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Category Archives: Vintage

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The First (& Slowest) American Car Race

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Frank and Charles Duryea, 1895

Taking nearly 10 hours to race 54 miles, it’s not exactly what we would think of today as a race; more like an amble.  But the Chicago-Times Herald race goes down in history as the first automobile race in America, and it took place on this day in 1895, which that year was Thanksgiving Day, from Chicago to Evanston and back.  The race had been delayed from an earlier date because at the time, it was forbidden for cars to drive on city streets (likely because they were loud and would frighten the numerous horses, causing traffic chaos).  Once the organizers convinced the city council to permit the cars on the roads, the race took off.

We think of cars as being four-wheeled; but aside from 4 four-wheeled cars in the race (3 of which were German Benz cars, the 4th being a motorized wagon driven by Frank Duryea and made by Charles Duryea, founder of the Duryea Motor Wagon Company, and inventor of the first working  gasoline-powered car in America), there were 2 two-wheeled “automobiles”, but these motorized cycles lacked the power to climb the steeper passages.  An electric car was also entered in the race, but because of the cold weather, its battery died before getting very far.

One Benz car struck a horse just after taking off, and was forced out of the race, leaving just three cars; Duryea’s car won the day, with a time of 7 hours and 53 minutes (making his average time 7 mph / 11 km/h). The second car made it in 1 & 1/2 hours later, and the third never made it.  The driver of the second car had fallen unconscious due to exposure in the open vehicle and the cold weather, and the car was driven across the finish line by one of the race’s umpires.

The race was widely publicized, and predicted the demise of horse-drawn transport; it sped up the production of motorized vehicles, and the rest, as they say, is history.

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Information source:  Wikipedia

Vintage Life Hack #4: How to Pull Out Long Nails

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Vintage Life Hack #3: How to Clean Bottles

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Vintage Life Hack #2: How to Engrave on Steel

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Gallaher’s Cigarettes was founded by Thomas Gallaher in 1857, in Derry (Londonderry), Ireland.  He went from one man selling cigars and cigarettes from a cart to the largest tobacco factory in the world within 40 years. In 1863, the company was moved to Belfast, and by 1896 had opened his famous factory.

In the late 1800s, colour lithography had been developed, and it wasn’t long before companies were investing in creating attractive images to market their products.  In 1910, Gallaher’s ran a series of ads that we refer to now as “life hacks” – tips and tricks on how to do tasks in and around the home.

I’ll be sharing them here occasionally, so just follow the trail of “Vintage Life Hacks”!  Being interested in history, as well as handy tips for crafts, this hack is great.  Sulphate of Iron is used as a moss killer on lawns, or a lawn greener / conditioner, so it shouldn’t be that difficult to find.

If you test this tip, please let me know the results!

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Vintage Life Hack #1: How to Adjust a Door

Life hacks might seem to be a modern invention, but they’re not; they’ve probably been around as long as the need to communicate with another human has.

“How’d you light that glowing thing?”

“Fire?  I rub these sticks together until something happened.  Don’t touch – it’s… hot.”

Here’s a vintage life hack for fixing those squeaking doors; with winter coming up for those of us in the northern hemisphere, this might just come in handy if you don’t have any WD-40 on hand.

Hawaii, ca. 1924

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By clicking on the image below, you can watch a ~9-minute video of a series of short video clips from the 1920’s of Hawaii, interspersed with silent-film era title cards.  Not only is it an interesting time-capsule glimpse of a simpler time on the islands, but it’s also an insight into what the rest of America knew about the islands, the foods and customs.  Back before you could find certain fruits and vegetables in the grocery stores year round, many people didn’t know what some were, such as papaya.  My Swiss mother-in-law remembers when bananas came to Switzerland, and were exotic and expensive; in her house they were only bought for her brother, who was very sick at the time, as a source of energy; that was during World War 2.  Once, she confessed stealing a bit of money from her brother’s piggy bank to buy herself a banana.

Back then the world in general also knew very little about strange customs such as “surf riding” (surfing), and the footage of surfers is utterly tame compared to the monster wave-riding considered “for surfers” today!  Volcanic activity also seems to have been a fascination; such footage may well have been the first time anyone had seen such a thing outside of volcanic regions; it still had to be described in colours, however, such as “cherry red” for the lava, as the footage was, obviously, black and white.

The image below is of King’s Mansion, in Kealakekua, Hawaii, on the Big Island.  I actually lived here in 1986, as a student (my dorm window was the left bay window at the front).  The mansion originally belonged to Kamehameha dynasty; thus the name.  We had avocado trees in the back garden, and our neighbour’s horses, across a stone wall, would come trotting to the wall when they saw us in the garden, hoping for an avocado; we’d feed them, entertained as they carefully chewed away the flesh around the pit (reminding me of an old man chewing tobacco!), and then skillfully spit the seed aside.  In the bottom of our front garden stood a huge banyan tree [if you were standing on the covered lanai (porch) at the front of the house, it would be to your left]; it was a favourite tree to climb.

King's Mansion

Vintage Ad: Kellogg’s Pep

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Introduced in 1923, Kellogg’s Pep cereal was one of the first products to be infused with vitamin additives, beginning in the 1930’s.  It was a strong point of their advertising campaign, along with the “mildly laxative” effects, and the product was a sponsor of the long-running radio serial “the Adventures of Superman” (1940-1951). Despite its purported health advantages, public tastes changed, and by the late 1970’s the product was discontinued.

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Odd Jobs of Bygone Days: Catalogue Assembly

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It’s hard to imagine an assembly line of human page pushers in this automated age, when books are printed on demand and most cumbersome mail-order catalogues have gone the way of the dinosaur in lieu of online shopping; but in 1942, here’s proof that Sears, Roebuck & Co. was doing their fair share of employing.  The first catalogue was published in 1888.  To read more about the history of Sears, click here.

Sears Roebuck Catalogue Assembly Line, 1942

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