Poster Children

 

Image result for world war 1 posterswww.library.louisville.edu

President Wilson’s Committee on Public Information for promoting America’s role in World War 1 was headed by George Kreel, a Missouri newspaperman, who directed its 37 different divisions.  One of these, “Pictoral Publicity,” produced more than 1,000 designs for posters, cartoons and sculptures that are left for us to ponder a century later.

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www.ethanlewis.org

A wide variety of artists worked on the posters, many of which are stunning examples of Art Nouveau.  Hues of varying shade and intensity jump from the paper, advertising the draft, bond drives, rationing and victory gardens.

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http://www.ww1propaganda.com

There are so many, I chose to look at some with children as their subjects.  The colors used here are soft and happy.  Messages are lighter than the rest: help Uncle Sam (whose image was just making its debut) win, ask your daddy to buy war bonds, or help our daddy “over there” by doing the same.

Image result for world war 1 posters with children

http://www.learnnc.org

What can we learn from this artwork, emphemera of history?  Certainly the design of these and more stark examples can be studied and even admired.  But the real lesson is in their intent.  Americans must do their duty.  Americans must help.  War is necessary for the good of all.

http://www.rareposter.com

By using childish images to persuade adults, and making appeals to the youngest of audiences, did Creel cross the line?

The children of 1917 are gone.  Their children are almost gone.  The number and kinds of media which target today’s kids have exploded.  It takes even more care now to protect young minds from things on which adults have trouble making up their own.

A grave task it is, educating others about the ploys of mass media.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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John Hay

“. . . A little after midnight as I was writing . . . , the President came into the office laughing, with a volume of Hood’s works in his hand to show Nico[lay] & me the little Caricature ‘An unfortunate Bee-ing,’ seemingly utterly unconscious that he with his short shirt hanging about his long legs & setting out behind like the tail feathers of an enormous ostrich was infinitely funnier than anything in the book he was laughing at. What a man it is. Occupied all day with matters of vast moment, deeply anxious about the fate of the greatest army of the world, with his own fame & future hanging on the events of the passing hour, he yet has such a wealth of simple bonhomie & good fellow ship that he gets out of bed & perambulates the house in his shirt to find us that we may share with him the fun. . . . ”

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http://www.library.brown.edu

The short young man whose 1862 cabinet card showed him to be even younger was foremost a writer.  His diary entries, like the one above, and poems attest to it.  A long biography of our most revered president which he co-authored quickly sold 5,000 copies.  After becoming a top government official in later life, he must have thought himself a bad luck charm, because four chief executives whom he worked for were assassinated. He was John Hay.

 nicolay-and-hay
John’s Uncle Milton worked next door to Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, and asked his nephew to work on the 1860 campaign.  Just a few years older than Lincoln’s son Robert, Hay became a favorite with the president-elect and was hired as a second secretary, in addition to John Nicolay.  Because there was only room in the budget for one position, his official paycheck came from the Agriculture Department.
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One biographer has called him the “court jester” of the administration, as he could supply a little humor to soften the hard blows of the Civil War.  “Now John, just tell that thing again,” Lincoln said once when his young friend had brought up a joke.  They would ride together in the afternoon and dine at the Soldiers’ Home in the evening.
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After Lincoln’s death Hay returned to journalism and worked for newspapers.  He married a girl from a wealthy Cleveland family, Clara Stone, and so had no financial worries thereafter.  For twenty years, with their diaries and private papers loaned to them by Robert Lincoln, he and Nicolay collaborated on the biography.  When it came out in 1895 it was sold door to door, a common practice then, and became an immediate classic.
 About the same time the ten-volume biography was published, John Hay built a mansion in Washington D.C.’s Lafayette Park at the corner of H and 16th Streets.  It was adjacent to his best friend’s place of equivalent architecture and cost.  He and Henry Adams hosted a salon of the most interesting people in the capital, including Theodore Roosevelt, who’d been a family friend to both before his fast-rising career in politics.
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Hay was Secretary of State under William McKinley and was asked to remain when Roosevelt inherited the top position.  He famously referred to the Spanish-American conflict as “a splendid little war,” owing to its brief length.  The achievement he is remembered for is the Open Door Policy for all nations to trade with China.

Picture of John Hay

John Hay died in 1905 at age 66.  On the occasion of Theodore Roosevelt’s inauguration earlier in the year, he’d presented the president with a gold ring containing a strand of Abraham Lincoln’s hair.  He felt a responsibility to share what he’d experienced, stating in the introduction to Abraham Lincoln: A History, “The young men who have been born since Sumter was fired on have right to all their elders know of the important events they came too late to share.”
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At dinners at the Soldiers’ Home during the Civil War, Lincoln liked to read from Shakespeare’s Richard II.  Hay remembered that the terrible outbreak of grief and despair had a particular fascination for him:
“For heaven’s sake, let us sit upon the ground, and tell sad stories of the death of kings
All murdered from within the hollow crown that rounds the mortal temples…”
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(The site of the H. H. Richardson mansions close to the White House is now occupied by the posh Hay-Adams Hotel, in which original paneling from Hay’s home may be seen in a meeting room. Theodore Roosevelt’s gold ring is on display at the Sagamore Hill Historic Site in Oyster Bay, Long Island.)

Step in Time

This ancient sandal was found in Oregon’s Great Basin.  http://www.uoregon.edu.

When other fashion choices elude us, we can usually start with our hoard of shoes to dictate the right thing to wear.  Not so in prehistoric ages.  They were doing well to just protect their feet from the cold, wet, marshy terrain.  In 1938 close to a volcano at Fort Rock, Oregon, an archaeologist named Luther Cressman uncovered utilitarian sandals made of finely-woven sagebrush bark.  They were later carbon dated to 9,000 B.C. and remain the earliest known human footwear.

Pair of overshoes, 1550-1070 BC, Egypt, reed. From Major Myers collection. V&A: 865&A-1903

Egyptian “overshoes” from 1500 B.C. could double for small rafts on the Nile. Victoria and Albert Museum.

Looking at photos of shoes of the past is like looking at different people.  And the environments in which they lived.  In Egypt, reeds were woven into shoes.  The Japanese tied wooden clogs to their feet.

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Roman gladiator shoe from the First Century.  Museum of London Archaeology.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London maintains a collection of 2,000 pairs of shoes which document their place in history.  Oxfords began to be laced up in 1650 or thereabouts, but received their name on campus in England two hundred years later.  The university probably will never stop the tradition since the conservative world has adopted them as its trademark (Remember the opening segment of “My Three Sons?).

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http://www.weebly.com

Louis XIV of France decreed that no man nor woman could wear heels higher than his own five-inch high embroidered silks.  The fancy trend stopped  during the French Revolution, but later resumed.  Left and right shoes came in about the mid 1800s.

Moccasins

Huron moccasins of deerskin, porcupine quills and metal.  Canada, ca. 1800.  http://www.nmai.si.edu.

Farmers, cowboys and soldiers on the American frontier couldn’t have gotten along without their leather boots; long or short, they’ve been popular since before the Middle Ages.

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has these late Nineteenth Century riding boots from France on display. 

In 1917 the first Converse “all star training shoe” for basketball was advertised.  Chuck Taylor used to sell them by the boxful after his sports clinics.

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http://www.weebly.com

World War I seems to be the benchmark for change in shoe styles, as it was for many other things.

1920 saddle shoes

1922 advertisement for saddle shoes.  http://www.vintagedancer.com

Around 1935 Thomas Sperry observed his dog’s stability while walking on ice, and designed a boat shoe with grooves in the soles.  More recently there’ve been updated versions or outright copies of previous styles.  Gucci produced the loafer in 1953, but it was for formal occasions.  During the same decade, stilettos, named after a Sicilian fighting knife, became all the rage for women.

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The recent comeback of the stiletto makes this one look pretty tame.  www.quora.com

Synthetic materials were made into cheap shoes after World War II, but also contributed to foot odor.  Rubber soles, glued instead of stitched to the uppers, have endured.

And in the future?  We can’t imagine giving up the comfort shoes which cater to baby boomers.  New Zealand company Allbirds currently touts an all-wool running shoe for men and women.  In these brand-name days, Nike, Birkenstock, Tom’s and Uggs do the talking.

There were several dozen sandals hidden in volcanic ash in the Fort Rock discovery of 1938.  The real question archaeologists have yet to answer, though, is: Were they from someone’s closet?  Or just on a clearance rack at the original DSW?

Old West Larnin’

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Old-fashioned swing outside a one-room schoolhouse built in 1867.

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There was a gold strike in the 1860s at Alder Gulch in central Montana.  It drew thousands of miners, who panned and dredged an estimated $30 million worth of the precious mineral.  At first, camps consisted of tents and primitive brush shelters, but soon small towns sprang up around the merchant trade.  The boom also drew Confederate sympathizers who schemed to send gold back to their people in the last days of the Civil War.

Fast forward 150 years.  The mining heyday lasted about ten years; people moved away and the towns fell into disrepair.  But history lovers have put two back together so the public could see the Old West in person.  Today one of the small downtown areas close to Alder Gulch is the popular Virginia City, where you can see Boot Hill above the main street and learn of vigilantes who went after cattle thieves (and be entertained by musicals, homemade ice cream, old time music machines and souvenier shopping).  The other is Nevada City, an outdoor living history museum of 90 restored buildings.  Here children and adults alike learn about pioneer life and the events that shaped it.

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Among the general store, livery, bootmaker and other structures stands a one-room schoolhouse which was dismantled from the town of Twin Bridges.  It is the oldest standing school in the state.  Beginning in 1867, pupils walked past the red door to read spellers, practice arithmetic on slates, and learn cursive writing. 

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In the next three months, a wooden sidewalk will lead thousands of visitors past the schoolhouse and other buildings which, combined, teach of a different time and way of life.  Thanks to the State of Montana, which owns it, and the Montana Heritage Commission, which keeps it going, the larnin’ goes on.

 

 

 

Well Worn

It has never been easier to get dressed than it is today.  After browsing online stores, we narrow our choice of an article of clothing according to design, size and color.  Click!  It’s on the front porch in a few days.  What would our ancestors think of that?  Subsisting for them meant making what they wore (as well as what they ate and a place to live) from scratch.

Eons before stretch denim jeans and synthetic Dryfit shirts, people had to first think about where the thread came from.  Then they wove it into sheets of fabric, and finally, constructed a garment, whether it be dress, trousers, shirt, or scarf.

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For his inauguration in 1789, George Washington didn’t want to wear anything made of imported fabric.  His brown suit was wool and cotton broadcloth (“homespun”) with a nap which resembled velvet, woven in Hartford, Connecticut.  http://www.mountvernon.org

Cotton

The long, warm growing season of the South in which cotton flourished was a cause with far-reaching effects.  Large plantations required many workers, and owners resorted to buying slaves to cultivate and harvest their crops.  The situation almost prevented our country’s beginning; the divisiveness of northern and southern states led to the the Civil War less than a hundred years later.  Cotton remains a staple in today’s world, but it now comes from developing countries.

cotton plant

http://www.greenlifestylemag.com

Spinning Wheel

http://www.etc.usf.edu

An encouragement to industry, this 1749 English engraving also shows something of eighteenth-century clothmaking.

Eighteenth Century engraving of industrial cotton loom.   http://www.history.org

antique homespun coverlet fabric, hand woven indigo blue cloth table runner

Indigo-dyed homespun coverlet from the 1800s.  http://www.laurlleaffarms.com

Linen

Synonymous with a bride’s dowry, linen was in the makeup of fine bedding, tablecloths, blouses and underwear (ancient Egyptians used it to wrap mummies).  The flax plants from which it comes were raised by early colonists.  In recent times, according to Purdue University, it has been commercially grown in a few north central states for oil rather than fiber.

Colonial American Linen 

Flax being harvested for linen thread.  http://www.fabric-store.com

Silk

Silk speaks an exotic language through its texture and heritage.  Ancient China produced fine silk fabric for centuries before American colonists imported silkworms and mulberry trees to try and produce their own.  The experiment didn’t have much success.

Nineteenth Century engraving of the process which produced silk cloth.  http://www.enwickipedia.org

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Silk scarf made in France in the late 1700s.  http://www.newlive-auctioneers.com

Wool

The natural coat which keeps sheep warm has transferred its insulating power to humans throughout history.  New England colonists including the John Adams family raised sheep for wool, which they sheared off, cleaned and carded, spun into yarn, dyed and wove into fabric.  Native Americans, too, were skilled in making woolen garments and blankets.

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First Phase Navajo chief’s blanket of finely woven wool.  In 2002 it was appraised at the Antiques Road Show for over $300,000, and sold at auction for over half a million dollars.  http://www.pbs.org

Leather

Original residents of this country hunted deer, tanning and sewing with sinew their jackets and heavy leggings.  In the Revolutionary War some regiments wore buckskin uniforms.  Fringed shirts of our Indian brothers also became a symbol of mountain men, cowboys, and the West.

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Theodore Roosevelt in his custom-made buckskin shirt, 1884.  http://www.neh.gov

The subject of leather brings us into a whole ‘nother realm: shoes.  You can bet that between online window shopping sessions for my next pair of Nikes, I’ll be looking into the heritage of footwear.

 

That’s Funny?

 

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http://www.upi.com.  President Reagan liked a good joke, particularly on himself. 

 

“I love to laugh!” sang Uncle Arthur, drifting to the ceiling in Mary Poppins.  I remember laughing just because he did.

What was considered funny in the past and what we think is funny now can be two different things.

The first recorded jokes we know about are from Palamedes, a Greek who outwitted Odysseus just before the Trojan War.  While it seems there were a group of sixty who met in the Temple of Heracles to trade wisecracks, there probably weren’t any women present, due to the subject matter.  Or maybe they just didn’t care.

“Jestbooks,” such as one produced by a man named Philogelos, contained this conversation.

Talkative barber: How shall I cut your hair?

Customer: In silence.

 

A lady asked how she liked a gentleman’s singing (who had bad breath).

“The words are good, but the air is intolerable,” said she.

 

In Victorian times, jokes were known as facetiae.

“Waiter, I’ve found a button in my salad.”

“That’s all right, Madam.  It’s part of the dressing.”

 

Why should the number 288 never be mentioned in good company?

It is two gross.

 

In 1896, a Chicago publisher included this one:

Enfant: (patting his uncle’s bald head) “Say Uncle Jack, is that where you get spanked when you’re naughty?”

 

And a mother, trying to instill a virtue in her child: “There is more pleasure in giving than receiving.”

“That’s also true about castor oil,” the child said.

 

I’ve found more than a few jokes I hadn’t heard, so I’ll share these.

 

A man walks into the doctor’s office with two red ears.  “What happened?” asks the nurse.  “I was ironing a shirt when the phone rang,” he answers.  “Oh dear!  But what happened to your other ear?” she exclaimed.  “He called back!” moaned the patient.

How was the Roman Empire cut in half?  With a pair of Caesers.

That person is so classless he could be a Marxist Utopia.

A Roman walks into a bar, puts up two fingers and says, “I’ll have five beers, please!”

He was so dumb when he drove to Disneyland he saw a sign “Disney Left,” and went home.

 

Of course, hearing a joke is often half the humor.  I leave with this gem, from Rodney Dangerfield to Johnny Carson:

“When I was born I was so ugly, the doctor slapped my mother!”

 

Adam was the only one who could not say, “I’ve heard that one before.”

 

Material from http://www.npr.org, http://www.buzzfeed.com, http://www.historytoday.com, http://www.elfinspill.com, and http://www.quora.com.

 

Prezzercize

As I sat back in the recliner thinking once more about how to maintain an exercise regimen in the year to come, I was interested in how presidents have kept fit throughout history.  Most of them did nicely, which is not surprising considering they had to stay active to deal with demands of the office.

Early leaders George Washington and Thomas Jefferson developed the skill and coordination of excellent horsemen.   A few years later, John Quincy Adams swam (naked) in the Potomac River every morning, long before it was known that this was the ultimate cardiovascular exercise.

Abraham Lincoln, who grew up guiding a horse plow and splitting wood rails for fences, once used his strong arms to throw a heckler out of a political rally.

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http://www.mentalfloss.com

Theodore Roosevelt overcame his childhood frailty in the arid west as a hand on his own ranch.  He was always active in boxing, and led other dignitaries on point-to-point walks in Rock Creek Park.  One time he asked a French ambassador, when they took off their clothes to cross the river, why he did not remove his gloves.  “Why Mr. President,” he exclaimed, “We might meet ladies!”

William Howard Taft may not be remembered as athletic because of his weight and the famous custom bathtub installed in the White House, but he later trimmed 100 pounds off his frame and lived a long life as a Chief Justice.  He liked golf and tennis.  TR had cautioned him not to be photographed playing, however, because it might make him look too upper-class.

Herbert Hoover playing Hoover-ball on the White House lawn, February, 1933. Photo 1033-16A

http://www.hoover.archives.gov

Probably the most interesting game played by a president was named after him.  Hooverball, invented by doctor, involved two teams tossing an eight-pound medicine ball over a net every morning during the Depression.  It would have much easier for Herbert Hoover than tackling the plight of Americans at the time.

Franklin Roosevelt developed his upper body strength by pulling ropes to hoist the elevator up and down, sitting in a wheelchair, at his home.  He was also a swimmer.  Harry Truman took 120 steps per minute during his mile and a half daily walks.  This was the World War I marching pace, which would make any Fitbit happy.

Dwight Eisenhower played football for the United States Military Academy, once tackling legendary Native American star Jim Thorpe.  John Kennedy played football with his family members until his weak back prevented it.  Concerned about flabby citizens of the 1960s, he initiated a nationwide fitness program and commissioned the recording of “Chicken Fat” still used in schools today.

Image result for gerald ford football at u of m

http://www.geraldfordfoundation.org

At the top of the list of fit presidents is Gerald Ford, despite his reputation for being clumsy.  That was because his knees had been used up as a football player for the champion University of Michigan Wolverines.  He turned down offers from the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, and later settled for playing golf.

Ronald Reagan was a high school lifeguard who saved over 70 people from drowning.  When president he stepped up body building with specially-designed workouts after he was shot, and even wrote a fitness article for Parade Magazine.  “In my view, every exercise program should have an outdoor element to it – whether jogging, bicycling, skiing, hiking, or walking.  I prefer horseback riding and, whenever possible, hard manual labor at the ranch,” he said.

A portrait of an adolescent George H.W. Bush and a teammate in their baseball uniforms. Bush was the captain of the baseball team at Phillips Academy, where he attended from 1937 to 1942.

http://www.time.com

The George Bushes also head the fit list, with the father a high school baseball captain and a serious runner.  Dubya runs and cycles yet today.  Bill Clinton famously jogged, as Barack Obama loves to play pickup basketball games off backboards on the old Taft tennis court.

Warren G. Harding was probably in the worst shape of all of our presidents: boozing, smoking and sitting still.

Donald Trump?  His idea of burning calories is sweating in a crowded room.  He sleeps four hours a night and skips breakfast.  What will the President’s Council on Physical Fitness do about that?  It may just have to be the Council on Physical Fitness for the next four years.

I will have to slim down to give him an example.