Tag Archives: Biographies

19th Century New York Inventor and Business Titan Peter Cooper Once Inherited Almost The Entire Town of Kinderhook New York – But Gave It Away!

Peter Cooper, Inventor and Industrialist, Once Inherited A Large Part Of Kinderhook, NY.

It’s What He Did With His Inheritance That Would Be Inconceivable Today

What kind of a man would inherit most of a town and not be willing to take possession of it?

The answer is Peter Cooper (1791-1883), a businessman who conducted his life in a principled way.

Peter Cooper c. 1850 (Library of Congress)

The name Peter Cooper may not be as known today as it was in the 19th century, but his influence lives well into the 21st century. Three of Cooper’s grand-daughters founded the Cooper Hewitt Museum and Peter Cooper Village is a large apartment complex on the east side of Manhattan.

But who was Peter Cooper?

Cooper was a tinkerer who lacked a formal education, but became a great inventor and entrepreneur who owned many patents. Cooper designed and built the first steam locomotive train in the United States. He developed new revolutionary methods of producing glue and one of his companies, Cooper Hewitt manufactured the wire used in laying the Transatlantic Cable.

Cooper was a strong advocate of Native American rights, the abolition of slavery and used his vast fortune in philanthropic causes. Cooper was one of the founders of an orphanage, The New York Juvenile Asylum, which is one of the oldest non-profits in the United States. But Peter Cooper’s greatest legacy was as founder of Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, a free college for both men and women that still exists today. (Cooper Union began charging tuition in 2014, but will soon return to being tuition free.)

Cooper’s grandson, scientist and naturalist Edward R. Hewitt, (1866-1957) wrote a book Those Were The Days (Duell, Sloan & Pearce) 1943, in which he tells highly entertaining stories about old New York City. Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #54 – Katharine Hepburn 1940

Katharine Hepburn Looking Beautiful – Even Her Neck!

katharine-hepburn-1940-photo-van-damm-studioThere are a number of classic movie fans who like Katharine Hepburn as an actress but don’t care for her looks.

Looking at a photograph of Hepburn like this one taken in 1940 by Vandamm Studio, how could anyone say she doesn’t look absolutely beautiful?

The one feature Katharine Hepburn did not like about herself, especially as she aged, was her neck. She called it her “turkey neck.” By the end of the 1940s, wrinkles around her neck made her self conscious, and she would frequently cover up her neck both on screen and off. Continue reading

Part 5 Vintage New York City Books With Great Art Deco Dust Jackets

The Art of The Book #5 – New York City Deco Dust Jackets From The 20′s & 30′s

As we complete our look at New York City books from 80+ years ago, some of these dust jackets incorporate photography into their covers which the other dust jackets we have featured do not. (click on any photo to enlarge)

Art Deco dj Portrait of New YorkPortrait Of New York by Felix Riesenberg & Alexander Alland, New York: Macmillan, 1939 dj illustrator, Alexander Alland

Felix Riesnberg (1879-1939) was a civil engineer and master mariner. He was a polar explorer and wrote numerous books with nautical themes. Portrait of New York ventures among the populace and is an accurate description of the city and its people.

Alexander Alland (1902-1989) was a master photographer and the book shows a small sample of his immense talents. Continue reading

Part 4 Vintage New York City Books With Great Art Deco Dust Jackets

The Art of The Book #4 – New York City Deco Dust Jackets From The 20′s & 30′s

Continuing our look at the those great New York City books from 80 years ago, here are more great dust jacket covers. (click on any photo to enlarge)

Art Deco dj Hacking New YorkHacking New York by Robert Hazard, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1930 dj illustrator, unknown

The first book of its kind – anecdotes of a New York taxi driver. Even back then the meter could be rigged and Hazard explains how it was done. The dust jacket is gorgeous and unfortunately the artist is unattributed. Continue reading

Part 3 Even More Vintage New York City Books With Great Art Deco Dust Jackets

The Art of The Book #3 – New York City Deco Dust Jackets From The 20′s & 30′s

We continue with our look at vintage books about New York City with great dust jackets. (click here to read part 1 and here to read part 2)

Starting with a look at an all-time classic of deco design, New York Nights. (click on any photo to enlarge)

Art Deco dj New York NightsNew York Nights by Stephen Graham, New York: George H. Doran, 1927, dj illustrator, Kurt Wiese

A native of Scotland, author Stephen Graham (1884-1975) goes on a tour of  jazz age nightclubs, speakeasies and cabarets. Graham provides the grittier side of life in an up to the minute description of prohibition New York neighborhoods, establishments and people.

Kurt Wiese (1887-1974) illustrated over 300 books and later became an award-winning children’s book author. Besides the knockout jacket cover, Wiese drew all the illustrations contained in the book. This was the first American book he worked on. Continue reading

Part 1 Vintage New York City Books With Great Art Deco Dust Jackets

The Art of The Book #1 – New York City Deco Dust Jackets From The 20’s & 30’s

From the 1920’s until the 1940’s, book publishers put out some phenomenal books about New York. They also hired talented artists to design the book’s dust jackets.

The eye-catching art deco graphics were meant to attract potential buyers. Unfortunately, most people who purchased books 80 years ago would discard the dust jacket once they brought the book home with them.

Because of that, many of these books from that time are very scarce in their original dust jacket.

This is the first part of a five part series looking at the dust jackets of books about New York City, the artists that created the work and the authors.

Below are some fine examples of New York City books from the golden era of publishing.

(click on any photo to enlarge)

Art Deco dj New York By QuexNew York by Quex.  New York: David McKay, 1928, dj illustrator, Dixon (possibly Arthur A. Dixon)

Quex was the pseudonym of reporter George H.F. Nichols (1881-1933) of The Evening News of London. Nichols was at the time of his death one of the highest paid reporters in the world. Nichols was the originator of articles written in the form of “the diary of the man about town.” Quex’s observations about about New York are well worth reading.

The dust jacket is classic New York, but I am unsure about the attribution to Arthur Dixon, so we will leave biographical information out until someone can provide a conclusive identification on the artist.

Continue reading

50 Years After Marilyn Monroe’s Death – Examining The Books That Were Written About Her While She Was Living

The Fascination With Marilyn Monroe: A Look At The First Six Books About Her

Sometime during the evening or early morning hours of August 4 or 5th 1962 Marilyn Monroe died under mysterious circumstances at the age of 36. Even after fifty years to the day that she died, Marilyn Monroe may be more popular now than when she was living. Her movies are what propelled her to fame and are the way people today primarily become familiar with Marilyn. Her image is part of our popular culture. But books about Marilyn have helped her achieve a level of immortality that is not shared by any other star.

By a wide margin no other entertainment personality has been covered in books more than Marilyn Monroe. Elvis would run a distant second. Since 1953 there have been slightly more than 200 books in English that are directly about Marilyn Monroe. There are dozens more that have been printed in other languages and hundreds of others that contain chapters about her.

Her movie career spanned from 1947-1962, yet only six books were written about Marilyn while she was living, with various levels of cooperation from the star herself.

The first book written about Marilyn was published with little fanfare on October 29, 1953. The Marilyn Monroe Story by Joe Franklin and Laurie Palmer, (1953 Rudolph Field Co.) distributed by Greenberg.  The book retailed in paperback for $1.00 and hardcover for $2.00. It is considered the rarest and most collectible book about Marilyn and very good condition paperback copies sell for upwards of $200 and hardcovers without the dustjacket fetch over $300 and with a nice dustjacket can sell for $700 or more.

So besides being the first book about Marilyn what makes it rare? In the early 1990’s I mentioned I owned a copy of his Marilyn book to author Joe Franklin and the longtime radio and television host told me quite a story about the book.

“I now don’t even have a copy of my own book,” Franklin said. Continue reading