Saturday, July 31, 2010

George Munro

George Munro, a resident of the suburb of Wilmerding
in the Pittsburgh area in 1940.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Catherine Curran

Members of the Drama Club at St. Aloysius Catholic church in the suburb
of Wilmerding, Pa (Pittsburgh area).
Catherine Curran is seated at the right end.

Jack Lynn, Pa.

Early days of baseball in the town of Wilmerding, Pa.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Thomas Babington Macaulay

The excerpt shown above is from a 1903 book titled:
"Macaulay's Life of Samuel Johnson." Macaulay was
a noted Scottish biographer. The introduction for
this book was written by Charles Lane Hanson, an
English Language teacher. The table of contents
lists four discussions about Macaulay:
(1) An introduction to Macaulay.
(2) Macaulay and his literary contemporaries.
(3) The Study of Macaulay.
(4) Macaulay on Johnson.
This is what is said about Zachary:
"His father, Zachary, did a large business as an
African merchant. This earnest, precise, austere
man was so anxious for his eldest son to have a
thoroughly tained mind that he expected a deliberation
and a maturity of judgement that are not natural to
an impetous lad."

Rufus Jones.

This biographical sketch accompanies the theological essay: "The Eternal
Goodness," written by Rufus Jones. The essay was published in the 1927
book "My Idea of God: A Symposium of Faith," edited by Joseph Fort

Mary Morrison

Mrs. Morrison served as president of the Women's
Community Club of Park Terrace, a neighborhood
in the Pittsburgh area. This photo appeared in the
commemorative issue of the 5oth anniversary of
Wilmerding, Pa.

Billy Leffler

William H. Leffler was one of the earliest settlers of the suburb of East
McKeesport, Pa. This photograph of his, along with that of numerous other
Lefflers was published in a book commemorating the city's 5oth anniversary.

James Carson

James Carson owned the majority of the land where
the suburb of East McKeesport, PA now is.
He lived in a log cabin that burned. He was also
the city's first burgess (mayor). He died in 1929.

Richard Butler

Richar Butler was a city councilman for Wilmerding, Pa in the
1930s and 40s. Here his photo appears on a book commemorating
the city's 50th anniversary.

William L. Carver

Factory foremen for the Westinghouse Air Brake Company pose for a
photograph to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Wilmerding, Pa.
Mr. William L. Carver is sitting in the front row, second from left to right.

Rodgers and Ralston

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the suburb of Wilmerding, Pa, the
entire staff of the printing company was photographed. Their picture
appeared on a commemorative book (which they probably printed
James A. Ralston is seating at the far right on the front row.
Jess H. Rodgers is next to last on the front row, just before Mr. Ralston.
Robert E. Badger is also sitting in the front row. He is number six from
left to right (next to the lady in black).

Jos. H. Hughes

The manager of the Pitcairn Branch of the First National
Bank of Wilmerding and all his staff appeared on a
commemorative book to celebrate the 50th anniversary
of the city of Wilmerding, Pa.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Norwegian American

Today we take a look at the town of Esdaile, Wisconsin.
This was the place where many Norwegian immigrants
decided to make their home in their new country.
In 1871 they founded the congregation of Eidsvold under
the leadership of Reverend Osten Hanson. Later on they
added a parochial school and began a rapid expansion.
In 1972 the congregation was still going strong and it
still retained much of its Norwegian flavor with still several
Hansons numbered among its members.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sara Crewe

Front cover of a book published in 1895
From the last days of the 19th century comes to us a
story very much similar to today's Harry Potter minus
the magic. This is the tale of a little girl, Sara Crewe, who
is brought by her father to a boarding school for "select
young ladies" in London.
The book takes us through all the pains and challenges
faced by both teachers and students at such a place.
It is fiction allright, but it sure feels so much like we
would imagine every day life to be for any student
confined to the rigors of boarding school.
These are 83 pages worth reading for adults or children.
Also it would be a pretty neat book to own if your name
happens to be Sara Crewe.

Friday, July 23, 2010

George Ade

Front cover of a book published in 1899.
From a time capsule buried deep in the contents of a yard
sale, comes to us this little jewel of sarcasm and allegory.
It is a book of very short but poignant fables written more
in the style of Spanish author Samaniego, rather than in
the classic style of Aesop.
The characters in the stories here are not animals, but
more often ridiculous people facing humbling circumstances
and, more often, facing their own arrogance.
Mr. Ade has made one important concession to the
classic style of fable writing by adding a moral to the
end of every story. Some of these lines are worthy
of being classics themselves. Take these few

(1) "Always select the right sort of parents before you
start in to be rough."
(2) "A dramatic editor should never go to a Burgoo
Picnic - especially in Kentucky."
And my personal favorite:
(3) Some women should be given the right to vote.

The book also includes some mavelous illustrations
by Clyde J. Newman.

Alice Caldwell Hegan

Front cover for a children's novel published in 1901.

Here is a marvelous sample of what children's novels
used to be like way back at the turn of the 20th century.
This book, written by Alice Caldwell Hegan, deals with
the financial struggles of a family who lives on a
cabbage patch. The father tries to make ends meet by
cultivating a meager piece of land while his wife finds
many a disappointment in looking for a job. They have
three little girls named Asia, Australia, and Europena.
These three girls do not spend their days sexting, or
downloading songs for their Ipod, or buying tickets
online to go to Disneyland. No. Not at all. They
participate vividly in the family's struggle for
survival. The situation is so difficult at one point
that one of the characters is suffering from a cold for
a week. Mother tries to look for something to keep
him warm. She goes through many drawers before
she's able to find a comforter for him.
Such are the passages we find in this work along
with other similar lines like "two of the holes in
his pants were patched and two were not."
No specific location is given for the setting of the
cabbage patch, but the story seems to have a
southern flavor.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Old Smoke

Promotional print for an upcoming boxing match around 1860.
Tom Sayers, Champion of England was scheduled to fight the
OLD SMOKE, John Morrissey. In those days they used no
gloves. It was a fight with their bare fists. Also there was no
limit on the number of rounds. Usually the fight was only
stopped when the mob rushed into the ring. There were no
weight divisions either. A guy who weighted 125 lbs. could
go against a two-hundred pounder and no one thought anything
of it.

Fanny Palmer.

Fanny Palmer arrived in New York from England in the
early 1840's. She was born Flora Frances Bond. Before
departing England she married an unproductive fellow
named Edward Palmer.
Once in New York, Fanny went to work as an artist,
making prints in the shop of Currier and Ives, famous
print makers. Fanny was the artist who worked the
hardest in the shop because she had to support not
only her children, but also her lazy husband who was
fond of spending the entire day drinking and shooting.
His son also turned out exactly like the father. So poor
Fanny had to work and work. And it is because of her
sressful situation that we now are able to enjoy so many
of her beautiful prints from the second half of the 19th c.

Friday, July 16, 2010

John C. Heenan fights Tom Sayers.

On Jan 16 1840 a great event took place in the history of journalism.
The first illustrated extra in history appeared on the streets of New York
city breaking the news of the 'awful conflagration of the steamboat Lexington.'
It had been printed by Nathaniel Currier of 2 Spruce street, N.Y.
This marked the start of a very prosperous busines that eventually
developed into the partnership of Currier and Ives, print makers.
From those times comes the illustration we have today. This is a plate
of the boxing fight between John C. Heenan "The Benecia Boy' against
Tom Sayers "Champion of England.' The fight took place on April 17th, 1860
at Farnborough, England. The battle lasted 2 hours and 20 minutes.
42 rounds when the mob rushed in and ended the fight.
Heenan is described as standing 6ft 1 1/2 in, in fighting weights 190 lbs.
born May 2 1835.
Sayers stands 5ft 8 in fighting weights 150 lbs. born 1826.

That was a great difference in weight. We can assume they didn't yet
have all the different weight categories we have now.

Such was boxing in the 1860's

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Clara Erskine Clement

Turkish guys hanging out on Istanbul's sidewalks in 1895.
On Christmas morning of 1895, Mrs. E. E. Horrell received as a
present a book titled "Constantinople, The City of The Sultans." The
handwritten dedication is still visible on the book's first page.

The author's name is Clara Erskine Clement. The book gives no
information about her, except to say that she also wrote several
other books, including one about Naples and one about Venice. So
we could say that she was a travel writer. At that time, of course,
travel writing was not about hotel and restaurant reviews, but
rather a description of the local customs, traditions, and architecture.
Mrs. Erskine Clement really exceeded at her job. All 302 pages of
this work are a total delight to read. I think it is even more enjoyable
now than when it was originally published because we now can see
the changes that have taken place in that marvelous city, which she
calls Constantinople, but we call Istanbul in our times.
She talks about the Berleybeyi Palace, the marvelous summer
home of the sultans on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, and how it
came about simply on the chance conversation overheard
through the grapevine. Yes! She has woven the marvelous tale
of a chance encounter between the Sultan and a beautiful slave
girl. The Sultan fell for her and loved her so much that he made
for her the marvelous summer palace of Berlerbeyi all this while
the empire was going bankrupt.

Other passages in the book remind us that we are living in very
different times now. It describes the seize of Constantinople at
the hand of the Sultan's army in very graphic detail, including
images of Orthodox nuns being dragged naked to join the Sultan's
harem. We also encounter a moving passage describing how some
of the city Muslims who have sick children are willing to seek help
from the Christian saints with a reputation for miracle healings.

The book is made even better by the great selection of photos
from the 1890's. I am thankful that this book has been preserved
for 115 years now.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Don Marquis

Title page from a collection of short stories by Don Marquis

Our topic today is the art of short story writing. One of the best
representatives of the genre is author Don Marquis.
His style of writing foreshadows the combination of dialogue and
narrative that Mark Twain would later elevate to a higher level.
"And the world would go forth from Dan to Burrsheba and from
Alpha to Omega that peetryarch Bill was fightin' dull care from
his lovin' people with a barbecue." Such are the dialogues we find
in this collection. These statements from the characters reveal
the sharp ear that Don Marquis had developed.
As far as the narrative, Marquis was equally sharp. In his
story "The Tablecloth Millionaire" we are introduced to a
character named Dickie Peters who was always dreaming up
ways to make a million dollars. Here is the way Marquis
describes him:

"presently he would be convincing everyone
within sound of his voice that there were
millions in it, whatever "it" might be. Not
the least convinced would be Dickie himself.
For at thirty-six he was still an enthusiast,
a believer. After one of these fervent lessons
Dickie always felt so wealthy, and so benign
and friendly toward all the world, that almost
anybody could borrow ten dollars from him -
if he had it. Frequently he had and they did."

That is just a delightful piece of writing and, even
though it might be labeled as fiction, we have a strong
feeling that it was taken from real life, every bit of it.

Other stories worth mentioning are "The High Pitch"
and "The Spots of the Leopard." Mostly every line here
is providing a window for us to peek into the days of the
roaring twenties. Don Marquis was a faithful observer
of life in those days.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Ruth Berolzheimer

In 1940 the publication of a book might have had
a great deal to do with raising awarenes towards a
vegetarian diet. The book was "250 Ways to Serve
Fresh Vegetables," written by Ruth Berolzheimer.

This book was remarkable for many reasons.
(1) It emphasized the idea that vegetables ought
to be served fresh.
(2) It offered and endless number of suggestions
to make vegetables more appealing.
(3) It provided lots of information on the mineral
and vitamin contents.
(4) It offered guidance on how to cook the
vegetables to preserve their nutritional value
to the max.

Even though the book was published in 1940,
it still looks 100% fresh and relevant. The cooking
advice, the dish presentation, and the nutritional
guidance are as valid today as they were 70 years
ago when this book was first written. I wish I could
say the same thing for the technology of the 1940s.

God bless you,


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ernest Holmes

Self-improvement course on a 45RPM record.

I found this record on a yard sale. It caught my attention because
it was the only spoken word record among many other music ones.
It is a real throw back to a time of turntables, but at the same time
it is still fresh and relevant. In fact lots of motivational speakers are
still selling materials like this right now. The only difference is that now
they come out in DVDs or Blue Ray or some other current technology.
Holding this record in my hands also makes me think about today's
technology with a new perspective. It makes me realize that in the
blink of an eye the MP3s and Iphones and what-have-you new
gadgets we hold so dear now will be out of style. Tomorrow we will
find them in the trash or in yard sales and nobody would pay more
that a dime for an Iphone.
The motivational speaker featured on the cover of this 45 rpm
record is Ernest Holmes. No information about him is provided,
except to tell us that he is also the author of "Science of Mind" and
"This Thing Called Life." This self-improvement course was
supposed to go on for 52 weeks. "Each recorded lesson," the cover
says, "is a powerful, dynamic guide, full of creative ideas for fuller
and richer living."
The particular lesson shown here is called "The Power That
is Within You." Other titles in the series were: "You are a
wonderful person," "The Mind That is Within You," "Spiritual
Shock Absorvers," "Man Against Himself," "The Prayer That
Gets Results," "How To Improve Your Personality," "Self
Reliance," "How To Have Security," "The Power of Affirmative
Thinking," "Pray and Prosper," "Getting the Most Out of Life,"
and "How to Give a Spiritual Mind Treatment."
One of the attractive features about these lessons was that
they were "recorded on long-playing, high-fidelity pure
unbreakable vinylite records at 45 RPM." Oh yeah!! That is
what I called high tech.

God bless you all,


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Esther Forbes

Novelist Esther Forbes takes us back in time to the days of the American
Revolution. This novel published in 1943 is titled Johnny Tremain and it is
described on the cover as "a story of Boston in revolt." Through these
pages we meet John Hanckok as a customer in a silver shop. We also meet
Paul Revere as he is locking up his shop in the evening and getting ready to
go home for dinner. All these historical characters play second fiddle to the
title character, fourteen year old Johnny Tremain, a talented young man
of lofty ambitions.
The book has lots of beautiful illustrations by Lynd Ward.

Other similar historical novels written by Esther Forbes are:
O Genteel Lady!
A Mirrot for Witches
Miss Marvel
The General's Lady
Paul Revere and the World He Lived in

These are excellent companions for a junior high class on American history.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Thomas Russell Ybarra

Today we turn our attention to an immigrant from
Venezuela residing in Boston and New York. Thomas
Russell Ybarra was writing articles for magazines in
New York as early as 1907. He was born in Caracas
in 1880. He grew up traveling between Boston and
Caracas, but always gravitated towards the literary
circles of NYC.
This photograph comes from his book called
"The Young Man From Caracas," published in 1941.
The book is a mixture of autobiography and
memoirs with several nice illustrations from the
author's early days.
Reading this book is an immersion into a
different era.

Now, I call on my readers to contribute some more
information on the continuation of this story. Where
did Tom Ybarra end up? Any descendants out there?

The moderator

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ann H. Judson

Our journey today takes to South East Asia, to the jungles of Burma. That's
where Ann H. Judson and her husband Adoniram ended up as missionaries.
They were appointed by the American Board of Missions as part of the
missionary team to Burma in 1811. They sailed from Salem in February of
1812 and they arrived in Calcutta in June. That's where their adventures
began. They endured persecution, incarceration, and tropical diseases. Mrs.
Judson was pregnant several times, and each time she lost her baby to the
raging infections of the jungle. After many years of tireless service, she
herself lost her life in Burma. She never returned to America.
Her husband Adoniram remarried and had several children.


Monday, July 5, 2010

H.Rider Haggard

Our feature today is the prolific British author H. Rider Haggard. He did most
of his writing in the second half of the 19th century. The illustration for today's
entry is the title page for his book "DOCTOR THERNE," published in 1898.
In this book Mr. Haggard provides for us a window to a period when
immunizations were still a matter of controversy. Mr. Haggard was inspired
to write this book because, during his travels, he had seen first hand the
suffering of the victims of smallpox. Then he returned to England to find a
group of activists known as the "anti-vaccinationists." These are described
as agitators who want to stop people from receiving immunizations against
smallpox. The character Dr. Therne is involved in this controversy as the
story unfolds.
It is interesting to note that in our own times we also have a number of
people with strong reservations about vaccines. There are many claims
about a connection between immunizations and autism. By reading this
book we are able to see how that controversy was handled back in the

We know very little about H. Rider Haggard, the author, except for
the obvious indication that he was a very prolific writer. We welcome the
contributions of any readers of this blog to help us know more about
Mr. Haggard.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Trapp Family

Today we take a look at an all time favorite. A real classic:
"The Sound of Music".
I discovered this little paperback in a second hand store
and it really surprised me to learn that the characters in
the classic movie are based on real people. The movie
script is also based on a real-life story. Moreover, here is
the heroine herself narrating her story in the first person.
Her name is Maria Augusta Trapp and, through 380 pages
she takes us on a journey from the Tirol to Salzburg to
Vienna and across the mountains to the Italian border.
I have learned that Maria's name was really Maria and
she was indeed cloistered in an Abbey when she was sent
on a special assignment to help the widower navy captain
von Trapp. If you know the story, you'd love the extra
details splahed all across this book.

Thank you for visiting my blog.


Saturday, July 3, 2010

Anna Baltauf

Today we enjoy a real treat!
Scavanging through a yard sale I found this vintage
recipe book published by the food company Walter
Baker & Co. From this book we learn quite a few
fascinating facts besides learning how to make
"Wellesley Marshmallow Fudge" or "Baker's
Chocolate Divinity." Among other things, I have
learned that Walter Baker & Co. was a giant operation
with the company mills occupying 14 acres of space.
I have also learned that a guy named Baron von
Liebig was "one of the best-known writers on
dietetics" back at the turn of the century. The names
of the people providing the recipes are Miss Maria
Parloa, Miss Fannie Merritt Farmer, Miss Elizabeth
Kevill Burr, and Miss Janet McKenzie Hill. All of
their recipes are really for desserts involving chocolate
in some form or another. No biographical or
professional information is given about the writers.
But we sure find lots of information about the
girl pictured on the book's cover.
The Viennese girl holding a tray on the book's front
and back cover is the subject of a lengthy discussion.
According to the book, this picture was the company's
logo and she was "known all over the world as 'La Belle
Chocolatiere,' the trade-mark that distinguishes the
Cocoa and Chocolate preparations made by Walter
Baker & Co. Ltd." We learn that the company got this
image from a famous painting which "was the master-
piece of Jean-Etianne Liotard, a noted Swiss painter
who was born in 1702 and died in 1790." The next
line acquires some tragic connotations because it
tells us that this famous painting was on display in the
city of Dresden (Germany). Well, we all know what
happened to Dresden during WWII. Dresden was
that city that Americans decided "to destroy in order
to save it." The book (written in 1914) mentions that
the painting "is one of the chief attractions in the
Dresden Gallery, being better known and more sought
after than any other work of art in that collection."

Apparently the crowds of art lovers visiting the Dresden
Gallery were drawn to this girl carrying a tray with a
couple of drinks. The book claims that "there is a romance
connected with the charming Viennese girl who served as
the model." Then the book goes on to reveal some new
information that had been uncovered by a newspaper.
We are told that the girl's name is Anna Baltauf. She was
the daughter of Melchior Baltauf. He was a knight and he
was residing in Vienna at the time when the artist came
to the city to make some portraits of the members of the
Austrian court. The newspaper reporters were not able
to determine whether Miss Anna Baltauf was just posing
as a servant or she was actually a "chocolate bearer." In
any case that is irrelevant. What really matters is what
happened after the painting was finished. A certain Mr.
Dietrichstein, who happened to be an Austrian Prince, saw
the portrait of Anna Baltauf and fell in love with her.
He pursued her and married her. The book adds that
"the marriage caused a great deal of talk in Austrian
society at the time" because the daughter of a knight "was
not consider a good match for a member of the court." But
wait. There is more. "It is said," the book continues, "that
on the wedding day Anna invited the chocolate bearers with
whom she had worked or played, and in 'sportive joy at her
own elevation' offered her hand to them saying , 'Behold!
Now that I am a princess you may kiss my hand."
The painting was done about 1760. Anna was about twenty
years of age at that time. She lived until 1825.

My question today is: What happened to this painting
when the city of Dresden was destroyed? Does anybody know?
We also welcome any information available out there regarding
the authors of the recipes.


Friday, July 2, 2010

Shirley John, cover girl

In August of 1945 the cover of Coronet magazine was graced
by the smiling face of a lovely blond girl. Inside the magazine,
however, we find no information about her, except for one
brief line that identifies her as Shirley John. That's all. We know
nothing else about the young girl in a polk-a-dot dress with
matching bandana.
I bet she's smiling because the price of the magazine was only 25c.
I invite any readers who know more about this cover girl to help
us find out who she was. Was she a model? A movie star?
A contestant in a beauty pageant? We welcome any information.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Champion Dog

Today's entry is about a dog who can be described as the equivalent of the little engine that could.
This Cocker Spaniel was nothing special at birth. Nobody saw any promise in him. Then by 1957
Prince Tom had developed into a polished and confident guy. He became the first American cocker
to win the National Field Trials. It must be said, however, that this blog is not about dogs, but about
people. So let's focus on the people who helped him become a champion. His instructors at the
obedience school were Jim Norris, Gladys Farrand, and Sophia Washburn. His professional handlers
were Bub Knodle and Ruffie Eakin. Then his official "biographers" were Tom Clute and Jean Fritz.

Again I call on our readers to contribute information to continue the story of this dog and all the
kind people who helped him.

To read some excerpts from this book, please e-mail