A Monumental Story of Real-Life Serendipity Told Over Many Parts: Chapter 3 – The Time Period

{Spoiler Alert: This is a series of blog posts detailing the real-life story of a 100-year-old item that was lost 13 years ago and how it found its way home in 2021. Follow along from the beginning of this story at Chapter 1: It Arrives and Chapter 2: Meet Angela}

Juice joints, flapjacks, Model T’s, Kelvinators and Radiolas. Mass culture, Sinclair Lewis, giggle water and Gloria Swanson. The Harlem Rennaisance, votes for women and the woman – Edith Bolling Galt. Jazzy foxtrots, upside-down cakes, and the Great Depression. This week we are back with another installment regarding the story of the lost one-hundred-year-old item and how it is finding its way back home after a 13-year quest for answers and owners.

Welcome to Chapter Three of a Monumental Story of Real-life Serendipity Told Over Many Parts. If you are a new reader to the blog, you’ll want to start at the beginning with chapters 1 and 2. If you have been following along since the mystery package arrived, let’s do a little recap to catch up.

It’s been just over a month since the second installment was shared. This is what we know so far…

  1. The lost item is 100 years old.
  2. It was found by a random stranger named Angela, in an office supply store in a suburb of Atlanta, GA thirteen years ago.
  3. Over the course of the following thirteen years, Angela searched for the original owner of the item, but to no avail.
  4. In 2021, a Facebook group helped Angela eventually uncover some clues about the item.
  5. In July 2021, Angela read an archived blog post that connected the item to the Vintage Kitchen.
  6. A few weeks later the item arrived in the Vintage Kitchen via UPS in a cardboard mailer of medium thickness.
  7. The lost item is valuable, important and definietly something that someone would miss.
  8. The lost item is now in the care of the Vintage Kitchen where it will be couriered on to its final destination in the coming months.

The time period connected to the mystery item is the 1920s, so today I thought it would be fun to take a look at what life was like in that decade of American history to help give this piece of the past some context. Perhaps it will help all the armchair sleuths out there figure out some more clues as to what the lost item could actually be.

Known as one of the most dramatically diverse decades, the 1920s saw carefree decadence and life-altering depression. It was a dry decade due to Prohibition which lasted from 1920-1933. And it was the dawning of a new age for women as they fought for their independence thanks to the right to vote amendment passed on August 18th, 1920.

Clockwise from top left: First Lady Edith Boling Galt Wilson; 1920s fashion; Votes for Women badge; hairstyles of the 1920s; the awakening of feminism; actress Gloria Swanson.

The 1920s was the first time that a woman carried influential political power in the White House as Edith Bolling Galt assisted her husband, the 28th President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson after he suffered a stroke during the last year and half of his presidency. Edith not only cared for him physically but also became his social secretary, his press liaison, and his political interpreter shuttling information to him about problems affecting the world. In short, Edith became a critical component in his decision-making process regarding matters of the country.

During the Roaring ’20s, hairstyles were bobbed, waistlines were dropped and the more fun and carefree your attitude, the closer you were to being called a flapper. On the big screen, Gloria Swanson was dazzling movie-goers in the silent movie Something to Think About. Released in 1920, it became the top-grossing film of the decade, earning $9.16 million dollars at the box office. Book worms were buried in the pages of anything and everything written by Sinclair Lewis – who authored not one, not two, but five bestselling books in the years between 1920-1930. Can you name which five those were? If you guessed Main Street, Dodsworth, Babbitt, Arrowsmith, and Elmer Gantry then you get a gold star for your vintage fiction knowledge!

Clockwise from top left: bestselling author Sinclair Lewis; top song of 1920 goes to Dardanella; Prohibition signs posted at all bars and restaurants; black culture blooms during the Harlem Rennaisance; and everybody’s favorite automobile, the Model T.

The foxtrot song Dardanella, written in 1919 became the runaway hit of the 1920s just as the first radio stations were forming, bringing music, news, and special programming into homes across the country. Black culture was celebrated in art, literature, and jazz music, giving African Americans their first real opportunity for creative expression and social prominence during the Harlem Rennaisance. For thirteen years from 1920-1933, prohibition made it illegal to get a drink at a bar or a restaurant, but creativity reigned supreme when it came to cocktails disguised in teacups in speakeasies, juice joints, and underground nightclubs.

On the kitchen front, food favorites of the 1920s came in the form of flapjacks, pineapple upside-down cake, cod cakes, and anything served with wiggly, jiggly Jell-O. In the absence of legitimate cocktails due to Prohibition, restaurants got creative and served diced fruit in cocktail glasses, instantly coining the term “fruit cocktail” and making it a popular mainstay on menus for the next forty years. The vacuum cleaner, the washing machine, and the in-home refrigerator were all introduced as modern necessities on the domestic front and the kitchen sink and all kitchen countertops were standardized to a height of 36″ inches (which is still the standard height today too!).

1926 ad for Kelvinator refrigerators that appeared in the Home Builders Catalog.

In the 1920s, urban lifestyles were on the rise as more people fled the countryside and rural sections of America to live in fast-growing cities. Urbanization offered more opportunities in the way of advancement, both financially and career-wise. 50% of the American population traded in rural life for a city setting during this decade. As a result, a sophisticated and stylized cosmopolitan life emerged giving birth to streamlined design favored in the elegant Art Deco movement that mirrored the glitz and glam of affluent city dwellers and their cityscapes.

Throughout the 1920s, westward expansion offered new travel opportunities via railroad to parts of the country that seemed not easily accessible. It also allowed for products, produce, and consumer goods to move about the country at breakneck speeds introducing regional items to a new broader audience. And car travel, thanks to the affordable Model T, and the burgeoning automobile industry that followed, cars made road trips a new possibility, giving birth to an entirely new tourism-based marketplace that included roadside motels, diners, gas stations and repair shops. For less than $300 in 1924, you could buy a brand-new Model T (exact price: $265.00, which is equivalent to about $4,000.00 today), enjoy a turkey dinner at a nice restaurant ($1.25) and stay in a hotel for as long as you liked at $2.00 a night.

Even though the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression would close out the 1920s, overall the decade was viewed on a whole as being optimistic, creative, and progressive. With a focus on innovation and development as well as the arts, feminism, expansion, and a newfound bohemian spirit, the essence of the mystery item is wrapped up in several layers of 1920s pop culture mentioned here, especially surrounding new opportunities and new ways of looking at life. Several clues directly leading to the mystery item are hidden in this post, so keep your eyes peeled!

As discussed in Chapters One and Two, this item involves many more people than just Angela and the Vintage Kitchen. While the story continues to unfold, we will keep revealing new details about the mystery item as we get closer to reuniting it with the people and place where it belongs. In the meantime, If you would like to take a guess as to what the mystery item might be, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Join us next time for Chapter 4 as we talk travel, and set the wheels in motion for transporting the item to its final destination.

Following a Trail of Clues: Discovering a Historic Photograph

The moment Ms. Jeannie saw this picture,  was the moment she loved it…

Vintage travel photo

Can’t you just feel the excitement of the people as they watch the plane sail by? Even though we can’t see their faces, you can tell by their posture that they are captivated. Ms. Jeannie loves the composition of it too… how you can see the silhouette of the hats and hairbows, the angle of the treeline and the plane just about to leave the picture.

On the reverse side of the photo it was stamped with this information…

Fox Tone photo processing information

The copyright year was dated 1927… the place… San Antonio, Texas.  The 1920’s was the time of early aviation when  figures like Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh were flying about the skies conquering goals and testing limits. It was an exhilarating time in history – full of promise and potential. The aeronautical industry was on the cusp of blooming, and travelers were about to witness a whole new sense of freedom and independence.  This got Ms. Jeannie to thinking about what a unique little gem she was holding on to. That perhaps there might be an interesting story behind this photograph.  So she put her research hat on and got to work.

As it turns out, 1927 was the year that Charles Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris in the Spirit of St. Louis. He was only 25 at the time – and many people doubted that such an attempt could be successful.

photo courtesy of thisdayinaviation.com

Could the plane in Ms. Jeannie’s photograph be involved in such a tremendous way?  Ms. Jeannie started down that research road next, comparing a bunch of Spirit of St. Louis photos to her photograph to see if they were similar.

A side view of the Spirit of St. Louis. Photo courtesy of wikipedia.

Aerial view of S.O.S.L. This photo is AMAZING!

Up in the air view…photo courtesy of barewalls.com

They do look similar to Ms. Jeannie’s airplane, don’t they?

Closeup of Ms. Jeannie’s photograph. You can see similarities in the overall shape, the wing span and the wheels.

At this point, Ms. Jeannie thinks these two planes resemble each other close enough to start assuming that it could be the Spirit of St. Louis. She has one other clue that might aid in her investigation. If you remember, the photo processing mark on the back was stamped San Antonio, Texas, so now she needed to figure out why the Spirit of St. Louis would have been in Texas.

As it turns out, (thanks to charleslindbergh.com) after Lindbergh returned home from Paris, he embarked on a nationwide victory tour sponsored by aviation enthusiast /businessman Harry Guggenheim.

Harry Guggenheim (1890-1971)

Many people had doubted that one man could pull off such an endeavor, Harry Guggenheim included.  Needless to say, when Charles was successful in his 33 hour flight, there was much fanfare and celebration. Charles became world famous overnight! Suddenly everybody wanted to see, know and hear from this magnanimous man.

With the help of the Guggenheims – America got to do just that.  Paid for by a fund set up by Harry and his father to promote aviation research and education, Lindbergh aboard the Spirit of St. Louis, visited 48 states and 92 cities on what became known as the 3 month long Guggenheim Tour (aka the US Victory Tour).

Stops along the US Victory Tour. Photo courtesy of charleslindbergh.com

While in each city, Lindbergh gave speeches detailing his flying adventures. Here’s a program from his stopover in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on August 27th, 1927. You can get a good sense of the level of pomp and circumstance involved in the tour.

Lindbergh Day in Sioux Falls, South Dakota – August 27, 1927

Along the tour, Lindbergh spent three days in Texas – September 26th – September 28th, 1927,  stopping in  Abilene, Fort Worth,  and Dallas and flew over the following cities:   Crosbyton, Stamford, Roaring Springs, Jacksboro, Bridgeport, Alvarado, Hillsboro, Waxahachie and Denton.  Ms. Jeannie’s photograph could have been taken at any one of those places, with the film then being developed in San Antonio.

Now that Ms. Jeannie had a plausible situation surrounding her photograph, she contacted the charleslindbergh.com website about her theory and included a picture of the photograph.  A few days later, a consultant for the Lindbergh family contacted Ms. Jeannie with verification that her photograph was indeed a picture of the the Spirit of St. Louis flying over Texas on the Victory Tour. How exciting!!!

Ms. Jeannie loves that even after almost 100 years, Lindbergh is still surprising people! See more of Ms. Jeannie’s historic photograph in her Etsy shop here. Do you have any stories about Lindbergh in your family? If so, please comment with your stories! And if you are not familiar with the charleslindbergh.com site – stop by and have a visit – it’s a wealth of information and photos!

Ms. Jeannie’s true travel adventure into the land of discovery!