The Maltese Falcon

True story. An event was held at the American Treasure Tour this past December - an employer thanking their staff for a successful year. An extremely nice selection of food and beverages was catered for the event, and a scavenger hunt was provided for everyone in attendance. Groups of three to five had to locate ten different items in the collection and capture an image of the team members posing in front of it. Everyone seemed to have a lot of fun and truly enjoy themselves.

I was stationed near the entrance to the Toy Box to be available to assist anyone with questions, or for whatever reason - except I wasn't supposed to offer clues regarding the scavenger hunt. So, one of the items members of the groups needed to take a picture of was a poster for the 1941 movie The Maltese Falcon.  For the record, I am not so old as to have been alive when The Maltese Falcon was in theaters, but I have seen the film. It's a classic and deserves to be seen:  Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre - a film noir in the finest sense of the phrase. I happened to be standing near the poster as people came by on their search.

More than once, I heard a person tell their compatriots that they believed it was the name of one of the Star Trek films. I didn't have an opportunity to ask the folks who were a little confused why they thought The Maltese Falcon might be science fiction, but I was curious. And perhaps a little amused. The notion of William Shatner, or even Patrick Stewart, playing detective Sam Spade, wearing Bogart's iconic trench coat, seemed very funny to me. Guilty confession, when I realized that these people had no idea about the film, I began standing next to it, intentionally trying to draw their attention to the film. 

So. If you think The Maltese Falcon is science fiction, I encourage you to watch it. If, however, you know it for what it is - a highly engaging film noir - but you haven't seen it, I encourage you to watch it. Truth be told, even if you know what it is and you HAVE seen it, it bears repeat viewing. It's one of the greats. And there's a poster of it displayed in our Toy Box. Not too far from posters for a few science fiction films. 

Music Box Society

There is truly something magical about music boxes. One of the earliest forms of music ever played without a live musician, the mechanical elements of the music box are fascinating - hand crank them or wind the coil so that it can unwind automatically, little teeth in a comb rub up against the pins on a barrel or disc to make beautiful music. It can sound ethereal, quiet, loud, or just plain amazing. One thing you may not realize is that there are many music boxes out there that also include tiny drums and bells, as well. Of course, miniature dancers famously complement some boxes, too.

The Music Box Society International (MBSI) presents dozens of beautiful and elaborate music boxes here at the American Treasure Tour. Visitors on guided tours get to see and hear a selection of their boxes, including a chair that has a musical cylinder machine located under the seat of a hand-carved chair made at the turn of the twentieth century in Switzerland. Sit on the chair, the music will happen. (Okay, don't REALLY sit on the chair. That would be very bad. But watch your guide press down on the chair and listen to the melody that triggers.)

Cylinders, discs, barrels, and all sort of music boxes are displayed in the Music Room here at the  American Treasure Tour - a true feast for the ears. And, if you appreciate the art of handcrafted woodwork, the craftsmanship in these is beyond compare!


Yesterday's blog focused on the important subject of ALF, an alien life form who inspired laughter on network television in the latter half of the 1980's. We included a picture of an ALF doll here at the American Treasure Tour standing next to a small wooden depiction of a conquistador. Now, if you're wondering why ALF would be next to that, you have a valid question there. One we simply cannot answer. But we will tell you a little bit about conquistadors. 

The Spanish were the first Europeans to make a permanent foothold in the Americas after Christopher Columbus accidentally discovered them in 1492. Their legacy is not an especially happy one, but they reached the soil that would become the United States of America right around one hundred years before the English settled either Jamestown, Virginia OR Plymouth, Massachusetts. 

Men with names including De Soto, Coronado and Cortez explored the lands of the now-United States, from Florida to New Mexico, and as far north as Kansas. They described unimaginably harsh conditions, and often exploited the local residents for their food and shelter, warring with native tribes.

One man named Cabeza de Vaca (Which, oddly, translates to "Head of cow" in English) was shipwrecked with a number of compatriots. It took him a full four years to travel from the Gulf of Mexico coast in Florida to familiar lands in Mexico.


Who doesn't love that rascally ALF?  Star of his own sitcom between 1986 and 1990, Alf made America - and the world - laugh. Wait, what? You've never even heard of ALF? Well, that can't be true!

Here at the Treasure Tour, ALF is standing next to the theme of tomorrow's blog...

Here at the Treasure Tour, ALF is standing next to the theme of tomorrow's blog...

ALF (Alien Life Form) traveled to Planet Earth from the far off distant Melmac, drawn to our world by an amateur radio station. Adopted by the Tanner family, ALF is in hiding from the Alien Task Force - a government organization investigating just his kind. ALF's wisecracking and his near obsession with cats delighted fans for 102 episodes. If you missed the show during its original run, it is not difficult to find in reruns or on dvd. Of course, you can always just come to the American Treasure Tour and check him out in his classy Hawaiian shirt. No problem!

Didja know:
-   ALF was the first program on television recorded in Dolby Surround Sound
-   The set for ALF required the use of trap doors in the floor so that puppeteers could control the rascally alien, making for many hazards for the human actors intent on not falling into the holes.
-   When the script called for a full body shot of ALF, actor Mihaly 'Michu' Meszarus, measuring at two feet nine inches tall climbed into the costume and worked his magic.

The Wilhelm Scream

Last Thursday, we referenced something called the "Wilhelm Scream."  We're sorry to have made you wait through what must have been a painfully long weekend to discover what we were talking about - but how better to celebrate a return to the office than to learn about an iconic sound!

We call it iconic, but does it merit that distinction? In our humble opinion - absolutely! The 'scream' was first recorded in 1951 for a film called Distant Drums when an unnamed character was dragged into a swamp and eaten by an alligator.  Then, the scream was used again in 1953 for a now all-but-forgotten western called The Charge at Feather River. 

When one of the characters in the film gets shot with an arrow, he screams then falls off his horse. The character is known as Private Wilhelm, which is how it got to be known as the Wilhelm Scream. It became part of stock audio - used and re-used and re-re-used over the years. Then, it was kind of forgotten by the early 1970's.

Screaming Stormtrooper

Screaming Stormtrooper

A sound engineer named Ben Burtt resurrected the Wilhelm Scream for a little movie he was working on called Star Wars. George Lucas, creator of the film, liked Burtt, and hired him for other movies in the franchise, as he also did for a film he called Raiders of the Lost Ark. Now, the Scream is used as an in-joke, and insider's in-joke, and as a straightforward scream in lots of different movies and tv shows.

Didja know:
-   It's believed that the actor/novelty song musician Sheb Wooley, singer of the classic song "Purple People Eater" originally recorded the Wilhelm Scream?

HAPPY Memorial Day!

The American Treasure Tour would like to wish everyone a truly happy Memorial Day. A special thank you to everyone who has served in the United States military to defend our country. Thank you also to the families of our veterans, who have all made sacrifices. 

We would also like to express our gratitude to pretty much everyone in general - men, women, children, people of all ethnicities and backgrounds.  People whose families immigrated to the United States recently or generations ago and came to this land to celebrate its wealth and ideals. 

Honestly, we would even like to celebrate the animals. The only things we have a hard time celebrating are mosquitos and flies. Maybe we should try to appreciate these insects a little more, but they really do seem to cause more grief than anything else. Ticks, too.  We're not big fans of any of them. But everyone else, thank you!

McDonald's Happy Meal

Yesterday's picture today! See Ronald McDonald in the top left corner?

Yesterday's picture today! See Ronald McDonald in the top left corner?

Yesterday's blog celebrated a banner displayed in our Toy Box advertising the new (in 1997, anyway) Disney animated feature Hercules. If you haven't seen it, it's a lot of fun. Worth the time. As an expert at sitting around and watching movies, we have confidence in our opinion. Anyway, the banner we have is more than just advertising Hercules. It's also encouraging you to go to McDonald's for a meal - a Happy Meal!

Star Trek: The Motion Picture Happy Meal

Star Trek: The Motion Picture Happy Meal

We could spend hours telling you all about McDonald's. Or we could encourage you to just see the movie The Founder with Michael Keaton about the founding of the restaurant chain. We won't do either because, in the first, we don't have the time and, in the second, we haven't actually seen the movie yet. But want to. Instead, we will mention Happy Meals!

The first Happy Meal came out in the era of bell-bottoms and disco. 1979. A man named Bob Bernstein, owner of an advertising agency, developed the idea after seeing struggling moms try to eat their own meals while their little ones picked through their food. Having a young son of his own, he figured a fun and festive container filled with jokes and games and trivia would make the kids happy - and a cheap gift inside would make them even happier. The rest is culinary and toy history.

Happy, the Happy Meal mascot, was introduced in 2014

Happy, the Happy Meal mascot, was introduced in 2014

Didja Know:
-   The Happy Meal was first introduced in Kansas City, Missouri
-   Happy Meals have been tied into movie promotions since the beginning. The first film that used them was Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Fans had to buy multiple Meals to get a 'full' series of artwork on the boxes.
-   Critics complain that the Happy Meal encourages kids to eat poorly and have fought to remove the toy as a way to discourage obesity.


Our banner

Our banner

The Walt Disney company has made fifty-six full-length feature films, starting with 1937's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and most recently last year's Polynesian epic Moana. Groundbreaking, imaginative, fun, occasionally scary, the Disney movies are sure crowd pleasers and pretty much a guaranteed fun night out for the whole family.

Disney's poster

Disney's poster

In 1997, their thirty-fifth animated release came out: Hercules. While you can be sure a Disney film will be a good one, you can also be sure there will be lots and lots of merchandise coming out to promote it. The American Treasure Tour is happy to honor both the film - and the merchandise! - with a banner displayed in our Toy Box.

A cute puppy (which has nothing to do with either the movie or today's blog)

A cute puppy (which has nothing to do with either the movie or today's blog)

Did you know:
-   James Woods loved playing Hades so much in the film that, when it went over budget, he offered to continue working free of charge. Disney said no and figured out how to continue.
-   The Muses in the film are Calliope, Clio, Melpomene, Terpsichore and Thalia. Disney originally approached the Spice Girls to voice them, but a scheduling conflict prohibited it.
-   One sound effect used in the film is the "Wilhelm Scream."  Never heard of it? Stay tuned - our blog will talk about it in better detail soon.
-   Donny Osmond, teen heartthrob of the 1970's, auditioned to play Hercules, but his voice was considered too deep for the character and he lost out to Tate Donovan.

Gere-ing Up for the Treasure Tour

Heart throbs, blond beauties, A-list celebrities from the silent film era to today. That's what we promise at the American Treasure Tour. Okay, we promise lots and lots of different things, but there are plenty of photographs of actors scattered throughout the tour, including Richard Gere.

Didja know?
-  The Philadelphia native was born in 1949, then went to the University of Massachusetts on an acrobatics scholarship but never graduated. He dropped out to pursue a career in acting. He was never seen nor heard of again. Except, you know, in movies and stuff.

-   Richard and his first wife Cindy Crawford never had kids. He was fifty years old when his first son was born by second wife Carey Lowell. He named his son after his dad: Homer Gere.

-   He was offered the role of John McClain in 1988's Die Hard but turned it down. Bruce Willis has since made seventy-four movies in the franchise. (Okay, we don't mean to exaggerate. We mean seventy-three.)

-   Gere made it big after starring in three critically-praised films: 1978's Days of Heaven, American Gigolo two years later, and An Officer and a Gentleman in 1982. John Travolta had been the first choice for every one of them and turned them all down.

-   Here's middle name is Tiffany, his mother's maiden name.

Boat Rides

Amusement Park Boat Ride.jpg

Who doesn't like a good boat ride?  Equally, who hates getting seasick?  Well, here at the American Treasure Tour, we have the best boat ride possible - a fun one guaranteed to not get you sick. How can we guarantee that?  Because it's too small to climb into.

Our boats are about three inches from end to end and in a miniature amusement park made in the 1940's. It was previously located in Moundsville, West Virginia in an ice cream parlor - a fantasy made true of delightful treats and marvelous miniatures!

Kiddie boats were a big thing at amusement parks during the 1950's and 1960's - as were the airplanes, animals and dinosaurs you would climb on, put a quarter in, and go forwards and backwards on for a few minutes before another coin would be demanded. 

Today, kids don't flock to these quite like they used to, now that everyone has smart phones and iPads. But the day will come when everyone wants to experience the thrill again.  And then, just wait and see!



So. We have a serious question for you.  Do you like music?  

To be honest, if you don't enjoy a good song now and again, regardless of what genre it is, we might not know how to take it if you said, simply, "No."  Music is an integral part of being human, and we are glad we can share all sorts of music with guests here at the American Treasure Tour. Of course, our music tends to fall into two categories:  fun and awesome. Okay fine. We don't have any Jay-Z or Justin Bieber - the Double J, as we like to think of them - but we do have an amazing collection of sass, ragtime, classical, bluegrass and even Broadway musicals. 

The clip attached here is of The Emperor. The Emperor is in our collection, BUT this video predates us. This actually comes from the 1960's, when the machine was recorded for a Coca-Cola advertisement.

It looks a little sad and lonely in the video - but just come to the American Treasure Tour to see it in its full glory, surrounded by its new, weird family!

Lions, tigers and bears....

OH MY!!!!

It is never good to judge another person based on your own standards, but if you say "Lions, tigers, and bears" to someone, and they don't respond with a good, solid, "Oh my!" then they may be a little deficient in their popular culture education or they're a grumpy pants. Sorry to have to say it, but there it is.

The American Treasure Tour has all three - lions, tigers, AND bears. We also have elephants, giraffes, and hippos. And a cow in western clothes.  Because, well, you know. Why wouldn't we?

Here are some quick facts about The Wizard of Oz:
The jacket worn by Frank Morgan, playing the role of the actual wizard, was found in a thrift shop. It had the name L. Frank Baum written on a label inside it. Baum wrote the original book.

The majority of the scenes including the Wicked Witch of the West were cut from the film because they were thought to be too scary for most audiences. 

The Munchkins were played by a group of little people managed by Leo Singer. They traveled under the name of "Singer's Midgets" and came from Europe to star in the movie. Many were of Jewish heritage and stayed in the United States after filming ended, to avoid the horrors of the war. Very few of them spoke English, and their songs were dubbed.

The only location footage used in the film (not shot in a studio) are the clouds in the opening scene.

Check out more of the American Treasure Tour's love of The Wizard of Oz with the Bob Omrod Giant World of Miniatures!



It is most definitely getting warmer outside, and the leaves are pretty much green. The National Park has plowed out most of its snowiest sites by now, too which brings me to a question I would like to ask you.  It's about as important as the questions get here at the American Treasure Tour, so I hope you will give it some considerable thought.  Please feel free to let us know what your answer is.  If you don't, I will assume you're too busy thinking about it to offer your input.

Here's the scenario.  It's a beautiful day outside, sunny and warm.  You're driving along a road in the mountains.  Which of the following cars would you prefer to be driving?

1). Would you want to be behind the wheel of a 1954 Corvette with the soft-top down?
2). Would you prefer the 1956 Ford Thunderbird with the hard-top removed?
3). Would you go for the 1905 Franklin that, while there is a fabric roof, has the side flaps up?
4). Would you opt for the 1967 Oldsmobile Cutlass convertible?

The reason I'm asking is because, to be honest, I want to be driving along a mountain road on a beautiful day, and I'm thinking about these cars my own self.  The good news is that they are all right here, in the American Treasure Tour.  The bad news is that I know I will never be able to take any of them outside the tour myself and drive them on the relatively flat roads of Southeastern Pennsylvania, let alone the mountain road I'm thinking about.  But it is fun to fantasize about....

National Walnut Day

Truth be told, I'm not a huge fan of eating walnuts. They make my mouth itch. But I do like that they look kinda like brains. [Curator's Comment of the day]

Truth be told, I'm not a huge fan of eating walnuts. They make my mouth itch. But I do like that they look kinda like brains. [Curator's Comment of the day]

The American Treasure Tour blog would like very much to celebrate National Walnut Day on this very special May 17th.  Please, please, please let us celebrate!

Why is it so important to us, you ask? Well, you might as well ask why it was so important for the Walnut Marketing Board to get President Dwight D. Eisenhower to sign it into law on the very first recognition of this special day in 1958. Oh, sure, the nation COULD have been celebrating the fourth anniversary of the victory of Brown v. Board of Education that day, which ended legal segregation of our nation's schools.  Or the 422nd anniversary of the annulment of King Henry VIII's marriage to his second wife, Anne Boleyn.  But no, walnuts.

Your devoted blog writer regrets that he is unable to include an image of the mice cracking nuts, as they were unwilling to sign the necessary release authorizing publication of their image. Please come to the tour to see them live. [Note: That's "live" which rhymes with five, not "live" that rhymes with give.}

Your devoted blog writer regrets that he is unable to include an image of the mice cracking nuts, as they were unwilling to sign the necessary release authorizing publication of their image. Please come to the tour to see them live. [Note: That's "live" which rhymes with five, not "live" that rhymes with give.}

The American Treasure Tour has a team of mice working around the clock (often when they're not even supposed to be working at all!) cracking these majestic nuts for your entertainment, so be sure to take a tram ride through our Toy Box and take a gander at them.  HINT: they're between the Philadelphia Toboggan Company roller coaster car and the head of Albert Einstein (not as gruesome as it sounds), right in front of the toothless dragon.  If you get to the Rupp three wheeler, you already passed it. If you're looking at Cowlamity Jane, you not only went WAY passed it, but you're looking at the wrong side of the tram.

Curator Corner

Every Tuesday, May 16th in the year 2017, the American Treasure Tour blog has committed itself to trying something new.  

The blog team has always loved the opportunity to share stories about the pieces in our collection with our army of fans, but we recognize that, every now and again, we need to change things up.  Kind of like when you wear the same shirt every day for three months and realize you should wash it, whether it needs cleaning or not.

I'm the third guy from the left on the 2nd level, wearing a hat.

I'm the third guy from the left on the 2nd level, wearing a hat.

The blog staff took a moment last week to take a group photograph during a cruise along the Delaware River in Philadelphia. The picture is to your right. We were on our way to a casino all-you-can-eat lunch buffet. Apparently, the casino served bad crab legs, which I didn't eat because I was unprepared to stand in line for them. A good thing, since they turned out to be bad. One highly successful class action lawsuit later, and the entire staff (except me, of course) bought themselves a tropical island and left me alone here. So I have the pleasure to entertain you, wow you, surprise you with fascinating knowledge, and quite possibly inspire you to beat the current world record for the largest popsicle stick structure!

Photo taken in its former CT home

Photo taken in its former CT home

Ours is a castle, made by a Connecticutian (Connecticotian? Connecticuter? Mary and Rudi?) named Steve Guman. It has 396,000 popsicle sticks held together with four gallons of Elmer's Glue. It lost the record back in 2009, which is currently held by a team of nine who made a map of Thailand.

When Elmer's Glue was established in 1947, it was part of the Borden's Company. Borden's began producing condensed milk way back in 1857, and has since diversified into canned foods and other stuff, including glue. Their logo includes a cow named Elsie. When the glue came into being, Elsie's 'spouse,' Elmer received the honor of taking the front spot on their glue label. Now, Borden's no longer owns the glue company, but Elmer is staying put, his smiling face inviting us to eat as much glue as we can stuff in our mouths.


            Elmer in all his glory!

            Elmer in all his glory!

[Editors' Note: We would like to clarify that, by "eating" the glue, our curator actually meant "to spread the glue smoothly over construction paper so that more construction paper could be placed safely and securely on top of it to make a wonderful montage for mom and dad to put on the refrigerator with your favorite magnet from the American Treasure Tour."  We would like to take the liberty to recommend the magnets for you:  we have a delightful magnet of the 1948 Hudson Commodore for all our young friends.  Or the 1924 Cadillac Sedan.  Or maybe the 1916 Wurlitzer Mandolin PianOrchestra.  Or even the Wurlitzer Model 175 Band Organ magnet.  Okay, let's be real here.  The wonderful montage has four corners, are we right? Unless scissors came into play and someone cut the construction paper into a triangle so it only has three corners, in which case four magnets would give you one magnet too many. But, assuming this does not happen, we're sticking to our recommendation for four magnets.  So, if you get all four magnets, you can put one on each corner.  And, full disclosure, the Editors here think classic cars are cooler than dolls, it's just how we are. It's a purely subjective opinion for which we are completely accountable, and in no way represents the management of the Treasure Tour, some of whom definitely prefer dolls to cars. But that is not the editors, which is why we prioritized the magnets dedicated to the cars over that for the doll, but the Tour does have a delightful magnet of one of the dolls in the collection available for purchase as well.  If dolls are your thing, then you can get the doll magnet instead of any of the other magnets, but it's on you to decide which four magnets to get to secure your construction paper montage on the refrigerator.  The Editors would, at this time, also like to apologize for making our note at the end of the blog longer than the entire blog entry. We think we may have lost our collective minds and, truth be told, we're not entirely sure we're not actually the same person who wrote the first part of the blog and that we are just pretending to be a team of editors instead of one person to make ourselves sound more important.  We mean, to make ourself sound more important. I mean, I want to make myself sound more important. I think we've confused ourselves.  Confused myself. What?  Huh? At this time, we would like to end our Note and encourage you to not read it in the first place. Thank you and have a nice day.]

Pearl Bailey

QUESTION:  From whom did Pearl Bailey receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom?
A). Richard Nixon
B). Gerald Ford
C). Jimmy Carter
D). Ronald Reagan

Pearl May Bailey was born in Southampton, Virginia. The year was 1918, and she was the daughter of a preacher man, Reverend Joseph James Bailey. Music must have been in her blood, because she began singing at a very early age, and was able to enjoy some success in the final years of vaudeville.  But Bailey's ascension to fame began in African-American nightclubs in the city of Philadelphia during the 1930's, then touring the country with the USO during World War II.  After the war, she reached Broadway, and performed to great acclaim in such shows as an all-black interpretation of Hello Dolly! Theater, movies and television followed, as did numerous albums including Sings for Adults Only, recorded in 1959, which is displayed next to Belle Barth and Sophie Tucker here at the American Treasure Tour (don't worry, kids can't listen to it!).

Pearl Bailey was a woman of many interests.  Not only did she love to perform, but she had a passion for the New York Mets, supporting them and singing for them over the years. In 1975, President Gerald Ford appointed her as special ambassador to the United Nations, and she wrote six books between 1968 and 1989.  She passed away in 1990 at the age of 72, and is laid to rest in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

ANSWER:  D). Ronald Reagan.  In 1988.

Sophie Tucker

QUESTION:  What was Sophie Tucker's nickname?
A). Funny lady
B). Last of the Red Hot Mammas
C). The Queen of Hilarity
D). The Russian Roulette

Yesterday's blog was dedicated to Belle Barth, a vaudeville star who moved to Las Vegas in her later years and recorded comedy records filled with offensive content. Today's blog is dedicated to another early comedienne, someone whose name most of us have heard, although we may not entirely be sure why. Sophie Tucker has an all-American name but, like many early entertainers, she was an immigrant to this country. Born in Russia in 1887 to Orthodox Jews, Sonya Kalisch moved with her family at a very young age to Connecticut, where her parents opened a restaurant. A performer from birth, Sophie would sing to customers. It was there she met Louis Tuck, a beer cart driver. The sixteen year old eloped and had a son. Three years later, she was divorced, her son was being raised by her parents, and she was in New York City performing in vaudeville. 

Her ample frame made it difficult for Sophie to get starring rolls. For a time, she was forced to cover her face in burnt cork, traditionally known as 'blackface' and highly unacceptable today, and to speak in a southern accent. Audiences had no idea she was both Caucasian and a northerner until her luggage was stolen on during a circuit tour. Her talent won over the crowd, and Sophie became a well-established star. She lamented the end of vaudeville, but adapted well, moving into radio and film appearances. She continued performing and recording until her death in 1966 at 79 years of age.

ANSWER:  B) Last of the Red Hot Mammas

Belle Barth

QUESTION:  Belle Barth's controversial style was compared to what stand-up comedian?
A). Lenny Bruce
B). Robin Williams
C). Mel Brooks
D). Bob Saget

The Music Room here at the American Treasure Tour is home to hundreds of record albums of all sorts and varieties, displayed on the wall, hanging from the infrastructure, pretty much wherever we can fit them. Opposite some of our favorite Sesame Street records is one few people ever notice. It is a stand-up comedy album by Belle Barth. Few people remember Belle today, but her influence is undeniable. Born Annabelle Salzman in 1911, she had a gift for entertaining. She started very young, touring the 'borscht belt' circuit of Jewish comedy clubs and vaudeville performance sites, also must have been a very alluring woman, as she was married five times during her life. Her first husband was Peter Barth, and the only long-lasting part of their marriage was that she kept his last name. Her fourth husband was George B. Martin.  Who also happened to have been her fifth husband. 

What made Belle hugely popular in her day was also what made her highly unacceptable in some circles. Her humor was raunchy and defiant. She was an expert at offending people, and once was confronted with a $1.6 million lawsuit by two teachers who claimed Belle had morally corrupted them and harmed their health with her humor.  Belle learned from this experience and only intensified her jokes against tradition. She owned a club in Florida's Miami Beach, and often performed in Las Vegas as well, alongside friends including Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. Although she died in 1971 at the age of 59, Belle's influence on the likes of Madelaine Kahn, Joan Rivers and Gilda Radner is undeniable. Her album In Person, recorded live at the Roundtable in 1961, is displayed alongside tomorrow's blog subject.  See if you can find it in the Tour!

ANSWER:  A). Lenny Bruce

Dodgem Bumper Cars

QUESTION:  What is generally considered the oldest, continuously used amusement park in the United States?
A). Coney Island, NY
B). Cedar Point, OH
C). Lake Constance, CT
D). Idlewild, PA

Two of the newest additions to the wild and wonderful collection here at the American Treasure Tour are Dodgem Bumper Cars!  Dodgem was the first manufacturer of bumper cars ever. They filed for a patent in 1920, and the next year, the fun began!  Their cars did not have batteries. Instead, they received their power with wooden poles that had metal 'spoons' on top that brushed against the ceiling of the attraction. Electrical power in metal plates sent a current to the motor and the bumper car moved. The cleaner the connection in the spoon, the faster the car. Waiting in line for their chance to bump, many kids looked out for the best cars so that they could claim them for their turn and speed through the arena, bumping their friends, dodging others, and just having fun.

Max and Harold Stoehrer of Methuen, Massachusetts designed the Dodgem. The first cars were not necessarily safe, honestly. They had upright seats and the steering wheel was at the top of a pole coming directly from the floor. The tin cars were very vulnerable to denting, and after a full day's usage had to be banged back into place for the next day. Of course, Dodgem technology improved over the years, but not fast enough for some. It was a few years after their introduction that two cousins, Joseph and Ray Lusse, introduced the Lusse Auto Skooter, direct competition with the Dodgem and, as far as the Stoehrers were concerned, in direct violation of their patent. Regardless, both companies survived the crisis and produced these delightful rides for years to come. In 1961, Dodgem was sold to none other than the Allan Herschell Company. If you don't know who they were, then keep checking back in with the blog. They are of great importance to the world of amusement parks and automatic music. Alas, the change did not have a lasting impression. Dodgem disappeared completely in the 1970's.  Well, not entirely completely.  Come on by and visit ours here at the Treasure Tour! 

ANSWER:  C). Lake Constance, CT.  Opened in 1846 as a picnic site, the attractions began appearing shortly thereafter and it has been going strong ever since.  The other three are all on the top ten oldest attractions list.

Bumper Cars - Controversy

QUESTION:  Who received the first patent ever granted by the United States government?  HINT: He received it on July 31, 1790 for a process to make potash (a form of fertilizer). 
A). Samuel Hopkins
B). Oliver Evans
C). Frances Hopkinson
D). Benjamin Franklin

Controversy and drama surround many of the most important inventions created by man. The fight between Thomas Edison and his direct current electricity and George Westinghouse and his alternating current is a famous one, as is the debate over to whether Enrico Marconi invented wireless communication or was it in fact Nikolai Tesla who did it?  One that few people have ever considered on par with these two is the bumper car.  Was it first invented by a man from General Electric named Victor Levand, or did it first come to be in Massachusetts, the brainchild of Max and his son Harold Stoehrer? We may never know the answer to this final question with complete certainty, but we do know that the Stoehrers submitted the first patent application for the bumper car.  It was patent #1,373,108 (remember that, it will be on the quiz later). It was filed on December 7, 1920, and issued the following March 29th.  Their patent application described an electrically-charged thrill ride for amusement parks. It had an electrically-charged ceiling, as well as conductive floors, each with a separate power polarity. This formed a complete circuit and compelled the bumper cars to move, thanks to a pole that extended up from the car and contacted the ceiling.

The cars themselves were generally pretty small, and originally made out of tin. This made them fairly vulnerable to denting upon impact with other cars. It was not uncommon that operators would have to nail the cars back together after being driven. The cars were 'rear-steered,' which made it difficult to control where they went, often softening the blow upon impact, but not enough to reduce the fun factor. The rides were considered unmanageable and jarring by critics, but they did not dissuade people from climbing into them. People loved them, especially kids who might not have had the opportunity to drive anywhere else, and they quickly became one of the more popular attractions at amusement parks and carnivals.  

ANSWER:  A). Samuel Hopkins.  But really, with a hint like the one we gave you, how could anyone have thought otherwise, since Samuel Hopkins was easily the most famous potash producer in the country between July 30 and August 1, 1790!