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.

All Aboard: Your Adventure Awaits {Part Two}

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The date is April 27th, 1964.  You are standing among the crowd in front of the Unisphere, the largest globe ever built by man. It contains 470 tons of stainless steel and is considered “one of the most outstanding achievements in structural sculpture in the past decade.”  The New York World’s Fair has you dizzy with excitement!

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It is Day 5 of your travel adventure and you marvel at just about everything you set your eyes on.  There is an edge and an urgency to see, taste, hear and explore all the situations around you. You are bouncing from exhibit to exhibit on a natural high, guided by curiosity and surprise. Part New York frenetic energy and part endorphin rush you are bombarded in the best possible way with ideas that are new and thrilling and coming at you from all directions.

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If you wanted to see all 150 pavilions and attractions at the Fair it would take 30 full days of sightseeing. But you only have a week so you have to make a list. With your trusty 300 page fair guide…

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purchased for $1.00 at the concession stand you highlight the specific places and pavilions you want to see first.

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Among your not-to-miss moments are the: House of Good Taste, the Rheingold, Walter’s International Wax Museum, the Clariol Hair Color Exhibit, the Avis Antique Card Ride, the Transportation and Travel Hall, France, Switzerland, Indonesia, Africa, the Space Park, the Garden of Meditation and the Pool of Industry plus 27 others. It’s an ambitious schedule but you are determined to make the most of it.

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While so many exhibits are enormous, some in particular really catch you off-guard by their sheer size like Sinclair’s Dinoland where nine life-size replicas of dinosaurs stand hovering over the fair-goers.

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It is one of the most popular spots for photographs so you have to squeeze in quickly to get a few snaps. The dinosaurs were made by artists in upstate New York and were in fact so big they couldn’t be transported by truck or trailer, so they had to be floated down the Hudson River via barge. In the anticipation leading up to your trip, your friend Gene took a photo of the big guys heading down river and sent it off to you in the mail…

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Other incredible sightings so far have included the steel and plastic Liberty Tree with leaves made of historic documents in the New England pavilion…

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…and the scale model of New York City, which measures in total 180′ feet  x 100′ feet. Each building is scaled at 1 inch to 100 feet which means that the Empire State building is 15″ inches tall. Amazingly,  this model includes every building in Manhattan.

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You soak up all the sun and and all the fun at the very first live Porpoise show courtesy of the Florida State Exhibit…

before heading over to the Hollywood Pavilion where you soak up celebrity and have your autograph book signed by Joan Crawford and Kirk Douglas.

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With heart pounding you fly like a bird through the air courtesy of the Monorail, the Observation Towers, the Brass Rail Snack Bar, the giant Royal Tire ride and the Parachute Jump…

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Part of the reason why you are feeling so giddy and alive is because there is so much positivity and potential floating around. Words and wonders like Carousel of Progress, Futurama and Tomorrowland greet you both in person and in print at every turn…

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and you can’t help but feel a sense of overwhelming optimism for the progress that is sure to come in the next 5, 10, 15 and 20 years.

You have been at the fair for five days. You have traveled 1000 miles from New Orleans to New York City to get here. But in reality you have gone much further. You have circumnavigated the globe. You have seen zebras in Africa, enjoyed coffee in Lebanon and arranged flowers in Japan.  You have explored planets in outer space and dived deep into the inky depths of the sea. You feel like a true globetrotter, a jet-setter and a time traveler all wrapped into one. You are crossing continents and centuries in the blink of an eye. This is by far one of the most exciting vacations of your life. You don’t want to leave but you also can’t wait to share your trip with all your friends back home. You mail off a litany of postcards every day… your words running off the cards because there is just so much to say.

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You look for a souvenir that can encapsulate this experience of a lifetime in one item. You search through many stands and stalls before it hits you…

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You find a book that symbolizes all the magic of the moment that is the World’s Fair. You purchase a souvenir copy of the story of Michelangelo’s Pieta, which is on display in the Italian pavilion. The 15th century sculpture stands 6′ feet tall by 5.5′ feet long and contains three different elevated viewing platforms. You walk onto each one to gather a sense of the sculpture’s size and scope.

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The sculpture fills you with emotion. It is a combination of history, stone and craftsmanship.  It contains story, self-expressionism and symbolism. It conveys love and tenderness, majesty and gift-giving. It is passion magnified in a portrait of faith and future.  It represents past accomplishment and future hope. It is the New York World’s Fair personified. This art, this souvenir book, this incredible Fair represents a moment in time, in life, in history destined not to be forgotten.

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Happy 4th!

Goodness gracious! Is it scorching hot here in the South!

Everything is either wilting or dripping. The garden has been wind-whipped by hot dry dust storms almost everyday, and that is after we went through an almost tornado storm on Sunday with 60 mph wind gusts, thunder and lightening. The garden is starting to show some wear and tear.  Pictures will come later this week.

In the meantime… the heat of the summer always signals the start of Ms. Jeannie’s movie marathons. There is nothing more decadent then curling up by a fan and losing yourself in the lengthy plot lines of seasonal tv shows, mini series and movie epics.  That’s how she was first introduced to Mad Men, the Tudors, Empire Falls, Castle, The Godfather, Good Neighbors…

So it is with that in mind, if you are experiencing a horrendous heat wave in your neck of the woods as well, that Ms. Jeannie recommends a most patriotic mini-seies for this holiday week… the HBO mini-series John Adams.

This came out a few years ago(2008), but the more Ms. Jeannie talks about this movie, the more she realizes a lot of people never saw it. If you fall in that boat, here’s the trailer…

Delightfully, it starts out in the winter with John Adams (played fantastically by Paul Giamatti) riding his horse through a blizzard in 1770 Boston.  Just watching that scene alone instantly cools you off and makes you forget about the temperature outside.

John Adams – Opening Scene

The mini-series is based on the thoroughly researched book John Adams by David McCullough.

A New York Times Bestseller! John Adams by David McCullough

Like the book, the mini-series painstakingly brought every single detail of colonial life alive in the production. Tom Hanks, a huge history buff, was one of the executive producers. It stars in addition to Paul Giamatti, Laura Linney (Abigail Adams), Tom Wilkinson (Ben Franklin) and David Morse (George Washington). The production team was dedicated to making the film look and feel exactly like life would have been in 1770’s America.

Official Poster. Such a smart tagline…He united the states of America.

They even aged the teeth of John and Abigail so by the end, they were pretty decayed. Exactly what people’s teeth would have looked like at the time! The whole production is a visual feast for not only the eyes but the imagination as well.

The opening theme delighted Ms. Jeannie.  Simple yet so dramatic and full of emotion. You can’t help but feel inspired by just watching that!

Since Ms. Jeannie used to live in Philadelphia it was equally fascinating to look at the sets and then remember the city as she knew it. Of course she has the done the history tour of Philadelphia many times, but now after watching the movie and reading the book she feels like she understands that time period, the city and our early government so much better now.

So if you want to fall in love with America all over again, Ms. Jeannie highly recommends losing yourself in this eight hour marathon. She guarentees you will walk away with a different perspective on our forefathers struggle to create our nation of independence.

“Let us tenderly and kindly cherish, therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.” – John Adams

Have 4th of July dear blog readers!