Category Archives: History

Toboggan: sliding into happiness

‘Toboggan-Marche’ by Michel Langlois, published by Loret & Freitag (Paris, sd) and illustrated by Georges Morinet.

This cover for the Toboggan Marche depicts a water chute, a still popular amusement park ride. The funfair boat races down the chute tower and hits the water with a mighty splash. Here the imagination of Georges Morinet, an illustrator and photographer of Nantes, runs wild, curiously morphing one of the big waves into a triumphant naked woman. The round front makes the boat skip over the water, bouncing up and down, soaking and thrilling the passengers. What a wet frisson!

A post card of the Water Toboggan at the Nantes World Fair, 1904.

This and other mechanised rides were imported from the United States to European fairs and exhibitions. In this case it was for the 1904 World Fair in Nantes, where the ride was called a Water Toboggan (toboggan is the French word for slide). At that time the Shooting the Chutes as it was known in America was already a decade old.

‘Plan général de l’Exposition universelle d’Anvers’, 1894. Source: Gallica.fr

The map of the 1894 Antwerp World Fair shows us that —already at the end of the 19th century— visitors enjoyed a water attraction in Belgium. It was Captain Paul Boyton’s American company which provided the entire ride, boxed and shipped.

Boyton’s Water Show, Exposition Universelle, Antwerp, 1894. (source: pinterest)

Now this Captain Paul Boyton was a very entertaining person. In 1894 he opened the first permanent mechanised amusement park in Chicago. But prior to that he swam up and down rivers across America and Europe in a rubber immersion suit, that he himself did not invent.

Captain Paul Boyton in his immersion suit.

It was inventor Clarke Merriman who in 1872 had created the first-ever rubber survival suit to rescue passengers should their vessel capsize in cold water.

Merriman’s patent for a survival suit, 1872. Source: google patents.

Captain Boyton took pride in testing the inflatable suit: “I float on my back, and propel my body feet foremost with a double-bladed paddle at the rate of a hundred strokes per minute”.  Wearing only the rubber suit as a form of transportation he embarked on amazing and dangerous expeditions…

Captain Boyton’s trip, from ‘Harpers Weekly’, 1875

He also crossed the Channel from England to France with a canvas sail fixed to his left boot while leisurely smoking a cigar. It took him 23 hours and 30 minutes and three meals of beef sandwiches with a nice cup of strong green tea.

Captain Boyton on the wave‘ by Siragusa, published by Brinkerhof (New York, 1879) and illustrated by R. Teller. source:  Library of Congress
For his long travels along rivers (some of them took him 8 days) he had a line attached to his belt carrying the following items: “a couple of bottles of ginger ale, ten days provisions, cigars, quinine and other emergency medications such as brandy, etc., frying pan, coffee, kettle, spoon, knife and fork. A cup, a spirit stove, pen and ink, notebook, signal rockets, chronometer, barometer, thermometer, revolver, charts, maps, hatchet, ammunition, including a patch cloth and rubber cement.”
The advertising card hereunder lists some of the extraordinary uses for the life-saving immersion suit, promoted by Captain Boyton all over the world.
Captain Paul Boyton on an advertising trade card.

For a while Captain Boyton starred in P. T. Barnum’s Travelling Circus, before starting to manufacture his aquatic attractions. The most successful one was unmistakably the Shooting the Chutes or Water Toboggan as it became known in Europe.

Night  view of the Shooting the Shute, manufactured by The Paul Boyton Co, 1896. New York: Miner H.C. Litho. Co. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress.

And we all know now that the water toboggan became a permanent success, bringing mankind rapturous delight!

Toboggan Whirls‘ by Pietro Paperini, published by Zanibon (Padova, sd) and illustrated by Guaiat.

Der Dienstmann: a Jack of all trades

‘Dienstmann nr. 10’ by Rudolf Mälzer, published by Otto Teich (Leipzig, sd). Illustrator unknown.

A Dienstmann or a porter in Germany and Austria, was a freelance worker, state-licensed and officially registered. We’re talking 1830 until WW2. The Dienstmann wore an official uniform with his licence number on his cap or on a medallion. Often, the street corner was his ‘office’.

Tired porter on Radetzkyplatz, Vienna, around 1905-1914, photographed by Emil Mayer, source: wikimedia

The Dienstmann would not only carry luggage. He could also be hired for errands or be engaged as a messenger. Some were equipped with writing props enabling a client on the street to write a few lines and then have the Dienstmann deliver the note.

Sometimes a Dienstmann was hired for small domestic duties or as a temporary replacement for an indisposed servant. The man could also obtain your theatre or concert tickets, or even help you home after a night out, as the cover below suggests.

‘Ich hab’ mir für Grinzing ein’n Dienstmann engagiert…’ by Bruno Uher, published by Edition Bristol (Wien, 1936) and illustrated by H. Woyty-Wimmer.

The noticeable figure of the Dienstmann was frequently used for stage or film. We can see this in the 1952 comedy of errors, ‘Hallo Dienstmann’ wherein two of these characters sing a comical duet. At that time, the last Dienstmann had already disappeared from the streets. The title song of the film, played by two of Austria’s leading actors, became one of the big hits of the fifties in Austria.

Sing along in your best German. Take the flowers to Amalie, perhaps you’ll get a tip and she will fall in love with you…

Hallo Dienstmann! Hallo Dienstmann!
Nehmen Sie hier diese Dahlie!
Hallo Dienstmann! Hallo Dienstmann!
Geh’n Sie damit zur Amalie!
Hallo Dienstmann! Hallo Dienstmann!
Aber wirft man Sie dort raus
Trag’n Sie hundertmal die Dahlie
Zur Amalie
Ins Haus
Bis man Ihnen dort ein Trinkgeld gibt
Und Amalie mich liebt!

Oh, these forgotten professions of yore!

Dutch Cigarettes, Part 2: Wajang & TABA

Wajang Fox-Trot (I love you) by David Monnickendam published in 1930, The Netherlands.

In our sheet music collection we found a second Dutch song promoting cigarettes. Its colourful cover shows an Indonesian wayang puppet playing the saxophone, mixing East and West. Wayang kulit is the traditional puppet-shadow theatre in Indonesia. The Wajang cigarette brand was launched in 1930. From a Dutch newspaper announcement we learn that the Wajang Fox-Trot song was published in the same year.

An announcement for the Wajang Foxtrot in the ‘Nieuwe Apeldoornsche courant’,  May 22nd, 1930.

For centuries the Dutch had auctioned tobacco originating from the Spanish and Portuguese colonies. Then, in the 19th century the tobacco trade and industry grew more important as the tobacco plants were cultivated in the Dutch colonies in Borneo, Sumatra and Java. It is during the Dutch East Indies colonial period that Effendi Frères (again this French chic!) produced the Wajang cigarettes. Just like Caravellis cigarettes, Wajang offered to their customers a collection of tobacco silks: black patches embroidered with a variety of wayang figures. There were different series of these Wajang silks included in the cigarette packs. A newspaper advert suggested to use them for decorating a tea cosy: You open the box and while the delicious scent of tobacco reaches you, you are greeted by the silk embroidered Wajang figurine, which lends itself beautifully to be used for all kinds of handicrafts.

Wajang advertisement in the ‘Leidsch Dagblad’, January 1930

Just as for the previous Caravellis post, the Wajang  back cover shows different ways to use the silks. My personal preference is the picture of the symbolic Dutch windmill hung before a tapestry of colonial Wajang silks.

Back cover of the sheet music Wajang Fox-Trot.

Some ladies were extremely handy with the tobacco silks: this elaborate sleeveless evening gown was made from 1.280 Wajang tobacco silks!

Sleeveless long evening gown, Source: Museum Rotterdam.

We even found a third Dutch sheet music cover in our collection  —from the same period— which promotes tobacco. It is called TABA-Marsch. A rather wealthy and haughty man is enjoying a cigar. His smoker’s paraphernalia is displayed on a side table. In the background, seemingly arising from the cigar smoke, looms a smiling tobacco labourer or koelie (coolie). The strong labourer carries a stick of tobacco leaves on his shoulder.

Taba-Marsch‘ by Louis Noiret & Kees Pruis, illustrated by Jacob Jansma, 1924.

It is a beautiful illustration but it strongly suggests the offensive colonial attitude of the Dutch at that time. The island archipelago of the Dutch East Indies (a Dutch colony, now Indonesia) was a society with huge class differences. The indigenous people and imported workforces had to live in neighbourhoods or kampongs divided and based on ethnicity. The coolies working on the plantations were contract labourers. Their rights, and more importantly all kinds of restrictions were established with the Koelie Ordonnantie (Coolie Ordinance) of 1880.

Three Chinese coolies, Javanese women and their superintendents on a tobacco plantation in Sumatra, ca 1900. (source: Rijksstudio)

The penal sanction was the most outrageous part of this Ordinance which stipulated that a plantation-owner could punish his coolies in any manner he saw fit, including fines. The reasons for punishing a coolie could be many, including laziness, insolence or desertion. Whipping thus became a common practice on the tobacco plantations of the Dutch East Indies. These type of sanctions were gradually abolished from 1931 onwards.

Poster for the TABA exhibition. Left: in 1923. Right: in 1924. Both illustrated by Jacob Jansma.

TABA was a large tobacco exhibition (1923 and 1924) held in Amsterdam. Jacob Jansma created the posters for it and used the same illustration for the sheet music. The reason for this exhibition was the malaise in the tobacco economy in Holland.

Tobacco traders in action in Amsterdam’s ‘Frascati’ marketing house (1927) (source: Rijkstudio)

During the First World War the Dutch economy had blossomed. Thanks to the Dutch neutrality and without foreign competition, the tobacco industry and trade had free rein on the national and international markets. But after WW1, the sudden decline in export and the foreign competition led to massive dismissals in Holland and in the colonies. Hence the TABA exhibitions in order to crank up the business.

A visualisation of the Paleis voor Huisvlijt to attract participants in 1923.

The 1923 TABA exhibition took place in a large hall, the Paleis voor Volksvlijt (Palace for Popular Industriousness). Inspired by the Crystal Palace in London, it was made of glass and cast iron and it was likewise destroyed by fire much to the chagrin of the Amsterdammers. 

TABA exhibition in the ‘Paleis voor Volksvlijt’, Amsterdam, 1923.

In 1924 TABA moved to the RAI, a newly built ‘state of the art’ exhibition hall, but this event counted significantly less visitors.

Above: the RAI in 1929 (Beeldbank Amsterdam). Below: an artist’s impression of the RAI to lure foreign exhibitors to the TABA, by Waldmann (1924). (Beeldbank Amsterdam)

In 1925 a new attempt was made to move TABA back to the stylish Paleis voor Huisvlijt and to create an even greater event with lots of foreign exhibitors, but the enterprise failed before it even started.

Enough now for this post. Let’s move on to Tobacco Road with the Winter brothers. YEAH!