Thursday, March 29, 2012

New Digital Resource

Columbia University Libraries' Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library has announced a new digital collection, its Biggert Collection of Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery. The gift of Robert Biggert in honor of Lisa Ann Riveaux, the collection features over 1,300 digital images of ephemeral items that include architectural imagery. The images -- printed on letterheads, invoices, envelopes, checks and business cards -- span the latter part of the nineteenth century to the early twentieth century, dating from 1850 to 1920. The buildings represent nearly all fifty states, as well as the District of Columbia. The collection is searchable by business name, city, state, medium and date.  For access, click

Image above:  A&B Moog Wholesale Grocers, Mobile, AL, letterhead, 1880-1899 (detail). The Biggert Collection of Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University Libraries.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New Energy Consumption Map

Columbia University's School of Engineering & Applied Science has developed a new map of New York City's energy consumption. Devised on a block-by-block basis, the map is a model of "smart data extrapolation." The development team utilized ZIP code-derived total energy consumption as well as its own building type/energy use filter in order to extrapolate energy use across the city's five boroughs.

Check out the map here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

USCO Pencils

After World War II, the United States Pencil Company, Incorporated, was selling its USCO pencils for 2 cents each.  Customers could request personalized pencils at additional cost.  The sturdy pencils had erasers attached to the wood stylus with a slender embossed brass ferrule.  The company's standard issue was its No. 486, which during the war featured cardboard ferrules due to rationing.  If you want to learn more about WWII-era (and other) pencils, see Bob Truby's "Brand Name Pencils."

Image above:  United States Pencil Company, Incorporated/487 Broadway/New York, NY.  "Special--For This Month Only!" circa 1946.  Guy Seghers Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Monday, March 26, 2012

New Orleans Mad Men

An example of American marketing well before the Mad Men era.  

In 1939, Ronald S. Renaudin (1912-2001), the manager of Gulf's Central Service Station on Canal and South Claiborne Streets sent this ad to Guy Seghers Sr. (1898-1986), a local surveyor.  Seghers, bless his heart, was a very thrifty businessman who saved every scrap of paper that came his way -- calendars, advertisements, envelopes -- in order to sketch out his lot surveys and transcribe chain of title information on the blank back sides. In this case, the verso of the advertisement delineates street lines associated with a property in Square 627 of the First Municipal District of Orleans Parish.

Renaudin (above left) was a native New Orleanian, graduated from Warren Easton High School, attended Tulane University, and then joined the Gulf Oil Company in 1933 as a service station salesman. By 1937 he was Gulf's merchandising salesperson, by 1958 he was division manager of retail and jobber sales, and by 1965 regional manager for Gulf's Central Region, based in New Orleans. His career spanned four decades, from the great depression through the post-War economic boom.

Gulf's 1939 personalized direct mail advertisement featured an illustration by John August Groth (1908-1988), Esquire Magazine's first art editor, most widely known as a teacher at the Art Students League and for his illustrations of American military combat. Some of his depression-era social commentary drypoints may be viewed at the Smithsonian American Art Museum's website here.

Images above:  R.G. Renaudin, Gulf Central Service Station mailer to Mr. Seghers, 22 November 1939, Guy Seghers Office Records, "District 1 Square 627," Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

"R.G. Renaudin, New Orleans division manager, marketing for Gulf Oil Corporation, discusses high cost of education with Dr. Albert W. Dent, president of Dillard University.  At a chapel ceremony, Dr. Dent had just accepted from Gulf a $1,000 unrestricted grant for use by Dillard's department of education under Gulf's comprehensive aid to education program."  The Crisis (December 1961): p. 638 as viewed in Google Books 26 March 2012.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Building Letterheads III

The Robert E. Lee Hotel in Jackson, Mississippi was built in 1928 and opened in 1930.  Designed by Mississippi architect Claude H. Lindsley, the structure had "certified lighting and radio in every room."

Now a state office building, the structure is currently undergoing a $4 million restoration.

Quoted matter and image above:  Stewart Gammill, manager; Steward Gammill, Jr., assistant manager.  Letterhead, Robert E. Lee Hotel, Jackson, MS, undated.  "District 1, Square 249" Guy Seghers Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Data Countdown

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration has announced that on 2 April 2012, the 1940 Census Data will be released online. Data includes name, age, gender, race, marital status, education and place of birth, as well as income and occupation.  The census instructions also requested that the enumerator indicate whether or not the person had worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Works Progress Administration (WPA), or National Youth Administration (NYA) during the week of 24-30 March 1940.

Guidelines for conducting research using the 1940 Census may be found at:

Friday, March 16, 2012

Building Letterheads II

I had an earlier post about buildings on company letterheads, and just came across another one.  The structure above was the New Orleans headquarters for the Howell Company, Incorporated, manufacturers and packers of family medicines, household remedies, toilet articles, insecticides and sundries.

According to The Times-Picayune, the company acquired the property located at the intersection of Magazine and Calliope Streets in 1929 (1104 Magazine Street), intending to build a three-story warehouse (1).  The masonry building that appeared on a 1946 Howell Company letter was designed by Henry A. Ehresensig (1907-1985)  for "Toups Products Co." in 1940. (2)  T.A. Toups was Secretary-Treasurer for the Howell Company.

(1) "Upper Magazine Expansion Deal Features Realty." The Times-Picayune 31 January 1929: p. 9 [p. 37 of electronic version].  The 63 x 127' site sold for $15,000.

(2)  Architectural drawings are at the New Orleans Public Library.  See:

Image above:  T.A. Toups, letter to R.B. Rordom, 4 November 1946, Guy Seghers Office Records, "District 1 Square 138," Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hard Times 1929

As I have been processing surveyors' records associated with the development of Kenner, Louisiana, I came across a blueprint copy of S.P. Lafaye's 1925 map of the Pailet Subdivision.  The plat conveys the projected street and lot divisions, six canals, and the names of various tract owners.

But it was the verso that attracted my attention, a handwritten note dated less than a week after "Black Tuesday," 29 October 1929.  The inscription reads, "Philip Johnson/Jackson St. & High Way Kenner/Will work 10 acres across canal/where Ames Williams shack/burned down free 1st year/after that $7.00 per acre a year."

Images above from S.P. Lafaye, draftsman.  Projected Plan of Pailet-Subdivision-Pailet/In Rear of The City of Kenner, LA.  New Orleans, La:  15 May 1925.  Guy Seghers Office Records, "City of Kenner, Jefferson Parish (East), Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Blueprint Rations

During World War II, the Southern Blue Print Company, operating at 710 Gravier Street in New Orleans, issued a missive to its customers, requesting that they "PLEASE READ CAREFULLY."  The letter outlined the difficulties the company faced in obtaining engineering supplies, drawing materials, and drafting room equipment, and the necessity for obtaining Priority Ratings on all orders:

"A majority of our customers are presently engaged in doing Defense work and they should have no trouble in obtaining Preference Rating and/or Preference Rating Certificates, which ratings should be extended to us in order that we can replenish our stock from our suppliers.  In the case of many items listed in our catalogs, these cannot be supplied except where very high Ratings are extended to us.  In all cases, therefore, we should be furnished with as high a Priority Rating as it is possible for the customer to obtain."

For those customers unable to obtain Priority Ratings, Southern Blue Print Company advised:

"Those of our customers who are not in a position to extend Priority Ratings to us may in the near future be unable to obtain drafting materials for the conduct of their business, however, we feel assured that we will always be in a position to offer some sort of substitute and we will do everything possible to see that these customers are taken care of to the best of our ability.  We wish, however, to impress on all concerned that Defense Plants, vital Government Agencies and essential industries must be supplied first as they form a vital link in our National Defense, and they, first of all, are entitled to materials with which to work.  All users of Blue Prints, Photostat Prints, etc., doing Defense work, should naturally be in a position to furnish us with Priority Ratings and we therefore expect that in all cases where ratings are obtainable, that such ratings are extended to us."

The letter concluded:

"These are trying times for everyone, and we ask your earnest co-operation along the lines requested above.  If you will do your part we assure you of our best efforts in your behalf."

This was not the first time architects had been called upon to cooperate with American war efforts.  During World War I, the Red Cross solicited architect and engineers to surrender their linen tracings for use as bandages.

Southern Blue Print Co., letter "To Our Customers," undated, Guy Seghers Office Records, "Southern Blue Print Co., 710 Gravier Street, 2nd Floor, New Orleans," Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Building Letterheads

Early twentieth-century letterhead design frequently incorporated engraved images of the business structures.  The New Orleans-founded H.T. Cottam & Company, Incorporated -- which also had offices in Donaldsonville, Thibodaux, Gulfport, Jackson & Crowley -- utilized an image of its 700 Tchoupitoulas Street building, the Cottam Block, as the center of its letterhead.  The structure was designed by Stone Brothers, Architects in 1909 and now operates as the Renaissance New Orleans Arts Hotel.  Tulane University's Southeastern Architectural Archive retains the 1909 project drawings.

In 1928, the H.T. Cottam & Co., Inc.  was soliciting W.J. and G.J. Seghers' professional assessment of property line divisions between the Ricks Tract, owned by Mr. C.B. Fox, and a tract owned by Tom Cottam.  The surveyors responded accordingly.  By 1945, Cottam's tract was owned by Ridge Park, Inc., speculators who subdivided the land, renaming it "Cottam Park."

The Seghers surveyors had a tendency to inter-file all correspondence related to a particular tract of land, regardless of chronological or project distinction.  Thus, the letterhead captured above was interfiled into correspondence, surveys and title histories associated with Cottom Park, East Jefferson Parish.

Image above:  H.T.C., letter to W.J. & G.J. Seghers, 12 December 1928, Guy Seghers Office Records, "Cottam Park; Jefferson Parish (East)," Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Recipe: "Universal Cement" (1856)

To compound this, a quantity of mastic should be dissolved in highly rectified spirits of wine, only enough of the spirits being used to effect the solution of the mastic.

Then soak an equal quantity of isinglass or fish-glue until it is thoroughly softened.  Dissolve this in a quantity of rum or brandy sufficient to form a strong glue, to which add half the weight of gum ammoniac finely pulverized.

Thus for thirty penny-weights of the mastic, thirty penny-weights of isinglass and fifteen of gum ammoniac will be necessary.  The quantity of spirits and brandy depends on their quality; the stronger the liquors, the less of them is needed. and the better will be the mixture.

Warm these two mixtures together over a slow fire, and when they are well mixed, place them in bottles, which must be hermetically sealed.  This cement becomes perfectly dry in twelve or fifteen hours.

When the mastic is to be used, the bottle should be heated in a water bath to liquefy it; the fragments should also be heated before sizing them, and the surfaces well cleansed, as a matter of course.

Those who give this recipe, say that glass, crockery, etc., when thus restored, are as solid as before having been broken, and that the seams are hardly visible; but experience proves that these seams, although imperceptible at the time of the operation, soon soil for want of the perfect polish of the remainder of the article; this diminishes the advantage of the cementing.

From:  M.L. [Mary Louise] Booth, translator.  The Marble-Workers' Manual. Designed for the Use of Marble-Workers, Builders, and Owners of Houses.  Containing Practical Information Respecting Marbles in General; Their Cutting, Working, and Polishing; Veneering of Marble; Painting upon and Coloring of Marble; Mosaics; Composition and Use of Artificial Marble; Stuccos; Cements: Receipts, Secrets, Et., Etc., with an Appendix Concerning American Marbles.  New York: Sheldon, Blakeman & Co., 1856,   pp. 114-115. Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Louisiana Topos Now Available

Over the last few years, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has been working to scan and process its enormous printed map collection -- of U.S. states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and U.S. trust territories -- to make them available as free downloads in electronic format (GeoPDF).

Over the last month, the topographical maps of Louisiana became available... with New Orleans topographic coverage dating from 1891-2009.

Access via:

Image above:  Detail of "New Orleans, Louisiana" Quad 1945.  Scale 1:250,000.