Alfred T. Palmer

By Curious Ostrich
on October 15, 2018

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Two women shown capping and inspecting tubing

Alfred T. Palmer is best known for the photographs he took during his time a the Office of War Information, but he also produced photographs for the Office of Emergency Management and the Farm Safety Administration.  The themes of his work are obvious and permeate his entire catalog.  His work glorified the hard-working laborer, often focusing on women and minorities at a time when it was not popular to show either group as powerful.  His masterful use of lighting and his affinity for including the beauty of industrial machinery brought life to his subjects who were typically thought of as inglorious and monotonous.  Even in a vast, industrial factory he was able to make the entire background disappear as though his subject and his or her work were the only visible elements in the space.  In other shots Palmer was able to show the scale of an operation in mind-boggling depth.

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What Rosie the Riveter actually looked like

While most of the American media during World War II glamorized the soldiers on the front lines, Palmer's work portrayed the production line workers as the real heroes.  This photo to the left shows what is essentially the real-life equivalent of the iconic We Can Do It poster colloquially referred to as "Rosie the Riveter." By showing his subjects working on incredibly complex machinery, Palmer poignantly illustrated mankind's mastery of the laws of nature.  In this way he was able to raise the role of machinist to one of power rather than a simple factory worker.  Some of his photographs were even able to achieve this effect without even including a person in the shot.  For example in this photo, despite the red-hot sparks flying everywhere, the implication of the image is that this machinery is being precisely controlled by someone unseen who is the true wielder of the power on display in the photograph. 

Alfred T. Palmer was able to show the strength of the military industrial complex in a manner that highlighted the skilled workers who deserved as much credit as the soldiers overseas.  In the process he showcased the irreversibly changing demographics of the workforce.  Without this kind of attention, the taboo of women working on complex machines such as airplane engines might have persisted for much longer.  Beyond that he was even able to capture the work as something to be enjoyed as a result of both the power one can feel in working on such advanced machinery as well as the pride taken in furthering the war effort. 

For more Alfred T. Palmer photographs, click here

Lewis and Clark Expedition

By Curious Ostrich
on October 12, 2018

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Map of the Lewis and Clark expedition

In May of 1804, Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark began a trek which would become one of the most famous expeditions in U.S. history.  Lewis and Clark departed from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and arrived at the coast of the Pacific Ocean in what is now Oregon after a year and a half.  From there they ventured back Eastward to St. Louis to report their findings to President Thomas Jefferson.  The primary purpose of the expedition was to explore the newly acquired Louisiana Territory with the specific goal of determining the most efficient route across the western half of the continent.  Other secondary goals included establishing trade with Native American tribes and gathering scientific data on plants, animals, and geography. 

The Louisiana Territory was purchased by the U.S. from the French under the leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1803 becoming the largest acquisition of land in U.S. history.   Having just spent $15,000,000 on the purchase (around $250,000,000 in today's dollars), President Jefferson was eager to know what kind of resources, routes, and peoples were located in the territory.  The Louisiana Territory included the states of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska in their entirety and portions of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, New Mexico, Texas, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Louisiana, and Canadian provinces Alberta and Saskatchewan for a total area of 828,000 square miles. 

Detailed records of the Lewis and Clark expedition were kept throughout the journey.  From these records we know that one member of the expedition lost his life due to acute appendicitis.  We also know that there was only one violent encounter with Native Americans which resulted in the deaths of 2 natives.  This conflict was reportedly started when members of Piikani Nation tribe attempted to steal rifles from Lewis' group on the return trip to St. Louis.  Violence was avoided during another conflict with natives when Lewis' dog Seaman was stolen.  The dog was returned after Lewis issued death threats to the tribe. Seaman was the only animal to complete the expedition despite requiring surgery for a beaver bite. 

Relive this historic journey with the bicentennial commemoration of the Lewis and Clark Expedition

Bubble Wrap

By Curious Ostrich
on October 08, 2018

If you've ever bought anything, then you are probably familiar with bubble wrap.  Perfectly suited for protecting fragile items inside boxes, bubble wrap also serves to entertain children for approximately 5 minutes.  But can you guess what it was originally designed for?  I'll give you 3 choices:

1.  Soundproofing music studios

2.  Insulating wallpaper

3.  Protective clothing for children's sports

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He should have worn a bubble wrap outfit

If you guessed number 1...Congratulations!  You were almost correct!  And by almost, I of course mean not at all.  Actually bubble wrap was originally designed to be a futuristic looking, insulating wallpaper.  When that idea inevitably failed to catch on, the inventors tried to market it for use as greenhouse insulation, but even greenhouses proved too fancy for what is basically two shower curtains sewn together. 

Then in 1961, IBM realized that if they didn't throw some cushioning in with their fancy new computers (now smaller than an entire room!) their customers would be opening a box full of smashed circuitry with no internet to consult on how to repair it.  Surely this would have disappointed customers eagerly awaiting the ability to alphabetize a list of names in mere minutes, so IBM turned to the creators of bubble wrap to protect their glorified calculating machines (they were actually quite advanced at the time), and everyone involved became rich.  Except, of course, those picky consumers who were more concerned with how their walls looked than saving money on heating and air conditioning. 

Who is Curious Ostrich?

By Curious Ostrich
on October 05, 2018

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Members of the Flock

Fellow blog readers, throughout our journey together over the last 10 months, I have revealed nothing about myself other than the fact that I have contacts in the non-government espionage game and that I hold several important positions at VintPrint (see our open letters to planets series for more on those positions).  Well, the time has come for you to get to know me a little better. 

Firstly, you should know that the moniker "Curious Ostrich" is not uniquely applied to me.  The title has been passed down for generations, much like the Dread Pirate Roberts or the Queen of England.  I am far from the first Curious Ostrich, and hopefully I won't be the last.  When my time as Ostrich is up I will join the ranks of former Ostriches as a member of the Society of Ostriches, Curious Knowledge Seekers, or SOCKS for short.  Upon becoming s Sock, as members are known, my responsibilities will differ greatly than those of an Ostrich, but I'll save that for another post. 

Secondly, upon becoming Curious Ostrich, I vowed to leave my former life behind...a sacrifice necessary to devoting my life to the duties of the Flock, a group to which all Ostriches belong.  Among other vows, such as cleanliness, piety, and dry sarcasm, it is something we Ostriches take very seriously, and as such I can not divulge anything about my name, where I am from, or any other identifying details about my former life.  I am the Curious Ostrich, no more and no less.  There are other Ostriches, you know.  Notable among them are Stubborn Ostrich whose job is to never compromise,  Frank Ostrich whose job is to be upfront about things, Indifferent Ostrich whose job is really just to stay out of things, Brilliant Ostrich whose job is to figure things out, and Actual Ostrich who is actually an Ostrich...he's more of a pet than anything else.  My job as Curious Ostrich is to seek new information and speculate on issues about which I know very little. 

Thirdly, my role as Curious Ostrich is a natural pairing for my responsibilities at VintPrint.  Running this blog, handling our social media activity, and managing our marketing are jobs that all fall under the modus operandi of the Curious Ostrich.  Where better to attempt to satiate my unending curiosity than at VintPrint?  The ever-expanding collection of maps, astronomy images, historical and vintage posters, classic art, and photography provides a chance to learn something new at every turn.  So, fellow blog readers, until my transition from Flock to Sock, I will be here with you exploring all that VintPrint has to offer, and sharing with you my less-than-informed insights into everything under the sun (and also the sun itself). 

Francis Scott Key

By Curious Ostrich
on October 01, 2018

"O! say can you see, by the dawn's early light..." It's alright, you can sit back down and put your hat back on...we're not going to recite the whole song for you here.  I'm not sure you need to rise and cover your heart to read the lyrics, but it was very patriotic of you to do so anyway.  The "Star-Spangled Banner" was based on a poem written by Francis Scott Key in 1814 and became the official national anthem of the United States in 1931.  The song was not sitting idly in obscurity between 1814 and 1931, however, nor was tune unfamiliar prior to 1814.  The Star-Spangled Banner was approved for official use by the U.S. Navy in 1889 while the lyrics were adapted from a poem written by Key after his unique experience of observing the Battle of Baltimore from a British ship, and they were set to the tune of a British song called "To Anacreon in Heaven" which was popular in the U.S. at the time. 

So why were bombs bursting in the air?  Why were rockets glaring red?  Well, before we get to that let's discuss who Francis Scott Key was.  Though he is best known for the Star-Spangled Banner, Key was a very prominent lawyer.  Born in what is now Carrol County, Maryland, Key worked for his uncle Phillip Barton Key on such major cases as the trial of Aaron Burr, the prosecution of Tobias Witkins, the Petticoat affair, and the trial of former Tennessee Governor Sam Houston.  In 1833, he was appointed to Disctrict Attorney for Washington D.C., and it was in this capacity that he famously prosecuted Richard Lawrence for attempting to assassinate President Andrew Jackson.  Though he often publicly decried the brutality of slavery, in practice Key was a staunch anti-abolitionist.  OK, so he was a lawyer...we get it.  So why was he watching bombs fail to destroy a flag?

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Monument to Francis Scott Key

Without delving too deeply into the War or 1812, let's just pick up at the Battle of Baltimore.  Following several victories allowing them to take Maine and Washington D.C., the British were advancing on the Baltimore harbor.  Americans needed to hold the British assault at bay (literally and figuratively).  With their Navy poised to bombard Fort McHenry, the British were preparing to take much of Maryland.  Francis Scott Key was attempting to free some prisoners held by the British, most famously Dr. William Beanes, who had been arrested for capturing British soldiers.  While dining with British officers aboard the HMS Tonnant and successfully negotiating the release of Beanes,  Key became aware of the British strategy for their assault on Baltimore.  As a result he was held captive until after the attack. 

Thus he was aboard a British ship during the siege and was able to observe some of the battle.  Legend has it that at dusk he saw the American flag waiving over Fort McHenry, but did not know the outcome of the battle until the morning when he saw that "the flag was still there."  It was at this time that he began to write the poem "Defence of Fort M'Henry" upon which the Star-Spangled Banner was based.  The rest, as they say, is history.  Well..the whole story is history, not just "the rest."  What I mean here is that if you really want to know more about the Battle of Baltimore, the War of 1812, or Francis Scott Key, you should go read a history book.  This is a poster store.  Speaking of which, you can adorn your wall with a bit of American history by buying a poster featured in this blog post (or you can check out our Americana collection).  You'll be supporting a Baltimore business as well as celebrating a momentous event in the history of the city. 

While you are probably aware that the Star-Spangled Banner is traditionally sung before sports events, you may not know that here in Baltimore we sing it a bit differently.  It has become customary for the crowd to join the singer for one word.  The crowd thunders the second "O!" (as in "O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave") in reference to The Orioles, Baltimore's Major League Baseball team.  This is not limited to Orioles games.  Baltimoreans sing the O! at everything from Ravens games to children's Little League games.  See the phenomenon in this video, which doesn't even take place in Maryland.   Some may view this as disrespect to the national anthem, but we take pride that the song was written in Baltimore and was inspired by a heroic battle fought in Baltimore, and we show that pride by yelling "O!" with the emphasis on the "!"  Deal with it. 

Product Spotlight: Travel Posters

By Curious Ostrich
on September 28, 2018

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General view from Mustapha II Algiers Algeria

What do Irish castles, Russian churches, and French waterfalls all have in common?  Well, in addition to being featured on bucket lists the world over, VintPrint has beautiful, vintage photographs of them.  It doesn't stop there, though.  We have snowcapped mountain ranges in Colorado, ancient ruins of Carthage in Tunisia, and Swiss glaciers galore.  But what is it about these vintage travel photos that is so inspiring?  Is it the sepia hue?  Is it the longing for a simpler time?  Is it the beauty of pollution-free, iconic monuments both man-made and natural?  Is it the lack of tourists?  Yes.  It is all of those things...and more. 

Some people buy these posters because they have been to these places and want to relive the experience.  Others buy them because they fear they will never be able to visit in person, and they want to come as close as they can to enjoying the sites.  For some, it's not about the location itself as much as it is simply a beautiful photograph.  Perhaps the historical significance of Versailles means nothing to you, but you just love the symmetry and Kubric-esque, single point perspective of the gallery of mirrors.  Maybe your appreciation of the Taos Pueblo is not influenced by the knowledge that it is the oldest, continuously inhabited pueblo in the U.S. Even though the photo was taken in 1898, the Taos Pueblo is still running today as it always has.

You may not even be able to put your finger on what it is that appeals to you about these vintage travel photos, and that's just fine.  You don't need to justify your taste to anyone.  Just choose the one(s) you like, and pick which size you want (most come in 8.5" x 11" and 18" x 24", however there are some exceptions).  Then pick whether you want the photo in color or black and white, and lastly choose glossy or matte paper.  Place your order, and you'll be traveling the tunnels of Norway's fjords or watching the hypnotic spin of Holland's windmills in no time. 

See more vintage travel photographs here.

Abraham Lincoln's Assassination

By Curious Ostrich
on September 24, 2018

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If you ask anyone to quickly name 5 U.S. presidents, you can be sure that most will include Abraham Lincoln.  Maybe it's because there was a movie made about him a few years ago, maybe it's because he abolished slavery, maybe it's because he wore an iconic hat, maybe it's because of the Gettysburg Address, or maybe it's because of his dramatic assassination.  Most likely his fame relative to other U.S. presidents is due to a combination of all of the above, but today we will be discussing his death.  Everyone knows he was shot in a theater by John Wilkes Booth, but who was John Wilkes Booth, and why did he shoot Lincoln?

John Wilkes Booth was a prominent actor from Maryland.  By the time he shot the president he was quite well known, and his stage performances were spoken of very highly.  He once proclaimed that the role he enjoyed the most was that of Marcus Junius Brutus, who famously played a prominent role in the murder of Julius Caesar.  John Wilkes Booth's father, Junius Brutus Booth, was named after Marcus Junius Brutus, and John Wilkes Booth claimed to have been inspired by Brutus' assassination of Julius Caesar.  If it's beginning to seem like fate that Booth would grow up to assassinate a president, consider that as a child John Wilkes Booth visited a palm-reading fortune teller who told him that his life would be short but grande, that he would die young, and that he would meet a bad end. 

Booth did not act alone in his plans to kill President Lincoln.  Co-conspirators Lewis Powell and David Herold were assigned to kill Secretary of State William H. Seward, while George Atzerodt was supposed to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson. Only Booth was successful though, as William H. Seward was non-fatally wounded, and no attempt was actually made on Andrew Johnson's life.  Booth, Powell, Herold, and Atzerodt were die-hard supporters of the Confederacy.  After the surrender of General Lee on April 9th, 1865, the conspirators decided to take matters into their own hands believing that killing the president, vice president, and secretary of state could turn the tide of the war in favor of the South. 

With the aid of both his celebrity status and the fortuitous absence of the guard who was supposed to be protecting the entrance to the President's box at Ford's Theater, John Wilkes Booth slipped into the box, barricaded the door, and shot President Abraham Lincoln in the back of the head.  After an appropriately dramatic escape from the theater, which involved Booth injuring his foot on an engraving of George Washington, Booth fled with several other conspirators.  The largest manhunt in U.S. history ensued and lasted until April 26th, 1865, when the cabin in which John Wilkes Booth was hiding was discovered.  The cabin was set on fire to draw out Booth, and when he appeared he was shot in the back of the head by Sergeant Boston Corbett.  Having successfully assassinated Lincoln and manifesting the predictions of the fortune teller with whom he met as a youth, Booth died at the age of 26. 

Artist Spotlight: Vincent Van Gogh

By Curious Ostrich
on September 21, 2018

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Starry Night

One of the handful of names that people who don't know anything about art always know is Vincent Van Gogh.  Maybe it's because he was one of the most influential artists in history and is thus a staple in any art history class, or maybe it's because he famously cut off his own ear.  Perhaps there is just something universally appealing about the archetype of the mentally unstable artist who didn't leave long enough to revel in his fame.  In fact, most of Van Gogh's works were created during the last two years of his life. 

Van Gogh's early work lacked the colors for which he would become well known posthumously, and was generally disliked by most art critics at the time.  The Potato Eaters in particular was criticized for being too dark. This negative criticism came even from his uncle who commissioned Van Gogh and then rejected his work multiple times. It wasn't until he moved to Arles, France in 1888 that his work began to gain prominence.  In December of 1888 Van Gogh was visited by friend and fellow painter Paul Gauguin.  Their friendship broke down fairly rapidly, however, and it was the rocky ending to this friendship that led to Van Gogh removing his left ear.  From 1888 until his death in 1890, Vincent Van Gogh painted the majority of his works.

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Skull with Burning Cigarette

Often considered by both himself and others as an outsider, Van Gogh never found a home in any one location or social circle.  Some argue that it was this constant conflict between himself and his surroundings that inspired his emotive paintings, but it requires no speculation predict that his art will live on forever.  His death in 1890 was a tragic end to his tortured life, both because it brought an abrupt end to his most prolific period, and because it was by carried out by the very same hands that painted his masterpieces.  At age thirty-seven, Vincent Willem Van Gogh shot himself in the chest inflicting a wound which would take two days to kill him.  According to his younger brother Theo, who supported Vincent financially for most of his life, the last words to come out of Van Gogh's mouth were, "The sadness will last forever." 

You can view our Van Gogh collection here

Product Spotlight: Space Travel Posters

By Curious Ostrich
on September 17, 2018

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The Grand Tour - A Once in a Lifetime Getaway

As of September 14, 2018 at 5:00 PM EST life as we know it is confined to the Planet Earth.  The amount of time during which this remains the case seems to be decreasing rapidly, however.  Elon Musk has announced plans to colonize Mars in the near future, NASA is testing new types of rocket propulsion, and the term "habitable" becomes broader and broader with each new technological innovation.  History has shown repeatedly that to mobilize people towards new horizons requires large groups of people getting excited about an idea.  Look no further than the WWII war effort in the U.S. to see how people can be motivated towards an end by sharing a common goal.  It is with these old-timey posters in mind that we look to inspire future generations to explore the universe. 

Starting communities on Mars will only be possible when we collectively stop thinking of it as science fiction and begin to believe that it is science future.  We'll need teachers, explorers, technicians, and farmers.  It's really not that far off, and plenty of resources have already been devoted to the effort.  Mars may be our first interplanetary stop (after the moon, of course), but why stop there?  Soon we'll be swimming around on Europa, floating in the clouds on Venus, and sailing the wide hydrocarbon seas of Titan.  Our grandchildren will take their children on family trips to see the geysers of Enceladus every summer until they are old enough to party on PSO J318.5-22 for spring break. 

Exotic will become the new normal, and intragalactic travel will be as simple as booking a flight and showing up at the spaceport 3 hours early to get through security.  Students will take field trips to Kepler-16b to study binary star systems, and sports teams will train under the intense gravity on HD 40307g.  The first step towards this grand future begins here on Earth, where the air is free and breathing is easy.  First we have to get excited about this future, and just like during World War II, the best way to do it is with posters, so head over to our Space Travel collection and let the inspiration pop right out of your walls. 

War Effort

By Curious Ostrich
on September 14, 2018

For those of us born in the USA within the last 70 years, we've never seen what a real war effort looks like.  We know what propaganda looks like, and we may be familiar with the military industrial complex, but we don't know what it means to make lifestyle sacrifices for the greater good of the country.  Those of us who remember World War II (and to a lesser extent those who have studied it) know what war effort looks like.  It's hard for people who didn't experience World War II's war effort to even imagine a cause that could unite everyone regardless of religion, social class, or political inclination.  However, due in large part to major media campaigns, U.S. citizens were willing to give up a little here and there to help the collective fight, and it may have made all the difference.  By 1945, these motivational and instructional posters were seen everywhere; from offices to factories, subway stations to schools, reminding the populace that there was a war to be won and that going the extra mile on the homefront had a direct impact on the battlefield.  Whether a platoon had a plentiful supply of ammunition could be the difference between victory and defeat, and whether they had enough ammunition was heavily determined by factory output, which ultimately came down to individual effort on the part of the factory workers

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The iconic Rosie the Riveter poster

The creators of these posters were always coming up with new catch-phrases to inspire civilians to support the war effort.  Loose lips might sink ships has stood the test of time better than some others, but there were many others, such as Back up our Battleskies and Only a Shickelgruber....  Other posters warned of the dangers of carelessness, the importance of avoiding accidents, and even the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases (then known collectively as Venereal Disease or V.D.)  It's hard to imagine how practicing safe sex could contribute to the war effort, but when medical resources are scarce you might be using antibiotics that could have been used for soldiers.

Though you may have been under the impression that World War II was a clear-cut victory for the Allied Forces, many historians argue that it could have gone the other way and that perhaps the nationwide war effort was one of the deciding factors in the war that defined a generation.  So be thankful that you're not speaking German today, and buy a vintage, war effort poster today.  It would do you some good to be reminded that your actions have consequences beyond those which you experience. 

 

(Note: All of our posters our reproductions.  We do not sell original posters from World War II.)