Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Alan refers to us as an "increasingly inaccurately named bookstore"

Sometimes we joke around the store about how we barely even sell books here -- we are so inundated by other amazing historical material. One great example are these fabulous, semi-insane Affordable and Interesting Victorian marketing cards. I had a really hard time choosing just six of them to show you, gentle readers -- we've got a whole boxful! Fortunately (or perhaps un), a recent customer already bought up all the ones that featured little children dressed up as insects and snails.






I can't even begin to imagine what the Victorians were thinking when they decided to use some of these images to advertise their businesses. I mean, I'll accept that quasi-demonic children drowning cats in ink is a fabulous promotion for dye! But what does a pig frightened by firecrackers have to do with dentistry? And do you realize that those two clowns are eyeing each other over a pot full of "meat extract"? These cards are $3.00 apiece, which I consider a low price to pay for the opportunity to raise our eyebrows yet again at those crazy Victorians.

For this week's Collector's Item, let's move on to something saner, like Don Quixote:

We've got a set of four beautiful porcelain tiles showing Don Quixote at his best! My personal favorite is this one, with a windmill ....

I find that frequently, the phrases I use require extensive explanation (for instance, I recently really confused some friends by saying, "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth"). I mention this because there is a wonderful phrase -- "tilting at windmills" -- that means "attacking imaginary enemies". It derives from the Quixote scene above, and even if you have not read the book you can probably figure out what happens in that scene. Ah, Quixote ... you taught us farce. Celebrate Don Quixote with these tiles: $150.00!

Our last non-book objects for today feature one of Doug's Favorite pieces of racial commentary:

We've just gotten in a number of amazing prints, now hanging all about the store in various positions! Doug is particularly in love with a large, broadside-style printing of Gwendolyn Brooks' "We're The Only Colored People Here". Brooks, a Chicagoan through and through, was a well-known African-American poet whose works gained international fame. This piece is an especially touching bit about the way the world was as it was desegregating, and yet its inhabitants were still a bit uncomfortable when they mixed. In the 1930s, Paris-based Black Sun Press issued a series of large poster-type printings of very short fiction -- including a very nice 12" x 15" version of "We're The Only Colored People Here".

The Gwendolyn Brooks is $40.00. The rest of these prints vary in price from $35.00 for a lovely engraving of Marie Louise looking benevolently cross-eyed, to $300.00 for the below print:

Apparently -- at the end of the Civil War -- Jefferson Davis mistakenly threw on his wife's raincoat as they were trying to flee capture by Union soldiers; when caught, he was widely mocked for supposedly "dressing as a woman" in an attempt to escape. Above is just one of the political cartoons that resulted!

I'm inspired by those Victorian cards -- I think I'll go home and find some cats to dye! Never claim that the media doesn't affect your children, gentle readers.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Let's put this inauguration in its historical context!

Here we have a special edition of the O'Gara and Wilson Store Blog! In honor of Barack Obama's inauguration, we are featuring a collection of items from two previous historical inaugurations -- those in 1941 and 1945, for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. (His first vice president was Henry A. Wallace; his second, Harry Truman.)

We have all kind of materials here, from invitations to inauguration tickets to programs, etc. etc. etc. ....

Here's the 1941 official program for you ....

... and the list of ceremonies, complete with adorable tri-color ribbon!

If you'd attended in 1941, you would have presented this ticket.

There's the back of the ticket.

And if you were lucky, you'd have been invited back in 1945!

There are other things included in this little group, too -- all told, there are nine (count them, 9) pieces of Roosevelt inauguration ephemera. Celebrate inaugural history by purchasing this great collection for $250.00!

Here ends O'Gara and Wilson Special Bulletin for today! I have to venture outside now, but at least it's a whole 20 degrees or so.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Barack Obama, we hardly knew ye!

Ah, gentle readers ... the travails of living in Barack Obama's neighborhood! Occasionally I must display legal identification to the police in order to reach my home; the excellent local restaurant Medici now requires all its wait staff to wear shirts that say, "Obama eats here". Let's hope Obama rises above the record set by previous Chicago politicians such as Rod Blagojevich. (What's your favorite Blagojevich quote? Mine is, In a Nov. 11 conversation, Blagojevich acknowledged that Obama wanted an unnamed "Senate Candidate 1" for the seat but "they're not willing to give me anything but appreciation. [Expletive] them.")

This week we learn that Blagojevich is in a fine, established legacy of evil. For instance, let's look at this Affordable and Interesting item:


This little book-shaped matchbox-holder was used to promote P.J. Carr in his 1926 campaign for Sheriff. "If elected Sheriff," the matchbox-holder promises, "I will make all of the highways of Cook County absolutely safe for every man, woman and child." Highways? What did a 1926 Chicago highway look like, I wonder? Carr is mentioned in a study by Carroll Hill Wooddy, "The Chicago Primary of 1926" (click here to read it on Google Books), which thoroughly explains that he was just another small cog in the corrupt machine we love so well. $12.50 buys you evidence of Chicago's grand old tradition ... and a cool place to keep your matches, to boot!

Our Collector's Item is rather more informative and straightforward than that little matchbox:

This scarce First Edition "history of Chicago crime and politics" was written in 1952, and the Preface notes, "From the 1951 fall election returns, it was evident that everywhere in America the people were revolting against criminal-political alliances. ... Generally overlooked, however, was the fact that these conditions are not of recent development." Now there's a lesson of which we could remind ourselves today. This copy of the book belonged to Raymond J. Hederman (who was once Chief Clerk in the Circuit Court of Cook County), and I wonder if he would agree with my immediate reaction to the title -- "What a funny editorial choice, to separate crime and politics into two different concepts like that!" They do say that power corrupts. Learn how much, for only $70.00!

This week's Favorite goes a bit afield from our subject: it is not specifically related to corruption in Chicago. Still, it does at least have a section on the Chicago World's Fair, and I bet there's lots of information on general wickedness:

"This book aims to present as many opinion poll results as possible, in a convenient and useful form. The material presented has been collected from 23 organizations in 16 countries and covers the period from 1935, when George Gallup and Elmo Roper began publishing results obtained by this sampling method, through 1946." If that sounds large in scope, well, that's because it is. Look at the index section around the Chicago World's Fair:

Chemistry, technical. See Synthetic products.
Chiang Kai-Shek. See Persons.
Chicago -- World's Fair, 1933-34. See Exhibitions.
Chickens. See Poultry.
CHILD LABOR ... page 97; see also Hours of labor, Labor supply, Agricultural, Wages.

I opened to a random page and found sections for Habeas Corpus and Happiness:

Then I opened to another random page and found the Black Market section! I love this bit:

13. (Denmark, Nov. 12 '44.) Have you ever bought anything directly or indirectly from the black market? -- Yes: 10.3%. No: 89.7%.
14. (Denmark, Nov. 12 '44.) Have you any sympathy for any form of black-market transactions? -- Yes: 7.3%. No: 92.7%.

One wonders what that 3% of people thinks of themselves -- you know, the ones who have had black-market transactions but don't sympathize with them. These and many other intriguing questions come up every time I flip through this book, which you -- yes, you -- could own for $60.00. Hours of entertainment, and a remarkable historical snapshot to boot!

As our first Black President, Obama has already shattered one stereotype. I'm rooting for him to break with Chicago's legendary corruption, too! Let's keep history in mind as we watch his presidency. I can't wait to see what happens!