Tuesday, February 26, 2013

On Safari With George Eastman: Part 2

From Southampton, George Eastman and his party went to London, where Mr. Eastman had meetings relating to dentistry (making x-rays perhaps?). He did no sightseeing but took time to test British-made, double-barreled elephant guns. He wrote in a letter that, "British workmen have no rivals in gun-making by hand."

Eastman had more business meetings in Paris (though he was retired, he was always interested in new technological developments), and while there, he allowed for one hour to visit the Louvre.

George Eastman visits the Louvre
From Paris the Eastman Party motored to Genoa, opting to ride in a closed car because of all the dust. Eastman wondered why Italian authorities wanting to lure tourists didn't "oil the roads."

In Genoa, they boarded the Llanstephan, and today's cruise passengers might be interested to know that George Eastman found his 6'3"x8'6" cabin "convenient and most satisfactory." That a friend had sent two cases of French and Italian wines was probably also most satisfactory. On board were other hunting parties, including one known as the Chrysler Party.

Mark D. Ruffner

The Llanstephan sailed through the Suez Canal and Red Sea to Mombasa, which Eastman thought lovely, and compared to Coral Gables, Florida. In Mombasa, the Eastman Party was met by Mrs. Carl Akeley, who had secured a house in Nairobi for use as the safari headquarters; the Martin Johnsons, who would be making a documentary of the trip; and the Phil Percivals. Mr. Percival would be Mr. Eastman's "white hunter," while Mr. Pomeroy would have his own guide, Pat Ayre.

Pomeroy, Eastman and Stewart

From Mombasa to Nairobi, the now extended Eastman Party took its own train, which consisted of a passenger car, a dining car and a baggage car. Perhaps you are starting to see that this safari was no small affair.

Martin and Osa Johnson | africaobscura.com      Carl Akeley | wikipedia

While George Eastman was famous for his work with photography, Osa and Martin Johnson were famous as explorers, and for their documentary films. Carl Akeley, who was in his last year, was the father of modern taxidermy. He was a fine sculptor, and so his taxidermied animals had the properly muscled under structures to make them appear very lifelike. For the Eastman Safari, Akeley had hired two taxidermists and two artists who had gone ahead and set up their own camp.

The Eastman Party employed a Boer chauffeur and 30 native Africans, including valets, cooks, porters, gun-bearers, skinners and syces (mule handlers).

The safari headquarters in Nairobi, for which Mrs. Akeley had arranged

  To be continued . . .

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

On Safari With George Eastman: Part 1

For the next few posts, I'm going to share a safari adventure that George Eastman, the pioneer of modern photography, took in his retirement. But I'll begin by giving a little of the back story of how I came to own a relatively rare book that George Eastman self-published.

My Grandfather Ruffner was an early employee of George Eastman's, starting as a salesman with Kodak in 1901. Because he started in the early days of the company, he had a large territory to cover. How large was it?

His territory was somewhat larger than that which Thomas Jefferson bought from the French by the Louisiana Purchase. His route coursed from Fargo, North Dakota, to Seattle; down the Pacific Coast to San Diego, California, inland again to El Paso, Texas; north to Denver, west through Wyoming, Utah, Montana, Idaho, and Washington; down the coast once again and inland through New Mexico and Arizona, both of which were then territories, not states. Essentially his territory was everything west of the Mississippi River.

In those days, he traveled through the West mostly by railroad, calling on professional photographers, giving demonstrations, selling Kodaks, putting metal signs in windows, and distributing advertising from a trunk that weighed 250 pounds. However did he manage that trunk?

Eventually my grandfather returned to Rochester, New York — the headquarters of the Eastman Kodak Company — and like my great-grandfather, became an editor. For years he published company magazines, and he eventually was responsible for introducing Kodak's Ektachrome color film to professional photographers.

And so, when George Eastman returned from a 8-month safari trip and wanted to publish a book of his experiences for his friends, he turned to my grandfather to edit and print the project. Of course my grandfather retained one of those books, which I've been enjoying rereading lately. So, let's go on a safari with George Eastman!

In 1926, George Eastman (1854-1932), planned an extended safari to East Africa. He was joined by two younger friends, Daniel E. Pomeroy and Dr. Audley D. Stewart. Pomeroy was a New York banker and sportsman who helped found a couple of New York golf courses, and Stewart was Eastman's personal physician.

Douglas Fairbanks and Billie Dove in The Black Pirate  |  dvdbeaver.com
Before embarking for England, the three spent a little time in New York City. Eastman watched Douglas Fairbanks' film, the The Black Pirate and said it was "all in color, the best thing in color photography so far."

On March 13, 1926, the party departed from New York for Southampton on the Majestic.

Tea with the ship's captain, aboard the Majestic
left to right: Dr. Audley D. Stewart, George Eastman, Daniel E. Pomeroy
Now let us suppose that you have a friend who is going to make a trans-Atlantic crossing and then go on to a safari. You want to surprise him when he gets to his cabin, so what should be delivered to the ship? Well, here's what awaited Mr. Pomeroy in his cabin, much to the amusement of Mr. Eastman:

  • 6 baskets of fruit
  • 6 bouquets of flowers
  • 3 boxes of cigars
  • 1 basket of mushrooms
  • 20 French artichokes
  • 1 bunch of rhubarb
  • 2 baskets of peas
  • 1 basket of radishes
  • 5 baskets of string beans
  • 6 baskets of Lima beans
  • 16 heads of cauliflower
  • 3 baskets of Bermuda potatoes
  • 2 baskets of tomatoes
  • 8 bunches of asparagus
  • ½ barrel of oysters
  • 4 lbs. of caviar 

More of the Eastman trip in the next post . . .

Friday, February 15, 2013

My Winter Drink . . .

. . . is not hot chocolate! While the northeastern United States has spent the week digging out from two or three feet of snow, Florida temperatures have reached 80 degrees and higher, and oranges are ready for picking.

When I moved into my current home, I became the beneficiary of three orange trees and one tree of pink grapefruit, shown above, in my back yard.

Though the trees have since died of old age (they were planted in the 1940's), I got a lot of enjoyment from them. I quickly learned that three large oranges would fill one tumbler with orange juice. In the evenings, I'd go pick three oranges, and then I'd squeeze them the next morning for breakfast.

My trees would produce dozens and dozens of oranges. I'd squeeze gallons of orange juice for my coworkers, and still have oranges left over to give away, and to last me through the season.

I even made my own label.

Internet image from realtruck.com
Some friends discovered that the children of Florida's migrant workers didn't get to enjoy any of the orange juice. And so we devoted an afternoon to pick my remaining oranges to distribute to migrant workers' children. That day, we were able to fill up the bed of a pickup truck.

As long as I'm in Florida, I'll want my electric orange juicer to be close at hand! You'll notice in this photo that I've put a return address label on the juicer. That's because every once in a while, I'll be invited to the home of a friend for a juicing party. We'll pick all the oranges (someone younger will climb up to the top branches), and we'll form a production line of juicers. It's a good excuse for celebrating afterwards with a potluck dinner.

So here's my winter drink, from the orange tree of my friends, Sandy and Greg.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

This week I thought I would delve into my ephemera collection and share some 19th century German cards. They tend to be more intricate and more richly made than others in the collection.

The congratulatory wording on these cards indicate that they were probably birthday cards, but for this week we'll regard them as valentines (which in a sense they were). This card looks as though it may have been pinned to a wall.

This is one of my favorite items from my entire ephemera collection. It is 19th century printing at its height!

You can read about my ephemera collection under the pointing hand of my side bar, and you can read about the earliest valentines, known as sentiment cards, here.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Art of Kenton Nelson

The Big Red Purse  |  © Kenton Nelson

Kenton Nelson is a California-based artist whose work I would describe as "pared realism." Sometimes, as in this painting entitled The Big Red Purse, there is a Pop Art quality to his subject matter and magnified views.

 © Kenton Nelson

On Providing Support  |  © Kenton Nelson 2006

© Kenton Nelson

On Nelson's own site (which you can visit here) he mentions an affinity for and influence by WPA art, a period to which both Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood belonged. I see a little of both artists in Nelson's perspectives, stylization and coloring.

Conjugation  |  © Kenton Nelson

© Kenton Nelson  |   © Kenton Nelson

Pasadena's Colorado Street Bridge is a recurring theme in Nelson's paintings. Nelson is a major figure in the preservation of Pasadena landmarks.

© Kenton Nelson

Kenton Nelson's work evokes American suburbia of the 1950's, and perhaps his spare detail adds to the feeling of simpler times. Even when Nelson paints figures, there is a sense of isolation and suspended time.

Besides pared detail, Nelson has a very distinctive color palette, one which contributes to the retro quality of his work.

Mr. Wilkenson  |  © Kenton Nelson 2007

Saturday's Probability  |  © Kenton Nelson 2004

Nelson's paintings range in size from 12" x 12", like the image above, to what my local museum would call "masterworks," like Big Shoes, seen below at a 2011 New York exhibition.


© Kenton Nelson  |  © Kenton Nelson
Kenton Nelson's paintings were featured in the recent movie, Something's Gotta Give, starring Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson. Look for a poolside painting and a great Edward Hopper-like view of a lighthouse.

© Kenton Nelson

I saved my own favorite for last.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Story Behind a Family Relic

My maternal grandparents were Swiss, and started dating after their paths crossed repeatedly on train rides. Each was traveling to the other's canton so that they might learn to become bilingual (there are, after all, four languages in Switzerland — German, French, Italian and Romansch).

My grandfather's first gift to my grandmother was in 1906, and it was this souvenir of Geneva, a little copper pot, shown at its actual size. This little pot celebrates a time in Geneva's history when it was a walled town and not yet a part of the Swiss Confederation.

Charles Emmanuel I   |  en.wikipedia.org
During the night of December 12, 1602, the troops of Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy, attacked Geneva (they had chosen the longest night of the year). The duke wanted to make the wealthy city-state his northern capital and a launching pad for crushing Protestantism. In this plan, he was helped by both Pope Clement VIII and Philip III of Spain, the duke's brother-in-law.

The duke's mercenaries first attacked the town gate, at which time the night guard sounded the alarm.

Mère Royaume  |  fr.wikipedia.org

Above the main gate lived one Catherine Cheynel, wife of Pierre Royaume and mother to 14 children (today she's remembered as Mère Royaume). Catherine grabbed a large cauldron of soup and poured it on the attackers, killing one. All the commotion from just that one act bought time for the townspeople to organize, and the duke's 2000+ mercenaries were defeated.

2012 Fête de l'Escalade, Geneva   |   enjoyfestivals.com

Today, the 1602 event is celebrated yearly as Fête de l'Escalade (escalade means the scaling of defensive walls). The celebration includes the making of soup and the sale of little pots made — not from copper — but from rich chocolate.

My grandmother's Geneva pot never held soup, but her grandchildren and great-grandchildren fondly remember it as an endless source of hard candy.