Color Bright Anxiety

It’s never too late to start your daughter on the road to anxiety over her hair, mothers! And if you have to start by turning her into a bizarre Mini-Me at the age of 8, well, so be it.

I have seen ads from the 1940s urging mothers to perm their daughters’ hair, which is ghastly enough. But why stop at curls? Why not start coloring their hair, too? Colorinse, the stuff being lauded in verse by the elderly-looking girl on the right, does wash out, to be fair. But “if daughter wants still more color, she can use Colortint.” That is, if Mom hasn’t used it all already. Poor kid, already worrying about “drab” hair. Looks like she’s wearing lipstick, too. Ugh.

You can thank late Victorian German inventor Karl Nessler, aka Charles Nestle (it sounded more French and hence more glam than Nessler) for this one. He invented artificial eyebrows in 1902 and the permanent wave in 1909, before coming to the US and creating Nestle Hair Salons which were in several major cities in the 1920s.

Nestlé chocolate powder, on the other hand (complete with accent) was named for another innovative German, confectioner Heinrich Nestle, who Frenchified his name to Henry Nestlé when he moved to Switzerland in the 1860s and invented condensed milk. His company went on to make other food products including the instant coffee Nescafé. You can start the kid on that after you dye her hair, Mom. Caffeine and anxiety go together like – like a face and artificial eyebrows, right?

The Beech Is Back

Before we ease the tension and pass the gum around I would like to know what a Beech Nut is, and why it is involved with chewing gum. I never really thought about it before but I wanted to write about this great 1958 ad. I love ads that show old packaging, don’t you? Especially if they show a whole product line, like this ad.

Beech nuts or mast are the fruits of the beech tree, a deciduous hardwood; species of beech can be found all over the world, pretty much everywhere but Africa. Beech nuts are small, oily and a little bit bitter. Here at you can read all about gathering and eating beech nuts. It sounds like they are kind of difficult to get out of their husks, but that they are pretty good to eat once you do. Beware, though, because if you eat a lot of them you can get a stomach ache or, as one writer noted in 1823, “when eaten in great quantities [beech nuts] occasions headaches and giddiness.” Probably tension, too – in which case you’d want to chase the beech nuts with some Beech-Nut.

The Beech-Nut Packing Company, which made everything from the first vacuum jars to ketchup, candy, marmalade and, of course, gum, was originally called the Imperial Packing Company and was located in Canajoharie, New York. Back in the 1890s, Imperial made smoked hams which were called Beech-Nut hams. I located an 1891 ad for the ham which has given me a clue why they called the ham and then gum (and all the other foods) Beech-Nut. Because it was “Sweet As A Nut,” that’s why. And maybe there are a lot of beech trees in Canajoharie, New York. That’s all I’ve got. We may just have to leave this a mystery.

But we do know that there aren’t any actual beech nuts in the chewing gum. And on that note, I can ease the tension by chewing some gum while I go back to avoiding the laundry.

More about beech nuts here at Adirondack Almanac.

Ruling With A Velveeta Glove

When I think of Velveeta – which is seldom, but this ad made me think of it, for one thing – I think of the 1950s. So I was pretty surprised to learn that it was first sold back in 1908 by the Monroe Cheese Company in Monroe, New York. It wasn’t until the late 1920s that Kraft bought it and started marketing it.

Originally, Velveeta was sold in a block and it wasn’t until the 50s that it was sold as a block or as a soft spread. In either form it was marketed as a handy, healthful shortcut to making smooth cheese sauces and grilled sandwiches and casseroles.

The 1939 ad on the right advises us to use the clever “trick” of melting Velveeta “in the top of a double boiler” (gee, I was going to stick it in the bottom part, good thing I read this ad) and then using it as a topping for “eggs, fish, macaroni, etc.” And also for this
disturbing-looking “vegetable dish” involving rings of white bread filled with peas and carrots and topped with a pearl onion, floating in a sea of Velveeta. Also there is a fair amount of parsley bobbing around, too.

By the way, I love the blue plate the vegetable dish thing is on. I would have happily bought blocks and blocks of Velveeta if that plate was to be had for some box tops and, say, fifty cents (it wasn’t, though).

In the interests of Full Disclosure, et cetera, I’ve never actually had Velveeta, so I’m asking you: do you like it, or not so much? Do you or did your family have recipes rife with Velveeta, and what were they?

Also, if you know any good “double boiler tricks,” please share them. I only have one, and it is to put everything I’m cooking in the top of the double boiler. But that, as we all know, is not really a trick, is it?

[For the ad at top left] photo credit: jbcurio via photopin cc

Chicken Pie Molds

Fool your guests or your family – whoever is at your dinner table, in short – with these Chicken Pie Molds! Just fill them up with leftover chicken or turkey and, I guess, bake them. Everyone will think you are serving them Cornish game hens, maybe. But why stop at using leftover chicken or turkey? Why not just fill them up with any old leftovers and baking them until they are “roasty golden-brown”? Sliced hotdogs, Spam, mashed potatoes, tuna. That’ll be good, won’t it. Does anyone else think the molded end result looks like it’s holding its head in despair? It looks sad. Maybe some Wrigley’s gum will cheer it up.

photo credit: alsis35 (now at ipernity) via photopin cc

Fred and Venida

1946 ad

Fred the Hairstylist was a “famed hairdresser to glamorous New Yorkers” from the mid 1930s to at least the late 1950s, according to several little ads I’ve found. But my attempts to delve into the mysteries of Fred have not been as successful as I’d hoped. One of his ads had the catchy line: “If your hair is not becoming to you, you should be coming to Fred the Hairstylist.”

I think what intrigues me is his name. So bland. So boring. And yet he appeals to the glamorous ladies of New York high society! Or so he says. I want to know more, Fred. Tell us more!

Happily, Retro Belles can tell us a little bit more. They are selling a 1940 issue of a trade journal called Modern Beauty Shop. I love that name, and I also love the question that they pose:

In designing a new coiffure for a patron’s new Spring bonnet, have you been stumped by a stubborn cowlick? [Haven't we all.] Fred the Hairstylist has made a special study of this problem which is well worth your attention.

Thanks for that, Fred. My cowlick and I thank you. I wish I knew what it was you’ve done, but I think it has something to do with a Cold Permanent Wave  treatment you devised

There are two pages from the Modern Beauty Shop magazine that you can take a look at over there, and
the hairstyles are all very swirly and a lot like the Venida Hair-Do of the Month.

In the 1930s his address was 18 East 49th Street which is between Madison and Fifth and about a block from St. Patrick’s Cathedral – in other words, a very fancy area, then and now.

In 1958 this ad listed his address as (still) 18 East 49th, but said that some of his “expert stylists” were in town (Fayetteville, New York) at the Hotel Syracuse. They would “adapt current coiffures in Vogue to suit your individuality” with a cut, shampoo and set for $5. The lady in this ad has a short curled hairstyle with a rather puffy top bit that doesn’t look terribly 1950s-fashionable to me, but what do I know? She looks happy enough and if it’s good enough for her and Fred the Hairstylist, then that’s all right.

photo credit: Nesster via photopin cc [for color ad]

Joy In A Bottle

Joy in a bottle, huh? Are we sure this isn’t an ad for sherry or brandy or something? Maybe the ad lady had a little nip before she spotted the bottle of dishwashing liquid. It would explain a lot, I think.

Dishwashing and magic are not words I like to use together, not even with a bottle of dish soap (as we call it in Canada) in my hand. I mean, sometimes – very occasionally – I enjoy doing dishes because the activity kind of helps me think about things like writing. But mostly I don’t. And even at the best of times I don’t grin and hold up the bottle of dish soap (or the odd glass or pan) like I was madly in love with it or about to take a bite out of it.

But they’d never make an ad featuring me slouching over the sink with my glasses steamed over, scrubbing lentil curry off a pot, looking absent-minded.

Before liquid dish soap people used soap flakes (the “anything in a box” that Joy is beating) or, before those were sold, you grated up whatever bar soap was hanging around the kitchen. Chiffon, Lux and Ivory were among the soap flakes brands you could buy in the 30s and 40s.

The Swan Soap ad is from 1943, and makes much of the
fact that you could use Swan for everything – bathing, doing dishes, and washing your clothes. Actually, that sounds all right. Frugal, too.

Joy dishwashing liquid was first advertised in the US in 1949 and was noted both for its lemon scent and the fact that it would be easier on your hands than soap flakes. Joy was also an early sponsor of the sudsy radio dramas which became known as (you guessed it) soap operas: something to listen to while you did all those dishes.

A Short History of the Bobby Pin

Did you ever wonder when bobby pins were invented and why they were called bobby pins? They were first made in the 1920s and were specifically to help women keep their bobbed hair, or bobs, in place.

Bob pins, as they were originally called, were later called bobby pins after the Bob Lépine Corporation which made them and held a copyright on the term “bobby pin” for several decades. In Great Britain the bobby pin is called a kirby grip after Kirby, Beard and Co. which made a lot of them.

Wikipedia says that the pins (and the bobbed hair) date to the late 1890s but I’m not sure that women were cutting their hair short until a couple of decades later. However, the U-shaped hairpin had been made out of wire in the US since the mid-nineteenth century, and straight hair pins had been sued for centuries.

In 1937 the Bob-Pin Automatic Hair Curler sold for a dollar; it was a little hair curling wand that made curls just the right size to hold in place with a bobby pin. You can see a picture of one over at Taste-t-vintage. And there’s a very, very thorough research paper about bobby pins, by someone at NYU, over here.

Besides being useful for holding down hair or making pin curls, bobby pins have also been used for everything from picking locks to makeshift bookmarks. Do you use bobby pins and if so, do they come in handy for your hair or do you use them for other things?

Ad at left photo credit: lobstar28 via photopin cc