"Shock" is a digest-sized horror pulp from the 1960's. Pretty scarce with cover art reminiscent of the ghoulish, sexy stuff that prompted Frederic Wertham to ruin comics forever. Occult themes are always fun.
When I first saw this vintage exploitation poster (1959), I thought that it was scandalizing kids who married too young. Then I thought about it a little further and thought, "Wait...I really don't think marrying young was as big of a deal back then." My own mom married at 19, and I don't think she was looked at as remotely too young. Of course, she was out of high school. When I looked closer, though, I saw that the teenagers on the poster are having to defend their marriage by saying, "It's not true what they say...we married for love!" Then the bells rang in my head, and I understood. Okay, so what we've got here is an iconic 50's stereotype: the unwed mother who gets married to cover up a pregnancy, and they have to fudge the details of the pregnancy timeline. Lie and say the baby was premature when the dates don't add up. That sort of thing. Anyway, I come from a very conservative, rural community, and I personally know people who had to do this. I'm sure this happens occasionally today, but I would guess only in really conservative communities. So, this is a pretty iconic representative of 50's morality.
I apologize for the lower picture quality than I usually post. It's harder to get a good quality picture with my camera, which I have to use since this can't fit on my scanner.
I don't remember where I obtained these photos of a 60's era lady posing in the buff. What was the she up to? Not a clue, but she looks like she'd fit right in on the nudie magazine covers of the era. Magazines like "Mr.", "Cocktail," "Man to Man," "Knight," and "Nugget." Perhaps this photo session was for one of those magazines. Whatever the case, enjoy some Saturday morning nudity.
I like to drink vodka from time to time, and when I drink, I drink a lot. What I learned from "The Curse of the Drink: Or Stories of Hell's Commerce" is that I am one majorly messed up gal. Alcohol, if you didn't know, "covers the land with idleness, misery, and crime." So.... there could be a grain of truth in any crazy accusation. I'm sure alcohol is responsible for its fair share of idleness, misery, and crime. But, I'm cursed? C'mon. I swear these early 20th century fear-monger tracts would have gotten a lot farther if they weren't so gosh durn over-the-top. This particular tome is a thick one (over 500 pages) from 1909. I also love how every vice is characterized as a "traffic."Enjoy it in all its silly, fear-mongering glory.
From the hateful annals of American history, I bring you the photoplay, movie-tie-in edition of the book "The Clansman" by Thomas Dixon, which was the basis for the movie "Birth of a Nation," the D.W. Griffith silent film. A lot of people want to pretend things like this were never published, that racist ephemera was never made, that the Klu Klux Klan doesn't exist. eBay, in fact, forbids the listing of most historical items related to the KKK. For whatever reason, eBay does specifically state it allows "The Clansman" to be listed despite the KKK imagery.
In 2000, eBay was told by victims' rights groups that these items should not be allowed, because they carry violent and painful memories. I can understand why they take this position. The atrocities committed were horrible, and those items do carry violent and painful memories. However, I think it's important that these pieces of history be preserved. They are a reminder of the atrocities that occurred not too far in the distant past. They remind us of how people that are decent in most aspects of their lives, can be so monstrous to fellow human beings. We shouldn't forget this. We need to remember.
I've never been able to visit it but in Big Rapids, MI, at Ferris State University, there is a museum that preserves these types of artifacts. It is called the "Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia." On its website, the curator Dr. David Pilgrim provides another reason why preservation of these objects is important-- it opens discussion and allows us to deconstruct the taboo. To speak about the unspeakable. We can ask questions and understand racism and everything associated with it. We can understand its history and confront it. Forgetting about it and pushing it into the past will not make it go away.
Of course, people could potentially collect this material, because they are hateful. However, I think those people would be intolerant and hateful, regardless of whether they could purchase racist, or otherwise prejudiced, historical material.
So, I post this piece for the reasons above. I will post similar pieces in the future. It's more comfortable not to talk about these pieces or display them. But, comfort doesn't beget progress.
These three late 40's era digest-sized books combine two of my big collecting loves-- vintage paperbacks and sideshow/circus related ephemera. Gotta love it when things you love collide...that sounded unintentionally perverted. But oh how I love perverted. Rudy Nappi cover on "Girl of the Midway" and George Gross cover on "Carnival of Passion." Not sure who did the cover art for "Sideshow Girl."
Here's a couple of good ole stripper books for you. Vintage paperbacks ranging from the early 1950's into the mid-1960's. Back in the day when stripping was a tease, and burlesque was the name of the game. Now in an era in which Dita Von Teese would be considered sexy as hell, yet quaint, I present you with some similar cheesecake. Burlesques costumes are really cool-- sexy, feminine, form-fitting, and the women are similarly attractive. However, I'm going to say it....I saw a burlesque show once and was a bit bored...okay, waiting to be flamed for that one. Artist on "Sin Strippers" is Eric Stanton-- unsure about the rest.
As the proud owner of nine pet rats, I occasionally like to feature rat-related ephemera. This informational booklet from the 1930's always cracks me up because of the instruction on the backside that says you should "shoot" rats. It just seems so ludicrous. I imagine some redneck with a rifle and no teeth chasing rats in his outhouse. And probably unsuccessfully too. They are fast!
I bought these amateur erotic photographs from an eBay seller who found them in the wall of a Hamtramck house. They were accompanied by a group of 40's and 50's men's magazines. The men's magazines had an interesting quality about them, and I'll show some examples of them in the future. Let's just say that owner, and probable photographer, liked to pencil-in sexy messages next to the magazine models' faces. More on that in a later blog. I'll also show more of the photographs from this group in the future. Here are a few now for your enjoyment. If you like erotic photography, please check out my friend's awesome blog SSSSH! Shy Shamed Secret Shadowed Hidden Nude Women in vernacular erotic photography.
A few more Elvgren studio photos. More to come in the future. Model identities unknown. The woman with the fur is called "Purrrrrr-fect aka Corinne"(date unknown, 60's). The artist pinup is called "The Right Touch" (1958). That's Elvgren's original paint all over "Corinne."
A couple more examples of Elvgren studio reference photos. A few more to come tomorrow, and perhaps more in the future as we have about 85 of them. The magician is from a painting called "It's Easy" (1955). The other painting is "The Winner" (1957). Not sure who these models are. Notice how the model has a ball of thread in her mouth in place of an apple. I suppose she didn't want to be dripping in apple juice during her shoot.
In the world of "pin-up," the most celebrated artist is arguably Gil Elvgren, master illustrator often called the Norman Rockwell of Pin-Up Artists. His paintings were much more thematic than the muted, airbrushed world of the Vargas pin-up. While the Vargas pin-ups were usually painted on a single-color background with few to no "props," the Elvgren pin-ups were full of bright colors with more action elements including strategically props with which the pin-ups interacted. They pop with life and, although there is no denying that Vargas was also a great artist, the Elvgren pin-ups are more evocative of the era in which they were painted.
What I've posted here is two examples of original Elvgren studio pin-up photographs from our collection. Elvgren photographed his models in his studio, and then painted from the reference pictures, admittedly idealizing the actual features of the models. Elvgren did not like to paint from life and preferred these still photos for reference, perhaps because he did not want to get too "stuck" on what the model really looked like. These photos were purchased from the collection of Elvgren apprentice pin-up painter Donald "Rusty" Rust. What's splendid about them is that they retain so much character. Many of the photos we obtained still have tape from being adhered to Elvgren's easel and some even have splotches of his paint. The identity of the models shown here is not known, but prominent Elvgren models included Arlene Dahl, Myrna Loy, Myrna Hansen, Donna Reed, Kim Novak, and Barbara Hale. The witch painting is titled "Riding High" (1959) and the bannister painting is titled "Look Out Below" (1956).
This turn-of-the-century photo features two sisters posing with the casket of their deceased brother. The sisters' expressions look sincerely pained, not as stoic as many from the period. I find that the faces of people in post-mortem photos are usually much more blank than these. I see genuine pain here. I would attribute the usual blank face to the formality of the photography process in an age before snapshots, and the fact that infant mortality was much higher and death was so much more par-for-the-course. Perhaps these young souls were more affected, because they hadn't seen it over and over again like some of their elders. A Bit of History: These sisters were named Sturgill from Ashe, North Carolina. To the right is Gracie Sturgill and to the left is Ola (Oklahoma) Sturgill. The deceased brother's name was Mathes. These names were written on the backside of the frame, and their state of residence was found by typing in their names on an ancestry website. It's amazing, the information you can find on the basis of so little information. This photo is done in a charcoal style that was only popular for a brief period during the turn-of-the-century. It makes the photo look more like art than photography. I was once told what this process is called, but I've since forgot. If anyone knows, please post it in a comment. The size is 16 x 20 including the ornate frame. I find the size of the piece to be quite unusual-- it's strange to imagine this large piece hanging in someone's house, a constant reminder of what's been lost. It looks as if it was meant to hang over a mantel, right in the center of the family's living space.
Just a bit of eye candy from the pre-code comics on this sleepy Thursday morning. Alex Schomburg always knew how to wow his audience with bright colors, clean lines, and a saucy scene. Schomburg's are some of the most eye-popping covers in all of comic book history. Not much needs to be said for a sexy jungle scene. It pretty much speaks for itself.
As a fan of both vintage ephemera and the show "Prison Break," I really dig this comic. It's a pre-code comic and obviously was around long before the show. Anyway, enjoy the excellent art on this vintage classic. Avon Books published this comic, and they re-used the art on a later vintage paperback called "Blondie Iscariot." The art was so good, they had to use it again!
Pictured is an assortment of spirit photography related books to accompany the previous post. Spirit photography was part of a greater movement known as "spiritualism." The spiritualists believed in "God," but they also believed that spirits in the afterlife can communicate with the living through mediums, seances, and a variety of other methods. Spiritualism thrived from the 1840's to the 1920's. One method of communication was said to be spirit slate writing. Spirit slate writing occurs when a medium gathers people in a seance, and they provide spirits with chalk and a piece of slate. It was alleged that the spirit could directly communicate by writing upon the board. Another method is spirit rapping. This occurs when a medium gathers people in a seance, and spirits supposedly communicate with the gatherers by knocking on the table. They ask the spirit questions, and one knock might me "no" and two might mean "yes" for example. The Fox Sisters of New York were a famous group of mediums who would hold seances, and "spirit rapping" would supposedly occur. It was later revealed that the Fox Sisters were cracking their knuckles to make the rapping sound. The other book pictured is by Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle was a major proponent and defender of spirit photography, which continued to be popular despite Mumler's trial and all the hoop-la. He truly wanted to believe that spirit photography was legitimate, and he wrote the book pictured in order to defend it.
Spirit photography became popular in the 1860's when photographer William Mumler happened upon double exposure, and marketed double-exposed photos as "spirit photos." The whole thing was a gaff, but the idea was that the photographs showed the living person and in the background would be an image of a dead loved one's "spirit." To obtain images of "spirits" that looked like the person's loved one, Mumler would have the subject bring in a photograph of their deceased loved one or otherwise ascertain what that person looked like. Then, he would search through a bunch of photos of random people and find the best match to use in his double exposure process. Mumler even took a famous photo of Mary Todd Lincoln in which honest Abe's "spirit" is in the background. Mumler was discovered to be a fraud when someone recognized living people being portrayed as the "spirits." A huge trial ensued in which even P.T. Barnum, great gaff master himself, testified against Mumler. Despite all the hoop-la, Mumler was still found not guilty. The CDV photograph shown above is an original Mumler "spirit" photo. People who couldn't appear personally in Mumler's studio would send photographs, along with lots of cash, to him. Mumler would then take their photographs and place them on the table shown in the photo. He would then add in the spirits from his stock of photographs of random people, easily finding the best match by comparing photos of the deceased loved ones with his stock of photos. What a racket! And a profitable one at that.
Having been born in the 80's, it's hard for me to remember a time in which having children out of wedlock was scandalous. In the 50's, though, it was a big deal, especially given the fact that the waiting til marriage farce was still being upheld in the mainstream culture. This particular representation is very over-the-top and hard to imagine from a modern perspective. Obviously, few are shocked by this anymore. So, enjoy this supremely campy take on teen pregnancy and think wistfully back to a time when it was seriously frowned upon. And PLEASE educate your daughters and sons about birth control!
Beautiful women in prison... "Oh, no! What shall they do without men?" Fight each other of course! So, you thought I was going to say something else, didn't you? I would tell you to get your minds out of the gutter, but without the gutter, my mind would be homeless. But it is true, according to this assortment of 50's and 60's B-movie posters, women in prison get into hardcore fisticuffs (I've always wanted to use that word!). If there's any hint of that other women's prison movie convention, it's probably only in the form of knowing glances during the film itself. The last photo of "Riot in Juvenile Prison" is not necessarily a women in prison film, but I thought it was a fitting addition to this group.
Collecting dope related ephemera includes more than just vintage drug exploitation paperbacks. It extends into other genres such as magazines, hardcover books, and comics such as the one pictured above. This is an example of how the "dope menace" was portrayed in the comics, before the dreadful Code came along to Disney up everything. Notice the passed out drug addicts depicted in the background, and the woman shrieking in horror. I'm sure her horror stems from being caught by the fuzz.
Previously, I featured a photograph of a deceased gentlemen in convex/bubble glass and frame. This example of post-mortem photography mirrors the previous gentlemen in presentation, but this time it's a young girl of maybe five or six years old. The girl looks almost as if she is sleeping and, in fact, children were often posed that way to make them look more alive. In 1990, the Stanley Burns Archive released a book on post-mortem photography called "Sleeping Beauty," whose title evokes the manner of pose. I find this photo both artistically beauitful and substantively unsettling.
The woman shown in this 1860's ambrotype defies the norms of her time. Her dress is unconventional, and her hair is downright non-conformist. It would have been considered highly inappropriate for a woman of this era to wear her hair down. So, what's this unusual lady's story? I wish I knew precisely, but I can only speculate. The writing on the photo's case is sloppy, but it looks like it reads "Mademoiselle." There's a name after that but it is illegible. Was this woman a lady of the evening? An actress? An opera star? A gypsy? If anyone out there in the blogosphere knows the identity of this mysterious lady, please share it! Image is hand-tinted, 1/4 plate sized.
FringePop is a showcase for uncommon and esoteric cultural artifacts. The focus is on unusual items from both popular and fringe culture, with an emphasis on subversive pieces. The items shown are from the author's personal collection, unless otherwise noted.
I am a pop culture buff and collector, who focuses on the odd, subversive, and fringe elements of Western culture. In 2005, I edited a book for Feral House called "Sin-A-Rama: Sleaze Sex Paperbacks of the Sixties." The vintage oddities in my collection include victoriana, sideshow, medical, and kitsch. I am also an amateur sewer, making clothing from vintage mod patterns.