Thursday, November 26, 2015

Reopsting: Arts and Crafts Thanksgiving Wishes

Happy Thanksgiving to our readers in the United States! Here's a repeat of a previous post:

Thanksgiving Wishes, Arts and Crafts Style

It's quite common to see stacks of old greeting cards at estate sales. Often they've been used, but sometimes they are still in unsigned, unsent condition.

Most of the old greeting cards I see were produced by the biggest names in the American greeting card industry -- Hallmark and American Greetings for more contemporary cards, Buzza-Cardozo and Norcross for older ones.  

But this old Thanksgiving card, which was apparently never signed or mailed, caught me off guard.  It wasn't produced by any company I'd never heard of.

The card reads:


For beauty of the generous earth,
For Small successes , joy and mirth,
for large content in little wealth.
For books, for music, and for health,
For every thing thy mercy sends,
But best of all -- for friends.

I turned the card over to see the maker's imprint:  

Artcraft Shop

The Artcraft Shop in Minneapolis was associated with artist Mary Moulton Cheney (1871-1957).  Cheney was a Minneapolis artist best known for her graphical designs.  In addition to teaching for nearly 30 years at the Minneapolis School of Fine Arts, Cheney also ran her own print shop, Artcraft Shop: Sign of the Bay Tree and published books under the name Chemith Press.  Cheney was the first female president of the School of Fine Arts (now the Minneapolis College of Art and Design) and was deeply involved in the Arts and Crafts movement during the early 20th century.  

And indeed, the stylized F in the block print, the hand-painted colors, the overall design of the card reflect the American Arts and Crafts movement.

There were many, many other greeting cards at the same estate sale, dating from before World War I to about 1932. A lot of them were Christmas cards.  I'll share some of them with you on this blog, between now and Christmas itself.  Here are a couple of examples, just for fun!

Meanwhile, here are some links to more information on Mary Moulton Cheney:

And an essay on the American Arts and Crafts movement:

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Post-War Michelin Green Guide to Paris

When I go to estate sales, I very often find that people have saved things to remind them of their travels. Not long ago, I came upon a venerable Michelin Green Guide to Paris, printed for British and American travelers.

Someone bought this Green Guide
from a Michelin dealer in Stoke-On-Trent, England.

The Green Guide makes suggestions about where to go and what to see when you are in a certain city, as well as historical information on your destination.

This vintage Green Guide doesn't have a publication date, but the details inside tell us that it was printed after the creation of the French Fifth Republic in 1958. As you would expect, the Michelin folks gave their readers a series of maps and descriptions of places to go and things to see while in Paris.

With gentle humor, we see the iconic Michelin Man taking a seat outdoors at a cafe'.

The Michelin Guide to Paris also gave its readers, in two pages, a concise history of France (a little larger than my flatbed scanner). The left column tells what happened in France; the right column provides context by recounting what happened at about the same time in Great Britain and America.

Giving a brief history of France also -- intentionally or not -- provides a bit of context about just how many conflicts the people of France, and of Paris, have been through.  If we peer at one section of the tiny type, in one column on one page, we can see the French Revolution in 1789, the rise and fall of Napoleon Bonaparte from 1799 to 1814, the Battle of Waterloo, the return of French kings....

...The rise of Napoleon II, the Crimean War, a "brief" Communist revolution, the Franco-Prussian War, World War I, World War II, and the creation of the French Commonwealth in 1958.

I think this information was particularly meaningful to the Mid-Century traveler in France. Most adult travelers in Paris in 1959 or 1960 would remember 1940, when the world looked at the news from Paris and saw this:

Adolf Hitler during the Nazi occupation of Paris.

It was important that they also remember that by 1944, the news from Paris looked like this:

General Charles De Gaulle marches near the Arc de Triomphe after the Liberation of Paris.

Michelin still produces Green Guides, as well as the better-known Red Guides that tell you where to eat when you're traveling. 

Reposting: Vintage Gurley Thanksgiving Candles

Here's a "reprint" of a previous Thanksgiving-themed blog post I wrote about a vintage Thanksgiving tradition: Candles in the shape of Pilgrims and turkeys.

Gurley Thanksgiving Candles

I don't know why I bought these Thanksgiving novelty candles at an estate sale over the summer.  I remember they were only a few cents apiece.  Perhaps it was because I remember spending part of my allowance on one of these candles -- the little Pilgrim girl -- at our local Ben Franklin store when I was a kid.  I seem to recall she cost a dime.  I kept her for years.

These little candles are somewhat the worse for wear, for having been stored probably for decades. The tips of the boy's shoes, and the head of one of the turkeys, are missing (or perhaps they were bitten off by some youngster or small animal). 

But -- like so many of their fellows -- no one ever used them as candles.  They were meant to be decorative.

This afternoon, I went online and I looked up the name of the company that made these little candles. I must say, I've never before associated the words "cute" and "decorative" with a major international oil company.   Here's the story:

A man named Franklin Gurley started a company called W & F Manufacturing Company in Buffalo, NY in 1927.  W&F made candies, chocolates and wax novelties.  In 1939, Mr. Gurley was approached by the Socony-Vacuum Oil Company ("Socony" stood for Standard Oil Company of New York -- it was a predecessor of the company we now call ExxonMobil) looking for a way to use up the extra paraffin created during the oil refining process.  

So, Gurley started making small decorative candles under the name Tavern Novelty Candles.  In 1949, the company was renamed Gurley Novelty Company and it operated until the 1970s.  It was primarily known for making decorative candles like the Pilgrim girl and boy and their fowl friends.  Gurley also made Christmas, Easter and Halloween-themed little candles.

You can find the vintage versions of the candles at online auction sites -- and the venerable Vermont Country Store bought the Gurley molds a few years ago and is reissuing them.  Among others, they sell the Pilgrims and the Turkey, tall Turkey Tapers, cute Christmas Carolers, and Santa Tapers, as sets.

The Gurley Novelty Company's little candles have made it into the Buffalo Historical Society's archives.  Here's a link to their newsletter with an article on the history of Gurley:

You can go on Pinterest and see photographs of many of the candles produced by Tavern and Gurley.  It seems as though most people thought they were too cute to light:

Here's a link to the Vermont Country Store website:

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

'Tis the Cook

"What are you doing for Thanksgiving?" I remember asking my mother.

"Oh, we're just going to sit down to our usual meal of salt and cholesterol," she laughed. "Food is love, you know."

Occasionally I find a record of people's love of holiday cooking at an estate sale. One person saved the Fall and Winter 1956 housewares catalog from the May Co. in Southern California.

Inside were ads for any number of mid-century cooking tools to help the homemaker create the perfect meals during the holidays and beyond...from can openers to utensils to a can of Coffee Stain Remover. 

The catalog also showed Revere Ware pots and pans, which were a sine qua non in many 1950s households. Indeed, people still seek them out today, with their stainless steel tops and copper bottoms. (I admit to having a rather large collection of Revere Ware myself, which I use every day. It worked for my grandmother, and it still works for me.)

I believe it was the same estate sale, where I found an old Sunbeam Mixmaster handbook.

Automatic mixers have been around since the early 1900s, when engineer Herbert Johnson developed a commercial mixer that facilitated the making of bread. After World War I, a model for the home was developed and given the brand name KitchenAid. Electric mixers were pretty expensive in those days; my 1933 copy of Better Homes and Gardens magazine encourages cooks to make the investment because the mixer made cooking so much easier. The cover photo on the magazine features an electric mixer with a gorgeous Jadeite mixing bowl.

The mixer-on-a-stand has seen a revival in recent years; I have a small one that fits nicely into a cupboard when it's not in use. The mixer detaches from the stand and the bowl for independent use. 

This formidable old Mixmaster was a versatile tool. You could buy attachments for it, that allowed it to serve as a meat grinder and food chopper. It also had an attachment that churned butter.

Over time, electric mixer attachments were developed to do everything from opening cans to polishing silver. 

The handbook also provided recipes for cakes, frosting, cookies and more.

Inside the handbook for the Mixmaster were ads for other products that would make the mid-century meal easier to prepare. 

A toaster that lowered the bread automatically, and more: "Toast raises itself silently, without popping or banging." And it "automatically adjusts itself for every kind of bread."

(But how would you know if the toast was done, if the toaster didn't make its signature noise?)

The ad for the Coffeemaster emphasized its metal construction -- "no glass bowls to break...all gem-like chrome plate."

Considering how many vintage electric mixers, coffee makers and toasters I see at estate sales, it seems to me that these sturdy soldiers of the kitchen really were the proverbial "gift that keeps on giving."


The website Jitterbuzz is one of several that give the history of the electric mixer, illustrated:

Here's a website with the history of Revere Ware:

And the story of the May Company:

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Vintage Thanksgiving Cards

It's common to find old Christmas cards, birthday cards, Mother's Day cards and Valentines at estate sales. People either received them and saved them, or bought them and never used them.

I don't find as many Thanksgiving cards, tucked into desk drawers if unused or pasted into scrapbooks if they were gladly received. But I have found a few that I'd like to share.

An early 1960s image of the turkey and the pumpkin.

This is a postcard from the early 1900s. 

The image on this card from the late 1950s gives one pause,
because it seems to contradict the written message. "Fun" for the turkey?

Here's the turkey again, just posing as part of the Thanksgiving landscape.

This is a more generic holiday card, showing the transition from autumn to winter.

Putting cats into the middle of everything is nothing new. This late 1950s-early 1960s Norcross Thanksgiving card features a kitten so popular, he had a name: Topaz.

This is another Norcross card, featuring another kitten: I think this one is Snowball.  (The third named Norcross kitten was a black one called Inky, but I haven't found
any vintage Thanksgiving cards with Inky on them. Yet.)

The Hallmark Cards website has an illustrated history of Thanksgiving cards:



Wednesday, November 11, 2015

USS Biloxi Memories

On this Veterans Day 2015, I'd like to share a few photos from my dad's estate. Barely old enough to be eligible, Dad served on the USS Biloxi in 1945. He's the one on the left of the picture. 

Unfortunately, no one remembered to write down the names of his fellow sailors in the picture. My guess is that they had it taken to send home to their families.

The Internet is full of information about the Biloxi.  A website on the history of war recalls:

USS Biloxi (CL-80) was a Cleveland class light cruiser that served in the Pacific from the start of 1944 to the end of the war, supporting the fast carrier task force and taking part in the invasions of Saipan, the Philippines, the Palaus and Okinawa and the battles of the Philippine Sea and Leyte Gulf. The Biloxi received nine battle stars for her service in the Pacific during World War II.

Dad joined the military at the end of the war. A US Navy history website recalls part of his experience:

Putting to sea on 16 September, Biloxi proceeded to Nagasaki, Japan, to evacuate POWs. Arriving there on the 18th, her crew saw the damage caused by the atomic bomb and took on 11 U.S., 17 British, one Australian, one Canadian, and 187 Dutch "recovered Allied military personnel." These men were delivered to Okinawa on 21 September. 

The official version of the story never tells the details, though, and Dad never could talk about it much either. Of "the damage caused by the atomic bomb," and of the faces of the former POWs and the people of Japan he saw at Nagasaki, Dad could only shake his head and say: 

"Their eyes. Their eyes."

Their eyes still showed the horror of what they had seen.

Here's another photo from Dad's stuff, showing him and some of his fellow sailors during the time of their service on the Biloxi:

Several of Dad's friends signed their names on the back:

It's hard to make out some of their names, but they look like:

Jack Resnick
Al W. Stammer
"Will" (difficult to read -- Stubberud?)
"Baldy" Phil Ramborger (?) Cardington, Ohio
Earl B. Soshee
Roy James Pruitt
Stanley Schwartz
Larry Sherwood
John B. Rood Portland, Oreg
Ed Stremel "Colorado Kid"
Wayne E. Sparks -- Salem, Oregon
H.H. Rayner (La.)
R.K. Scott (Louisiana)
Lyman R. Stebbins
Jacob C. Schatzle (LA)
Bob J. Reynolds (Tacoma Wash.)

Two more photos show Dad and some of his Navy buddies relaxing. The names Bennie Bell and Charles C. Cooper are written on the front of this 1945 photo.

Another photo which is identified as being from 1945 or 1946, shows Dad and four other sailors.

Dad's on the far left of the above photo. The names would be in reverse order.
The names look like Renijohn, Nelson, O'Neil, Me.

If you recognize any of these sailors from the Biloxi, please let me know, and I'll correct the spelling of their names.


Here's the Navy history site:

News clippings about the Biloxi are available here: