Sunday, April 19, 2009

Advertisements: Hope In A Bottle, Circa 1885

Living in the age of enlightenment, when no bit of information can escape the sticky tendrils of the omni-accessible world-wide web, it stands to reason that rational, deliberate thought-processes and conclusions arrived at through simple research will generally control our impulsive human natures. We all know that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is: Right? After all, those are human footprints on the Moon, the atom dances to our tune and the sound barrier has been broken (as anyone who has been to a Who concert can attest to). We is smarter today than they was smarter yesterday.

Here are some health-related advertisements from the dark-ages of the 19th century, culled from the Gazetteer of Berkshire County Mass., which was published in 1885 and authored by Hamilton Child. It's hard to believe folks bought into this stuff.

I'll be right back. I have to go change my toxin-draining foot pads and make myself another herbal tea, guaranteed to make me lose 30 pounds in 30 days. In three months I should weigh about 65 pounds, which is the ideal weight one has to be to make a PVTA bus seat comfortable. Speaking of the PVTA, I wish my bald spot would start filling in. I've been using the scientifically-formulated hair-growth shampoo I bought for months now, but it doesn't seem to be working (I must be applying it incorrectly) and there's a very attractive woman on the bus I'd love to talk to. No worries, the pheromone-based, aerosol opposite-sex attractant, with full satisfaction or my money-back (in classic Musk Ox scent) that I ordered should be arriving any day now. She'll definitely notice me then. That is, if she ever stops listening to that How to Get Fit in Your Sleep audio-book on her iPod.

Have a cough? A bit of a cold? Tuberculosis? This advertisement features a product that is a "sure cure" for all of those things. Of course, if old Aunt Emily passes even after consuming the cure-all "in season," 'tis only that she didn't drink it soon enough to constitute "timely use." Silly old Aunt Emily. A day late, and now, a dollar short.

Okay, there is nothing funny about charlatans preying upon ill folks' fears. In the above advertisement, Dr. S. D. Merriam makes this shameful claim: "I tell your disease without asking questions, putting my finger upon any ache or pain, thus pointing out the diseased organ. By this means I am enabled to prescribe successfully in all diseases." Nope, nothing funny about a pitch for false hope. Until, that is, one reads further, where Dr. Merriam promises, "A forfeit of $500 wherein I fail to reduce a large, fleshy person to any weight desired." Snicker. Yeah sure, once the neglected true illness kicks in, you'll drop all the weight you can stand to lose and more. Okay, that's not funny either. How did this guy sleep at night?

"Eating plasters?" I don't even want to know.

Not all physicians or pharmacists were snake-oil peddlers. Many supplemented their legitimate pharmacopoeia with other merchandise for sale, including toiletries, tobacco and stationery. And, of course, there were the ever-popular, "pure liquors for medicinal use," as offered at Henry F. Shaw's drug and jewelry store on Depot Street in Dalton.

J. S. Moore advertised "A full line of all the popular Patent Medicines of the day," available at his establishment, but at least he didn't expand upon their effectiveness as an investment. He saved that for his guarantee of an eight-percent return on money entrusted to him as an agent for the Minneapolis Loan and Investment company. I don't know. I'm not sure I'd want my interest compounded by the same person who compounds my prescriptions. A glitch in the market and one could go "belly-up," in the very literal sense of the term.

Some old advertisements give one that warm, down-homey feeling inside. Need "family medicines?" Just "give us a call." We're here for you. Not only that, but you'll find "no lower prices in town." Makes a person want to go browse M. S. Manning & Son's "full line of TRUSSES AND SUPPORTERS," which are obviously special enough to warrant a full-throated yell in ALL CAPS. And, don't forget, there's "no extra charge for fitting." However, if the item does not fit you, there will be a small fee.

Out of all the advertisements here (which are all of the health-related pitches to be found in Parts One & Two of the Gazetteer), I think the one showcasing Fred Gillmor's retail concern would be the most effective lure of my patronage. In the advertisement, Mr. Gillmor is genuinely excited to introduce his new pharmacy to the public. He describes his stock without bragging or throwing around false claims and he's thankful that the well-mannered folks in the Lee area are receptive to his entrepreneurial efforts. Mr. Gillmor knows he has to provide quality service to build his customer-base and he seems sincere in his intention to do so. Plus, he has the "largest and choicest" selection of candy in Southern Berkshire County. I am so there. On the way, I can stop at the Post Office and mail out my order for this stuff I saw on television that promises to add three inches to Yeah. Height. That's the ticket.

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Photographs: The Coolidge's Easter Monday Egg Roll; April 13, 1925

Calvin Coolidge remains the only U. S. President (1923-1929) to have achieved the high honor and distinction of serving as Mayor of the City of Northampton, Massachusetts. That he was able to leave that fine city for Boston politics, and ultimately, Washington, D. C., only demonstrates the deep level of sacrifice he was willing to endure for his ideals.

"Silent Cal" Coolidge had an economy with words that would surely sink him in today's verbose political quicksand. Once, at a dinner party, having been told by the woman seated next to him that she had wagered with a friend that she could get three words out of him, Coolidge replied - without even a glance in her direction - "You lose."

The taciturn Coolidge must have had plenty to say in the company of his wife Grace, though. Who could remain silent around a woman who had a raccoon named Rebecca as a White House pet?

Here are a couple of photographs snapped on April 13, 1925, of Mrs. Coolidge and her pets surrounded by lucky children at the traditional Easter Monday egg roll on the South Lawn of the White House. Had these photographs been taken four years later, in the Spring of 1929, they may have captured the likeness of a little seven-year old girl named Anne Frances Robbins, who had been invited to attend the last egg roll hosted by the Coolidge's. That little girl ended up going on to host eight of her own Easter Monday egg rolls, as Nancy Reagan, wife of President Ronald Reagan (1981-1989).

The images and captions are from the Library of Congress's American Memory Collection.

"Mrs. Coolidge with two dogs, policemen, and children at Easter egg roll."

"Mrs. Coolidge exhibits her pet raccoon (Rebecca) to children gathered in the White House grounds for Easter egg rolling."

For some photographs of Northampton taken around the time of the Coolidge-era, check out the EWM post Of Icemen and Presidents: Photos of Northampton at the Dawn of the 20th Century; December 8, 2007

Here is a link to the official web site of the City of Northampton:

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Map: Bird's-eye View of North Adams, 1881

North Adams was both old and new when this bird's-eye view map of the town was created by H. H. Rowley & Company in 1881. Settled as part of East Hoosuck Plantation well over a century prior to the captured scene, North Adams was only three years into being a stand-alone town under this lithographed sky, officially separating from the neighboring town of Adams on April 15, 1878. Coincidentally, 1878 was the year of Adams's centennial anniversary, that town having been incorporated in 1778.

This map and many others are available to study and download on the Library of Congress's (LOC) American Memory Map Collections web site. You may find it helpful to save the above image to your computer and manipulate it (zoom in, etc) in a photo program from there. The images below are the six scenes at the bottom of the map cropped for individual appreciation. Captions in quotes are from the map.

"Arnold Print Works"

North Adams was not immune from the economic fate that befell most New England mill towns, and its manufacturing base steadily dried up over the course of the twentieth century as jobs disappeared, culminating in the closing of the 56 year-old Sprague Electric Company (which at one time employed thousands) in 1985. With Sprague's closing, the vast 26-building Marshall Street complex it had occupied stood empty a second time. Arnold Print Works, established in 1860 and the former occupant of the site - a firm which had also employed thousands of residents in its manufacturing heyday - had vacated the premises in 1942 for smaller facilities in Adams. But from the ashes arose the Phoenix: Today the 13-acre site is home to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MassMoCA), which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year and which has helped establish North Adams as one of the cultural centers of Western Massachusetts.

"D. J. Barber's Tannery"

North Adams at the height of its manufacturing boom was home to a variety of industries besides textiles, including shoe, brick and cabinet makers. An ironworks in town hammered out the steel plates that formed the armor for the ironclad ship, the Monitor, during the Civil War. In 1885, there were ninety-six farms in town.

"Wilson House, F. E. Swift, Proprietor"

The four-story Wilson House hotel, with its distinctive uneven parapets, opened its doors to travelers in 1866. Located on Main Street, the hotel underwent renovations in 1872 that included installing central steam heat, an amenity surely welcomed by visitors during the cold North Adams winters.

"Drury Academy"

Born from a $3,000 bequest acquired with the generous Nathan Drury's passing, North Adams's Drury High School continues to bear its benefactor's name 166 years later. The original Drury Academy was built in 1843 as a private school. In 1851, the school went public, opening its doors to all local high school students free of charge. The original school building was razed in 1867 and replaced with the one in the image above. Today, Drury High School is located on South Church Street, moving into its 'new' building in 1976.

"The Hoosac Tunnel West End"

Nicely situated on the Hoosic River, North Adams grew and prospered early on as the mills along its banks flourished in production and trade. By 1875, when the seemingly-impenetrable wall of the Hoosac mountain range was breached with the completion of the nearly five mile-long Hoosac Tunnel, North Adams had established itself as a respected industrial center, with over seven decades of manufacturing history to back it up. The coming of the railroad only served to enhance this position. The first freight train passed through the tunnel between Florida and North Adams on April 5, 1875.

"Glen Woolen Mills"

The Glen Woolen Company was incorporated in 1880. By 1886, under company president Sanford Blackinton, the firm had a workforce of 100 folks producing 20,000 yards of fine-quality cashmere fabric per month. Blackinton was also president of the S. Blackinton Woolen Company, which was established in North Adams in 1876. Within a decade of incorporation, the S. Blackinton Woolen Company employed 350 workers who produced 60,000 yards of fine cashmere monthly.

Here's a link to an excellent web site devoted to the Hoosac Tunnel:

And the official web site of the City of North Adams:

And to the largest contemporary art museum in the country, MassMoCA:

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

Map source: Library of Congress Geography and Map Division; Digital ID: g3764n pm003125

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Old Photographs: The Connecticut River at Springfield

Offering a fertile fishery and shipping access to Long Island Sound that was crucial to the area's settlement and subsequent growth, William Pynchon and Company made a fruitful decision to hunker down on the banks of the Connecticut River, establishing Springfield in 1636. Indeed, for two-hundred years the river was the preferred method of cartage to points north or south, until the late 1840s, when rail travel became the more efficient way to go.

Today, the Connecticut River is popular with recreational boaters and anglers. The river boasts a large range of aquatic species that lure fishing aficionados from all over the area and its annual Spring Shad run is a regular (and much-anticipated) local draw. The Connecticut River is also a popular nesting spot for some pretty awesome birds, with a healthy and sustained American Bald Eagle population taking up residence along its shores. Just goes to show, even America's symbol of freedom knows Western Massachusetts is pretty cool.

The photographs below were scanned from the book Springfield Present and Prospective, published in that city in 1905 by Pond & Campbell and printed by the F. A. Bassette Company, also of Springfield. Although the book doesn't date the photographs - images of the Connecticut River running through Springfield - it stands to reason they are pre-1905 because of the book's publish date. The captions in quotes are original to the book.

"View of the River, looking South." (Photographer: Clifton Johnson)

"Homes of Some of the Boat Clubs." (Photographer: Clifton Johnson)

"The Old Toll Bridge, erected in 1816." (Photographer: A. D. Copeland)

"High School Boys on the Connecticut." (Photographer: A. D. Copeland)

"Sport on the Connecticut." (Photographer: A. D. Copeland)

"A Commanding View of the River from Pecowsic." (Photographer: E. J. Lazelle)

Here's a link to a great web site with lots of information on the Connecticut River created by the folks who brought you the documentary 'Under Quabbin,' Professors Ed and Libby Klekowski:

And to the Connecticut River Watershed Council, stewards of the river:

And here's a link to an informative article with images by historian Ralph Slate at, 'Springfield's Bridges Across the Connecticut':

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

(Map at top left circa 1895)

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