Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Brownies - The Palmer Cox Variety

The day before yesterday I received a piece of what I took to be mail art. It had a little Brownie stamp on the front, made from a 13 Cent USPS stamp with the image replaced by one depicting two Brownies. That was more than enough to pique my curiosity, since I didn't recognize the name on the return address. Actually, it looked like the envelope had been made to fit a stiffener, so I carefully opened it to discover two pages from old children's books, both with wonderful illustrations by Palmer Cox, who originally created the Brownies in the 1880's. Both of the illustrations were by Palmer, and one of them was an illustrated one-page story. Both of them were Christmas related, one of them with Kriss Kringle taking top billing, but the Brownies weren't far behind.

I was stunned. That appeared to be all that was in the envelope until I had a friend stop by for coffee and scones. Homemade. Not what I'd call a Breakfast Brownie, but I like blueberries, and I make a mean scone.

After we'd sipped for a bit, he asked me what I was working on. I told him I was working on developing a Brownie envelope to use for mail art for my siblings. You know, the kind that are hard to gift. I showed him the pages that I'd received in the mail, and the envelope they came in. To me, it was like an early Christmas present from someone I'd never met. It is truly amazing where the path leads when you're generous and appreciative of other artists interests.

The reason I was so struck by the whole package was it was totally unexpected, coming just at the right moment as I tried to develop an envelope I could use for Brownie mail art. I really haven't let the cat out of the bag with this one because I intend to do something special with the Brownies for my siblings, but this really meant a great deal to me.

My friend picked up the envelope and examined both sides, and then looked in the envelope. He proceeded to shake a card out of it that I was unaware was still in the envelope. I read the wonderful note she's included, and suddenly it all came together. The pages that Beth Bynum gave to me meant a lot, but the fact she's a Nick Bantock fan as well sort of put the icing on the Brownies. Did I mention she has a blog? The fact that she'd taken a collage class from Lenna Young Andrews put another piece in the puzzle, as Lenna is a Brownie fan as well. Beth discovered I was a Brownie fan through Lenna, but what she didn't realize was that I like my Brownies for Breakfast.

The Breakfast Brownie Cereal is the real deal. Thank You, Beth. A wonderful Breakfast Treat!

Joni James - This one is for You!

Joni James, the Calligram Queen, asked a question a couple of weeks ago. If you were able to choose an image, what would it be, and what words could be used to describe yourself. I follow her and am fascinated by her images consisting of words that tell the story of the image, so I decided to give her a couple of hints:

Once I had seen what she had done, I decided to use my artistic license. She does calligrams, I do monograms. So - I put together a little mail art of my own to let her know how much it meant to me that she would gift me some of her work - and it's a piece I'm going to hang on the wall, matted and framed, and I'm in awe of what she does with words. Thank You, Joni. You made my day.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Last Chance for the Goodkind

Last Chance for the Goodkind

Some history would be appropriate at this point.

Brothers Abraham L. and Edward I. Goodkind, and Meyer and Charles Wise operated a wholesale wine, liquor, and cigar business in Helena, Montana, from 1890 or 1891 until 1896 when the Wise brothers left the business. The Goodkind brothers continued their operation until Edward died on May 11, 1916. The preceding is directly from the Montana Historical Society Research Center.

This particular billhead is dated October 12, 1903. I have seen (and have in my possession) some Wise & Goodkind paper, but this piece was of particular interest to me because of the label.

I've had in my possession, albeit not for very long, two pieces of Goodkind Brothers billhead.  I had the good fortune of finding a local patron who willingly sold me a piece of Goodkind paper, and then loaned me a small whiskey bottle that still had the label affixed. I took it home, shot photographs of it, and then returned the bottle. A week later, I completed the art work, showed it to him, and he purchased it. It never made it into a frame.

While at a brick and mortar antique shop in Chinook, Montana, several months ago, I was shown two original Goodkind Brothers labels. The shop owner was willing to make copies of both of the labels, but I had to commit to NOT sharing the copies with anyone, especially on the web. I returned home with the copies, and contacted the fellow who had the bottle I had already used, and he provided me with a pint bottle (a flask) that had a pewter screw-on cap. He also gifted me two other bottles, one in amber and the other a beautiful fluted shoulder bottle, both of them dug locally.

The studio process involved more than one step: I had to do some touch-up work on both of the labels, and I had to size them appropriate to the bottles. I finished and published the results of the Royal Club Rye Whiskey flask which you can see here, if you haven't seen it already.

The second was a bit more complicated. The provenance for both of these labels is impeccable, although I have no idea, nor does anyone else, if these labels were ever used. Bottle collectors, or even collectors of lithographic labels would probably be able to determine if there are any other copies of these labels out there in private hands. They both came from a printer's book which had numerous labels pasted into it. From the additional markings on the label, my guess is that the label was used, or at least printed.

I've tried to stay as true to the original label as I could, because I did want to give the viewer the impression that the label indeed is a real label on a real bottle.

This piece may be a keeper. I have one other piece of Wise & Goodkind paper, and I know where there is at least one other piece of Goodkind billhead that is the same size as this piece. I also know where there is a smaller piece of their paper with a vignette of their building on the corner of Sixth and Last Chance Gulch (now known as Main Street) here in Helena, and the building still stands. I have forty hours of work on this piece, and that's no joke - I kept track. Working on it was like working on one of my cacheted covers, but I also had to make it look like the real thing. The label really does tell the story of placer mining as it was done, and I wanted to make certain that it looked right. The artist that did this label knew what placer mining was about, and depicted it quite well. The background also looks like a local stream, which makes the whole thing seem to shout MONTANA.  Enjoy. It was a labor of love.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Walkin' The Walk, Talkin' the Talk

Have you ever heard of the International Shoe Company? Neither had I, until I started doing some research on a bookmark I'd seen, while looking into a piece of brilliant advertising ephemera on Inherited Values. This site is dedicated to "Antiques and Vintage Collectibles, NOT by the book". I thought that Deanna Dahlsad, (the author of the article about bookmarks) actually had her tongue in her cheek, given the aforementioned tag line I found when I hit their Home page. She didn't have a lot to say about the bookmark she'd chosen to highlight in her article (actually an interview with a bookmark collector), but it was a Parrot. A Poll Parrot to be exact. More about the Poll Parrot bookmark later in this story.

Several weeks ago, I published a post about another bookmark fan by the name of Michael Popek. He has a blog called Forgotten Bookmarks. As he works in the family's Antiquarian Bookstore, he has ample opportunity to find what others leave behind in books of every stripe. A couple of weeks ago, he published a book, and I covered that in this post.

Long before Michael had decided to publish a book, he had posted a piece of billhead, and the top line item was Baby Ruth Candy Bars. That post is a good example of what I really enjoy about the people I meet on the way to acquiring my old paper. The receipt was dated 1934. It was used. It was high time it was recycled, and I was the guy to get that done. Michael gave it to me. For the asking. He got a Thank You.

Bookmarks are good. Good for books, and good for my art! How good? This post will give you some idea about books and bookmarks and how I find a steady source, helping me put my love of history and art together.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in The Parrot Confectionery, talking to the owner, Brian Ackerman. Brian let me have some billhead - both old and new, but unused. I like the kind that have served their purpose, whether the business owner used a typewrite or wrote it out in long hand, because it's still richer in history than a pristine piece of  letterhead or billhead. Every piece of Parrot paper that I had previously received from him I'd put in new homes. I knew I wanted to do more of the Parrot that "Talks for Itself", so I asked Brian if he could let me have a few more pieces of the "old paper". He let me have some of it.

I was no sooner home and sitting at the computer looking for my old templates for the Parrot and doing a little bloghopping, when I came upon the Poll-Parrot bookmark. Which started my research journey - What do shoes that "Speak for Themselves" and Parrot Chocolate that "Talks for Itself" have in common? A lot.

In 1911, Roberts, Johnson & Rand Shoes merged with the Peters Shoe Company and became the International Shoe Company with office in St. Louis, Missouri. Apparently, St. Louis was the home for more shoes than you can shake a walking stick at. About the same time that International was taking over shoes businesses (there were others), Paul Parrot was busy making shoes - in St. Louis - as well. In 1922, International bought Mr. Parrot's business, right down to the soles. Oh yes - they took at least one cue from Paul - he had a talking Parrot in his shoe store, and it was a very popular advertising "gimmick". There's currently all kinds of Poll Parrot ephemera floating around in the vintage collectibles market - anything from whistles and buttons to Radio Programs? For real. Oh yes, I almost forgot to mention Howdy-Doody. Poll Parrot Shoes sponsored Howdy-Doody. Yup. I'm surprised International didn't convince Howdy to introduce his Poll Parrot friend. A Parrot Puppet. Someone to talk to, you know - Puppet to Puppet.

I digress.

The Parrot Confectionery began business in the same location in downtown Helena in 1922, the same year International began marketing Poll Parrot shoes. I don't know if Poll Parrots were sold in Helena, (we did have a Buster Brown), but we did have The Parrot. An old functioning soda fountain. Booths. A Wurlitzer jukebox. And Parrots. Lots of them. The also have the Avian equivalent of the Turtle - The Parrot. Oh Yes - A facebook page.

The Parrot I've placed on The Parrot billhead is slightly twice the size of the original bookmark - which I've seen and touched. The owner would not sell it. It was die cut (the curved line around the tail) so the only thing that would be sticking out of the  book would be the Parrot's head. I haven't decided what I'm going to do with it yet besides getting it matted and framed. The Parrot isn't talking.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Now & Then - Marlene & Marla Music PFF #52

This is a special piece of mail art for a couple of very special people.

When I started putting my art on old paper, whenever and wherever we went in Montana, we visited the local brick & mortar antique shops. We even visited several antique malls, but the antique malls are a special kind of antique shop, and one that I like to avoid if at all possible. Why would I say such a thing? There's someone there running the business (read that, cash register), and they often do not know what the vendors specialize in, or if they specialize at all. For the most part, everything is already priced, and there is no room for bargaining.
I also took the advice of a couple of local patrons of my work, and I personally contacted antique shop owners whom they knew. In the case of Marlene Music, she was recommended to me.

My first visit to her shop, Now & Then in Great Falls, Montana, I was greeted not by Marlene, but a young fellow watching the shop for her. Since I was looking to meet Marlene and talk to her for a bit before looking for paper, I made my departure. My next visit was fruitful, although I didn't purchase any paper from her on that visit.

As a matter of fact, I've been back to see Marlene three times, and I have yet to look at any paper. My last visit, I was introduced to Marla, her daughter. I spent over an hour talking and sharing stories with them. History. The best part of what I'm doing, actually. Both Marlene and her daughter know what I'm looking for, and sooner or later I'll pay them a visit and I'll end up walking out the door with some paper I can enhance, and a story to go with it.

The reason why I sent them the card "under cover"? Just because.
And to see more Eye Candy, make sure you visit Beth Niquette at The Best Hearts Are Crunchy, as she hosts Postcard Friendly Friday.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Not to be forgotten

Yes, that's correct. This place will not be forgotten, at least by me. I'm not certain how the other artists fared during the exhibit, but I really can't say enough about the Custer County Art & Heritage Center.

A big thank you to Kevin Layton and his entire staff (including the volunteers) that make this venue such an attraction for artists like myself. Miles City is not exactly the center of Western Civilization, but it certainly does have one site that caters to a vibrant art community. And a wonderful collection of L. A. Huffman photographs that are to die for. I'd go back in a heartbeat, and I hope I get an invite.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thank You For being Patrons

First off, I want to thank the entire staff at the Custer County Art & Heritage Center in Miles City, Montana, for asking me to participate in their recent exhibition. There were five artists in the portion of the show entitled Inside Out: A landscape exhibit, and myself with Old Paper New Art. The opening was held on Sunday, October 9th in the afternoon, with demonstrations and gallery talks. It was fabulous. I really couldn't have wished for a more splendid venue.
I didn't have a chance to do much demonstrating, although I did try to finish a Thank You for a piece of art I'd finished the week before, but I spent most of my time on the gallery talk, and answering questions as they were asked.

Kevin and Marie purchased "Have Duster, Will Travel", which I posted way back in November of 2010. It was a fun piece to do, but now I have to come up with an even better eye-catcher to hang on the wall.

Kathy purchased "Startup With a Coke", which I completed in June of 2009. A back story that was simply too good to be true, and both my wife and I will find it hard to replace it on our wall.

Bess purchased "Ming Trout Flies", which I completed in 2010. I did not post this piece when I completed it, primarily because I needed to get it to the framers before the Western Heritage Show. I've now sold every piece of (trout) fly paper I could put my hands on.

Dustin & Erin purchased "Five Feet In the Air", which I completed earlier this year. Here again, I don't know how long it will be before I see another piece of Brown Shoe Company paper, but I sure wish I could find some. Buster & Tige are still popular after all these years.

As is my rule, I will not put addresses on any of the mail art I put up here without prior approval. These four pieces will go in the mail in the AM.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Four Tops and 11/11/11

I had meant to make this a Veterans Day post - for a very good reason. During my research for Veterans Day information a year ago, I found out that Montana led the nation in Selective Service draftees for military service during The Great War. An error in census data accounted for a disproportionate number of young men being drafted from Montana. For those who don't know, The Great War was the First World War, or WWI.

Montana is rural state with a population density of wildlife per square mile that exceeds the number of human inhabitants. I don't know what it is now, but you can bet than even back in 1917, the critters outnumbered us.
Because this piece of paper listed TOPS as the top line item, I got to thinking about who these tops would have been purchased for - probably as Christmas presents, since this is indeed THE holiday order (at least from Zernitz) for C. W. Rank & Company in Virginia City, Montana. If a young boy born in Virginia City in the early 1890's would have received a top, could he have gone on to serve in WWI? Perhaps. I haven't gotten skilled enough at searching the military records available through the Montana Historical Society, but I will - sooner or later.

I'd also like to point out that Teresa N. Fischer, whose work I truly admire, was kind enough to supply me with the most excellent photographs of three antique tops that she holds in her collection of old toys. Although the red one at the top is the only example in the color of the ones she has, the lighting was such that I could use whatever color I wanted to use for my tops. So, thank you, Teresa.

I also want to say a little something about the title - The Four Tops were at the heart of what came to be called the Motown Sound. I listened to them - on Armed Forces Radio while parked in the jungle of South Vietnam. I'm still here to talk about it, too. So Veterans Day is to honor all those who are veterans of our military, all branches. I greet all Marine Veterans that I meet with this: Semper Fi. For those who know, the greeting means everything. For those who don't, it is short for ALWAYS Faithful.

I will not be able to post on Veterans Day this coming Friday, so I'm posting today. God Bless. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Forgotten Bookmarks - Thank You PFF #51

A couple of weeks ago, I won a number of books in Michael Popek's Friday Book Giveaway. You see, Michael works in the family Antiquarian bookstore, and comes across unusual items used as bookmarks. He has been posting them on his blog, but the blog is now so popular, he has decided to expand his (and our) horizons. He just recently published a book that contains images of the bookmarks that he's found, and includes an image of the books they were discovered in. If you're interested in stories, these bookmarks are story-tellers.

I couldn't resist using an Author stamp (Hemingway), and a Bread Wagon stamp, since I hope this book is his land-locked version of his ship coming in. Thank You, Michael. For the second time you've given me a gift, and I'm all for re-gifting.

Don't forget to visit Beth Niquette's blog The Best Hearts Are Crunchy for more delectable candy that's been through the mail.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

TOPS - The Spinning Wooden Kind 4

This is the fourth and last of the series of tops for the billhead.

Is there more to the story? Yes, there is, but I now have to go find a scanner that's large enough to scan the complete document. I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

TOPS - The Spinning Wooden Kind 3

This is the third in my series of tops on a turn of the century billhead.

When I first started doing the research for the John D. Zernitz & Company, I had no idea where the trail would lead. There is scant information to be gleaned from public records available on the web. I do know however that a Mr. Charles M. Henn was in the employee of the Zernitz Company as a cashier in 1884.  Mr. Henn filed a patent for a mechanical bank on September 29, 1882 and it was issued January 23, 1883.

The name of the bank was "Eagle Feeding Her Young". I find it extremely interesting that Mr. Henn would work at a place that sold toys, but so he did.

There's always more to the story.   

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

TOPS - The Spinning Wooden Kind 2

The story continues. This is the second of four tops that I'm putting on this billhead.

This was a Holiday Season order back when you weren't shopping for Christmas until you should be shopping for Christmas. Among the items ordered were Watches, Sad Irons, Dishes, Paints, Candles (by the box), Kitchen Sets and other items I'll cover in subsequent posts. I found it interesting that Tops were at the top of the list. These are the kind that you wrapped a cord around, and "threw" at the ground. There was a knack to launching them so that they would properly spin. Mine are suspended in motion.