Friday, July 30, 2010


In my last post, I included an image of this piece of paper before I touched it.

I touched it. For about sixteen hours.

There is not much to give you in the way of history as far as Ratin Laboratories. I can't find one single reference to this company anywhere, and believe me, I looked - hard.

I was very lucky and found an image of this bottle on an Antique Bottle site called Antique Bottle Mysteries. The reason the image was included there was because it is a perfect example of what is called Cold Mold Ripple, and is sometimes referred to as "Whittled" or "Hammered" glass. The effect is caused by the mold in which the glass was produced, and in particular, when the mold is made of Iron. Impurities in the iron caused the glass to cool at differing temperatures, and hence caused the glass to vary in thickness. It is a wonderful sight to see when you hold one of these bottles (most produced in the late 1920's) as the light passing through the bottle and what you can see beyond the bottle is distorted - in a good way!

My spouse suggested a rat - in the bottle, but I thought that it was more important that the bottle be seen for what it is - beautiful, even if it contained poison.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ratin Bottle, No. 2

Guess what I found on eBay? A piece of paper from the RATIN Corporation which discusses the breakage of a bottle of Ratin. Oh yes, by the way - Ratin is Rat Poison.

I've done the bottle once before, and now that I've found a piece of Ratin paper, I'm going to do it again. Actually, the Ratin bottle that I did was the very first piece of old paper that I posted here, and rather than look back at that post (for which I got zero comments), I'm posting the image of the finished piece that found a new home during the Western Heritage Artists show in March of this year.

The bottle is an example of what is called 'whittled' glass. The color is spectacular, and I'm headed to my desk to work on it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Baby Ruth From Above

Way back in December, I got a very nice email from Susan E at This Old Paper. Actually, the email was a note telling me that I ought to look at her current post, which I quickly did. It was a HUGE Welcome to Me, combining our mutual fascination with old paper with a fresh idea for some art work on a 'bookmark' of sorts. She provided a link to the Forgotten Bookmarks site, which I had already been following on an almost daily basis. Her suggestion was that it would be really neat if I combined an old ad for Baby Ruth with the old billhead that Michael Popek at Forgotten Bookmarks had found in "The Quarterly Illustrator, Vol. 1 No.4" published in 1893. The line items listed were for one box (120) of Baby Ruth and one box (120) of Butterfinger candy bars. The title for his post on this special find was Someone's Got the Munchies.

To come to the point, I contacted Michael at Forgotten Bookmarks and although I offered to pay for it, he told me he would GIVE me the billhead - and he did.

That was over six months ago. I pulled the piece out of my ever-bulging binder several weeks ago, and although I tried every conceivable layout for the ad that Susan E had suggested, there was just no way I was going to fit that ad on this piece of old paper. So...

I started doing more than just a little research.

The Baby Ruth candy bar was THE Gravy Train for a fellow by the name of Otto Y. Schnering, who not only knew how to make a good candy bar, he also knew how to promote it.

In 1926, Otto hired a barnstorming air racer by the name of Doug Davis to spread Baby Ruth candy bars far and wide - from the air. Davis had three Waco airplanes and two former military pilots with which he was barnstorming the Southern states and he called it the Davis Flying Circus. It was quickly turned into the Baby Ruth Flying Circus. Check the link above for more information about what became a sensation from the skies when Davis started dropping Baby Ruth candy bars tied to rice paper parachutes - in over forty states across the United States.

But I digress. I started looking for images that could be of use to me for a piece of paper about half the size of a regular piece of letterhead. I've include the image of an advertisement for a store in Milwaukee promoting a Rain of Baby Ruth candy bars. I knew I was close, but the image was just not clean enough to do the paper up right, so I continued looking for Baby Ruth airplanes until I found one I could use. What you see is what you get! My art probably doesn't make you want to go buy a Baby Ruth, but you'll perhaps think of my art the next time you pay 75 cents for a nickel candy bar!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Buried Treasure 2010 - The "Kilner" Jar

Seth Apter of The Altered Page is once again hosting a revisit of ancient posts - by invitation!

I've only been blogging for a little over a year and a half, but I had to look back and find one that I thought would be worthy of sharing. This one is particularly pleasing to me because it opened the door for me for some wide-spread interest in old paper - the way I like it.

The piece of Old Paper Art I'm sharing this time I actually covered in three separate posts, and I'm including the text from the finished product - but for the mat and frame. I sold this piece as soon as I hung it at the Western Heritage Art Show in March of this year. It had hung in a local gallery (where I had it matted and framed), but it didn't sell. I think it's a matter of exposure, really. The more people see how unique the art is, the more people are intrigued by what I've done with it. Unlike collage art or 'ledger' art, mine has to have something to do with the paper itself. These pieces of true ephemera are a tiny snapshot of business as it used to be. Business owners hired excellent artists to portray to the buying public the best image they could, for if the print advertising and packaging did not sell the product, it usually did not sell.

I like using original art work for most of my old paper as often as possible, but oftentimes I have to resort to utilizing the old advertising or packaging art. I particularly enjoy using glass as the subject for a couple of really good reasons: It is transparent. If it is colored glass, it tends to glow and reflect light, as well as project it. Because it is transparent the text can be seen through the image of the glass, which gives the impression to the viewer that the glass is 'in front' of the text, hence I've killed two birds with one stone without breaking the glass!

I also include a short narrative with each piece that I complete, giving viewers a word snapshot of why I chose it, and the history of the company and subject if possible.

In an earlier post here (Kilner paper) and HERE, I gave you a glimpse at what’s involved in getting my art onto a piece of old paper, and it always starts with – the paper. I purchased this piece on eBay from a gentleman named Tom Caniff after finding out that although there were no glass fruit jars listed as line items on this billhead, the primary business of the Kilner Brothers was to make jars for the preservation of food of one kind or another. Mr. Caniff also sent me a picture of a Kilner jar, but it was simply not detailed enough to use as a model.

The company had been doing business since 1857, and a Kilner (John) was making glass storage containers beginning in the year 1792. When John died in 1857, his sons took over the business. They continued to make glass containers until at least the turn of the century when many small glass firms were merged to create the United Glass Bottle company and the patents held by the Kilners were purchased.

With the help of a long time collector of canning jars, Larry Munson of Devon, Montana, I was able to portray the “Kilner” jar they produced. My last Paper Treasure Hunt and Photo Expedition involved a trip to Larry's for an afternoon of filling my camera with photos of over seventy varieties of fruit jars including the photo I took of the Kilner jar in the previous post that I used as a model for this piece.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Indian Motocycle and the Logo

From the Indian Chief Motorcycle site: The original Indian motorcycle company was founded in 1901 in Springfield Massachusetts USA, by bicycle racer George Hendee and Swedish immigrant Oscar Hedstrom. Some people wonder why it was called the Indian Motocycle Company instead of Indian Motorcycle Company. In Italy, all motorcycles have names beginning with "moto" e.g. Moto-Guzzi, Moto-Ducati, Moto-Laverda, so perhaps Hedstrom was familiar with that. The earliest models looked like mopeds (bicycles with small single cylinder engines) and only 3 were made in 1901. Interestingly, Triumph began production the next year (1902) and Harley-Davidson the year after (1903). So the order was Indian, Triumph, Harley. This "Big Three" are still around a century later, while many other brands which started later died off years ago. Indian made 143 motorcycles in 1902.

Although it says on the logo that they have been built since 1901, what it fails to mention is that the Indian Motocycle was THE FIRST motorcycle produced in America.

I have more than one piece of Indian paper, but I intend to put motorcycles on them, much like I did in 2006, when my wife and I made the trip (in our SUV) to Sturgis, South Dakota, for the First Day Ceremony for the Motorcycle stamp issue. I've included the image of the finished cover for the issue, which pictures my brother-in-law, Tom Benson of Shelby, Montana. He restores Indian Motorcycles, and it was a perfect match as far as relevant art work for the stamps.

I know absolutely nothing about Curnow the Indian. I do know for certain that this piece of paper became irrelevant in 1913, when the company was renamed as the Indian Motorcycle Company. It will be interesting to see if there are any images from Butte, Montana, that include Curnow, or any of his customers!