Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Qui me amat, amat et puellum meam, et amat et bovem meam.

I will open this entry abruptly and immediately with the Collector's Item, because the photo is burning a hole in the camera:


Carl Sandburg -- yes, that Carl Sandburg, the famous Chicago writer and American historian -- admired this wooden Indian greatly. It belonged to his friend Oliver Barrett, and we have a picture of Sandburg and Barrett posing happily in front of the Indian. In fact, Doug tells me that Sandburg had written a short story about a cigar store Indian, and likely admired this one all the more for that!

The Indian is part of the remarkable Barrett collection, which we acquired recently, and which boasts many incredible pieces of Americana: signed letters from Houdini (including a handwritten account of one of his magic tricks), books from Abraham Lincoln's library ... unfortunately, gentle readers, I cannot cite you a price on these pieces, for we are sending them to auction with the respectable Bonham's and Butterfield's.

The Indian will only grace our store for a day or two before it is shipped away, to be auctioned (along with the rest of the Barrett collection) in June. Of course, if you're interested in knowing details about the sale, please do email us or visit the store, and we'll tell you all about it. In the meantime, hurry and come over as soon as you can if you want to catch a glimpse of this historic artifact!

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, it's time for my promised cowboy tidbit ... but, my gentle readers, that cowboys are sociologically interesting is most of what I have to report. They are so idealized that it is actually difficult to locate webpages that speak of them in a down-to-earth fashion. I suppose this makes sense; I couldn't help noting what a romantic icon they are in this blog's last entry. They seem to popularly represent, in the words of this site (click here), a certain kind of American morality: "The morals of the Cowboy are steadfast. He takes on and accomplishes any job given to him, no matter how hard or dangerous this job maybe. He rides and competes for pride, not for the actual belt buckle or title. A Cowboy stands for all that is pure and true."

My "little-known cowboy fact", which I promised to open this entry with, is perhaps not all that little-known (but might justify a roadtrip): the existence of a Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma (click here)! (There's also a National Cowgirl Museum in -- where else? -- Texas.) You can probably learn more interesting things from the excellent blog that was posted as a comment on our last entry: Mustang 'n' Cowboys (click here).

Cowboys are sportsmen, too, and perhaps those who were out and about in the 1920s appreciated this week's Favorite:

Unlike everything else in the world, the Von Lengerke & Antoine catalogue -- "Just for Sport!" says the tagline -- does not appear to have a website devoted to it. In searching for references to VL&A catalogues, I have mostly found websites belonging to sportsmen-collectors; for instance, a blog called "Fishing for History: the History of Fishing and Fishing Tackle" (click here). The most detailed description of the catalogue comes from an article about Wall Street's apparently declining interest in sporting goods stores:

The crème de la crème [of sporting goods merchants] was Abercrombie & Fitch, the great New York based retailer whose Chicago store was known as Von Lengerke & Antoine, located on Wabash Avenue. Before it went bankrupt in the 1970s, only to have its name purchased and revived as a controversial marketer of teen-age clothing, Abercrombie & Fitch was the premier emporium store for discerning hunters and anglers. I can recall as a child poring over each edition of the VL&A catalog that my father received in the mail.

Is Abercrombie & Fitch so controversial? Color me surprised. But I digress. Now that I know these catalogues came from Abercrombie & Fitch, I can research the company's history to discover everything I ever wanted to know about the story of a major sporting goods store. To be honest, though, I'm more interested in looking at the catalogues themselves. We're offering a rather marked up 1927 copy for $75.00 and a much cleaner 1932 issue for $95.00, and the really exciting thing about them is the internal photos:


The true sportsman requires not only interesting bits for his gun, but also remarkable equipment for his drinks! (That strange little machine in the middle of the second photo is an ice crusher.)

Last but, as always, nowhere near least comes what I consider Affordable and Interesting:

Sometimes, in a used bookstore, one comes upon books that one hasn't any idea how to shelve. (My personal favorite tactic for dealing with this problem is to put the book in the window with a sign talking about how weird and interesting it is, and let the problem solve itself.) This book is one such: I encountered it in the Anthropology section, removed it for consideration, and soon decided that I simply had to give it the exposure it deserved. There must be a pyromaniac out there who would really love this book ... and honestly, who wouldn't be excited to read about 25 famous fires? Not only does this treatise cover such conflagrations as the Hindenburg, the Normandie and the Chicago Fire, but fires in theatres, circuses, prisons ... it even discusses general firefighter technique and approaches (or at least, the 1957 versions thereof). All that for $6.50! And indeed, not only do you obtain an interesting book by buying it, you also do a good deed by sparing me the angst of figuring out where to shelve it.

In this cold I'm always afraid I'll accidentally leave a space heater on, and set myself on fire -- but now that I've spent so much time with this book, I think I'll remember to be careful. Watch your electric blankets, gentle readers, and I'll see you next week.


Anonymous said...

I went to the Cowgirl Hall of Fame! You can ride a bucking bronco there (well, not a real one) and get a video of it. It's actually a very interesting place.

Is Abercrombie & Fitch so controversial?

Some people think their ads are naughty.

O'Gara and Wilson said...

Ah, I see. I dimly remember the Abercrombie & Fitch ad controversy now. I think for my generation, it's just another brand of yuppie clothes, though.