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|Advertising and Art from the Ragtime Era|
Even before the advent of colorful and attractive sheet music cover art, talented lithographers focused their attention on creating some of the most beautiful cigar boxes one could ever imagine. Lithography is an art that requires piecing together an image from stone cuts, and when dealing with color, this meant a stone for each layer of color that had to be perfectly aligned. Some of the more ornate boxes had as many as 24 different layers of absolute or mixed colors. Even with four colors they could create fairly realistic images. These images also extended to other forms of tobacco products, including chaw pouches, and even the cigar bands themselves. Interestingly, one of the most prolific designers and printers of these products was the August Hoen Company, which is known to ragtime enthusiasts as the company that produced the highly collectible E.T. Paull sheet music covers. From the 1850s on these boxes, which covered as many themes as could be imagined, were considered collectibles. Some people had Currier and Ives prints around their homes, while some gentlemen preferred blondes - on cigar boxes. All of it served as a manner of advertising, and not just for the cigars, but for many non-tobacco companies who licensed cigars as promotional items, extra point of sale add-ons, or simply giveaways. Many of the finer companies have kept this artful tradition alive into the 21st century, but the content of many of these collectibles constitute some of the finest small-size lithographs ever made.
In recent years we have had the now retired Far Side desk calendars, Dilbert virtual computer calendars, email calendar reminders, electronic PDAs, etc. They are all creative, but they are all rectangular as well. The one pictured here shows some welcome creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. It was one of many calendars printed by Rafael Tuck & Sons of England, a very successful printing firm of the era. Actually, calendars, paper dolls, and postcards were among the most sought after gifts at this time. Many lithographers created beautiful fruit crates as well. Many were subsidized by advertising, a practice which spread quickly early in the 20th century. The calendars were all relatively inexpensive, but still priceless. Today we call them collectibles. Some of these calendars can bring hundreds of dollars in good condition. The best of them were formatted to work in any current year. And Grandma thought that the doggone thing was no longer useful come January First so she threw it out! This unique design featured one musical feline per month on rotating arms with limited movement. But this design also brings up an interesting question... how do you hang it on the refrig... umm... I mean, icebox?
|RINGLING BROTHERS AND BARNUM AND BAILEY CIRCUS|
This most famous of Circuses actually got its start through the originator of "The Greatest Show on Earth", well known swindler and con man Phineas T. Barnum (1810-1891). Early in his career, which appropriately enough included a stint in state politics,
|NIPPER THE VICTOR DOG|
OK. Get out your hankies for this one. So many of us have seen the ubiquitous image of "Nipper", the Victor Pooch, listening to a phonograph that is playing back his masters voice. However, why and under what circumstances is the rest of the story (apologies to Paul Harvey).
Just like the U.S. has restaurants that feature cuisine and environment that are evocative of certain countries or cultures, there are, incredibly enough, restaurants in other countries that feature American cuisine (whatever that may be)! Actually, one of the most famous would be Rick's American Cafe, which is a focal point of the classic 1943 movie Casablanca. (Incidentally, Rick never said "Play it again Sam"; he said "You played it for her, you can play it for me." Another famous misquote debunked. As a rag pianist I have heard it more than I care to... but I digress.) This French poster comes from a popular genre of the early twentieth century, poster art. Many artists who could not sell their work otherwise were able to manage lithographs that could be sold as advertising or as souvenirs. Ironically, many of these starving artists were Americans who had come to France to study art, and needed to sell some so they could afford passage back to America. They brought poster art back with them, and changed the nature of American advertising forever. Many of them were able secure jobs or contract to create sheet music covers, a big industry that helped to sell songs and rags for several years. The poster displayed here features an American style ragtime bar in Paris. The irony is that within a few years, bars of this nature would only exist in other countries, since prohibition of alcohol became American law for thirteen years starting in 1920. (For those that may know him, doesn't this guy look a lot like ragtime performer Max Morath?)
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The Ragtime Webring-Dedicated to Scott Joplin and the music of the Ragtime Era, this ring is an invaluable resource for jazz music lovers, musicians and historians. Sheet music, midi files, afro-american history, record collectors...
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