Binoculars

Galileo looking to the sky

Galileo looking to the sky

QUESTION:  David Bushnell, creator of the binocular company, sold his business off to what company in 1971, prior to his retirement at the age of 61?
A). No company - he sold to the U.S. Military
B). Bausch & Lomb
C). Sears
D). Maybelline
ANSWER BELOW:

The American Treasure Tour is loaded to the gills* with odd and wonderful pieces. The blog is here to highlight some of the ones for which there is simply not enough time in the day/week/month/year to point them all out for our visitors. One special piece we would like to honor today is an oversized 'pair of' Bushnell binoculars that hang suspended in our Toy Box, near the wonderful "Loudmouth" Sadie Mae band organ. Of course, we do wonder why we have to pluralize binoculars, and why we call them a pair, when they're obviously just one thing. Like a pair of pants.  But we digress. The point is, there are some pretty amazing binoculars on the tour route and we want to tell you a little bit about them. Because, cool.

1661 Telescope (not part of the ATT collection)

1661 Telescope (not part of the ATT collection)

The first ever recorded use of binoculars goes back. Way back. It should be no surprise that binoculars date shortly after the invention of the telescope. Two is better than one. An understanding of optics dates to antiquity - Ancient Greeks and the like - proved to be a starting point in making distant objects seem close, but the technology was crude until the medieval times. The production of glass lenses for spectacles in the early thirteenth century proved a big step forward, and experimentation over the centuries continued. But the first recorded use of a telescope happened in the year 1608, when Danish innovators put the technology together. The next year, Galileo first used telescopes to look at the night sky, and the process of improving improvements began. Although the claim has absolutely no foundation in fact, the bloggers at the American Treasure Tour like to think of ourselves as technologically savvy. And we would have been happy to explain all the scientific variables that factor into Galilean versus Keplerian optical systems to create the ideal telescope, and the binoculars that came almost immediately on their tail. Unfortunately, we simply don't have the space here. Come back tomorrow, though, for more on our exploration of the wonderful binocular....

*PLEASE NOTE: The American Treasure Tour does not actually have gills. There are, in fact, no living creatures that require gills to breathe at the tour, either. Thank you.

ANSWER:  B). Bausch & Lomb.  Makes perfect sense that a binocular company would be sold off to a ... medical supply company?

Moxie Cola

QUESTION:  Which of the following is a generic version of the carbonated beverage Dr. Pepper?
A). Mr. Pig
B). Sir Spice
C). Dr. Cinnamon
D). Father Sip
ANSWER BELOW

There are always new items coming into the American Treasure Tour - proof positive that there are treasures all around us!  Many of them arrive without anyone on the blog team receiving notice. No news bulletins, no telegrams, no nothing. One day, we were on the tour and noticed something moving among our animated store displays that had never been there before. Oh sure, we questioned ourselves - there are so many pieces in the collection that maybe we just didn't notice it before. But how can you possibly not notice a little girl with a devilishly happy expression on her face as she pours herself some good ol' Moxie Cola? And so we investigated the source of her joy.

Moxie Cola, it turns out, is one of the oldest carbonated beverages currently in production in the United States. It doesn't have the nationwide distribution of a Dr. Pepper, Coca-Cola or Pepsi-Cola, but it has been out there since 1876. Like all the early sodas, it began as a cure-all medicine - Moxie Nerve Food (honestly, that's what it was first called). It was developed by Dr. Augustin Thompson in Lowell, Massachusetts. The good doctor claimed it contained an extract from a rare South American plant, but Thompson never disclosed what it was. It is now known to be a gentian root, which is a common flavoring for bitters and may actually have some restorative abilities to it, although it is highly unlikely to prevent the ailments Thompson claimed it could: paralysis, softening of the brain, nervousness and insomnia. By the 1880's, Thompson was selling his Nerve Food in syrup form and in carbonated water, "a delicious blend of bitter and sweet, a drink to satisfy everyone's taste."

In the early twentieth century, President Calvin Coolidge admitted to a fondness for Moxie, and baseball great Ted Williams endorsed it on radio commercials. By the 1960's, Moxie became a favorite of Mad Magazine, and advertisements in the humor mag improved sales for a time. The company is no longer American owned, it is part of the Kirin Holdings Company of Japan, but it is still available in a limited region of the American northeast. We encourage you to go hunting for it and, if you find some, let us know. We would love to try it, too!

ANSWER:  A). Mr. Pig.  It is distributed through the Piggly Wiggly department stores, which are predominantly found in southern states.  Good luck finding it, as it can be a challenge to locate. And, if you do find it and decide to drink it, good luck again!

Midnight Star

QUESTION: Midnight Star is the name of a Rhythm & Blues band from the 1980's that had a number of hits.  Which song that they sang reached highest on the charts?
A). "Operator"
B). "Midas Touch"
C). "No Parking (On the Dance Floor)"
D). "Super Freak"
ANSWER BELOW

Midnight Star.  If you have had the chance to visit the American Treasure Tour - and we certainly hope you have - you surely browsed our gift shop. One of the most important items available for purchase in the shop are our tour-specific refrigerator magnets (yes, this is a purely subjective opinion by your humble blog-writing team). We offer magnets of our classic cars, an amazing Wurlitzer band organ, a nickelodeon, and a doll. The doll is called Midnight Star. She's beautiful, she's glamorous, and she's on display in our Music Room for everyone to admire. On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, we talked about Patricia Rose and Rustie, two award-winning artists who have dedicated their careers to creating art dolls, among other things. Patricia Rose is as much a teacher as she is a doll artist - the features and details she includes in her dolls are exquisite. Rustie is not only a doll designer, but also a fashion designer. The two women worked together to create the full package that is Midnight Star.

Midnight Star is 22" tall.  Created using of porcelain, her details are quite amazing. The fully-posable doll designed by Patricia Rose has pale blond hair, sparkling blue eyes, and bright ruby lips that stand in sharp contrast to the outfit Rustie created out of royal blue velvet. Striking against the deep blue of her gown are extraordinary silver glitter-embossed royal blue velvet ruffles. She wears a jeweled and feathered headdress that complements her upswept hair.  She sparkles with multitudes of faux diamond appliques and jewelry adorns her neck, wrists, and fingers. She was made in a Limited Edition of 150, and the Treasure Tour proudly displays number 76.  

ANSWER:  A). "Operator."  It hit number 18 on the pop charts and did well on the R&B charts as well.

Rustie

QUESTION:  Which of the following 'one-named celebrities' has never performed in a fiction film?
A). Cher
B). Christo
C). Madonna
D). Valli
ANSWER BELOW

Yesterday's blog was dedicated to the sculptor-turned-art doll creator Patricia Rose. Her works have been celebrated for decades now, and are available on-line for those with an appreciation for her beautiful figures. Today's blog is dedicated to another renowned doll designer, Rustie.  Rustie's talents extend deep into the world of fashion as well. Born in Chicago, Rustie designed elaborate outfits for her own dolls from a very early age. It was likely no surprise that she would follow that passion into a career; however, it is likely few could have anticipated the worldwide recognition she would receive for many of her pieces. Her first appearance at the New York Toy Fair, in 1996, garnered her nominations for Doll of the Year for both her Tara and Skye dolls.  She won with Skye, and has been going strong ever since.

(Rustie's Bride doll is not at the ATT. Sorry.)

(Rustie's Bride doll is not at the ATT. Sorry.)

One of Rustie's notable accomplishments is one of her 42-inch" Bride dolls, which retailed for almost $10,000. The detail on her dolls, and equally notably on the outfits she creates for her dolls, is truly exquisite.  And, when Rustie collaborates with other doll artists, the best of multiple talents come together. Next week, we will explore one splendid example of this - a collaboration between Patricia Rose and Rustie.  Her name is Midnight Star....

ANSWER:  B). Christo.  Christo Vladimirov Javacheff is a Bulgarian-born artist who, while occasionally the subject of documentaries about his astounding works, has never performed in a fictional film (insofar as we know, anyway).  All three of our other choices have, to varying degrees of critical success.

Patricia Rose

Patricia Rose - dollmaker.jpg

QUESTION:  Which color cannot appear in a naturally grown (meaning not modified) rose?
A). Red
B). Orange
C). Blue
D). Green
ANSWER BELOW

It's not difficult to understand the fascination people have had with the human figure since pretty much the dawn of time, especially considering that we as a species want to understand our own bodies and such. We have simulated the human form in art since the first cave dwellers scratched into their walls, and will likely continue to do until the end of time. One way this manifests is in the creation of dolls, and the American Treasure Tour is definitely full of dolls of all shapes and sizes. Today, we are going to talk about one of the more stunning examples on display in the Music Room - Midnight Star.

Royal Midnight Star - Rustie by Patricia Rose.jpg

Whether you are a collector of dolls or not, it is easy to see the craftsmanship and care put into creating Midnight Star. Patricia Rose is one of the best-respected names in doll design. Not only does she incorporate intricate detail and make her dolls extremely lifelike, but she offers a service rarely seen in the doll world: she provides instruction on how to make your own dolls. For a number of years now, Patricia Rose has provided lovers of the craft with guides and materials for how to construct dolls out of polymer clay and porcelain. If you love dolls but want to do more than just admire the completed product, Patricia Rose may very well be your best resource to learn how to pursue your passion. The Treasure Tour is home to a number of different Patricia Rose dolls, but what stands out about Midnight Star is that Rose collaborated with Rustie to create her. To learn more about Rustie, you will just have to check back in tomorrow....

ANSWER:  C). Blue. This is due to the lack of anthocyanidine pigment delphinidin.  As if we had to explain that to you!  The other one is black.

Macy's

Not anymore. The new "World's Largest" is Shinsegae in South Korea

Not anymore. The new "World's Largest" is Shinsegae in South Korea

QUESTION:  In what Massachusetts community was the first Macy's Department Store established?
A). Haverhill
B). Worcester
C). Sturbridge
D). Boston
ANSWER BELOW

There comes a time when all blogs need to recognize when they might have a problem, and today is the American Treasure Tour blog's turn. We can't seem to stop our exploration of department store stories. We will try. But today, we turn to one of the most visible department stores in the country today:  Macy's.  We've all been to one, perhaps looking for that perfect blouse or a new vacuum cleaner. Perhaps you needed a comfy blanket or that new fragrance? Check out the options at Macy's. But really, how much do you know about Macy's?  Did you know it started operation in Massachusetts? That it was founded by a guy named ... Macy?  Rowland Hussy Macy opened his first dry goods store in 1841, not long after the industrial revolution reached the shores of the United States. He targeted mill workers in corporate towns and opened four stores by 1855.  Every one of them failed.  But, was R.H. Macy deterred? Maybe, but not in the long run, because he moved to New York City and tried again. In 1858, he opened his fifth dry goods store at 13th Street and Fifth Avenue, far from any competition (New York was still mostly below 13th Street at that time. It would slowly creep up Manhattan and soon enough 13th was considered downtown.) R.H. Macy ran the store until he passed away in 1895, at which point ownership was taken over by the Straus brothers - Isidor and Nathan.

R.H. Macy

R.H. Macy

The New York City Macy's flourished. Using techniques such as window decorations, Christmas festivities and other gimmicks, business was extremely well through the 19th century, such that they moved to their now-landmark location at 34th Street and Broadway - Herald Square - in 1902. It was still far enough out of downtown that Macy's provided a steam wagonette for patrons to travel from the old location to the new. Ten years later, Isidor died while traversing the Atlantic Ocean on the Titanic - a famous ship of the era rarely in the news today. We will tell you about it sometime.  Macy's continued to grow, expanding beyond its iconic New York home (the Herald Square store remained the largest in the world until 2009), until it expanded just a little bit too far towards the end of the twentieth century. Bankruptcy was followed by merger and long story condensed, Federated Department Stores took on the more-famous Macy's name, and now there are over 850 stores run by Macy's (including Bloomingdale's and other chains) in forty-five states and more territories of the United States.

Isidor Straus

Isidor Straus

ANSWER:  A). Haverhill

Federated Department Stores

QUESTION:  Which of the following department store chains was never in the former Federated family?
A). Abraham & Strauss
B). Shillito's
C). William Filene's & Sons
D). Woolworth's
ANSWER BELOW

One of the greatest challenges the American Treasure Tour blog team has is that it becomes very difficult to drop a theme when we get caught up in it. This time, the new acquisition of Rudi the Wanamaker's giant white bear triggered an examination into the strange world of department stores. It turns out that, like with so many different businesses, a web of innovations, couplings, partnerships and buy outs spanning over a hundred years has created interconnecting relationships between pretty close to every department store ever known. The chain established by John Wanamaker in the 19th century has changed hands a few times since its inception. After the Wanamaker family sold it to Woodward & Lothrop, who then sold it to the May Company. When they folded, Federated Department Stores took over, then changed their name to Macy's Incorporated - the name they have to this day.

Federated Department Stores was never about establishing new businesses.  Rather, they were organized in 1929 specifically as a holding company for department stores. They sprung out of the successful Cincinnati-based Lazarus & Company, which had been founded in 1851. Fred Lazarus introduced the French-inspired notion of selling clothes based on size, not on style, brand or color. It's something people take for granted now, but it was a major innovation in shopping when Lazarus did it, and gained popular appeal. Lazarus' son, Fred Jr, was the man who convinced Franklin Roosevelt to change the date for Thanksgiving. When FDR became president, Thanksgiving was on the final Thursday of November. This was fine, but when Thanksgiving fell on the fifth Thursday, Christmas sales suffered. Lazarus convinced FDR to make the fourth Thursday the holiday - ensuring a longer Christmas shopping season and improving sales. The increase in profits because of this simple change was substantial, and Black Friday has become a thing since then thanks to him. As Federated, the company grew throughout much of the rest of the 20th century.  They did very well until they over-extended in the 1990's. Declaring bankruptcy, but still manager to purchase the Macy's brand in 1994 during its own struggles with bankruptcy. They survived the crisis together and, in 2005, acquired the May Department Store chains, turning it into the largest department store conglomerate in the world and, in 2007, changed their name to the Macy's Group, Incorporated, which is what they are to this day. Unfortunately, things have not been going extremely great for Macy's since then. They have closed dozens of stores and laid off thousands of employees, but they are still a great destination for shoppers from around the world!

ANSWER:  Woolworth's.

David May

QUESTION:  The Macy's Department Store logo is a red star.  What was the inspiration for that?
A). Communism
B). A tattoo
C). Rowland Macy's family crest
D). An association with celebrity
ANSWER BELOW

Yesterday's blog explored the life and accomplishments of John Wanamaker, the man who established the most famous department store in Philadelphia and home of our good friend Rudi the giant white bear. The Wanamaker department store chain was run by John and his family for seventy-five years, prior to its buy-out by Woodward & Lothrop (known affectionately as Woodies by its customers). The Washington D.C.-based retailer was compelled to declare bankruptcy in 1995, at which point the May Department Stores Company took over control. For the next ten years, the Wanamaker Building became home of one of May's largest retailers, Lord & Taylor. The eagle was still the place to meet, and the organ continued to delight visitors. The rest of today's blog will be dedicated to the man who created May Department Stores Company - David May.

Born in 1848 in the Bavarian region of Germany, David May was six years old when his family moved to the bustling riverfront city of Cincinnati, Ohio (also a home to Rudolph Wurlitzer and Powell Crosley in their own times). Bad health compelled May to move to a higher elevation: Leadville, Colorado. Around the same time, a substantial silver rush was underway in Leadville and May saw opportunity. With another Jewish entrepreneur named Moses Shoenberg, he established a dry goods store in town. It did well enough that May began buying up other businesses in the region, building his brand, and moving his headquarters to bigger and bigger cities. By 1911, shares in the May's Department Stores Company began selling at the New York Stock Exchange. They continued to grow, acquiring different stores through the twentieth century. Then, in 2005, they sold out to Federated Department Stores for $11 billion in stocks. The Lord & Taylor sign was taken down from the Wanamaker Building, and a new name replaced it:  Macy's.

ANSWER:  B). A tattoo that Rowland Macy had received as a teenager while working on a whaling ship.

John Wanamaker

QUESTION: While serving as Postmaster General, John Wanamaker started what program that continues to this day?
A). Commemorative stamps
B). Air mail service
C). Overnight delivery
D). Adhesive stamps
ANSWER BELOW

Yesterday, the American Treasure Tour blog celebrated our adoption of Rudi the Wanamaker's Bear, but we really didn't have a chance to talk about the man without whom the Wanamaker Department Store would have happened: John Wanamaker. The Philadelphia native was born into modesty in 1838 in the then-rural community of Grey's Ferry. He was only twenty-three when he opened his first store adjoining the site of the house George Washington lived in when he was President of the United States. His approach to retail was highly unorthodox for the time: "One price and goods returnable." He is not accredited with creating the return policy, but he does receive credit for creating the price tag. No haggling, no question. And people liked it. By the Centennial Exhibition of 1876, Wanamaker opened Philadelphia's first "department store" in an abandoned railway station next to City Hall, eventually tearing it down and replacing it in 1911 with the structure still there to this day.

The Wanamaker Department Store is twelve stories tall with a Grand Court in its center dominated by two iconic pieces, both brought to Philadelphia after another world's fair - this one the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri: their 2,500 pound eagle and their majestic pipe organ. In 1874, Wanamaker took out a half-page advertisement in a newspaper, the first businessman to do that. Five years later, he expanded to a full ad. Wanamaker's success was such that he owned eight homes across the United States and in Europe, but he also engaged in philanthropic causes as well, notably funding a homeless shelter and soup kitchen that continues to help the unfortunate to this day, and supporting Anna Jarvis' quest to create a nationally-recognized Mother's Day. He added politics to his resume in 1889 and became Postmaster General under President Benjamin Harrison, initiating the free rural postal service. Hardly one of the late-19th century robber barons, Wanamaker was definitely one of America's nouveau riche, and the impact he made on the way people buy things is undeniable.

ANSWER:  A). Commemorative stamps

Rudi the Wanamaker's Bear

QUESTION: In the 1912 George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion, Alfred Doolittle is left a legacy by an American philanthropist millionaire named Ezra Wanafeller.  After whom was the fictional character named?
A). John Wanamaker and Ezra Pound
B). Ezra Pound and John Rockefeller
C). John Wanamaker and John Rockefeller
D). F. Scott Fitzgerald
ANSWER BELOW

The American Treasure Tour is an ever-growing collection of Americana.  If you haven't heard yet, we are affiliated with a new museum experience that will be opening soon in Morgantown, Pennsylvania to be called the Classic Auto Museum - hundreds of preserved historic cars spanning the entirety of the twentieth century. Stay tuned on that, but our collection is also expanding. In late March, a wonderful legacy from Philadelphia's most famous department store, John Wanamaker's, arrived. His name is Rudi, and he is a six-foot tall white Christmas bear. How do we know that his name is Rudi?  Through extensive research, a certain amount of deduction, and the ability to read his name in his hat. He was brought into the home of Royersford natives the Meitzlers after they paid fifty dollars for it in the mid-1980's and placed him in the trunk of their sedan car. During the drive from the city, the heads of average commuters certainly turned.

Rudi was created to market an adorable plush Christmas bear. Just like giant Rudi, little Rudi's wore red sweaters with reindeer designs on them. They were cuddly and can still occasionally be found on eBay for resale. Of course, everything changed when the Wanamaker family decided in 1986 to sell the department store chain to Woodward & Lothrop. Now part of a corporate entity, the character of the store began to change. Then, ten years later, Woodward & Lothrop declared bankruptcy, and the May Department Stores Company took over and Wanamaker's became Lord & Taylor. We are very happy to have Rudi as part of our strange and wonderful family now and, in his honor, we would like to delve a little deeper into the people without whom he never would have been. Tune in tomorrow when we will meet John Wanamaker. 

ANSWER:  C). John Wanamaker and John Rockefeller

RCA Victor Radio

RCA Victor Model 16T2 Radio.jpg

QUESTION:  RCA Victor was the company behind Nipper - the famous dog who is depicted staring into the horn of a Victrola.  What is the name of Nipper's puppy companion?
A) Chipper
B). Lance
C). Flipper
D). Clipper
ANSWER BELOW

As the American Treasure Tour blog continues to celebrate the new addition of classic radios to our Music Room collection, we are going to focus today on the RCA Victor Company. Truly one of the great names in the distribution of recorded music of the twentieth century, the Victor Talking Machine Company was established by Eldridge Johnson in Camden, New Jersey in 1901. Johnson was a shrewd businessman and sold his company to the Radio Corporation of America - better known as RCA - in 1929, requiring the sale to be made in cash. When the stock market crash of October 29th happened, he found himself in a very secure position. But RCA Victor was not in any great danger of bankruptcy because of the Great Depression. Not really. Music is and always has been a great comfort for people, and they continued to enjoy it as much as possible. RCA sold phonographs, albums, and radios. 

The RCA Victor radio will discuss today is the model 16T2, dating to early 1940. It was considered top of the line, advertising some pretty amazing technology at the time, notably an Electro Magnetic Dynamic LS loudspeaker. The receiver offered access to all nearby AM transmissions, but it did need six vacuum tubes to achieve this. The wooden case is of exceptional style, and quite a looker. 

ANSWER:  A). Chipper. He became part of the RCA family in 1991, to add that special, adorable flavor. Chipper is supposed to be Nipper's son.

Zenith Radio

QUESTION:  In which technology was the Zenith Radio Company NOT an early pioneer?
A). Telegraph
B). Wireless Remote Control
C). HDTV
D). FM Radio
ANSWER BELOW

The technological innovations accomplished by American industries during the late-nineteenth century and much of the twentieth century are difficult to compile in one short blog. Life around the world changed because of the work of such creative leaders as George Westinghouse, Nikola Tesla, and Thomas Edison. Of course, those were the celebrity inventors of the era, while countless other men and women (when given the chance) should be listed among them as the greats. Ralph Matthews and Karl Hasse are two names very few people recognize today, and it's likely no one gave them much thought when they established the Chicago Radio Labs in 1918 as a resource for amateur radio lovers. Within a few years, they changed their company's name to Zenith and grew their staff. A love of the radio drove them and, during the 1920's, their company grew to become a contender. They competed with such brands as Atwater Kent and Crosley, and stood out with their portable radios, first introduced in 1924, the first mass-produced AC radios they began production on in '26, and the first push-button tuning the next year. They continued with their innovations and, the same year they produced their first television, they introduced the Model 6-D-311 midget radio.

The sleek Art Deco design of the 6-D-311 was created by Robert Budlong of Zenith and became a signature piece of functional art. The tabletop model came without a handle (there would be another Zenith with that option). The swirled walnut-style Bakelite shell was offered in 'Franciscan brown' coloring, a complement to any modern home at the time.  Offering only AM stations, the radio sold for $14.95 brand new.  And it was a celebrity, too, making an appearance in the 1940 Andy Hardy film Strike Up the Band starring Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland. Now, we at the American Treasure Tour can't verify that the Zenith 6-D-311 is the actual radio from the film, in fact, we have much confidence it is not that specific radio, but we still love to have it in our collection. We highly recommend coming to the tour to see this special radio, as well as all the other newly-received radios from the John O'Malley collection. And everything else you can see and hear here at the Treasure Tour! 

ANSWER:  A). Telegraph

Crosley Radio

QUESTION:  Which of the following was not something ever produced by a company run by Powell Crosley, Jr.?
A). Refrigerators
B). Computers
C). Proximity Fuzes
D). Automotive Hood Ornaments
ANSWER BELOW

Yesterday we made our grand, on-line debut of the O'Malley Radio Collection, the newest big thing to the American Treasure Tour. We currently have sixty-one of the radios brought together by Collingswood, New Jersey's John O'Malley on display in a special section of the Music Room. And what a collection it is! All brands of compact radios are presented in our lovely metal shelving, and we want to begin an exploration of the collection with a Crosley.

Superheterodyne Receiver schematics

Superheterodyne Receiver schematics

The Crosley Model E-15BE Dashboard-style radio is a stand out dating to 1953. Its distinctive collector grille is reminiscent of the Buick dash of the era (we didn't make that up. It's in the description for the radio).  The radio has a Bakelite shell and a five vacuum tube superheterodyne receiver.  Bakelite, officially and memorably called polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride, is an early type of plastic introduced in 1907.  Superheterodyne receivers are a highly significant advancement in radio technology that was first invented in 1918 during World War I.  Our team of researchers encourages all readers to further investigate superheterodyne receivers and explain them to us in easy-to-understand language so we can more effectively spread the word. But what that means, ultimately, is that the radio received all the greatest local AM stations - and all for only $39.95 in 1953 money! This radio definitely stands out in our collection, as much because of its distinctive shape as because of its brilliant blue. The Crosley Model E-15BE - a fun radio! Check it out in our Music Room.   

ANSWER:  B). Computers.  Although there's no reason to think he didn't consider it.

Radio

QUESTION:  What is one meaning derived from the word "radius," from which the word radio comes, in its original Latin?
A). Tall grass
B). Beam of light
C). Communicate
D). High tower
ANSWER BELOW

Radio today is completely unlike its predecessor a mere one hundred years ago. Back then, signals were weak and the transmitters were not especially impressive. They had poor sound quality at best - many people listened to them through headphones since speakers were pretty horrible.  There was certainly no music on them and no entertainment to speak of, really. Today, of course, radio is everywhere. You can listen to it over the airwaves or in smart devices, with or without commercials.  There is talk radio, news radio, and of course there are stations that play music: pop, rhythm and blues, country, rock 'n roll, rap, classical, jazz, world, you name it and there's a station out there playing it.  But it all had to start somewhere.

What makes telling the story of radio challenging is that no one person can be given complete credit for its development.  It took decades of experimentation during the nineteenth century by people whose names have been absorbed into the modern vocabulary of technology before there was such a thing as radio:  Hertz, Watt, and Volta were just three.  Eventually, though, wireless transmissions were successfully sent over the airwaves. Enrico Marconi's name has become deservedly and indelibly linked to that major accomplishment, but so is that of Nikola Tesla - two great innovators of their day, but only one of them also an accomplished marketer. 

So, why is the American Treasure Tour blog talking about radio, when we are best known for our automatic music collection?  It has to do with a new addition to our happy family - the John O'Malley Collection of Radios.  Join us over the next few days as we talk about some of the wonderful new pieces you can see in our Music Room, brought to us from the family of Mr. O'Malley, whose life work of assembling together this wonderful array of radios dating between the 1930's and the '50's is now permanently a part of the Treasure Tour.

ANSWER:  B). Beam of light.  

Wedding Gowns

Queen Victoria in her gown

Queen Victoria in her gown

QUESTION:  In many eastern cultures, what is the traditional color of wedding gowns?
A). Green
B). Black
C). Red
D). Blue
ANSWER BELOW

The American Treasure Tour is truly a trove of unique and special items that provide our visitors with a look into the past. Cars, music machines, old store animations, and pieces that may be a little less easy to describe. Today, we are going to return to an exploration of one of the more fantastic parts of the collection: Omrod's Giant World of Miniatures. Within this world is a purple house. Victorian in style, there is a clear panel that allows us to witness the lives of its inhabitants. The master bedroom is dominated by a wedding gown prominently displayed. 

Weddings in the American colonial era were much different than they have become. It was highly uncommon for a bride to have a gown specifically made for her special day. Rather, they would expect to wear the dress for years to come. That began to change as styles evolved across the ocean in Great Britain, during the early 19th century. The new United States tended to take their cues from the former mother country and the English Queen, Victoria, had a grand wedding on February 10, 1840. She wore an ornate cream-colored wedding dress, setting a trend for white gowns that continues to this day. Wealthy British brides quickly adopted Victoria's gown style, and then it became vogue throughout the world, with white being regarded as the proper designator for purity and goodness.  When you come to the tour and admire the miniature wedding gown in our purple house, look closely at it. The gown is not being held up by a tiny hanger. It's actually around a peanut.

ANSWER:  C). Red, symbolizing auspiciousness

Remote Control Drag Racer

QUESTION:  The Road Runners Club, the first American drag racing organization to speak of (as far as many fans of the sport are concerned) began racing in the dry lakebeds of Southern California in what year?
A). 1937
B). 1949
C). 1953
D). 1959
ANSWER BELOW

We here at the American Treasure Tour blog do hope you enjoyed your weekend, and used the opportunity to visit the actual tour on Saturday. Remember, everything we discuss here in the blog is quite directly connected to the tour. The blog is a chance to explore items displayed in the collection more closely and in the comfort of your own home. Or while you're having dinner with friends. Or sitting in a car as a passenger - but never when you're driving. We hope that's obvious, but some people seem to forget. On Friday, if you recall, we were talking about remote control and its relation to Excaliber, our drag racing, battery-operated speedster that is a whopping two feet long. 

When we left our story, remote control was still largely in its experimental phase. During WWI, both sides attempted to use  rudimentary drones against their enemies with marginal success. Then, during the inter-war years, some companies were designing remote-controlled garage door openers and model airplanes. Unfortunately, the economic depression found little motivation in making advances, so most people focused on survival instead. World War II advances also came with destructive intent, and manifested in the form of remote-guided missiles. But, after the second world war, during the mid- to late-1950's, the important technology started to earn attention.  Remote controls were developed for televisions that eventually became affordable, and by the 1960's, scale model cars, boats, and airplanes started to hit the market. 1966 was a very important year for lovers of remote control vehicles: the first scale cars were released for commercial purchase that year, made by the Italian company El-Gi (Elettronica Giocattoli). By the early-70's, American companies including Associated Electric, Thorp, and Delta got into the business with 1:8 scale cars. Of course, it has become hugely popular since then....

ANSWER:  A). 1937. The NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) formed in 1951 and continues to this day.

Excaliber

QUESTION:  BY what other name is Excaliber referred in the legend of King Arthur?
A). The Sword in the Stone
B). Caliburn
C). Blue Steel
D). Monmouth
ANSWER BELOW

Having spent a week honoring the women associated with the legend of King Arthur, it stands to reason that we would dedicate a blog entry to the sword given to Arthur by the Lady in the Lake, Excaliber. Although it definitely stands to reason, it is not exactly the same Excaliber we will talk about today. Today's Excaliber is a remote control drag racing car. Anyone with any appreciation for video games and electronics has to love the idea of remote control. The American Treasure Tour has a wonderful collection of remote control airplanes suspended from our ceiling. We also have remote control cars, including the Excaliber that inspires this blog. One thing we do not have displayed is a remote control boat, which is notable because the first remote control device ever demonstrated was a boat.

The year was 1898.  Technological advances were rapidly changing the world. Edison had harnessed electricity and had already begun wiring houses with lighting. Automobiles were on the road, competing with horse-drawn carriages to get from place to place. And a man named Nikola Tesla was experimenting with things most people couldn't even fathom at the time. One such item was remote control. His understanding of radio waves was way ahead of his time (some scholars argue that he beat Enrico Marconi to wireless radio communication, but the bottom line is that Marconi was more efficient at marketing than Tesla so, true or not, Tesla definitely lost that race). He created a tiny radio transmitter that could receive exactly one frequency. He attached it to a model boat and demonstrated it at Madison Square Garden. His remote control box had a lever and a telegraph key (normally used to convey Morse Code) to send a signal to the boat and control the propeller and rudder and make the boat go. Like so many of Tesla's amazing innovations, it was not a huge success during his lifetime, but it would continue to be worked on. For example, the German military used remote control technology during World War I to steer boats filled with explosives into enemy ships.  Check in next week for more on this fascinating - and highly fun - form of technology.

ANSWER:  B). Caliburn.  The word is a Welsh composite of the words for "hard" and "breach."  Although some storytellers have accidentally confused Excaliber with the Sword in the Stone, they are widely considered different weapons that King Arthur had at different times in his life.

Lady of the Lake

QUESTION:  In the 1981 film Excaliber, what future British Dame starred as Morgan le Fay?
A). Judy Dench
B). Helen Mirren
C) Maggie Smith
D). Diana Rigg
ANSWER BELOW

The Franklin Mint Heirloom Doll Collection honors the three most prominent female characters in the King Arthur story with their very own interpretations. Blogs have thus far been dedicated to Guinevere and Morgan le Fay, and it stands to reason that today's blog should honor the Lady of the Lake, easily the character with the greatest variations in her story. She appeared first in the "Lancelot-Grail Cycle," in which Sir Lancelot is sent in pursuit of the Holy Grail. Her given name was Viviane.  She demands that Lancelot share his secrets with her, else she will trap him into a tree trunk or under a stone. In another version of the story, her name was Ninianne. She threatened Lancelot in this story as well, but was also in possession of the magical sword Excaliber, which she gave to King Arthur when his original sword was destroyed in battle. By the famous Sir Thomas Malory book La More d'Arthur, her name became Nimue. The Lancelot torture element disappeared, but the Excaliber part remained. In this version, her fate was a beheading thanks to Sir Ballin, an antagonist of Arthur with whom she had a kin feud. 

There are other names by which the Lady of the Lake has been referred in legend, but modern tradition occasionally finds her living under the water, and appearing when summoned by Arthur. The Lady of the Lake Heirloom doll created by the Franklin Mint depicts her in flowing gowns with a prominent Excaliber in her possession.  We must presume that this is before she has her encounter with Arthur, seeing as how she still has the sword.

ANSWER:  B). Helen Mirren.  If you haven't seen this John Boorman film, it is definitely worth the time for adult audiences.

Morgan le Fay

QUESTION:  In some accounts of the King Arthur legend, Morgan le Fay had a son.  What was his name?
A). Bert
B). Galwaynne
C). Ywain
D). Flavellus
ANSWER BELOW

Fables such as those of Harry Potter and Game of Thrones include so many characters that encyclopedias have been written to complement the characters and their storylines, and both of those universes have only existed for around twenty years!  Imagine, then, how a story might evolve that had been circulated over centuries. That is exactly what the legend of King Arthur has done.  It is truly an adventure story for the ages that continues to be told and retold to this day. There should be no surprise that the story has a predominantly male perspective. In fact, the original appearance of King Arthur was around two hundred years before Guinevere showed up. And, on the heels of Guinevere came Morgan le Fay, which translates to Morgan the fairy or, more dramatically, Morgan the Sorceress. Morgan would become one of the primary villains of the story.

Morgan le Fay.jpg

Morgan le Fay has been presented as King Arthur's half-sister, an apprentice of Merlin, and so completely smitten with Lancelot that she detested his beloved Guinevere.  In early tales, Morgan and her six sisters all have cool skills are not inherently evil, but they do have some pretty awesome talents, including shapeshifting, flying and healing. By the publication of the famous La More d'Arthur in 1485, though, she became the vengeful and cruel enchantress who would devote her life to destroying those of Guinevere, Lancelot, and King Arthur. She almost succeeded in all of these goals, but had a change of heart towards Arthur.  After his fatal fight with his nephew Mordred at the Battle of Camlann, Arthur was placed in a boat and sent to the Isla of Avalon, where Morgan may (or may not) have brought him back to life. Trying to condense the stories of King Arthur, Morgan le Fay, and Camelot is not an easy thing, and an injustice to the fables of old, but we are happy to honor Morgan le Fay here, and celebrate the Franklin Mint Heirloom Collection doll we have in our Music Room. You may notice that she is holding a wonderful depiction of the Holy Grail - but don't get excited. It's not the real thing. Our Community Relations Manager Isaac tried it, and he continues to age so it did not do its job. 

ANSWER:  C)  Ywain

Guinevere

QUESTION:  At what iconic location does legend say King Arthur and Guinevere marry?
A). Stonehenge
B). Roman baths in Bath, England
C). Trafalgar Square
D). Camelot
ANSWER BELOW

As the American Treasure Tour blog continues our exploration into the Franklin Mint limited edition dolls in our collection that tell the story of King Arthur, we are led inevitably and quite interestingly to the love of his life:  Guinevere.  Alas, she was not originally incorporated into his story - with Arthur's first printed appearance coming in 830 A.D., Guinevere first showed up in a publication made right around 1136 - three hundred years later! Like Arthur, Guinevere was of Welsh descent, and as such antagonistic towards the Saxon invaders. Of course, Guinevere's story has a darker side to it. She met Arthur early in his career, as he was forming his Round Table. It was shortly after their marriage when she met his right-hand man, Lancelot, and was immediately smitten with him.  Her husband the king was often away fighting his enemies or magical beasts while Guinevere was left alone, unsure of whether her husband lived. It may have been during one of these adventures when she and Lancelot had an affair.  Their treachery was revealed to Arthur by his nephew Mordred, who would later try to steal the thrown from Arthur.  Lancelot and Guinevere were both sentenced to death; however, both escaped. In some versions of the tale, Guinevere retreats to a convent for the rest of her life, in others she marries the nefarious Mordred.  Guinevere also occasionally has an evil half-sister named Morgan le Fay who challenges her and Arthur every step of the way.

We believe it was June of 1999 when the Franklin Mint introduced the Camelot series of dolls into their Heirloom collection. This is, of course, their representation of the beautiful Queen Guinevere is (as described by Franklin Mint), "wearing a champagne crushed silk bridal dress with a golden crushed velvet overskirt. Her veil and oversleeve are flat tissue silk held on by a golden crown accented with an Australian crystal in the center, surrounded by clear gems." The next time you visit our Music Room, make sure to find Guinevere standing on top of one of our nickelodeons. 

ANSWER:  A). Stonehenge.  At least according to some of the movies that have come out recently, and when has a movie ever misled people?