Sunday, October 31, 2010

For Halloween...the Jersey Devil...

and, no, it is not Snooki or The Situation...although I am sure there are those who would easily identify that Jersey shore crew as such...but this is a legendary creature from right down here in South Jersey. In my recent post card buy, I had one of the "devil"in the stash.

Most accounts of the Jersey Devil legend attribute the creature to a "Mother Leeds", a supposed witch, although the tale has many variations. According to one version, she invoked the devil while giving birth to her 13th child, and, when the baby was born, it either immediately or soon afterwards transformed into a devil-like creature and flew off into the surrounding pines.

According to legend, while visiting the Hanover Mill Works to inspect his cannonballs being forged, Commodore Stephen Decatur sighted a flying creature flapping its wings and fired a cannonball directly upon it to no effect. Joseph Bonaparte, eldest brother of Emperor Napoleon, is also said to have witnessed the Jersey Devil while hunting on his Bordentown, New Jersey estate around 1820.

Throughout the 19th century, the Jersey Devil was blamed for livestock killings, strange tracks, and reported sounds. In the early 20th century, a number of people in New Jersey and neighboring states claimed to witness the Jersey Devil or see its tracks. Claims of a corpse matching the Jersey Devil's description arose in 1957. In 1960, the merchants around Camden offered a $10,000 reward for the capture of the Jersey Devil, even offering to build a private zoo to house the creature if captured.

Today an official group-The Devil Hunters-exists...according to their web site they are "in search of truth. Contrary to the group's name, this is not an organization with the intentions of capturing or killing the Jersey Devil. Instead, the organization's goal is to answer the questions surrounding the Jersey Devil and its legend."

So, if you wander in the Jersey pine lands, you never know what you will see this Halloween! Then again, maybe it is just a leftover lost Jersey girl!

Happy Halloween!
A little added surprise...I am in Washington, DC for Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity, but we are doing some touring & went to the National Museum of the American Indian, a new Smithsonian the lobby they were setting up The Day of the Dead...November 1, but this artist was creating a wonderful Halloween bride...the artist is Tlisza Jaurique...the "bride"--she remains nameless!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"I've been on more men's laps

than a napkin." ~ Mae West
I am just on a roll...and that is what the first napkins were...a lump of dough the Spartans called 'apomagdalie', a mixture cut into small pieces and rolled and kneaded at the table, a custom that led to using sliced bread to wipe the hands.

According to my research, Romans had fabric napkins. The sudarium, Latin for "handkerchief," was a pocket-size fabric earned to blot the brow during meals taken in the warm Mediterranean climate. The mappa was a larger cloth spread over the edge of the couch as protection from food taken in a reclining position. And you thought those pics of reclining feast were made up, didn't you?
The fabric was also used to blot the lips. Although each guest supplied his own "mappa", on departure "mappae" were filled with delicacies leftover from the feast, a custom that continues today in restaurant "doggy bags."

In the Middle Ages, the finer touches were gone...wipe your mouth on hand, your sleeve, some bread if available. Later, a few amenities returned and the table was laid with three cloths approximately 4 to 6 feet long by 5 feet wide. The first cloth, called a couch (from French, coucher, meaning "to lie down") was laid lengthwise before the master's place. A long towel called a surnappe, meaning "on the cloth," was laid over the couch; this indicated a place setting for an honored guest. The third cloth was a communal napkin that hung like a swag from the edge of the table.

In the late Middle Ages the communal napkin was reduced to about the size of our average bath towel. Eventually, the napkin was draped over the arm of a servant...the maitre d' hotel was born. He was in charge of feasts, and, as a symbol of office and rank, he draped a napkin from his left shoulder, and servants of lower rank folded napkins lengthwise over their left arms, a custom that continued into the eighteenth century. Today in the United States, the napkin is placed on the left of the cover. But in Europe, the napkin is often laid to the right of the spoon.

Medieval banquets maintained ceremony for the wealthy. The ewerer, the person in charge of ablutions (think clorox wipes), carried a towel that the lord and his honored guests used to wipe their hands on. The Bayeux tapestry depicts a ewerer kneeling before the high table with a finger bowl and napkin.
The panter carried a portpayne, a napkin folded decoratively to carry the bread and knife used by the lord of the manor, a custom that distinguished his space from those of exalted guests. The folded napkin was placed on the left side of the place setting; the open end faced the lord. The spoon was wrapped in another napkin, and a third napkin was laid over the first and second napkins. To demonstrate that the water for ablutions was not poisoned, the marshal or the cup bearer kissed the towel on which the lord wiped his hands and draped the towel over the lord's left shoulder for use.

So, as the holiday season comes upon we start to gather to celebrate the harvest, if you want to impresss the guests, we have some nice unused napkins...many of them are vintage linen...

And, if you have a maitre d' in your household, I have some unused vintage huck towels that would be quite nice draped over an arm...

Once again we are truly woven into ancient history...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The world today doesn't make sense,

so why should I paint pictures that do? ~Pablo Picasso
Ah, yes, the 21st century...last week my students were working with an essay called "The Image Culture," and each read always gives me another perspective. The author (Christine Rosen) presents a historical look at the development of photography and the importance of the image. How many of us across the planet watched those Chilean miners being brought back from the underworld? Striking images, for sure.

Yet I wonder with the demise of paper and the rise of cyber, what will be around in the future for those who follow us? I love to look at the faces in the old photo cards...the cabinet card. The Cabinet card was the style of photograph which was universally adopted for photographic portraiture in 1870. It consisted of a thin photograph that was generally mounted on cards measuring 4¼ by 6½ inches.

In the early 1860s, photographs were most often albumen prints; the primary difference being the cabinet card was larger and usually included extensive logos and information on the reverse side of the card to advertise the photographer’s services. However, later into its popularity, other types of papers began to replace the albumen process. Despite the similarity, the cabinet card format was initially used for landscape views before it was adopted for portraiture.

Some cabinet card images from 1890s have the appearance of a black and white photograph in contrast to the distinctive sepia toning notable in the albumen print process. These photographs have a neutral image tone and were most likely produced on a matte collodion, gelatin or gelatin bromide paper.

Gelatin silver prints were the most common form of black and white photograph from the late 1890s to today. If you go to a museum exhibit of photographs by famous early 20th century photographers, many to most will likely be gelatin silver prints. Those 1940s black and white snapshots and real photo postcards in your family albums are more than likely gelatin silver. Here is a gelatin silver of Marilyn sold in 1980 for $56,000.

Many gelatin silver photographs have stark black and white images, distinct to the sepia tones of an albumen print. However, many vintage gelatin silver images are found with sepia tones, sometimes closely resembling 1800s albumen prints. This sepia tinge is most often caused by the toning of the paper, but was sometimes intentionally created by the photographer.

According to my research, most vintage gelatin silver paper (at seen on the back of the photo) will be off white and often with toning and foxing. The earliest examples typically have bright white paper with occasional discoloration. The earliest paper was handmade without wood pulp. Wood pulp, introduced to later photo paper production, is what makes later photos and newspapers turn brown. The earliest handmade gelatin silver paper was naturally white and, since there was no wood pulp, did not tone with age. This means that you should not be distressed if the paper on your 1903 photo is so much brighter than on your 1920s photos.

Technical definitions aside...look at the faces in the old photos...who were they? What happened to them?
Why were they tossed aside in a box that ended up at an auction? How many went to landfills?At least in the antique shops or at the flea markets, these folks live on...but perhaps Oliver Wendell Holmes had an insight into our times in 1859 when he described photography as the most remarkable achievement of his time because it allowed human beings to separate an experience or a texture or an emotion or a likeness from a particular time and place--and still remain real, visible, and permanent, but he did see a time when the "image would become more important than the object itself and would in fact make the object disposable." In our digital age will both the image and the object be disposable?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hitting the bottle...

not really...but if this were 1872 we could get a marble if we did because Hiram Codd in England designed the first bottle for carbonated drinks. The Codd-neck bottle, as it was called(no fancy branding needed then), was designed and manufactured to enclose a marble and a rubber washer/gasket in the neck. The bottles were filled upside down, and pressure of the gas in the bottle forced the marble against the washer, sealing in the carbonation. The bottle was pinched into a special shape, as can be seen in the photo to the right, to provide a chamber into which the marble was pushed to open the bottle. This prevented the marble from blocking the neck as the drink was poured.

The bottles were regularly produced for many decades but gradually declined in usage. Since children smashed the bottles to retrieve the marbles, they are relatively rare and have become collector items particularly in the UK.

Bottles date back to 1500 B.C. The Romans created small bottles for perfume, but the bottle as a food carrier revolutionized the wine trade. The first glass wine bottle was blown into wooden molds in the 17th century, and spread throughout Europe. Before this invention, bottles were never sold with their contents. They were used in the families and continuously washed and reused. (see...even those folks understood recycling!) From this moment on, the contents and the container were commercialized. The bottle spread first from England to France where the first glassworks were set up in the region of Champagne-Ardenne. Then, at the end of the eighteenth century it reached the Rhine area in Germany and Piedmont in Italy.
The bottle arrived in France just at a time when the initial trials were being made with the production of Champagne. For many years experiments with Dom Perignon caused breakages and explosions that at times reached 95 percent of all the bottles. Only much later, that is towards the first decades of the eighteenth century, were more robust bottles produced such as to resist the high pressure of Champagne.

In the collector world, bottles divide into six categories: sodas, whiskeys, bitters, medicines, inkwells, and fruit jars. The stash on the table above has some intriguing bottles.

Although difficult to read this is a bottle from a Camden, NJ, plant.
Here is one from a small town up north, Swedesboro, NJ...I love the Doctor's name...Benjamin Buzby...
Medicine bottles seem to be the most common. Guess the aisles of products in the drugstores are nothing new! They tell stories alone with their names and various mottos. This is "tasteless tonic."
Here is a known product...Listerine...look at the size of this bottle compared to the behemoths in our medicine cabinets today!
This bottle makes me laugh...can you imagine putting this on a bottle today?
"Italian Balm"!
Glass bottles are still around because it takes about 4000 years for glass to breakdown. That is why people "dig" for bottles. They are unique pieces of the past, and some words to remember from actress Gene Tierney: "Life is a little like a message in a bottle, to be carried by the winds and the tides." These old bottles bring us enchanting old messages.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

What a crock of

soda fountain syrup! (Got you, didn't I!)
There is something about fall and winter that makes crocks more appealing. It may be the colors...the sheer weight of them...but I always love to bring them out for a showcase in the fall.
The earlier crocks were salt glazed. Pottery referred to as salt glazed or salted is created by adding common salt, sodium chloride, into the chamber of a hot kiln. Sodium oxide acts as a flux and reacts with the silica and clay in the clay body. A typical salt glaze piece has a glassine finish, usually with a glossy and slightly orange-peel texture, enhancing the natural colour of the body beneath it. Salt was originally imported from England when Americans began producing salt-glazed stoneware in the early 1700s in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Yorktown, Virginia. American stoneware crocks were the normal housewares of the 19th century. This is an old salt glazed crock... these crocks were not mold made so they are not as perfect as the later crocks when molds allowed mass production. On the stand above, the crock on the left on the bottom shelf is also salt-glazed, and you can see the difference in shape on the mold made crocks.

The golden area of manufactured stoneware existed from 1890s-1930s. The two toned crocks were produced in large numbers which is why they are so readily available in the crock world. Most have what is called an "Albany Slip" glaze as seen on this chicken feeder. Developed near Albany, NY, the mixture was created from a specific clay found along the Upper Hudson. The crock was dipped into the liquid slip before firing. Once it was fired a dark brown glaze was produced. Some crocks have salt glazed exteriors and Albany Slip interiors. It is fun to find crocks that can be traced to a company or a maker.

This is York Pottery from PA...the company morphed into Pfaltzgraff.
Star Stoneware...the company was in business in Crooksville, Ohio, from 1892-1945. The jug design is called a beehive top...easy to see. Many of the jugs are funnel style though like the first one above.
This one is quite interesting...turns out W. H. Jones was a is this for a variation on a fifth of whiskey? W. H. JONES & CO. was indeed in Boston from 1851-1917. Even if you cannot trace the manufacturer, the research on the mark was quite intriguing.
The glass industry brought the demise of the stoneware producers...the Mason jar was instrumental in changing the way food was kept in the pantry...alas, stoneware was no longer number