Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving is upon us! Let's talk America.

It's Thanksgiving time! Thanksgiving, the most all-American of American holidays. We put a pilgrim hat on our resident waxwork monk, as he labors away upon some manuscripts:

And this week's Affordable and Interesting item features what is perhaps the most hilarious pilgrim picture I've ever seen:

The pilgrim on the cover of this 1931 pamphlet appears quite startled. But he's not as startled as the publisher must have been when he saw the pamphlet cover ... complete with that "Ovember" typo. (Presumably, it was supposed to be November, but maybe I'm wrong about that.) This appears to be one copy of the small magazine "Friendly Chat", which was composed mainly of jokes and ads. Here's a sample page:

Don't you want a skimming machine? Not to mention new window casements. But the skimming machine is way more exciting, if you ask me. (Skimming machines back then were designed to separate cream from milk; you can learn more about that whole process by clicking here. Today, skimming machines are unfortunately associated with credit card fraud, but let's not discuss that.)

The text is very small in the scanned image I'm showing you, so I'll transcribe some of it for ya. There's a great joke on that page. It goes like this:

The president of the local gas company was making a stirring address. "Think of the good the gas company has done," he cried. "If I were permitted a pun, I should say, 'Honor the Light Brigade.'" And a customer immediately shouted, "Oh, what a charge they made!"

Teehee. Don't you want lots of 1931 jokes and ads? Yours for $4.00.

Since Thanskgiving is all about American history, I decided that my Favorite item this week ought to highlight an all-American art movement:

As it happens, I myself grew up in New York in the stomping grounds of the good old Hudson River School. The website for the Metropolitan Museum of Art has this to say about the School:

The Hudson River School was America's first true artistic fraternity. Its name was coined to identify a group of New York City-based landscape painters that emerged about 1850 under the influence of the English √©migr√© Thomas Cole (1801–1848) and flourished until about the time of the Centennial. Because of the inspiration exerted by his work, Cole is usually regarded as the "father" or "founder" of the school, though he himself played no special organizational or fostering role except that he was the teacher of Frederic Edwin Church (1826–1900). Along with Albert Bierstadt (1830–1902), Church was the most successful painter of the school until its decline.

You can learn a little more about the school by clicking here -- or you can learn a lot if you purchase this beautiful thick tome for $75.00. It's long and detailed. Plus, it's full of both art history and lovely color reproductions of Hudson River School paintings. Here's an incredible sunset painting by Frederic Church:

And a pretty sun-dappled tree by Albert Bierstadt:

Now, if you want a later American artist, we can look at this week's Collector's Item:

This is a truly exquisite 1910 compilation of antique classical tales retold by Nathaniel Hawthorne -- another all-American historic figure: the 1800s author of the famous novel The Scarlet Letter. In this book, Hawthorne is not just retelling classical tales; he also frames them in an all-American context. Here's the first couple sentences from his introduction to the tale of the mythological gorgon:

Beneath the porch of the country-seat called Tanglewood, one fine autumnal morning, was assembled a merry party of little folks, with a tall youth in the midst of them. They had planned a nutting expedition, and were impatiently waiting for the mists to roll up the hill-slopes, and for the sun to pour the warmth of the Indian summer over the fields and pastures, and into the nooks of the many-colored woods.

According to Hawthorne, these kids are running about telling each other these stories while on their nutting expeditions! So charming! Almost as charming as the gorgeous pictures by Maxfield Parrish, who was the most popular American illustrator of the early 1900s. Here's how Parrish illustrated the tale of a man sowing dragon's teeth in the earth:

Those dragon's teeth took root and grew into soldiers ... or so they say.

This book is not just gorgeous; it's also in pristine condition. Notice that the pages are what we in the book trade call "uncut":

When books emerge from the printer, the pages look like that -- but the pages are usually cut before the book is sold. In older books, they were sometimes sold with "uncut" pages, and the new owners could (carefully!) cut the pages themselves. A book with uncut pages has, accordingly, been subjected to extremely light usage. We're charging $350.00 for this beautiful 1910 book, and we can show you how to cut the pages at home if that's what you want to do!

Enjoy Thanksgiving, gentle readers! I am personally very grateful for this wonderful bookstore, my brilliant coworkers, and my gentleman boss. And I'm grateful to you for reading. Take care and we'll talk in a couple weeks.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sports! And also culture! And antique art!

I usually write about art and literature as much as I can, here at the O'Gara and Wilson store blog. I don't typically write about sports, because I am a nerdy little bookworm who doesn't get enough fresh air. And indeed, I'll tell you all about some beautiful artistic antiques in a moment. But first, I have to say, sometimes we receive a sporty item that is too perfect to resist. Like this week's Favorite:

It's a 1959 pennant for the Chicago White Sox -- the South Side's own baseball team! As Doug, the owner of our lovely bookstore, tells me: "On the North Side they have the Cubs ... Here on the South Side, we have a team that's actually won the World Series since the Wright Brothers!"

South Side pride, my friends. Yes, the Sox won the World Series in epic fashion in 2005. But this pennant is from '59, when they won the American League title with a roster that included many future Hall of Famers, only to be defeated by the Dodgers in the Series. Own this little piece of our South Side history for $35.00.

Fishing is also a sport! And it is highlighted by this week's Affordable and Interesting item, a book that's also from the 1950s:

The Coit Fishing Pole Club released this book, which is as sporty and all-American as it could be. Founder Frank Coit is pictured on the back, with his picture-perfect 1950s kids and their fishing gear:

When this book was published, you could have joined the Coit Club yourself! With this very membership card:

Those cards probably aren't available anymore. Still, this book is an incredibly charming period piece. It includes all kinds of advice about hunting and camping and fishing, plus engravings of various fish, and stories from the greats such as Mickey Mantle and Ty Cobb. (Even a nerdling like me knows about Mickey Mantle!) All this for $9.00.

I'm not sure what sports are popular in India. Yoga? Well, anyway, we don't have anything sporty from India right now, but we do have an unbelievably gorgeous Collector's Item:

This is a large and beautiful antique teakwood screen, circa 1920, with some of the loveliest carving I've seen. I focused on one section so you could see that it's beautiful close up, not just far away:

I am in awe of the patience and discipline of the crafters who made this screen. Can you imagine how long it took to hand-carve all those little flowers? If this screen were in my apartment, then I would almost be afraid to touch it -- though Doug tells me it's rather sturdy. For $450.00, you could have this screen to decorate your own space. I will try not to perish of envy!

And if you don't have $450.00, then you could always get these miniature, low-cost screens:

Here's a pretty red case that contains six miniature screens -- all of which are tiny replicas of big Japanese painted room-screens. You could use these little screens to section off your desk, set up a dollhouse, or look lovely on a mantelpiece. And all together, the whole case comes to only $15.00!

Well, gentle readers, I suppose I didn't stick to sports very well during this blog post. I loved the screens too much! If you can figure out a way to combine sports and antique screens, let me know. And aside from that, we'll talk again in two weeks.