Saturday, September 14, 2019

Requiem for the Barney Knob


It goes by lots of names.  In my northwest Ohio town we called it a “barney knob.” In other places it is known by other names.  Wikipedia uses the generic term “Brodie” knob after a man named Steve Brodie, a New York daredevil who is reputed in 1886 to have jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge to collect a bet and survived. Other names for the device include necker, knuckle buster, and suicide knob.  A variety of them are shown throughout this post.

With my first automobile, a 1953 Chevrolet two-door that cruised at 80 miles an hour, for a while I had a barney knob on the steering wheel, have not used one since, and had largely forgotten about the device.  What put me in mind of it was a younger friend who fell, broke a wrist and was told not to drive.  “If you had a barney knob,” you could drive with one hand,”  I told him.  He had never heard of them. 

The object in question is a small, independently rotating knob (not unlike the standard door knob).  As shown here, it faces the driver and is securely mounted on the outside rim of a steering wheel. The knob is intended to help make steering with one hand less difficult and faster.  It was invented in 1936 by Joel R. Thorp, a resident of a Milwaukee suburb, West Allis, Wisconsin.  He called it a “steering wheel spinner knob.”  Later Thorp would invent an improved accelerator pedal.

In its heyday the knob made a fashion statement.  After World War II, hard plastic like lucite had hit the market and colorful knobs were the rage.  As I remember, mine was drum shaped with a bright yellow plastic flower display.  As shown here, others displayed plastic dice, the eight ball of pool, and sometime an image you did not want your mother to see. 

Placement of the barney knob was crucial.  It had to be available to the major driving hand and to turn a hard corner.  Being left handed, mine, I recall, was about 8 o’clock on left side of the wheel.  Others tended to locate it at 1 o’clock.

It was sometimes called the “necker” knob because it allowed the user to drive while having one arm around the shoulders of a girl friend snuggled close or perhaps holding her hand.  A youthful pal of mine was employing the knob to good use in that fashion but in his romantic haze drove into a busy intersection and had a fender bender that got him grounded for several weeks.

Wikipedia points out that the device is “notoriously useless” for controlling the automobile during an emergency.  The knob also be the cause of an emergency if it flips back and hits the driver’s arm. Today it frequently is termed the “suicide knob.”  Potential hazards also are responsible for it being called a “Brodie knob,” since his daredevil antics popularly were seen as a death wish.

During the 1950s, rumors constantly were flying among the barney knob crowd that the Ohio state legislature had passed a law making them illegal and if stopped by the police for a traffic infraction a second citation would follow.  I have no doubt that bills were introduced in many states to outlaw the knob and that nationwide proponents of the gizmo were left to worry.  To date, however, I cannot find any evidence that the barney knob ever was declared illegal in Ohio or any other state.

Nonetheless, whether it was fear of arrest or my father’s strong objection to it, I removed my barney knob only months after tightening the screws on my Chevrolet steering wheel.   The knob was kept lovingly in my dresser drawer where I would take it out occasionally and gaze at it in appreciation.
But I never replaced it on the steering wheel of my Chevrolet.

Some sixty years have elapsed since then.  The barney knob with the bright yellow flower long since has vanished from my possession.  I no longer cruise at 80 miles an hour and am usually holding tightly onto the steering wheel with both hands.  But it pains me that the knob has faded into almost utter obscurity even among the younger set.  I mourn its passing.  Thus the requiem.  

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Native Americans Advertising Beer

The official U.S. Government view was expressed in an 1833 report by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to Congress:   “The proneness of the Indian to the excessive use of ardent spirits with the too great facility of indulging that fatal propensity through the cupidity of our own citizens, not only impedes the progress of civilization, but tends inevitably to the degradation, misery, and extinction of the aboriginal race.”   Despite that stern warning, brewers have used the names and images of Native Americans through the years to advertise and sell their alcoholic beer.

Displayed here are labels and ads all in that genre.  The first is a trade card from the late 1880s and celebrates the Cherokee Brewery of St. Louis, boasted as gold medal winners and “Bottlers and Brewers of All Kinds of First Class Malt Liquors.”  Now long gone but once located on the 2700 block of Cherokee Street, the brewery was accounted a massive complex built in the 1870s.  Shut down by Prohibition, part of the facility later became a movie theater and later a parking lot.

One of the more attractive images shows an Indian chief perched on a rock with a bow and arrow, gazing down at a lonely farm house.  Yet nothing seems sinister, just romantic. It was the label of Reisch’s Sangamo Beer.  But were the Sangamos a tribe in the vicinity of Springfield, Illinois?  During the 1960s a site was identified nearby in official Illinois Archeological Survey files as “the extinct village of Sangamo Indians.”   Later research has labeled that finding a mistake.

The Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company has made a great deal of a Native American heritage. It is made in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, the seventh oldest active brewery in America.  The brewery is located adjacent the Chippewa River, located in Chippewa County, and according to the label the beer is made with Chippewa Water.  For years their figurehead was — and still is —a Native American maid.  The Chippewa, by the way, were a dominant tribe in the Upper Midwest.

This advertising tray provides a vivid colorful side view of an Iroquois chief, appropriate branding for the Iroquois Beverage Company of Buffalo, New York.  Its claim to be founded in 1842 is valid.  It was the successor to the Jacob Roos Brewery, the name changed to Iroquois by a subsequent owner in 1892. It would become one of the oldest and longest-lasting breweries in Buffalo, surviving Prohibition by brewing soft drinks and near beer. With the reintroduction of real beer, Iroquois grew and prospered after Prohibition ended in April 1933. It became the largest brewer in Buffalo; eventually reaching a capacity of 600,000 barrels per year.

It is a wonder anyone would label a beer “Rosebud” and depict an Indian chief.  The Battle of the Rosebud in 1876 was a long and bloody engagement in which the Lakota and Cheyenne fought with persistence and demonstrated a willingness to accept casualties rather than break off the encounter. The U.S. general barely escaped a devastating defeat.  This beer was the product of the Harold C. Johnson Brewing Co. of Lomira, Wisconsin.  Only briefly in operation, the company opened in 1945 and closed nine years later.

Another beer-maker that found it expedient to issue an advertising tray featuring a Native American, in this case a comely squaw, was the Wieland Brewery of San Francisco.  A gold miner, baker and later “beer baron,” bought an existing facility, named it for himself, and built it into one of the largest and most successful breweries on the West Coast.   Wieland himself died in a fire in 1885 and the brewery was sold to new owners who kept his name.  Prohibition ended its operations.

In a little known sideline, Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel) took a turn a putting a Native American into the beer trade.  In 1919, on the very day his father became president of a  Springfield, Massachusett brewery, National Prohibition was voted and eventually forced the brewery to close. Geisel never forgot the financial loss and trauma this event caused his family.  Among his commercial drawings, Geisel did ads for beer and liquor companies.

in 1942 the Narragansett Brewing Company, located in Cranston, Rhode Island, asked Geisel to undertake an ad campaign for its beer. The president, Rudolph F. Haffenreffer, was an avid collector of Native American artifacts including cigar store Indians. Haffenreffer asked Geisel to weave an Indian theme into his advertising.

Thus was born “Chief Gansett,” a blocky figure wearing beads, carrying a hatchet and boasting a multicolored headdress. Most often this wooden Indian carried a large goblet of beer. The image proved very popular and the Chief appeared on a range of marketing items including trays, bar coasters, and posters as well as appearing in newspaper and magazine ads. In an ad for bock beer, Chief Gansett was depicted riding on an animal that bore a strong resemblance to a mountain goat. 

Stout Native Americans have also been summoned from time to time to help Anheuser-Busch sell Budweiser.  As a colonist sits with his rifle, three Indians are vigorously poling a raft on which stand a chieftain with a barrel of beer at his feet.
Labeling the beer “The Chief of All,”  the ad stretches to link the picture with selling the suds.  Somehow because the chief represents “deeds of valor in war and wisdom in peace,” and Bud “quality and purity,” they both belong on the same page.  The ad boys clearly had been imbibing when they thought up this pitch.

The same crew must have been at work on the next one.  It has Pueblo Indians celebrating Thanksgiving.  Once again Budweiser stretches for a Native American theme:  With joyous chants and throbbing tom-toms, the Indians celebrated each bountiful harvest of maize.  How the red man would marvel to see the part his native grain plays in the nutrition and industrial prosperity of modern America!”   How demeaning of Native Americans!   It is as if there were no “red men” left in the U.S., all of them apparently eliminated (by alcohol?) in creating “modern America.”

As has been seen here, the use of Native American images to sell beer could sometimes result in attractive images and artifacts, sometime in humorous, and sometimes in the ludicrous.  But no such uses answer the concern raised at the beginning of this post about the effects of alcohol among indigenous Americans.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Weird Vintage Paperweights

Over time I have collected the images of a number of paperweights that are out of the ordinary in the illustrations they bear, the messages they impart, or their utility as advertising devices.   Having amassed eleven of them, it is now time to present them to the public. 

Some of really goofy weights provide humanoid heads from unlikely materials.  The first, shown here, was the first MacDonald’s advertising mascot called “Speedy.”  Speedy was a little chef figure that had a hamburger for a face.  The idea, I suppose, was to emphasize the fast service provided by the California based chain and that hamburgers were its stock in trade.   The company dumped Speedy in 1962 in favor a clown figure named “Ronald McDonald.”  Good move.

Even more bizarre is a paperweight that provided by the Firestone Rubber Company.  It depicts the figure of a man wearing a jacket, shoes and a ten gallon hat whose face grins out at us enclosed in a head that is a tire.  If this was Firestone’s attempt at a creating a mascot like Reddy Kilowatt,  the concept falls flat (pun intended).  Searching the Internet for more information on this creature I find nothing.  Tirehead may be one of a kind. 

Everyone has seen the man in the moon.   Not able to look directly into the sun, we apparently have missed the “man in the sun,”  a smiling human-like face flaring from a yellow disc.   This was the advertising symbol of Patton’s Sun-Proof  Paints, the product of a paint and varnish manufacturer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The company claimed that adding silica to the lead and zinc in its outdoor paints warded off weather effects that cause other paints to flake off.  Patton paints were “Sold at the Sign of the Sun.”

Dr. Harper Woofter — his real name —was a St. Louis based podiatrist with a penchant for the truly weird.  His paperweight shows a stubby little bald chap who is, as the British say, “gobsmacked,” (astonished) that each of his feet has developed a smiling face and are looking at each other in amusement.  The motto below is an enigmatic “Feet First.”  The image of faces on feet strikes me as truly odd in addition to making it difficult to walk.

Paperweights that show full figures of people also can be unusual. Here is an advertisement for H.C. Bode &Co., producer of the “Famous Bode Frame Truss.” The company was located on Third Avenue, between 59th and 60th Streets in New York City.  Their weight provides an image of a young woman strapped into a variety of trusses, corsets, stockings, and braces — to the extent that one wonders:  1) what disaster might have befallen her and 2) how can she walk at all with so much armor on.  

A real drama is going on in this weight, featuring a cast of anthropomorphized elbow joints.  An aged joint with two canes has met a group of his fellow tin types and cries out:  “Please help me, I’m fixed.”  The immediate response from the leader is a calloused:  “Sorry for you, old boy, I am adjustable.”  He is followed by five other elbows in various postures and a banner sayng “So say we all of us.”
The adjustable elbows were the product of the Sargent, Greenleaf & Brooks Company, based in Chicago.

It was a surprise to learn that in the 1870s the Marburg Brothers & Company of Baltimore was one of the “Big Six” of the American cigarette industry.  The firm is said to have aimed at post-Civil War elites of America with high-end brands.  Among them was “Lone Fisherman Cigarettes.”  Company advertising featured a huge fisherman getting a light from a much smaller man.  Or is it a normal sized fisherman lighting a cigarette for Tom Thumb?  In either case, strange.

No more perplexing, however, than the weight from the California Poultry Co. of San Francisco.  It features a young woman sans clothing seemingly sitting in deep in thought, presumably inside a cube of ice.  The overhead title reads:  “Fancy Frozen Chickens.”  Is the idea that we are to considered the lass as equivalent to a young chicken?  In today’s radical feminist environment such an image would immediately spark outrage as “politically incorrect.”

Chickens help us pivot from humans to animals on paperweights.  The Avery Manufacturing Co., of Peoria, Illinois, wanted to impress on the public that “teeth talk.”   For their advertising symbol what could be better than a bulldog with an overbite? This one is severely deformed.  Rather than simply one canine tooth showing on each side of the mouth as per the real bulldog, this one has been given a total of six.  All the better, I suppose, to emphasize the tearing power of its Avery’s threshers and other farm implements.

When Mark Twain penned the lines:  “Work like you don’t need the money, dance like no one is watching, and love like you’ve never been hurt,” he likely never imagined they would appear on a paperweight with an illustration of four high-stepping pigs.  Since no other attribution appears on the item, we can assume that it was not an advertising give-away as other paperweights on this page but likely sold in a gift shop.

The gaiety above contrasts sharply with the somewhat gruesome scene of a man who apparently has just cut off the tail of a cat with a giant shears and is laughing about the deed.  It was issued by John A. Griffith & Co.,Inc., of Chicago.  Its business was “tailor’s trimmings,” i.e., anything that can be used to ornament clothing.  Griffith, a pioneer in the field, mass produced decorations using machine weaving techniques that put trimmings into the reach of small professional dressmakers and home sewers.   This explanation, however, fails to decipher the image on the weight.  Perhaps Griffith just didn’t like cats. 

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Repeal of National Prohibition — The Artifacts

Since the beginning of the Republic only 27 amendments have been adopted to the Constitution of the United States, ten of them almost immediately.   Only one amendment, the 18th, has ever been repealed.  That one imposed a ban on making or selling alcoholic beverages anywhere in the country.  For the next 14 years a drumbeat arose for “Repeal,” fueled by bootlegging, spikes in crime, and the economic woes of the Great Depression.  The progression toward ending the ban on liquor can be tracked through a series of artifacts.

The first is a license plate, meant for the front of cars in states requiring only a rear plate as many did.  It makes no pretense at subtlety, shouting in black on yellow:  “Repeal the 18th Amendment.”  Less blatant were an entire range of postcards that made a mockery of the attempt Americans from drinking.  Hip flasks were a familiar fashion statement of the 1920s, though seldom did the wearer show his off, fearful a viewer might want a snort.

The Presidential candidacy of Al Smith, a popular governor of New York and a confirmed “wet” sparked hope in many hearts that his election would mark a turning point in the battle against the prohibitionists.  The political button shown here is one of my favorite artifacts — humorous but to the point.  Even though the Democratic Party embraced Repeal, Smith’s New York accent and Catholic faith turned off voters and Herbert Hoover won handily.  Hoover embraced the 18th Amendment calling it “The Great Experiment.”

Carry Nation, the axe-swinging prohibitionist from Kansas who regularly took chunks of wood out of saloon bars was made a symbol of ridicule as an out of control fanatic.  An eating establishment might display a hatchet like the one here to remind customers of the destructive conduct that had accompanied the so-called “temperance” forces.

Before Prohibition a German ceramics-maker called Schafer & Vater had a line of figural bottles that several U.S. distillers made use of as “nips,” holding several swallows of whiskey and often given away.   When that business ended, the German partners, showing a sense of humor, issued a series of bottles featuring Uncle Sam pouring himself a drink while sitting on a barrel incised “What We Want.”

By 1932 it was becoming clear that the days of National Prohibition were numbered.  A beer glass etched with the Republican elephant and the Democratic donkey, both resting on a beer barrel, asked the question:  “Eventually, Why Not…1932”  The glass may have anticipated the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had been Governor of New York.  Roosevelt’s theme was “Happy Days Are Here Again,” captured in a Repeal-oriented fish bowl.  Perhaps that is why a large goblet of beer became known as a “fish bowl.”

With Roosevelt’s landslide win over Hoover in 1932, hopes for a quick end to Prohibition triggered a number of artifacts.  Here is a clock that is configured to look like the helm of ship.  It is being manned by a standing figure of the President who is characterized as “FDR - The Man of the Hour.”  If one looks closely at the color picture on the clock dial, it depicts a bartender with a martini shaker and customers drinking cocktails.   Clear inference:  The clock is ticking toward the end of “dry.”  The placard shown below urged Americans to “Help the President with Law Enforcement” and repeal the 18th Amendment. 

When Repeal finally was achieved in 1934, the occasion was saluted with a ceramic beer serving set that included a pitcher bearing a caricature of a jaunty President Roosevelt.  Three beer mugs completed the set from Stangl Pottery Company of Flemington, N.J.  The mugs featured  Roosevelt, Al Smith (center) and Democratic Party chairman, Jim Farley.  

Finally, 1935 brought new kind of postcard to the fore, cards celebrating Repeal with comic images.  Among them were illustrations that depicted individuals celebrating by jumping into barrels of whiskey.  Several of these were featured on this blog in my post of April 26, 2013.  Here is an example that shows a gent inside a barrel of “very old” whiskey, drinking greedily of its contents.  Once again Roosevelt’s theme song sets the theme.

From the imposition of the 18th Amendment to its disposition by the 21st had taken 14 years, a relatively short time in the context of history.  During that interregnum a great many changes occurred in America, events that have spawned hundreds of books.  I have yet to find one dedicated to Repeal, however, that so entertainingly describes the journey as the story told by these and similar artifacts.  

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Remembering Richard “Dick” Holbrooke

He liked to be called Richard Holbrooke, but I never called him anything but “Dick.”  We had adjoining offices on the Fifth Floor of the State Department from 1978 to 1981, both of us as Executive Level 4 federal officials, he as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific and I as Assistant Administrator of USAID for East and South Asia and the Pacific.

Those days were brought back to me forcefully by a new book from author George Packard entitled “Our Man, Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century.”  Having read the book over the past several days I am emboldened to put down my own memories of this accomplished American diplomat.

We first met during the early 1970s when I was a staff consultant for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs in Asia on assignment to review the operations of the Peace Corps.   Holbrooke at that time was the Peace Corps director in Morocco but sent to Asia on Corps business from time to time.  We encountered each other in a waiting room of the Djakarta, Indonesia, airport and began to chat.   All flights had been grounded in anticipation of the air arrival of President Suharto and our conversation stretched into four hours during which we found ourselves in general agreement on Peace Corps, the Vietnam War and other topics.

Fast forward five years and the election of President Jimmy Carter.  Holbrooke had been named Asia and Pacific secretary, the youngest ever to hold that position, and I had been nominated for USAID’s Asia Bureau.  The only question was my future office, with the most desirable one overlooking the Lincoln Memorial.  Although I had not seen him since Indonesia, Holbrooke intervened, declaring that my office should be adjacent to his to facilitate close communication.  That turned he decision and I was assigned the prime location.

Not long after, Dick called me on the day of his swearing into office to ask a favor. After the ceremony, he asked, could I take his two sons, David and Anthony, to lunch in the State Department cafeteria and bring them back to the celebration he was planning in his office.  Recognizing that he only recently had undergone a divorce and no mother would be present, I readily agreed.  At lunch I found Holbrooke’s sons withdrawn, almost sullen.  Subsequently, David has revealed that his father was in the habit of dropping off the boys — uninvited and unannounced —at the homes of friends just to be free of them for the day.  Then I understood their unease with me.

During the four years we served together in the Carter Administration, Dick and I never had a disagreement.  On one or two occasions he had an project he wanted to pursue with USAID funds in an Asian country.  After reviewing his proposals I found them to be good ideas, allocated the funds, and they turned out   to be a productive use of funds.

Most of all, however, I remember Holbrooke’s unwavering support for my central effort at USAID.   Famine 1975!  America’s Decision:  Who Will Survive? was a 1967 best selling book by brothers William and Paul Paddock.  Population had outrun the feeding capacity of the world, they claimed.  As the world’s leading food producer, the Paddock’s urged, the U.S. should practice a “triage” system leaving behind, apparently to starve, countries like India and Egypt.

Their predictions ignored developments in agricultural science that were making great strides in developing new strains of wheat and rice in association with chemical fertilizers, pesticides, controlled water-supply, and new methods of cultivation.  As these agricultural methods advanced in the 1970s, they became known as “The Green Revolution.”  Because the threat of famine was still a concern in 1977, along with officials of the World Bank and other developed countries,  I concentrated as much assistance money as possible, ultimately reaching close to $1 billion a year, to spreading the Green Revolution to the smallest farmers throughout Asia. 

In this effort, I had Dick Holbrooke’s unrestrained support.  In our meeting he expressed his deep concern about the possibility of people starving from a world-wide shortage of food.  In the end, the concerted international effort was successful.  The famine predicted by the Paddocks was averted through the instrument of the Green Revolution and its adoption.  Packard refers to Holbrooke as a “humanitarian” and I found him so.

The author, however, does not hesitate to detail Dick’s unbridled ambition, his betrayal of friends, his power struggles, and his sexual liaisons.  Much of this history was revealing to me, having only my four year experience to guide my opinions.   Although Holbrooke favored the war in Iraq, a mistake he later acknowledged, he will be best known for negotiating the Dayton Accords that brought a measure of peace and stability to the Balkans.  Some thought he should have won the Nobel Peace Prize.

When he died in 2010 at the age of 69, Holbrooke was a special envoy to Afganistan and Pakistan, attempting to bring that long running regional conflict to an end.  It is reported that as Dick was readied for unsuccessful surgery for a severely torn aorta, he said to the doctor, “You’ve got to end this war in Afghanistan.”  To the title of humanitarian, I would add another, Dick Holbrooke was a peacemaker. Through all the chaff thrown up around his name, much of it of his own doing, he deserves to be remembered that way.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Greetings on the Fourth of July

Not so very long ago it was the custom for people to send greeting cards — usually postcards — to family and friends on Independence Day.   These had a variety of themes, from highly patriotic, often involving the image of Uncle Sam, to political themes, and humor.   Many of them came from the workshop of Fred C. Lounsbury (1857-1917) and his Crescent Embossing Company of Plainfield, New Jersey.  Shown here are a sampling of ten Lounsbury July 4 postcards.

Although Lounsbury’s name appears on many of the cards issued from Crescent Embossing, he was not an artist but an entrepreneur and advertising specialist who directed the output of his firm that produced calendars, labels, advertising items and, beginning by 1907, topical postcards.  Several of my favorites have unintended humorous aspects.  Note the one at right.  Uncle Sam, draped in a flag, seems likely to have his pants singed or worse from the firecrackers exploding at his right leg.  

I also find humor in the card of Uncle Sam gazing from a window at a group of boys firing off a cannon.  Sam undoubted is proud of the youths, terming them “free and independent.”  He seems unaware that the cannon is not aimed in the air but level with the ground.  What are they aiming at?  Maybe the Trump White House.

Several Lounsbury cards for the Fourth contain memorials to famous Revolutionary War battles.  Uncle Sam is absent here in favor of cameos of George Washington and General John Sullivan (no relation) celebrating the victory at Trenton over the British redcoats and the Hessian mercenaries in December, 1775, Washington’s first major victory.

Another in the battle series hailed the victory at Yorktown in October 1781, the last battle of the war for independence.  Lord Cornwallis, the defeated general is depicted, looking foppish in his heavily braided uniform.  No mention is made of the French marines and French fleet that made the victory possible.

The card at left celebrates a later conflict, the Spanish-American War.  Here Uncle Sam is showing off Independence Day fireworks, surrounded by five children.  Four of them represents one of the territories wrested from Spanish rule:  Philippines, Cuba, Guam and Puerto Rico; the fifth, Hawaii.  All but Cuba would become possessions of the U.S.   The Philippines would eventually be given its independence.

The Lounsbury cards could also carry a political message.  The proprietor seems to have been a fan of President Theodore Roosevelt, showing him in his “Rough Rider” outfit from the Spanish-American War.  Driving a stars and stripes race car, Teddy assures a terrified Uncle Sam that:  “Don’t be afraid Uncle - We’ll get there all right.”  No idea is given, however, of the destination.

Another political card is also subject to interpretation.  It shows a fat bellied, cigar smoking Uncle Sam looking more like a genial robber baron than a symbol of American democracy.  He is contemplating two top-hatted, cigar smoking animals, identified as “Billy Possum” and “Jimmy Possum.”  They are presented as “The Nation’s Choice.”  The allusion is to the Presidential election of 1908 that pitted Republican William Howard Taft (“Billy”) against Democrat William Jennings Bryan (“Jimmie”).  The card seems to equate the two, although their views differed sharply.  Taft won with 51% of the vote.

The final set of Fourth of July cards are meant to be humorous.  The artist on all of them may be Charles Bunnell (1897-1968), an American painter and printmaker known for his ability to adapt to all popular styles from abstracts to realism and in this case, apparently cartooning.   Bunnell, who must have been in his teens when these were drawn, has fashioned all these cards in a manner reminiscent of the Hearst papers cartoon, “The Yellow Kid,” drawn by Richard Outcault [See my post on Outcault June 13, 2009.]   The first has an odd-looking George Washington lighting a fire cracker under a British general.

The next British general to be caught unawares by Washington was General Howe, the commander of His Majesty’s troops in the American colonies during much of the Revolutionary War.  The artist has him snoozing as all around him are explosive materials that are lighted and will soon blow him away.  

A rather different looking George Washington, standing on the crown of King George III, is purportedly reading from the Constitution [read “Declaration” ] of Independence to a highly distressed monarch who is strapped to a giant rocket.  A small boy with a lighted taper is remarking to Washington, “Say when boss!”  Note particularly the small hatchet in Washington’s belt, a reference to the cherry tree fable.

Although sending postcards at the holiday has gone out of style, the importance of the holiday is undiminished as a reminder of the many blessings of liberty we enjoy in the United States.  Fred Lounsbury understood that more than a hundred years ago and, as one writer has put it “...He truly excelled when it came to the Fourth of July.”  

Note:  Factual material about Fred Lounsbury and some images were taken from an article entitled “Lounsbury’s 4th of July Postcard Sets” by Fred Nuhn that appeared in the Antique Shoppe newspaper, dated July 2005.