The "Peacemaker" Returns

Convair B-36.jpg

When last we blogged, we were talking about the need the United States government had for a super bomber during World War II.  They made due with what they had, but didn't quite achieve their goal before fighting between the Allies and the Axis ended in 1945.  But then we entered the Cold War against the Soviet Union.  Inspired by the Berlin Airlift and the Soviet nuclear tests, the demand for a large bomber again put the development of the B-36 back in the forefront.  Alas, it’s all about timing.  

B-36 2.jpg

By the time the piston-engined B-36 was completed, advances in jet-fueled technology were well on the way (the Boeing B-47 Stratojet would be operational in 1953). The B-36 was almost obsolete before it was even introduced, but it was still a magnificent piece of equipment,  The Peacemaker was a full two-thirds longer than the previous superbomber – the B-29 – and required a crew of fifteen. Four jet engines were added to the six propeller engines on later models to ensure speed and reliability, giving the B-36 the slogan of “six turnin’ and four  burnin’,” and the tires for the landing gear were the largest ever made up to that point, at nine feet two inches tall, three feet wide, and weighing 1,320 pounds. The airplane was extremely expensive to produce, and one of the primary critics of the Air Force’s design was… the Navy. They called it a “billion-dollar blunder” and complained that it diverted attention from naval aircraft carrier production.  There are only around five of them left in the world now, in museums and private collections, but they take up so much space, we're happy to show off our model - which is still quite impressive!

The "Peacemaker"

Convair B-36.jpg

The model airplane collection at the American Treasure Tour Museum is unparalleled, with almost three hundred different planes of all shapes and sizes displayed suspended from the ceiling.  There's one plane that definitely catches the eye of many of our guests on the tram tour - that is a large silver plane notable for having six propeller-driven engines on the wings.  It represents the “Peacemaker,” the Convair B-36, and it was the largest mass-produced piston-engined aircraft ever built, in production exclusively for the United States Air Force between 1949 and 1959 (only two years after the Air Force became its own branch of the U.S. military). It also had the longest wingspan of any combat aircraft ever built, at 230 feet long from end-to-end. Its sheer size gave it advantages, including four bomb bay doors that allowed it to deliver any nuclear weapon in the U.S. military arsenal without having to make modifications, and that it had the ability to make non-stop intercontinental flights because it had the space to store the necessary fuel for the trek.

B-36.jpg

The development of the Peacemaker began in 1941.  At the time, Great Britain was getting decimated by the German Luftwaffe during the Blitz.  America had not yet officially gotten into the war, but they saw an English defeat as quite possible, so they wanted to design a bomber that could reach Europe from the United States without the need to refuel along the way. Of course, it wasn’t needed to save Europe, but the military then wanted it for the fight against Japan.  Again, it wasn’t ready.  So what was to happen???  Stay tuned for tomorrow's blog.

Toy Box Tales the Fifth

Smurfs.png

Today’s blog ends a week-long celebration of the stuffed animals stored in our Toy Box toy box, and we’re going out with a bang with The Smurfs.  First, a question: what do the Smurfs and our huge dance hall organ named The Emperor have in common?  The answer: they’re both blue and they both come from Belgium! The Smurfs were first introduced to the world in 1958 by the Belgian comic artist Pierre Culliford under the pen name of Peyo. The Smurfs’ most notable physical attribute is that they’re tiny bodies (only ‘three apples high’) are blue.  We don't quite know why they're blue but blue they are.  They all wear Phyrgian caps, also known as liberty caps – soft cone-shaped hats that for many European cultures are a symbol of freedom that dates to Ancient Rome (freed slaves showed their status by wearing these distinctive caps, which eventually became a symbol of republicanism).  

ToyBox.jpg

When Peyo developed his little characters, he didn't know what to call them.  As the story goes, he was dining with a friend when he accidentally mispronounced the French word for salt, confusing it with the German word for sock: “Schtroumpf,” which eventually became “Smurf."  Good times. Well, Smurfs have been a part of our lives ever since, making their big American debut on Saturday morning cartoons in 1981, when Hanna-Barbera shared their zany antics as they protected their mushroom villages from the odd and evil Gargamel, a human dead set on eating the Smurfs.  Kinda weird. But now they're a movie franchise, too, so they're not going anywhere.  Anyway, most of the Smurfs dressed the same – in white with their white Phyrgian caps – so we can only guess which one is in our toy box.  It’s definitely not Papa Smurf, since his outfit is red, and it’s not Smurfette because there’s no flowing blonde hair. Brainy Smurf wears glasses, Handy usually has a pencil behind his ear, and – well, now we fully realize we know way too much about the Smurfs.  

Toy Box Tales, part IV

Homer.jpg

Homer Simpson is widely considered one of the most significant characters not only in the history of animation, but perhaps on television. Entertainment Weeklymagazine argued that only Bugs Bunny proved more influential than Homer. The first time the world ever met the bumbling, crude blue-collar worker with the heart of gold was on April 19, 1987, in a series of short segments on The Tracey Ullman Show, a sketch comedy on a new network created for television – Fox.

ToyBox.jpg

Actors on the show were asked to voice the Simpsons family members, Homer, Marge, Bart and Lisa (Maggie didn’t speak). It’s safe to guess that none of them thought it would lead to steady work for over thirty years! When The Simpsons became an actual series, it was the first significant animated show on primetime television in decades. Now, it’s considered normal to see cartoons at night. And it all started with Homer and his clan. Homer consistently messes up pretty close to everything he touches. He is rude, ignorant, and often obnoxious, but he is also eternally devoted to the family that drives him crazy, and has kept America entertained for decades.

Toy Box Tales, Trois

Oscar.jpg

Welcome to our continued exploration of the stuffed characters on display in the open toy box displayed prominently in our Toy Box. Today, we go into the depths of the box, where Oscar the Grouch has taken up his headquarters.  An iconic member of the Muppets of Sesame Street, Oscar is best defined as a gruff, occasionally mean, guy with a heart of gold. Sure, he’s rude, but don’t think of ‘grouch’ as a description of him, so much as his species, as revealed in the 1999 theatrical musical-comedy adventure film The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland. 

ToyBox.jpg

Oscar debuted in the first season of Sesame Street, back in 1969! Back then, he was yellow. He turned orange pretty quickly, when his creator – a guy named Jim Henson – decided he shouldn’t be the same color as Big Bird. After a season of being orange, Oscar turned green after a mysterious incident at Swamp Mushy Muddy. He’s been green ever since.  Beloved puppeteer Carol Spinney has voiced and operated Oscar since 1969 and continues to do so today (with the help of a surrogate when necessary).  Spinney is also the man behind Big Bird.  A few notable pieces of trivia about Oscar: he was born in Canada, in Minto, New Brunswick. He has a pet elephant and a pet worm living with him in his trashcan, which is big enough to also hold a farm, a swimming pool, and a bowling alley.

Toy Box Tales, Too

Tigger.png

As we continue our exploration of the toy box in the Toy Box here at the Treasure Tour, we come upon a wonderful thing.  He's orange and black and, to the best of his knowledge, he's a one-of-a-kind sort of guy.  His name is Tigger, and as we said, that's a wonderful thing. 

ToyBox.jpg

The world was introduced to Tigger by A.A. Milne, the English storyteller who introduced Christopher Robin, Winnie-The-Pooh and his friends to the world.  Milne's book, The House on Pooh Corner, was published in 1928, and so along came the bounciest bouncer to ever bounce into the hearts of children of all ages.  The Tigger most people know today is the one voiced by Paul Winchell in the Disney movies (until Winchell's retirement in 1999), the affable, energetic, orange and black-striped whirlwind full of optimism and self-appreciation.  

Toy Box Tales

thumbnail_IMG_1784.jpg

We here at the American Treasure Tour think of our museum as one giant toy box, what with all the fun treats displayed throughout our massive space.  But that doesn't mean we don't have actual toy boxes here, too.  This week, we're going to explore some of the wonderful stuffed animals 'stored' inside our five-foot tall pink and yellow toy box in ... um ... our Toy Box.  There's a lot going on inside this one, and we're going to start our tour with that blue guy in the  middle.  His name is Huckleberry Hound, and if you don't know him, we want to help you change that!

The Hanna-Barbera was a hugely successful animation studio that was established in 1957 by the former animation directors (and creators of the Tom & Jerry cartoons) for MGM Studios, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera.  They became a hugely successful company, creating some of the most beloved cartoon characters of all time, including Yogi Bear, Scooby Doo, the Flintstones, the Jetsons, and of course Huckleberry Hound.  “Huck’s” inspiration was, of course, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, at least in name.  His Southern drawl and slow movements were used to comic effect as he explored countless different careers throughout his life, and famously butchered the classic song “My Darlin’ Clementine.”  His first appearance was in 1957.  Three years later, he earned an Emmy for Hanna-Barbera and he’s been a favorite ever since.  An important side note:  Huck Hound is a Bluetick Coonhound by species, which are known for their friendly personalities, their cold noses, and their “deep bawl” mouths.

Frank Borzage

Frank_Borzage_001.jpg

There are very few film directors who have become famous in their own right, such that film fans will actively pursue a film they directed. Hitchcock, Spielberg, and Tarantino are names most of us recognize today. Back in the 1920’s, the name Borzage might have conjured a similar reaction for people looking for a love-triumphs-over-all romance. Borzage was the grandson of Austrian Empire emigrants (from a region that is now a part of Italy) whose family migrated to Salt Lake City, where he was born in 1894.

Seventh_Heaven_1927.jpg

Eighteen years later, he found work as an actor in the young film industry, in Hollywood, performing in silent films until he got the directing bug. He had a knack for it and directed around one hundred films (of varying lengths) during a career that spanned six decades, having led the way on a full fourteen films between 1917 and 1919 alone. He won the first ever Best Director Academy Award for the film 7thHeavenand continued creating until shortly before his death by cancer in 1962.  Accomplished, but largely forgotten today, it may be time for a Frank Borzage retrospective to bring him back into the public eye!

Janet Gaynor

Janet Gaynor.jpg

In yesterday's blog, we called out a classic 1928 film, a kind of crossover from the silent to the talkie era.  Street Angel was a huge hit for the Fox Studios, banking around $1.7 million (which meant a LOT more ninety years ago than it does now), and got itself a few Academy Awards to boot.  One was for its leading lady - Janet Gaynor - who has the distinction not only of being the first woman to ever win the Best Actress Award, but for having received it for three movies simultaneously - Street Angel, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, and 7th Heaven, the latter two having been released in 1927.  Yes, the rules have changed since then. Now you can only officially win for one performance (although we believe that some actors occasionally win not for the movie they deserve to win for, but for another one.  Kate Winslet is one person we consider there, but that's off the record, and does not represent the views of everyone on the ATT blog staff). 

Janet Gaynor, born in Germantown Philadelphia in 1906, started acting in silent films at the young age of 18. She quickly rose to the top, and by the time she was 22 was one of the biggest names on the big screen.  That said, Gaynor retired from the industry (on her own terms) when she was 33.  She dabbled in the arts for the rest of her life, occasionally appearing on Broadway and the like, until she was involved in an accident between a drunk driver and her taxicab. She died of complications from the accident when she was 77.

Street Angel

The movie poster and headshot collection at the American Treasure Tour is exceptional not only in its size but also in its range. Not only are modern films celebrated, but also many of the silent films almost never seen anymore. With the advent of sound for film, the popularity of the silent began to wane. Now, only the most fervent of film lovers watch them – and they are the true winners because many of these movies were thought provoking, clever and occasionally absolutely hilarious.

Street_Angel_(1928_movie_poster).jpg

That said, today we begin an exploration into a movie called Street Angel. This was the story of a young woman willing to do what she needed so she could take care of her sick mother.  When she tried to steal money for mom’s medicine and got caught in the act, she ran. By the time she returned home, mom was already dead.  Poverty stricken and alone, she joined the traveling circus and fell in love. But her past crimes refused to leave her alone. Directed by Frank Borzage and starring Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, Street Angel was a technological, commercial and critical hit upon its release. Released during the awkward transition to sound, the film used intertitles for dialogue, but included pre-created music and sound effects, and won numerous Oscars at the very first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929.  More on that tomorrow….

King Kandy

Candy Land.jpg

There's always something new going on here at the American Treasure Tour - new additions to the collection arrive pretty regularly. Earlier this month, a life-sized figure came in adorned in the colorful colors of royalty.  HIs name is King Kandy and he strands over five feet tall and rules over the land of Candy Land. 

King Kandy.jpg

Candy Land was introduced to the world when convalescing polio victim Eleanor Abbott, stuck in the hospital in San Diego, came up with the idea and tried it out on the kids she shared the polio ward with.  That was in 1949, before medical pioneer Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine. With the encouragement of the kids, Abbott submitted her game idea to the Milton Bradley Company, which at the time manufactured mostly school supplies.  It quickly became Milton Bradley's biggest seller, and put them in league with their biggest competitor, Parker Brothers. The game has proven timeless as an aid to young development.  There's no strategy involved, which makes it simple and straightforward. When Hasbro purchased Milton Bradley in 1984, they added a storyline and characters to the game. That is likely when King Kandy came along - the jolly and full-figured resident of a castle made of sweets. Nowadays, King Kandy has to compete with such more-famous characters as Winnie The Pooh, Dora the Explorer, and SpongeBob, all of whom have their own versions of Candy Land on the market as well.  

Museum Madness

Camp Evans.jpg

We at the American Treasure Tour love to call out smaller museums that may have limited funding to advertise, and we continue that tradition today with our call out to the InfoAge Science History Museum located at Camp Evans in Wall, New Jersey.  One word of warning: do not be scared away by their name. There is SO MUCH history in this facility - a former military base not too far from the Shore in New Jersey - and it's not all about science.  In fact, Camp Evans is a collection of a number of museums brought together in one large space. So, if you don't have an interest in wireless communication (Camp Evans was one of the first Marconi radio centers in the world) or the birth of weather tracking and radar, there's plenty else to see - early radios and televisions, the beginnings of computer technology, exhibits on shipwrecks, military history, and model railroads are also here - with a collection of World War II-era vehicles to boot.  And what makes your visit even better is that you can talk with some of the volunteers whose enthusiasm keeps this place alive!  

It really is a cool place, especially if you're into technology.  And it's not far from Allaire State Park, a historic industrial town, also in Wall.  So much to see, so little time. 

Blatz and You

The first evidence of beer production in what is now the United States dates before recorded history, when Native Americans made it barley free.  By the 16th century, European immigrants were beginning production of Old World recipes in the American colonies, notably in the community of New Amsterdam, located in Lower Manhattan. Jump ahead a few hundred years and beer production is everywhere, especially in regions settled heavily by Germans. Milwaukee, Wisconsin became a center for production during the 1800’s.  

Liberace Blatz Ad.jpg

In 1846, the City Brewery was established by Johann Braun. Four years later, Valentin Blatz opened up his own place next door, and absorbed City Brewery upon Braun’s death.  So, from 1851 until 1959, the Valentin Blatz Brewing Company was a big name in Wisconsin beer – even during Prohibition they survived by making a non-alcoholic variety of their primary product.  When the Pabst Brewing Company bought out Blatz in 1958, Blatz was the eighteenth-largest brewer in the United States.  Pabst was the tenth.  Since then, they’ve changed hands a number of other times.  But the key here is knowing that Blatz reached its peak in 1951, when Liberace signed on to endorse their product with sweet posters such as the one displayed here at the Treasure Tour, in our Music Room!

The Golden Voice of Hawaii

Music is one of the best way for people to express themselves personally and to share the cultures from which they come. Since every person in the United States is either an immigrant or a descendant of an immigrant, the music in this nation is amazingly diverse. There is one style of music that is uniquely different than other American music while still being very American:  music of the Hawaiian Islands. Associated with smooth and calming sounds and using such instruments as the ukulele and the steel guitar, Hawaiian music today is rarely heard by mainlanders but, immediately after World War II and even more after Hawaii achieved statehood in 1959, Hawaiian music became extremely popular in the contiguous 48.

George Kanaipau - Gold Voice of Hawaii.jpg

The name George Kainapau may not be well known today, but he definitely made his mark on the genre during his life. Known as the Hawaiian King of Falsetto, his singing career began in the 1920’s – fully three decades before statehood! As recording technology improved, the beauty of George’s voice became more and more appreciated by fans both on the islands and on the mainland. Born in Hil on the Big Island in 1905, Kainapau had a long career, even singing a duet with Bing Crosby on the “Hawaiian Wedding Song” in the movie Waikiki Wedding.The Treasure Tour is glad to display some of Kainapau’s records throughout the tour, including his 1968 album The Golden Voice of Hawaii,including such classics songs as “Ke Kali Nai Au (The Hawaiian Wedding Song),” “Blue Hawaii,” and “Kuu Ipo (My Sweetheart).” If you are unfamiliar with Hawaiian music, Kanaipau is a great man to introduce you to its charm. 

Janssen Pianos

There are all kinds of fun and fascinating pieces on display here at the American Treasure Tour, as anyone who's visited us knows - but one thing that kinda gets lost is the classic advertisements that hang on the walls or are three-dimensional objects.  One of the latter is our electrified Janssen Pianos sign.  Barely more than a foot long and six inches tall, it is illuminated when plugged in. 

Janssen Pianos.jpg

Benjamin H. Janssen was a veteran of the piano trade by the time he opened his own business in 1901.  In fact, he'd been employed by the highly esteemed Estey Company and the lesser-known Brambach Piano Company and the Mathushek & Sons piano outfit before going out on his own by opening shop at 82 Brown Place, New York City - a bold move that paid off. His company's reputation was solid through the early years of the twentieth century, which helped to ensure they could survive the trials of the Great Depression.  By 1964, Benjamin himself was long gone, but the Janssen name carried on after the company was sold to C.G. Conn, Ltd. of Elkhart, Indiana. And now, it continues in perpetuity through their surviving pianos and advertisements such as the one we proudly display.  

Keeping It Together

Bostitch Stapler.jpg

Visitors to the American Treasure Tour Museum could easily forget that there is a lot that has to happen behind the scenes to make our well-oiled machine operate as smoothly as it does. That requires the proper equipment sometimes, things like those newfangled computers the kids are talking about these days.  But any effective office that still uses paper, even once in a while, needs a good stapler to keep that paper together.  We have a number of different staplers throughout the massive complex here at the Treasure Tour, but today we're going to give a call out to our Bostitch Model B515.

The first commercially successful stapler was introduced way back in 1879, shortly after the Centennial Celebration in Philadelphia.  Organizing papers was a big thing back then, as bureaucracy expanded and paperwork increased, a way to keep it together became more and more important. Thomas Briggs, an Arlington, Massachusetts man, established the Boston Wire Stitching Company in 1896.  Briggs had developed a machine that literally stitched coils of wire into books, a type of binding for commercial purposes. They expanded and, in 1914, introduced their first table-top stapler they called a "portable stapling machine."  The rest, as they say, is history. The name of the company was shortened to Bostitch from Boston Wire Stitching.  During World War II, they produced Browning Automatic Rifles for the military, then returned to stapler manufacture, where they've been ever since.  Now, Stanley Works owns the company, which has its offices in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.

Celebrity Call-Out

Few actresses have left a more indelible mark on American cinema than Vivien Leigh, if only because of her two Oscar-winning performances:  the first was for her performance as Scarlett O’Hara in 1939’s Gone with the Wind, the second for her interpretation of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire from 1951. Both iconic films depicted the American South, the former in an idealized interpretation, and in the latter anything but.  

Vivien Leigh.jpg

Notably, Leigh grew up as far from the United States as imaginable: she was born in British India in 1913 and made her name for herself as an actor in London during her early-twenties. Leigh felt her physical beauty proved a hindrance to her efforts to gain respect in her chosen career, but she soldiered on, acting often alongside her husband, the famous Laurence Olivier, numerous times during their twenty-year marriage. Sadly, Leigh’s later life was anything but glamorous. She suffered mental illness including bi-polar disorder and manic depression, while also fighting chronic tuberculosis.  This latter would do her in at the young age of 53 in 1967.

Blue Eyes

When people think about Paul Newman, speaking generally anyway, the first thing they think about is his eyes.  Same goes for Ed Harris, Frank Sinatra, and a number of the other famous men and women who spent their careers in front of the camera.  The funny thing about blue eyes is that they are considered a genetic mutation.  Somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago (not to be vague), everyone's eyes were brown everywhere in the world.  Until.  There was a genetic mutation that affected the OCA2 gene in someone somewhere that limited the amount of melanin in their eyes.  

Paul NEwmans Eyes.jpg

Melanin is a type of pigment in the eyes' iris that determines eye color.  The more melanin, the browner.  The less melanin the more likelihood of blue, green or hazel eyes.  But it likely started with one person way back when.  Which means that, if you were born with blue eyes, somewhere down the line you are related to Paul Newman.  Think about that!

Cricket in da House!

Cricket in House.jpg

The American Treasure Tour blog has developed a sort of format over the decades we've been around. (Little known and unverifiable fact: the blog was first introduced on "Ye Olde Internette," back in 1866.  If you find a computer with internet from back then, you'll know just how accurate this statement is!) With Museum Monday, Tunes on Tuesday, Wacky Wednesday, Full-Throttle Thursday and Film on Friday, we got the work week set.  Until now.  Spontaneous as ever during our 152nd year around (same staff, too, by the way), we're changing all of that.  But only when we feel like it.

Our mission remains the same: to always highlight pieces in our collection or relevant trivia and nuances to the Treasure Tour.  We promise to continue to do that.  For now, we hope you enjoy this image of a cricket at the dinner table.  Because where else would it be - in the bathtub, maybe?