Glencairn’s Cozy Living Room

The living room at Glencairn. The stained glass includes an 800 year old panel from Europe and twentieth-century panels built on site using the same techniques. Source: TCM

Glencairn was built by Raymond Pitcairn, “self-taught cathedral architect” (as his New York Times obituary described him) and heir to the massive empire created by his father, John, the founder of PPG industries.

After completing construction of the Bryn Athyn Cathedral of the The New Church, Pitcairn turned to building himself a new house. Located north of Philadelphia (the Philly skyline can be seen from the top of the mansion’s seven-story tower), it was designed by Pitcairn and constructed between 1928 and 1939, while Pitcairn was simultaneously fighting against Roosevelt’s New Deal. Glencairn is built in the Romanesque style out of hand-cut stone and concrete. It contains 90 rooms, including 17 bedrooms, a chapel, and the expansive living room, decorated with both actual Medieval-era items and modern recreations built by artisans in the same style.

Source: TCM
The inglenook. Source: TCM
Ceiling inspired by the Irish Book of Kells. Source: TCM
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One-Take Woody: Behind the Scenes Photos of Classic Movies

Director W.S. Van Dyke had a reputation for getting things right the first time. Two movies he directed in the 1920s were shot on location in Tahiti. For Trader Horn (1931), he spent seven months filming in East Africa. His best known movies, however, are The Thin Man (he also directed three of the sequels), Tarzan the Ape Man (filmed in Hollywood, it used stock footage from Trader Horn), and several Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy films. ClassicMovieHub.com has several behind-the-scenes photos of Van Dyke at work.

Filming Trader Horn. Source: Horning into Africa, by W.S. Van Dyke, 1931/erbzine.com

W.S. Van Dyke with Myrna Loy & William Powell on the set of After the Thin Man  (1936). Source: classicmoviehub.com.
W.S. Van Dyke with Jeanette MacDonald and a lamb. Source: classicmoviehub.com

Lee Union-Alls : Union-Made in Trenton

Lee Union-Alls Building, E. State Street, Trenton, NJ. Source: TCM

The H.D. Lee Mercantile company was founded in Salinas, Kansas, in 1889, but by the early twentieth century, it was focused on making clothes and had factories in several cities, including Trenton, New Jersey. Lee Union-Alls, a jumpsuit for mechanics and other blue-collar workers, were created in 1913 and became their signature product. The name touted the fact that they were union-made.

H.D. Lee Mercantile Company Factories, 1920s. Source: H.D. Lee/www.union-made.blogspot.com
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“Tall, Dark, and Tweedy”: Jazz Age Artist John Held Jr. was also an archaeological illustrator – and a World War I spy

Life Magazine cover from 1926, by John Held, Jr. Source: Washington University in St. Louis.

In the 1920s, John Held, Jr., became famous for his drawings in Life, Vanity Fair, and other magazines that enshrined the iconic flapper image: lean and leggy, with beaded necklace swinging as she danced the Charleston with her companion, the round-headed, pencil-necked, Joe College.

The “tall, dark and tweedy” (Shuttleworth 1965) artist had come to New York City from Utah in 1912, where he found work as a commercial artist. As America entered World War I, John Held would take on another, clandestine, responsibility. Continue reading ““Tall, Dark, and Tweedy”: Jazz Age Artist John Held Jr. was also an archaeological illustrator – and a World War I spy”

Who Really Discovered the First Paleoindian Sites in Vermont?

In 1927, the Folsom site in New Mexico, which contained the distinctive fluted stone points of the same name directly associated with an extinct species of bison, was identified by archaeologists as the first Paleoindian site. In conjunction with the similar, but earlier, Clovis fluted points found at Blackwater Draw a few years later, these two sites provided clear evidence that humans had been present in the United States since the end of the Pleistocene.

As these discoveries became publicized and archaeologists looked for more examples of early sites, it soon became apparent that fluted points had been found in many states by amateur antiquarians, often as surface finds. Without good contextual data, however, no one had realized how old these points actually were.

In 1929, Vermont collector Benjamin Fisher read an article about the Folsom site in the New York Herald Tribune. He immediately wrote a letter to the scientist mentioned in the paper, Barnum Brown, at the American Museum of Natural History: Continue reading “Who Really Discovered the First Paleoindian Sites in Vermont?”

The Field Trip that Founded, and Filled, the Oriental Institute

Oriental Institute Building

In 1919, James Henry Breasted, archaeologist and founder of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, embarked on a year-long trip through the Middle East. His goal was to identify research opportunities throughout the area, and to obtain artifacts to bring back to Chicago. The story (from a 2010 exhibition at the Institute) was told in Archaeology Magazine.

Tucson’s Presidio and Historical Archaeology in the 1920s

By digging at the site of the Presidio San Agustín del Tucson in 1929, Engineer Donald Page gets the nod as Tucson, Arizona’s first historical archaeologist. That was his only excavation, and less than ten years later, his life took a tragic/stupid turn (alcohol and a handgun were involved). See Donald Page: Tucson’s Tragic First Historical Archaeologist by Homer Thiel.