Serifos is the Greek island where Perseus washed ashore with his mother as a baby, and where he later returned bearing Medusa’s head! It is also the name of an eclectic vintage boutique in Los Angeles’ Silverlake-Sunset Junction. It is there that I vanquished a box of postcards, bringing the spoils back to Snail Island.
As my fellow Southwest buffs know, just outside the bohemian city of Taos lies Taos Pueblo, named for the language (Taos) of the Northern Tiwa tribe. The pueblo is approximately 1,000 years old! It’s no surprise, therefore, that Francisco Vasquez de Coronado’s conquistadors visited as early as 1540. Today, about 150 people live in the pueblo complex full-time, and the surrounding reservation land is home to around 4,500.
I’m guessing that Betty and Norma were UCLA students on a research trip, updating their professor. When I returned home with their letter, I had to find out who this Clark was. I learned that William A. Clark (1839-1925) was a Montana senator at the turn of the century who bribed members of the Montana state legislature for their votes. Mark Twain hated his guts. Before and after his two terms, Clark thrived as an industrialist with his fingers in newspapers, mining, railroads and banking. At the ripe old age of 86, he died in his Fifth Avenue NYC mansion one of the 50 richest Americans of all time.
(image from Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_A._Clark)
Betty and Norma mention Clarkdale which turns out to be a former smelting town Clark founded in 1912 to serve his copper mine in the nearby town of Jerome. The “track” to which the writers refer is the Verde Canyon Railroad, a tourist line that traces Clark’s 1911 route to the town.
I looked up Professor Robert Vosper as well. Quite opposite of William A. Clark, it’s clear that Robert G. Vosper was a most admirable man. The president of the American Library Association in the 1960’s, he simultaneously held the position of director of libraries at UCLA. He firmly believed that librarians should devote their energy to that which would give most to people–book acquisition and developing collections. The dry business of cataloguing and reference, the emphases of many libraries at midcentury, was less important to him.
Ever socially conscious, Vosper encouraged multilingual collections, and during the McCarthy era, he daringly co-organized an exhibit on intellectual freedom. The exhibit catalogue became so popular, it went into a print run of 20,000. In 1970, UCLA administration pressured him to close the library due to a heated anti-Vietnam student demonstration following the Kent State shootings. In response, Vosper posted a notice declaring his refusal to shut the doors on the grounds that the purpose of a library was to be a sanctuary devoted to the free access of intellectual and cultural information.
Bob Vosper passed away in 1994, meaning this 1990 postcard is from the last years of his life. I feel lucky that this little thing he once owned found its way to me, leading me to his story. Is there any better way to learn than reading other people’s mail?
Where else do clotheslines only bear white linen and denim?
Born a fairly large baby in 1838, Charles Sherwood Stratton grew normally until he was six months old, when, at 25 inches tall and 15 pounds, he simply stopped. It is said that his maternal and paternal grandmothers were twins, and fact that his parents were first cousins, but what actually accounts for his dwarfism remains unknown. The most decisive character in his family tree turned out to be a very distant relative, P.T. Barnum. The circus pioneer trained the miniature child to act, sing and dance, and at the age of five, Stratton made his first tour of the U.S. with the show. Often impersonating the late Napoleon Bonaparte, he earned the stage name General Tom Thumb.
The following year’s tour of Europe brought him tremendous fame. He appeared twice for Queen Victoria and the three year-old Prince of Wales long before he became King Edward VII. It was from adoration of these performances that Queen Victoria gave him the coach on the postcard. (The portrait to the left of the coach is of P.T. Barnum, and that to the right is of General Tom Thumb.)
At the age of nine, the boy began to grow again, ever so slowly, so that by the time he was thirteen, he’d gained 4 inches, reaching a height of 2’5″. When he reached 2’11” in his twenties, he married another little person, and they stood atop a grand piano at one of the finest hotels in New York to greet their 10,000 guests. Following the wedding, President Lincoln congratulated the couple at the White House.
After a life marked by growth in both height and popularity, Tom Stratton (as he seems to have meshed his names) lay 3’4″ long at his funeral attended by 20,000 friends and admirers.
The medieval Fénis Castle in the Aosta Valley, a semi-autonomous region of Northwest Italy.