Here’s something new from my Ephemera Flickr set… various take-home paper items made by now-defunct Trans World Airlines in the 1950s. These carry a lot of the kitsch and charm of vintage travel items, from back when people actually dressed up to fly (long, long ago). My favorite piece is the TWA charge card application with cartoon illustration of that archetypical ’50s Man reclining with a bevy of stewardesses tending to his needs, along with a bizarrely placed house cat. It’s the only way to fly. These items were collected by Christopher and are currently up for auction on eBay.
Shortly after being gifted with a nice, hefty Amazon gift card last month (thank you, Mom and Dad), the beautiful hardback collection A Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books was the first thing I ended up choosing. While the immensely talented Mary Blair (1911-1978) is perhaps best known for her involvement with Walt Disney’s films and theme park attractions, she actually had a successful non-Disney career as an illustrator in the ’50s and ’60s. Treasury draws from this aspect of Blair’s art, reprinting the colorful, charming work she did for the Little Golden Book company. Along with a brief intro from animation historian John Canemaker, the book includes the full contents of four of her beloved Golden books – Baby’s House (1950), I Can Fly (1950), The Golden Book of Little Verses (1953), and The Up and Down Book (1964). Well-chosen selections from a fifth book, The New Golden Song Book (1955), are also included.
The first thing about A Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books that struck me was how physically big it is – pages that were originally published in the classic, kid-sized Little Golden Books format are enlarged here by roughly a third. Another pleasant surprise is that much of the artwork is sourced from Blair’s original paintings, rendered in brilliant gouache. It really allows artsy nerds to get in there and study her technique. A few of the I Can Fly pages are lesser-quality scans from book pages, but at least they look as nice as they can (no noticeable moiré patterns or off-set colors). The artwork is pretty nifty, overall. I particularly enjoyed the pages from The Up and Down Book, since it shows her experimenting with a more graphic, simplified (yet still quintessentially Mary Blair-ish) style. Her work from the Golden Song Book is also notable for its wonderful intricacies and the skillful way some of it employs just two colors.
Paging through A Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books makes it obvious why she continues to inspire artists and craftspeople. The book is available here (at a good price, I must add) at Amazon.com.
Yesterday, Christopher and I had a “business” meeting out in Scottsdale. On our way out there, we stopped at the local Goodwill. The ‘will in Scottsdale is a pretty interesting place, since it’s huge and tends to have some older stuff (78 RPM albums, pre-WWII era books) that one usually doesn’t find in thrifts. One such item I picked up is this paperback book, H. L. Mencken’s Prejudices: A Selection, with a cover designed by modern design icon Paul Rand. Although I’ve seen this cover reproduced in design books, one thing I didn’t notice until buying this copy is that Rand actually put his signature in the design. How unusual is that? Either Rand had a big ego or the book’s publisher thought his name would help sell books.
In looking through his work, I noticed that Rand signed his work as early as 1938. I suppose he was an early adopter of the concept of branding.
Seems like I’ve had this copy of Amos Tutuola’s novelette The Palm-Wine Drinkard forever without ever actually having read it. The striking black and orange cover design by Roy Kuhlman might be the reason why I’m still holding on. A Pinterest search on Kuhlman reveals many of the other bright, jazzy designs he did for Grove Press in the ’50s.
Every time we go thrifting, I head straight for the books. Mostly I come across the same junk as always, but occasionally I will come across a battered old kiddie book with cool illustrations. Bob Clampett’s Beany: Cecil Captured for the Zoo, published by Whitman in 1954, was a good recent find (and only 49 cents, too!). Although it had its share of wear and tear, the pages were complete and surprisingly free of food stains, crayon marks or other childhood detritus. These little “Tell-a-Tell” books were fairly popular over a long period of time (I remember them in the mid-’70s). As with the Beany & Cecil, they often used popular animated cartoon characters — and yet the illustrations had that standard “Whitman” look.
Along with the front and back cover, some of my favorite pages from Bob Clampett’s Beany: Cecil Captured for the Zoo got uploaded to the flickr photostream:
For Flickr Friday, I’m sharing a bit of that vintage Disneyland brochure that I picked up at the antique mall in Sherman Oaks during our recent L.A. trip. This brochure is from the Kaiser Aluminum Hall of Fame, one of the corporate-sponsored attractions that was quickly shoehorned into Tomorrowland in time for the park’s grand opening in July 1955. Although I couldn’t find much information on the Hall of Fame on the web, thanks to Daveland I now know that lasted in the park for five years, with Kaiser cutting their contract with Disney short since they felt the Disneyland TV show had inappropriately used competing sponsors.
In keeping with the science class-y nature of early Tomorrowland, the walk-though exhibit guided parkgoers through the wondrous process of making aluminum. This is illustrated in the brochure with nifty midcentury modern drawings like these:
Aluminum is poured into a rough form known as “pigs,” from which all our favorite aluminum stuff is made. Remember, you will be tested on this. According to Daveland, the attraction had a pig mascot named KAP (Kaiser Aluminum Pig). The 40 foot-long telescope at the center of the attraction looked as if it could slice someone’s limb open, if they weren’t careful.
With an optimistic look at what other Disneyland attractions used Kaiser aluminum on the brochure’s back cover, that concludes our visit to one of the more educational corners of The Happiest Place On Earth™.