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November 2009

Photoplay movie stars from the 1950'S

I recently came into a rather large stash of Photoplay Magazines from the 1950's.  I have them for sale at Pine Street Art Works for five bucks apiece but since most of my readers don't live nearby, here's some eye candy for you.

  Doris Day, Photoplay Magazine Oct 1955
Doris Day, Photoplay Magazine Oct. 1955

 Jane Powell, April 1952, Photoplay Magazine
Jane Powell, April 1952, Photoplay Magazine

 Ann Blyth, Jan 1956 Photoplay Magazine
Ann Blyth, January 1956, Photoplay Magazine

 Esther Williams, August1952, photoplay magazine
Esther Williams, August 1952 Photoplay Magazine

 Jane Powell, july 1955, Photoplay Magazine
Jane Powell, July 1955, Photoplay Magazine

 Betty Grable, July 1952, Photoplay Magazine
Betty Grable, July 1952, Photoplay Magazine.

 Grace Kelly, April 1956, Photoplay Magazine
Grace Kelly, April 1956, Photoplay Magazine

 Grace kelly, a prince catches a star 1956 photoplay magazine
Grace Kelly, A Prince Catches A Star, Photoplay Magazine 1956

Your comments are always welcome.


 Jello recipe book Lucille Patterson March November 1924

Jello recipe book, 1924, Lucille Patterson Marsh, illustrator. PSAW ephemera collections

As we spend Thanksgiving Day, each according to their custom or ability, let us remember that the whole Thanksgiving story is a big lie.

I fully intend to enjoy a day of good food and good company, but I do believe Thanksgiving is like Seder in mirror image. Instead of celebrating and retelling the story of escape and freedom, Thanksgiving is a celebration of the lies that covers up the brutal power struggle between Native Americans and European Puritan Christian Fundamentalists.

You probably already knew that Thanksgiving is a politically motivated myth,  but if you want to read more, here is a good essay:

First Genocide, Then Lie About I: Why I Hate Thanksgiving by Mitchel Cohen.

That said, have a wonderful day. The truth will set you free. Ish.

Set your table

Time to set the table. Holiday festivities are coming up, and then there's just plain every day gorgeousness. Check out what we've got for your table.

Table top at PSAW and AO! Glass
Here's what's on the table: Jello Placemats, made by Flashbags for Pine Street Art Works. Goblets by AO! Glass. Vase by AO! Glass. Mid century condiment bowls. Boxed sets of stationery as guest gift.

In the background: Ginny Joyner food illustration prints, mid century botanical school charts.

Also available for you table: Shinzi Katoh tea pots, Liquid Cardboard tabletop sculpture, more mid century vases and dishes, pottery from Paige Russell.

Did someone say party?

The largest photograph in the world: 1904

I was looking through some of my old magazines the other day and came across two items on really big photographs. The first comes from Collier's, January 9th, 1904. That was the year the Russo-Japanese war began, foretold by the cover Collier's headline, "The Russo-Japanese Crisis".

1904 was the year The United States gained control of the Panama Canal. That year British troops invaded Tibet, and Longacre Square in New York City was renamed Times Square. It was the year of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition World's Fair (Meet Me In St. Louis) and it was the year the first subway opened in New York City. Cary Grant was born that year.  And it was a BIG year for photography, if size matters.

 Largest photo in the world 3
Collier's Magazine, Jan. 9. 1904 p.11 PSAW ephemera collections

Text: "A photograph 40 feet long and nearly 5 feet high, which has just been completed in Italy, will be exhibited at St. Louis this summer. It is a picture of the Gulf of Naples, and the negatives were taken from the highest point available near that city, on the Castle San Marino, showing a view of Vesuvius and the sea. Each separate negative of the many which go to make up the entire picture, measures 8 1/4 x 10 3/4 inches. They all fit end to end, thus showing a continuous panorama."


 Largest photo in the world 1904 

Sliding the photograph into the toning and fixing bath.

"From these negatives, enlargements were made 6 feet long and 5 feet high. The joining of the several parts, although very difficult, has been most cleverly done, so that the junctures are hardly discernible, even to experts. To develop the negatives a wheel was constructed some 12 feet in diameter and 6 feet wide, with a circumference of about 40 feet."

 Largest photo in the world detail 2
Washing off the fixing solution.

"Three separate tanks were used for holding the developing fluid. The tank for fixing was 45 feet long by 7 feet wide and three feet deep. The entire operation of developing was carried on in the open air during a dark night. In order to restrain local development, liquid was poured upon certain portions of the negatives from a hose, while other parts which required forcing were treated with a sponge filled with developer. Eight hours were required for washing the photographs in running water and ten hours for drying. Little retouching was necessary."


 Largest photo in the world detail 3
Adding the finishing touches to the completed print.

In a moment of random coincidence, the next magazine I picked up, Calling All Girls, from June 1944, contained this ad:

 Camera takes pictures 6 feet tall
Calling All Girls, June 1944. Ad for Bell Telephone System

"Imagine a camera so big the photographer must work inside, using a loudspeaker telephone to give directions to his assistants outside. Largest of its kind in the United States, this camera can turn out negatives six feet long and three and a half feet wide - as many as 800 a day. It copies valuable tracings of research drawings by telephone scientists. Another example of one of the many ways the Bell Telephone Laboratories is helping to speed new developments in the dependable communications equipment for our armed forces."

I wonder what they were really used for. If anyone knows, please leave a note.

So the 1904 photograph was really the world's largest print, but not the world's largest negative. Made, one supposes, for entertainment but not for war, it didn't really matter that it was so time consuming and difficult. All part of the thrill. 

It turns out that the world's  largest photograph to date was made in 2007 Irvine California by The Legacy Project using a variation of a pinhole camera obscura. Check out the Legacy Project website. It's fascinating.

Camera Obscura and pinhole cameras have been used since antiquity, although the early versions did not fix the image on a surface. In the 2007 photograph was taken in  converted airplane hangar, turned into a camera obscura, by opening a gumball sized hole in the wall.

 World's largest photo 2007
The Legacy Project photograph.

The image from the hole projected onto a light sensitive fabric the length of  one third of a football field and three stories tall. 60 volunteers developed the image by moving the fabric into an enormous 1 foot deep tray.

Well, it sounds a bit like the 1904 operation after all.

Your comments are always welcome.

William Steig: Poor Pitiful Pearl

Poor Pitiful Pearl doll, william steig. photo ©Liza Cowan

Poor Pitiful Pearl. Photo ©Liza Cowan 2008. Print of this photo is available at my online store

William Steig, author, cartoonist, illustrator, famous for Shrek, Dr. DeSoto, Sylvester and The Magic Pebble, zillions of New Yorker Covers, and a reluctant advertising illustrator, was also the creator of my favorite doll: Poor Pitiful Pearl. Pearl was my first and my only true doll love. She was made in 1958, and stayed in production in various incarnations throughout the sixties.

A couple of years ago I was putting together an exhibit of 20th Century Works on Paper,  and had just purchased this poster:


william steig, we clean 'em, shell oil, advertising poster, 1944, Liza Cowan Collections

Wm Steig, We Clean 'Em. Shell Oil, 1944. Collection of Pine Street Art Works.

This gorgeous, huge lithograph was made for Shell Oil in 1944. As I was researching the poster and Steig I came across the fact that Poor Pitiful Pearl was a Steig creation. Of course! But I hadn't realized it as a kid, even though our family subscription to The New Yorker was a favorite of mine, and I poured through it weekly looking at the cartoons.


william steig, the new yorker, 1935, Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections

William Steig, The New Yorker, 1935. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections,

We had enough New Yorker magazines and New Yorker cartoon collections around the house that I could have been, should have been familiar enough with the Steig canon to have been able recognize his style on my darling doll. But I didn't. The New Yorker...dolls? Nuh uh.




william steig, poor pitiful pearl, we clean 'em, shell oil, Liza Cowan
Poor Pitiful Pearl and We Clean 'Em. Not to scale. I made this collage in Photoshop. Pearl is much smaller than the man in the poster.

But check this out. How much more alike could they be? Even the clothing matches.

Pearl even came with her own little Steig book:

Click the smaller images and they will pop up.


  • Blog pearl cover
  • william steig, poor pitiful pearl book
  • william steig, poor pitiful pearl book
  • Blog pearl 4
  • Blog pearl 5
  • Blog pearl 6
  • Blog pearl 7
  • Blog pearl 8
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Poor Pitiful Pearl William Steig  booket cover. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections

Poor Pitiful Pearl booklet by William Steig. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections


poor pitiful pearl doll magnet from small equals photo ©liza cowan
Poor Pitiful Pearl magnet from small equals.

Order magnet at my Etsy shop here  

Letters from: Lily Tomlin

Writing letters to people I admired became a kind of habit for me in my young, pre computer, pre-internet years. While I sometimes wrote to elected officials about pressing issues, mostly I was consumed with pop culture and the fuzzy boundaries of pop culture and fine art. Hmmm...guess I haven't changed much.

The great thing about writing letters to people, unlike sending emails, is that sometimes they write back. And you have a genuine piece of history in your hands. There's just nothing that exciting about saving a print out of an email, but a letter on someone's stationery: a thrill and an artifact.

In this  example, I didn't actually write to Lily Tomlin - she wrote me me in a response to a review I review I wrote in the New York City newspaper, The Village Voice.

Lily had been on the TV Show Laugh  In since 1969. I was a big fan of Lily and Laugh In. In 1973 I was writing  occasional free lance reviews for The Village Voice, and seized the opportunity to see her one woman show in NY at The Bitter End. I was smitten.

 Lily Tomlin, Liza Cowan, review, village voice 1973 

Review of Lily Tomlin at The Bitter End, February 1, 1973


"Last night I saw Lily Tomlin at The Bitter End. She was so wonderful that I haven't stopped thinking about her. Every so often she stands back, looks calmly at the audience, then move on. She's in perfect control. At one point she fell down on the floor and lay there for a few minutes saying nothing, just looking at us, then said, "I see you're all still in your seats.""Part of her beauty is that she's not afraid to make herself look ugly, to identify herself with the most grotesque characters: she's an an aging beauty expert, mouth falling down into her chin, who reveals her secret beauty regime; she's Ernestine, the pushy switchboard operator from Ma Bell who contorts her face and body...She's a a gum snapping 1950's teenager at a dance talking to her girlfriend waiting to ba asked to dance; she's an alcoholic ex-rubber addict whose habit grew from pencil erasers to doorstops and rubber mats; she's a woman waiting on line at a redemption center watching another woman try to return a used cookie jar. Her characters remind me of diane Arbus Photographs."

 Lily Tomlin, signed photo, Liza Cowan, Alix dobkin
Lily Tomlin. The publicity picture she gave me at the show. "Nobody likes a pushy woman. Keep pushing! To Liza and Alix. Love from Lily." Alix is the singer Alix Dobkin, my partner at the time. Alix has recently published her memoir My Red Blood, which includes fascinating stories about singing in the folk clubs, including The Bitter End, in Greenwich Village in the sixties.

Seeing Lily in person, in the intimate club atmosphere of The Bitter Endwas exciting enough. The fact that she took the time to write to me was even better. And look how the piece of mail had to travel to find me:

 lily tomlin handwritten envelope 

click on a smaller image and it will enlarge

  • Blog letter-lily 1
  • Blog letter-lily 2
  • Blog letter-lily 3
  • Lily letter 4312
Lily Tomlin, Liza Cowan, handwritten letter

"Dear Liza, did I ever write and tell you how amazed I was that you would mention Diane Arbus and me in the same paragraph? It was a comparison I was very happy about. And flattered. And I had been telling someone just that night before your piece came out how I felt I was doing something similar in my approach to whatever it was I was doing. And since you were the first and only person besides me to make that observation and I think is is a good and interesting one, I want to mention the use of it in a piece done on me in "The New York Times" and tell you that we are on a couple of the same wave lengths. Love, Lily"


So my advice is not that you should write reviews, although you might, but to take the time to write a real letter, on real paper to the people you admire. One, they will appreciate it. Two, you never know what you will get back.

Next time I will show you  letters I got back from Bea Arthur and from Lorenzo Music from the show, Rhoda, after I wrote to them.  And you know I'm kicking myself for never writing to Soupy Sales.

PS: If you like reading historical letters, here's the website for you:  Letters Of Note, Correspondence Deserving Of A Wider Audience.  Endlessly fascinating.
I welcome your comments.

Letters from: Robert F. Kennedy

Remember back in the day before the internet, before personal computers? Today we click a link and we've sent a letter to our congresspeople, signed a petition, joined a fan club. But then we wrote letters. At least, I did.

I used to write to my Senators about matters of policy. But mostly I wrote to my favorite authors, entertainers and TV shows. I also used to make phone calls before people worried about stalkers. That's how I got to be friends with Andy Warhol when I was in 11th grade, in 1966. But that's another story.

I have managed to hang on to several of the responses I got to my letters. Back in those pre internet days, it was rare to have copy machine so we relied on carbon paper. If I made carbons of the letters I don't have them.

Like many people of my generation, I was opposed to the War in Vietnam. I was, and am, opposed to war in general, but that was the conflict of the era and I wanted some answers. I was three weeks shy of sixteen years old and nearing the end of tenth grade when  I wrote a letter to my Senator, Robert F. Kennedy. Here is his hand typed and, I believe, hand signed reply:

 Robert F Kennedy letter, 1965, Vietnam War
Letter from Robert F.  Kennedy to Liza Cowan May 6th 1965.

Dear Miss Cowan,  

    Thank you for letting me know your views on Vietnam. I share your deep concern about our involvement there, and I have enclosed a statement which summarizes my views about it.

     The situation becomes more serious with each passing day, and I can assure you that I have been in close and constant contact with other Senators and with members of the Executive Branch regarding an effort to develop a strategy for peace in that troubled part of the word -- how we can end the fighting as soon as possible in a way which brings world stability and a lasting and honorable peace. This is a delicate and difficult task. 

     I hope I have not delayed unduly in replying to your thoughtful views. I valued having them and I hpe to hear from you again as the months pass.sincerely

Robert F. Kennedy

Kennedy died in March 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles

The War in Vietnam lasted until 1975.

Your comments are always welcome.


Here are some random shots of new and old things we have at PSAW today:

 Psaw art is my weapon
Just in from TMNK, Art Is My Weapon T-Shirts in a variety of sizes.

 Psaw clipboard
Very cool and fun French Script clipboards from Timeworks, Inc. Clock Company. I also carry the American Baseball one. @ $12.75 this will be a great holiday present.

 Psaw magnet frames
Always popular, The Magnet Frame from Canetti. 5x7, these pure acrylic frames open and close like a dream, held by tiny powerful magnets. @ $28. Photos in the frames are by me, Liza Cowan, except the one of two old fashioned girls who are my grandmother Lena Straus Spiegel and her sister Hettie.

 Psaw button and beads
Random button and beads. The Lampwork beads are by Madelyn Erb, Mad Glass Beads.

 Psaw monopoly pieces
Monopoly pieces.

 Psaw fireplace ginny
The cozy new electric fireplace. On top: Tea cup print by Ginny Joyner, real teacup and teapot by Shinzi Katoh, fine art laminated mid 20th Century ads.




Borden's Sweetened Condensed Milk, Merrit Cutler, advertising pamphlet, food illustration,
Merritt Cutler New Magic In The Kitchen. LIza Cowan ephemera collections

These illustrations from the Borden Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk Recipe  book, New Magic In The Kitchen, are ignore.

 gail borden eagle brand milk label early

The Borden Company, Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk. Gail Bordon patented his invention for making condensed milk in 1856 and his company was  first manufacturer of condensed milk. 


The illustrations for the recipe booklet are by Merritt Cutler. Published probably in the  1930's before 1938 when  Elsie the Cow became the spokesbovine for the Borden Company.

Here's what a 1960 ad for Strathmore Paper had to say about Merritt

merritt cutler, strathmore ad, magazine illustration, illustrator advertising

"Merritt Cutler graduated from Pratt Institute into a noteworthy career as art director in leading advertising agencies. In 1942 he enlisted as a Captain in the Army Engineers Corps. He formed and directed the department at Ft. Belvoir which turned out the Camouflage Training Aids and Manuals."


I sure would love to see those!

 "The free-lancing which Mr. Cutler has been doing since, includes two text books on scratch board techniques, book illustrations, advertisement and package design.

 Ad for Strathmore Artist Paper, American Artist , April 1960







rice pudding illustration merritt cutler color vintage desert
Rice Pudding, Merritt Cutler, p. 45 New Magic In The Kitchen


  Lemon pie illustration Merritt Cutler
Lemon Pie, Merritt Cutler, p. 41, New Magic In The Kitchen


hot chocolate merritt cutler illustration whipped cream yellow pitcher
Merrit Cutler. Hot Chocolate.

Hot Chocolate, Merrit Cutler, p. 28, New Magic In The Kitchen


  orange lemon frosting illustration merritt cutler cake yellow
Orange-Lemon Frosting. Merritt Cutler, p. 29 New Kitchen Magic

  cornmeal muffins illustration merritt cutler
Cornmeal Muffins, Merritt Cutler, p. 12, New Magic In the Kitchen