06 Jan

Bartell’s Soda Fountain, 1922

Something for those, like me, who are interested in Seattle history:

Bartell's Soda Fountain

From The Bulletin of Pharmacy, 1922.

Bartell Drugs is still in business, but, sadly, there are no soda fountains remaining at their stores. There is no longer a store at Second and Union, but there is one a block away on Third.

(This post is mirrored on my soda fountain blog, Phosphates, Fizzes and Frappes.)

13 Mar

Baking pans that sparkle

More kitcheny stuff — sorry, but I keep falling into a rabbit hole of interesting stuff when I research things.

Have you ever seen a pan that looked like this?

Photo by JillHannah via CreativeCommons/Flickr.

How about this?

Photo by GranniesKitchen via Creative Commons/Flickr.

These are Ovenex vintage baking pans. I have never seen one in person, but stumbled on this blog post this week, showing off a beautiful assortment of these pans, all decorated with that starburst pattern. Aren’t they just gorgeous?

See more of them in this Google Images search or this Flickr search. And of course, Pinterest has a few to look at as well.

The last thing I need is something else cool to search for in thrift stores!

01 Jan

“Lives snuffed out before fear is even felt”

When I was looking through the January 1, 1914 Seattle Times last night, I found some coverage about a disaster I had never heard of. 73 dead — 59 of them children — died in Calumet, Michigan, when someone shouted “Fire!” in the crowded Italian Hall where striking mine workers and their families were celebrating Christmas. There was no fire. Eight witnesses swore that the shouter was wearing a Citizens’ Alliance badge; Citizens’ Alliance was the anti-union organization funded by mine management.

Woody Guthrie wrote the song “1913 Massacre” about it:

“The piano played a slow funeral tune,
And the town was lit up by a cold Christmas moon,
The parents they cried and the miners they moaned,
‘See what your greed for money has done.'”

The Italian Hall Disaster Resource Center Facebook page maintained by Steve Lehto is posting a day-by-day report of what happened 100 years ago:

December 31, 1913 – 100 years ago today, the Coroner issued his ruling exonerating the guilty and placing the blame on the victims. The English-language papers continued blaming the unions for everything while mine management told people they would continue to investigate (which they wouldn’t). Management wanted to buy time, so their guy could get away and witnesses could be intimidated into silence. Meanwhile, the grand jury was hand-picked by management (and loaded with friends of management – it included a slew of men who admitted being members of the Citizens Alliance!) They would eventually refuse to indict anyone for any of the illegal acts against the workers. They would indict the union leadership, calling their actions a conspiracy.

Lehto is the author of a book about the disaster, Death’s Door: The Truth Behind the Italian Hall Disaster and the Strike of 1913.

Last month, PBS aired a documentary about the strike and the tragedy, Red Metal: The Copper Country Strike of 1913. You can watch it online.

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Seattle Daily Times, January 1, 1914

03 Nov

My surnames book is out!

kindle-cover-wakefieldIt may not be the Great American Novel, but I do have a book out as of a week or two ago. Middle English Surnames in West Yorkshire is a book version of my MA thesis, and it should be of interest to folks into genealogy, onomastics (names), language, the SCA or similar groups, or English history.

The first part of the book is an overview of surnames and the names in the Wakefield Manor court rolls. The rest of the book — most of it — is a list of all the names with etymologies and references, divided by type.

If you are looking for a medieval name for the SCA, this is a good source. Every name in the list is from the 13th or 14th century, so they are all documented during SCA period. Many of the names are from place names as well, so this is also useful when looking for a place name to use.

Here are a few places to buy it:

It should appear in other locations soon as well.

14 Jun

“Women Who Rock” and wear sparkly things

Tina Turner, represented by two dresses. All photos on this page by Wendi Dunlap.

The new “Women Who Rock” exhibit opens today at the EMP Museum. I saw a preview this week, and though I enjoyed it, as I left the exhibit I had definite mixed feelings about it.

The exhibit opens with a great photo of Joan Jett with a “takes no shit from anyone” look and a guitar slung over her shoulder. The next thing you see is a timeline, then a piano — Lady Gaga’s childhood piano, as it turns out. Appropriately, the exhibit starts with the music, or at least, one of the tools to create it.

Around the corner you go, seeing memorabilia of some of the earlier influences including Bessie Smith, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and LaVern Baker. It’s good that the exhibit reaches into pre-rock history, though I wanted more of it, history geek that I am.

Turning to your right, you see an impressive US-flag-style dress on a headless mannequin in a glass case, next to another mannequin frilly black and yellow dress sprinkled with tiny musical notes. The flag dress was made for Wanda Jackson by her mom; the yellow one was worn by Ruth Brown. There are some other memorabilia pieces in the display — Jackson’s guitar, Brown’s record — but what draws your eye here is the costuming. And this focus continues through the rest of the exhibit.

Joan Jett has a “Bad Reputation” and also NO HEAD.

We see sparkly dresses worn by members of the Supremes, really short sparkly dresses worn by Tina Turner, and flowing dresses worn by Stevie Nicks, Mama Cass, and the Wilson sisters from Heart. Loretta Lynn’s dress is essentially a 1980s wedding dress in pink: sparkly beaded bodice, big puffy shoulders, and a chiffon skirt. And a nice guitar next to it, but the “ooh, shiny” steals its thunder.

Some costumes are less girly: Joan Jett, of course, with a leather jacket (sporting a Keep Abortion Legal badge), and the outfit she wore on the I Love Rock & Roll album cover. Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth is represented with a shirt bearing the phrase “Eat Me” and the Rolling Stones’ tongue logo.

The definition of “rock” is pretty broad by the time you get to the Britney Spears and Shakira outfits, basically sequined pants with bikini tops. Both mannequins have belly buttons. I think Shakira’s gets a six-pack; no such luck for Britney.

There is a case nearby with a mannequin wearing something that looked like something out of a horror film, red and gross. Yes, it’s Lady Gaga’s meat dress — “meat jerky by now,” we were told. At this point I heard one of the other reviewers mumbling thoughts similar to mine: “Why is it all clothes?” To be fair, it’s not all clothes. Quite a few of the mannequins come with guitars, and some have album covers or magazine articles on display showing the clothing being worn. A few have handwritten lyrics or letters. There is a wealth of text to read about each performer. But the fundamental format of the exhibit is basically mannequins wearing cool stage costumes.

Cyndi Lauper: “She’s So Unusual” because it is definitely unusual to have no head!

The focus on the costumes seems to be both a positive and a negative. On the negative side, the heavy emphasis on costumes seems to crowd out memorabilia that I have seen in other exhibits — more letters, press, vintage posters, tickets, etc. It tends to define almost all the artists by their clothing, displayed on those (mostly) headless, nearly interchangeable mannequins. (The only ones with heads were ones with hats. And those heads were generic.) What’s important, it says, is what’s below the neck. This is what defines each artist. And this is problematic.

Women in rock are not about their clothes — the clothes are a sideline and kind of a distraction. Show me more video, show me more memorabilia — how about the kind of display where it feels as if “you are there” seeing some of them perform, instead of dead faceless mannequins wearing pretty clothing? What was it like to see Ruth Brown sing “(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean” at the Mambo Club in Wichita, Kansas in 1956? What was it like to see Blondie at CBGB’s in 1977? The display is more “Nordstrom window” than “rock and roll.”

On the positive side, seeing so many mannequins does give you a bit of a feeling that “hey, there are a lot of women in rock, and this is only touching the surface.” And at the same time, it gives you that sense that they are just people like yourself — maybe shorter than you are, maybe thinner, maybe not — not some onstage demigods glowing under a spotlight.

I must admit that I personally find costume interesting. I’ve researched it, and it’s one of the aspects of history that draws my attention, so I enjoyed seeing the clothing, but I did not like that it really seemed to be the focus. Having costumes there is good, but the exhibit seems kind of imbalanced.

That does not mean you shouldn’t go see it anyway, though. Imbalanced or not, the exhibit is still fascinating. I just wish it could have been more.

Is this the Nordstrom half-yearly sale? How much for the dress in gray?

25 Apr

“In a room five feet square.”

While working on remodeling my bungalow bathroom (more on that later) I was looking for some vintage art to put on the wall. I found this 1922 ad:


I loved it immediately and decided that would be on my wall. (I ordered it from this eBay seller.) But, note the caption:

“Five Foot ‘Standard’ Bathroom
Pembroke Bath with Shower, Marcosa Lavatory
and Expulso Closet in a room five feet square.”

Five feet square?! 25 square feet? That’s a pretty small room, but it is possible if the sink is small. I grew up in a house that had a very small bathroom, but it was closer to 5’x7′ — the sink and toilet could both fit on the same wall, which at least left room for a laundry hamper.

Looking at other Standard ads from the 1920s, I saw this theme repeated over and over, usually with gorgeous painted artwork to illustrate (click each image to see a full version):

The advertising emphasized the flexibility and freedom of having these small bathrooms as convenient extra bathrooms in one’s home to “assure ideally ample bathroom facilities” and allow “leisurely washing, and splashing, and fixing, and primping before the lavatory glass.”

This ad attempted to appeal to both women and the men in their homes who might be irritated at the time spent in the bath:

"Oh how she had longed for a bathroom all her own" -- the freedom of not sharing a bathroom, by installing one in a five foot square space.  "Ample bathroom facilities are not a luxury." Though the room is small, it has rose tiles and a checked linoleum floor, with elaborate light fixtures.

“Oh how she had longed for a bathroom all her own” — the freedom of not sharing a bathroom, by installing one in a five foot square space.
“Ample bathroom facilities are not a luxury.” Though the room is small, it has rose tiles and a checked linoleum floor, with elaborate light fixtures.

Oh how she had longed for a bathroom all her own — where she could take her own sweet time, knowing it would not be remarked upon — confident that others were not being inconvenienced.

How hard it is to use a bathroom on schedule!

The bathroom in this ad, though tiny, had a sense of feminine luxury, with rose-colored tilework, golden sconces with aqua shades, and a butterfly area rug.

Unspoken in the Five Foot Square ad campaign was something else — if you can install a full bathroom in such a small space, you can easily add bathrooms to homes that previously didn’t have indoor plumbing.

Standard ads, both in the 1920s and otherwise, tended to promote elaborate and expensive luxury bathroom designs, ones which were out of reach for many. Earlier ads often showed fairly large bathrooms with features such as bidets and sitz baths, and it was common for the ads to show household maids at work in the bathroom. Here are a couple of the earlier Standard ads:

The Five Feet Square ads combined an appeal to luxury (extra baths for the lady who has everything) with an appeal to those homeowners still in smaller, older houses: you too, they said, can have glamorous indoor plumbing. All you need is a spare closet or the end of a hallway!

Whether the campaign was successful or not, I don’t know. By the 1930s, Standard seems to have moved on to ads emphasizing color, Art Deco modernity, and the replacement of old, “unsightly” fixtures such as clawfoot tubs. If you want a bathroom in a room five feet square, though, American Standard (formerly Standard) still sells a tiny sink or two.

28 Mar

Pinterest is not entirely clothes, food, and crafts

Part of Pamela Saunders' Black Death pinboard on Pinterest.

Part of Pamela Saunders’ Black Death pinboard on Pinterest.

During my long blog hiatus, Pinterest came along to provide the ability to “pin” cool images from the Web to save for later perusal. It combines an appeal to the visual with an appeal to the inner collector and hoarder that sits within far too many of us, which makes it more than a little addictive. I have spent way too much time on Pinterest lately, adding and organizing pins, creating new pinboards, and searching for new topics to curate.

At least among my contacts, Pinterest seems to feature a lot of DIY projects, clothes, and recipes. But it’s used to collect other things as well. The other day I stumbled on an interesting pinboard curated by Pamela Saunders on the topic of the Black Death, the medieval pandemic that may have killed one-third of the population of Europe in the late 1340s, and then returned at regular intervals for the next several hundred years.

A mass grave containing probable Black Death victims’ skeletons was found earlier this month in London during excavations for the Crossrail project, which brought this medieval pandemic into the daily news. Pamela’s pinboard links to that story, as well as to artwork inspired by the plague, mourning jewelry, fourteenth-century plague graffiti, and more. It’s an interesting assortment of links if you have any interest in this aspect of medieval history.

21 Mar


Long time no blog. I’m finally biting the bullet and using one of the standard WordPress themes for this site — I just don’t have time to customize a whole theme anymore. I’m planning to post some more about a few of the things I’ve been doing lately, including interesting history trivia, crafts, design, and more.

Here’s something interesting I found tonight in the R. Williamson and Co. Catalogue No. 15, Illustrating Electric and Combination Fixtures/Art Glass Domes (undated, but by internal evidence it is no earlier than late 1908. Catalogue 14 was from 1906 and Catalogue 17 was from 1911, so I think that this one is from 1908-1909).

In the days of the telegraph, the cost of the telegram was based on the number of letters in the text. For this reason, it was common for people to use a “code” to send their message so they could send as few letters as possible while still getting their message across.

R. Williamson and Co. had a code in their catalogue, spread over two pages to include many necessary phrases. For example: PAPA 2378 FIR CELERY LENTILS RICE SISTER HOME was a much shorter and cheaper way to say “Can you ship fixture 2378 at once on receipt of order? Three light bracket, wired as explained in catalogue, assembled ready to hang, regular length as in catalogue, in the rich gilt and satin finish. Send by American Express, C.O.D.”

Here’s the full code.

telegraph code 1

telegraph code 2

25 Apr

Four years old?!

While I was searching for something else, I stumbled on this fairly horrifying story, published in the Schenectady Gazette, April 14, 1923. If you click on it you can see a larger copy. It says:


Montrose, Pa., April 13.—Four-year old Elmer Washburn, confessed slayer of Silas Payne, an aged recluse, was found guilty of murder in the second degree by a jury today. He will be sentenced later.

Young Washburn, it was testified at the trial, had seen Payne counting $2,000 in gold on numerous occasions at his shack near Montrose. The lure of the gold, the lad said, was too strong for him and he confessed that he had sneaked up behind the recluse and clubbed him to death. The gold was later recovered where Washburn told the authorities he had hid it.

Can that story be true? I didn’t have a chance to do any serious research on it. But I can’t imagine a four-year old child being able to club someone to death. Could it have been an error for “fourteen”?

Follow-up: Yes, it was an error. He was fourteen. I found it in the New York Times, November 2, 1922. Still a horrible story, but, sadly, much more believable.

30 Sep

The newest fashions (in 1903)

From The Delineator, summer 1903:

The Delineator was published by Butterick, the sewing pattern company, and included fashion articles and pictures, along with short stories and other articles. In one 1903 issue, there is a mention of the recent passing of Ebenezer Butterick, who founded the Butterick company in 1863 — and invented the graded paper sewing pattern.

The Butterick company still exists, but it is now part of McCall Pattern Company (which I think has itself been acquired by some other firm). Butterick patterns, for some weird reason, always seem to have annoying and confusing directions, compared to other pattern companies. I don’t know why. I’m glad they still exist, though.

28 May

Medical journal advertisements in 1886

(edited March 2013: Google broke my links to some of the images. Sorry if they don’t make sense anymore. Maybe I will fix them at some point. Damn Google.)

While searching for something entirely different on Google Books (which is just about my favorite place on the Web these days), I stumbled on an issue of The Lancet, a British medical journal, from 1886. The advertisements in it, for patent medicines, food, “sanitary appliances” and more, are fascinating. Here are a few:
Text not available
Yes, “liquid meat” would make me want to “barff”, too.

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Note “Coca.” As in “cocaine.” A “powerful nerve stimulant indeed!

Text not available
Ah, stout. “Particularly suited for invalids, ladies nursing, or anyone requiring a good strengthening beverage.” It’s what the doctor ordered!

17 Mar

A wealth of stained glass on Flickr

While looking for an image for someone tonight, I stumbled on one of the most beautiful photosets I’ve ever seen on Flickr: Gordon Plumb’s Stained Glass. 183 beautiful photos of stained glass, including some lovely photos of William Morris-designed windows.

After viewing Plumb’s set I wanted to look at some more glass, and found the English Stained Glass — Pre Victorian pool. More great photos. Something I found interesting in this one was the large amount of windows that are made up of fragments of older windows, put together in a sort of collage. It makes me quite sad that so many windows were destroyed, though the new versions are nice, too.

And finally, there is the general Stained Glass pool, with more than 11,000 pictures to enjoy.

13 Nov

Pattern: Diane Sweater from 1921

1921 Fleisher Yarn ad

Recently I was looking through the book For The Love of Knitting, which includes many pictures of vintage knitting patterns and books, and I noticed that one of the illustrations was of a Fleisher yarn company ad from 1921. The ad included a complete pattern for a very cute drop-stitch sweater, which it claims takes “less than two days’ time”! Now, here’s the neat thing — anything published pre-1923 is in the public domain in the United States. So this ad and the knitting pattern it contains are in the public domain (probably why the book included it). So I’m reprinting the 1921 pattern here for anyone who is interested.

More photos and the pattern text after the jump!

Read More

26 Jun

The Gentleman’s Page

The Gentleman’s Page is subtitled “A Practical Guide for the 19th Century American Man.” And it is, indeed. Browsing this site, you’ll learn how the men of that period dressed (frock suits, sack suits, and so on), how they acted (the correct bowing technique), and even the strict etiquette on how they should use their visiting cards when calling on acquaintances. Photographs and illustrations from the period are included. It’s quite fascinating.

05 Jun

Tasty art

While browsing Shorpy, I saw a link to Box of Apples — a site devoted to fruit crate label art. They sell giclĂ©e prints of them, but even if you’re not in the market, the gallery is a fun browse. They mention in their blog that “…one reason these labels are so pretty is that instead of the usual four-color printing (where cyan, magenta, yellow and black are combined to produce the desired hue), they used eight- and twelve- color printing.” Close-up examples are provided to illustrate this. They are all great, but I think I like this one the best.

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