The latest catalogue from Zephyr Used & Rare Books is titled Changing into Fall – Everything But the Kitchen Sink. That says it about as specifically as I can. There is sort of everything here, from a few books to all sorts of paper ephemeral items. Some are a single document, others archives. There are brochures from several world's or other fairs, photographs, maps, handwritten items, and so on. If you have experienced a Zephyr catalogue, you will understand. If not, you're missing something unique. Here a few of the items inside.
If asked who was first to fly in a motorized aircraft, you would probably say the Wright Brothers. Most people make this mistake. The first person to fly a powered aircraft was Gustave Whitehead. All right, this claim is controversial, and most still credit the Wrights. Whitehead was born in Germany but came to America in 1893 and changed his name from Weisskopf to Whitehead. Claims were made that he flew as early as 1899 in Pittsburgh but most claims come from Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1901-1902, a year before the Wright Brothers flight. There were stories in Scientific American and the Bridgeport Herald in 1901, but they relied on claims and alleged witnesses. No photographs were provided. Certainly Whitehead built many planes, but there are differences of opinion whether these designs were capable of flight and there are no photographs of a Whitehead plane in flight. Whitehead died in 1927, but his claims came back in view with an article written by Stella Randolph in 1935. She followed that up in 1937 with this book, Lost Flights of Gustave Whitehead. She researched his history and interviewed many people still living who either claimed to have witnessed his early flights or who had heard about them at the time. The Wright Brothers are still mostly accepted as first as they have documented evidence while Whitehead's claims have some supporting arguments but not enough to have convinced most authorities. Maybe. Item 29. Priced at $250.
Whitehead's, or the Wrights' invention was put to good use in 1948 to create these photographs. It is an archive of 44 aerial photos taken by professional photographer Charles Wallace Vail of the Columbia River flood of that year, which totally wiped out the Vanport development north of North Portland, Oregon. During the war, it grew to be the second largest city in Oregon as public housing was built to house workers at the Kaiser Shipyards. The population was 40,000, 40% African American, during wartime. It was half that in 1948 when wiped out by the flood, with 15 people dying. In these photos, only the rooftops of the houses can be seen above water. Others show the devastation to different locations on both sides of the river between Oregon and Washington. Vanport was never rebuilt. Item 139. $1,500.
Every World's Fair seems to have its high point. In this one, it was the exhibit hall itself. It was the first of the truly great fairs. It was the Great Exhibition of 1851, held in London. The fair was held in the Crystal Palace, a mammoth structure built of glass and steel. It was 1,851 feet long, 408 feet wide, and 128 feet tall. There were 14,000 exhibits with more than 100,000 objects on display, half from Great Britain. The remainder came from 25 other countries. They were divided into four main categories, arts, manufactures, machinery, and raw materials. Steam Engines, carriages, and printing presses were among the larger items. When all was done, over 6 million visitors had attended. Londoners could not bear to part with the Crystal Palace, so they moved it to a new location. There it stayed until 1936 when it was destroyed by fire. Unfortunately, the glass and steel structure had wooden floors. Offered is a folio remembrance published by Ackerman & Co., Remembrances of the Great Exhibition. A series of views beautifully engraved on steel, from drawings made on the spot. Including a general history of its origin, progress, and close. Item 85. $750.
This next item is neither a book nor a form of collectible paper, but we are including it anyway as it is a highly desirable item for people who collect world's fair memorabilia. It came from the Centennial Exhibition, held in Philadelphia in 1876 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of America's declaring independence. Almost 10 million people came to visit the exhibition designed to show America's advancements to the world. Still, 36 other countries came to show their wares as well. It was the first world's fair held in America. Instead of one extremely large exhibition hall, there were five large ones and many smaller ones. Among the new technologies displayed were Alexander Graham Bell's telephone and the typewriter. Item 62 is a set of six wooden medals made by exhibitor Philadelphia Ornamental Wood Co. to be sold at the fair. The medals are sized from 2.75” to 3.3” and made from black walnut, subjected to heat and high-pressure steam, and injected with a resin that created a varnished appearance and added durability. They are in a cardboard display case with a lithograph of the fair mounted on the inside top. The two larger medals bear images of Memorial Hall and the Main Building, while the smaller ones display Independence Hall and the likenesses of George Washington and two fair officials. The medals were sold individually, in sets of three, or complete sets such as this. $1,350.
This item contains a promotional brochure for and a letter to prospective clients of Paul Popenoe, from 1938. Popenoe was a speaker and promoter of two specialties, marriage counseling and eugenics. The latter was dominated by Popenoe's racist beliefs. He considered blacks inferior. He also promoted mandatory sterilization for those with serious mental or intellectual issues (keep in mind he believed blacks intellectually inferior to whites). His interest in marriage counseling was primarily for whites, as keeping white couples together would produce more white children, whereas inferior races would propagate more frequently. He was a promoter of California's mandatory sterilization efforts as well as those in Germany. The subjects about which he can speak are “The Progress of Eugenics,” “Should Women Compete with Men, and “A Biological View of the Jewish Problem.” I do not know whether Popenoe shared the Nazis view of Jews being a “problem” to be dealt with through eugenics or not a “problem” at all. The accompanying letter from his institute states Popenoe's fee is $100 but he is willing to give two or three talks a day for the fee. After the war, and the level of Nazi atrocities becoming fully known, he decided to speak less about eugenics and focus on the more popular field of marriage counseling, becoming a regular columnist on the subject. Item 125. $150.
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