Category Archives: Chicago

Reading Material

As a quick look around our home will tell you, I love to read. Books, magazines, old letters, vintage catalogs (!), clipped articles, and yes, even cereal boxes. When I go to the antique mall or a garage sale, rarely do I buy anything that isn’t printed. Occasionally a pretty dish or a doll. Maybe a vintage article of clothing or old sewing supplies.


More often, my treasure sack contains various types of ephemera: old sewing patterns, a pattern catalog from the 1950s, a 16 Magazine from 1965, Needlecraft Magazine from 1932, a very well-worn elementary reader from the 1930s, a slim WWII volume: This is the Navy, a 1960 Montgomery Ward catalog, the little booklet/catalog that came with Barbie dolls in 1962, an old drama script, a handmade wedding album from the Depression, old high school and college yearbooks, cookbooks, paper dolls (!), school room ephemera (the seasonal cardboard cut-outs that teachers used to decorate their door with). Let’s pause and take a breath. (And yes, I know I ended that sentence with a preposition. It just didn’t sound right when I used “with which”.)

I just love the printed word.

However, not all printed words.

A few weeks ago Joe and I went to the Grapevine Public Library to see what offerings were in the Friends of the Library nook. These are items which have been donated to them, which they can’t keep and they will let you take them home for a donation to their funds.

One of the employees was re-stocking the shelves and I asked her if they had any donations which were too tattered to put out and that would go straight to the paper recycler. I explained that I like to do paper crafts and find it very difficult to tear up a book to use for projects (and I can never alter one that I liked). I explained the caveat that the books cannot be prurient, even for crafting. Can you just imagine a collaged piece from a Harold Robbins book?! Yikes!

(As a Fawlty Towers fan, I first typed Harold Robinson, then caught myself and corrected it. I think the Waldorf Salad episode was my favorite one.)

Anyway, she said that they had just received a large donation (I’m guessing several hundred books), most of which wouldn’t sell and that I could go into the office and look at them and see if there was anything I liked.


She showed me the Jalna series of books by Mazo de la Roche. The Jalna books were a popular series, the first of which was written in 1927. The lady told me that they would not sell.


Also there was the World War II collection by Winston Churchill, missing one volume.

On and on it went. I ended up with 41 books in my stack, knowing that only a few would end up as craft material. One slightly unpleasant aspect of all of it was the pricing. These were books without a price tag. Buyers are expected to come up with what they think is reasonable and fair. My general rule of thumb is a garage sale price. Magazines are a dime, children’s books and paperbacks a quarter and hardbacks .50 unless in very bad condition. But she wasn’t happy with my offer of $20.00.

Now, before you hit that comment link about how greedy I was, take a deep breath and remember that she considered all of these books unsaleable. They would get nothing for them when sent to the pulp mill. My choices were 39 hardbacks and 2 paperbacks (39 x .50 = $19.50 + .25 +.25 +$20.00). So, I offered her $25.00 and she accepted.

My plans are to read the Jalna series this summer, then perhaps start on the Churchill books this fall (they are huge – over 700 pages each; the usual goal of 1 book per week will collapse with those).

Many of the others are simply old novels. Maybe I’ll read them and then be willing to tear out the pages. But maybe not.


Three of them were old looking and when I read the titles I thought, “Surely I won’t mind tearing these up.”

Then we got them home and I really looked at them (I didn’t spend the time to look them over carefully while at the library).

One of belongs in a genealogy department because it’s an 1886 list of Illinois Civil War veterans, which includes their dates of service and promotions. Scratch this one from the scrap heap.


The next one is an 1898 volume called “The Lives of the Saints”. Even though we aren’t Catholic, a saint is a saint and my husband is particularly interested in St. Theresa of Avila, who is chapter one. Scratch this one from the scrap heap.


The last really old looking one was called the Illinois Blue Book, 1933-34. It was a state government book published in 1933. Alright! Here was one that I could use! A lot of cool looking photos of state officials and lists of government projects … and then right in the center is this gorgeous section of photos and drawings of the “Century of Progress Exposition 1833 – 1933, Held at Chicago, May 27 to Nov. 12, 1933”.

Argggghhhh!

And ebay? Ebay?? Someone save me from ebay. (However, I just got the bid on the most fantastic bundle of 1965 and 1967 Seventeen magazines. I’ll share the photos with you later.)

*Updated May 26, 2013

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Filed under 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960's, Altered Books, America, Books, Chicago, Cookbooks, Crafts, Crafts - Paper, Ephemera, Faith, Family, Fashion, Fiction, Grapevine, History, Humor, Internet links, Local Shopping, Sewing, Shopping, Texas, Vintage catalogs, Vintage Magazines, Winston Churchill, World War II

1893 Fashions

1893 Evening Gown, designed by Charles Frederick Worth

1893 Evening Gown, designed by Charles Frederick Worth

Today I wanted to show some of the popular fashions in 1893.

This hat was documented to have been worn to the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago by Janet dePrie(?)

This hat was documented to have been worn to the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago by Janet dePrie(?)

Hat very similar to the green straw one, shown at top of page.

Hat very similar to the green straw one, above.


Photographer: Crane Arto, Waterbury, Connecticutt

Lillian Russell, circa 1893

Lillian Russell, circa 1893

Lillian Russell performed at the fair. This photo was taken by the “Newsboy” studio, New York. Notice the large vertical pom poms on her hat.

1893 Fashions

1893 Fashions

1893 Fashions

1893 Fashions

Victorian Fashions 1893

Victorian Fashions 1893

The photographs of the green straw hat, Lillian Russell and the one by Crane Arto are from the book Vintage Hats and Bonnets 1770-1970
by Susan Langley. I bought this book at the Textile Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts in 2004. They were having a wonderful exhibit of ladies hats. It was one of the best museum visits I’ve ever had.

The black and white illustrations are from the Dover Publication: Victorian Fashions, a Pictorial Archive, 965 Illustrations Selected and Arranged by Carol Belanger Grafton. My husband gave me this book for Christmas last year.

The Worth evening gown was “sky blue damask with a pattern of pink chrysanthemum petals, and layers of embroidered lace and tulle. The gown is festooned with a glarland of pearls and crystal. The hairdo was designed by Lentheric.” The illustration is by Tom Tierney and is from the Dover publication Victorian Fashion Designs. It includes a cd-rom. It was also a gift from my husband.

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Filed under 1893, 19th Century, Chicago, Fashion, Hats, History

1893 World’s Fair, Chicago

1893 Columbian Exposition, Chicago

1893 Columbian Exposition, Chicago

Did you ever wonder how so many of the things came about that we associate with America?  For instance: The Emerald City  in the Wizard of Oz, Disneyland, Hershey’s Chocolate, Ragtime music?

It started at the fair, the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, also known as The Columbian Exposition.

The French had held national exhibitions beginning in 1844, but the idea for the first world exposition came from Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband.  It was held in the Crystal Palace, Hyde Park, London in 1851. The Chicago fair marked the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the New World.

Last week I read Lynn Austin’s book,  A Proper Pursuit,  a novel set against the backdrop of the fair.  My curiosity was really piqued.  So I did a little research.  It was huge.  Built on 630 acres, it contained 3 miles of canals with gondolas and a replica Viking ship sailed across the ocean from Norway. and hosted more than 25 million visitors.  In fact once could arrive at the fair by boat and enter on a moving sidewalk.

Admission ticket to Chicago World's Fair, 1893

Admission ticket to Chicago World's Fair, 1893

Interesting facts:

Katherine Lee Bates was so impressed with her visit to the fair, that when she wrote her poem, America The Beautiful, she penned the phrase “alabaster cities” referring the the White City area.  Frank L. Baum patterned the Emerald City after visiting.  Walt Disney’s father worked on the construction.

George Ferris introduced his wheel (250 ft. high) and it was so popular, it saved the fair from bankruptcy.

Electric power was introduced to the American public.  The white stuccoed buildings reflected the electric lights and people referred to that area as The White City.  A 70 ft. tower of light bulbs was exhibited in the Electricity Building.

The term ‘Midway’ was first used.

Attractions included the first commercial movie theater.

Scott Joplin introduced the new Ragtime style of music.  Also on the music front, Little Egypt danced to a tune that is now very famous (you know the one, it’s used for snake charmers in the cartoons or kids on the playground sing “In a land called France…”).   It was an improvised tune, never copyrighted and now in the public domain.

Product firsts:
Hershey Bars, Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum, Cracker Jacks,  Cream-of-Wheat, Shredded Wheat, Quaker Oats, Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix.

The fair played a huge role in introducing America on the world stage. One of the most permanent legacies was the Beautiful City movement which sought to rectify the neglect of American cities.

Only 5 of the buildings survive today, only one at the original site.  Some were torn down.  As stunning as they were, they weren’t built to last.  Most of them were wood frame and a plaster mixture.  A fire in 1894 destroyed even some that had been slated to be made permanent.

Admission price:  50 cents.

You can learn more here. and see some great pictures on flickr.   .  The Wikipedia site is interesting, but be careful, because some of it is a little inaccurate.

Youtube has a 4 parts of a series about the fair, narrated by Gene Wilder. At the end, click on the next part in the sidebar at the right of the page. Part 5 (and possibly subsequent parts) seem to be missing at this time but the link gives information about where to purchase the DVD. *August 8, 2011 update: This video has been removed from youtube but this one is a 2 minuted narrated slideshow.

Also on youtube is another series. It’s unclear how many parts are available for viewing.

Youtube recording of Scott Joplin playing his piece “Maple Leaf Rag”. I can’t get this link to work, but if you type in Scott Joplin Maple Leaf Rag in the youtube search bar, this should be at the top of the list. It’s funny, because he plays it very fast. My husband loves to play Ragtime, and Joplin notes on his pieces to not play it fast; Ragtime is never played fast.

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Filed under Chicago, History