A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7000 images, 3.5 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, The Paris Review, Le Figaro, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 3,000+ total posts
This hand-out pamphlet seems to be a case where the sale of an edible product is made for the sale of its packaging.
The pamphlet shouts that CANDY IS DELICIOUS FOOD, which is certainly a correct statement if food=digestible. It tells/sells the story of candy as a profit-maker to the grocery seller, saying that "32% average gross profit on home consumption units", those delicious-sounding unit-things being the candy.
There are bits and pieces about candy display and placement, all on the advice of the maker of the stuff that in which the candy was wrapped--cellophane. The publisher and distributor of the pamphlet, the "Cellophane" Division of the E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. Inc., had a huge vested interest in candy sales: candy was mostly wrapped in Cellophane (starting with Whitman in 1912) and by the time du Pont achieved its water- and moisture-proof Cellophane in Delaware the product accounted (in 1938) for 25% of the company's profits. That's pretty big, and so candy as a major muncher of Cellophane would be promoted by du Pont as pretty big, too. And as food, for added Bigness.
These spectacular images of monumental monumentality appeared in the December 1916 issue of Popular Science Monthly. The author Frank Shuman (1862-1918) had some major inventing chops, not the least of which was some very forward-thinking work (in theory and practice) on solar power (one of which was a solar powered steam engine and another a liquid O2 propulsion system for submarines), so these suggestions for gigantic land battleships came with a fair amount of gravitas. This is some grand thinking, and as Shuman tells us, the beast below would weigh about 5,000 tons (the weight of several hundred Sherman tanks1) and would roll along on 200' diameter wheels. Unfortunately, outside of seeing some sort of (steam) power plant, there is no mention of how those wheels would be turned--I'd've liked to read about that. There is a mention of shock absorbers, but only so, jsut a bare hint.
[Image source is Google Books--I have this volume in a 40 year run of this periodical down in the warehouse, but the book was really too thick to lay flat ont he scanner, and so the Google Books scan was used..]
And for whatever reason there is no heavy artillery on this thing. The damage to the enemy would be done via the three wheels, and also by the enormous chains that hang from the front of the enormity, like a flailing slow-moving monster from a 1950's B-movie.
My guess is that this wouldn't do so well in the rain.
I found this interesting story-without-words in a column in American Agriculturalist, April, 1869. The velocipdes were fairly big, and fairly new-ish to be peddle-powered at the front wheel, and apparently not so welcome on urban streets. (Within fifteen years the bike would take on a decidedly very modern look, easily recognizable as being a close family member to that Schwinn cruiser you owned in 1982.) I don't have any insight about the editorial content of the segment...
Contributions to Way Out of Today's Depression is a pamphlet written in a econo-engineering fashion by an engineer with some strong opinions on regulatory economics, many of which seem as far outside the normative and at the other end of the spectrum of the investing practices that necessitated such thinking. (For example, in addition to a discussion of very closely regulated federal interventions there is a statement that would make "high finace" a crime like treason, with similar punishment.) There was much flotsam amidst the jetsam and vice versa and perhaps nothing to salvage in the sinking mess, but this graph at least looked interesting:
And the very out-of-the-ordinary cover, which has a very definite Outsider quality to it:
I've catalogued a number of pamphlets on this blog that are on the Outsider/Found-Surreal/Uninentional-Absurdist spectrum, people who reveal their insights into the un-insightable, or their outsights into the great Outside world that is unseeable because it is unseen, or unknowable, or non-existent. Sometimes it is all-existent, though the insights bearing upon the issue are the unknowable, non-retrievable, self-referential, private-logic and private-language communications. Sometimes there is insight in that, but usually not.
This day's installment has the feel and look of something from the 19th century, but is it comes from 1912, and the rants and razor-vision is localized on Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. I'm not sure what the author's point was, because it is all fairly circular, a circle of words filled with a another circle of words, and who knows really where they go.
This is the very striking cover design for a pamphlet written by Dr. Julius Klein (the assistant secretary of commerce) produced by the Institute of Makers of Explosives (103 Park Avenue, NYC, who of course made a large play for blowing stuff up as a positive driving force in the history of civilization. And they are right in many cases, obviously, but the images and title taken out of context are very provocative.
Dr. Klein starts off by disabusing the reader of the “bad press” of explosives: “a good many of us, I imagine, labor under a misapprehension about the explosives industry…we conceive of explosives as an instrumentality of havoc. But that conception is utterly wrong.” Utterly? The man does have a point of course, which he explains in subject headings like “Dynamite the Liberator”, “Many Unusual Uses”and “Explosives Release Raw Materials” But “utterly”? Its a real piece of heavily worked propaganda that makes the case for the economics goodnesses and misunderstood destructive values of TNT.
This is an addition to the infrequently-seen What is It? series of this blog...
Okay, so I've given it away in the title--if not for that, this wouldn't be a very obvious contraption, would it?
There must have been a lot of people who had a problem with street cars in the 19th and early 20th centuries because in my meanderings through the Scientific American I have seen quite a few suggestions for dealing with the pedestrian vs the heavy moving metal problem. Many of them have to do with the humanified locomotive cow-catcher--that is an apparatus that would somewhat safely scoop up the unfortunate pedestrian before they became very fatally unfortunate. Here's just one example, found in the February 3, 1894 issue:
Neither the scoopee nor the scooper look pleased.
This problem is better illustrated by an early film of street traffic--it is amazing in a way that the orchestration of non-fatalities is so seemingly superb, the coercive element of the destruction of liminal space pretty well hidden in the seeming confusion.
[Via youtube, "From trolley, down Broadway and Union Square. Street scenes, stores, crowds, carriages.--Early 1900's"]
There's nothing that shouts "WRONG" with greater voice than images like this. Like pornography and art, things that are just plain wrong are instantly recognizable, and this is a fine example of that thinking. Anti-Gas Protective Helmet for Babies, Manual of Instructions was prepared for the Office of the Director of Civil Air Raid Precautions of Ottawa, Canada, and published in 1943. I'm not sure that the image of the nurse in the gas mask isn't as disturbing, but the two of them together is just too much.
I wasn't aware of the gas attack preparations in Canada--the situation was entirely different in Britain, where everyone was required to own a gas mask, and by 1940 more than 38 million had been distributed to the population. But the planning was underway in Ottawa in '43 for the worst, as removed and distant from the war as just about any other place on earth--but the Air Raid Precautions people pulled no punches in their hearts and minds campaign, and I'm sure that it was very effective. This little pamphlet certainly caught my attention.
And it wasn't as though the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Germany weren't doing anything about poison/nerve gas during WWII--they were. There was very little use of CW during the war, though the Japanese military did use it relatively widely against Chinese troop,s guerrillas and civilian populations during several years in the war between Japan and China leading up to the outbreak of WWII. There were large stockpiles of CW in the U.S, Great Britain, and Germany, though the weapons were allocated for last-ditch doomsday operations should the opposing side start using them first.
Building on some reaching and questionable physical identification work of Sir Francis Galton, Raphael Pumpelly tried to make photographs of what scientists looked like.
At a scientific meeting of the National Academy of Science in Washington D.C. Pumpelly (along with Dr. (Thomas Mayo) Brewer and the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, (Spencer F.) Baird) undertook the experiment to determine whether or not there was a certain composite "type" in groups of academicians. He employed the justly-named head of the photography department at the Smithsonian, Mr. (Thomas Mayo) Smillie, to make a series of 2-second exposures of the scientists upon a single glass plate. Two seconds per portrait was not long enough to make a defined portrait for a single sitter, but if there 15 or 30 such exposures on the same plate it was seen that collectively there would be a strong impression. The resulting portraits are interesting in their won way, but probably not without the backstory.
I came to this pamphlet from a design/composition point of view, finding in it a peculiar attractiveness in its gritty-typeface and loud speculation. That said, the title is of little use to tell us of its contents, and so opening to page 37 (in deference to my wife Patti Digh who finds much significance in the number) I found on the opposite page the "it does not matter that the German people of the Reich have a different form of State from America", and that the form of state so far as the Germans were concerned was "a matter of fate".
Interesting, and, well, unfortunate, because the publication date of the work is 1936. The author, Mr. A.T. Fredex, implores the reader to consider that there is "no more a liberty-loving people than the Germans", and that they are a free and liberated people. The German state of today was subject of certain internal "troubles" and that successions of leaders--for the good of the people--were forced to keep the nation together with "more or less gentle pressure".
And so the skeleton of the fleshy produce of the pamphlet is revealed. "Already the sneers of the yellow and black races are haunting us", writes Mr. Fredex, who continues in just the next paragraph that all that remains to happen would be for Socialist France to "mobilize her millions of Negroes" along with the help of "Bolshevist-Mongolian Russia" against Germany, which would be the last refuge of normalcy in Europe, the thing protecting the Western world from who-knows-what.
All of this is in three paragraphs of one page. Then comes the race part, the Teutonic purity and excellence part, and the horrors of race-mixing and "mixed blood" that will wind up dooming America.
I skipped ahead, or behind, to the end, where we are warned by Mr. Fredex to awaken our Nordic interests should Germany fail to hold back the assaulting races.
This is really quite a story to unfold in just two of the pamphlet's 56 pages--the rest of which I think need no further exploration.
The pamphlet cover, though, retains its interest, forensically speaking, and can only hint at the pamphlet's evil and filthy contents.
This is a beautifully design object, and for a moment I thought that this might actually be a sympathetic-Communist pamphlet--something from the Paulist Press, for a Catholic high school system, and from 1936 when there were still plenty of Reds running around the U.S.--so I needed to look around the booklet a little bit.
And of course I found out what it was really about just about instantly, and so there was no mistake about what the Passionate Father was really passionate about:
This is pretty strong stuff considering that Communists weren't terribly uncommon in the U.S. half-way through the Depression, though that can be mostly due to the absence of the real story about what was going on in the Soviet Union under mega-murderer Joseph Stalin. But really it is more the Socialists who were more popular in the off-party politics in America in the mid-'30's. In any event the author hit the Communists pretty hard based on their anti-god and anti-Catholic positions, so, naturally, there was very room left at the table of philosophy for the Communists.
Okay, so, this may only be a detail of a cover of a quietly-uncommon and proto-bizarre pamphlet on bricks, but when you look at it in a certain way, it may suggest a bit of found abstract expressionist art. Or even a Cubist-something. I can see it as a color field--a very, very hard-edged Rothko detail comes to mind. Perhaps if Pollock arranged entire bricks as his medium rather than dripped paint, he may have come upon an expression such as this. Or not.
[This image is available as a 13"x19" 600 dpi poster, here.]
The pamphlet comes from my collection of fantastically-titled and creatively naive pamphlets and books. After considering their reaching, speculative, bizarre, and surreal titles, they fall into a number of sub-categories, including:
titles with question marks “?” (like the two wonderful pamphlets simply entitled "What ?" and of course the two that have no titles but question marks);
titles with exclamation points “!” (these two marks actually don’t occur very often at all in titles, especially when the title itself already has a built in question/exclamation mark);
titles that include the phrase “the history of…” or “the story of….” so long as that history/story is (very) unusual;
titles that demand something or other of “America” (i.e., “Will America be Invaded?” or “America, Mussolini or Moscow” or "Sandbags, Worms and America");
title pages with American flags.
This excludes a lot of the general naïve-surreal and historical pamphlet collection, but these, I think, would make a great exhibition of book of books, simply because so many of them have an unquestionable “what in the _” reaction capacity to them.
The found-abstract detail comes from Mud, its Romantic Story, (by Richard G. Collier, for the Common Brick Manufacturer Association of America, Cleveland, Ohio) and is a prime example for the collection: a terrific title and a beautiful design that offers a lot more than a simple story about bricks (even though it does contain a lively little history of brick making in America--the good content almost takes away from the fantastic title, but so it goes).
This is a detail from the cover to this oddly safe but slightly sotto voce absurdly-provocative Men You Like to Meet, a little pamphlet of happy tales published by the American Trucking Associations, published in 1942. There are a few stories of known and unknown truck driving heroes, saving people, helping stranded motorists, so on--some quiet, some gallant, some ambitious, and all humble. Just the sort of modern Cowboy you'd like to have on the highways. The full image is below (a poster of which is available from our Poster store, here):
[Image source: Google Books, The Mechanics' Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal, and Gazette, Volume 26, 1837.]
This remarkable fire-fighting suit was present in an article in the prestigious Mechanics' Magazine, and published in London in 1837. It does seem impossible in its way to the modern reader, particularly for the eye-popping hood and lighted-candle-belt apparatus. But it is very sobering to think that this would have been a vast step-up from what was available at the time--especially for the leader house of air into the jacket/hood. Here's the full text of the description of the apparel:
Nature (September 13, 1924) posted a long one-paragraph description of the work of Dr. William.S. Inman (1876-1968), who published an article in the Lancet on the causes of left-handedness, stammer, and squint, which he found were related in one form or another, and globally. Just in case you were wondering, Dr. Inman located the causes of the problems of left-handnedness, and his were devoted "to mental causes":
Left-handedness, stammering, and squinting are all caused by emotional stress;
"too severe parenting" can be the cause of stammering, and left-handedness, and squinting;
each of these "defects runs in families";
a family predisposed to one is so with the other two;
one can become lefthanded as "an unconscious revolt against authority".
This at least seems like a gentle and inquisitive approach to left-handedness, which, it seems, was a "defect" that historically was dealt with by corporal punishment. For example, in the first book I can find in the global library catalog WorldCat that mentions "left-handedness"--a work by Thomas Lutpon with the long and languid title of A Thousand Notable Things containing modern curiosities. Viz. Divers Rare and Experienc'd Physical Receipts... To Educate Children to learn languages speedily...Also a new help to discourse, and directions to read, write, indite and speak languages readily and speedily..., a note is found with the description of the book saying "21st edition of this book of secrets, first published in 1586, it contains "A New Method to Educate Children" pp. 153-163 with a woodcut of alphabet cubes. The 20th edition appeared in 1706./ Some of the recipes are innocuous, others simply terrifying -- in spite of this, the author's instructions for educating children are surprisingly humane -- no corporal punishment and notably, no beating to correct left-handedness". Now the purpose of that very long and not-so-pretty sentence was to get aross the idea that for long periods of time left-handedness was treated as something that could be beat out of someone, physically. That at least is one very disturbing way of teaching someone how to write with their right hand.