Old Rochester postcards: Then and Now

Filed under: Mailbox Memories, Stop Defacing Rochester!, ephemera, photography — olivander March 20, 2011 @ 1:52 pm

Over the years, I’ve accumulated a decent number of old postcards depicting Rochester, MN. It’s a fun and (usually) inexpensive way to open a window into the city’s past. They’re also a good way to educate folks on the history of our city. To that end, I have a separate Web site that display’s most of them and give a little history of each scene.

I had originally planned a local history book centered around the postcard images, most likely as part of Arcadia’s Postcard History series. However, someone beat me to it–and did a much better job than I ever could have. So now I have a bunch of postcards hanging out in a binder.

Something I’ve been doing with them is attempting to recreate the shots as they look today, standing as near as possible to the same spot as the original photographer. It’s not always possible, but I do my best. Originally, I intended to exclusively use Conley cameras for the modern images, the Conley factory having been located here.  But that was rather hit-and-miss. I’ve taken to using the digital camera to take test shots, and eventually I’ll go back and re-take them with my Conley postcard-format field camera when time and expense allow.

Here are some I took this weekend. The full set can be seen on Flickr.

The Rochester Hotel began as the Pierce House in 1877. Over the years it underwent several major remodels. The top photo must have been taken after 1907; it’s postmarked 1914. In 1928, it was moved (by horse, in three sections) two blocks down and one block over, becoming the largest building ever moved in Minnesota at the time. Today, part of the Minnesota Biobusiness Center stands on the site.

The Rommel Hotel is long gone, destroyed by fire in 1953. This is more or less an educated guess as to where the lobby was.

The postcard is postmarked April, 1909, just three months after the YMCA opened. The little bank building alongside it was moved there from where it originally stood near City Hall about a block and a half away; the Martin Hotel was built in its place in 1916. The Y was torn down in 1938. The West half of the 1949 201 Building now occupies the site.

The top photo was taken in the late 1930s. Silver Lake was a WPA project, completed in 1936. Olmsted is the only county in the Land of 10,000 Lakes without a single natural lake. At 34 acres, Silver Lake is the largest man-made lake in the county, and is a year-round home to thousands of giant Canada geese. As you can see, the most significant change has been to the buildings in the background and to the bridge deck.

On July 23, 1908, the Zumbro River overflowed in one of the worst floods in the city’s history; at the time, it was certainly the largest disaster to hit the city since the 1883 tornado. Shown at top is the Chicago & Great Western rail bridge, with a  CGW locomotive stopped in front of Cole’s Mill. In the background in the College St bridge (now 4th St South) which in those days began at Broadway and crossed both the Zumbro river and the mill race. Due to dramatic changes to the river channel and geography of 2nd St as part of the 1990s flood control project instigated by the equally destructive 1978 flood, the original shot is almost impossible to recreate today. As it is, the pedestrian bridge in the foreground (immediately beneath the skyway) virtually completely blocks the view of the rail bridge.

The CGW bridge seen from the opposite side, looking North. Note the men standing on the bridge watching the flood waters. The angle of my photo isn’t quite right, since the modern street is much wider than the 2-lane bridge the 1908 photo was shot from. I would have had to stand in the middle of 4th St to accurately recreate the shot.

Another shot of the South end of the CGW bridge. At this point, the water is well on its way to completely washing out the ground from under the tracks.

Remington Rhymes

Filed under: ephemera, typewriters — olivander March 9, 2011 @ 1:59 pm

Here is a wonderful period piece from 1929. Remington Rhymes of Typewriter Times was written and illustrated by John Martin–”the childrens’ friend”–and published by Remington Rand. It’s a blatant product of the marketing department. Copiously and colorfully illustrated, each letter of the alphabet is represented by short poems and parables, in nearly every one of which the modern marvel of the portable typewriter helps the children overcome an obstacle or achieve educational greatness.

Admittedly, the rhymes aren’t very good, as they more often than not are forced to contort themselves to the marketing message driven through them, and the breathless prose extolling Remington typewriters’ educational benefits can seem hokey to modern audiences. But it’s a marvelously fun cultural artifact that if nothing else will bring a smile with its whimsical illustrations. (There is one small example of unapologetic racism buried within it, which I will ask you to just accept as being part of the book’s “cultural artifact” aspect.)

Click the cover above or download it here. (PDF, 8.5mb)


Filed under: Typecast, typewriters — olivander March 8, 2011 @ 11:35 am

Edit: added photos of a few:

Hermes 9

Olympia SG-3 w/7-pt Bulletin typeface

IBM Model 01 electric

Things You Think About at 2:30 AM

Filed under: Insomnia, Musings — olivander February 22, 2011 @ 5:24 am

There’s a story out of the French Revolution of a fellow whose guillotined head continued to scream for several minutes after being divorced from its body. Good story, but when you think about it, utterly impossible. Even if the executioner had botched the job so closely to the shoulders that he included the larynx with the head, the diaphragm would still be necessary to push air past the vocal cords.

I suppose it’s possible that a severed head could retain consciousness for 30 or 60 seconds. Possibly it could even work the jaw muscles, albeit silently. It’s completely possible that the eyes and ears would continue to process information until the brain became starved of oxygen. That would occur fairly rapidly. Vision is the first higher brain function to break down, so who knows?

But a screaming head? Not very likely.

Things you think about at 2am

Filed under: Insomnia, Musings — olivander February 15, 2011 @ 12:51 am

What if Lady Gaga is really Marilyn Manson playing an elaborate practical joke on everyone?

What if all wormholes are an express train to a singularity–the terminus of time and space, the Big Bang–and everything ejected in the Big Bang is the material being sucked in by black holes throughout the universe, and the universe’s existence is a product of its own demise?


I should have had a proper typecast, especially since I hauled home four standards over the weekend, but between insomnia and a hellion child, I’m just drained.

Stereo Meta Stereo Meta

Filed under: AV Club, Finds, photography — olivander February 6, 2011 @ 3:43 pm

The above picture is a stereogram of a 1948 Stereo Realist camera, found in a local knick-knack store. So see it in simulated 3D, gently cross your eyes until the left and right images merge. Click the picture for a larger, more crosseye-friendly version.

A survey equipment company, the David White Company introduced the Stereo Realist to the market in 1947. It quickly became the company’s most popular product, despite a price of well over $1,000 in today’s dollars. Probably its most prolific and famous user was former silent-film star Harold Lloyd, who shot around a quarter million stereo images with one.

The David White Company is still around and still selling surveying equipment, but in 1971 they sold all of their Stereo Realist assets to former company design engineer Ron Zakowski.

The Stereo Realist shown above is a fairly early example, having a serial number in the low 7000s. It’s in nearly perfect condition, except the shutter is a bit sticky on very low speeds. With a little luck, I’ll be turning out real (not imitation) stereo photographs soon!

From a Caligraph 2

Filed under: typewriters — olivander January 23, 2011 @ 3:26 pm

I got it in my head to see if I could at a minimum get a type sample from my c.1886 Caligraph No.2, using carbon paper in the absence of a ribbon. While the typeface needs to be cleaned–and apparently several of the lowercase keytops have been switched around–I think the results are surprisingly good.

This is probably the first typing the Caligraph has done in a long, long time. I was mildly disappointed that the “Q” did not have the L-shaped tail that is depicted on the keytop.

Because the feed roller is pretty much shot, I taped the top edge of the paper and carbon paper together to keep them aligned, and then I taped the leading corners of the carbon paper to the platen. In my first attempt, the sheets tended to travel independently of one another.

I also had to type with one finger pressed against the right end of the carriage, as I was too chicken to attempt to tension the longitudinal carriage spring.

Perhaps I will eventually get it to the point where one could type a letter on it. Some typebars clash and need to be realigned. The lowercase keytops need to be unscrambled. The “(” key’s wooden keylever is broken and needs to be repaired. And of course the spring ought to be tensioned. For now, this baby step has me pretty darn happy.

Sounds of the Past: The Remington Typewriter Co. Band

Filed under: AV Club, Diversions, Finds — olivander January 18, 2011 @ 5:44 pm

Remington Typewriter Band c.1912

Here we have the two sides from Columbia A1433, the first record of a handful released by the Remington Typewriter Co. Band.  Both were recorded Aug 27, 1913.  It used to be common for large companies to have their own employee-comprised concert bands and sports teams that played primarily for the enjoyment of the employees.  Of course, these company bands also acted as a form of advertising.  At the time these recordings were made, the band would have been under the leadership of Harry Putnam, former director of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Baily Circus Band.

Formed in 1905, the Remington Band quickly became well-known outside the sphere of the factory grounds, performing regularly at events all around Herkimer County, NY.  In 1910, they embarked on a month-long tour of New York state and just inside the Canadian  border.  Possibly their highest-profile gig was playing at the opening of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1939.

Beginning in 1926, the band could be heard at 8:30 every Wednesday evening on WGY, broadcasting from a studio built in the Remington employee cafeteria.

Reflecting the new corporate structure, the band changed its name to the Remington Rand Band in 1936.  After WWII, the band changed names again to the Ilion Fireman’s Band, a band which eventually became today’s Ilion Civic Band.

Click to download/listen:

Side A: Salute to the Sultan

Side B: Fraternal Spirit March

We’ve all got to have something to fall back upon

Filed under: Errata, Finds, ephemera — olivander @ 1:22 pm

From a 1917 Duluth, MN, city directory:

Lost Holiday: “Our best to Victoria and the lizards.”

Filed under: Stolen moments, ephemera — olivander November 20, 2010 @ 12:57 pm

A while back, I received this totally random postcard in the mail. We frequently get mail intended for our neighbors–mostly bills, catalogs, and ads for life insurance–but I must say, as misdirected mail goes this one was quite entertaining. It’s addressed to me (as “W.A.”) and addressed properly except for one digit of the zip code, but it was clearly meant for someone named Albert. The back is labeled “Trolls of Norway” and it was postmarked in Oakland, CA. I unsuccessfully tried to track down this Albert Seaver, then put the postcard away and forgot about it until now.

The Trolls of Norway

Albert – Spotted these fine fellows by the roadside and was reminded of you and your brothers. Surely the resemblance is uncanny! Our best to Victoria and the lizards. We await the unveiling of your portrait at the Hudson. “Modern Art, harumph!” indeed! Keep basking – John & Martha & Ted & Alice

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