Rolmonica - Friday, February 12, 2016

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The American Treasure Tour blog has a VERY exciting development to discuss today.  This is for an odd collection that arrived a little while ago that consists of numerous hand-powered paper roll music-using machines that are made of plastic. The display shows these wonderful toys that are now collector's items.  Saxophones! Clarinets! Harmonicas! And you don't even have to learn how to play them to be able to make music!  In the bottom left of the display, you will notice a tin can and above it a darker object - this is the Rolmonica - a harmonica with only one opening into which users blow.  While blowing, they move the crank on the side, which moves the paper roll and creates music.  It works kind of like an orchestrion in a sense, but it is more gratifying in that you can actually get winded by blowing into it!  And as an extra bonus, it will play the same note regardless of whether you're exhaling or inhaling, so it can play continuously without a break.

Rolmonica's were produced in Baltimore, Maryland during the late-1920's.  What makes it special, alongside its novelty and fun, is the fact that it is made of Bakelite, which is for all intents and purposes the first successful synthetic plastic.  Bakelite was invented by the Belgian-American chemist Leo Baekeland, back in 1907.  Its value was immediately recognized since it did not conduct electricity and proved heat resistant.  It was perfect for the manufacture of radios, kitchenware, and numerous other things - including kids' toys!  In 1993, it was designated a National Historic Chemical Landmark because of its importance to the development of modern plastics. 

So, the Rolmonica is innovative, easy, and fun.  What more could you want from it?  Maybe testimonials from the most famous movie stars of the era?  Okay!  None other than Miss Joan Crawford proudly exclaimed that she "Never took a lesson in my life - but boy!  How I love to play the Rolmonica!"  And then there's the glowing review of the classy Josephine Dunn:  "The Rolmonica has given me a great deal of entertainment and pleasure."  Want more?  Okay!  How about the compelling argument of none other than the unforgettable Lowell Sherman.  "The greatest little trick I ever saw."  (We have made up none of these reviews.  We cannot guarantee the same for the good people in advertising at Rolmonica, though.)
QUESTION:  Josephine Dunn became known as a member of what notable piece of furniture?
A)  King Arthur's Round Table
B)  U.S. Grant's Kitchen Cabinet
C)  The Algonquin Round Table
D)  The Counter of the Nighthawk Diner
ANSWER BELOW

BRRRRR!  It was on this day all the way back in 2014 that winter storm conditions swept across the southern United States.  There were power outages, hazardous driving conditions, and airport closures.  It was an awful time.  Fortunately, it was too long ago for people to remember today.

BIG DAY.  And a happy birthday call-out goes to Louisa Adams, the wife of our sixth president - John Quincy Adams!  Born on this day in 1775, she is currently the only First Lady ever born outside the United States.  Of course, if Donald Trump wins the presidency, she will lose that distinction - a few times over if you include ex-wives, too!

ANSWER:  C)  The Algonquin Round Table, famous in the 1920's for its membership by Dorothy Parker and other social critics and wits.