Industrial antiques, fridge magnets, history...

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Born on October 24, 1890, Main Rousseau Bocher (1890 -1976), also known as Mainbocher, was a Chicago native.  The first American designer to succeed in Paris, Mainbocher founded what would become an iconic fashion brand.  
In 1942 he volunteered his services to design a uniform for a new branch of the US Navy, the WAVES (Women Appointed for Volunteer Emergency Services). The snappy ensemble consisted of a blue jacket, gored skirt, white blouse, a two-tone cap with rolled side brims, black seamen's tie and shoes that made even 20 year old feet look like those of an eighty year old.

Mainbocher's style was best depicted in couture evening apparel but he made his mark by carefully selecting such prestige clients as Wallis Simpson, for whom he designed her wedding gown in 1937 to the Duke of Windsor.

Mainbocher studied at the Lewis Institute (University of Chicago) and at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts (Art Institute).  Following a year of study in Germany he went to work for a clothing manufacturer in New York, E. L. Mayer.  At the end of his army tour during World War I, he remained in Paris and went to work for Harper's Bazaar and Vogue magazines, first as an illustrator, eventually as an editor.  In 1929 he opened his own fashion design firm in Paris.  He returned to the United States when WWII broke out in Europe.  

A few fashion hallmarks attributed to Mainbocher are beaded cashmere sweaters, strapless evening gowns and mantailored suits, all with his signature simplicity of line and emphasis on function.  Lisa William's blog pictures many of Mainbocher's best known projects.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

On October 21, 1897 the Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin was dedicated in a 4-day conference that included the 4th annual gathering of board members of the Astrophysical Journal.  See a list below of the sixty or so people who gave lectures and demonstration, or simply attended.  It is fun to note that many of the attendees slept at the observatory during the conference, sleeping on cots borrowed from the YMCA.  The village of Williams Bay had a boarding house to accommodate
The president of the university and benefactor Charles
Yerkes were also on hand to present and accept recognition.
The Yerkes remains as the largest refracting telescope ever built and the Observatory is still in operation, recognized for its stellar motion research and cartography.  In 1944 it was at Yerkes that Gerald Kuiper discovered an atmosphere over Titan, Saturn's satellite 

The Yerkes observatory captured the Lunar impact crater, Theophilus  with the 40-inch refracting telescope at Yerkes Observatory.  The crater is 14,000 feet deep and 62 miles in diameter.
Early equipment at the observatory included a double-slide plate carrier photographic accessory for the 40-inch refractory telescope.

A 24" reflecting telescope
was used in the south east dome at the Yerkes Observatory in 1897.  The mirror was made by Mr. Ritchey who would in 1905 leave Yerkes and head to the Mt. Wilson observatory with George Hale. 

To the original Bruce spectrograph was added the Rumford spectroheliograph.  George Hale's work with spectrographhelioscopes furthered investigations of the sun and resulted in the first ever photos of red stars (aka Secchi's fourth type).  One of the earliest spectroscopes made for the 40-inch Yerkes telescope, and exhibited at the Columbian Exposition, was built by John Brashear.

40-inch refractor Yerkes telescope, built by Warner and Swasey of Cleveland, Ohio.  It originally appeared in the 1893 Columbian World's Fair Exposition in Chicago, without a lens.  A lens had been cast by Alvan Clark for another observatory but the benefactor backed out, owing Clark $16,000.  That meant the 42-inch casts were available to be cut for another telescope.  George Hale, hired by the University of Chicago to build an observatory for the school, recognized that building a telescope to match the lense would result in the largest telescope in the world - exactly the kind of attention-getting project apt to appeal to a prospective benefactor, Charles T. Yerkes.

Yerkes 40 inch telescope at 1893 Worlds Fair in ChicagoAt the fair, the telescope was installed at the north end of the mail aisle in the north gallery of the Manufactures and Liberal Arts building. One of several fires after the fair threatened the telescope but it was saved and installed at the Yerkes observatory in time for the 1897 dedication ceremonies.

For eleven years, 1897 to 1908, it was the world's largest telescope.  Mt. Wilson's 60-inch instrument took that title away in 1908, followed a decade later by a Wilson's 100-inch telescope.

George E. Hale (1868-1938), founder of Yerkes

Observatory was the son of a wealthy Chicago elevator manufacturer, William E. Hale, George Hale was passionate about astronomy.  His passion, backed by his father's money, had good results for astrophysics.

A Chicago native, George Ellery Hale attended MIT, Harvard and the Humboldt University of Berlin, but did not graduate.  Instead he returned to Chicago and persuaded his father to purchase a used 12-inch Alvan Clark telescope and build an observatory in the family's back yard to put it in.  The Hales lived on Drexel Avenue in Chicago's affluent Kenwood neighborhood so an observation dome must have been an unusual sight. 

At his new Kenwood Observatory, Hale continued work he'd begun at MIT on a spectroheliograph with which to photograph the sun.  His success and enthusiasm earned sufficient respect from people working in the field that William Rainey Harper -- first president at the University of Chicago, appointed by John D. Rockefeller who donated the money to start the university in 1890 -- was willing to overlook deficiencies in George's academic accreditation to bring him onto the faculty.  George's father and Harper struck a deal. 

The Hales would donate the equipment at Kenwood to the university in exchange for George being named an associate professor of astrophysics, and being named director of a yet to be constructed observatory for which the university would raise at least $250,000.  Hale and Harper persuaded Charles T. Herkes to put up $300,000 by flattering him with the prospect of having his name on the facility with the world's largest telescope, then leaking word to the press about the large donation, making it difficult for Yerkes to back out without earning bad publicity.  Yerkes was in the midst of acquiring access contracts for an elaborate railway project (see below) and it was a bad time for negative publicity so the University got the necessary funds.  As a faculty member, George Hale had just one job: build an observatory for the University of Chicago.

For Hale, Yerkes was a stepping stone to gain access to even higher capacity instruments.  In 1905, his job at Yerkes done, he left U of C to join Carnegie Institute where a 60-inch refractory telescope was in progress at the Pasadena-based Mt. Wilson Solar Observatory.

Charles T. Yerkes
Had the Yerkes project been delayed, it might not have been built.  Three years after the dedication ceremony, its patron, Charles Tyson Yerkes (1837-1905), left Chicago in a huff after losing a battle with the Chicago city council and mayor, Carter Harrison Jr.  Yerkes had acquired and consolidated numerous elevated railway companies to build an elevated railway loop around Chicago's downtown commercial area (The Loop), dramatically expanding the city's mass transit capacity.  He then bribed state legislators to pass a law giving municipalities the right to grant long-term franchises. His franchise application was rejected by the Chicago city council, however, when alderman heard that for the next 50 years, Yerkes was to get a commission on every fare sold that traveled on the Loop. 
Yerkes also donated an electric water fountain to Chicago that was featured during the Columbian exposition.

American author,  Theodore Dreiser, based a series of novels on Yerkes, called the Cowperwood trilogy.  During his years in Chicago, Yerkes became an avid art collector.  Not all of his selections were as well researched as they might have been.  For example, one painting that Yerke attributed to Hans the Younger, English Tudor King Henry VIII's favorite painter, was dated 1575 -- thirty two years after the artist's death.  Shown below: The Fool, attributed by Yerkes to Hans Holbein the elder

The historic meeting between George Hale, William Harper and Charles Yerkes that resulted in Yerkes agreeing to fund the observatory took place October 4, 1892.

Dedication of the Yerkes Observatory in October, 1897 was made part of a 4-day conference that included the 4th annual gathering of board members of the Astrophysical Journal.  Following is a list of attendees and session topics. 

  • "Application of Diffraction Phenomena to Astronomical and Astrophysical Measurements"
  • "Electric Radiation," "Source of Characteristic Spectrum of the Metallic Arc"
  • "Effect of Pressure on Wave length"
  • "Spectra of Stars on Secchi's Third Type"
  • "Researches in Stellar Spectrography"
  • "Oxygen in the Sun"
  • "Great Nebula of Orion"
  • "Jovian Phenomena"
  • "The System of Beta Lyrae"
  • "The Teaching of Theoretical Astronomy in America"
  • "Jacobi's Investigations in Theoretical Astronomy"

The 40-inch telescope played an important role in the conference with display of chromosphere and prominences, the reversal of the H and K lines in prominences and faculae and the duplication of the D3 line.  There were also demonstrations showing the grinding of a five-ft speculum and an exhibition on testing mirror, parallel plates, and attendees were able to look in on the progress of other Yerkes equipment under development, including a 24-inch heliostat and coelostat, an equatorial mounting for a 24-inch reflector telescope, a spectroheliograph for the 40-inch telescope and a ruling machine for optical gratings, as well as how-to's on making a perfect straight edge and grinding a perfect screw.

Delivering addresses and In attendance:

  • Dr. John Brashear
  • F. L. O. Wadsworth (Yerkes astrophysicist professor)
  • Dr. G. F. Hull (Colby University professor of physics)
  • Dr. Henry Crew (Northwestern University physics professor)
  • Dr. Henri Deslandres (Paris observatory astrophysicist)
  • Dr. W. J. Humphreys (University of Virginia)
  • James E. Keeler (Allegheny Observatory professor)
  • H. C. Lord (Emerson McMillin Observatory Ohio State University professor)
  • Carl Runge (director Spectroscopic Laboratory, Technische Hochschule, Hanover)
  • Ormond Stone (director Leander McCormick Observatory University of Virginia)
  • George C. Comstock (Washburn Observatory University of Wisconsin)
  • C. L. Doolittle (Flower Observatory University of Pennsylvania)
  • Father Hedrick (Georgetown College Observatory)
  • H. S. Pritchett (Washington University observatory director)
  • Dr. Charles L. Poor (assoc. professor astronomy John Hopkins university)
  • J. K. Rees (Columbia University Observatory director)
  • E. E. Barnard (Yerkes astronomy professor)
  • Father Hagen (Georgetown Observatory)
  • G. W. Hough, Dearborn Observatory)
  • G. W. Myers (University of Illinois Observatory)
  • Simon Newcom, E. C. Pickering (Harvard Observatory)
  • D. Kurt Laves (University of Chicago)
  • Mary Whitney (Vassar Observatory)
  • J. A. Parkhurst (Marengo, IL)
  • O. H. Basquin (Evanston, IL)
  • Miss Cunningham (Swarthmore Observatory)
  • A. S. Flint (Washburn Observatory)
  • F. R. Moulton (University of Chicago)
  • A. A. Michelson (physics professor University of Chicago)
  • Miss Furness (Vassar)
  • E. F. Nichols (Colgate University)
  • Professor Upton (Ladd Observatory Brown University)
  • Professor Van Vlack (mathematics and astronomy professor, Wesleyan University)
  • Professor Malcome McNeil (Lake Forest University)
  • Edwin F. Sawyer (brighton, Mass)
  • F. H. Scares (University of California)
  • Father Searle (Catholic University at Washington)
  • G. M. Hobbs (Ryerson Laboratory University of Chicago)
  • Dr. S. D. Townley (Detroit Observatory, University of Michigan)
  • William Harness (professor US Naval Observatory and superintendent of Nautical Almanac)
  • W. W. Payne (professor director Goodsell Observatory)
  • E. B. Frost (director Shattuck Observatory Dartmouth)
  • Professor Snyder (Philadelphia Observatory)
  • Professor Stockwell (Cleveland)
  • Professor McLeod (McGill University of Montreal)
  • Rev. A. W. Quimby (Berwyn, PA)
  • Reginald Fessenden (professor physics Western University Pennsylvania)
  • E. L. Nichols (physics professor Cornell)
  • Professor Leavenworth (director University of Minnesota Observatory)
  • Professor Paul (US naval observatory of Washington)
  • Professor Pupin (physics Columbia University)
  • C. A. Becon (director Smith Observatory at Beloit College)
  • William H. Collins (director Haverford College Observatory)
  • Charles Rockwell (Tarrytown, NY)
  • Dr. Tatnall (physics professor University of Pennsylvania)
  • Mr. Brooks (director Geneva, NY observatory)
  • Frank W. Very (Ladd Observatory, Brown)
  • E. D. Eaton (Beloit College)
  • Winslow Upton (Brown University)
  • N. E. Bennett (Wilmington College)
  • C. K. Adams (University of Wisconsin)
  • W. P. Lackland (Illinois Wesleyan University)
  • General Schofield (Wisconsin)
  • Charlie Schaefer (State University of Iowa)

Set of 6 fridge magnets featuring the early years of Yerkes Observatory.

Additional reading

Friday, October 16, 2015

International Harvester plant in
Evansville, IN, former
Republic Aviation facility.
On July 18, 1949 a small explosion at a gas meter sent 400 lucky workers at the International Harvester (IH) plant in Evansville, Indiana home early.  Plumbers had mistakenly connected high pressure air lines to the gas furnaces used to bake porcelain enamel on refrigerators.  Nobody was hurt and everyone went back to work the next day.

IH's Evansville plant, constructed in 1942 to build P-47 Thunderbolt fighters for Republic Aviation,
P-47 Thunderbolt
fighter, 1943
was located next to the Evansville airport on U.S. 41.  After world war II, IH converted the facility to house it's new division for commercial and residential refrigeration and air conditioning equipment.  The 70-acre property included 962,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing space under roof.  

Refrigerator Capital of the world
In the 1940s and 1950s, refrigerators played such an important role in the Evansville economy and community that there was a local "refrigerator bowl" for high school football.  As home to Seeger, Servel and International Harvester, Evansville contributed over 10,000 workers to refrigerator manufacturing firms.  

The mid fifties were watershed years for the refrigerator industry.  In addition to International Harvester's closing,  Whirlpool merged with Seeger in 1955.

Of International Harvester refrigerator division products, home refrigerators were the most successful, although short lived.  In late September, 1955 International Harvester announced that, faced with a choice between expanding the product line and discontinuing it altogether, the decision had been made to get out of the refrigerator business.  In a $19 million deal, the Evansville facility, tooling and machinery was sold to competitor, Whirlpool-Seeger. It is not known how many of IH's 3,900 workers were then hired by Whirlpool or how many dealers IH had at the time of the announcement.  It was reported that the deal was struck in a few days between the topmost management at International Harvester and Whirlpool-Seeger, without the knowledge of even high level managers at either firm.

Produced for barely a decade, roughly 1946-1956, few International Harvester refrigerators remain to satisfy collector demand.  The original price tag of $220 to $400 is many times that in today's vintage collectible market.  A few years ago International Harvester's present owner, CNH Industrial, negotiated with licensees to produce Irma Harding  products.

In 1950 there were six International Harvester home refrigerator models and a choice of ten door handle colors.  Another model was added in 1951 (including the HA-74, HA-82, HA-83, HA-84, HA-92, UA-87, UA-95) and in 1952 came an eighth model, the G-93, and an eleventh door handle color. By 1954, a year before the plant was closed, the number of models dropped to seven and colored door handles were discontinued.


International Harvester tried some unique marketing techniques that are well described in 
Ben Mark's story about Irma Harding.  

Find Irma Harding
on Amazon

The Wisconsin Historical Association Society has an impressive collection of International Harvester material that will be invaluable for researchers, including most of the advertisements run for the refrigerator division.  Copies of the ads purchased from the Society help to defray operational costs.

1950 advertising saw the introduction of the "femineered" slogan, appealing to women and letting the marketplace know, "We're not just about trucks and tractors, we have stuff for girls, too."

1951 advertising emphasized handle color variety, the in-door butter keeper, built-in bottle opener and the Egg-O-Mat egg tray on the door (requiring that eggs be removed from the carton and placed in the tray one at a time).  In 1951 IH also did some cooperative advertising with the Udylite Corporation of Detroit, a supplier of plating services, materials and equipment. 
Also in 1951,
the Evansville plant was awarded a $7 million government contract, involving 1,500 new jobs, to make M-1 rifles and parts for the U.S. army for the Korean war effort. 

1952 advertising was all about defrosting, hitchhiking colored handle selection. 


This advertisement from 1952 promoted a "femineered" refrigerator made by International Harvester, picturing model G-93-D.  The appliance offered "Tri-Master" defrosting  (three methods to defrost: automatically nightly and manually fast or slow).  Also cited was a choice from eleven colors of door handles.  Handle colors included dark green, peach, black, light blue, yellow, light green, white, red, dark blue and grey.

Photo props in the advertisement would be welcome additions to a variety of collections.  I noted milk bottles, the kind once delivered by a milkman to a customer's front door, Coca-cola, those cute little bottles, a step stool that might be a Cosco and refrigerator dishes.  I could not guess the brands of other soda pop bottles or pottery (though I know I've seen that china pattern before).  The product photo was probably taken at a studio in Evansville, Indiana where the IH appliance division was headquartered.  Young and Rubicam had the IH truck & bus account but I've not yet learned if they also handled refrigerator advertising.
Purchase copy of Sophisticated Lady
advertisement from 1954
1954 advertising replaced housewife Irma with a sophisticated model but continued to offer interior decorating tips.  A 1949 PR theme was revived to promote the capacity  for do-it-yourselfers to cover the fridge door exterior with a fabric panel.   
Fridges and fridge magnets
International Harvester was ahead of its time in recognizing that people like to personalize fridge fronts.  Sixty+ years later, consumers purchase thousands of fridge magnets every year to express almost every hobby or interest under the sun.

 International Harvester Refrigerator Magnet

Founded in 1902
International Harvester was founded in 1902 when J. P. Morgan merged McCormick Harvesting and Deering Harvester with three smaller manufacturers.  In 1985, following decades of labor problems and devastating $2 billion labor strike, most of the company was acquired by Tenneco, Inc. who merged International Harvester with its J. I. Case division.  In 1999 Case and New Holland were merged into CNH Industrial, a division of Fiat Industrial.

I recently read A Corporate Tragedy: The Agony of International Harvester Company by Barbara Marsh about the management, market and labor problems that plagued IH.  It confirmed my sense that refrigerators were an odd market for the company to enter, but they were not alone by any means.  Magazines during the first decade after the end of world war II are filled with advertisements from over a half dozen refrigerator manufacturers.  Market was seriously overpopulated and many of the makers were gone by 1965.

Set of five refrigerator magnets picturing vintage refrigerator magnet advertisements.


Additional reading about International Harvester 


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

On October 15, 1924 president Calvin Coolidge declared that the Statue of Liberty is a national monument, using the authority granted by the Antiquities Act of 1906.*

Fridge Magnet picturing Statue of Liberty

The monument consists of Liberty and Ellis islands in New Jersey and New York.  It is managed by the National Park Service.

Lady Liberty was a gift to America from France, dedicated by president Grover Cleveland on October 28, 1886.

*  Signed into law by Teddy Roosevelt, the Antiquities Act gave U.S. presidents authority to create national monuments on public lands to protect objects of historic and scientific interest.

Roosevelt was the first to use the new law by establishing Devil's Tower in Wyoming and the Grand Canyon.  Since then the act has been used over 100 times. 
At 140,000 sq miles the Papahānaumokuākea
Marine National Monument is America's largest

Pricey but nicely done
6-inch replica of Lady Liberty
from Metropolitan Museum of Art

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

On October 14, 1587, Mary Stuart, queen of Scotland (1542-1587), was tried for treason.  She was accused of plotting to kill English Tudor queen Elizabeth I.  That Mary was found guilty was a foregone conclusion based on the powers gathered against her. She was an unrelenting thorn in Elizabeth's side for decades and it's interesting that Elizabeth didn't excise the thorn long before she did.  Elizabeth's father, King Henry VIII would have made short work of Mary's threat. Or not.  He battled with Rome for seven years rather than having Catherine poisoned, suggesting concern for his immortal soul.

Wikipedia and other sites do a fine job of presenting Mary Stuart's bio and the complex web of special interests and history that led to her imprisonment and execution so I thought I'd go for sophomore simple summary of the trial.

36 Noblemen: You committed treason by consenting to the murder of your cousin, queen Elizabeth in order to take the throne of England.  (Unsaid: we don't really give a fig whether or not you plotted; your mere existence makes you a Cause Célèbre for prospective rebels.)
Mary: Lies!  (Unsaid: Yup.  Wench has kept me in prison for 17 years and I'd love to see her head in a basket.)  [Author's note: Mary wanted power.  Had Galadriel been Mary, she would have chewed off Frodo's finger to get the ring.]
36 Noblemen: Your letters prove it.  (Unsaid: that we snitched while you were out of the castle and trusting the wrong fellow.)
Mary: You're taking my written words out of context and, besides, I cannot be guilty of committing treason against a country of which I'm not a citizen.  (Unsaid: you have our code alllll wrong!)
36 Noblemen: Your maids confirm that you want to kill the queen.  (Unsaid: and the footman, the chef and as many other servants as we need to bribe.)
Mary: Lies!  You didn't even provide me with legal counsel.
36 Noblemen: Off with her head!  (Unsaid: Let's get this done while Elizabeth looks like she's looking the other way.)

Mary's trial at Fotheringhay Castle.  Conviction: October 25, 1586

Have to hawk something to pay the bills so here's a pitch:
Set of three Mary Queen of Scots fridge magnets
Set of three Mary Queen of Scots fridge magnets $9.50

Elizabeth and her advisers (William Cecil, etc.) weren't the only ones who saw Mary as a Grasper.  Philip II, king of Spain rejected Mary's attempts to arrange a marriage between she and his son, Don Carlos. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

From 1914 illustration by Walton Corbould in book
by John W. Irving, "Complete Verse of ye Three Blind Mice."

On October 12 in 1609 the children's rhyme "Three Blind Mice" was published.  Some think the rhyme was authored by a young Thomas Ravenscroft, an English musician composer and compiler of folk music.  Some think the rhyme referred to the censorship and persecution of Protestants by English Tudor queen Mary I.  The rhyme did not become part of children's literature until the mid 1800s.  By today's sentiments, the farmer's wife seems too sadistic for children.

Three blind mice. Three blind mice.
See how they run. See how they run.
They all ran after the farmer's wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a sight in your life,
As three blind mice.