Every collector has a deep appreciation for the history of the things they collect. Some even take this appreciation to an obsessive level.
This article is a result of my own obsessive researching, with a twist. I won't bore you with the details on the history or invention of the camera, nor the volumes of information I've gathered on English silver marks and the dating of pocket watches and tableware. Instead, here are three of the more humorous (and sad) results of my research on antiques and collectibles.
Hope you enjoy... or cry.
|Old Pint Beer Bottles|
Beer is said to have been invented nearly 7,000 years ago in what today is Iran. The first known recipe for beer, though, was discovered in a document that is only 3,900 years old. This "document" is actually a poem honoring Ninkaski, the Sumerian patron goddess of... brewing. When I was following this line of information, I did a thoughtless search on "gods" and "beer". The result from urbandictionary.com had me in stitches. "Porcelain God - Toilet, particularly as related to vomiting. Usually combined with a worship-oriented verb to describe the act of vomiting into a toilet."
|vintage Betty Crocker recipes|
Yes... I'm that guy. I searched on Bing images for a picture of "Betty Crocker". I just had to see what this sweet old lady, who had gathered family recipes from friends and neighbors, looked like. What I found was that in over 80 years, "Betty" hadn't aged much, but had gone through some interesting changes... new haircuts sure... but a new nose and eyes? Something was fishy. Turns out that dear "Betty Crocker" is a corporate figment of our imagination. In 1921, the Washburn Crosby Company (General Mills today) decided to create a name to answer consumer correspondence on their products. "Betty" just sounded like an All-American dame and "Crocker" was given in honor of the director, William Crocker. It wasn't until 1936, that they created a face to go with the increasingly famous name. I did find out that an actress named Adelaide Cumming played "Betty Crocker" on TV shows and commercials from 1949 to 1964. General Mills dropped Ms. Adelaide in 1964, because they were "looking for a more sophisticated image". I think they dropped Ms. Adelaide due to her age - today, that would be a case for the EEOC.
|JoJo Lewis "The Clown Cop"|
Probably the research that made me laugh and cry the most was, appropriately, clowns. Not really surprising. Without writing a novel, and to honor the history of these clowns, I'll make it short. If you want to learn more about either, go ahead and start that obsessive research yourself.
George Fox (1825 - 1877) was a pioneer in slapstick acts. He performed as "Humpty Dumpty" on Broadway for more than a 1,000 performances. Touted as the funniest man on Broadway, his career made him so successful that he was the highest paid actor of his time. During his last performance, he was removed from the stage and committed to an insane asylum where he died after only three years... from lead poisoning... from his white-face makeup. Ouch.
"Slivers" Oakley (1871 - 1916) earned over a $1,000 each week at the turn of the century, working for Barnum and Bailey as a one-man act. Lobsters and basketball... (you can look it up).
Just a few years later, his career was destroyed by motion pictures. With the introduction of Max Linder and Charlie Chaplin, no one remembered the iconic circus clown.
By 1916, B&B offered him a reduced contract of just $75 a week to stay on with the circus.
He committed suicide over the rejection of Vaudeville actress Viola Stoll. She rejected his marriage proposal... from jail... where she was serving time for theft.... of Oakley's late wife's jewelry.
"Send in the clowns. Don't bother, they're here..." - Well said Judy Collins. Well said.