From Shorpy


When I got to the office today there were some file cabinets missing in the library.



I noticed this right away because my desk is in the library. Newsroom space is best used for newspeople; no sense in having me take up space that could be used for people in an ongoing collaborative effort.

It’s my best desk ever, I think. One of the reasons I like it - besides the window - is the sight of all those filing cabinets, each stuffed with old news photos. The history, the physical history. Many hours spent paging through the pictures, picking out a battered old folder at random, seeing what moment in history was captured by accident or intention. For at least half of the pictures, every subject is long in the ground, and half the buildings are gone as well.

A little later:



One after the other, they went. The workman came in with dollies and carted them out. Eventually, all of them.

To be digitized.

There’s a grand project, eh? First thought: I gave the workmen a sideways glance, looking for signs that they they knew what they were dealing with. These weren’t just file cabinets full of stuff. This was an irreplaceable, utterly unique library. It would be very important for them to bring them to the scanning place and not confuse this batch with a shipment bound for the shredder.

Shredded, scanner, you can see how a guy could mix ‘em up.

Second thought: I don’t what will become of the originals. Surely they have to be saved, just in case.

Third: the end of the folders and the alphabetical arrangement is the end of serendipitous browsing. At least in the same sense. Hitting NEXT to get the next picture from your keyword search is completely different than looking at folders whose subjects are unrelated. And it's certainly nothing like holding the original item, seeing the handwriting on the back, the old wirecopy notes (MUST CREDIT ACME!) or the grease pencil marks made a half a century ago, the wite-out crops from 1949 whose texture you can feel with your fingertips.

Four: it’s one of those things that makes me wonder - just a bit - whether this picture means anything.



The "Linear Urban Park" goes past a wooded lot that current holds our office. Of course, it's just a proposal. Like this:



The "Stadium Plaza Hotel" is on the site of our building.

There are no proposed renderings of the new stadium that include my office. If you were working some place, and they were breaking ground on a new football arena a block away in six months, wouldn’t you be a tad curious? Wouldn’t you change your name temporarily to Tad Curious, just so someone could call you to get your attention and you could say “why yes, I am; what will happen to us? Wherever shall we go?”

I was thinking about that this morning when reading stories about the end of the Miami Herald building. It was sold, because it’s on prime waterfront terrain, and is ugly, and the paper no doubt could use the scratch. Safe to say that the day of the dedicated newspaper building is over. Pity: many good buildings came from that genre, infused with all sorts of Noble Intentions and broad-shouldered civic spirit.

The articles by former and current Herald journalists were soaked with rue and nostalgia. The days when papers were big important things with bright futures, vital civic institutions, and so on. They all seemed like middle-aged laments for a time of one’s own importance, and I understand that. It’s like watching your childhood home and your old school and college dorm get bulldozed at the same time on the same day. Get the message pal? You do?

All right then.

In the future it won't be buildings, but the names of websites. People will have nostalgia for names of places that did not exist, really, except as a particular graphic style that served up information they found amusing or useful. Instead of lasting a hundred years, linking the readers of today to whiskered men in gaslit parlors, they will have ephemeral flavors of information written by silly men and silly women, as with most of Buzzfeed, and these brands will establish a particular "era" in the internet that will seem old in four years. After ten it will be Retro.

It's good and it's bad. That's all. I still start the day with the newspaper, and I always will, as long as they make them. I like them. I like the buildings in which they are made, institutional HQs as much as the City Hall or the Courts building. I wish I'd seen the neon sign on the roof in the paper's glory days.


That's a postcard. People sent a picture of a newspaper building through the mail. Says it all, doesn't it?

If they never bring the file drawers back, not too many people will complain. It will be easier to call up the pictures on the computer. But there was a familar sound of finality when you shoved the heavy file drawer shut - it ran along the oiled rails and the handle-lock clicked as it CLANGed close.

Clicking the X on browser window just isn't the same.

But thank God for the Internet, which allows me to reach more people than I could ever before, if only to lament the things the internet killed. And, in doing so, celebrate the medium of the Internet. I'm not conflicted about this at all. It's good and it's bad. As long as I look in the mirror and remind myself that if I was a young man, I would be competing with Buzzfeed guys who actually write things like "This Sloth Will Rule the Internet" with the subhead "Seriously" and also use the word "squee," but, y'know, ironically sort of, the way Seth does it when he makes fun of Jennifer but he's also sort of not making fun of her because he's like that too and SERIOUSLY LOOK AT THIS SLOTH.








There’s a philosophical meaning to this:



Chex was a product of Ralston-Purina, brought out in 1937. Ralston made dog food and horse food and cow food and so on, but decided to branch into human kibble in 1902 when the owner of Purina entered into business with Webster Edgerly - a one-of-a-kind American quack who proclaimed the doctrine of RALSTONISM.

I’m not making this up. I ran into this while researching some old ads. Ralstonism was named after the New Jersey town where Edgerly lived, and wrote his manifestos.

Under the pseudonym Edmund Shaftesbury, Edgerly was a prolific author of self-help and utopian religious texts, producing over 100 books, most of them "official" books to buy as a member of the Ralston Health Club; they were "chock-full of racist rants, naive pseudoscience, and curmudgeonly attacks on modern society."[1] He also dabbled unsuccessfully in real-estate speculation and the theater, and invented a language called Adam-Man Tongue that was "nothing more than a bizarre-looking version of English."

He also endorsed whole-grains, so that got the attention of the Purina folk. The checkerboard was supposed to stand for Balance, or something like that. You can find Adam-Man Tongue here. It did not catch on.

The cereal was sold to General Mills, but the connotation - Checkerboard / Chex - lives on.



Before there were Eggos, there were these things:



Brought to you by the Waffle Corporation of America.

Downyflakes were sold to Pet, and then to Pillsbury here in the Twin Cities. Pillsbury went about changing the brand to Hungry Jack; first they called them “Downyflake from Hungry Jack,” which must have stung the Downyflake partisans. Hungry Jack was the newcomer. It should have been the other way around, dammit. It’s not right. Eventually Hungry Jack went out of the frozen waffles business, and that was that.

That brand is still around, of course, even though Hungry Jack looks and sounds more odd the more you say it or think about it.

The website offers you the opportunity to login, or register. I cannot imagine a situation where I would want to register at the Hungry Jack website and come up with another password.

1980, every frozen breakfast product ever:





What does it taste like?




Well, it’s savory. Ads said it had a “Tart-sweet fruity tang.” Some people miss it. The subject came up on an astronomy message board, where a question about its possible reappearance has stood alone, unanswered, since the waning days of 2011.



A triumph of KRAFT skill, hence the peculiar decision not to use the Kraft brand:



Why? Why, when you have the Kraft brand? Because of this, I suspect:



They had the brand sitting around, unused, and brought it back to keep the trademark. Back then - in the 20s - it was a cream-cheese spread with some stuff in it. The Cheddar Kay of the 50s was not the Kay of the 20s,

You’ll note that the old ad says “Kraft-Phenix.” That was the name of the company after Kraft merged with, well, Phenix; they would come to control 40% of the cheese sold in the country. Cries went up to bust the Cheese Trust! Actually, no. They continued to dominate cheese, changing hands, changing names - it became Kraftco in 1969, one of those tone-deaf brand names they came up with the conglomerate era.

Feast your eyes on the wikipedia entry, which has absolutely no company history, and spends half the page talking about trans-fat lawsuits, plant closures, an employee shooting, and so on. Someone has an axe in need of constant grinding.



One of the innumerable brands of whiskey that hit the skids:

"Keep the change" = drink it fast before it dissolves the bottle. The trademark was filed in 1935, and expired 60 years and countless hangovers later.

Speaking of which:




I can't find much about the stuff, but it has three dead trademarks, two of which are just waiting to be turned into a great font. Here's my question: what does "Kyanize" supposed to remind us of?

As it happens, J. H. Kyan. He invented a process that products wood from decay by speaking it with mercuric chloride. The term must have been widely known to men who painted their houses. Which men did. Every other year, from the sound of it.

Finally: how symphony records were sold in the vinyl age. One dollar. Ask to hear it! They'd let you take it to a booth and preview it.


Imagine standing in a glass-walled booth, other strangers in adjacent booths, ejudicating Beethoven. Or Dorsey. You could listen to the whole thing - in public, but in a small private realm.

No, I don't think I'd like it, either.


Usual things here and there today; enjoy! See you around.










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