Archive for the ‘Blind Box’ category

[Blind Box] #8 Tempting Banana Recipes

October 12, 2007

Could this innocent recipe pamphlet actually be a piece of anti-Communist propaganda?…

…well, not entirely, but it was created within an American culture rife with anti-Communist sentiments. And bananas–those tasty Central American delights–were not without political import. Let’s peel back the layers…

According to the United Fruit Company Historical Society (that this exists hints the scope this company once had),

Between 1955 and 1962 United Fruit published around 15 million pieces of literature for [American] students in elementary grades through high school to promote the learning of bananas and the health benefits of their consumption…

While it is difficult to be certain that the pamphlet in question was created for schools, we will assume this to be so for the sake of the argument. Even if it wasn’t, the overarching principles still apply.

So what happens when a major corporation is allowed to “promote the learning” of their keystone product in schools? Naturally, their primary objective, however veiled, will be to condition young consumers. We need to go no further than the first two words of the “About Bananas” section to appreciate this point: Buy bananas. The shrewd minds behind this flyer also offer additional free banana recipes by post to any interested parties, knowing full well that implicit in the offer is the guarantee that its recipient will be buying more [Chiquita] bananas. Of course, there are some informative bits interspersed between these bookends.

So where, then, does Communism enter? We travel now to the Guatemala, arguably United Fruit’s most important banana republic, where just three years prior, then President Jacobo Arbenz instituted the Agrarian Reform Act (1953) that redistributed vast quantities of fruit plots to landless peasants. Back in the US, this came to be understood as Guatemala spreading its “Marxist tentacles” throughout Central America.

A year later, Guatemalan dissidents staged a coup, backed by the United State, overthrowing Arbenz. The story grows more complex from here, but in essence, United Fruit–ruthless Captialists at home, with alleged Communist bedfellows abroad–lost the favor of the American government, and shortly after began their decline. All this, over a piece of fruit.

One question remains: are these recipes really tempting? Banana scallops, banana and shrimp curry, banana flank steak?!

Stay tuned to find out.


[Blind Box] #7 Washington D.C. Stereo Card

October 4, 2007

Please excuse the brief hiccup…the bubble hasn’t burst.

  • Creator: Keystone View Company, Colorado
  • Object Type: stereo card
  • Creation Date: 1909
  • Origin: Washington, DC
  • Dimensions: 4 x 8 inches
  • Note: Series no. error; “#234” appears on front, “#224” on back

Stereoscopy is positively miraculous, if only for its singular ability to make people and places from the 19th Century feel actual. There are several easy DIY stereo viewer plans online (link). Sadly, an apparatus for effective computer viewing is harder to come by without un-stowing some folding money.

One alternative is the alleged “cross viewing method“, which, in at least one opinion, is both futile and painful. To simply get the gist however, the “wiggle method” suffices, produced here in an animated .gif (the boughs of the leftmost tree work seem to work the best…won’t work in all browsers):


Either Teddy Roosevelt or William Howard Taft held the Presidency when this image was captured. Finding out who filled the Senate proved difficult, while stats abound for the impressively atrocious 1909 Washington Senators baseball team. (Sidenote: the next year, Taft was the first President ever to throw out a first pitch.)

The back (click to enlarge):

“We have no need for apologies for our national capitol”…which is more than can be said for North Dakota (image).

[Blind Box] #6: Pikes Peak Oversize Postcard Ad

September 7, 2007

Sigh…not another postcard.

Wait! That’s not a postcard! That’s an oversize advertisement made to resemble a postcard to heighten its recipient’s association between gas heating and the American ideals of the adventure and abundance. Well, why didn’t you say so?

  • Creator: Curteichcolor, published for the Conlon-Moore Corp.
  • Object Type: Oversize Postcard Advertisement
  • Creation Date: 1956 (series no. D-11410)
  • Origin: Joliet, Illinois
  • Dimensions: 6 1/2 x 9 inches
  • Function: Advertisement for Missouri Hydro Gas Co. Inc.

Pikes Peak Front

The frontal view of Pikes Peak is deliberately unexciting, intimating the sublime without actually delivering (though, the pinholes at the top would suggest that someone was moved enough to post it for display). The electric lines that punctuate the foreground betray a hurried photographer or, perhaps more likely, suggest the impossibility already by the 1950s of effectively photographing the peak without a visible human footprint.

Pikes Peak Back

The text on the back, simulating a conventional postcard’s didactic caption and handwritten inscription, serves as an advertisement for gas heaters from the Joliet-based Conlon-Moore Corporation. Deceptively, the caption begins with background on Pikes Peak, and Zebulon Montgomery Pike Jr. for whom it is named, but quickly shifts focus to the Radiant Hearth Gas Heaters that grace the Summit House atop the mountain. The cold, rugged conditions at 14,000 ft. are too much for likes of the average heater, or at least that is the suggestion.

Upon encountering the towering mountain, Lt. Peak pronounced it unscaleable. Now, thousands of visitors, mostly in automobiles, prove him wrong each year, celebrating their accomplishment within the balmy Summit House. As a final reward for the contemporary frontiersman, weary from his journey, the Summit House now offers Free Donuts to accompany the view. Eat that, Zebulon.

[Blind Box] #5: Photograph with Dachshund

August 21, 2007

Item #05. Photograph of Man and Dachshund

  • Creator: Unknown
  • Object Type: Black and White Photograph
  • Creation Date: Unknown
  • Origin: Unknown
  • Dimensions: 2 1/2 x 3 3/4 inches (120 full-frame film format)

Ah, the black and white snapshot…the copper penny of paper ephemera. Of course, as any avid penny collector will tell you, a coin’s true worth–like an old photo–lies in the story it has to tell. In this case, the story takes place near the margins.

The first striking detail about this gem is an indented border that resembles a printmaker’s plate mark. Here is the first tip-off that it is likely a contact print. A measurement confirms this hunch, as the image dimensions match that of standard 120 full-frame film (roughly 6 x 9 cm). Unfortunately, knowing this does little to help date the print, since 120 roll film is one of the few formats actually still in production.

Even more interesting perhaps is the photo’s ragged, faux deckled border. It calls to mind the fancy scissors of youth, brought out once a year to cut lacy red and pink hearts for homemade Valentines. Sure enough! deckled edging scissors do exist, along with an extensive list of more predictable undulations. Scrapbookers rejoice.

Finally, please visit the Dachshund Club of America’s mesmerizing, slightly unsettling animated tutorial of proper Dachshund walking motions.

[Blind Box] #4: “Fish Ladder” Postcard

August 19, 2007

Item #04. “Fish Ladder” Postcard (Unused)

  • Creator: Mike Roberts Color Productions, Inc.
  • Object Type: Postcard
  • Creation Date: ca. 1950s
  • Origin: Bradford Island, OR (published in Berkeley, CA)
  • Dimensions: 3.5 x 5.5 inches (“standard” postcard size)

Let us return to the topic of postcards, delving deeper into the vast stream that is Deltiology. Fish provide a thematic link between the first postcard and this one, here in the form of a “fish ladder” in on a section of Oregon’s Bonneville Dam.

Fish Ladder FrontFish Ladder Back

As the postcard’s caption tells us, “Fish ‘climb’ this ladder to reach their spawning grounds upstream.” This specific ladder helps (though, they probably needed little before) tens of thousands salmon and steelhead (also called rainbow trout) ascend the dam, but sequesters the less agile white sturgeon below. While this may seem mundane even for a postcard, apparently this annual event draws crowds still today, of humans and–that’s right–sea lions.

The ladder depicted here, a “pool and weir” variety, is one of the oldest styles, consisting of a series of stepped locks that the fish must leap over.

As opposed the generic fly fishing theme, this card depicts a specific scene, and yet, its publisher’s home still lay over 600 miles South. This business model appealed more directly to the tourist-consumer, who would have enjoyed marking time with a specific experience rather than, say, fly fishing in general. It seems to have been successful. Mike Roberts Color Products, Inc., founded in 1939 as “Wesco,” produced more postcards than any company in the world during this period.