12-13-14: Celebrating the last sequential date in 90 years with celluloid calendars
I used to eat a lot of expired bread back in 2011. I'd just moved from my home in Singapore to Florida for college and had been used to dates displayed day-month-year. Three years on, I've adjusted to the U.S. calendar format of month-day-year and am now looking forward to December 13, 2014, the last sequential date in the next ninety years.
Even if you're not an ambitious bride prepping for your 12-13-14 nuptials, there are still other ways to celebrate this last sequential date. The obvious answer would be to celebrate with celluloid.
Introduced in 1869 by John Wesley Hyatt, celluloid was initially designed to be used as a substitute for ivory in the manufacturing of billiard balls. However, this early, moldable form of plastic soon found its way into manufacturing a multitude of other items ranging from cutlery sets, jewelry and…the finger of fire?
Have you been touched by the finger of fire before? According to this yellow oval pin made in 1943, all you had to do was apply some Unguentine burn salve—developed by Norwich products—to alleviate the pain.
So how does one celebrate dates with celluloid? I was interested to learn that there was a time when calendars were once made of celluloid, too. Sure, we've all had our long-term relationship with paper calendars, but let us turn up the heat as we explore a new relationship instead. Known to be highly flammable, celluloid calendars are a sure way to stoke the flames of celebration this 12-13-14.
Take a look at some of the celluloid calendars from our collection:
Bacon. Enough said. A blond boy in a chef's hat graces the cover of a Swift's Premium Ham and Bacon rectangular plastic advertising card. He's peeling paper away from the corner of a wrapped ham, revealing passage of government inspection. This picture is the front of this celluloid calendar from 1914—exactly one hundred years ago.
There was a time in 1935 when the Greenwich Savings Bank featured "Mr. Ernest Saver" adding money to a bank. Printed on a white celluloid card, it also advertised a booklet on financial independence tips. Forty-six years later, Greenwich had to borrow more than $100 million from the federal reserve, leading to the bank ceasing operations and merging into Metropolitan Savings Bank.
This calendar from 1909, advertising Sunshine Finishes, features on its cover two children entering a home with a container of finish and a paint brush. (Why the children were both blue remains a mystery.)
A promotional booklet with a celluloid cover, this advertisement for Chichester products contained calendars from 1904-1907 and featured a woman and a box of pennyroyal pills. Marketed as a way to start delayed menstruation, the herb pennyroyal was a known folk medicine used as an abortifacient. When tests of these pills, required by the Pure Food and Drug Act (passed in 1906 and enacted in 1907), revealed that they didn’t actually contain any pennyroyal, they were renamed Diamond Brand Pills. This promotional booklet was made in 1904, just before the Act was passed.
Are you a dog person or a cat person? Whatever team you're on, manufacturers of advertising novelties—Whitehead & Hoag Company—decided to place an image of five kittens with the title "Little Scratches" on the celluloid cover of a notebook. This notebook also includes a calendar from 1903.
This celluloid bookmark—with a 1901 calendar printed on the back—is decorated with an image of a woman reading next to a lamp. A verse about the virtues of a Welsbach light is printed on the front: "You'll find the pages soft and bright 'neath the brilliant Welsbach light." To make the lamps brighter, the Welsbach Company and the General Gas Mantle Company used a "thorium extract as a constituent to coat each cloth mantle."
The notebook with a celluloid cover advertised "Tea-Ette, the choicest of tea with the (poisonous) tannin removed" and also contained a calendar from 1902.
This advertisement card featured Swift and Company's pure pork sausages on the front with a product box image and a 1933 calendar on the reverse. Swift and Company was established by Gustavus F. Swift, who revolutionized the sale of beef by developing a refrigerator car to transport fresh beef across state lines.
One of my favorite calendars from the celluloid collection is one from 1910 that features an understated illustration of a young girl shampooing a young boy's hair. A product description reads: "Pure as the pines. Made from Pine-Tar, Glycerine and Sweet Vegetable Oils. Emollient—Healing—Antiseptic."
This log book from Toyo Kisen Kaisha contained white and blue paper pages trimmed with gold leaf. Many pages are hand-marked in black ink with messages from people the owner met aboard the ship. Furthermore, it contained traveler information, an autograph book, and a calendar for 1907–1908.
Perhaps you have remained unmoved through my impassioned rundown on celluloid calendars and remain faithful to paper calendars. For you—since I aim to please—I present to you a couple of paper calendars from our collections to wrap up our 12-13-14 celebration of dates.
Ivory Soap never fades summer dresses calendar from 1895 features a woman in red dress holding a tennis racquet.
Fairbank's Fairy Calendar from 1900 with an illustration of a girl with blonde hair and blue eyes wearing a newspaper hat and carrying an American flag.
Alas, we have come to the end of our 12 calendars commemerating 12-13-14 but as I’ve previously mentioned, celluloid was very versatile. So I urge you, if you feel compelled to, to dig through our celluloid collection that's chock-full of naughty and nice.
Lois Goh is an intern in the New Media Department.