Our post today is a cry for help. Its title is written in Catalan, which translated, means: ‘Research in progress on the illustrator known as Pol‘. Maybe someone —possibly in Barcelona— can help us identify this very fine illustrator from the Art Deco period.
If Divina doesn’t convince you of Pol’s artistic qualities, perhaps Julieta will.
Or can Cléo persuade you?
Our sheet music collection holds all but thirty covers signed with the 3-letter-monogram Pol. Are the three letters the initials of a Spanish/Catalan artist? Or do they simply spell his or her name? A quick survey proves that Pol is not only a popular Catalan first name (like let’s say Paul) but also a common surname.
After unsuccessfully trying to identify the artist for years, thís cover recently gave me a possible clue:
The lyrics of the song Plumita al Viento were written by Pedro Pol, and the cover is illustrated by Pol. Could it be the same person? Looking on the net, I found covers of three other songs written by Pedro Pol. And two of these are illustrated by Pol. So our investigation brought us this far, not without feeling an inkling or presentiment of perhaps beginning to solve the year-long puzzle…
Now, inspecting our Pol sheet music, Istumbled upon another cover which could perhaps offer the key to completely unlock our little mystery:
With this amusing cover (look how well Mercedes Serós is caricatured from the picture insert) our hunch is doubly confirmed, as our illustrator here signed with ‘P. Pol‘. If the P. stands for Pedro, then perhaps our graphical artist has identified himself to be the lyricist Pedro Pol.
From our collection we know that other lyricists doubled as illustrators of sheet music covers. Poet and type designer Georges Auriol springs to mind, but there are others: Jean Tranchant, Nisa and Gene Buck to name but a few.
So our current hypothesis is that Pol is the signature of a gifted person named Pedro Pol, who wrote a few songs and colourfully illustrated many Spanish and Catalan sheet music covers. Possibly, our artist lived and worked in Barcelona during the roaring twenties… Our investigation is stuck, so it is time to put the current state of our research on the net, and call for help:
Ens ajudes a identificar qui va ser el lletrista Pedro Pol, actiu a Barcelona durant els anys vint i potser també il·lustrador de moltes versions de cançons signant el seu bonic treball amb ‘POL‘? Si us plau?
Can you help us to identify who was the lyricist Pedro Pol, active in Barcelona during the twenties and perhaps also the illustrator of many song covers signing his beautiful work with ‘Pol‘? Please?
The Nota’s from America is a Dutch song written in pidgin English. The title sarcastically refers to the notes (nota’s in Dutch) which U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sent to the German government in 1915 to criticise their sinking of the Lusitania.
The Lusitania was an ocean liner owned by the famous British Cunard Line. When the Lusitania came into service in 1907, she was an extraordinary ship in every way. With a length of 240 meters the vessel was not only the largest, but also the fastest passenger ship up to that time. The ocean liner sailed regularly from Liverpool to New York and back.
On 17 April 1915, the Lusitania left Liverpool on her 201st transatlantic voyage, arriving a week later in New York. Before her return to Liverpool, the German Embassy placed a warning advertisement in 50 American newspapers, including those in New York. This warning was printed adjacent to an advertisement for Lusitania’s return voyage on May 1. Two months before, Germany had declared the waters around the British Isles a war zone and warned that its U-boats would sink any ship entering the zone without notice.
On May 7, 1915, the German submarine U20 hit the Lusitania with one torpedo. The ship sank in less than twenty minutes about 18 km off the coast of Ireland. Nearly 1,200 people were killed including 114 Americans.
At the start of the war, President Woodrow Wilson had declared that the United States would be neutral. That neutrality however was challenged and fiercely debated in the U.S. after the sinking of the Lusitania.
But president Wilson decided to remain neutral and to keep out of the war. Instead he issued a first note to the German government urging it to abandon its policy of unrestricted submarine warfare against commercial ships of any nation, and to pay reparations.
Wilson then issued a second note rejecting Germany’s accusation that the Lusitania had been carrying munitions.
The third Wilson note was a warning that the United States would consider any subsequent sinking of merchant vessels with Americans aboard as deliberately unfriendly.
In 1916 the Dutch painter and illustratorJan Sluijters created the cartoon Slachterij “der Hochkultur“ (Slaughterhouse “High Culture“): Woodrow Wilson, his gun at the ready, shows his notes to Emperor Wilhelm dressed as a butcher. What seems a human torso hangs by the door.
In January 1917, German U-boats resumed attacking ships in the Atlantic Ocean and the British disclosedthe Zimmermann telegram to the American government. This telegram revealed a German proposal for a military alliance with Mexico against the United States. After the American press published the Zimmermann telegram, Wilson got enough public and political support for a declaration of war on Germany on April 6, 1917. This inspired a series of patriotic and belligerent sheet music covers…
Before WWII chewing gum wasn’t common in Europe. The liberation changed that: GIs came with their jeeps and Coca-Cola, offering cigarettes and gum, and thus introduced us to the American way of life. Chewing gum was here to stay.
Although archaeologists have found evidence that the ancient Greeks, the Mayans, and the Aztecs all chewed sticky substances, the mass production of chewing gum happened but around the middle of the 19th century. In 1848, the Curtis family of Maine —inspired by the spruce resin gums enjoyed by Native Americans and by early American pioneers— started to sell the world’s first commercial chewing gum, the State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum. They later changed the recipe to a flavoured paraffin wax gum. In 1852 the family founded the Curtis & Son Company, the nation’s first chewing gum factory with 200 employees. The gum became a success, however, the family never patented any recipe…
The first patent for chewing gum was granted to a dentist: William Semple of Mount Vernon in 1869. But instead of using resin or paraffin his gum was a mixture of rubber, chalk, powdered liquorice and charcoal, yuck! It was supposed to clean the teeth and strengthen the chewer’s jaw. William Semple did not market his invention very well though, and this left the door open for other players…
In the late 1850s the New Yorker Thomas Adams, a photographer and inventor, met General Santa Anna, the former Mexican president of the-Alamo-massacre fame, who lived in exile in Staten Island. Santa Anna had brought with him a shipment of chicle. Chicle is a natural gum from the sapadillo tree native to Middle America and the Caribbean.
This unlikely business duo, Thomas Adams and General Santa Anna, at first weren’t focused on gum. They intended to sell the chicle to rubber manufacturers as a cheap substitute for making carriage tires. This getting-rich-quickly scheme never took off because all their vulcanising experiments failed, and Santa Anna left the partnership. Adams though stuck with the chicle and it would make him very rich indeed. Noticing chicle’s resilience and elasticity he discovered the method to turn it into flavourless chewing gum. In 1871 he patented this process and christened the product Adam’s New York Chewing Gum, Snapping and Stretching.
A few years later he flavoured the chicle with liquorice and sold the gooey concoction as Black Jack gum. It was the first gum to be offered in sticks, and it quickly became the public’s favourite. In 1888 he established a large factory and built the first vending machine in the US, selling tutti-frutti flavoured gum on New York subway platforms.
In 1899 Thomas Adams became the first chairman of the American Chicle Company, which brings us to the why of this post. I found an old album with collectable cards in the attic. This album was published as a promotion during the Twenties by a Belgian agent of the American Chicle Company. Ever curious I decided to explore the matter…
The American Chicle Company was an amalgamation of Adams’ and other chewing gum giants. One of them was a Cleveland company, Beeman Chemical, established by pepsin manufacturer Dr. Edwin Beeman in 1887. He was a physician who discovered that pepsin, an extract from the stomach of freshly butchered hogs, provided relief from indigestion. Pepsin is an enzyme found naturally in the stomach that breaks down proteins. At first Beeman attempted to sell powdered pepsin in a bottle, but that failed.He then started to manufacture pepsin-flavoured chewing gum. It became a huge success, but only after he changed the picture of a pig on the wrapper by his own bearded face.
In Everybody’s Song, Susie chews some pepsin gum in order not to ‘be woozy‘.
But it wasn’t until a travelling salesman, named William Wrigley junior, got into the business, that chewing gum became a national pastime. He was a genius when it came to marketing. He started as a soap salesman for his father’s company. In 1891 he offered baking powder as a premium with each box of soap. In 1892 he started selling baking powder as a sideline, this time offering chewing gum as a premium. And again the premium proved more popular than the base product. He dropped both soap and baking powder, and concentrated on manufacturing and selling chewing gum.
In 1893 Wrigley started selling two of the most popular gums in history Juicy Fruit and Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum, and it made his fortune. In the song Oh You Spearmint Kiddo With the Wrigley Eyes, the names of the three gum giants, Adams, Beeman and Wrigley are united in the lyrics
Chiclets was an innovation of chewing gum, with a hard sugar coating offered in several flavours and colours. Various people have been credited with inventing Chiclets, and as the above sheet music illustrates, they became popular around 1906.
Chu-Chu, a 7-minutes documentary film from around 1920, shows us the production process from chicle to chewing gum. It tells us that every American soldier in World War I received regular rations of gum while they were overseas. During World War II Wrigley supported US troops by taking Spearmint, Doublemint and Juicy Fruit off the civilian market, and dedicating the entire output of these brands to the US Armed Forces. This brings us back to the start of this post, the WWII liberation when the Europeans learned to appreciate chewing gum.