William E. Clarke of Providence, Rhode Island produced and marketed “Hunt’s Remedy”, a widely sold nostrum for kidney complaints, for decades. Research into Providence city directories from 1859 (no mention of Clarke) through 1910 provides insight into Clarke and his activities.
His name first appears in 1860, listed as a clerk at a business located at 43 Wickenden Street; I suspect the number “43” might be a typographical error and that Clarkemay have worked at the apothecary and dry goods store of Benjamin Bailey at 46 & 48 Wickenden.
Clarke’s home address is given as 58 Sheldon Street, which is also the address of John Clarke, “Carpenter & Builder”.
I strongly suspect that John (whose directory appearances and advertisements date back to 1850) was William’s father.
The Hunt’s store at 28 Market Street with his traveling wagon posed out front, complete with dog sitting in the front, 1860s. The man in the doorway is likely William E. Clarke, and the driver holding the reins may well be his traveling salesman W. B. Blanding. ( from a stereo view in Sheaff collection ).
William’s name does not appear again until 1864, at the end of the Civil War. Research in other sources indicate that he enrolled in the 11th Regiment of the Rhode Island Volunteers on September 15, 1862.
On November 4, 1863 Clarke married Emma P. Mason of Providence. In the 1864 directory he is listed as an apothecary at 233 South Main Street (“Corner of South Main and Transit Sts.”), and as boarding at 58 Williams Street. In 1866 he is listed as a clerk again, at 40 Weybosset Street (the address of Mason, Dawley & Baker, apothecaries).
Importantly to the story of his career, in 1866 the earliest advertisement for Hunt’s Remedy of Providence which I have so far uncovered (appearing on a broadsheet “The National Hotel Register”, December 5, 1866, Worcester, Massachusetts) lists “William E. Clarke, Proprietor, 28 Market Street, Providence.
” The 1867 Providence directory lists him as the proprietor of an apothecary at 28 Market Street. Later, in an 1883 Hunt’s Remedy “ABC” advertising pamphlet, Clarke states that Hunt’s Remedy “had been on the market several years prior to 1867” and also that “In 1867 Hunt’s Remedy attracted my particular attention”.
The most common Hunt’s Remedy trade card “Copyrighted 1883”
Is this an image of a librarian carefully reaching for a carefully placed book, carefully arranged in a carefully-odd Borgesian-style library housing only books of the same height and thickness?
Or is this a librarian in a Library of the Same Book, housing thousands of copies of copies of the same book, climbing the ladder to make sure that he had a copy of just the copy that was requested (“a copy held at least 5 feet from the ground, near a side window though not touching a vertical piece of wood”)?
Neither. These are shelves filled with nothing but uncut sheets of playing cards, housed for the playing card factory somewhere in Paris (?) “during the reign of Louis XIV”.
Playing cards, which were introduced to Europe via Marco Polo from China or traders coming from the Middle East or etc., are much older in Europe than one would think, I think, and by the time this print was made, playing cards were already quite popular there for two centuries.
I can’t identify all of the activities of all of the twelve tables of card preparation here, though some seem pretty obvious: the trimmer working near the pressman, the sorters and assemblers of decks of cards at the lower left corner, the paper preparer (?) just to the right of the man on the ladder, the pair of men preparing the type trays at middle-bottom, and that’s about it.
In any event I’m right or I’m wrong on this guess, about the same odds as being dealt “nothing” in a game of five-card poker (almost 1:1 odds), but that’s fine: I just like the composition of the print.
Elaborate Vintage Cigar Box Labels: A Plethora of Themes and Visual Curiosities
The collecting of cigar boxes is, like the collecting of stamps and coins, a specialized field of interest.
Peculiar Postage, which previously appeared here on Dark Roasted Blend, was not intended as a detailed study of stamps, merely a look at some of the more curious examples.
Similarly, the following article examines just a small selection of some of the most striking cigar box artwork from years gone by.
(Images in this article, unless otherwise noted, are courtesy Cigar Box Labels; used by permission)
Originally, cigars were sold to customers in bundles covered with pigs’ bladders, if you can believe it…
This hardly seems guaranteed to drive sales, but you’ll be relieved to know that vanilla was used to make this pork packaging smell a little sweeter. Large chests that could hold around 1,000 stogies were next introduced, but by the 1830s, cigars were being packaged in sealed cedar boxes.
Cedar apparently stops the cigars from drying out and matures the tobacco as well, but either way it sounds like a distinct improvement on the bacon bladders.
Between 1800 and 1960, wood was used to create around 80% of cigar boxes. The most common variety, called “nailed wood”, comprises six pieces of wood nailed together and holds 50 cigars.
During the Victorian era, there was an explosion of elaborate typefaces, as foundries outdid themselves to keep up with the demand from printers for novel, splashy type.
The number and variety of imaginative typefaces generated from, say, 1870 to 1900 is astonishing. Many of them—most would agree—went too far, as type designers strove for innovation above all.
Many period fonts are difficult to decipher; some are virtually unreadable.
Wood type letter “E” from an advertisement in the October 20, 1883 issue of the newspaper, Weekly Drug News and American Pharmacist.
Engraved trade card ( Sheaff collection)
But those foundry offerings are not what concerns me here. Rather, I’ve been digging through the shoeboxes looking for examples of quirky, radical, idiosyncratic type usages, constructions (mostly) built by hand.
I’m looking at examples of extreme typography prior to 1900 or so . . . rather than at (equally interesting) later things like Russian Constructivism, Haight-Ashbury or Herb Lubalin.
Here, too, will be found some examples of type-only design solutions.
Guess what English language letter is intended by the red initial cap above (no, it is not in Yiddish)?
When the phrase “San Francisco rock posters” is uttered in certain circles, most people picture bold blocks of psychedelicized Art Nouveau lettering, a skeleton crowned by a garland of roses, shimmering collisions of equiluminant colors, and a flying eyeball peering through a burning ring of fire.
That describes the most iconic work of the so-called Big Five poster artists—Wes Wilson, Alton Kelley, Stanley Mouse, Victor Moscoso, and Rick Griffin.
But as good as those artists were (in the case of the late Griffin and Kelley) and are (in the case of the rest), it took more than just five artists to create all the posters and handbills required to publicize all the concerts produced during these years.
In addition, if it weren’t for the career pressmen at companies such as Bindweed Press, Cal Litho, West Coast Litho, and Tea Lautrec Litho, the drug-fueled dreams of some of these artists might never have seen the light of day.
“One of the best pressmen in the business was Levon Mosgofian, who owned and operated Tea Lautrec Litho.”
Recently, I was invited to curate an exhibition of San Francisco Bay Area rock posters at the San Francisco International Airport, whose SFO Museum produces more than 50 shows a year across 25 exhibition spaces for the 44 million travelers who pass through the airport annually.
My qualifications for this incredible honor are essentially a love of rock posters since I was a kid, membership on the board of The Rock Poster Society as an adult, and a collection of maybe 400 pieces, which is paltry compared to the holdings of most of the collectors who supplied posters to the show.
Thanks to their generosity, I was able to organize “When Art Rocked: San Francisco Music Posters, 1966-1971,” which features about 160 posters, along with another 100 or so postcards, handbills, tickets, and other scraps of ephemera from the era.
A smaller companion exhibit of 1960s fashion and design, curated by SFO’s Nicole Mullen, is located conveniently nearby.