Quote and Credit

Quote and Credit


Feed Sack Fabric Frugality

Around 1925, cotton had replaced wooden barrels as a method of transporting large quantities of grain, feed and food. Times were lean, and it wasn't long before women began reusing the fabric for quilts, aprons and other needs, despite often embarrassing logos...who wanted an image of scratching chickens on their children's clothes? Around this time, enterprising manufacturers of feed stuffs and food stuffs caught on...when women did the shopping, they would often pick their staple foods based on the design of the fabric. It wasn't long before hundreds of colorful prints were being produced for sugar, beans, rice and cornmeal packages and frugal homemakers were saving them, trading them and quilting them. Many were surprisingly modern, others today seem retro. The 1950's prosperity and the use of paper and plastic sacks marked the end of the decorative cotton fabrics. My mother has quilted her whole life, and the top image here is a detail of a quilt she made using feed sack fabrics. Since a new frugality has been forced upon us, isn't it time for the decorative cloth sacks time to return?

Vintage Feed Sacks are affordable but hoarded by contemporary quilters. The best source to learn about them is the Schiffer Book "Vintage Feed Sacks: Fabric From the Farm by Susan Miller. Schiffer publishes an astounding variety of guide books for collectors, you will often see their inventory in large antique malls and even better at shows, where the friendly staff will be happy to share them with you. I've used Schiffer books all my life, and always stop in on the way out of antique shows to chat, browse and usually buy.

Ernest Warther Redux, Wondrous Folk Art Wood Carver from Ohio

When we last met Ernest Warther, he was in black and white (Dull Tool Dim Bulb February 15, 2009) Well, he's back and the hinted at eccentricities may now be confirmed and then some. Here is his carving of, I kid you not, 511 pairs of miniature pliers turned into a shrub...and stuck in a handmade vitrine with a picture of the artist from 1913. It required 31,000 cuts, (so he counted each stroke) no mathematics, rulers or lines were drawn...and it was all carved from one piece of wood. The other card shows his remarkable Wall of Trains and the Steel Mill he worked in for 21 years.

Pair of postcards published by E. Warther & Son, Dover, Ohio. No Date. Collection Jim Linderman

Take Me To The Water (First Review)

Various Artists - Take Me To The Water: Immersion Baptism In Vintage Music and Photography 1890-1950

The latest release from Grammy Award-winning reissue label Dust-to-Digital gives music fans another reason to rejoice. A stunning 96-page hardcover book of historic baptism photographs, taken between 1890 and 1950 and compiled from the collection of noted folk art collector Jim Linderman, is accompanied by a CD of rare gospel and folk recordings from original 78 RPM records (1924-1940), featuring artists Washington Phillips, Carter Family, Tennessee Mountaineers, and more. Produced by the 2009 Grammy winner for "Best Historical Album," Steven Lance Ledbetter. The CD could easily be seen as the seventh disc of Goodbye, Babylon (DTD 001CD), Dust-to-Digital's critically-acclaimed and Grammy-nominated box set from 2003. Original 78 RPM records came from the collections of Joe Bussard, Steven Lance Ledbetter, Frank Mare and Roger Misiewicz. "Whether you have ever actually experienced a baptism or not, whether you are a believer or not, these pictures and the music that accompanies them transmit all the emotional information: the excitement and the serenity, the fellowship and the warmth, the wind and the water ... You would have to have a heart of tin not to recognize this as one of the happiest collections of archival photographs ever assembled." --From the introduction by Luc Sante. 96-page hardcover book (8.75 x 6 inches) with 75 sepia photograph reproductions from 1890-1950; CD includes 25 songs and sermons from 1924-1940.
EAR/Rational April 2009

Folk Art Sailor Whirligig Carving Mystery and the Wonder of Photograph Enlarging

Enlarging an image can have dramatic results. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) What seemed to me to be a fairly routine real photo post card of a country shop provides seldom seen documentation for an American folk art form and regional craft, while at the same time reminding that a picture does indeed tell many tales.

"Nantucket' or "Sailor" whirligigs abound to this day, but the early ones for the most part have always been anonymous. The form is common (a bowlegged, bell-bottom wearing sailor twirling his paddle arms in the wind and looking ridiculous) The whirligig supposedly has origins in strict early day religious practices which forbid play on Sunday. A Sympathetic father would whittle a toy to entertain his bored children without tainting their hands with the devil's stain...hence, a twirling motion toy which moved by wind alone! That I have never believed this tale doesn't mean anything much, but it is an interesting tidbit. Anyway, the Massachusetts or Cape Cod whirligigs are popular as craft today, and the 19th century versions, with their weathered surfaces and original paint are among the most valued folk art objects and prized by collectors.
It appears to me this gentleman in his tiny Chatham "Shavings Shop" may be the source of dozens, if not HUNDREDS of original late 19th and early 20th century whirligigs. Chatham is part of Cape Cod, and he obviously had a rousing business in the objects...at least enough to have paid to produce a real-photo post card documenting his work. Close examination reveals many folk art prizes (on the roof, several "full-bodied" whirligigs of considerable size, a fish weathervane, a large airplane whirligig and several silhouetted carvings of sailors) The porch exhibits many additional, if more standard sailor whirligigs, numerous windmill toys and a violin...perhaps our carver made fiddles as well, but at the least I am certain a visit to his shop would have been a rousing time if he felt like entertaining. That his products were called "ball bearing mills" indicates his windmills would have been state of the art. Unfortunately, the oval window sign is indistinct, it appears to read Edwards novelties. Did Mr. Edwards invent the sailor whirligig form? The card was produced by the Charles H. Smalloff Mayflower Studio in Chatham, Mass on Artura Stock of a type used around 1910 and was mailed from Massachusetts using a 1 cent stamp issued in 1912. The postmark date is obliterated, but the stamp design was superseded in 1923.
I hope this photograph reaches someone who can provide additional information on this remarkable, pipe-smoking artisan, and until I hear more I'll simply treasure the find and be happy my scanner revealed some fascinating information which contributes a bit to the history of an art form I've loved for years. I suspect Mr. Edwards was more in the habit of pushing his crafts rather than his postcards. If any others survive I would be surprised, but would love to know.

Real Photo Postcard "Shavings Shop Chatham Mass" Charles H. Smallhoff Mayflower Studio c. 1910 Collection Jim Linderman

Forty Years of the Basement Tapes and "the force of reality"

Okay folks, 2009 is the 40th anniversary of the mysterious appearance of the Great White Wonder. In 1969, I found it in a record shop in Grand Rapids, Michigan and haven't stopped listening to the material since. The heart of the 2-LP bootleg was the first release of what has been since known as "The Basement Tapes" and if you haven't heard (or LIVED) with those songs, I feel sorry for you.

As much a product of the collaboration of Dylan with the Band than a "Dylan" album, nothing in my lifetime approaches the camaraderie, the spontaneity or the soul of the 128 tracks they recorded with a borrowed microphone over the summer of 1967. Garth Hudson ran the mike and played organ. Danko, Robertson, and Manuel did what they could, and they liked it enough to bring back Helm from the oil rig he was working on. For decades bits and pieces of the informal sessions leaked out and I listened the whole time.

This blog is about authenticity. There is an authenticity in these tracks we have not been privilege to since, and that's all I can say without seeming inflated, maudlin or even at this stage of my life, tearing up. Manuel is gone. Danko is gone too, that hit me the hardest. (In my life of listening, I have never heard anyone give all they had the moment the recording light was on more than Danko except maybe Elmore James, and he only knew one song)

Dylan, of course, has a new disc coming out this month. Levon, a gentleman I have had the honor to meet, survived cancer with memorable courage and hosts the now legendary "Midnight Rambles" a stone throw from where the basement tapes were recorded. Sometimes Garth shows up, he still lives nearby as well. Since the complete tapes have never been legally released, I might as well crib a bit of Dylan's latest interview as well. I'm sure there are enough copies floating around that no one is going to sue me, and since I have no money I'm not too worried. If you dig around, you will probably find all the tracks. It's a lot easier now than it was 40 years ago, and when the complete set is finally released, probably after all of us are gone... they'll take their place along the Hank Williams radio shows, Willie Nelson's solo work before he hit it big and Bob Wills Radio Transcriptions as some of the most authentic, joyous and honest recordings made in the 20th Century.

Let Mr. Dylan explain it for you:

Do you think of yourself as a cult figure?

A cult figure, that's got religious connotations. It sounds cliquish and clannish. People have different emotional levels. Especially when you're young. Back then I guess most of my influences could be thought of as eccentric. Mass media had no overwhelming reach so I was drawn to the traveling performers passing through. The side show performers - bluegrass singers, the black cowboy with chaps and a lariat doing rope tricks. Miss Europe, Quasimodo, the Bearded Lady, the half-man half-woman, the deformed and the bent, Atlas the Dwarf, the fire-eaters, the teachers and preachers, the blues singers. I remember it like it was yesterday. I got close to some of these people. I learned about dignity from them. Freedom too. Civil rights, human rights. How to stay within yourself. Most others were into the rides like the tilt-a-whirl and the rollercoaster. To me that was the nightmare. All the giddiness. The artificiality of it. The sledge hammer of life. It didn't make sense or seem real. The stuff off the main road was where force of reality was. At least it struck me that way. When I left home those feelings didn't change.

But you've sold over a hundred million records.

Yeah I know. It's a mystery to me too.

Wax Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (Horrors in Wax #8)

Diminutive Parisian Wax Toulouse-Lautrec appraises his next wax studio sitter through a presumably real monocle. The only person shorter in this vignette is the woman to his left seemingly with no legs. Certainly a remarkable painter AND person, his tiny size was due to inbreeding...and although he had an adult sized torso, his legs were child sized. He passed away at only age 36 of alcoholism and surprisingly, given his hypertrophied genitals, syphilis (like an earlier figure in my Horrors in Wax series).

Bill Ward Artist of Vintage Sleaze (part five)

Finally the last of the "fun fetish four" who drew covers for Eddie Miskin's mob-run paperback house in the 1960's.

Bill Ward is probably the most recognizable of the group, and I doubt there is a man over 40 in the United States who hasn't seen his work dozens of times. Ward ruled the girlie magazines of the 1950's and 1960's, producing literally thousands of drawings, one estimate places the number at TEN thousand. Double that figure for the number of breasts he drew. As boy, Ward enrolled in the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, I am sure they are quite proud of that today. What set him apart from the other sleazy artists titillating returning WW2 vets as they relaxed in their suburban dens was his use of the conte crayon. It highlighted his black and white illustrations with great effect. He was paid less than ten dollars each for the most part, and because he was prolific, his original drawings are easily found today. A 350 page compilation with over 600 examples of his work was published by redoubtable Taschen. Like all the Satellite artists, he worked for many publishers and freelanced, but the covers he did for these paperbacks are not only among his best work, they have vivid color which brings them to life. If you study early American folk art, both paintings and carvings, you'll see that the feet are often too small...it lends a charming, naive quality. In Ward's case, all it does is produce a tottering, somewhat gargantuan icon which lives in the minds of every randy man. They might LOOK sexist, absurd and grotesque to you females out there, but if you enlarge an image and place that Barbie doll you grew up with over it, the silhouettes are remarkably similar. I guess you could say Ward did for the top what R. Crumb did for the bottom.
This concludes my minor contribution to vintage sleaze paperback culture. For those of you who would like to obtain your own examples, the Satellite house had five imprints under their sleaze umbrella. From 1963 to 1969 they published several hundred titles with the following imprints: After Hours, First Niter, Nitey Nite, Unique Books and Wee Hours. For the most part, there is little reason to READ them, although numerous well-known struggling authors paid their NYC rent churning them out with fake names. Bilbrew also drew a dozen or more covers for the imprint Satan.

PREVIEW the book TIMES SQUARE SMUT  AND PURCHASE(and instant affordable download as well) HERE

Dull Tool Dim Bulb Books HERE

Amateur Diane Arbus, the Photographic OBJECT vs the Photographic IMAGE At the circus in Black and White

As I pondered posting these vernacular photographs of a 1958 circus sideshow I found last week, I was struck by their being physical objects first, images second. I am sure the entire world has gotten over this matter long ago and my even admitting to bring it up is anachronistic. However, I own these, they occupy space in my files and as they are exposed to light and dust, fingers and moisture they will age, curl and change in aesthetic and physical ways. I am interested in the physical properties of photos, the wrinkles, the spots, the foxing, the tear. Surface is just as important to a photographic object as is the image. It might be my folk art background, where authentic age, signs of use and patina is a serious precursor to value and an indicator of authenticity...why shouldn't the camera arts be the same? Invited comments. In my world, "pristine" should apply only to the magic bullet commission exhibit 399.

4 original sideshow images, circa 1958 (cropped) Collection Jim Linderman

Harmonia Baptist Church (Mechanic on Duty)

Harmonia Baptist Church (recycled garage sign)

Unknown Location, American South, c. 1994 Original 35mm photography colllection Jim Linderman

Tough Girls in Tights ON WHEELS! Roller Derby

Midge "Toughy" Brasuhn was under 5 feet tall and a firm 135 pounds. Her full name was Margorie Clair Louise Theresa Brasuhn. A member of the Roller Derby Hall of Fame. The first televised Roller Derby was broadcast from the 69th Armory building in NYC in 1946, and Tough Midge captivated them at the bars...few home televisions were in use at the time. Pretty much invented by Leo A. "Bromo" Seltzer, the sport grew out of dance marathons which were popular during the Great Depression. Is it any coincidence the oval track is back? Norma Rossner is less well documented, but I am sure, no less tough. There is a nice 4 minute clip of "Toughy" in glorious black and white YOUTUBE here. I don't know about you, but tough dames in tights fighting on wheels is pretty hard to resist. The announcer agrees... "She is BOILING" and "ROCKING AND SOCKING AT THE ROLLER DERBY" indeed.

Two original Roller Derby Real Photo Post Cards Kodak c. 1950 Collection Jim Linderman

Alexander Girard of Herman Miller and Folk Art

Alexander Girard was of course a genius of modern design, and nothing I write could come close to anything already said...but I can point out that he left his FOLK ART collection of more than 100,000 objects (!) to the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, NM, and it is an extravaganza! Bring your kids. I happened to go by myself, and wished I had someone to nudge and say "look at THAT" many, many times.

Three original Alexander Girard designed invitation cards, Herman Miller Co.
c. 1965-1970. Collection Jim Linderman

Man is Known by his Work - Mr. Ray's tribute to Ruth

Mr. Ray built this glass and cement memorial to his dead wife Ruth in Stephenville, Texas. He began in the 1920's. The large building behind is the American Legion, it remains... but today the only thing left of Mr. Ray's work is the goldfish pond.

Original 8" x 10" photo c. 1940 (detail shown) Collection Jim Linderman

Tintype of a Tintype Studio (with empty chair) The Painted Backdrop

A photographic posing chair in 1870 was an investment of $50, so this enterprising photographer took a picture of his. Practicing? Maybe. The relative purity of this image can be attributed to his frugality...the extra long Victorian chair fringe seen so often in tintype studio photographs cost an extra $15. My book The Painted Backdrop will be published in 2010.

Original Tintype Photograph, circa 1870 Collection Jim Linderman

Paul Bunyan Fakelore Urban Legend and Professor Dorson

Giant Paul Bunyan and his friend Babe the Blue Ox tower over parents and kids who have been in the car too long. Professor Richard Mercer Dorson invented the term "Fakelore" and used the big lumberman as a prime example. Somehow Paul was transformed from bawdy 19th century lumberjack tales involving seedy events, (such as peeing from a tree to make a giant urine icicle) to the lovable hard-working big guy we know today. The modern day Paul was created from authentic lumberjack tales collected by itinerant newspaper reporter James MacGillivary in 1906. Professor Dorson complained that the "real" Paul Bunyan tales were full of technical logging terms and were meaningless and obscene, whereas the popularized, kid friendly Paul became a "pseudo folk hero of mass culture" who in effect had smaller balls than a neutered Babe. (well, I said that, but he implied it.) Amazingly, the little known and under appreciated Richard Dorson also invented the term "urban legend".

Seven original postcards circa 1950-1960 Collection Jim Linderman

N.T. Brown Rucker Holy Chapel

Location unknown, American South original 35mm photograph c. 1993 Collection Jim Linderman

Measuring Steve Allen for Jack Kerouac (Horrors in Wax #7)

Wax Windbag Steve Allen waves goodbye to Wax Johnny Carson after having his head measured for waxing. I've always hated Allen for wasting the rare opportunity of having Jack Kerouac on his gabfest, but blowing it by patronizing the writer with facile "beatnik" questions and persisting to punctuate the incredible opportunity by tinkling his piano keys in pseudo jazz riffs for the whole interview. Watch, judge for yourself.

Going To Mars 350,000,000 Miles in 5 Minutes by Professor Hunt

Professor Everett Hunt's homemade and handmade book, at least a few pages from it. The text consists of a newspaper article with Indiana byline. Several illustrations. Headlines inserted into slots. A bit of indecipherable text. That the article has an April 1 date is, I believe, a coincidence. Date Unknown.

"Going To Mars 350,000,000 Miles in 5 Minutes" by Professor Everett Hunt. Handmade book. Circa 1930? Collection Jim Linderman

Conrad Schuck and his Wonder House

Conrad Schuck had more than a great name, he had a vision. The Wonder House was 15 years into construction when this postcard was published. Schuck started construction in 1925 after being told by his doctor he had only a short time to live. Rather than worrying or checking off his bucket-list...he built this eccentric marvel. It had natural air conditioning using rainwater, outdoor bathtubs and numerous innovative and downright strange enhancements. By the way, you all know by now I love postcards. So did Walker Evans. His postcard collection is on display now through the end of May 2009 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. Evans built his collection for 60 years. The Met acquired the lot in 1994.
Conrad Schuck's Wonder House Curteich Linen Postcard, c. 1940. Collection Jim Linderman

Eric Stanton Artist of Vintage Sleaze (part four)

ALL MY ESSAYS ON vintage sleaze illustrators are now collected on VINTAGE SLEAZE
The third illustrator who worked for Stanley Malkin and Eddie Miskin's line of sleaze paperbacks in the early 1960's was Ernest Stanten, the son of Russian immigrants. Under his adopted name, he is today highly regarded as the king of the fetish illustrators, and as such I won't spend as much time profiling him...numerous books have been published on the illustrious illustrator. Stanton's first girlie drawings were done on sailor's handkerchiefs while he was in the navy (at age 17). Like Gene Bilbrew (see my previous entries) Eric Stanton also studied at the School of Visual Arts in NYC and again, like Bilbrew, worked for Irving Klaw, the photographer who became infamous with his photos of Bettie Page. Stanton also worked closely with his friend and studio mate Steve Ditko (no less than the creator of Spiderman) "Hey Spidey...get a load of THESE drawings" He also learned from Batman inker Jerry Robinson. Like the other artists I am adding to my blog, he drew for many publications other than the imprints of satellite distributors and until he passed away in 1999 he continued selling his work by mail order. Published collections of his work abound, but for my money, his best work was the more than 100 covers he did for After Hours, First Niter, Nitey Nite, Unique Books and Wee Hours. Examples above. Stanton's work is marked by slender, stiff, upright figures with implied seething undercurrents of passion. As Brittany Daley writes in Sin-A-Rama, they had "... tall frames and mile long legs". The women are strong and confident, if somewhat curiously adjusted, and the men are weak. There is an elegance and style seldom seen in paperback covers, and in every one there are folks with secrets.