhaps more prominent at the turn of the century than today, but it nevertheless endures, at least to some extent. Whether a professional farmer or a hobbyist gardner, the seeds come from somewhere; and "somewhere" may include the store or a mail order catalog. Perhaps one of the better-known mail-order seed companies was founded originally as W. Atlee Burpee & Co. in 1878 Philadelphia, PA, as it is called in this 1908 ad. Later, it changed to the contemporary name of "Burpee's" (there are also ads under this name in the KY-NDNP database). The company experienced many other changes after David Burpee, founder W. Atlee's son, took over after his father's death in 1915. He focused more on flowers. Over the years, the company changed hands many times, but the family still generally stayed involved - until 1993. Jonathan Burpee, W. Atlee's grandson, was the last family member to work for the company, as he was fired by owner George Ball. Nevertheless, the recognizable name remains!

Along the "do-it-yourself" trend, sewing has always been a basic skill. Although, in some places & cases today, it seems restricted to Home Economics class, whereas it was nearly essential to some social classes (though mainly marketed to women) in the Victorian era. However, somebody had to invent those convenient & lightweight patterns. Occasionally, they might be made from (or come on) seed or potato sacks, but these were heavy duty, and only available for one general size. According to legend, one night in 1863, after creating a pattern and sewing an outfit for her son, Ellen Butterick went to her husband, Massachusetts tailor Ebenezer Butterick, and commented on how much easier it would be if she had multiple sizes for a pattern. Inspired, he revolutionized clothes-making for housewives everywhere with graded sizes in a single pattern! Even moreso, he realized stiff cardboard made for difficult shipping. Hence, the familiar tissue paper patterns were born! Butterick patterns specialized in mens & boys clothing, expanding to womens in 1866. The name and method became synonomous with clothing patterns then, as per this 1903 ad, & still is today!

As you probably noticed, Butterick's ad also advertises a "Home and Fashion Magazine." This was one method of advertising patterns, as well as providing them. In fact, McCall's Magazine - considered of the "7 sisters" (the main women's magazines of the time) - began as a vehicle strictly for patterns in 1873 under the name The Queen, and continued, under various names, for many years filling about 20% of its pages with patterns. You can see one of its alternate names, and its "claim to fame" in the 1909 ad above. Scottish immigrant James McCall began the brand in 1870, the magazine in 1873, and left it to his widow upon his 1884 death. The editor she hired brought in articles on housekeeping. It wasn't until a later editor came on board in 1893, that the magazine expanded topics even further, and took on the name McCall's (though initially a lengthier title, it was ultimately abbreviated to the familiar "brand" sometime after 1897). Though it changed many editorial & ownerhsip hands, in 2000, celebrity & talk show host Rosie O'Donnell bought the magazine. She changed the title to Rosie, only to end the publication of this long-running publication in 2005.

Okay, so, technically, I ended with a brand that no longer exists. Seriously, though, tell me any of you have NOT heard of McCall's? Okay then... This is, by the way, no means an exhaustive or comprehensive list. I have a few other examples of enduring brands that I've run across in our database, but, for the sake of length, maybe there'll be a Part II!

What brands do you know of that have a foundation "way back when, in the good ol' days?" Wanna know what the ads looked like? How the brands have changed? How they started? Let me know! Help me build a Part II of "Commerical Branding - Then & Now!"

Friday, December 4, 2009

"Take a picture! It'll last longer!"

Of course, back when photography first began with the daguerreotype in 1839, people had to sit still for long periods of time. Plus, it was an expensive process, generally reserved for studios & professionals to conduct. IF you could afford a photo, you wanted IT to last; but you probably didn't forget the memory of waiting for it to process in the camera (ever wonder why people look so miserable in "old-time" photos? Ha ha. Just Kidding!)

Skip Ahead a few decades to the 1880s-1890s & George Eastman, up in Rochester, NY (my hometown; well, the closest big city to where I grew up, anyway). He developed the enduring brand "Eastman Kodak" (generally known simply as "Kodak"), as well as quicker & more accessible methods of photography. Amateur photography EXPLODED in popularity & Kodak became THE name in photo-taking.

Early on in amateur photography, cameras mounted on tripods were still the norm. Though, some cameras were also advertised as "bicycle cameras" (combining another popular hobby of the Victorian era - bicycling), where cameras were mounted on bicycles - no, really. The typical style was still a general "black box." Kodak's popular & rare No. 2 Falcon camera (as shown in this 1899 Earlington Bee ad) is such a camera. First introduced in 1897, this snapshot camera allowed for 12-18 photos, including a name change to No. 2 Flexo.

By 1900, Eastman further followed up on their tagline "You press the button - we do the rest" by introducing the Brownie (shown in this 1906 Springfield Sun ad). This camera was the first low-priced, hand-held, point-and-shoot camera. Held at approximately waist-height, the photographer needed to merely aim, then flick a switch! It was so easy, the claim was a schoolchild could use it! Of course, the low price (some models were available for as low as $1) made it accessible to the so-called "Average Joe."

While people grabbed onto the new and accessible, the "old" did not entirely disappear. To some extent, two extremely popular photographic entities not only survived the advent of amateur photography, but continue in existence today: the professional photographer and 3-D viewers/imagery.

Everybody loves taking their own photos to capture the moment (as much then as now, with the scads of digital photos taking up your hard drive space), but there is nothing quite like the professional who can pose your family "just so" or cover those special events for you when you would rather enjoy the moment rather than worry about catching the candid photo. Though there is nothing mentioned about covering events, H.G. Mattern is such a "reliable photographer" with a gallery in Frankfort - or at least he was, according to his regularly appearing 1907 ads.

Finally, the 3-D imaging. Back in Victorian times, it was NOTHING like what we know today: sitting in a movie theater with glasses, or even watching a blu-ray disc on our HD screens (Hi-Def! HA! As if TVs even existed! Movie theatres were still in their infancy!). No, entertainment of this kind was found in the stereoscope (shown below in this 1906 Mt. Vernon ad). Existing since the 1860s, it was a popular parlor item that involved placing a stereo card (which showed two very similar images) behind the viewer and moving it back & forth until your eyes focused - the image was singular & 3-D!!! The cards often came in collections, and featured tourist destinations or well-known figures, and included stories on the backs. Sound familiar? Yup, later on, in 1939, the same idea was minimized into the View-Master, and used those paper discs that rolled around when you clicked the side, often featuring favorite characters or telling stories. I had a couple of these growing up - and they are still around today! Speaking from personal experience, stereoscopes are just as much fun!

So, while you enjoy the holiday season with friends and family, remember and cherish the ease you have in keeping those memories, thanks to the developments of the past 100 years or so. With all those gigabytes of memory on that tiny SD card in your digital camera, or the camera that comes with your iPhone, don't be afraid to take a picture to keep those memories! It'll last longer!