Zephyr Used & Rare Books' latest catalogue is titled Idylls of Spring, prepared for the recent Ephemera Society Fair. Most of the material Zephyr offers is ephemeral - flyers, photographs, advertising, signs, displays, and similar items. However, they do have some books too, including several first editions from the Limited Editions Club. You may not be expecting to see things like this, but here they are, and they will stir memories of times gone by. Here are a few examples.
We begin with an amazing device, certainly amazing for its time, known as the telectrograph. The inventor was T. Thorne Baker, a man at the forefront of electronic transmission of images, but who seems to have been virtually forgotten by history. He wrote several books on the subject in the early twentieth century. This one concerns his own invention, the telectrograph. The book is The Telegraphic Transmission of Photographs, published in 1910. In 1910, electricity and telephones were still relatively new to the public. Radio broadcasting was still a decade away, the first primitive attempts at television transmission even farther. Still, Baker had devised a means of transmitting photographs, either by wire or even wireless. He had installed his device at the offices of the Daily Mirror in London, and was now sending photographs not only from Manchester but all the way from Paris. To describe primitively how it worked, there were metal plates on a roller coated with a photographic substance. A plate in Paris with the photograph was created, while a second plated roller was set up in London. The Paris machine would transmit the dots from a halftone on the rolling plate in Paris, sort of like the transmission of dots and dashes from a telegraph, to the rolling plate in London, both rotating at the same speed. This was a precursor to what happens in televised transmission, though the device itself is more reminiscent of a fax machine. Item 59891. Priced at $395.
Not all new technological ideas work out as well as the electronic transfer of images. From 1957, this is The Zeppelin in the Atomic Age: the past, present, and future of the rigid lighter-than-air aircraft, by Edwin J. Kirschner. Kirschner had a long military background, for which he thought an atomic zeppelin would be useful, but he also thought America should build a fleet of them for carrying cargo and passengers. He saw them as being faster than railroads and ships. As we now know, not too many others shared his vision. Perhaps the idea of the Hindenburg carrying an atomic bomb was not reassuring (in fairness to Kirschner, he promoted helium-filled zeppelins). Item 59926. $125.
You could quickly ruin a good pair of leather shoes if you constantly had to walk outside in winter's rain, slush and snow. The Boston Rubber Shoe Company had an answer circa 1890. It was the Boston Storm Slipper, something we now more often call “rubbers.” These are waterproof rubber pull-overs to protect your good shoes from the elements. This is a 9” x 11” color advertising poster for the storm slippers printed for the Boston Rubber Shoe Co. It announces that 6,720,296 pairs have been sold. That was a drop in the bucket considering that at one point, Boston Rubber Shoe was producing as many as 40,000 pairs of shoes a day. Their most important item was rubber shoes, a forerunner to what we now call “sneakers.” At their peak, a couple of decades later, they were the largest employer in Malden, Massachusetts, employing 3,500 workers. The company was founded in 1853 by Elisha Slade Converse, along with his brother, James. They became enormously successful with Elisha becoming one of the largest benefactors Malden has ever known. The company was later sold to U.S. Rubber, which, in 1916, combined the various brands they owned under the name “Keds.” Keds was once dominant in the sneaker market but is now a fading brand behind names like Nike. U.S. Rubber changed its name to Uniroyal, divested of its shoe business, and the Keds name was sold and resold. Up until this past February it was owned by Wolverine World Wide, which recently sold it to Designer Brands. If you were wondering about the founder's shoe-iconic name, “Converse,” that was a different Boston area shoe company, founded by Elisha's distant cousin, Marquis Mills Converse. That name still survives. Item 46709. $150.
Before there was McDonald's there was McDonnell's. McDonnell's restaurants also grew up in southern California, with over a dozen restaurants and drive-ins in Los Angeles in the 1930s and 1940s. Instead of golden arches, they had tall towers on their buildings to make them more visible, along with bright neon signs. They too sold burgers and Cokes, but lots more as well. In 1941, Rusty McDonnell published a guide to their locations. This is called McDonnell's Official Guide. It lists their locations and includes a map to make them easy to find. It also provides listings for “nite clubs,” hotels, theaters, golf courses, and personal addresses of movie starts, in case you wanted to drop by and pay them a visit. I actually used one of these guides (not McDonnell's) when I was young to drop by Boris Karloff's house. Boris wasn't home. The back cover contains an ad for Hertz Driv-ur-self rental cars. I don't know what happened to McDonnell's, but it appears they disappeared just as McDonald's was starting to stake their claim. Item 59954. $150.
Next we have Madame Sylvia's personal consultation chart, published in 1933. Madame Sylvia, Norwegian immigrant Sylvia Ullback, became a fitness guru to the stars in Hollywood during the 1920s. Perhaps slimming guru would be more appropriate than fitness guru since the aim of her regimen was keeping stars very slim. It's what Hollywood demanded of their female stars. She had lost a lot of weight herself with her harsh regimen which she now inflicted on others (though evidently it worked). It was a three-pronged approach, focusing on diet, exercise, and massage. In 1931, she made the most of her services to the stars by writing an expose about them, Hollywood Undressed. She was a keen businesswoman. This chart with her advice was published by Ralston Purina on behalf their crackers, Ry-Krisp. They were hard crackers, sort of like Melba Toast, dry and not very exciting. The crackers were undoubtedly good for dieting as they wouldn't have had too many calories, and being hard to chew and not really worth the effort, there wasn't much temptation to eat a lot of them. Nevertheless, they had a loyal following for over a century. Eventually, the brand was sold to ConAgra, which shut down the manufacturing plant in 2015, a result of declining sales. However, there is still some hope if you were one of their aficionados. The brand was bought by a new company called RyKrisp, but they have been in court for years trying to collect on a lawsuit which presumably would provide the funding to bake them again. So maybe. Item 59973. $100.
Zephyr Used & Rare Books may be reached at 360-695-7767 or email@example.com. Their website is found at www.zephyrusedandrarebooks.com.