Grandmother's Furniture Catalogue
Since my last post, I've spent more time looking at the "Furniture Catalogue," my grandmother's scrapbook. I Googled the name on the catalogue, John V. Farwell and Co., and found out that the Farwell company was once one of the largest corporations in America. It was a wholesale distributer of "dry goods:" furniture, textiles and clothing, based in Chicago. Between 1880 and 1910 they grossed $20 mil. per year and employed over 1000 people. John Farwell himself started as a clerk in 1845 for the original company, which was called Wadsworth and Cooley. By 1857 he had worked his way up to partner in the firm, and in 1863 the company became known as Farwell, Fields and Co. Farwell's partner, Marshall Fields, another up and coming young man, left soon afterwards to start his own company, and for the next 40 years the two companies were the most profitable names in dry goods. During the early 1900's however, the dry goods business changed. Manufacturers started selling directly to stores, eliminating the need for large wholesalers. Marshall Fields and Co. adapted by opening stores of their own, but Farwell and Co. did not. It closed its doors in 1925.
From this, I figure that Grandmother probably started using the Farwell catalogue for a scrapbook around 1920, possibly earlier. The earliest date I can find among the pictures and articles is 1917, the latest 1932. Unfortunately, Grandmother made no effort to date her selections so any dates she included were purely by accident. Here's the cover of a magazine entitled Hunter Trader Trapper, from 1917.
My other problem is that Grandmother didn't label the pictures. I didn't find the catalogue until the last few days of my mother Wenonah's life so I didn't get to go through it with her. She did tell me that one of the photos was of the actress Mary Pickford, one of the stars of the silent picture era. There are several other pictures in the catalogue which seem to be from movie ads, but only one includes a title, "Hawthorne of the U.S.A." starring Wallace Reid. Reed was another star of silent movies. He played romantic roles whereas Pickford played little girls or vivacious young women. Some of her famous roles were Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Pollyanna. From 1900 to 1930 Mary Pickford alleged to be the most famous woman in the world. She and her husband, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., fought the advent of talking pictures. In her opinion, "adding sound to movies would be like putting lipstick on the Venus de Milo".
As you can see Miss Pickford's picture is pasted on a page of the catalogue which advertizes wicker or "reed" furniture.
My mother told me about going to silent movies when she was a child. There was an organ player who sat down in front providing background music for the film: fast music for action scenes, romantic music for love scenes, suspenseful music for mysteries, etc. I guess the organ player could play as loud as she (or he) wanted. There was no dialogue to drown out. My mother might not have seen many movies starring Pickford or Reid though. She told me that she and her brother Bob preferred westerns.
Most of the pictures pasted in the catalogue are from ads. Most of the time Grandmother cut off the name of the company, but when she left it on, it's surprising how many of the names are familiar: Del Monte, Kellogg's, Coca Cola, Wrigley's gum, Chevrolet, Purina dog food, Burgess Seed and Plant Co. Here's an old Norman Rockwell painting advertizing Orange Crush:
Notice that the caption has been cut off. Grandmother was obviously just interested in the picture.
Here's a picture advertizing Uncle Ben's Cream of Wheat. Isn't it amazing that the company is still using the same picture of Uncle Ben.
It looks like I'll need to do another post or two from the Furniture Catalogue. There's just too much to condense into one or two articles. I'll finish this one off with a newspaper photo of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic. I hope the quality of my copy is good enough for you to see the features of some of the men. Several could pass for Col. Sanders of fried chicken fame. There's a reason for that. The Grand Army was made up of Union Civil War veterans. As usual, Grandmother didn't include a date, but it's a pretty big group so I would guess the article dates from the early 20's. According to Wikipedia the Grand Army was active in lobbying for voting rights for black veterans, and for pensions for all veterans.
As you can see, the picture is pasted on a sheet of wallpaper. Grandmother often did that, I suppose to reinforce the thin pages of the catalogue.