Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Social engagements of ages past!

Hello again, gentle readers! It is I, Lydia, who created this blog. I am something of a freelancer about the bookstore these days, and this week I have decided to be a guest star on ye olde O'Gara and Wilson Blog. What does it mean to be a guest star in an institution that I created? There's an odd philosophical question.

You know who liked philosophical questions? Ben Franklin, as featured in this Affordable and Interesting tome.

We all know who Benjamin Franklin was. Even beyond his contributions to the founding of the United States, he was remarkable -- a scientist, a man of the arts, in all ways an accomplished gentleman. As it happens, he was also famous for his ... ahem ... lady friends. Franklin spent eight years in Paris, during which time he won French support for our fledgling nation, and also cut quite a swath through the elegant Parisian ladies he met. This $12.50 book describes Parisian culture from 1777-1785, when Franklin was there, and gives the story of the time he spent discussing ideas; making diplomatic overtures; and most importantly, charming women.

From this week's Favorite we learn that if Ben Franklin had been a student in the 50s, he would have been featured on many girls' dance cards.

Here we have a bunch of social materials from the mid-1950s at the Dunbar Trade School! There are some run-of-the-mill things like ID cards and Dunbar Trade buttons, but there's also great stuff like a "High School Daze Memory Book". It's blank; it seems that no one wrote their memories in it, but that does mean you could give it to your favorite high school student for their own records.

Perhaps you prefer the invitations to Masquerade Balls and New Years Balls hosted by the Gay Eights Social Club -- not to mention the invitation to the annual Hippity Hop hosted by the King of Clubs. (I wonder if the Gay Eights and the King of Clubs were rival organizations?) Me, I particularly enjoy these little Prom booklets:

The booklets contain the lists of Prom Queens and Kings, plus their royal retinues. They contain hilarious Mad Libs about Prom Night (again, blank -- you could fill them out yourself!). And they have dance cards! One of the dance cards is blank, but the other has one name scrawled in pencil across every song's field. ... Dear God! In an incredible moment of synchronicity, I just realized that name is: Robert W. Franklin! Gentle readers, I couldn't make these things up. Do you think he's a descendant of the aforementioned Franklin?! For $50.00, you not only acquire this entire trove of 1950s nostalgia, but the evidence of a ridiculous coincidence.

Which brings me to the coincidence I discovered in this Collector's Item.

Here we have a genuine Victorian photo album, complete with red velvet cover and brass clasp. Below, we have photographed it with another Victorian photo album that we are also currently selling:

The pictures within these albums are mostly the expected Victorian familial photos, featuring severe expressions and elaborate formal clothing. The occasional antique photographer's card is in here as well. But what really excited me was the folded letter I found in that red velvet album, listing the participants in a hair wreath! Many Victorians, being of a fascinatingly macabre bent, would weave flowers and wreaths from the hair of people they knew (find out more by clicking here). So this handwritten page starts with, "Miss Alma L. Denny's hair wreath made, June 19, 1875. A List of the names of the persons that have hair in this wreath." Each person's name is then followed by a description: "my Sister," "my seckond cousin", "a nabor", "a nabor a true friend". (We cannot be held responsible for this person's spelling and grammar.)

The reason this is a startling coincidence is that we ourselves, this very bookstore, sold an antique Victorian hair wreath some months ago (it was even featured on our blog at the time!). I find myself wondering if it's the same hair wreath. Not that it matters overmuch, since our wreath is long sold to a happy customer, but $150.00 buys the red velvet album ... and the mysterious letter as well!

That's a wrap, gentle readers. It was nice to visit. I understand that Alan is updating once every two weeks these days, so I guess you'll hear from him in a couple weeks. Or perhaps I'll return myself. You shan't know what to expect ... and in the meantime, take care!


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O'Gara and Wilson said...

Those spam comments are getting out of hand!