Friday, September 28, 2012

Shoes Preserved Under Glass

As noted in prior posts,  certain industries and trades of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries made particular use of the glass paperweights as a means of advertising their merchandise.   Among them were steamships,  newspapers, funeral homes, automobiles, soft drink makers,  and the subject of this post:  shoe manufacturers.   These artifacts give us an enduring look at the shoe styles of yesteryear.

The women of the mid-to late 1900s now could buy their shoes through the growing number of department stores and other retail outlets.  While getting one feet shod by the local cobbler may have persisted in some quarters, for most Americans,  shoe were, as they said, “store bought.”

Women were accustomed to squashing their feet in tight shoes.  Their footwear buttoned at the side -- usually with help of a button hook --  had pointed toes and very high but somewhat blocky heels.   The Intervale Manufacturing Company of Haverhill, Massachusetts,  founded in 1882, clearly was designing for that market.  It emphasized the “hand sewn” nature of its tops and buttons,  reflecting an emphasis on craftsmanship.

The W.H. Goodger & Company of Rochester, New York,  displayed a similar lady’s button down shoe on its paperweight.   Its line was called “Famous Shoes” and the particular model “La Belle,”  illustrated by depicting a bell.   The Goodger folks also provided customers with a motto:   “No how cheap but how good.”  My assumption is that if  “La Wife”  wanted “La Belle,” it could be expensive.

The following weight shows a formal man’s shoe.  As we see here,  shoes for men were mostly over the ankle boots.  Toe cap, lace up boots in black, gray, or brown were the most common for everyday wear. Formal occasions called for formal boots with white uppers (spat style), they could be buttoned or, as the one shown here, laced.  This weight was made by the Graeser Mfg. Co. of Pittsburgh for V. Schoeneck Boot & Shoe Co. of Milwaukee, a city which once boasted at least a dozen shoe manufacturers.

Like Goodger,  the John Heckel Company was a Rochester, New York, manufacturer.  Heckel did not make the shoes, he made the steel shank that underlay the foot.  As he showed in his paperweight,  the steel shank kept the foot well supported while a shoe without his 1893 patented device apparently could lead to fallen arches.   Although this weight is not marked it looks was made by the Abrams Paper Weight Co., of Pittsburgh and other cities.

The Heywood Boot & Shoe Company for many years was one of America’s most successful.  Tracing its origins in Worchester, Massachusetts, back to the Civil War era (e.g. 1964),  the company featured an oxford toe, laced over the ankle man’s shoe,  a type that became popular in the late 1900s.  Among the company slogans was:  “Outside your foot steps in style, inside our footprint in leather.”   Making good shoes and advertising widely,  the Heywood Company survived two World Wars and the Great Depression, going out of business in 1953 due undoubtedly to foreign competition.

A similar shoe, only partly laced, was the product of the Dorsch Shoe Company.  Its paper weight tells us that it was located next the Engine House but neglects to tell us in what city.  In reality it was located in Newark, New Jersey.   Known as the makers of “The Bull Dog” shoe line,  the firm probably issued this weight about 1908.

Information about the origins of the Streng & Thalheimer firm are scanty.  They were a Louisville, Kentucky, outfit who claimed to be both manufacturers and jobbers (e.g. middle men) in the shoe trade.  Two brands are advertised on the weight,  “Squire Carter’s Glace” calf shoe and “Dr. Palmer’s XXXX” calf shoe.

It was rare for a woman’s name to be associated with a manufacturing enterprise in those days, but Mrs. A. R. King is prominently identified with the “The Kant Slip Shoe.”   Assuming she was an actual personage, she made her footwear in Lynn, Massachusetts, specializing in a low woman’s button shoe with a rubber bottom.   Her weight was a marked Abrams product, this one bearing a Mystic, Connecticut, address.

Although the next paper weight mentions a Rochester, New York, distributor, the manufacturer was Goodyear’s Rubber Glove Company, located in Connecticut.  As the story goes, the first vulcanized rubber overshoe was made in a factory in Naugatuck.  The daughter of inventor Charles Goodyear demonstrated the process for a group of highly impressed investors in 1843 and manufacturing began shortly after under a license granted by Mr. Goodyear.

Eventually there were four rubber companies in Naugatuck.  Goodyear himself invested in a company that moved from Litchfield, Connecticut, to Naugatuck and changed its name to the the one shown here.  In addition to the traditional rubber galoshes and boots, this firm manufactured rubber gloves for telegraph linemen.

The most colorful weight has been left for last.  It was issued by the Gray Bros. Manufacturing Company of Syracuse,  New York.  It shows a the white tip of a elegant example of footwear.  It seems far from the ordinary shoe.  My guess is that it was an opera boot, dress pump, or dancing slipper that readily would have been recognized by the women of the era.

There they are, ten glass paperweights, each one providing a glimpse at  what people walked around in a century or more ago.  A hundred years  from now I wonder:  Will future generations be just as astonished about a $600 pair of sneakers in our day as we are that our ancestors could pay as little as $3.50 for a Dorsch shoe?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Kids Selling Whiskey II

A 21st Century mentality has a hard time grasping the idea that in the 19th and early 20th Century it was perfectly fine to advertise and sell whiskey by using images of children.  I first explored this phenomenon in this blog in March of 2010.   Subsequently a number of other whiskey ads, trade cards and signs featuring youngsters have come to my attention, occasioning this second look at kids selling whiskey.

The youngest child to be present is a photograph of a tot,  presumably a boy,  standing at a table on which sits a jug from the Edgewood Distilling Company of Cincinnati.   Cincinnati directories indicate that the A.G. Diehl Company,  had merged with the Paxton Brothers Co. to create Edgewood Distilling. The business relationships between Diehl and the Paxton Brothers began as early as 1874 when A.G. Diehl & Co.  Wines and Liquors,  occupied a location at 32 East Second Street in the Queen City.   A separate listing for the same address lists Paxton & Diehl,  Distillers.   From 1875 to 1877 the firm name became Diehl & Paxton Brothers,  to be changed to Paxton Bros. & Co., Distillers, from 1878 to 1883.  Finally in 1887 the business became Edgewood Distilling at the same East Second Street address.  The company moved its business office after 1891 to several locations on Main Street and finally in 1906 to its last address at 417-419 Elm Street.   The actual distillery was located in Lincoln County KY.  The firm disappeared from Cincinnati directories after 1918,  an apparent casualty of National Prohibition.

The jug on the table is its own story.  It was manufactured by the Fulper Pottery of Flemington, New Jersey, which sold ceramic whiskey containers as “fancy jugs” and were  used by distillers and dealers nationwide.

The next tots are almost as young as the first, but not too young to be doing some inter-gender smooching.  The Willard Distilling Company almost certainly were not distillers and probably not “rectifiers,”  (i.e. blenders of whiskey) but more likely wholesale distributors and dealers.  Nonetheless, their amorous kids made a statement with their “soul kiss.”

The “Old Forrester” trade card ushers in a series of whiskey ads featuring children and animals.  The first shows a precious little lass is leading a equally precious little lamb.  What could be more appropriate for selling whiskey?  This was a brand from the Vogt-Applegate Company of Louisville, Kentucky.  The Applegates were a prominent Kentucky family whose leader,  Colonel C. L. Applegate,  would sell you four quarts of his whiskey for $3.00.

The following trade card also features a youngster, well dressed in breeches and a feathered cap,  advertising J.S. Stone Old Bourbon Whiskey which, we are assured, is “chemically pure.”  He is accompanied by two doves, neither of which could have laid the giant egg the boy seems to be rolling.   This whiskey was the product of Holden & Clay, a Boston based liquor store that shows up in city directories in 1891 and not afterward.

Fernberger Bros. at 1230 Market Street in Philadelphia advertised their “pure old rye whisky” with another youth.  In his case, the doves have been replaced by an owl with a knowing look.  Perhaps the look reflects the claim that for $3 one can get a gallon of the Fernberger’s product and, it is claimed, a libation of equal quality would cost at least $4.  As Prohibition closed in, many whiskey outfits claimed that their product was only for “family and medicinal use,”  not to be imbibed in those awful saloons.  The Fernbergers were in business from 1871 until 1902.

Our last child-animal association is considerably less benign than the earlier ones.  Here a youth, whose gun has been laid aside, confronts a bear and seemingly is reduced to prayer as a response to the apparent threat.   This was a trade card for “Golden Horseshoe”  rye whiskey, at $1 a bottle.  It was sold by Max D. Stern at his 49 Whitehall Street address in New York City.  Stern was a whiskey wholesaler with three locations.   He claimed that his booze “aids digestion & strengthens the constitution.”   He does not, however, say how it assists in being eaten by a bear.

At the age of 28, Oscar Good bought an existing distillery in his native Franklin County.  He improved it to include a three-story stone distillery building with a water tank on an attached frame shed at the side and a tall active smoke stack.  Behind the distillery were the slopes of the Blue Mountains, a beautiful low Appalachian range that extends for more than 100 miles through the southern Pennsylvania countryside, an bucolic area that attracted a modest tourist trade.

Good’s flagship label was “Blue Mountain Rye.” The brand was featured on a colorful trade card of a winsome lad carrying a flowering branch and a basket.  The reverse side declared:  “These whiskies are pure, distilled from clean grain, and soft mountain water, which seems to be the secret of making fine whiskies.  I will give one hundred dollars if any person finds adulterations of any kind in my whiskies from the time I commence mashing the grain until I dispose of them.”    Good also asserted that his whiskeys had no unpleasant aftertaste.  He further suggested it could be served to hired hands at harvest time.

The next trade card features two little girls, one with a doll and the other with a quill pen and a writing desk advertises “Stonewall Whiskey.”   This was a brand from Charles Rebstock & Co. of St. Louis whose whiskey dealership survived from 1871 until 1918.  Rebstock’s flagship label was “Stonewall,” which he registered with the federal government in 1874.  His ads said of this whiskey:  “It makes people happy and wealthy.”  It was also touted as “America’s Finest Whiskey” and “Perfection.

In 1914, after 24 profitable years on Main St. in St. Louis,  Rebstock moved to 200 S. First Street and eventually shut down as Prohibition approached.  Now 74 years old and apparently without immediate heirs,  this wealthy whiskey man began to look for likely place to practice philanthropy.   The Journal of the American Medical Assn. reported in 1922 that Rebstock had purchased the Wintersteiner Collection of 13,000 microscopic preparations of pathologic changes of the eye and contributed them to the St. Louis (Medical) University.  The collection was said to be the most complete in Europe and was to be used for graduate instruction in opthamology.

The calendar depicting two barefoot “Huck Finn” type boys was from the Utah Liquor Company, a  most interesting whiskey dealership.  The company was formed in 1898 Salt Lake City and its  owner, Jake Bergerman, literally sold whiskey in the heart of Mormon Land. Early on, for example, he issued a metal token good for 12&1/2 cents in trade at the Utah Liquor Co. that had an image of the Mormon Tabernacle on the reverse.  His annual calendars could  be found far and wide among the Utah drinking population.

Our last example is from California, a sign promoting the whiskey and wines of the Theodore Gier Company. It depicts four lovely young girls with a dog hauling their wagon. After having been in the U.S. for only a year, Gier set up a grocery store in Oakland that proved successful.  With those profits, he established a retail and wholesale company to sell liquor.  That money he used to begin vineyards and to make prime wines.  When Prohibition arrived, he attempted to continue selling wine, was caught, fined heavily and his property confiscated.  He died broke.

Here we have 10 pre-Prohibition images of children being employed to sell whiskey,  While the notion of such merchandising seems out of bounds today,  at an earlier time it was  common and accepted by the drinking public.  With the coming of National Prohibition in 1920 all such advertising ceased and by 1934 when it resumed the use of children to push whiskey had become anathema. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Centennial Post: Odyssey of a Collector

Almost unbelievably, this is my 100th post for the blog I began in 2009, called Bottles, Booze and Back Stories.   Over ensuing months,  I have tried to keep the presentations varied, in accord with the subtext,  “A blog about more things than you can shake a stick at.”  For this centennial post,  I have decided to address my journey through a lifetime of collecting.

Like many youngsters in the 1940s and 1950s,  I started by collecting postage stamps.  President Franklin Roosevelt was a stamp collector and the hobby was highly popular.  For a kid it put you in touch with foreign countries and images that stretched the imagination.  My interest extended into the early 1960s when I worked across the street from a Gimbel’s Department Store in Milwaukee that featured a large stamp department.  My particular interest was in stamps featuring American Presidents,  including FDR and, after his death, John Kennedy.

By the 1970s, my interest in postage stamps had waned and I began selling off the foreign stamps and using the U.S. stamps on mail.  About the same time, my interest soared for collecting first editions of the American author, Sherwood Anderson.   I had done my master’s thesis on Anderson,  was communicating with his widow, and contemplated writing a book about him.  My long-suffering bride endured a New York City honeymoon during which we spent much of our time pawing through the dust of used book stores trolling for Anderson’s works.

In the mid-1990s I drove the Anderson volumes to Milwaukee and donated them to the rare book section of the library at Marquette University, the school where I had first become acquainted with the American author.  The university did me the kindness of issuing a press release about my contribution and, for a while, putting the books on display.  I took a tax deduction.

Meanwhile a new collecting passion had emerged.  While visiting Jakarta Indonesia on a business trip in 1978,  I was taken to Jalan Surabaya,  a street  with a giant open air flea market where artifacts from around the world are sold.  There I found three highly decorated British whiskey jugs, like nothing I had ever seen before.  For US$100 I bought them all and was able to ship them, undamaged, back to my home.

That triggered a passion for whiskey jugs, both American and British, that lasted for some two decades.  During that time I amassed a group of several hundred, large and small.  It also launched my writings on jugs, bottles and other collectibles that now exceed 400 articles in magazines and newsletters in the U.S., Britain, Australia and Canada and include three self-published books.

By the late 1990’s the whiskey jugs seemed to be crowding my wife and me out of the house. Subsequently, in three auctions I sold off, and profitably so, the “high end” British and American jugs.  Other items were sold at bottle shows.  More recently, I contributed  80 less valuable whiskey ceramics to the Getz Whiskey Museum at Bardstown, Kentucky, which has been very gracious about the gift.

As the process of devolving the whiskey jugs was proceeding,  I noted that a great many hillbilly ceramics had been issued as souvenirs during the period 1940-1970.  These artifacts were a product of automobile tourism made possible by the hardening of roadways, capped by the development of the interstate system.   The hillbilly was the last ethnic group that safely could be caricatured but even that era was ending.  As a result, I set out to collect as many ceramic hillbilly souvenirs as possible as expressions of Americana that were not likely to be replicated in the future.  The collection included pottery ashtrays, salt and peppers shakers, coffee mugs, plates, and jugs. Because they were common and inexpensive, I was able to amass some 100 hillbilly ceramics in the space of three years.

From the outset my purpose for this collection was eventually to give it to a museum or library.   Looking around for a suitable place to donate the items in 2005, I came across the Appalachian Life Museum at the University of North Carolina - Boonesboro.   The museum’s curator was fascinated,  drove to my Virginia home, and picked all but a few, and drove them back to North Carolina.  Although the museum later lost its space at the university,  my hillbillies remain in good hands.

After disposing of the whiskeys and the hillbillies I was searching for a new collection.  The objects had to be less space-filling than the whiskey jugs but something that would hold more interest than postage stamps.  They also had to be artifacts that were commonly being sold on internet sites like eBay. After much thought, beginning about  2006 I focussed on glass paperweights.  Because of my interest in the pre-Prohibition American whiskey industry, I largely have concentrated on U.S. weights that advertise liquor.   Right now, that collection numbers approximately 87 items, the majority of them from the pre-Prohibition era.  Because of their  modest size, paperweights can be stored easily.  Much of the present collection is housed in a six-drawer former thread cabinet that sits on the desk in my office.

Residual elements of all my former collections remain with me.  My U.S. Presidents stamps and a few others sit in albums in the basement. About two dozen whiskey jugs, old favorites, still decorate our family room.  Fourteen hillbilly items look down on me as I sit at my computer writing this 100th post.  Several of Sherwood Anderson’s books,  purchased after my gift to Marquette,  repose on a shelf behind me.

With advancing age I am coming to the end of the collecting road.  It has been an odyssey of almost 70 years to accumulate -- and often later to dispose of -- items of interest.  Each collection in its turn has expanded my knowledge and understanding as well provided  material for hundreds of articles.  Most of all, I suppose, my collecting has been a lot of fun.