Tag Archives: postcards

An Investigation into Rubenstein LOLcats

I was delighted to find that one of our newest collections, the Terence Mitchell Collection of Tobacco Advertising, includes a run of Real Photographs, a series for the De Reszke cigarettes produced by J. Millhoff & Co. in England. These tiny cards feature animals posed in funny ways, doing adorable things, with cute captions. They are basically the tobacco card version of today’s Internet cat memes.

kitties1 kitties212719587_10104455346032688_1393435410260392224_oThese tobacco cards gave me an excuse to look into the history of cat photography, particularly pictures of funny cats with captions. It turns out that posing cats in outfits is not a new trend, despite the persistent popularity of Internet memes like LOLcats and I Can Haz Cheezburger. Matthew Hussey’s 2012 article on A History of LOLcats explains that early photographers quickly discovered the marketability of cats, and began selling cat postcards and cartes de visite as early as 1870. Harry Pointer, the first known photographer of cats posed in silly ways, marketed his photos as The Brighton Cats – so named for his Brighton, England, photography studio. A later photographer who was even more commercially successful was American Harry Whittier Frees (1879-1953), whose postcards and children’s books featured animals, especially cats, doing funny things. Frees was so talented in posing and photographing his animals that some questioned their authenticity. In his preface to The Little Folks of Animal Land (1915), he explained his techniques, saying, “The difficulties encountered in posing kittens and puppies for pictures of this kind have been overcome only by the exercise of great patience and invariable kindness.” After their photoshoot, Frees writes, “my little models … enjoy nothing better than a frolic about the studio.” The Library of Congress now holds a collection of Frees’ photographs. You can view them here.

I think that the tobacco card industry jumped on the funny animal pose trend, which explains why the run featured here is the fourth of five runs of Real Photographs produced by J. Millhoff & Co. between 1931 and 1935. The fourth run that I found in the Mitchell Collection dates to 1932. (It could be that the other runs are also present! We are continuing to process these tobacco cards – there are several thousand of them.) It makes sense that tobacco companies would have realized the marketability of cute animals. They were also smart enough to recognize the popularity of baseball players and pretty actresses. (Check out the newly digitized W. Duke and Sons collection of tobacco cards.)

Looking at all of Harry Whittier Frees’ photographs online led to me wonder what sort of cute cat pictures we hold in Rubenstein. You’ll be pleased to know we have several in our vast Postcard Collection. Here are some of my favorites, all from the early 20th century.

Caption reads: Why So Cross Dear? Photograph by E.D. Putnam & Son, Anich, N.H.
Photomechanical print. No known photographer.
Salt print postcard. No known photographer.
Salt print postcard. No known photographer.
Caption: Little Miss White. Copyright by C.E. Bullard. Published by M.T. Sheahan, Boston, Mass.

This last one is by Charles E. Bullard, another early twentieth century photographer who wisely copyrighted his cat pictures, and then worked with publishers to distribute them widely. This 1915 profile of Bullard in The American Magazine is truly hilarious and details his methods for capturing the perfect LOLcat. Here’s an excerpt:

“It is no easy job to photograph a cat. He is very unreasonable as to staying where he is put, and the only system is to use infinite patience. I have worked half a day trying to photograph a cat in a particular pose, and then had to give up in despair.”

I am on the lookout for other photographs of historical LOLcats, especially those held in Rubenstein collections. If you find some, let me know!

Post contributed by Meghan Lyon, Section Head Manuscript Processing.

Pick the President, 1912 Edition

Happy Presidents’ Day! As weird as our current election season has turned out to be, it has a way to go before it compares to the drama and excitement of the 1912 presidential election. That’s the election where William Howard Taft (Republican incumbent), Woodrow Wilson (Democratic challenger), Theodore Roosevelt (former Republican president who lost the Republican nomination and decided to run as the nominee of the Progressive Party, also known as the Bull Moose Party), and Eugene V. Debs (the perpetual nominee of the Socialist Party) battled it out in a four-way race for the White House. Imagine if there had been televised debates back then.

I recently found this postcard in the Slade Family Papers that capitalized (sorry, Debs) on the enthusiasm surrounding the race. Written to friends in North Carolina just before the election, the anonymous author asks “How are politics in that part of the country? Have you any good reads yet?”

IMG_20160212_145240039Flip the card over and it is so cool! It’s a “magic moving picture card” that lets you slide the tab between all four candidates to “pick the winner.” I’ve only seen this sort of thing in children’s books, like Gallop.  (This isn’t quite Scanimation, but it is similar to that technology.)

You can see a video of us playing with the postcard below. Who will it be?

The sender adds the words “Hurray for Wilson!” on the side of the window. Turns out, they were right — Wilson did win the contest and served as president from 1913 until 1921.

Psst, the deadline for registering to vote in our upcoming primaries in North Carolina is Friday, February 19. Register here.

Getting Past the Gates

Postcard of the Trinity College Gates, 1906
Postcard of the Trinity College Gates, 1906

This past Saturday was the deadline for applications to Duke University’s undergraduate class of 2014. We thought we’d mark the occasion with a look back at a time before Scantrons and SAT prep courses, when students seeking admission to Trinity College (the forerunner of Duke University) might be asked to take a rather perilous entrance examination.

Administered to students without records of study from approved schools, the results of the examination determined which curriculum and class the student would join. The Annual Catalogue of Trinity College for the 1900-1901 school year presented prospective students with “Specimen Entrance Examination Questions” to help them prepare for the July examinations. Here they are, slightly edited for length.

Let us know how you do. We’ll be in the stacks, reading up on Silas Marner and the Battle of Buena Vista.

1. Describe the English explorations in North America.
2. Say what you can about the career of Capt. John Smith in America.
3. Compare the life of the Southern and the Northern Colonies.
4. Discuss the Navigation Laws.
5. What were the policies of Hamilton, Jefferson, and Calhoun?
6. Describe the battles of Saratoga, New Orleans, Buena Vista, and Gettysburg.
7. Who were Lycurgus, Plato, Cicero, and Solon?
8. Give outline of the Persian wars against Greece.
9. Say what you can about the Reformation.
10. What part did England take in the Wars against Napoleon?

I. Decline it, who, goose, man-servant, heir-at-law.

II. Indicate possession in the following expressions by means of the possessive case instead of the phrase:
1. The armies of Lee and Grant.
2. The army of neither Lee nor Grant.
3. The property of Mr. Brown, book-seller and publisher.

III. Discuss all errors in the following:
1. This is his most favorite expression.
2. He is wiser than all men of his age.
3. He walked as if he was flying.
4. I wish I was in New York.
5. He promises to earnestly try and do better.
6. You feared you would miss the train.

V. Questions on the Required Reading:
1. What part do the Witches play in Macbeth?
2. Give an account of the Banquet scene.
3. Write a paragraph on the character of Macduff.
4. Comment on the following words in Macbeth: Obscene bird, benison, addition, seeling night, speculation, surcease, a modern ecstacy.
5. Give the story of Comus.
6. What authors are mentioned in L’Allegro and Il Penseroso? What landscapes are described?
7. Comment on the following expressions in Milton’s Minor Poems:

  1. Yet once more, O ye laurels.
  2. Sisters of the sacred well.
  3. In Heaven yclep’ d Euphrosyne.
  4. How faery Mab the junkets eat.
  5. All in a robe of darkest grain.
  6. Ennobled hath the buskined stage.

8. What does Macaulay say of the Puritans in his essay on Milton?
9. What reasons does Burke give for the love of liberty in America?

VI. Devote an hour to writing a paper on one of the following subjects, making special effort to give the story accurately, and to express it correctly as to spelling, punctuation, use of capital letters, and division into paragraphs:
1. The Tournament Scene in Ivanhoe.
2. The Story of Silas Marner.
3. The Spectator Club.
4. The Woman’s College in the Princess.

1. Multiply ap + 3ap-2 – 2ap-1 by 2apx1 + apx2 – 3ap.
2. Divide x3n + y3n by xn + yn.
3. Factor 8x3 – 27.
4. [(2x + 3) ÷ (2x + 1)] + (1 ÷ 3x) = (1 ÷ x) + 1. Find x.

State what books in Mathematics you have studied and the amount of work done in each.

1. State the Latin authors you have read and the amount from each.
2. Translate—Cæsar, De Bell. Gall. iv, 15.

  1.   Construe fully each word in section I.

3. Cicero In Cat. iii, 4, ll 1-11. (Do not translate).

  1. Select and decline one noun from each declension represented in the section.
  2. Locate the verb forms, explaining the subjunctives.

4. Translate Vergil, Aen., v, 13-25.
5. Write the Latin for the following: The Belgians, who inhabit one of the three parts of Gaul, are the bravest of all the Gauls, because they do not import wine.

(The following sentences are taken from Woodruff’s Greek Prose Composition).

Translate into Greek:

69. 5. Tarsus is a large and prosperous city, at which the Cilician queen arrived five days before Cyrus. When the inhabitants of this city heard that Cyrus was coming, they fled to the mountains.

125. 2. Clearchus first spoke of the oaths which they had taken in the name of the gods, and said he would not count the man happy who was conscious that he had violated them. He said the Greeks would be insane, if they should kill Tissaphernes, for he was their greatest blessing.

1. Translate into good English: One page selected from the texts the student may have read.
2. Give the disjunctive pronouns in full.
3. Explain the partitive constructions in full.
4. Give the principal parts of: Etre, dire, aller, pouvoir, faire, tenir.
5. Translate the following phrases:

  1. Ces chevaux-la sont a Paul.
  2. Je me mets a lire.
  3. Nous en serons-nous alles.
  4. Il vient d’apparaitre dans la rue.

6. Translate into French: I see a book on the table; whose is it? It is your brother’s. Take it to him, if you please. I will give it to him when I see him this evening. At what o’clock do you think he will come? I think he will not come before eight or nine. My house is larger than yours, but yours is finer than mine. Have you read the paper this morning? No, I have not yet read it; I am going to read it immediately.

1. Translate into good English:
One page selected from the texts the student may have read.
2. Inflect in full:

  1. Der kleine Bruder.
  2. Diese schoene Frau.
  3. Kein kaltes Wasser.
  4. Grosses Hans.

3. Inflect in full:

  1. Ich.
  2. Er.
  3. Jener.

4. Give the principal parts of: Entlassen, befehlen, geschehen, ausbringen, kennen, denken, studieren.
5. Translate the following phrases:

  1. Es wurde viel getanzt.
  2. Er soll sehr reich sein.
  3. Das kind kam gelaufen.
  4. Wie lange sind Sie in Berlin gewesen?

6. Translate into German:

  1. In the room we found three little girls who had beautiful flowers in their hands.
  2. When will you go to Paris? I wanted to go to-day, but now I shall be obliged to wait till (bis) to-morrow.
  3. If he had taken the book with him, he would have told me so.
  4. He looks (aussehen) as if lie were sick.
  5. His younger brother said that he had arrived (ankommen) in town.
  6. He claims to have read the book.
  7. I did this in order to see if he could speak German.
  8. The letter has not yet been written, but it will be carried (tragen) to the city this afternoon.
  9. Come at half-past six and drink a cup of tea with us.
  10. Tell him he is to go and get (holen) me some bread.