Quote and Credit

Quote and Credit


John Martin's Clara Cow Pete Pig Hal Horse and Puppy Dog

If my calculations are correct, you can click to enlarge, print, cut out and make with your kids.

J.P. Coats thread Spool Pets (four shown) 1930 Collection Jim Linderman

Rev. Promise House of Prayer Spiritual Healer & Advisor

Original 35mm photograph Location Unknown American South c. 1995 Collection Jim Linderman

Not all Sideshow Freaks were Human Frank Wendt

Linus II had a 10 foot double mane and a 16 foot tail. He was owned by W. A. Rutherford of Marion, Oregon, and presumably won many ribbons at the local state fair, not to mention attracting many nickels and dimes from sideshow attendees in the 1880's. Circus sideshow performers with unusual attributes were far from common, but even fewer had four legs.

Original Cabinet Card Photograph c. 1880 by Wendt Collection Jim Linderman

Gene Bilbrew African-American Artist of Vintage Sleaze (part three)

New York City was a good place for an illustrator in the early 1950's, in particular one with the obvious but quirky talents of Gene Bilbrew. The comic market was exploding...the Kefauver Senate hearings had yet to dent their sales to vulnerable youth, Mad Magazine was getting off the ground and lurid pulp magazines requiring sexual humor were booming. Demand for less than tasteful "adult" humor was in demand. (Remember "cocktail napkins") In fact, one of Bilbrew's first jobs as an artist was replacing the recently drafted Jules Feiffer in the studio of noted cartoonist Will Eisner, who not only created the well-known comic strip "The Spirit" but also was one of the founders of the institution now known as the School of Visual Arts. This connection led to Eugene's enrollment and the cartoonist began taking his craft more seriously. He befriended famous fetish artist Eric Stanton who was also studying at the school. Soon he has made a connection to no less than Irving Klaw, the now "notorious" photographer of Bettie Page. Bilbrew sold drawings to Klaw and infamous publisher Lenny Burtman, it wasn't long before his work began to appear in racy publications of the 1950's which were sold under the counter near the Port Authority building and by mail order. Many of the drawings from this period are startling, offensive and lurid to the extreme, but were still, technically, not violating the law. Thousand of archetypical men in gray flannel suits passed the sleazy stores every day and many ducked in on their way home. Attention seeking politicians began to harass the shops, and sale through the mail also brought problems from governmental agencies. Drugs, filth, and one imagines the lifestyle of an artist hanging on the deuce, as 42nd street was known, soon took a tole. Most who know of the artist's work believe it began to deteriorate in the early 1960's, but these paperback covers show he was still in control of his quirky talents shortly before his death. They also, as far as I know, are the only examples of his drawings with full color treatment. Soon, legal pressures put most of the publishers he sold to out of business, and when they returned, several years later after legal rights were more or less granted to sleazy book sellers, actual photographs were used to illustrate the covers and illustrators like Bilbrew were in less demand. Bilbrew sunk lower, selling drawings to even more pornographic publishers with no interest in presenting even the facade of art or a professional front. How long after this he passed away is uncertain, but he was living in the back room of a 42nd street bookstore when he overdosed in 1974. Paperback books with Bilbrew illustrations on the cover are fairly scarce. They are nearly 50 years old now, and as you might imagine, if you were reading one while your wife was visiting your in-laws, or if you came across one while cleaning out Dad's stuff...they might not make it to the estate sale.

I have a few more entries in me about illustrators working on the underside of morality. Stay tuned. In the meantime, the 2008 book "Erotic Comics: A Graphic History from Tinuana Bibles to Underground Comix" by Tim Pilcher and published by Abrams contains a four page profile of Bilbrew. 
Four Original Paperback books with Gene Bilbrew cover illustations, c. 1966 Collection Jim Linderman

Good Neighbor Policy Mexico US Border RPPC

I woke to read the banner headline "Obama: Troop move to Mexican border under consideration." It appears the assault weapons we've been sneaking south at a considerable profit might start being aimed north. I don't think the explorers shown here were armed. "Tijuana Mexico Line Between Mexico and US Sept 30, 1915" RPPC Collection Jim Linderman

Scarface Smokes (Horrors in Wax #4)

Wax Crime Czar Al Capone enjoys a last fat one as he ferries to Alcatraz while chained to his escort. Known to his friends as "Snorky" and the rest of us as "Scarface" Capone earned his nickname by scars he obtained working as a bouncer on Coney Island (which he later claimed were war wounds). While in prison he reportedly "cut in line" at the prison barbershop, so inmates gave him a new (and now politically incorrect name even for a murdering mobster)..."Wop with a Mop." After being paroled, Capone returned to Florida where he soon died of complications from syphilis.

Crocker Mirror-Chrome Postcard, c. 1960. Collection Jim Linderman

Gene Bilbrew African-American Artist of Vintage Sleaze (part two)

African-American illustrator and artist Eugene Bilbrew was born in Sunny L.A. in 1924. As with most of the illustrators I hope to profile here (see my earlier Bill Alexander post) his life is sketchy. In fact, even his 1974 death of a heroin overdose in the back of minor mobster Eddie Mishkin's bookstore on 42nd Street in Manhattan is poorly documented, especially for an artist whose work has had such an influence. Remarkably, it is known that Bilbrew knew Alexander in Los Angeles before WW2. While Alexander was able to come close to the music business (illustrating 78rpm records for Roy Milton's Miltone label) young Bilbrew actually made it to the stage, if only in a minor role. He somehow finagled himself into temporary membership in "The Basin Street Boys" a LA based Doo Wop group with one hit, the prophetic "I Sold My Heart To The Junkman." The song was later recorded by Patti Labelle and has been performed in concert by no less than Bette Midler and Bruce Springsteen. The group broke up leaving Eugene in New York City (from where I will continue his story in a later post) A warning to the faint...since Bilbrew obviously fell into some bad habits in the Big Apple, you would be correct to assume most of the young black man's talent was directed at artistic pursuits even less, umm..."acceptable" than the lurid sleazy covers of these 1965 paperbacks from my collection, so if you choose to google him up with your preferences open, you might be disturbed. There are literally thousands of entries on Bilbrew and his work on the web, and yet the "real" art world seems to know virtually nothing about him. This may be due to his "way outside the norm" life and body of work, but it could just as easily be due to his race or the fact that virtually none of his original work survives. Although he was accepted into the program at the "Cartoonist and Illustrators School" (later titled the School of Visual Arts in 1956) one suspects his drift into drug addiction and work which was was largely considered pornographic at the time may have been at least partially caused by discrimination. He had a most unusual and completely individual style which emerged from a more traditional genre of cartooning, and once one becomes familiar with his work it is instantly recognizable. The best biographical material on Eugene Bilbrew and other sleaze paperback artists is found in the outstanding 2005 "Sin-A-Rama" book published by Feral House, in particular the entry on Bilbrew by Brittany Daley. This year, Feral Press has also published "Dope Menace: The Sensational World of Drug Paperbacks 1900-1975" by Stephen J. Gertz which is equally as fascinating and even more scholarly but just as much fun.

Six c. 1965 Paperback books, cover illustrations Eugene Bilbrew. Collection Jim Linderman


The Dead Horse Investigation (Forensic Photo Analysis)

What can you tell from this old photograph of a dead horse? PLENTY, as shown in the new book "The Dead Horse Investigation: Forensic Photo Analysis for Everyone" by Colleen Fitzpatrick. Ms Fitzpatrick is chairman of the Dead Horse Investigation Committee and involved with the fascinating Forensic Genealogy website. Each week photo collecting members submit a mysterious photograph for consideration and other members try to date, identify and figure out the image. For example, "how can you tell this couple had five or more children" and such tips as "which way is the flag blowing." GREAT stuff, a wonderful book and just damn cool. Site AND Book Highly Recommended.

Mrs. Albert Friedrich's Rattle Snake Deer

Life size deer made of 657 Texas Rattle Snake Rattles "the patient and artistic work" of Mrs. Albert Friedrich, San Antonio Texas.
"Life Size Deer" Curteich Postcard c. 1950. Collection Jim Linderman

Rev. Anderson Johnson Artist Singer Preacher

The congregation of Reverend Elder Bishop Anderson Johnson numbered in the thousands, but they were virtually all painted by the preacher himself and most hung by threads from the ceiling instead of sitting in pews. Surrounded by crime, blight, drugs and wig shops, he appeared to lead a quiet life on Ivy Street in Newport News, VA following a long career of selfless ministry. I am only now beginning to appreciate, some 15 years after my first visit, how special was his gift and talent. Within the door of his church and home a dark cave of religious passion entirely of his own making awaited. Completely surrounded by his own paintings of "followers" he performed on guitar, pedal steel and piano, hidden within the walls and largely for himself. I was surprised years later to find he had recorded commercially. Despite many conversations about his life, service and mission, he never mentioned his gospel steel guitar recordings made by Henry Stone in Florida in the late 1950's released on the Glory and Angel Labels. I understand there has been a resurgence of steel guitar gospel players in Florida since, I suspect the roots of this movement were planted by Reverend Johnson. He passed away near poverty, but at least one painting was added to the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 1998. He once told me, in all seriousness, the reason he painted so many portraits was that he hoped to find work as a courtroom artist. The house he transformed was destroyed by urban renewal (which in this case was needed, believe me) Portions of the environment also remain in historic preservation museum projects in Virginia and in private collections. There is a beautiful essay about his life on the website of the Middle Passage Project run by the College of William and Mary. Some of Mr. Johnson's recordings have been reissued, one appears on the Dust-To-Digital "Goodbye, Babylon" box set of 2003

Original 35mm photographs 1993-1995 collection Jim Linderman

Wallace the Dictator Box Set

I have some friends who create the most beautiful box sets of sound recordings, and I mean truly beautiful works of art by any standard. One day I intend to link to them all. But even they might have trouble matching the glory of "WALLACE DICTATES" which came with six 78 rpm records each in fold out sleeves, no less than ten printed inserts of various forms, including the book "A Woman's Birthright" (a slim body) with 15 pages of testimonials, a diet chart to record your progress and more in a HUGE box which they were able to mail for 15 cents. The original owner of my set lost 5 pounds she dutifully recorded, an amount about equal to the weight of the box. Wallace Camp founded the Wallace Institute in 1920. Shown are only a smidgen of graphics including the time-dishonored technique of "Before and After" testimonials.

Wallace Records Box Set Chicago Illinois c. 1940 Insert details collection Jim Linderman

Three Original Sponge Bobs

Must be HOT in these suits, note tacky air-conditioner and wire next to the fellow in the middle here. Some "museum." Sponges are alive but don't have any guts! They just sit around with water rushing through them for nutrition. If you want to read some big words, look them up...(gemmules, viviparous, spicules, syncythia, homoscleromorpha, halkieriids, chancelloriids, sessile, calcareous, cchonocytes, asconoid, endosybionts and on and on and on) No wonder we prefer plastic ones. By the way, these are indeed "bobbers" as they would float unless wearing lead shoes.
Three "spongeworthy" postcards, c. 1960 collection Jim Linderman

Another Bob (Horrors in Wax #3)

Say...isn't that something? Bob "Ski-Nose" Hope's head packed securely for a trip to the wax museum back room. Mr. Hope lived until the age of 100 yet never told an old joke. This is a press photograph, earlier known as wire photos, radiophotos, telediagraph and belinograph (jeepers, am I looking up words today) There has been some question as to the legality of buying and selling press photos, they have copyrights after all...but I guess if the agency wants this one back, they need just ask.

"Heading for Cold Storage" UPI press Original Photo 1968 Collection Jim Linderman

Incongruity Tintype The Painted Backdrop

Not Harmonious. Lacking Propriety. Incompatible. Incoherent and Illogical. Those are dictionary entries. "That's just wrong" says it these days. Incongruity marks most tintype photographs. ANY photo was still just about fine, since a good part of the country still had very few photo albums indeed. The photographers who were in business collected around crowds for the most part...vacation spots, large cities, and at the end of the train line where folks joined horse transportation to REALLY reach home. 1880 or so, this baby might be incongruously posed against a sunny seashore (or even a raging storm for that matter) but I'm pretty sure it was the first time she had her image documented and given the life-span and lack of antibiotics, it could have even been the last. My book The Painted Backdrop will be published in 2010.

Original tintype with backdrop c. 1880 Collection Jim Linderman

The Devil has the whole world Hypnotized Tract (let)

What is smaller than a Tract? A TRACTLET! A one page version of the small booklet warnings you'll remember finding on your windshield after shopping or being handed while you're in line for a rock concert. The most famous tract company is Chick Publications, named after Jack Chick, a man who could not decide to pray or draw, so he did both. I was pleased to see Chick has kept up with the times for you young kids, creating cyber "flip pages" for the Lord which you can even select and embed in your own webpage. (I have chosen not to, but I bet you will)
Chick Publications
Miniature One page Tractlet Gospel Stationary & Tract House, c. 1890 Collection Jim Linderman

Rev. N. T. Rucker Brown's Holy Chapel

Unknown Location, American South c. 1995 Original 35mm photo collection Jim Linderman

Color if you like Draw if you like

Crayola comes from the French words for chalk (craie) and oily (oleaginous) which were joined in1903 by Alice Stead Binney, wife of industrialist J.W. Binney. Binney's company was responsible for RED BARNS... how iconic is that? His company created the first red paint containing red oxide. Binney's boys had also invented a carbon stick which was used to mark barrels but it was toxic, they later came up with a product safe enough for children to eat, stick in their nose or mark any surface they could reach.

Pages from Child's commercial drawing and coloring book c. 1920 collection Jim Linderman

Split Silk Baptist Church

Original 35mm Photo Between Atlanta and Athens, GA c. 1995 Collection Jim Linderman

Dull Tool Dim Bulb's Greatest Hits art photography culture humor


(click the Blue for Dull Tool Dim Bulb Greatest Hits compilation, watch as slideshow)

1954 "Ten in One" Circus Sideshow Banner Photographs At the Circus in Black and White (in COLOR)

I'll post the history and such later. Until then, sometimes don't you wish you were born a few years earlier than you were?

4 Original Kodakcolor Prints (w/details) Week of December 6, 1954 Collection Jim Linderman

Tintype Painter Backdrop Occupational Pair Tintype The Painted Backdrop

Pair of tintype photographs depicting a painter working on a photographer's backdrop. My book The Painted Backdrop will be published in 2010

Two original tintype photographs c. 1870 Collection Jim Linderman