In Queens? Write?


Play along this weekend with Queens Writes! I’ll sadly be out of town, but I’ll jot down some notes in solidarity. Very cool effort from Newtown Literary.

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Lost and found

From the “Astoria crazies” file:


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A list of sherries to try, found inside the pages of a used copy of Lawrence Durrell’s Justine I just pulled off my shelf. If only I had shopped before the blizzard hit.

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January 25, 1913: Cheeky

In a follow-up to yesterday’s story on the artificial dimpling sweeping Paris, the Times notes that women in London, too, have taken to the trend. “The cost of making permanent dimples ranges from $26 to $56,” the paper reports in “Dimples at $26 apiece.” “The process usually lasts a fortnight. A small cut is made in the skin. The wound is then bound up and dressed daily until healed. The dimples most in demand are little depressions near the corner of the mouth, which show themselves when the owner smiles.”

Another, less permanent, method (from the September 1895 issue of The American Stationer) is described here:

make artificial dimples


Continue reading

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January 24, 1913: Around the world, and dead on the stage

I am drawn, again, to the oddities found in the Times Machine. For instance: Mrs. William A. Hall and her son Melvin took at 40,000-mile trip, visiting 33 countries (from England to Italy, India to Sumatra, China to the Philippines), in “Toured world in an auto.” According to the story, “They wore out 117 tires and burned up 5,000 gallons of gasoline, but suffered no serious mishaps.” Did they suffer minor mishaps? I sure would like to know, but the Times isn’t telling.

A somewhat alarming trend was sweeping Paris; women were having their cheeks artificially dimpled. “A number of specialists are at work making them in cheeks that are naturally rounded. Two kinds are supplied to order—weekly dimples that will last only some seven days, and permanent dimples.” But standards of beauty are fickle, remember, so “the former are preferred, as there is no knowing how long the fashion will last.”

A front-page story, “Swallows poison and dies in theater,” trumpeted the tale of a man who committed suicide at Proctor’s Theatre (“Women ushers in the orchestra saw a man staggering up the aisle, grasping the backs of seats, and tearing at his collar as if he were suffocating. Before they could reach his side he had stumbled into the women’s cloak room and fallen unconscious on the floor. … A partly emptied bottle of poison and a note to his wife was found.”)

But far more touching was the obituary of another man who had a rather dramatic end: “Van Biene, composer, dies on the stage” tells of a rather remarkable life. Auguste Van Biene, best known for composing and playing “The Broken Melody” (see YouTube video at top of post)—a song he retired, he said, because it otherwise would have driven him to a lunatic asylum—died on the stage of the Hippodrome in Brighton.

Van Biene collapsed after his performance, and “nobody in the audience thought it more than the prescribed dramatic finish to the scene. The stage manager, however, noticed unaccustomed realism about it, and the curtain was rung down more hurriedly than usual. When the stage manager went to the actor, he found he was past human aid.”

This wasn’t the first dramatic turn his life had taken: he was discovered by Sir Michael Costa at the age of 17, playing a cello in a gutter at Hanover Square. “I am hungry,” he explained, after Costa asked why a musician of such power was playing in so low a place. Costa took the boy home and gave him a place in the Covent Garden Orchestra; Van Biene reportedly returned to the streets to play “on every anniversary of his deliverance from starvation.”

Replay the haunting melody; perhaps not all that is broken need be fixed.


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Literary LIC


An event coming up on Sunday, held at LIC Bar and emceed by Audrey Dimola, sounds enticing. Not sure if we’ll be able to make it out, but this a great sign (one of several in the last few months) for literary culture in Queens! Head over if you’re in the nabe.

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January 23, 1913: Loves found and lost

YMCALove was in the air on January 23, 1913, with much ado about the Gould-Shepard wedding (Helen Gould weds amid happy omens”). This occasion was marked by a front-page story and a lavish spread on page 2.

Much of the society stuff was, quite frankly, lost on me, but I did find it amusing that the Times printed a list of gifts received by the bride and groom, a few of which I will faithfully record here. Gifts included the following:

  • A corsage pin consisting of a large bowknot of diamonds and pearls, with a huge marquise diamond exquisitely set in platinum surrounded by pearls, and suspended therefrom by strands of pearls
  • An imported ivory statue entitled Honor
  • A chain necklace of pearls, diamonds, and emeralds with a large triangular-shaped pendant of diamonds and emeralds of wonderful beauty
  • A bag of gold mesh, mounted with diamonds and sapphires
  • An exquisite square-cut diamond ring set in platinum surrounded by brilliants
  • A pair of moonstone cuff links set in platinum
  • A teakwood stand supporting a handsome Chinese vase
  • Lace handkerchief and exquisite lace veil
  • A silver centerpiece for fruits or flowers
  • A rare book beautifully tooled, binding inlaid with precious stones
  • A silver tray with coffee urn, formerly the property of the bride’s grandmother
  • A gold loving cup, appropriately inscribed
  • Four silver loving cups
  • A clock that is a model of the Railroad YMCA Building in St. Louis (image, above left, depicts this building; it must be lovely in clock form!)
  • A silver bowl with a submarine etched on it

“Weds former coachman” highlights the tale of Miss Helen Stickle, who married the family’s chauffeur against the family’s wishes. The Sybil-Branson relationship on Downton Abbey was practically ripped from the headlines! Apart from the Reverend George F. Mott Doremus, no one attended the ceremony.

Of course, not all matches are made in heaven. Mme. Lamberjack, the divorced wife of the managing director of a motor car company, was acquitted in her husband’s homicide (“Shot husband, acquitted”). “With material success, their happiness came to an end … [after M. Lamberjack began to remove his furniture from their residence], Mme. Lamberjack reproached him, and then shot him fatally with a revolver.”

Lamberjack was described as “of uncertain temper and excessively nervous”; the paper reports that “Two eminent physicians who examined her said that she was the victim of ‘Paris life’ and its harassing effect upon the nerves.”

In other crime news, “Bandits get $800, but overlook $5,000” — they raided a warehouse office but overlooked a safe open right in front of them. “The detectives were inclined to believe that the robbers were amateurs or at least men little versed in the use of firearms,” the paper notes. Stupid bandits are stupid; crime just doesn’t pay, does it.

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