Wednesday, February 18, 2009

How to manage your miffed Valentine: a lesson, with O'Gara and Wilson

Since we only update the blog once every two weeks now, I totally missed Valentine's Day. Did you also miss Valentine's Day? If so, then this is the blog entry for you! You will learn all about some gifts you can give your lover to make up for your unbearable faux pas. What expresses love better than crass materialism? I ask you.

Let's start with this week's Collector's Item: great for the man in your life, assuming the year is 1926 and your man really likes Benjamin Franklin.

Let us begin with a Valentine-relevant quotation from a "Beau Magazine" watch advertisement:

Choosing your woman (to employ the phrase of our national arch-beau, Benjamin Franklin) is only the beginning of your adventure: to hold her (if hold her you must) you must have become skilled in that most delicate of all the social arts -- the art of selecting the proper gift for the proper occasion.

Now the "Beau" is an inveterate believer in this pleasant form of bribery. Gift giving is the oil of the social machinery, the only form of flattery which women have not yet learned to suspect, and therefore to be pursued with a certain amount of assured success.

Well, I've certainly learned to suspect it now. So maybe you shouldn't buy this book for your lover ... maybe, instead, you should buy it and hide it from them such that they never learn its secrets.

You will also be concealing many other delights: for instance, a reprinted letter (purportedly from 1745) from Benjamin Franklin to a friend on "Choosing Your Woman". Franklin urges his friend to select an older woman for a mistress for eight reasons, one of which starts with "Because when they cease to be handsome, they study to be good." Do we really? These and other pieces of advice come to $75.00 -- discuss 1926 romantic mores with your lover (or alternatively, hide these insights from your lover) to your heart's content.

Perhaps you and your partner pen a lot of love letters? In that case, you can use this week's Favorite to write a historically accurate one, World War 2-style:

V-mail (short for "Victory mail") was a form used entirely by soldiers on the front during World War 2. They would write in special ink ...

(here we have two facets of the ink box ...)

... on special forms ...

... and their letters would be applied from paper form, to microfilm. The original forms would then be destroyed and big bags of microfilm sent overseas, to be reconstituted into letters for mopey loved ones. As noted by the National Postal Museum: "The 37 mail bags required to carry 150,000 one-page letters could be replaced by a single mail sack. The weight of that same amount of mail was reduced dramatically from 2,575 pounds to a mere 45."

I am sure that a military history buff would find a love letter written V-mail style to be the most romantic thing ever. Indulge them: a box of forms and a box of special V-mail ink -- Quink! -- is only $25.00 and provides dozens of letters!

(And before we move on to the next items, a quick message from Doug: "Before there was e-mail, there was v-mail!" Hilarious.)

Last but not least, gentle readers: an Affordable and Interesting way to relate to your loved one.

You may have heard of the Kama Sutra, an ancient Indian text on physical love. Well, I am here to tell you that there are many, many editions of the Kama Sutra out there, and we've got a bunch of them here at O'Gara and Wilson. The one presented above takes what I think of as the "academic and cultural approach" -- tasteful cover featuring a pretty Indian painting, restrained script, all promoting the scholarly value of this tome, and all for $15.00!

Then there's this approach!

This I consider the "scandal" approach. Published in 1963, it emphasizes the mind-blowing debauchery therein. The photo of Greek statuary totally fails to respect the original Kama Sutra's cultural context. Yours for $7.50.

And here's the third and last in my "Kama Sutra marketing through the ages" series:

Not cultural, not academic, but not scandalous either: this one's all about long walks on the beach, soft-lit candles and romantic dinners. $12.50.

That should pacify your partner, gentle readers! Don't say I never do you any favors ... and oh yeah, happy belated Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Black History Month 2009 is upon us! Also, Soviets.

February, my gentle gentle readers, is upon us in all its snow-laden glory. On the bright side, February is Black History Month! Most of this blog entry shall regale you with many amazing items of African-American historical value ... but not all of it. Why, you ask? Well, because this week's Affordable and Interesting item was supposed to be picked up by Doug when he went home to Indiana for the evening ... but then, a stunning amount of Indiana snowfall kept him in Chicago for the night.

So, before we continue on to Black history, dear readers, allow me to show you these Affordable and Interesting pins:

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The above pins were produced in the former Soviet Union between the late 1960s and the early 1990s -- they were badges for all manner of occupations, clubs, and organizations. Our regular Jon characterizes them as "bright, sprightly, and lots of fun" and reports that he gave one to his friend Olga, who translated its slogan as "Society to Fight for Sobriety". When she picked herself up from rolling around of the floor laughing, she added, "I need some more for my friends."

These pins are a bargain at $3.00 apiece; I'd consider buying the Stalin one myself, but I want to be able to take airplane flights.

Now let's move on, away from my hasty insertion of those pins and towards this week's Favorite:

Fisk University was one of the first African-American Universities -- established in 1867. It is now open to all races, but has historically served Black history very well -- one notable instance being the Fisk Jubilee Singers. The Singers started touring in 1871, and they did a lot to preserve African-American musical traditions and further the acceptance of those traditions in popular culture.

We have a number of 1910s-1920s Fisk University magazines here at the shop, showcasing various interesting historical angles:



The Fisk magazines vary in price from $20.00 to $25.00 -- or act now and you might be able to snag the 1916 Fisk Alumni Quarterly for only $10.00!

Last, but certainly not least, we arrive at this Collector's Item, which includes an amazing and touching story:

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a real live tintype of Mr. and Mrs. Watham, who were once enslaved in the southern United States. In the second half of the 1800s, the Wathams were freed, and they struck off to make their fortunes by participating enthusiastically in the Oklahoma Land Rush. These two Black pioneers established an Oklahoma homestead that served their families well until their descendants sold it off in the 1950s, at which point one trunk full of the Watham's heritage was saved.

That trunkful of history is now here, at O'Gara and Wilson! Its contents include -- but are not limited to -- two cotton bonnets, a blue polka-dotted parasol, a spyglass, two leather baby booties, a corncob pipe, a thimble, and two six-sided dice. We're selling this collection for $750.00, and we encourage all and sundry to come by and examine it before someone takes it home. All these objects come together to create a lovely picure of the lives of two pioneers of the American West. They're really fun to look through!

Black History Month seems like a particularly inspiring time right now, with our first Black president assuming power. (I know I've been mentioning that a lot lately, but cut me some slack, gentle readers -- I live in Obama's very neighborhood!) Let that inspiration warm you against the frigid February weather.