Showing posts from June, 2020

Bamboo Towels — Who Knew ?

Washable, reusable, and, although a bit expensive, the ad copy suggested that one roll would replace sixty paper towel rolls. I excitedly ran to show my wife, my finger poised over the Add To Cart button. Our paper towel problems would soon be behind us! Apparently, this idea was akin to suggesting that we replace our paper towels with my underwear. My wife saw no value in bamboo towels. I retreated, defeated.

Why Do We Have to Clip Digital Coupons?

I already know the answer to the question posed in the title. The seller wants us to browse through the products offered and hopefully begin buying products we are not buying now. I understand that, and I do not expect that desire to change. But they could make it easier for us while improving sales at the same time.

Killing my business was the hardest decision I ever made

In 1983, I started the business that would consume more than three decades of my life. I had started businesses before this. I had a part-time rare coin business with my brother in law and had been in a partnership with a friend running a wholesale/retail hobby ceramics shop. Those businesses were deliberate and planned; starting them was a decision reached after serious consideration and planning. Beginning this business was more from desperation than planning.

Finding Friends and Strangers in Old Family Photos

Two photos attracted my interest because the notations on the backs mentioned “Katherine.” One showed Katherine walking with my father and  I immediately realized who this had to be: my grandparents took in a foster child named Katherine Clasby when she was twelve years old. The genealogical information I have mentions her without explaining any circumstances that required fostering. Given that Katherine and even her children remained in touch with my grandmother and my aunt for all of her life, it seems that she became part of our family.

A Few Pets I Have Known

Barney chose us.  He belonged to a family up the street, not our next door neighbors. He would curl up on the back steps or porch and try to enter the house when the door opened. Our mother would take him back to his home and that pattern repeated. After some back and forth, with the cat insisting that our house was where he wanted to live, it was agreed that we would assume custody. That’s why we named him Barnacle — he stuck to us.

Our Family’s Iceboat Mysteries

Late in 2019, my cousin sent me two photos she had found in her albums. The images showed her father (my mother’s brother) and my father sailing an iceboat on Lake Massapoag in Sharon, MA. These interested me as mementos of my family history, but also because they triggered a memory, which was that my father intended to build an iceboat in the mid-1950s.

So You Think ARM Based Macs Will Be Slow?

When the rumors that Apple might switch Macs away from Intel CPU’s to ARM first arrived, almost every pundit I read opined that Apple would only be able to do that on the low end; that high-end professional machines would not switch because “ARM is slower than Intel.” If you google “Why is ARM slower than Intel”, you’ll find reams of text explaining why this is true, has always been true, and forever will be true. Unless Apple made a major error in their 2020 Keynote address, it seems that they plan to drop Intel processors from all Macs, not just the low-end consumer machines.

My Other Wheels

We live in an over 55 retirement community. The community is gated with private roads, and although there is no golf course, many residents have golf carts because they can drive them on the community roads. Shortly after moving in, we thought we should keep up with the Jones by buying a golf cart. Golf carts are surprisingly expensive. I looked around and found that a fully equipped, brand new model could be half the price of a new car. Even used carts were more than I wanted to spend. We decided to keep up with the Jones some other way.

A 1927 High School Yearbook: My mother’s yearbook tells us quite a bit about what life was like for a Shrewsbury High School student in the late 1920s.

Shrewsbury, Massachusetts is located east of Worcester and is where my mother grew up and attended High School. Very recently my sister came across her graduation yearbook from 1927. Shrewsbury has had a High School since 1879, so it didn’t surprise me that she had a yearbook, but I was fascinated to see how similar it was in format to yearbooks of today. 

Early U.S. Coinage : The first coins of the United States

Not many of us can afford to own examples of the earliest U.S. coins. Mintage figures were often very low and some are so scarce that it is difficult even to find pictures of them, never mind have an opportunity to own. In March of 1791, Congress resolved that a mint should be established and that the President (then George Washington, of course) should make that happen. Notice the simple language and lack of detailed instruction of the resolution below; it’s very different from any Act of Congress you’d read today. Basically, Congress wanted a Mint and the rest was up to the President. 

Lindenmueller Civil War Tokens — A Deeper Look A tiny piece of New York History

Many years ago I spotted the token shown above at a coin show. It’s a fairly common token, but I had not seen it previously. I thought it looked interesting, so I bought it. Curious to know more about it after bringing it home, I consulted “A Guide Book of United States Tokens and Medals” by Katherine Jaeger. It is listed there as NY-630AQ-1a but there was not much else to tell. Googling “NY-630AQ-1a” gave me more information, but I wasn’t truly convinced that it was accurate. The most common tale is what Wikipedia repeats: Lindenmueller owned a bar in New York and, because of hard money hoarding during the American Civil War, issued these one cent tokens as substitutes. There was nothing new about merchants issuing their own tokens for advertising purposes. Not was there anything new about replacing money with tokens. In the years that preceded and overlapped the depression that came with the Panic of 1837, hard money had been hoarded. Merchants had produced tokens that could be used

Coin Collecting and Genealogy: Rebuilding my Grandfather’s Coin Collection

Some of what follows is conjecture. All is subject to the imperfections of my memory, but the whole of it is truth, at least as well as I know it. As the title implies, it has a little bit of genealogy in it, but that’s not my main interest. We are all related, and although written records only go back a small number of years, you and I both have common ancestors not so very long ago. Does it matter if a distant relative of mine was famous? It does not mean much to me. What matters to me is the small trove of United States coins I inherited from my paternal grandfather, Beardsley Lawrence.

My 1788 Massachusetts Cent: The Colonies produced their own coins before the United States existed

My family claims ancestry from the Mayflower. Not just any old ancestor who made that uncomfortable journey, but the well known Elder William Brewster. I say “claims” because I don’t know that it’s true. My father said so. My grandmother said so. My cousin, who has assembled massive genealogical records about our family, says so also. I was a little bit of a skeptic because I once did some computer work for The Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, and mentioned that lineage to the director I was helping. She said that they turn down would be members frequently because of mistaken genealogy. It seems that Brewster was a fairly common name in the New England Colonies. People come across someone in their ancestry with the same name and birth date as a true Brewster descendant and jump the tracks, heading off in the wrong lineage. This can go awry with the Brewster name, but also with daughters and granddaughters who took their husbands names.

My 1816 Large Cent: The Year Without a Summer or Eighteen Hundred and Froze To Death

This is my 1816 Large Cent. Notice that I don’t call her a penny. The British had pennies. The United States had and still has a decimal system for its money. Thomas Jefferson proposed that decimal system with one hundred cents to a dollar and Ben Franklin had designed the very first cent sized coin in 1792, although it didn’t actually say “Cent” anywhere on it. Those gentleman might have been annoyed if you referred to her by the British term. We had just fought a war with those Brits, after all. But penny was the name common people were used to, so it has stuck with us. Our pennies still stubbornly announce themselves as “One Cent” despite that. This is my 1816 Large Cent. Notice that I don’t call her a penny. The British had pennies. The United States had and still has a decimal system for its money. Thomas Jefferson proposed that decimal system with one hundred cents to a dollar and Ben Franklin had designed the very first cent sized coin in 1792, although it didn’t actually say “C

Silver bullion and U.S. Silver coinage When coins had intrinsic value

On September 9th, 1963 the price of pure silver hit $1.293 per ounce. That was a new record for the 20th century and it caused a problem for the U.S. Treasury Department: coins in circulation were now worth their face value. That is, counting the cost of refining to pure silver (coinage was 90% silver at that time), a silver dollar in the palm of your hand was actually worth one dollar for the value of the silver in it. There were few if any silver dollars actually in circulation by 1963, but dimes, quarters and half dollars were and they also contained 90% silver. Silver dollars did turn up now and then — they were the chips used at casinos and were popular as Christmas presents. Ten silver dimes would have weighed just a tiny bit less than one silver dollar, so even the minor coins were in danger of being worth more than their face value.

The Strange Story of the Henning Counterfeit Nickels

This story may seem strange to you. You might not even believe it, but it is true. Counterfeit nickels were made in 1954 and the man who made them was quickly caught and sent to jail. It’s actually not quite as strange as it sounds. A kid with a nickel in the fifties had fifty cents or more in terms of today’s purchasing power. I can tell you that from personal experience as I was a kid back then. Penny candy wasn’t just a name for inexpensive candy: the corner store had a whole display of candy where I could load up my pockets for a nickel. Gasoline hadn’t yet reached 25 cents a gallon when these counterfeits were made. Bread was 15 cents a loaf. My father had bought a large three story, ten room house with a barn and a large plot of land near the center of town for $12,000 and the 1954 Studebaker in the driveway cost around $2,400. A nickel wasn’t insignificant.

Sacagawea Dollars: Treasure in a Cereal Box

You may never have seen a Sacagawea Dollar. They were only in circulation for a few years, produced in the hopes that a long-lasting coin could replace short-lived dollar bills. The public disdained using them, and they are now only in  U.S. Mint Proof Sets . I have received them in change now and then, but rarely. People confuse them with quarters, despite the gold coloring. Should you happen upon a Sacagawea Dollar from 2000 with a “P” mintmark, it could be worthwhile to flip it over. There are two varieties of this year that have a high value to coin collectors.

Thurston The Magician's well deserved fame has been eclipsed by his contemporary, Houdini

Like many young boys, I became interested in magic. I assiduously studied sleight of hand and card tricks, and my father indulged me by helping me to construct some of the apparatuses I read about in books. My father also told me that when he was a young man, he had attended a wonderful magic show put on by Thurston The Magician. I had never heard of Thurston; his well deserved fame has been eclipsed by his contemporary, Houdini. I assumed he was a minor figure and never looked into his life until I happened to spot this token at an eBay auction. That immediately triggered a memory of my father telling me about seeing Thurston perform in Boston. I bought the token for $14.00, without any idea if that was a fair price or not (it’s probably not as the token has some corrosion). I also began researching Thurston.

Morgan Silver Dollars

When I was a young boy in the mid-1950’s, banks still had silver dollars. You could walk in and trade paper dollars for real silver coins. You could spend them at any store; some cash registers even still had a slot for these. But paper bills were what people used. Silver dollars are big coins; more than two or three would be annoying in your pocket or your hand. A store would take them as payment, but they wouldn’t try to give them as change. Those coins usually went straight to the bank at the close of business. The banks kept a few on hand because people gave them as gifts. They’d acquire more as some older cache of coins was turned in by someone who was once paid this way or had returned from a casino gambling trip with a pocketful. Silver dollars were a common gift from grandparents, exhibiting a bit more thought than a dollar bill and more interesting because of their age, yet easily obtained from almost any bank. So, for the most part, the only people using these coins were kids

Gardell Dano Christensen: A little bit about a man who didn’t get the recognition he deserved.

Gardell Dano Christensen is famous enough to have a small stub of a Wikipedia entry that doesn’t tell you much. You might wonder why they bothered with it at all. Gardell deserves much more than that stub at Wikipedia. He wrote, coauthored, and illustrated books; a bit of Internet sleuthing will turn those up. He designed and built museum dioramas that Wikipedia gives him no credit for. He even went on the expeditions that collected the animals because he was a taxidermist. I was able to find a bit of a biography that provided a little more love, but Gardell truly has been unfairly ignored. I’ll give you links to all that and more later, but my purpose here is to relate a tiny bit of personal history that included Gardell and his family.

My Family Went off to the Beach and Left Me at Home

In the early 1950s, my family often went to Massachusetts’ Duxbury Beach. I’m not sure how long that trip took back then; you could get there from Sharon in less than an hour now, but the roads weren’t the same then, so I suspect it was an hour or more. That didn’t bother us; we’d be gone for the whole day and would eat on the beach, digging a coal pit in the sand for corn on the cob and clams, all packed with seaweed. I imagine you’d get a ticket and a court appearance for that today.