Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘vintage’

05 MARCH, 2012

At the End of the Rainbow: Vintage Film about Ultraviolet Light, 1946

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In the beginning, there was ultraviolet light.

In 1946, the Sun-Kraft Corporation commissioned the Handy (Jam) Organization — whom we’ve previously enjoyed in an homage to makers and hands-on creativity, an animated explanation of how radio broadcasting works, a visual tour of mid-century design, and the original Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer animation — to produce a film promoting the history, physics, and health-giving properties of ultraviolet radiation. The result was At the End of the Rainbow — an odd blend of science education and corporate agenda that, nonetheless, far exceeds today’s questionable corporate tie-ins in both public service value and cultural merit.

Part Two explores how an American inventor set out to create an ultraviolet ray generator that would make the sun’s health-giving qualities available at low cost, and what happened next:

For more on the fascinating science of light, see Catching the Light: The Entwined History of Light and Mind.

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02 MARCH, 2012

The Seven Lady Godivas: Dr. Seuss’s Little-Known “Adult” Book of Nudes

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What Peeping Toms have to do with failure and the expectations of genius.

Theodor Seuss Geisel, better-known as Dr. Seuss, was a legendary children’s book author, radical ideologist, and a lover of reading. Among his many creative feats is a fairly unknown, fairly scandalous one: In 1939, when Geisel left Vanguard for Random House, he had one condition for his new publisher, Bennett Cerf — that he would let Geisel do an “adult” book first. The result was The Seven Lady Godivas: The True Facts Concerning History’s Barest Family, which tells the story of nudist sisters who, after their father’s death, pledge not to wed until each of them has “brought to the light of the world some new and worthy Horse Truth, of benefit to man.”

Geisel wrote in the foreword:

A beautiful story of love, honor and scientific achievement has too long been gathering dust in the archives.”

The humorous story is based on the Lady Godiva legend, according to which in 1037 the Earl of Coventry’s wife rode naked on horseback through the streets of Coventry, protesting against her husband’s unfair taxes. The citizens of Coventry were ordered to remain indoors, shuttered, as she rode. But one man, Peeping Tom, peered out and was then struck blind.

The book, however, was a complete flop. Ten thousand copies were printed on the first run, and only about 2,500 were sold. The Seven Lady Godivas eventually went out of print, causing Geisel to later say:

I attempted to draw the sexiest babes I could, but they came out looking absurd.

Absurd as they might be, and oddly unerotic despite the nudity, the illustrations are a treat, perhaps in that so-bad-it’s-good kind of way, or perhaps because they offer endearing reassurance that even genius can falter.

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01 MARCH, 2012

“In March, Read the Books You’ve Always Meant to Read”: Gorgeous Vintage PSA Posters, 1939-1941

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Dickens, Dumas, Austen, Tolstoy, Eliot, Clemens, Hawthorne, Thackeray, Scott.

In 1935, in an effort to elevate the nation from the grip of The Great Depression, President Roosevelt launched the Works Progress Administration — a New Deal agency enlisting millions of ordinary citizens and unskilled workers in carrying out public space and service projects as diverse as art murals, road work, and building construction. With a government investment of nearly $7 billion, the WPA provided some 8 million jobs and soon became the largest employer in the country, in the process producing a wealth of public service announcement posters — a treasure trove of mid-century design.

Among the WPA’s design output were a number of gorgeous vintage posters for various literacy projects:

'In March read the books you've always meant to read'

March 25, 1941, WPA Art Project Chicago

'The vacation reading club - join now at your public library'

March 25, 1939, WPA Iowa Project

'A book mark would be better!'

Dated between 1936 and 1940, WPA Art Project Chicago

So, in March, what are you reading? A good place to start:

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