Friday, October 30, 2009

Yo, Mr. Crane. I've Got a Bridge if You Want to Buy!

I guess it was meant to be a day spent in the 19th century. As I was reorganizing some of the archival papers after writing today's earlier post, something caught my eye.

It was a small drawing of a suspension bridge:

The 1873 letter accompanying the drawing reads: "Enclosed please find rough sketch, which will give you an idea how to construct a cheap susp. bridge. The price of 2" diameter steel rope is 15 cents per foot. If you conclude to build, and should want more information, we will gladly give it."

I have no idea why Crane & Co. would have been considering building a suspension bridge, but if they had they would have gotten their information from the best in the business: John A. Roebling's Sons. If you don't know the Roebling story, have a look here.

Art at the Top of the Page in the 19th Century

I'm a big fan of 19th-century graphics, design and typography, particularly as they play out on business letterhead. Some time ago, we took a look at some pretty elaborate examples. Today, I wanted to have a look at some that are not as fancy, but equally as impressive. Many of the letters in the Crane archive are from companies wanting to sell something. Nothing new there. But unlike letterhead for so many of today's manufacturers, these business people took great pride in showing off their products on their letterhead.

Let's have a look at a few:


Check out the Douglas letterhead from 10 years prior



No belts below, but it's irresistable!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Trick or Treat Etiquette with Elle and Maggie

With Halloween just around the bend, it's time to revisit some of the essential rules of etiquette for Trick or Treating. To assist us in this lesson, I have enlisted the services of two veterans of the Trick or Treat circuit in Portland, Oregon, to show you how to score big candies and big points in your neighborhood. So, without further adieu, here are Elle and Maggie with Dos and Taboos:

For those who don't know Elle and Maggie, they are the two delightful daughters of my blogging colleague Mindy Lockard. You can follow their adventures in pursuit of gracious living here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Tiger by the Tail at Billings Farm & Museum in Vermont

Wendy and I will miss young William Porter Hopkins' first foray into the world of Trick or Treating, the resulting sugar high and the inevitable meltdown this weekend. But we were lucky enough to spend some time with him in costume at the annual Halloween celebration at Billings Farm & Museum in Woodstock, Vt.

The day-long celebration featured a working cider press, pumpkin ice-cream making (both off the charts yummie!) doughnuts hanging from a tree, pumpkin bowling, horse-drawn wagon rides, and up-close visits with chickens, sheep, cows and horses. If you're ever in the neighborhood, you owe it to yourself to stop by, especially if you have a kid in tow.

Here are some photos of the action.

Grinding apples to make cider.

A beanbag toss toward a cut-out clown face.

Doughnut on a string (Supposed to be no hands...)

And the classic tiger in a mess of pumpkins shot.

Tomorrow, we will be treated to some valuable trick or treat etiquette lessons from our friends out west - Elle and Maggie. So stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Celebrating National Reptile Appreciation Day

Today is National Reptile Appreciation Day. Who knew such a thing existed?

But since we're celebrating, here are some examples of Reptilian Pen Candy:

From the top:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tracing a Piece of Crane's Bond History

I was rooting around in the Crane archives the other day and came across some items that I had forgotten about. They had been sent to me by a visitor to the Crane Museum of Papermaking who had heard the stories about the uses to which Crane's Bond had been put over the years.

In this case (and I'm not sure if I have the terminology correct) Bond was used as the substrate for perforated sewing patterns. I know it's Bond because the paper is watermarked Crane & Co. Dalton Mass, 1890 Bond. It's a gorgeous sheet - crisp, rattly and translucent - weighing in at about 16 pounds (writing paper is generally 24 pounds).

My understanding is that these patterns were perforated with designs ranging from simple to ornate. To transfer the design to fabric, you would dust the sheet with some fine chalk, then start sewing where the fabric has been marked.

The archives yielded three alphabets - one called "motto" - which is quite simple; the other two are, well, Victorian, I would have to say. They are so ornately designed, the manufacturer has printed the corresponding letter on the sheet so you will know it's a "D."

The perforated letters are pretty much impossible for me to photograph, so I scanned one in and bumped up the contrast so I could trace it.

I'm thinking with some work, these would make an awesome set of initial notes. Your thoughts?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Send Me Your Paper Cranes for the Crane Museum

For seasoned readers of The Insider, you will probably remember my encounter with My Paper Crane. For relative newbies or those with memories as bad as my own, I ran across My Paper Crane when doing my daily keyword search of the internet, blogosphere and Twitterverse. During those searches I continue to run across "paper cranes," a universal symbol of peace.

It occurred to me that, instead of treating these search-function intruders as a nuisance, it's time to celebrate the importance of the relationship among cranes, paper and peace.

To that end, I will create an exhibit in the Crane Museum of Papermaking next season to showcase the finest examples of origami paper cranes.

So, how will the finest be judged? First of all, I will be the sole judge, and I cannot be bribed! As far as the judging criteria, here are some considerations:

I make my living telling stories, so I really want to hear the story about your paper crane.

Originality. What's different about your paper crane?

Beauty. It's in the eye of the beholder and I am the Beholder.

Intangibles. They are just that.

I just changed my mind. I was going to ask all of you to send me a jpeg of your entry, but I'm a paper guy, a stamp guy and  a mailbox guy. So fold a crane and send it to me. And tell me your story. Make sure you include your contact information. I will want to respond to all of you personally and, of course, I want to be able to send our winners some Crane Paper for their Paper Crane.

Here's the address:
Peter Hopkins
472 Center St.
Pownal, VT 05261

If there is a reason why you can't send me your crane, tell me your story.

I will accept entries until December 13; that's 60 days. Please pass the word.

I did mention that I can't be bribed, but paper cranes submitted on distinctive paper made of cotton and linen with an engraving of Ben Franklin will receive extra credit - Kidding!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Privacy and the Culture of Celebrity

At the risk of sounding like an old fuddy-duddy, I am tired of this seemingly never-ending "news" about every twist and turn of any given celebrity's life. I don't understand why we want to know every little detail. Isn't life full enough and challenging enough for all of us; complicated and complex enough to require full attention to our own twists and turns and those of our parents and children and friends?

OK, enough of that. But wait! Here's something to think about, and it has to do with Crane and stationery and celebrities and everyday folks like you and me and privacy. Every day, stationery, invitations and announcements for A-List celebrities come in to Crane's engraving facility. I know. I've seen hundreds of them.

We know months in advance when they're getting married, where they're getting married, who they're getting married to. We know the names and weights of their babies. We engrave invitations to parties the rest of us could only attend in our wildest dreams. Sure, a typesetter or engraver may say something to a co-worker about the cool stationery I just did for........

But that's as far as the information goes. It never ends up in the tabloids or on TV gossip shows or touted on Crane's website. There are two things at work here. For the folks at Crane who create personalized stationery, it's about the quality of the stationery, not the public profile of the customer. And it's because we respect everyone's privacy. Especially yours, whether you're an A-Lister or a soccer mom.

But just this once, I've got to show you one that went through today:

Stationery Trends Highlights Martha and Social Media

The fall issue of Stationery Trends Magazine is, as always, chock full of required reading for anyone in the business. That is especially true this time, because the magazine features an in-depth Q&A with Martha Stewart about her new line of wedding invitations and holiday cards for Crane & Co.

Here's a portion of the interview.

To see the whole piece, plus an insightful column on the business benefits of social media by an astute and ruggedly handsome blogger, you may subscribe here.

For those who would prefer to purchase this single issue, which includes an insightful column on the business benefits of social media by an astute and ruggedly handsome blogger, it's $6, and that's a bargain!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Closer Look at the Art of Engraving at Crane

I was thinking about writing a post about the beautiful fall colors beginning to emerge here in Vermont, but got distracted by a dragonfly. Not just any dragonfly, but one of my favorite examples of the art of engraving:

The design demands extraordinary fine-line detail and absolutely perfect registration through several passes on the engraving press. The pressman is the one who ultimately puts ink on paper, but his success is dependent on many other skilled craftspeople who add their personal touches along the way.

So, to all of you who allow me to show off these beautiful designs, I raise a glass of good old Vermont apple cider. To your health!

A very naughty monkey!