This Soviet-era porcelain vase commemorating the North Pole -1 expedition is pretty accurate: four men and a dog named Vesely were dropped off on a drifting ice floe about 12 miles from the North Pole in May, 1937. By the time they were picked up (at great cost) off of Greenland in February, 1938, the ice floe had shrunk considerably in size.
Propaganda porcelain first started to be produced following the Soviet nationalisation of the Imperial Porcelain Factory in 1918. The factory storage was filled with uncoloured plates, vases, and tea sets, which were all used as the bases for a novel form of Soviet propaganda.
Another beneficiary was the Rutgers Geology Museum. In 1936, the Works Progress Administration funded 21 paintings for the museum by Alfred Poledo, a little-known 1930s artist. Like, there is almost nothing on the Internet about him. There’s this at the Living New Deal, which indicates he was from Boonton, and there’s some census data that shows he was an Italian immigrant, born around 1888 and deceased by 1940.
At least three of his paintings are in the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University. The mosasaur, an extinct marine reptile whose fossils are found in New Jersey, is featured in two of the pieces, A Lagoon in Jurassic Time and A New Jersey Mosasaur, both dated 1936.
The undated Prehistoric Animals Ready for Battle is the only one that shows dinosaurs. What I presume is a Dryptosaurus (a New Jersey dino related to Tyrannosaurus) faces off against a Triceratops, while some hadrosaurs (the official New Jersey state dinosaur) walk through the background.
These three paintings were donated to the Zimmerli by Helgi Johnson, a professor in the Geology Department who died in 1974. It’s not clear whether the other paintings in the series are also in the Zimmerli or perhaps still at the Geology Museum.
There’s a new New York Times article on “Ranger Doug” Leen (not to be confused with the other Ranger Doug), a dentist and former park ranger, who rediscovered, preserved, and now recreates 1930s-era National Park posters created by WPA artists.
In the 1930s, posters for 14 parks, including the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon were created by government artists. Fewer than 50 original posters are known to survive and there are no original copies for two parks, Great Smoky Mountains and Wind Cave. Ranger Doug now works with artist Brian Maebius to create new posters in the same style for other national parks.
This former Standard Oil gas station built around 1930 in Cañon City, Colorado is currently occupied by an antique store. A 2008 National Park Service Preservation Brief notes that beginning in the 1920s, gas companies began designing gas stations to look more like residential buildings to help them blend into their surrounding neighborhoods.
The move toward the house-type station was also a sign of growing competition within the oil industry as businesses worked to garner customer trust and loyalty. Companies developed distinctive brands and signature building forms. Pure Oil, for example was well-known for its English Cottage stations, while Standard Oil favored Colonial Revival designs. The effort to develop iconic signage and stations foreshadowed all-encompassing branding campaigns that dominated gas station design later in the century.
Chad Randl, The Preservation and Reuse of Historic Gas Stations. Preservation Briefs 46.
If you don’t already have a penguin-shaped cocktail shaker, check out this Sotheby’s auction underway now. The shakers, ice buckets, and glasses were selected by Alan Bedwell to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Prohibition. While Prohibition lasted from 1920 to 1933, the items in the auction range from the 1700s to the 1980s.
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.
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.