Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thus Endeth Our First Lesson

Thus Endeth Our First Lesson, SFA (Stella Friends Academy), 1909

Postmarked Cherokee, Oklahoma, July 20, 1909, 2:30 PM

Miss Jessie Burrows
1156 Univ Ave.

Hello Jessie, how are you these hot days?  Those pictures on the plains are not very good but I will finish some of them and sent them to you if you want them.  Are you going to school Jim (?)  ha! ha!
   Best wishes, Stanley

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Silent Cal the Groom

Grace Coolidge, before she married Calvin Coolidge, was a teacher at the Clarke School for the Deaf in Northampton, Massachusetts.  A party was held in honor of the young couple the evening before their marriage, but a friend of Grace arrived late and was not present at introductions.  She noticed a solitary individual looking lonely and apart from the conversation.  Inquiring about Calvin she asked, "Is that young man standing there by himself in the corner one of your pupils?"

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Max Factor

Congratulations to Brian and Amy who correctly identified Max Factor, Sr., as yesterday's Person-of-Mystery!

Max Factor

Born iŁódź, Congress Kingdom of Poland, in 1872 as Maksymilian Faktorowicz, he early became the wigmaker for the Imperial Russian Grand Opera.  However, due to increasing anti-semitism in Russia, he left for America in 1904 and settled first in St. Louis, Missouri where he used his Anglicized name, Max Factor.  His business partner soon cheated him out of his money and after series of misfortunes, Factor left for Los Angeles in 1908 and established a cosmetic and wig company the following year.

Max Factor's Los Angeles Shop on Hill Street in Los Angeles

Motion picture films brought the audience closer to actors than had been possible during the stage era and as a result, the greasepaint used in earlier times was noticeably unacceptable for close camera work.  Max used his chemistry know how to create a thin creamy greasepaint that resisted both cracking and caking.  Soon actors and actresses clamored for his makeup (the verb "make-up" being first used as a noun by Factor himself).

Max Factor, chemist and cosmetician

His craft was in such great demand that movies even listed Max Factor in the credits and before too long the general public was demanding the same great products as the glamorous movie stars.

Max Factor applying makeup to actress Dorothy Mackaill

Factor died in 1938, but today he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Max Factor's Star on the Walk of Fame

So Max Factor is pretty much the father of modern makeup, but here's one last interesting little tidbit, in 1932, he came up with a machine he called the "Beauty Calibrator" also known as the "Beauty Micrometer."  In a pseudo-scientific way, it would supposedly pinpoint flaws where facial corrections needed to be made with pancake shading.

Max Factor's Beauty Calibrator in Action

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Welcome to Cipher Saturday!
You've found the home of everyone's favorite weekend pastime, where a stylized photo of a somewhat famous person from history is provided for you to identify.

So, who could I be?  That's the mystery!  Go ahead and take a guess and then go enjoy your day.  Check back tomorrow and I'll reveal the answer.  The first correct post will be declared the winner.
Additional clues may be found in the cipher below:


Friday, November 25, 2011

Coolidge and his Secretary

I've been reading some more on Calvin Coolidge and here's another anecdote I'd like to share with you.

Apparently, when Coolidge was Vice President, a young secretary was summoned to see him.  "Miss Peck, you're a lovely young lady," said Coolidge.  She seemed startled by the remark, but he continued, "Yes, you're very attractive."  The secretary was surprised by the statements and a little stunned.  Then he continued, "I'm telling you this young lady, to get you cheerful, because I'm going to make a few remarks about your punctuation!"

Thursday, November 24, 2011

May Thanksgiving Joys Be Thine

May Thanksgiving joys be thine.

Postmarked Wichita, Kansas, November 10, 1910, 7:00 PM

Mr. Clinton Smith
R.R. #3

11/10 '10.
Dear Friend:
   Am glad you like your new home but hope you have not deserted old W– entirely.  I would sure love to have been there fun to go boating.  Everything is the same here.  Nothing new.  Did you receive my letter and cards?  I addressed the letter to R. #1
   Edith B.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Silent Cal

A little while ago, the Old Picture of the Day blog posted a picture of FDR taking a ride on an airplane with a caption talking about him being the first president to fly.  This seemed strange to me given the time lag between the airplane and FDR's presidency.  So, I did a little fact checking.  The Internet had a number of unsourced mentions of Calvin Coolidge being the first to fly, but I couldn't find a satisfactory answer, so I wrote to the Forbes Library in Northampton, Massachusetts.  Calvin Coolidge is one of my favorite presidents and I've had a delightful exchange of Coolidgiana e-mails with one of their librarians.

Coolidge was a terrific individual – frugal and stoic, but with a keen sense of wit, a man with simple tastes and common sense.  He was known for being publicly quiet and retiring.  So much so, that he was even known as "Silent Cal."

Today I'm going to share one of my favorite Coolidge anecdotes with you.

It is said that when he was Vice President, Coolidge was invited to a fancy dinner party (the kind he abhorred) and a lady sitting next to him decided to draw him out.  She turned to the Vice President and said, "You must talk to me Mr. Coolidge.  I made a bet with someone and he said I wouldn't be able to get more than three words out of you."

Coolidge replied, "You lose," and then remained quiet for the rest of the evening.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Haviland Academy, Haviland, Kansas

Haviland Academy, Haviland, Kansas

Postmarked Haviland, Kansas, September 16, 1907, 7:00 PM

Miss Jessie Burrows

Hello Jessie dear – Rec'd your letter Sat. morning.  Bless your heart it seemed awfully good to get it.  We are enrolling to-day.  Registered 34 this A.M.  Very bright looking young people.  I will like this work fine I believe.  You will get a some day.  Lovingly – Nellie May

(For clarification, Nellie May Benton lived near the Burrows in Wichita and would later become Jessie Burrow's sister-in-law).

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Welcome to Cipher Saturday
You've found the home of everyone's favorite weekend pastime, where a stylized photo of a somewhat famous person from history is provided for you to identify.  If you want to see if your hunch is correct, you can type the person's name into Wikipedia and the real photo from which the image below was created will appear as the first image on his page.

So, who could I be?  That's the mystery!  Go ahead and take a guess and then go enjoy your day.  Check back tomorrow and I'll reveal the answer.  The first correct post will be declared the winner.
Additional clues may be found in the cipher below, but as revealed by others, computerized image search technology has tempted some to use that to their advantage, so the keyword for today is playfair.
Here’s your cipher:
ok hu nb ht pt fp fo jg cn ip cv ig it hm sv os sz ms ng hp mk dn eb vn oc zm ms pg xy mj bn mg mc bn mr dr tr ju ki yo bu mw fr ih bs um rm mk gv ya af rm wn rl ki rm ok hu nb ht dz jg db wa sv

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What is Home without a mother?

167 – "What is Home without a mother?"

Postmarked Los Angeles, California, June 13, 1906, 4:30 PM
Rec'd Wichita, Kansas, June 16, 1906, 7:00 AM

Mrs C. E. Burrows
1153 University Drive

   This is the finest place I ever saw.  Day work for me.  Commence tomorrow the 14th.  Nice & cool.  Temp at Needles 116 at 11:30 P.M. yesterday.  Will write more when I can.

(For clarification, Clarence was Jessie Burrow's brother).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cotton Compress, Oklahoma City

Cotton Compress, Oklahoma City, Okla.

Postmarked Wichita, Kansas, August 27, 1907, 10 PM

Miss Jessie I. Burrows
1153 Univ. Ave

This looks like Texas to me: Have been here two days: How is the black-eyed beauty? Sweet as ever? In Wichita tomorrow – Fouts

Monday, November 14, 2011

Façade du Palais de Versailles

2. Façade du Palais de Versailles. Cliché A. Bourdier. Versailles.

Postmarked Paris, France, July 10, 1908, 4H

Miss Jessie Burrows
1153 Univ. Ave

The most beautiful place I ever saw in my life is the palace and garden of Versailles.  S.A.C.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sick Today

Please excuse the lack of posts.  I've taken ill and am not feeling up to much besides sleep.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Welcome to Cipher Saturday!

You've found the home of everyone's favorite weekend pastime, where a stylized photo of a somewhat famous person from the past is provided for you to identify.  If you want to see if your hunch is correct, you can type the person's name into Google Images and the real photo will appear on the first page of results.

So, who could I be?  That's the mystery!  Go ahead and take a guess and then go enjoy your day.  Check back tomorrow and I'll reveal the answer.  The first correct post will be declared the winner.

Additional clues may be found in the cipher below.  Today you must use the key provided to unlock the king of all ciphers.  Perhaps then you can meet the challenge.

The key is hidden in the image below (you may want to enlarge for better viewing):








Friday, November 11, 2011


Today, I am among the many who owe so much to so few...

Thank you!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Feud that Jumped the Shark

Yesterday, Anonymous posted that the feud with PJM had "jumped the shark."  I was unfamiliar with this idiom, so I looked it up.

Interestingly enough it comes from an old Happy Days television episode.  A very popular show when I was younger, Happy Days definitely ran longer than it needed to.  It was cute at first, but the later shows (especially at the new Arnold's) were a disappointment.  To bolster ratings, sometimes they'd mix up the show with an unusual attention grabbing stunt.  In season five, the crew goes out to Hollywood, California, and Fonzie steals the show by taking on a bet to jump with waterskis a shark being held in an ocean pen.

Well Anonymous, thanks for your input.  And if this were just a fun blog written for my own amusement, I would certainly change things up and inject new material.  But I don't know how to get this across to a sleepy citizenry, PJM of West Texas is a real and dangerous person!  And I don't mean to be flippant here, but how many of you have had a Super Villain declare war on you?

Official Commencement of Hostilities as posted on my Facebook account

Ridding the world of super villainy is not an easy process, sometimes the work is not glamorous, but stay with me as we "jump the shark."

Just to give you a taste of what we're up against, I have obtained evidence of one of PJM's earliest acts of horror, the creation of a two-headed cat.  Warning, the following image is not for the feint of heart:

A young PJM with his Felineinstein

I hope that didn't scare you all too badly, but I think people need to awake to the danger.  If he can do this with a kitty, imagine what he could do with a mutant peafowl army!

Recently, PJM made the world aware that I was seeking photographic evidence of his villainous past.  I would like to thank the following people for their submissions to date:

An unnamed artist by the initials R.A.M.
The Eldorado Volunteer Fire Department
Boy Scout Troop 18
Fairy Princess Ballerina Camp
Certain members of the Multimedia Class at Eldorado High School.  Go Mighty Eagles!
The Mias Amigas Club
An anonymous tipster at the Eldorado Success
The Christoval Vigilance Committee
Members of the Christoval Baptist Church
too many former friends to name here
two jilted former girlfriends
one retired judge
three former professors at Stanford University
former co-workers from the oilfields of Texas to the laboratories of New Mexico
and a person currently in witness protection somewhere in Africa

Of course, additional submissions from my readership are always welcome and may be sent to the e-mail found in my profile.

Together we can stop the spread of super villainy!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Cuban Idol

This morning, Cuban state television aired a revealing glimpse into the mind of Fidel Castro.  In an intimate interview with a Cuban reporter, he spoke uninterrupted for about seven hours on topics ranging from the country's plans for peafowl weaponization to his relationship with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.  Excerpts from the interview follow:

Fidel educating Hugo on his personal hero

"A lot of people think that Hugo and I get along so well because we're both communist dictators.  Yeah, okay, so we're both villains and we both speak Spanish, but I think most people don't realize that our bromance really centers on a shared admiration for PJM of West Texas.  I guess at first I was just curious why some guy in the US was buying so many of our cigars.  And don't get me wrong, without the steady influx of cash from West Texas, we would have had to go democratic years ago, but as I looked into him, man, he's a genius!"

Looking at the results of Mystery Person and hoping for a "Victory Breakfast" day

"I used to like to think of myself as one bad hombre!  You know, I am like, 'My people shall drive nothing newer than a 1960 Impala,' but then I read that PJM doesn't allow his people to drive anything newer than a brake-less 1926 Model T!  I may be genius, but he's super genius.  I may be villainous, but he's super villainous!"

Hey guys, where do you rank on the Super Villain scale?

"So a few years ago, I call Hugo and I'm like, 'Hey buddy, you know how we think we're pretty bad fellows with nifty hats and hip threads?  Well wait until you hear about this guy I just read about.' I mean, it's one thing to thumb your nose at the world when you're an island or on another continent, but this PJM, he's done it from inside the United States itself.  So I tell Hugo, 'Dude, we are clearly bush league.'"

Castro lost in thought in his office

"So I guess you all read about Hugo going public with his man-crush song.  I have to say it disappointed me a little, Hugo going public and all.  You know, I guess I just had this fantasy where I would meet PJM first and be able to tell him all he means to me.  Maybe we'd be at a League of Villainy Convention and I'd hear his maniacal laugh from across the conference room and I'd get the courage to go over and say hi and he might even be like, 'You're the guy that rules Cuba, right?' And I'd say something like, 'Why yes, how did you know?' And then that conversation would lead to him coming to Cuba and we'd go take a walk on the Bay of Pigs Beach.  I don't know, I've replayed the scenario in my head so many times. Maybe I just wanted him to notice me first and now Hugo's probably got his attention."

"And it's not just his villainous schemes either.  Hugo's right, he's a fashion cat.  I stopped wearing my fatigues after I came across a photo of "PJM the Revolutionary" in a sporty tracksuit and blue earmuffs.  Now it's mostly tracksuits for us in public now.  I can just imagine him wearing those earmuffs in the compound, 'What? What? I can't hear your screams with my sporty earmuffs!' The guy really is my hero!"

Monday, November 07, 2011

Caracas Crooner

Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, stunned supporters when at a rally yesterday a Mariachi band appeared behind him and he suddenly donned a large sombrero.  Breaking into song he announced "This one goes out to mi hombre aplaste, PJM of West Texas.  You're my numero uno, Amigo!"

He then started singing a slightly off-key number which he had composed.  The chorus of which is translated as follows:

I know it's not popular to sing of man love
But PJM, your villainy, is one cut above
I thought I loved Fidel for his funny hat
But the West Texas gringo is one fashion cat
You Occupied Pugh Park while we were apart
but you should know now, you occupy my heart.

A shocked audience stood motionless as Chavez ended with a loud,

I would nationalize the world for you!

+ + + + + + + + + +

In other news, Super Villain PJM of West Texas recently revealed that he has hacked into private e-mail accounts and is actively engaged in intercepting international telecommunications.  I'm very concerned that he now possesses SPAM capability, so if you receive suspicious e-mail with titles like, "buy cheap peacock eggs," or any e-mail from a Texan Prince asking for your assistance in moving millions of dollars from his homeland in exchange for a percentage reward in assisting him, delete these immediately.

He even went so far as to post snippets of my e-mail (intentionally edited to make me look bad) to one of his former victims now in hiding in a remote location in East Africa.  In the e-mail, I was asking for photographs of the elusive villain.  Why, you ask?  PJM is a man with a thousand disguises (most of them hats).  As he slips in and out of our peace loving society, we must remain vigilant in keeping the public aware of his every move.  If you recognize him, please take every precaution for your own safety.  Remember, this is the man who ended the beloved Mystery Person contest and who weaponized peafowl excrement.  Who knows what other villainy he may be devising.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck

Congratulations to Brian, who correctly identified Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck as yesterday's Person-of-Mystery with honorable mention going to Judi who kept at it and identified key patterns in the code.

Yesterday's cypher was actually a telegram as Rob from Amersfoort figured out.  It read:

In the days of the telegram, most telegraphic and telex companies charged by the word with extra for punctuation.  Words over ten letters were charged even more.  In many ways like early mobile texts on your phones, people figured out ways to say what they wanted in as few words as possible, often using abbreviations or short word substitutes.  It didn't take long before enterprising companies realized that they could save a lot of money by having code books created with common terms and phrases so that shorter messages could be sent and received.

The most popular of these commercial code books was Bentley's Phrase Code.  His book consists of five letter codes that can be coupled with a second code (to keep it at ten letters) to produce much longer messages when decoded.  I included the common "STOP" and "END" commands in my cypher to give you a clue it was a telegram (remember punctuation was charged extra, so people would spell out punctuation, e.g. stop instead of period).  Therefore, my cypher when decoded reads:  "Good morning.  Have you received Bentley's code solution?  Answer as follows:  A German general successful in East Africa.  I am waiting for your reply within twenty-four hours.  Good luck!"

I believe Roger was able to tell that it was a German general based on the medals, but Rommel was active in North Africa.  East Africa, now Kenya, was the scene of a very different Anglo-German confrontation during World War I.

Lettow-Vorbeck is known by military historians as leading perhaps the best guerrilla campaign of all time.  Ignoring the German Colonial Governor's order to remain neutral, Lettow-Vorbeck, with no more than 3,500 German soldiers and 12,000 Askaris (native soldiers), kept a British force of 40,000 tied up in the minor colonial possession of East Africa.  Knowing that Africa would be a sideshow to the conflict raging in Europe, he determined to keep as many British occupied and away from the Western Front.  At times, he found victory even facing overwhelming numbers.  At the Battle of Tanga, November 3 to 5, 1914, his men beat a British force over eight times their size.

Askari Soldier with German Flag

Lettow-Vorbeck's fluency in Swahili and his willingness to appoint black officers made him one of the most beloved commanders on any side in Africa.  Highly motivated and improvising as they went along, his Schutztruppe often cut their own supply lines and lived off the land in an attempt to frustrate any advantage to the enemy.

Lettow-Vorbeck's Schutztruppe with artillery salvaged from the scuttled German cruiser SMS Königsberg.

Since the Germans were unable to reinforce Africa due to the naval blockade, eventually British reinforcements caused Lettow-Vorbeck to keep retreating through Portuguese Mozambique and Northern Rhodesia.  Hearing of the European Armistice, he surrendered his undefeated force on November 23, 1918.

Lettow-Vorbeck Surrender by Native Artist

He returned home in March of 1919 to a hero's welcome.  A parade was held in his honor and his men marched through the Brandenburg Gate.

Lettow-Vorbeck in Berlin, 1919

After the war he married and had three children (both of his sons would die in World War II).  He eventually traveled to England and struck up a life-long friendship with the British general, Jan Smuts, who pursued him throughout World War I.  Hitler later tried to appoint him Ambassador to England, but Lettow-Vorbeck was vocal about his hatred of Hitler and publicly refused the offer.  From that point until the end of World War II, Lettow-Vorbeck was under constant surveillance.  In 1953, he visited East Africa and was given a warm welcome by surviving Askaris and British officials.  Lettow-Vorbeck died in 1964, just shy of his 94th birthday.

Von Lettow-Vorbeck Memorial in Zambia