Have you ever went rummaging through drawers, that hadn’t seen the light of day for a
longtime, and found something you didn’t remember having? I did that recently and found, rolled together, some old prints. I couldn’t remember where they had come from, but then noticed the words “just a print” written on the back of one of them. I recognized the hand writing as that of my husband’s mother. In later years, she, the late Mildred Updyke, and her husband Fred, had begun collecting antiques and collectibles.When they passed away, among their belongings were still some of the things they had collected. That had to be where the prints came from. The one I like the best, shows a woman playing the piano and a young girl seated on the floor listening to her play. More about this print, later. It was time for me to do some researching on old prints. I was to learn that oftentimes these prints were given away, compliments of a business.
The second print is of three men in hats and coats, seated around a table, playing checkers Two of them have long white beards, one wearing his hat and smoking a pipe. The man wearing a vest and rolled up shirt sleeves is younger than the other two. This 20 x 18 inch sepia print was given away by Fred Hoch, dealer in wall paper, paints, etc, who was located at 77 West Main St., Somerville, N. J. This I know because of a large imprint on the back of the print. Except for finding the mention of his name, I could not find any information about him or his business.
What I did find was a listing of this print under the works of an accomplished photographer,
Doris Ulmann. who was born in New York City in 1882. She was widely respected for her photographic work and her subjects often included many intellectual and literary leaders, such as Edna St. Vincent Millay, Sinclair Lewis and Albert Einstein. Because of mine and my husband’s interest in dulcimers, I was surprised and delighted to see a listing of John Jacob Niles seated with an older man holding a dulcimer, a Mr. Ritchie, of Viper, Kentucky. The description says that he was the father of a large family, including Jean Ritchie, well known as an accomplished dulcimer player. How fortunate we would have been to have found this print, but that is not the case.
I was unable to find any information on the third print. It is a copy of a painting of a young boy and girl possibly of Dutch descent. The boy, wearing a hat is holding a ball and the girl sits with her head resting on his shoulder.
“Love’s Melody,” is the title of the print that’s my favorite. It is a reproduction of an original painting by Zula Kenyon and was given away as a supplement to the Grit, “America’s Greatest Family Newspaper.” Many of you will remember the Grit being delivered to your home each Saturday by a neighborhood newsboy. It was founded in 1892 as the Saturday edition of the Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Daily Sun and Banner. However, in 1885 a 25 year old German immigrant, Dietrick Lamade purchased the name and was distributing 4,000 copies the first year. By 1932, it had a circulation of 425,000 in 48 states. It stayed in the Lamade family for many years and it was Howard J. Lamade who helped found Little League Baseball in Williamsport and build it into a national institution. The Grit was sold many times throughout the years. It left Williamsport after 111 years and moved its offices to Topeka, by 2006 it was converted to an all-glossy, magazine format and a bi-monthly schedule.
My research led me to the name of the artist of the painting I like so well. Zula Kenyon was
one of the most successful artists in the history of the United States. She was born in Deansville, Wisconsin in1873 and died in 1947. It was during the 1920’s and early 30’s that much of her work was accomplished. She produced over 250 Calendar and post card prints for the Gerlach-Barklow Company. She took up the serious study of art at the Chicago Art Institute, though in large measure she was self taught. Her favorite medium was pastels and this is the medium of the original painting of “Love’s Melody.”
This print was not rolled up and put back in the drawer to be found again someday. No, I bought a frame for it and my husband took down an enlargement of the Nicholson viaduct he had photographed and in its place now hangs the long, lost print, on our living room wall, above the piano.
Finding these prints led to a research of people’s lives that left me feeling enlightened and, yet, rather melancholy. How long has it been since you checked out that old trunk in the attic or the drawers of the old dresser? There may be an surprise waiting there for you.