As curator of a collection of late 18th, 19th, and early 20th century children's books, I come across many things people, presumably children, tucked into the pages of a book and forgot about. There are the usual items: pressed flowers, four leaf clovers and bookmarks, things one expects to find in books. But I've also found knots of human hair, birth announcements, post cards, church bulletins, photographs, Biblical tracts, drawings, valentines, monopoly money, children's school pictures, playing cards, and lengths of ribbon. Each item is a link with the book's past as well as with the unknown reader. One three-inch-long pink ribbon, cut on each end with snappy angles, had "I love you" written on it with a fountain pen in bold block letters. The ink of each letter had bled a little into the weave of the ribbon adding whimsy to the boldness.
I once found a handwritten recipe for cough syrup that included a pint of molasses, 2 tablespoonsfuls of kerosene oil, and 1 tablespoonful each of spirits of turpentine and paregoric. The dosage was one teaspoon as often as you have a spell of coughing. Final suggestion: Shake well before using. A 1940 brochure issued by the Ministry of Home Security of Great Britain entitled "After the Raid" gave detailed information on what to do after an air raid if your home was destroyed and how to obtain government help.
Advertising cards seemed to be a popular item in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These cards were made of stiff, sturdy paper and range in size from 2 x 3 inches to 5 x 7 inches. Many of these advertisements were for health-related items. For soap: Pear's soap, Constantine's pine-tar soap, Cherry Blossom soap, Palmolive soap, Octagon Soap. For patent medicines: Dr. Caldwell's Syrup Pepsin, a reliable remedy for, among other complaints, dyspepsia, biliousness, foul breath, and heartburn. For Hood's Sarsaparilla: blood purifier, appetite maker, and strength builder. For hygienic paper cups and towels: "Our most dangerous and deadly enemies" the Sanitary Drinking Fountain Company claims, "are the disease germs clinging to the edge of the common drinking cup and lingering in the meshes of the ordinary towel." Along with the card was a sample of "our No. 1 no-germ crepe paper towel," 14 x 22 inches -- still soft and absorbent looking, if not quite germ free, after so many years.
Finally, one day I found an early scratch and sniff card for Hoyt's German Cologne. "This card is perfumed with 'Hoyt's German Cologne,' it reads, the most delightful odor of the age. Rich, delicate and permanent." Not too permanent, apparently, since the "delightful" aroma has departed the 4 x 6-inch rectangle, and I find that it only smells like old cardboard now.
Copyright 2006© Rita Smith
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Friday, 01-Dec-2006 13:01:12 EST