As many of you know this is the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. To commemorate this event I have an old pamphlet from the original Gettysburg Diorama built by Curvin Heiss (which is not the same one you can visit today). The story goes that Mr. Heiss and his son moved to Gettysburg in 1955 and started what according to the brochure was over a six years long process of building his model. The diorama had “more than 3,000 figures, 2,000 feet of wire and more than 450 electric bulbs.” It was housed in the Dobbin House (which is now a tavern and restaurant) until 1963 according to his obit, and then according to another website permanently closed in 1975. That same website says that it was stored somewhere until the roof collapsed on it, after which it appears to have been tossed with the debris.
I know my Grandpa George and Grandma Alice visited Gettysburg in 1934 (because I have those photos), but obviously this brochure wasn’t picked up on that trip. So, they must have went some time in the early 1960s, which looking at the art makes sense. Though, thinking about it, they may have just picked this up at a rest stop somewhere in the hopes of visiting. Being my Grandfather because ill in the 1960s, and passed away in 1966, there is a chance they never made it back.
This is a FDR campaign sticker from one of his elections. It is 10” long and made of paper. Like you would expect, you would glue it down to the window of your car or house to show your support. So, while not being made out of a long lasting vinyl it is still basically a bumper sticker.
Since there isn’t a date on it, and I wanted to find out from which election year it is from, I contacted the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, NY. I received a very quick response from their very friendly Collections Manager, and while she couldn’t give me a 100% answer she did say that it matches other material from the 1940 campaign. (They too have some of these same stickers.) Hence they are pretty sure it came from that election year, which is good enough for me.
The FDR Library & Museum has been going through a major three year long renovation, but that all comes to an end this upcoming weekend (June 30) with a rededication of the place. I’ve been following their progress via their tumblr page, and while being rather far away I do hope to make it out there some time. It looks really great and I highly recommend to anyone that is in that part of the world to go check it out.
You’ll make me jealous.
I found these old German Reich Bank Notes, or Marks, folded up in the stacks of paper I’ve been going through. These notes came from the era of the historic collapse of the German economy post World War One. A common story that is related by almost all history teachers to that time is that it took a wheelbarrow of Marks just to buy a loaf of bread. While being an interesting anecdote it really doesn’t give any details. So I decided to look it up and found this interesting chart that shows the absurd spike in inflation that took place. So absurd that when these types of Marks were ended in 1924 by the Weimar Republic it took 4 Trillion of them to equal 1 U.S. dollar.
I don’t know how these came into my hands. Maybe some distant cousin sent them to one of my ancestors in America (these did come down from the German side of my family). Or maybe they picked them up from someone in Chicago. I do know that someone in my family collected a few coins here and there. So maybe they thought they would be worth holding on to for one reason or another. Either way, their financial value today is worthless, but historically they do hold some value because of the time period they represent. But don’t get too excited. The most expensive one I found is the last one, which in really great shape on ebay was going for about 10 bucks. Though, considering their utterly worthless value they had when printed, they have indeed increased exponentially in value.
With the Blackhawks back in the Stanley Cup Final I decided to rehash an item I posted awhile back. Over the years I had overlooked these two little tickets because they looked like something you would get at a local festival when you want to go on a ride. It wasn’t until I took a closer look that I realized what exactly these stubs were for… Game 1 of the 1934 Stanley Cup Series.
These tickets are a great example of the growth in popularity of hockey over the years. Back then hockey was the redheaded stepchild of the American sports world. Unlike World Series tickets from that era (see these Cubs World Series tickets) the Stanley Cup Final’s tickets were nothing special. Like their roots, this was the blue collar no thrills sport and the tickets reflected it. It was all about the game, so why bother making some fancy-pants souvenir. As a matter of fact, if my Grandfather hadn’t penciled in “1934” I would have had to guess when these were from. Also, check out that price, and remember that ticket price wasn’t for just a normal season game.
That series also has some interesting history. It was the Blackhawks’ first time they brought home The Cup. In game one, which was played April 3rd (not June), Chicago beat the Red Wings 2 to 1 in double overtime. Chicago won the series 3-1, and the last game was also won in double OT with a score of 1 to nothing. The hero being their team Captain and goalie Chuck Gardiner (the only goalie Captain engraved on The Cup). Sadly, the Scottish born Gardiner didn’t get to enjoy the taste of victory for long and died of a brain hemorrhage only two months later. He was 29.
I was really surprised when I figured out what these were from. Better late than never, which could have easily happened if I hadn’t been paying attention. They are so small and common looking that I could have easily tossed these into the trash. That would have been truly a loss.
This little button has me stumped. I first thought it might be from one of Big Bill Thompson's campaigns for Mayor of Chicago. While the age looks correct all of his pinbacks (yes, that's the term) used his trademark Stetson cavalry hat on them, or with his full name. So I'm going to rule that one out. The only other leads that I have is that this most likely came out of Chicago. So, do any of you know where this might have come from?
This service medal came down to me with zero background. Knowing my history I figured it came from General Pershing’s Punitive Expedition against Pancho Villa. The uniform of the soldier matches that era. This military action was in response to Villa’s 1916 raid on Columbus, New Mexico. Pershing led troops down into Mexico in an attempt to capture Villa dead or alive. While the Army did engage in a few skirmishes they never came close to Villa. While Pershing was marching around Mexico hopelessly searching for him, President Wilson called into service large numbers of National Guard units to patrol and cover the rear on the Mexican-American Border. This is where I began my search.
Back then military units, especially Guard units, were known to mint their own service medals. Hence there can be many different styles out there for the same part of history. This explained why it was I found many different examples of Border Service campaign ribbons out there. This particular one is stamped on the back “Schwaab S&S Co. Milwaukee” a company that still exists today. (The super small print in the middle is The Lord’s Prayer.)This would mean that it most likely belonged to my Great Grand Uncle Alex Kownacki. I have his trench lighter and one of his dog tags which shows he was in the Wisconsin National Guard. So I figured that maybe his unit was called into service during what became known today as the Border War. In order to prove this theory I contacted the Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison.
Sure enough, they have the muster roll records for my Uncle with the 1st Wisconsin Infantry. He joined the Guard on March 31, 1916, just two weeks after the Villa raid. Less than three months later President Wilson ordered his unit to Camp Wilson, Texas, which was near San Antonio. After a resolution was settled between the U.S. and Mexico, the Wisconsin guard was relieved of their duty and mustered out on January 19, 1917 at Ft. Sheridan near Chicago.
While on the border they didn’t do much other than drill and conduct exercises. While I am sure it was rather dull, it became good practice for when the U.S. became involved in The Great War. Alex’s unit was nationalized into the 127th Infantry, 32nd Division and sent off to France. Sadly, Alex was killed in action on September 7, 1918 in Cierges, France at the age of 22.
I don’t have any background on this ticket stub. What I can tell you is that this is from the Onwentsia Club in Lake Forest, Illinois. They appear to be known more for golf than tennis, but at least back in the 1930s they held some international matches. My Grandpa George was a sports nut, so finding a ticket stub for a tennis match between the U.S. & Germany isn’t that surprising. I wonder if there was any tension at this game because of the rise of Nazi Germany? That could have added an interesting twist to things.
I started this website as a research exercise, something fun to do, and lastly a way to document all of these items for my kid. That way when I move along, and she inherits all of this stuff, she will also inherit the stories that go with them. That brings me to today’s item.
While getting ready to take my kid on her first camping trip I pulled out my Father’s Vietnam era canteen. I procured this from him ages ago back in high school, thus I haven’t really thought much about it. Well, this canteen was very cool to the kid (I should also mention that she’s five). That got me thinking… This is the same thing that has happened with many of the items from my Grandparents; items that they were used to seeing became supercool things to me years later. So, I decided to see what I could find out about the canteen.
The nylon cover is marked as Model 1967. From what I discovered 1967 was the year the military implemented a new change to their gear. Among the changes was the canteen cover. From a website I found they listed these upgrades:
· nylon replaced all remaining cotton webbing items
· aluminum or plastic replaced steel or brass hardware, where possible
· “Hook and Pile” fasteners (Velcro) were used wherever practical to replace zippers or snaps
Now this case, while being nylon, still has brass snaps and steel clips on the back. Most likely this means that it was issued soon after the changes were implemented but before they could change out to the black plastic snaps and aluminum clasps.
My Dad remembers the changes that took place in 1967 and said that this is when they also changed up to plastic canteens. Before then everyone still used metal. It was exactly the same size (1 quart) but he didn’t receive his new one until he had been home for a while and was with the reserves. That is why his is dated 1974 on the bottom.
The canteen is also stamped with a diamond logo and the name Zarn. From what I can tell, Zarn was a plastics company that among other things also made large trash containers and in 1961 the very first plastic milk bottle. They have since been bought by the French company Burelle SA and are now called Plastic Omnium Zarn. As for the liner there are two possible names, DSA and CBS Enterprises Inc., neither of which I can find with any certainty.
So there you have it. The story of a canteen.
This little 15 page publication has a copyright of 1939 and was self published by the author Edward L. Senn. I don’t know when exactly my Grandpa George picked this up, but I am going to assume it was soon after the publication on a trip to Deadwood. By the time The War started he was very busy at working for the The War effort, and in 1944 my mom was born, which of course probably kept them equally busy. So that pretty well dates this item.
The book is decently written and appears to have avoided the old trap of romanticizing The West. Mr. Senn first takes on the lore of the old dime store novel character Deadwood Dick, which apparently was nothing more than that of a fictional character. In the old Blood & Thunder publications of the late 19th century Deadwood Dick was a modern day Robin Hood wholly created by Edward L. Wheeler. Senn notes that as far as he can tell Wheeler never even made it out to the Black Hills. While Deadwood Dick was fictitious, it didn’t stop the name from being attached to three real individuals over a short period of time right around the incorporation of the town of Deadwood in 1876, two of which were involved in theater.
Calamity Jane, as many of the devoted fans of the TV show Deadwood can tell you, was indeed a real person. Senn does an excellent job trying to break down the fact from fiction of Ms. Martha Jane Canary, even pointing out that Jane was likely not her real middle name. While there was plenty of material written about Calamity Jane, including a self aggrandizing autobiography, very little of which was factual. One advantage Senn had was that there were individuals still alive that harked back to those frontier days. From those primary sources and other material he gives a decent picture of her real life…
Marthy, as she calls herself, was born in Missouri in 1852, and her family headed north and west in her early teens. In 1866 her mother passed away in Blackfoot, Montana, and her Father soon followed two years later when they were in Salt Lake City. It is unclear what happened to her siblings other than they all ended up at Ft. Bridger (Wyoming Territory) in 1868. At this point the story gets blurry. As Senn puts it “Thus at age 15 she was thrown upon her own resources at a frontier army post at a time when respectable women were rare at such places and the soldiers were largely derelicts of humanity.”
Senn figures that what most likely happened is she became a “Camp Follower” which is the polite term for prostitute. She claims to have become an Army scout, though there are no Army records to indicate such (and as Senn points out there are some very good military records from that time). Now Senn does come to her defense by pointing out that over time she very well may have come to join scouting parties, which might add some validity to her claims. Either way, she was living a pretty rough life.
Her travels and dates of such are pretty hard to prove, along with when she actually became known as Calamity Jane. Though he was able to show from firsthand accounts that she arrived in Deadwood (either again or for the first time) in June of 1876 with Wild Bill Hickok, “Colorado Charlie” Utter (yes, the one from the TV show) his brother Steve Utter, along with a few others. From there her legend, and her legendary drinking, became history.
While I can find many references to this little pamphlet, and others by Senn just like it, I cannot find much about the man. He appears to have been a journalist in Deadwood going back to 1909, and one of his history books on the early Pioneers of the Black Hills is readily available. He lived until 1951, and is buried in Mt. Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood alongside Calamity Jane, Wild Bill, Preacher Smith, and Seth Bullock, which I am sure suits him just fine.
A postcard of the Hall of Science from the 1933 “A Century of Progress” World’s Fair in Chicago. The guide book states it covered about 400,000 square feet, which was massive. In it all of the sciences were represented except astronomy, which was covered by the Adler Planetarium. There were also displays from businesses like the Scholl Manufacturing Company were experts trained by Dr. Scholl examined and helped people with their feet issues.
The building sat caddy corner to Soldier Field (going southeast) on what was called the South Lagoon (now called Burnham Harbor). The parking lot for Burnham Harbor, some bike trails, and part of Museum Campus Drive now cover that spot. It appears that since that time not even the street names remain the same.
My Grandfather kept one of his employment IDs that were issued during The War. As I’ve mentioned, Stewart-Warner in Chicago was heavily involved in the war industry making various gauges, radio components, and the like. Since it is clearly dated as June of 1943 I’m going to assume that he was issued a new card every month. This was the only ID he saved and he glued it down in his scrap book. Fortunately, he only applied the glue to the corners, otherwise I doubt I would have been able to lift this as clean as I did.
I’m going to assume that this 6” square sheet was meant to be put up on your house window to show your financial support for The War. (The tape marks at the top and bottom help back that theory up.) This appears to be a local product from Chicago that maybe my Grandpa George’s work had printed up. (The lack of U.S. Printing Office markings leads me to that conclusion.) He was employed by Stewart-Warner, a company that was heavily involved in the war effort by making radios, gauges, and the like, and I know they held many drives associated with their company.
The 6th War Loan started in 1944 and went up to May of ‘45 when the 7th War Loan kicked in. These loan campaigns were the Federal Government’s means of paying for the war (a novel concept these days). While many propaganda images and films from this campaign exist on the web, there is surprising little written about the actual loan drive itself. As a matter of fact, the only start date of the campaign that I could find was on Wikipedia, but that appears to be wrong since it states it started in November of 1944, while this sheet is clearly marked as being printed in October of that year. (Another shining example of why Wikipedia is a not an academic resource.)
Looks to me like I discovered a good thesis subject for some young budding Ph.D. candidate.
Last week I posted the opposite side of this page from the September 29, 1935 Chicago Tribune. While the Joe Louis fight was interesting, I do believe this was the actual reason my Grandfather kept this sheet.
The 1935 Cubs won the National League Pennant but lost to the Tigers in the World Series (of which I have one of my Grandpa’s tickets). While that would be enough reason to remember that year, there are two other fun facts that made them stand out: This was the last time they ended a season with 100 wins. That alone is a good one, but to reach that record they did so with a 21 game win streak. I’m sure the quote at the top is a reference to that great run, which didn’t begin until near the end of the season on September 4th. Those two facts really made them quite the team.
This photo was taken out along the left field wall. The building that you can see the most of is still there on Waveland Ave, but that area of Wrigley has changed a lot since then. That wall is long gone (and replaced with one that while looking old is clearly not the same) and seats were extended over that area. This means that this view can no longer be seen from the field. Still, that doesn’t stop me from trying to imagine what it was like when my Grandpa saw a World Series at Wrigley.
This full page of the Chicago Tribune is from September 29, 1935. I found it folded up between a bunch of other papers in a box. The photos are from the Joe Louis vs. Max Baer fight that took place in a packed Yankee Stadium. Baer had already been the World Heavyweight Champion by beating Max Schmeling in 1933. Schmeling was from Germany and was considered Hitler’s favorite athlete. It was because of that fight and victory that Baer, whose father was Jewish, wore a Star of David on his trunks in every match after he beat Schmeling. You can clearly see the Star in the fourth picture. As for this match it wasn’t a title bout. So while being a big fight it isn’t either Louis’s or Baer’s biggest bout. Plus, I have no other indication that my Grandpa George was in to boxing (though I wouldn’t have been surprised if he was because he apparently loved all sports). It wasn’t until I finally opened up this sheet did I figure out why I think he kept it. More on that next week.
This is exactly what it looks like, a bus transfer, except this wasn’t from a bus but from a street car line that ran on the north side of Chicago. I couldn’t figure out the name of the company from their initials so I contacted a guy named Bob that runs his own fan page of Chicago transit history. He told me that the N. C. ST. R.R. CO. was the North Chicago Street Railroad Co. They were a private company that held the charter to run rapid transit (a term that apparently existed even back then) on the north side. They went through a few different mergers and eventually were swallowed up in to the modern day CTA.
The N. C. ST. R.R. CO. was a cable car line founded by a guy named Charles Yerkes who had a big influence on public transportation. He was quite the entrepreneur back in his day. Besides this company he also acquired the Lake Street Elevated RR Co. and formed the Union Elevated RR Co. which built the Union Loop in downtown Chicago. The Union Loop eventually became known simply as the Loop, which of course is the foundation of the “L” that still runs today. He eventually sold pretty much everything and moved to London, where he became the backing arm and developer of what became the London Underground. Today his name is all but forgotten, which is rather odd being that he founded both the L and The Tube. The only remnants that I can find are the Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin (run by the University of Chicago) and the Yerkes crater on the Moon. I did find this old brochure from 1889 that has a great art cover showing one of the North Chicago cars along with some photos of how the cable system worked.
I made an attempt to figure out why my Grandpa George put this transfer in his scrapbook. He wasn’t alive in 1899 so most likely he came across it in one of his ancestor’s belongings (much like how his stuff came down to me). I looked up January 26 and it was a Thursday that apparently nothing of interest happened. Most likely one of my relations used this coming home from work and it just by chance was saved. So now, 114 years later, it has managed to end up in my hands.