Thursday, December 25, 2014

Mostly fat and jolly Santas from way back

For $7.99, I got a pile of Christmas cantatas from eBay.  The Santa artwork is awesome, all it from way before Coca-Cola allegedly invented the modern image of Santa.  If I have time (doubtful), I'll record some of the individual selections contained in these.  All were put out by the David C. Cook Publishing Company of Elgin, Illinois.  Dig the emergency surgery I did on the border of the last example ("Paint" and its color-editing feature to the rescue).

Fat-and-jolly-wise, I must admit that two of the Santas are amazingly svelte, especially the Santa-on-a-diet of 1912's "In the Christmas Glow" (third image down).  And just exactly what is he stepping out of?  A secret passage??  "Hey, Santa, we built this special entrance so you wouldn't have to fry your seat in the fire."  Great way to avoid a--no pun intended--Santa suit.

The final Santa, from 1914, is leaner than normal, too, but not overly.  Somehow, his weird get-up has me thinking of Vegas-era Elvis.  If Elvis had a long white weird and carried dolls.

Above: 1908

Above: 1903

Above: 1912

Above: 1895

Above: 1914


Friday, December 19, 2014

Mr. Neversmile--The Mayor of Honey Bee Hollow (1880)--in plain text




 'Twas the night before Christmas, and all thro' the town
Mr. Neversmile scowled as he tramped up and down;
For the mayor of Honey Bee Hollow was he,
And the sourest old man that you ever did see;
His nose was turned down, and his chin was turned up,
And his mouth was a crater as deep as a cup;
His eyes they were sunk, his coarse gray eyebrows under
So far that the fact he could see was a wonder;
His neck it was thin, and his "limbs" they were lank,
And the wickedest boys often dubbed him "Old Shank;"
For he hated the boys, and he scowled at their noise,
And scolded and badgered them with his cracked voice.
Now, Christmas was coining, and (Mr.) Neversmile said
That for gimcracks and things there should "never a red"
Be spent in the village of Honey Bee Hollow,
And the first child caught at it he was going to swallow
For the mayor of Honey Bee Hollow was he—
And he swelled with importance as big as could be.


Now the boys, when they heard this, began to grow pale,
And they ran to their homes with the pitiful tale,
And each mother's son, with the tears in his eyes,
Gave vent to his wrath between blubbers and sighs;
And every boy's mother her kerchief applied
To his nose and his eyes, and her own cheek beside.
But when each mad youngster went sobbing to bed,
With never a "Lay me" among them all said,
And each careful mother had tucked her kid close
In the woolliest blanket, except his red nose
Then the mothers arose in their just indignation,
And in with their tea took the whole situation;
And the upshot of all was, they voted to call
On the friend of the boys (and the friend of them
Good Santa Claus, who, since the days they were small,
Had visited, comforted, cared for them all.
They wrote a petition and signed all their names,
And sent it up chimney ahead of the flames.
Within it was stated, with very much care:
MR. CLAUS,—We're aware what your sentiments are,
And we know you believe in the dear Christmas eve,
And we want you to help us our task to achieve
Which the whole of it is, this new crotchet of his
(Mayor Neversmile's 't is) to explode with a fizz!


Now, when Santa Claus found this he laughed till he cried,
And he mounted his sledge to set out for a ride.
"I' was snowing and blowing, as cold as could be,
But never a fig or a raisin cared lie,
As he sat on a box full of candy and corn,
And mittens and muffs that had never been worn,
And lean'd 'gainst a barrel that stood tip behind,
With a " buffalo" round him to keep off the wind.
With his feet on a fender of rockets and things,
And his elbows ensconced in some cushions with springs,
Which cushions were held with a gearing beneath
Which had any boy seen 't would have taken his breath.


He rode and he rode, this good Mr. Claus,
And up at the top of the mountain he draws,
Preparing to slide down its side to the town
Of Honey Bee Hollow when night should come down.
In all other towns the glad bells were rung,
And the Christmas eve greetings began to be sung;
But Honey Bee Hollow this night was as still
As all the dead sleepers on Woodbury Hill;
And all the bright children heaved desolate sighs,
And glanced at their mothers with tears in their eyes;
And all the good mothers in hopefulness prayed
That dear Mr. Claus might not long be delayed;
For though they knew not of his infamous (?) plot,
They felt he would hasten ere morn to the spot;
And they ventured to say, in their carefulest way,
That something might happen yet, ere it was day.
This night before Christmas all over the town
Mr. Neversmile scowled as he tramped up and down;
But, anon, yes, he grinned as he thought of the fun
He had spoiled for the "pests" that the Hollow o'errun.


Nov up on the hill Mr. Claus, with his coach,
Impatiently bided his time to approach;
Then he touched his bright steeds, and they sprang thro' the air—
While a hundred red rockets lie lighted right there—
And down to the Hollow they sped like the wind,
While a trail like a comet's streamed, starlike, behind.


Now right by the road Mr. Neversmile stood,
And Santa swept by with a smile and a nod.
His path was ablaze with the brightest of things,
And music was swinging from bells and from rings;
The mothers let loose the wild children in glee,
And Honey Bee Hollow all turned out to see
Whoever it was that so reckless could be
As to beard the mad mayor, so "wrathy" was he.
Then Santa Claus tumbled his cargo about,
The children responded with laughter and shout;
Their aprons and pockets were full to the brim—
And who was the happiest, the children or he,
Is a problem unsolved to this very day;
For good Mr. Claus, he laughed till he cried.
Then the mouth of the barrel, he showed them, was wide,
And into it sour Mr. Neversmile went
Right deftly and quickly, without his consent,
And Santa Claus turned his gay steeds from the light,
While he said, " I must go—further business to-night--
But your crazy old mayor I '11 leave up a tree,
Where the owlets may eat him, for all you or me;
But I '11 venture to say, if he gets safely down,
He 'II be a changed person from this time and on,
And never again will he seek to destroy
The children's own birthright to Christmas and joy."

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The original Grinch? "Mr. Neversmile: The Mayor of Honey Bee Hollow" (1880)

From the Dec., 1880 issue of the children's magazine Golden Hours comes the remarkably Seuss-like narrative poem, "Mr. Neversmile--The Mayor of Honey Bee Hollow," all about a townsboy-hating, grinch-like mayor ("the sourest old man that you ever did see") who, on Christmas Eve, declares Christmas off-limits in his village.  (So much for advance notice!)  The town's distraught mothers contact Santa Claus himself, begging for his intervention, which he gleefully supplies that very evening, flooding Bee Hollow with noise, lightworks, and presents, and depositing the mayor up a tree.  Santa predicts that the mayor, should he find his way down, will be a reformed killjoy.

Besides the misanthropic Christmas hater bent on cancelling Christmas, other details uncannily parallel How the Grinch Stole Christmas--first and foremost, there's the Seuss-esque word play and cadences (e.g., "Then the mothers arose in their just indignation And in with their tea took the whole situation," and "His eyes they were sunk, his coarse gray eyebrows under So far that the fact he could see was a wonder").  Then we have Santa Claus landing on the top of a mountain, a la the Grinch, "Preparing to slide down its side to the town Of Honey Hollow when night should come down."  And there's the last minute rescue of the holiday and the change of heart on the part of the bad guy.  Says Santa of the up-a-tree Mayor Neversmile: "But I'll venture to say, if he gets safely down, He'll be a changed person from this time and on, And never again will he seek to destroy The children's own birthright to Christmas and joy."  No mention of whether or not Neversmile's heart grew several sizes that night.

It seems unlikely that Theodor Geisel was influenced by this poem, since it predates him by 24 years, but who knows?  What we do know is that Seuss-sounding children's verse has been around for a hundred-plus years.

Scanned by me from my copy, and cleaned up with NCH Photopad. I recommend using the Zoom function on your browser (rather than clicking on each image) for best text-reading results.  I find +175 ideal.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Another Santa assortment from the late 19th century

So, Coca-Cola came up with the fat, jolly, human-looking Santa in 1931, eh?  Riiiight.  In fact, here's our man in a Dec. 11, 1884 Youth's Companion ad, dropping Waterbury pocket watches onto the Earth from a considerable height.  (Imagine the size of the impact craters when those things hit!) Is it just me, or does Santa look like he's about to be gored by one of the rear reindeer?

Next, a more Father Christmas-looking Santa ("tall and wrinkled and gray"), from the children's book, Evening Entertainments (W.B. Conkey, 1899).  Very interesting text, no?  "Your mammas have told you, I have no doubt, Of what the Christmas is all about."  The Christmas??  Anyway, this poem, which connects the Nativity with Saint Nick, sounds like it was written for Cab Calloway:

Regarding Santa and the Nativity, please note that folklorist Jack Santino--a former editor of the Journal of American Folklore, former president of the American Folklore Society, and famed holiday expert--regards Santa Claus as "primarily a Christian tradition" (New Old Fashioned Ways: Holidays and Popular Culture, 1996).  In distinct contrast, I might add, to stand-up comic Tina Dupuy's assertion that Santa is secular as can be.  Now, that's a toughie.  Who do we believe?  The stand-up comic or the scholar?  Hmm.

While we're pondering that, here's a rendering of Santa, sleigh, and reindeer from the same collection.  To my eyes, this could easily pass for a Mike Peters cartoon:

No date on this next kiddie publication (below), but I'm guessing late 1800s/early 1900s,  As you can see, my copy's had a rough existence (not at my hands!), but anything this cheaply made and this old has beaten the odds by having survived at all, though collectors fussier than me may debate the "having survived" part.  Still, way too cool to consider tossing out:

We see, as ever, a 19th century Santa Claus instantly recognizable as same by modern eyes, but the really interesting thing is the amazing structure below the clouds, labeled "Santa Claus' Home."  Notice the Turkish look of the architecture?  Given St. Nicholas' place of origin, that makes perfect sense.  Here's a lovingly restored (with Paint) close-up:

Also interesting is the possessive apostrophe after "Santa Claus."  By modern standards, this is amazing on two counts: 1) it was used at all, and 2) it was used correctly--i.e. after, not before, the s.  You know we're looking at another era's work.  Today, this structure would be labeled "Santa Claus Home."   

Just inside the cover (after a filler page) is this cheaply printed but quite cool color illustration of our gift-bearing fireplace visitor, as fat and human-looking as he gets.  If he's not looking too jolly in this shot, maybe it's because he's deep in thought, wondering, at he looks at the slender chimney shaft, why he didn't bring Plastic Man along for back-up.

Same book--an illustration for the short narrative poem, "Santa Claus," which includes this gem:
Now, of toys he had no lack: 
They were carried on his back 
In a sack."

Santa leaves presents for everyone but Lazy Joe, whose stocking has a hole in it.  The hole being a violation of Santa/client policy, I guess.

And here's Kris--er, Kriss--Kringle, looking nothing like the Austrian and German Christkind, a.k.a. Christ Child, the gift-bearer often portrayed as a blonde female angel in get-up similar to that of the Good Witch in the 1939 Wizard of Oz.  (Follow that?  Me, neither.)  Anyway, this is a new depiction on me.  Google Images is no help--for "Kriss Kringle," it just gives me images from Miracle on 34th Street.  Why Kriss looks like a hobo here, I have no idea.  But he's certainly fat and jolly, and that's one big white beard:

With the exception of Kriss, every one of this post's Santas passes the Coca-Cola test.  (No, I'm not referring to the nail-left-in-the-glass-of-Coke experiment.)


Saturday, December 06, 2014

No, our modern image of Santa Claus did not originate with Coca-Cola in 1931

Snopes has an excellent piece debunking the ridiculous myth that Coca-Cola invented our modern image of Santa Claus, but I thought I'd add to it with an assortment of pre-Coca-Cola images that show a fat, jolly guy in a red suit long before Coke "invented" the tradition in its ads.  Not that mere facts have the power to put so much as a dent in the the hull of received horse hockey, but it's the principle of the thing.

Coca-Cola itself claims to have come up with the "image of a warm, friendly, pleasantly plump and human Santa."  Gee, too bad Little Corporal cartoonist "W.O.C." didn't think of that way back in 1869:


Or Julius Bien & Co., when they made this postcard way back in 1908:


And what, pray tell, is warm, friendly, or 4XL about this circa-1909 image?


Circa 1909

Or this one, from the same period (postmarked 1908)?

Circa 1908

Here's another one, also postmarked 1908, which loudly and clearly makes the case that a fat, friendly, and human-looking Santa originated with Coca-Cola in 1931,  Why, this skinny, clean-shaven lout looks like someone who would drop stink bombs down the chimney and film the resulting panic with his Smartphone, laughing all the while:

Circa 1908

Thanks goodness Coca-Cola came through with a plumper, kinder Santa in 1931.  The world was waiting for one.  Oh, by the way, and to its limited credit, Coke doesn't claim to have come up with the red suit, though I don't see why not.  If they're going to take credit for the fat, jolly, and human-looking aspects, why not toss in the suit color?

While we're on the subject of Santa postcards, here's a circa-1910s card which appears to combine Santa with the Norse god Thor (and vice versa).  Actually, as you may already know, Thor is regarded as one of the many Santa sources.  Red suit, white beard, chimney, etc.  The guy we know as Santa is actually any number of mythical figures.  All of them invented by Coke.


Santa Thor


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Wow! The impossible has happened.

It's news enough when Google gives us a Doodle that's not stupid--it's universe-rattling news when Google gives us one that's charming and clever.  Am I dreaming?  Everything about their Vet's Day Doodle is right.  I love the "l."  I love the red, white, and blue lettering.

Maybe I'm overpraising it.  Maybe it's the shock of beholding a Doodle that looks like a grown-up conceived it.  Any way you slice it, this is Google showing actual respect for a holiday, and I hope this represents a policy change and not an accident of good taste.  A hand salute in return for this perfectly acceptable Google Doodle/logo/cartoon/brand sticker/whatever thingie:


Friday, November 07, 2014

Take our electorate--please!

Americans, tired of "gridlock," have done the logical thing by voting into total power a party which has loudly, and quite publicly, vowed to bring down the President by any means possible.  (Or, no one listens to Rachel.)

Gee, that'll stop the gridlock!  You go, Americans!

By the way, how much does Google make in kickbacks through its lamentable habit of fixing Google Images so that it functions as a shill for the latest Hollywood "memes"?  I plug in "clowns," and up pop two pages of the evil-clown faces so popular at the moment, as opposed to a reasonably balanced array of clowns of different types from different eras.  God forbid a Google search teach us something, or serve the purposes of historical research, or anything that sappy and unprofitable.

When did clowns exclusively become Hollywood's latest, and quite grotesque, incarnation thereof?  I know, I know--Google is simply going with the crowd.  It's erring on the side of that horrifying, brain-eating construct known as "most popular."  Google apparently envisions itself as the proverbial mirror of popular taste and perception, and to heck with functioning as an educational tool.  The Internet is here to entertain, to reassure us that what we "know" is all there is to know.  Don't think, just surf.

Well, at least "gridlock" and party strife are over in the U.S.

Oh, I gave up on clowns but had better luck with "idiots partying":


Saturday, November 01, 2014

Happy Halloween!

Oh, wait--Halloween was yesterday.  Oh, well.  It's the SPIRIT that counts!  (Buwa-ha-haaa!)

This ad is from 1966.  I strongly suspect that the "7 amazing plant creatures" advertised above were, in fact, what we would now call Chia Pets.  Just a stab in the park--I mean, dark--but a good one, I think.  And I need to stop with the Halloween word play, because it is, by one day, no longer Halloween.

Did I mention this is no longer Halloween?

In other news, I love how beautifully the "Auto Levels" function works on my cheap NCH PhotoPad Pro(?) photo software--it really brings out the detail in cheaply printed comic pages and such.  In fact, tonight I used the "Auto Levels" function on (a scan of) the copyright page of an 1886 Wide Awake volume, and it brought out nearly every detail from its reverse.  Just sucked it through the page!  Of course, even a tech-challenged soul like me has to conclude that there's no such thing as "bringing out" the details in an image or sound file unless those details are actually present in the first place.  To wit, my software manages to make murky, poorly printed Charlton Comics pages look sharp and brightly colored--something they never were to begin with.  So is the software bringing out or restoring detail so much as imagining and imposing it?  And do I have any idea what I'm babbling about?

In my defense, I'm having a nasty vascular headache.  A measure recommended by my neurologist--namely, applying Lidocaine topically to the inside of my nose--has brought down the pain but left the dazed confusion in place.  At least the pain has been diminished.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween music by Lee, 2014

These Lee originals are all from 2009 or earlier.  In fact, Godzilla Rag is from 1993.  Most of these were step-recorded, which means I cheated.  The first and fifth tracks are piled with Magix filtering, hence the 1967-experimental sound.  And I've always wanted to type "1967-experimental."

Enjoy: Halloween Music By Lee

1.  Poker Night in Dracula's Castle
2.  Hauntovani Waltz No. 1
3.  Missile in the Moon
4.  The Dead Sitcom Zone
5.  Galaxies in Collision
6.  Ghost on the Stairs
7.  The Godzilla Rag

Composed and played (or programmed) by Lee Hartsfeld.


The Magic Pianist (1927)

A fun collection containing the kind of material found in silent movie music folios.  From 1927.  I don't remember where I bought it.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Two terrifying 1967 ads for our Halloween!

Ready to be terrified?  I hope so.

From the same Sunset House catalog that gave us the "Walk-a-Matic" ad, here are two horrifying products guaranteed to, well, horrify.  Not sure which is the scarier of the pair.

Dial a Monster!

New Math for Parents

I'd love to have a vintage Dial a Monster!  Just the rocketship-style design, by itself, is awesome.  And I vividly remember "New Math."  That is, I vividly remember all the hype and worry over it.  Whether any of it showed up in my school texts, I have no idea.  (Cue theremin music.)

No "Dial a Monster" on eBay or Google Images.  Well, let's see if posting this will change the latter situation....

Update: Hold the presses!  Found this 1964 gem by plugging "monster kaleidoscope" into Images:

Looks like the very item (the card even says, "Dial a Monster"), though considerably less cool in color.  The cheapness factor really stands out--but I still want one.   The source for this image, Time Warp Toys, i.d.'s this as "Space Orb Eye in the Sky--Monster Kaleidoscope."  Thank you, Time Warp Toys!  (Now I see it, etched in the plastic--Space Orb--Eye in the Sky.)

Check this page, too, for more Space Orb images, all very well done: The Kaleidoscope Book.  Boy, it really looked crappy, didn't it!  Still want it.

Yet more: Neato Coolville


Not a new concept, apparently...

The Walk-a-Matic, from a 1967 Sunset House catalog.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Halloween keeps on comin'.

MSNBC's ratings have "hit one of the deepest skids in" the network's history, says the New York Times.  I can sum up the reason for this dip with five letters: MSNBC.  I say this as a once-faithful MSNBC viewer, and I have to wonder where the network might be, ratings-wise, should it ever deign  to spend more time on facts than cable-style speculation and conclusion-jumping, stop showing all those insufferable Comedy Central clips, demonstrate less of an attitude of "Oh, those beastly, hairy, aggressive, working class males" toward the military, stop handing shows to abrasive celebrity jerks (the creepy Al Sharpton comes to mind, and please get him out), and at least toy with the possibility that improved MSNBC ratings might be a simple matter of the network playing to its viewer base (Boomers) instead of whoever the heck it IS playing to (best guess: fourteen year olds).  Never hurts to try.

That felt good.

Obama: "Whether it's improving our health or harnessing clean energy, protecting our security or succeeding in the global economy, our future depends on reaffirming America's role as the world's engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation.  And that leadership tomorrow depends on how we educate our students today, especially in math, science, technology, and engineering."

Far out.  So who's the Office of Science and Technology Policy's chief of staff?  Cristin Dorgelo, who, says my Google search, "holds a BA in History with a minor in Anthropology from UCLA."

No background in science or technology?  We've got a job for you at OSTP!

And, here in Ohio, we have people loudly wondering what all this voting-related fuss is about.  Evening hours, weekend hours, early in-person voting--is any of it necessary?  You see, we Ohioans have a hard time remembering stuff that happened ten years ago.  Remember the long lines and lack of voting machines, and Columbus playing host to the world's media?  You don't?  Then you must be from Ohio.  Another piece of ancient history: In 2012, Ohio didn't start counting absentee ballots until eleven days after November 6.  That's one of the reasons I say no way to absentee voting.  Other reasons include Jon A. Husted shenanigans like losing the things, invalidating them for improper postage, and not sending them out in the first place (forcing people to vote provisionally, which amounts to depositing your ballot in the nearest wastebasket).  Ohioans have a hard time catching on to such stop-the-vote-count tactics, partly because such tactics are so, um, nuanced, and because they extend all the way back to 2012 and 2004, when dinosaurs still ruled the planet.  Well, at least here in Ohio.

This has been a doozy of a Halloween to date, and Beggar's Night is still days away.  Vanishing Secret Service agents, self-destructing liberal networks, non-scientists heading OSTP, people forgetting November, 2012--sheesh!  Take the season off, Drac and Frankie!  You're fired.

"What do you mean, I've been replaced??"


Friday, October 24, 2014

Spooky art for Halloween--A Deep Sea Dream (1887)

This wonderful, spooky woodcut (?) comes from an 1887 Chit Chat annual  And I've always wanted to type "...from a 1887 Chit Chat annual."  Chit Chat was one of D. Lothrop Co.'s children's periodicals--periodicals which featured awesome artwork and interesting texts that take some adjusting to, unless, like Bev, you're no stranger to 1880s prose.  This image also appeared under a different title and with a different short text in another D. Lothrop annual, which only goes to show that repurposing is an old concept, at least in the realm of pop publications.  Like the dime-store, grocery-rack record labels of the Fifties and early Sixties, the cheap children's book publishers of the late 1800s--Lothrop, M.A. Donohue, W.B. Conkey, Charles E. Graham, etc.--shamelessly recycled material and titles, often in a haphazard way.  Decades before Tops, Ultraphonic, Parade, and Prom were producing singles and LPs by slapping together whatever stuff happened be lying around, these publishers were defining that cheap-marketing scheme.  Pioneers, all of them.

I even have one or two examples of mismatched covers/title pages.  Shades of the Rondolette label!

And I love these things.  I can't get enough of them.

By the way, most of these same publishers also put out Grade-A, full-color children's gems, especially come the early 1900s.  And the D. Lothrop children's mags were beautifully printed on high quality paper, in major contrast to the stock used for the annuals and various reprints.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Music for "Dinos Meet Dracula"

And here's the music I promised for the "Dinos Meet Dracula" post.  I wrote this around 1993, and I'm repurposing it for this post, having already reused it in my Burroughs Suite.  So, I guess I'm re-reusing it.  Here it is, an ominous-organ, Bach-in-a-dark-mood  Halloween mood piece which I call, for the moment at least, Dinos Meet Dracula:  Dinos Meet Dracula (Lee Hartsfeld)  It's me, live, on my Casio WK-3800.

I assume you can download it, but maybe not--Box is forever revising its features.  Great service, but they can't keep things where they are.  Their links used to include download options, anyway.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Dinos meet Dracula!

So, I am back with more Halloween-dinosaur images.  Today's set of dino funnies features dinosaurs from my collection as they interact with Count Dracula, Frankenstein (a.k.a., the Frankenstein monster), mummies, pumpkin people, and the like.  I should note that my blogging schedule this Halloween has been affected by two minor setbacks: 1) a 48-hour hospital stay for pneumonia (after my blood pressure read 77/48 at the VA clinic!), and 2) the frying of my PC motherboard by a power surge, which removed access to all my photos scans.  Oops.  My PC is now an ex-PC, though our tech believes the hard drive data is probably savable.  Knock on wood.  (Rap, rap!  Oh, hi, accidentally summoned spirit.  Um....  Well, this is awkward.)

So, I've done some more photos and I scrounged a music track to be added to this post at the earliest opportunity.  Here's Dinos Meet Dracula!