Sunday, December 25, 2011

The “Other” Santa Photos

A child (above) wearing a Santa mask in what appears to be summer, turning her into a suburban gnome.

Above, one of my all-time favorite department store Santa Claus photos.

In this snapshot from wartime Germany (above left) check out the picture on the wall. Their tradition was Kris Kringle, a supposedly Santa-type fellow who came in the night bearing gifts. Yikes!

And this department store Santa (above), with the full mask on, next to the Samsonite luggage. Eeek!

Have a happy holiday 2011!


An AM repost from 12/25/08

Sunday, December 18, 2011


If you haven’t been to the Web site Square America, you are missing something. This site is, hands down, the most complete, most extensive Web site on vernacular photography on the web today. The collector, Nicholas Osborn, is a devoted collector. He has thousands of images— and I am telling you, there are great pics to view. He has divided the site into multiple categories. There are photos categories on Sleep, Love, Orphans, Costume, Dance, Photobooth, and on and on. Plus, he has a great book available for purchase “Who We Were: A Snapshot History of America”—just $35.00. Seriously, for a book like this—it is a great price. I own it, and it’s great.

An AM repost from 1/08/09

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Vogue Picture Records: Vinyl Romance

(Top 2 Images Above, Sides 1 and 2): Vogue R 771. If I Could Be With You (Henry Creamer and Jimmy Johnson) b/w Jeannine (L. Wolfe Gilbert, Nathaniel Shilkret). Performed by Art Kassel and his orchestra.

(Top 2 Images Above, Sides 1 and 2): Vogue R 758. You’re Gonna Hate Yourself in the Mornin’ (Sammy Gallop, Larry Stock, Ira Schuster) b/w Long, Strong and Consecutive (Mac David, Duke Ellington). Performed by Marion Mann accompanied by Bob Haggart and his orchestra.

(Top 2 Images Above, Sides 1 and 2): Vogue R 721. When I Gets to Where I’m Goin’ (Jack Edwards, Duke Leonard, and Sam Braverman) b/w You’re Only in My Arms (to cry on my shoulder) (Ed G. Nelson, Milton Leeds and Steve Nelson. Performed by Patsy Montana.

(Top 2 Images Above, Sides 1 and 2): Vogue R 731: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (Ted Koehler, Harold Arlen) b/w You Took Advantage of Me (Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers). Performed by Marion Mann accompanied by Bob Haggart and his orchestra.

(Top 2 Images Above, Sides 1 and 2) Vogue R 734. Sweetheart (Benny Davis, Arnold Johnson) b/w A Little Consideration (Sunny Skylar). Performed by Art Kassel and his Orchestra.

VOGUE PICTURE RECORDS ARE PHONOGRAPH RECORDS on the “Vogue” label which have a picture (an artist’s illustration) embedded in the transparent vinyl of the record. The illustrations on each side of the record are usually related to the title of the song on that side. Many of the illustrations are mushy romantic themes. The most common Vogue picture records are 10-inch, 78 RPM records, although a few 12-inch, 78 RPM Vogue picture records were also produced.

Vogue picture records were produced by Sav-Way Industries of Detroit, Michigan. The first 10-inch Vogue picture record (catalog number R707) was released to the public in May 1946. Production ceased less than a year later in April 1947, with Sav-Way entering into receivership in August 1947. During this time, approximately seventy-four different 10-inch Vogue picture records were released.

Vogue picture records were of a very high quality, with little surface noise. The records were produced using a complicated process whereby a central core aluminum disc was sandwiched between the paper illustrations and vinyl. Perfecting this process took quite a while; Tom Saffady and his engineers spent several months working out the bugs that often resulted in torn or dislodged paper illustrations.

When Sav-Way entered into receivership all remaining stock was liquidated through distributors. This is the source of all those “Factory Reject” and “Vogue Second” records that are seen. It is reported that many of the left-over records were melted down to recycle the aluminum used in the core of the record.

Copy source above © AVPRC (The Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors)

Images © Department of Special Collections, Donald C. Davidson Library; University of California, Santa Barbara; Visit here.

An AM repost from 6-1-09

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Beautiful Obsession of Snowflake Bentley

Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley (1865-1931)

Snow was a blessing for Bentley, who devoted his life to showing the beauty and individuality of snowflakes.

ANYONE WHO DEVOTES THEIR LIFE in the pursuit of a dream is my kind of person. The biologist who spent his entire life identifying rare species of frogs; the dedicated artist who pursues their work in spite of economic or other stresses; or the adventurer who has studied ship manifests and ancient maps in a search for a lost shipwreck. Even if ending in failure, courageous souls like these give the rest of us cause to reevaluate our own lives and to ask perhaps, at the end, did I do a single thing in my life worth being remembered for? Did I make a difference? Did I add to the beauty or enlightenment of the world—did I give something back?

To that end, today I want to bring to your attention the life-long work of Wilson A. Bentley (1865-1931), who lived in the small country town of Jericho, Vermont. His life-long pursuit of photographing snowflakes earned him the affectionate nickname “Snowflake” Bentley. It was his passion and dedication to prove that “no two snowflakes are alike.” He did indeed leave something behind—something wonderful.

At first, Bentley tried drawing snowflakes, but when that didn’t work he turned to photography. Through much trial and error, he finally succeeded by adapting a microscope to a bellows camera, eventually becoming the first person to photograph a single snow crystal in 1885.

He would go on to capture more than 5000 snowflakes during his lifetime, not finding any two alike. His snow crystal photo-micrographs were acquired by colleges and universities throughout the world and he published many articles for magazines and journals including, Scientific American and National Geographic.

Today, original photographs by Bentley are worth several thousand dollars, if you can find one.

In 1931 his book “Snow Crystals,” containing more than 2400 snow crystal images, was published by McGraw-Hill but has long been out of print. A soft cover copy, identical in all respects, can be obtained today from Dover Publications, Inc. On December 23, 1931, Bentley died at the family farmhouse in Jericho.

An AM repost from 2/24/09

Sunday, November 27, 2011

When a Dollar Really Meant Something

VINTAGE RESTAURANT or coffee shop signs are great examples of pop culture, and an excellent insight into the economic times of the day. Lay down a buck, get a meal and get change back. How cool.

Here’s a few to enjoy.

An Am repost from 1/27/08

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Laurence Hutton Collection of Life & Death Masks

(Above) Life mask of William Wordsworth (1770-1850) and death mask of Samuel Hayes Pennington (1806-1900).

(Above) Death mask of Henry Warner Slocum (1827-1894); and death mask of Jonathan Swift (1667-1745).

(Above) Death mask on decorated shield of Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) and life mask of Robert E. Lee (1807-1870).

(Above) Life mask of Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) and life mask of John James Audubon (1785-1851).

(Above) Life mask of John C. Calhoun (1782-1850) and life mask of Abraham Lincoln (1808-1865).

I came across these life and death masks on the Laurence Hutton Collection of Life and Death Masks at Princeton University’s on-line rare books collection. Looking at one of these is as close to the real thing as you can get. I only wish Lincoln had eyes.

It’s a cool thing to think of someone agreeing to have their face wrapped in plaster of Paris gauze, then sit for it to dry, etc. It’s a very tedious thing to do. The dead ones are always easy. They don’t blink and never complain.

An AM Repost from 1/18/09.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Japanese Condom Packages

Oooo-kay. We’re looking at 15 actual condom packages that I have assembled for you. It took me a couple of minutes of head scratching, but I’m leaning towards “why not?” So what’s wrong with a love glove named “Monkey” or even “Kit Sack,” in fruit candy colors? Whatever. While the design may look like kid’s packaging to western eyes, there is no doubt the Japanese just see the world differently. Go Speed Racer, GO!

An AM repost from 12/4/08.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Scrapbook With a Focus

GAL, GAMS, AND GARTERS is a large scrapbook patched together by an anonymous aficionado of the ankle, thigh and leg, an enormous scrapbook found in a dumpster by a Virginia student in the late 1960’s. Now owned by my friend Jim Linderman, this scrapbook is also the subject of a new blog by the same name. Most of the work inside was done in the late 1950s. Like most scrapbooks from the period, this one can be looked at as more than the contents of it’s pages but as a total object d’art in itself. The pieced together sections, the yellowing of the tape, the placements—all create new visual imagery to be recontextualized today. I find the haphazardly pasted images—crudely taped and cut—to be a fun exploration into a personal, highly focused (albeit naive) design project. For my taste, I like the full pages better than the individual images. There, we can see the personal choices the original owner made as he went about his fetish-like project—as in images 2 and 3 from the top.

All of these vintage, mildly erotic images will eventually be available online in this new blog by Linderman, who says: “our anonymous artist was a serious aficionado of the leg, ankle and above, but there is no nudity, no sex and nary a nipple. However, the man with the scissors and tape, like the magazine editors who provided him with product, managed to skirt good taste with plenty of inspired photos. His motivation? Who knows? For that matter, who is to judge? I intend to scan through the pages once a week or so.”

Jim says his new blog, GALS GAMS GARTERS is
for those interested in “vintage erotica, fashion, vintage clothing and retro culture.” I say it’s also for designers, who may find a certain playfulness, fresh and direct-response style at work here.

If you would like to learn more about period American scrapbooks of various and mixed subject matter, check out Jessica Helfand’s new book, Scrapbooks: An American History, now available on Amazon. There is a short video about scrapbooks as personal narrative by Jessica at this link:

© Gals, Gams and Garters collection of Jim Linderman

An AM repost from 2/17/09

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My BFF Dick!

Apparently, we baby boomers still managed to read despite the criticism heaped upon the Dick and Jane readers back in the 1950s and 60s and later. I knew their world was perfect because it sure wasn’t anything close to my family when I started first grade in 1958. In Dick and Jane’s world, daddy always had a job, mom had no need to work, the Russians weren’t aiming their nukes at them and their houses were not being foreclosed on. The myths of the American way of life were continued when we went home at night to TV shows like Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best. At the time, I liked Dick and Jane and all the kids in their two-dimensional fantasy world. And to be truthful, I wanted to live in their world. The Dick and Jane books were one happy little neighborhood on Prozac and I wanted in.

One early critic to the series was Rudolf Flesch, a reading expert during the 50s and 60s. Flesch was the author of numerous books on literacy, but he is probably best known for his book: Why Johnny Can’t Read. It was there that he skewered the Dick and Jane series as “horrible, stupid, emasculated, pointless, tasteless little readers.”

The illustrator of the books was a woman named Eleanor Campbell (1898 - 1986). She studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Today, original illustrations by her are rare, as most of the original art was thrown into the trash by Ms. Campbell herself. Oops.

Still, count me in amongst the legions of nostalgic fans of Dick and Jane. We don’t really care that we were being sold a dream back in grade school. We boomers have come to terms with the fact that Jane is on her third marriage, Dick is an alcoholic and did some time for tax evasion, and that Spot was run over long ago by the milk truck.

An AM repost from 12/9/08.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Plowshare of a Post-war Germany

THERE IS SOMETHING MAGNIFICENT and poetic about this humble object. Only great words can describe it and there, I fall short with things of such raw beauty. I purchased this from my friend Joshua Lowenfels, who found it at a flea market in NYC. He purchased it from an old German fellow who was parting with a few things from his life. The handle is only about two feet long, so it appears to have been used as a sort of ladle for scooping and pouring wet concrete. I got weak-kneed when I saw it. If this isn’t the most perfect statement on the whole failed Nazi experiment, and of war in general, I don’t know of one. You can see more great things at in Josh’s online shop at:


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