As summer approaches here in the Northern Hemisphere, we begin to think of trips to the beach. Here, from my collection of turn-of-the-century postcards, is a gorgeous beach scene.
The woman who sent this, Ethel W, found something funny about the card, which she set out to fix. Although the title of the card is "watching the bathers" Ethel noticed that there were, in fact, very few bathers present, none in the water, and mostly fully dressed folks sitting on the beach. So she drew some bathers into the water, and wrote on the face of the card, "I don't see many, do you? They forgot to put them in so I had to help them out."
Here's what she drew. Notice that many of the bathers are cyphers, literally question marks:
We are having a great time.
She drew in the bathers
Another detail. Most folks in full dress. A few in bathing costumes.
Burlington, Vermont native Edward P Hatch bought NYC department store Lord & Taylor in 1879. He also owned the Lake Champlain estate, Red Rocks, that became one of Burlington's most beautiful and popular public parks.
I've been writing and posting about Red Rocks this week, so a couple of days ago my daughter G and I decided to take a hike up the Red Rocks trail. It's not far from our house, and we've hiked it before - she many more times than I - but I never bothered to read the sign before:
Sign at Red Rocks Park, South Burlington, Vermont.
"Beginning in 1888, this large property was part of an annual summer retreat for the family of Edward Hatch, Jr. who managed the famed Lord & Taylor department store chain in the late 1800's. Mr Hatch took up residence for several summers in the former Hotel Vermont adjacent to City Hall Park in downtown Burlington. The City of South Burlington subsequently purchased the site with federal assistance from the Land And Water Conservation Fund in 1970."
Wait a minute!! Lord & Taylor??? I practically grew up in Lord & Taylor. It's was one of the oldest department stores in New York City when I was a girl in the 1950's. I'm sure I remember riding the rickety old wooden escalators to the upper floors of it's now landmarked building at 38th and 5th.
“The department store began in an era of a hub-and-spoke transportation system for cities, before the automobile,” Tedlow says. “In Chicago, for instance, the large downtown department store, Marshall Field’s, became in and of itself The Brand. And for a store like that in, say, 1870 or 1880, the competition was basically mom-and-pop shops. Department stores were a new mode of retailing. They became destinations—they became places where you shopped not solely for procurement but for entertainment." Adam Gopnik, Under One Roof, The New Yorker, Sept. 22, 2003
Lord & Taylor began as a dry goods store on Catherine Street (Manhattan's Lower East Side) in 1826. Subsequent moves brought it further and further north, to Broadway and Grand, then to Broadway and 20th Street, which became part of the "Ladies Mile" destination.
"The architect James H. Giles developed a five-story mansard-roofed scheme in cast iron that was widely praised. The building rises like an expanding crystal structure, an intricate pattern of crisply decorated blocks and spiky plant forms that seems to prefigure the William Morris patterns of the 1880's. The entire corner tower is angled, with a tall rectangular mansard pavilion on top, and the roof line still has much of its original, lacy cresting." Christopher Grey NY Times May 7, 1995
So, Lord & Taylor is in its new digs in the beautiful cast iron building when, in 1879, Eward Hatch, of Burlington Vermont, takes over the reins.
Edward P SEPT 21, 1909- Burlington VT, Edward P. Hatch, for many years President of the dry goods firm of Lord & Taylor, New York, died at the Van Ness Hotel in this city to-day from heart disease, at the age of 77. He had spent the Summer here for the last forty years. ....Edward P. Htch was born in Norwich, Vt. on July 11, 1832. He was the son of a village physician, Dr. Horace Hatch, whose own father had been one fo the pioneers of the town and had helped to clear the forest for his home with his own hands...When Edward Hatch was 15 years old he entered a store at a salary of $4 a month, one of his chief duties being the packing of wool [? wood?] Two years later he came to New York and entered the store of Robinson & Co. on Broadway as an entry clerk....[goes on to work for Wilcox and Gibbs sewing machines, makes a forturne, retires and...] In 1879 however, the opportunity came of reorganizing and carrying on the affairs of the house of Lord & Taylor, and Mr. Hatch, as the head of the reorganized firm, entered the world of business again. Being impressed with the commercial value of the firm's name he retained it, and only a small part of the general public knew whose brain it was that was working behind the old firm name. Until five years ago he carried the firm on alone. Then he organized it into a corporation capitalized with $2,500,00 preferred and $3,000,000 common stock, he being the President.... Many years ago Mr. Hatch purchased Red Rocks, a splendidly wooded estate on Lake Champlain, south of Burlington. He constructed a permanent stone road for many miles near Mallet's Bay. Along the road he set many drinking fountains. His interest in making improvements of this kind throughout Vermont continued to the time of his death. His body will be buried near Lake Champlain." Meanwhile, back in Burlington, Red Rockshad - and still has- some great swimming places, from a tame beach to massive cliffs for the foolhardy to jump from. If bathers were to buy their suits in 1879, the year Hatch took over Lord & Taylor, this is what they'd have been wearing
Bathing suits at Lord & Taylor's, 1879
If the bathers, or picnickers wanted to get around the estate in those days, or a bit later, they could have ridden in a buggy like this
View of Lake Champlain from Red Rocks, Burlington VT. Postcard from PSAW ephemera collections. This is the same image as on the Red rocks sign.
Alas, when daughter G. and I hiked up to recreate the view, we found the trees had filled in most of the roadway, and we ended up with this.
Red Rocks, view over Lake Champlain. Photo Liza Cowan
But we were happy, and the view is still spectacular. Maybe next time we'll find some old fashioned bathing costumes.
I just can't get enough of these vintage postcards. The graphics...the history. So good. Here are some more I got today:
Scene In Battery Park, Burlington VT. Postmarked 1907. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections
Built as a military camp during the War Of 1812, Battery Park history may be martial, but contemporary use is recreational. In the summer there are concerts, there's a playground that my kids used to love. And the view, like so many views of Lake Champlain, is breath taking.
Scene In Battery Park, Postcard detail.
Vermont, Lake Champlain and Adirondacks from Burlington. Postmark 1906. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections
Rock Point, Burlington VT, no postmark. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections.
Rock Point is to the North of the city. Much celebrated in postcards, this thrust fault rock formation is geologically interesting:
One of the geologically most famous localities in Vermont (along with the world’s oldest reef in the Champlain Islands) is the Champlain Thrust, visible along the shoreline of Lake Champlain at Lone Rock Point, in Burlington, Vermont. In order to understand its significance we need to first understand what a “thrust” is. A “thrust” (geological shorthand for a “thrust fault,”) is a type of fault. A fault is a fracture in rocks where there has been movement. There are several types of faults and a “reverse fault” is one where older rocks have been pushed up over younger rocks. Geologists call a reverse fault where the fault is at a low angle to the Earth’s surface, a “thrust fault”." source
Rock Point, Burlington VT, postmark 1908. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections.
Sunset Rock, Rock Point, Burlington VT Penny Postcard, no postmark. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections.
Sunset Rock, Rock Point, Burlington VT Detail. I love the guy at the railing.
In the South End of the city is Red Rocks, which I've shown before, but here are a few images I got recently:
Rock Road Summer House, Red Rocks Burlington VT. on Lake Champlain postmark 1927. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections
Rock Road Summer House, Red Rocks, Burlington. Detail
That's it for today's tour. More to come for sure.
This one is not postmarked, although it is addressed an written on. It calls for one penny postage. Most of those industrial buildings are gone, and in their place is a lively mixed use waterfront, bikepath, restaurants, businesses.
Burlington Harbor in a more recent view.
At the turn of the last century Burlington's Waterfont was home to many businesses. Not the tourist, tech and green economy businesses we are famous for now, but real manufacturing. Lumber was big.
Dock frontage of 4,000 feet, Shepard & Morse Lumber, Burlington. Burlington Board Of Trade 1889
But with all the beautiful water and scenery, pleasure boating is always popular.
Lake Champlain Yacht Club Building, Burlington Board of Trade 1889
A bit farther south from the Waterfront you will find Red Rocks, a particularly scenic park. I've shown you other vintage images of Red Rocks from my collections, and now here's a recent acquisition.
Lake Champlain from "Red Rocks", Burlington, Vt. Postmarked November 10, 1908. Liza Cowan ephemera collections.
And check out how the gal on the left is snapping a photograph.
Burlington Red Rocks Park, gals snapping a photograph, 1908. Liza Cowan ephemera Collections.
They could have been using this Brownie Camera from Eastman Kodak.
Visitors to the gallery often ask me if I still paint or take photographs. The answer, by and large, is "no." I don't have time to make art and run a gallery. It's not that I don't have a free minute here and there, but it is almost impossible for me to flip my frame of mind from business to art. That's particularly true for painting, which, for me, requires a lot of uninterrupted time with paintbrush in hand. If you paint, or write, or do any kind of creative work, you probably know what I mean.
What I still do, however, is graphic design. From greeting cards, to ads to postcards, I can do it all on the computer and somehow manage. It's fairly easy for me to move freely back and forth between design and retail management: customers, ordering inventory, answering the phone, research, dusting, planning shows etc. It is a boon that I can save the work in progress and come back later and it's exactly how I left it. No drying time either.
Another great reason to make postcards : they are future collectible ephemera. So hang onto yours. And for goodness sakes, if I hand you one, don't fold it in front of me. Few things grate on my nerves as much as watching someone mangle my art.
So here are two of my latest. My postcard printers - I use Image Media and love them - were having a 25% sale, so I made a new general card, as well as the one for the August exhibit by Los Angeles photographer Aline Smithson.
Pine Street Art Works, Postcard. Design: Liza Cowan 2009
Here's my grandmother, Lena Spiegel, as my poster girl. Isn't she elegant? You've seen her before in this blog, and she's at it again - helping me out. No stranger to retail, her husband, my grandfather, Modie Spiegel, started Spiegels, yes, that one, the big mail order company. His portrait hangs over my desk and I try to absorb some retail moxy from him. I am the only person in my fairly large extended family who is in retail, so I like to think I get all of his attention.
But it is Lena who claims attention for her own foxy self in her feathered hat and varnished nails. The text next to her, in case you can't read it on the screen, says "I'm Lena Spiegel. My granddaughter owns the store. So shop already."
Aline Smithson, Arrangement in Green and Black #3, postcard for Pine Street Art Works 2009
Aline Smithson's amazing photograph does the heavy lifting in this postcard. Her show is going to be fantastic. Four photos each from three series - can't wait. Come by in August if you are around.
This summer marks the 400th Anniversary of Samuel Champlain discovering invading the body of water known by the Abenaki as Biawbagok - the waters in between, and by the Iroquois as Caniadari Guarunti, the door to the country. The hoopla over the quadricentennial of Lake Champlain now begins.
Ephemera fans can rejoice not in Native American images but in a bounty of European-American images produced over the last hundred or so years. Here are but a few I've collected:
"This is a picture of the first Steamboat on Lake Champlain. (and the second in the World) It was built and launched at Burlington Vermont, in 1808, just 200 years after Champlain had entered its waters in a birch bark canoe.
The owners and builders were two brothers, John and James Winans; it was called the "Vermont;" and it was 120 feet long, 20 feet beam, 167 tons measurement; with an engine of 20 horse power, and commanded by Capt. John Winans"
"Built in Shelburne in 1906, it operated as a day boat on Lake Champlain
serving ports along the New York and Vermont shores until 1953. In
1955, the Ticonderoga was moved two miles overland from the lake to
Shelburne Museum in a remarkable engineering effort that stands as one
of the great feats of maritime preservation."
Rock Point, Lake Champlain. Postcard. PSAW ephemera collections
Lake Champlain from Red Rocks. Postcard PSAW ephemera collections.
Red Rocks is about a mile from Pine Street Art Works.
Ephemera is one of my favorite blogs. The impressario (host/blogster) Marty Weil interviewed me recently and the post went up today. Check it out, and keep it bookmarked because there's always something fascinating going on there for all of you ephemera lovers.
Here's a snippet:
"One of the ways I use ephemera differently than many people is that I work a lot with details. I love to see what happens when a small portion of the item is isolated and enlarged, so you will often see details on my blog and in the reprints. My photography is often about small abstracted details of larger objects, so it's not a big stretch to see how I come to love the abstracted details of printed images. "
Obama Or Else postcard. Design Liza Cowan 2008 Creative Commons
Remember to send me an SASE to get these post cards. $.59 postage gets you ten cards. Or email me if you or your organization wants more. Liza(at)pinestreetartworks.com.
The cards are great for starting conversations about the election. Mail them, hand them out, leave them around your neighborhood. Organize. Make Change Happen. (Don't you just hate McShame for stealing the word change? Lying liars. Can't even think of their own buzzwords.)
Pine Street Art Works, 404 Pine Street, Burlington, VT 05401
Remember - you can make your own cards too, even if just a few on your home computer or at your local copy shop. Be creative and say what you believe. Or go ahead, use mine (tho I'd like a teensy credit somewhere) Just get the word out and Organize!
Update Nov 6th - Now that the election is done and won, these cards have become collectibles rather than propaganda. I gave away close to five thousand of them gleefully. Now they cost $1.00 e
$1.00 per card
+ $0.75 postage for up to ten cards.
send check or cash to pine street art works. 404 Pine Street. Burlington VT 05401
I adore the photographs of Stephen Wilkes. I particularly love his series of photos of abandoned spaces. I place them in the genre of modern ruins. I don't know if Wilkes does or not. It's certainly not all he does, but they are the ones that resonate most for me. Wilkes is the photographer I'd like to be if I were a good enough photographer. I have a good eye. Wilkes is a good photographer with a good eye. "Good", of course, is totally loaded with cultural and subjective suppositions. Wilkes is good. And by "good" I mean "I feel faint from their beauty, technique, and emotion."
If you will be in or near Chicago from July 11 to October 15th, really try to get to this show. The Chicago Cultural Center, Michigan Avenue Galleries, 78 East Washington St. 312 744 6630 www/cityofchicago.org/cultural affairs.
This series of photographs is breathtaking. Those of us who live in the US (and many of my readers do not) probably understand the cultural and historical backstory of these photographs. Ellis Island has a fascinating history, the most famous of which is it's role as the port in New York City through which came 12 million immigrants from all over the world from 1892 to 1954.
Wilkes photographed the hospital and contagious diseases complex at the ruins of Ellis Island over a five year period starting in 1998.
Stephen Wilkes,Isolation Ward, curved corridor, Island 3
These images look great online, but seeing them in person is an experience. This one, for instance, I'm sure contains the ghost of a little girl. I actually own a print of this, and it took me weeks to make my peace with her. I didn't feel any pain or malice coming from her, but it was spooky. And sometimes she wasn't there. I know this sound really screwball, but I swear it's true. It happens that Wilkes named his book on Ellis Island Ghosts Of Freedom. I urge you to follow the link to the book website and if you want your own copy, Buy the bookfrom my Powells partner account
I first saw the Wilkes Cibachrome prints at The Monroe Gallery in Santa Fe, where I bought my print in 2003. I had already been making my own series, Shipyard Archeology, and was in love with the genre of modern ruins. When I saw the Wilkes photographs they stopped me in my tracks.
If you are or will be near Santa Fe, New Mexico, and you love photography, go to the Monroe Gallery. Owners Michelle and Sidney Monroe are my role models for owning a gallery, although in fact, mine is nothing like theirs. They specialize in "classic black & White photography with an emphasis on humanist and photojournalist imagery." They curate wonderful shows, which I wish I could go see regularly, but hey, I'm stuck in Vermont.
From Oct. 3 - November 16th 29, 2008, The Monroe Gallery will be showing Stephen Wilkes' new collection of photographs taken in China over the last three years.
Stephen Wilkes, Blue room With Bed Frame, Island #2, Ellis Island
From The Authors Note, Ellis Island Ghosts Of Freedom, Stephen Wilkes:
"The Statue of Liberty loomed over my shoulder, yet I felt no less an archaeologist than those who ventured into the Mayan tombs. I wore a respirator against the ravages of asbestos and lead paint. I saw the shoes of immigrants long forgotten; shards of mirror; remnants of beds; the ruins of the autoclave, a chamber where tuberculosis-infected mattresses were sterilized with scorching heat. I saw Eveready batteries hooked to strange pipes...
"...I felt the palpable presence of humanity everywhere I turned, in every room. It was an energy in whose presence I felt tremendous humility.
"...Strange things happened. I'd photograph a mirror that had hung on a wall for half a century, on to return to find its shattered remains. I'd photograph a show, which several days later had disappeared though no one had entered the space after me. I photographed the 500-foot long spine of the hospital, Corridor 9, a long tunnel of decay. In the photograph, a golden glow of sunshine warming the walls at the far end is visible. In all the times I returned to it, I never again saw this glow, nor can I discern its origin."
Stephen Wilkes "Isolation Ward, Eveready Batteries, Island 3"
Stephen Wilkes, from his series Bethlehem Steel.
OK, here I have to digress to make a comparison to one of my own photographs from my Shipyard Archeology series from 1999. The photographic quality of his is better. I have no idea what kind of camera, lens, film he was shooting with. His website is not filled with information on technique, but Wilkes is a master of light and capture. I was shooting with a Nikon F100 with a 50mm lens. Still...
Liza Cowan, In/Out, 1999.
All the Stephen Wilkes images in this post are from The Monroe Gallery Website. Thanks Michelle and Sidney! Love ya!
More about Ellis Island
Forgotten Ellis Island by Lorie Conway.
This book , Forgotten Ellis Island: The Extraordinary Story of America's Immigrant Hospitalby Lorie Conway
looks great, too. I haven't read it yet, but I've ordered it. Dr. Fitzhugh
Mullen, who I have known literally all my life, was a consultant on the
book and film. There's a DVD as well, which is available through the Forgotten Ellis Island Website
You can also check this link to PBS to see when this film will be shown in your area.
From Forgotten Ellis Island. Faces of the Feebleminded. Author Laurie Conway found files at the National Archives from Dr. Eugene Mullan, an Ellis Island psychiatrist.
"Since I had researched Dr. Mullan's files before, I was not expecting
to find anything new, but tucked behind several letters written by Dr.
Mullan were these original, black and white images, complete with typed
captions indicating various mental conditions: constitutional apathy,
low grade moron, juvenile paretic, surly, and the catch-all
Public health physician Fitzhugh Mullan, grandson of Eugene
Mullan and one of the advisors to the Forgotten Ellis Island film/book
project, analyzed the photographs from his grandfather's file as
attempts to "distinguish between normal and abnormal and various levels
of abnormality." Since the feebleminded were automatically deported,
one can only assume that the people in these pictures were denied entry
to America and sent back to their homeland." Laurie Conway,from Forgotten Ellis Island Website
Christopher Barnes Ellis Island Photographs
These photographs are by Christoper Barnesfrom 1986, obviously predating the Wilkes portfolio. The Barnes photographs were used in Forgotten Ellis Island. I urge you to check his website to see more of the series.
Christopher Barnes, Forgotten Ellis Island, Curved Passage. 1986
Christopher Barnes, Desk Of Questioning
Christopher Barnes, Forgotten Ellis Island, Nurses Shoe. 1986
My blog banner says, "wherever the ride goes" and I swear I never know what that will be. I was looking a the postcard of the Ambassador Hotel in Atlantic City and I remembered that my mom, Polly Spiegel Cowan, took me to Atlantic city for a weekend when I was about ten years old. It was rainy and cold and I hated it, but I did enjoy her stories about her visits there as a youngster. Of course she stayed at her Uncle Simon's hotel, The Ambassador. It would have been special trip, since she lived in Chicago as a girl. Her favorite memories seemed to be of the rolling chairs. And the salt water taffy. Honestly, I wasn't paying that much attention, I just wanted to get back home. But this vague memory inspired my search for images of Atlantic City rolling chairs.
Late 19th or Early 20th Century. The boardwalk was originally built to keep sand out of the hotels. Atlantic city, in it's early days of the 1850's was a health spa and middle class vacation playground. Leisurely walks, or rides, along the boardwalk were a famous attraction.
Sheet music. 1905
Same song, different version
Early 20th Century Postcard
1908 Postcard, Boardwalk at night
No date on this one. But early 20th century.
A Boardwalk pastime. 1914
Rolling Chairs in 1961, around the time I went with my mother.
This must be late 1960's. The rolling cars have lost their elegance, and there's some horrible piece of institutional architecture added to the otherwise elegant cityscape.
Now Atlantic City is a big gambling strip and since I don't like to print ugly images on my blog I'll stop while the going's good.