It’s nearly the end of February, and you know what that means: It’s time for Read Across America! Read Across America begins on March 2nd. This “celebration of reading” started in 1998 by the National Education Association to encourage literacy among all ages. The NEA chose March 2nd because that is Dr. Seuss birthday. Dr. Seuss is known for his zany and unique rhymes found in his books such as One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, The Lorax, The Cat in the Hat, and many others.
Reading has been an activity for as long as we’ve had the written word. It expanded in the 19th century because of the automated improvement of the printing press. People could read anything they wanted, from instructional works, to crime and Gothic tales, romance, or domestic magazines; etiquette manuals or cook books. The availability of these books meant that literacy was also on the rise.
At the Carriage Barn, visitors can see some books on display, from school textbooks to leisure reading. One of these books is the vibrantly colored Picture Books for Children, which is an – often humorous – instructional manual for how children should behave. The cover is red and embossed with vines, flowers, and Victorian-style imagery. It is approximately 6 inches by 4 inches; able to be carried but not easily stowed in a pocket.
While the book has excellent lessons, it might be more fun to check out a Dr. Seuss book to read! The Santa Fe Springs City Library has many of them. Just head over to http://sfslibrary.sirsi.net to search our collection!
For more information on Read Across America and the National Education Association visit: http://www.nea.org/
Often, at the Carriage Barn, we like to look at old artifacts and research how they fit into the cultural landscape of their time. The wooden puzzle box in our permanent collection represents the leisure activity of many wealthy Americans at the turn of the century. This puzzle box was most likely created in the early 20th century. It displays a beautiful Victorian design and offers six different puzzles for families to complete.
Puzzles became a craze in American culture during the early 20th century. However, prior to the 1930s, puzzles were fairly expensive and often only well-off families owned them. This is because most puzzles were made of wood, like the one shown below. We can surmise that this particular puzzle box was most likely owned by a financially established family. The tide change in puzzle ownership came with the Great Depression.
The Great Depression influenced countless aspects of daily life among Americans. Interestingly, one industry heavily influenced by the Great Depression was the puzzle making industry. Depression-era Americans were constantly looking for cheap and easy forms of entertainment. Despite initially being a recreational activity for the wealthy, puzzles were given new life in the 1930s when entrepreneurs began mass-producing them by using heavy cardboard, rather than wood. By 1934 3.5 million puzzles had been sold throughout the U.S. and, according to a 1938 poll by the National Recreation Association, puzzles were named one of the most frequent at-home activities.1
Though popularity has waned for puzzles since the Great Depression, a plethora of puzzle communities, competitions, and puzzle-player websites prove that this activity will continue to hold a special place in American culture.
With the holiday season coming to a close, we can take a few moments at the beginning of the New Year to reflect on the time spent with family and friends. A cornerstone of the holidays has, for nearly a century, been the camera. Almost everyone has that one family member that just has to get a few good pictures of everyone together. With the advent of social media, the desire to get that perfect picture has only increased.
The Carriage Barn currently hosts multiple cameras in our permanent exhibit. A personal favorite of mine is the Agfa box camera. This camera is a later replication of the original, and similarly styled, Brownie box cameras sold by the Eastman Kodak Company in the early 20th Century. The invention of this inexpensive, accessible, and user-friendly camera helped bridge a technological divide. Prior to the release of the Brownie box camera, photography was almost exclusively an activity for the wealthy. Inventor Frank Brownell changed this by creating the Brownie box camera and, subsequently, revolutionizing photography.
Dr Michael Pritchard, president of the Royal Photographic Society and the author of The History of Photography in 50 Cameras, has this to say about the Brownie box camera:
“A $1 or 25-shilling camera capable of producing reasonable results was innovative, and coupled with Kodak’s ability to provide directly or through an enormous number of chemists and photographic retailers a developing and printing service meant that photography became accessible irrespective of your social class or photographic skills.”1
The Agfa box camera currently on display was created by German imaging company Agfa, now known as Agfa-Gevaert. The box camera works similarly to the human eye. A shutter at the front of the camera opens and allows light to pass through the lens. This light is reflected from the object being photographed. As the light moved through the lens it is inverted and reflected onto a strip of film.
So, this New Year, when scrolling through the holiday photos on your phone, be sure to give a quick thanks to Frank Brownell!
Unlike many fruits, navel oranges are at their sweetest and ripest in the fall and winter months. The Heritage Park Historical Museum and Carriage Barn exhibition titled “When the Air Was Pure and Money Grew on Trees” is a nod to the once-thriving citrus industry in Southern California. Imagine that every house you see is, instead, an orange tree.
The largest object in the exhibit titled “Living from the Land” is the orange sizing machine. It is approximately 12 feet long and made of red, painted wood. This was used to sort oranges by size before they were shipped off. Orange sizing rings are also a part
of the exhibit. There is a photograph behind this machine of farmers tending to the orange trees.
Navel oranges were developed by Mrs. Eliza Tibbets of Riverside, California, in 1873. There were found to be sweet and seedless, so they were very popular and soon shipped all over the world. People even ate them for dessert. For a long time, having an orange was a big treat because they weren’t readily available. But by 1940, there were 190,000 acres of orange trees in Southern California.
Today, there is a small orange tree grove in Heritage Park, but unfortunately the oranges cannot be picked. But if you have a tree at home or have permission somewhere else, here are some tips to keep in mind:
The sweetest oranges are typically found high on the tree, on the outside, and on the south side of the tree.
The color of an orange has no relation to whether or not it’s ripe. Yes, that means that the color can be anywhere from dark green to pink or dark red!
Eat oranges as soon as possible
Watch for firm, bruise-free skin
Avoid tender spots or folds
And of course, smell that strong, sweet, citrus smell!