Thursday, February 26, 2015

WAPI-TV Ads from the 1950's & 1960's

For some time I have been mining the Lantern Media History digital collection for material related to Alabama. The site offers full text of numerous trade and popular magazines related to film, television and radio. The publication dates range from the early twentieth century into the 1960's.

The advertisements below all come from the site; I have linked to the specific Lantern pages for each one so you can look at the full magazine issue. I've posted numerous images from the site on my @AJWright31 Twitter feed and will be using many in future posts on this blog. 

 These five advertisements are taken from various media trade journals between 1955 and 1964. All five feature WAPI-TV, Channel 13, the longtime NBC affiliate in Birmingham. Today the station is known as WVTM or NBC13. Alabama's first television station went on the air in July 1949 with different call letters, WAFM, and network affiliations. New owners changed the call letters to WABT and finally WAPI in 1958. The WAPI in the first ad refers to one of Alabama's oldest radio stations

The second ad lists the fall 1962 network programming on the station. Boy, do I remember many of those shows with fondness. We must have watched a lot of NBC in those days; the only show I don't remember at all is Saints and Sinners. 

The third ad comes from a period when the station carried both NBC and CBS programming. Note the tiny listings for weekly programs featuring "Bear" Bryant and "Shug" Jordan. No doubt a much larger font would have been used if that ad ran today!

The final two ads are simply touting the brand. I wonder who that outstanding young woman with the beehive hairdo was.

Broadcasting 1956

Broadcasting 1962

Sponsor 1964

Broadcasting 1962

Sponsor 1962 Also appeared in Broadcasting 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Movies with Alabama Connections (1): The Lawless Breed [1953]

Poster of the movie The Lawless Breed.jpg

John Wesely Hardin is a rather unusual figure in the history of the American West. Yes, he was a Texas gunfighter and outlaw who claimed to have killed 42 men, including one for snoring. Yes, he was involved in the famous Sutton-Taylor Feud. Yes, he became a fugitive from justice, hiding from the Texas Rangers for several years in Florida and Alabama. His capture in Pensacola in August 1877 was a spectacular event. Back in Texas he was tried for murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison. In February 1894 he was released and soon pardoned. He obtained a law degree, but in August 1895 was shot dead in an El Paso saloon. Hardin was 42.

One thing that makes him unusual is the written legacy he left behind. The year after his death his autobiography "from the original manuscript" was published. Some of it is true. While he was in prison his beloved wife Jane had died, but Hardin had written many letters to her included in a 2001 published edition of his correspondence. 

Hardin has also left a significant trail in popular culture including novels, movies, and episodes of western television shows. The title song of Bob Dylan's 1967 album John Wesley Harding features the outlaw despite the variant spelling. And thus we come to our topic, the 1953 film The Lawless Breed. 

Released in the U.S. by Universal on January 3 of that year, the film featured the up-and-coming star Rock Hudson as Hardin and Mary Castle as his wife Jane "Brown"; her real maiden name was Bowen. Other well known actors include Julie Adams ["Julia" here], John McIntire, Hugh O'Brien, Dennis Weaver and Lee Van Cleef. For another Alabama connection, two years later McIntire played assassination victim Albert Patterson in the Phenix City StoryThe Lawless Breed is one of many films directed by actor and director Raoul Walsh.   

I watched a DVD release of this movie, and the included trailer gives us a taste of what's to come. The film is the "true story of the greatest gunfighter of them all...from his own original manuscript" and follows the "preacher's son with a deck of cards in one hand and a gun that never missed in the other. Here it is--the life he lived, women he loved, lives he took" with the "brilliant and romantic stars Rock Hudson and Julia Adams." After that billing, the film itself might seem anticlimactic. Hudson had appeared in 18 previous movies but this one may be the first in which he is the primary male lead.

The film opens as Hardin is released from Huntsville Penitentiary in Texas. Much of the action is flashback. Wife Jane is killed, and after some action in Texas friend Rosie McCoy gets Hardin out of the state when he is injured. He appears in Kansas City as John Swain, a variant of the pseudonym the real Hardin used in Florida and Alabama. 

Soon Hardin appears in "Polland" Alabama running a horse farm, and marries Rosie. They have a son named John. When Hardin goes to Pensacola for a horse auction, the Rangers arrest him. After 16 years in prison, he returns to his horse farm "Green Stables". The movie ends with Hardin being shot in the back trying to his keep his son out of a fight. Unlike the real Hardin, this one survives his saloon altercation. They all leave town as son John drives the wagon with his father and mother aboard. 

The writers on The Lawless Breed freely adapted the events of the real Hardin's life. Hardin did indeed have a second wife, Callie Lewis, a fifteen-year-old he married not long before he died. Hardin and first wife Jane had three children, two daughters and a son named John. The saloon shooting resulted in Hardin's death. John Selman, Sr., shot Hardin in the head from behind after Hardin had a dispute with Selman's son earlier in the day. Many other differences between the real and film Hardins can be found.

"Polland" is actually Pollard, Alabama, where he was based for some time while on the run from the Rangers. Jane had relatives in the area. The town in Escambia County survives today; a 2013 estimate put the population at 137. Some claim part of the movie was filmed in Pollard. Alabama's Rube Burrow robbed a train near the town in 1890. 

While in Alabama Hardin did not operate a horse farm; he worked in the area's lumber industry. He also spent time gambling; Hardin and a friend were arrested in Mobile after a card game went sour. Since they didn't know who they had, authorities quickly released him. 

If you like "classic" i.e., fantasy, westerns, you might enjoy this one, although it falls far short of the greats in the genre. The action and dialog rarely rise above the mundane. I enjoy most westerns, and the Alabama connection made this one special. The film's colors are gorgeous; the Technicolor greenery of "Polland" really pops from the screen. Rosie's green, red and blue dresses also stand out. 

Much has been written about Hardin over the years. I've published a couple of articles on his Southern years myself; the citations are below. The articles are similar, but the 1982 one has extensive references. Unfortunately, they are not available online. 

Wright AJ. John Wesley Hardin's 'Missing' Years. Old West 1981 Fall; 18(1):6-11

Wright AJ. A Gunfighter's Southern Vacation. Quarterly of the National Association for Outlaw and Lawman History, 1982 Autumn; 7(3):12-18

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Archelus H. Mitchell & His 1916 Anesthesia Machine

On July 21, 1916, Archelus H. Mitchell [1892-1986] of Selma submitted an application to the U.S. Patent Office for an "anesthetizing and resuscitation apparatus." At that time such applications typically included drawings, a detailed description and the inventor's claims to uniqueness. Witnesses to his application were listed as N. Wann and F.C. Meyer. You can see his application below.

In his description Mitchell noted the machine included two mixing chambers, wash bottles, control valves for air, oxygen, and whatever anesthetic gas would be used--primarily ether or nitrous oxide at that time in the U.S. The machine also included a mercury manometer to measure pressure. He made five specific claims of uniqueness for his machine related to the specific parts and operations of the device.

On August 14, 1917, Mitchell was granted patent number 1,236,591. Anesthesia machines first began to appear in the late 19th century and offered greater control over administration of gases, oxygen and air for general anesthesia. You can learn more about the history of anesthesia via the Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology which is located near Chicago.

Whether Michell's machine was ever manufactured is currently unknown. In fact I have so far learned very little about Mitchell. The dates given above are taken from an entry in the Social Security Death Index; I assume it is the same person, since the dates and location fit. There his birthday is given as September 1, 1892 and his death as January 1986.

The listing for Mitchell's household in Selma in the 1930 U.S. Census shows four people in addition to Mitchell himself. His sister Addie lived with him, as well as three boarders, two female and one male. His occupation is listed as "proprietor" and his industry as "farm implement." Thus we can probably conclude he owned a store specializing in farm equipment.

In 1932 Mitchell filed one more patent application, for a "motor vehicle". He was granted patent number 1,924,787 for that truck. The patent has been cited by several others between 1948 and 2008. What he did in Selma for the rest of his long life is currently unknown.

Text and illustrations for patents can be found easily in two places: Google Patents and the European Patent Office The latter site offers access to more than 80 million worldwide patents since 1830, including U.S. patents, and printing as PDF files. The Google site is U.S. only. Happy hunting!

You can learn about more Alabama inventors at the Birmingham Public Library's "Alabama Inventors" digital collection. Those include Mary Anderson, who invented the windshield wiper, and Miller Reese Hutchinson, who held 1,000 patents.

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Brief History of Pelham High School Football

SEE updates at the end of this post.

            Supporters of football at Pelham High School were no doubt disappointed by the team’s 3-7 finish in the 2014 season. Yet that record has an historical connection; the school’s very first team also finished 3-7.
           Pelham High School opened in September 1974 and fielded its first football team two years later. The first game was played at Shelby County on Saturday, August 28. The schedule that year included several teams each from divisions 3A, 2A and 1A. Pelham’s three wins all came against 1A opponents: Maplesville, Thorsby and Verbena. The losses included a 35-6 one to a 1A team, Isabella. Pelham’s other lopsided losses that season were all to 3A teams: Shelby County, Childersburg and B.B. Comer.
            David Bailey was the head coach of that first team, and he coached three more seasons. His 1979 team finished 5-5, thus becoming Pelham High’s first team with a non-losing season. In his one year in 1980, head coach Steve Rivers’ team also went 5-5. Pelham did not have a winning season until a 6-4 campaign in 1986 in Billy Tohill’s fourth season as head coach.
            The school’s most successful coach has been Rick Rhoades from the 1996 through the 2000 seasons. He posted a 41-19 record and playoff appearances each year.
                Details of all Pelham High School football teams and many others around the state can be found on the Alabama High School Football Historical Society web site .

UPDATE December 12, 2017: Pelham High School football team finished the 2017 regular season 5-5 and lost 49-14 to Spanish Fort in the first round of the AHSAA Class 6A playoff. Nevertheless, the team improved greatly in coach Tim Causey's third year. In 2015 the team went 1-9 and 2-8 in 2016. Pelham football's all-time record through 2017 is 203-239-0.

UPDATE December 4, 2018: Improvement continued this season as the team finished the regular season 7-3. The Panthers did lose to Hartselle 35-7 in the first round of the playoffs. The season was the first winning one since 2013 and their first seven win season since 2013. 

UPDATE August 30, 2019: At a game against Bibb County Pelham honored 1988 graduate and head football coach at Clemson Dabo Swinney. 

UPDATE November 1, 2019: Pelham finished the season at 3-7, but managed to win three of its last four games. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Falco, Alabama, in June 1942

Alabama has a long history related to the forest products industry. One of the earliest water-powered lumber mills in the state was the one established by Thomas Mendenhall in south Alabama. The community around that mill became present-day Brewton. Because the Conecuh and Escambia rivers gave access to Pensacola Bay and export markets, the lumber industry in Alabama near the Florida border expanded quickly.

The small town of Falco in western Covington County is another example of a town made by timber. The name is a shortened version of the Florida-Alabama Land Company formed early in the twentieth century to take raw timber to market. A post office was established in the town in 1903.

Falco can still be found on some maps today on the Falco Road [County Road 11] just north of the community of Wing. The location is southwest of Andalusia in the southern part of the Conecuh National Forest. The zip code is 36483; Google Earth shows only a few buildings there.

In June 1942 photographer and future anthropologist John Collier came through Falco and took the 10 photographs below. From 1941 until 1943 Collier worked first for the Farm Security Administration and then the Office of War Information. Thus the pictures were taken as part of his work there.

These photos were taken from Yale University's massive digital collection of U.S. government photographs taken by numerous photographers during the 1930's and 1940's. Quotes under the photos below are taken from descriptions on that site. That collection includes more than 200 photographs Collier took in Alabama. How his trip took him through Falco is unknown; perhaps he was on his way to the Farm Security Administration's Escambia Farms project in northern Florida where he took photos in the same month. 

Also shown below is a much earlier photograph of the Falco railroad depot and an extract from a 1905 Alabama map showing Falco. In 2002 the Andalusia Star News published an interesting article about the history of Falco. The article notes that the lumber mill burned in 1925 and was not rebuilt. The town declined and the post office closed in 1950; only one general store and a school still operated at that time. A few years later the school closed. 

U.S. Post Office in Falco in June 1942, "one of the few buildings left"

"Falco was a thriving, overcrowded town in the twenties. Now most of its buildings have been fired or torn down, so that today it is only a post office and a crossroads."

Grist mill which has been grinding corn for eighty years

Another interior shot of the grist mill

An exterior shot of the grist mill

"Former offices and home of the owner of the Falco lumber mill which was the largest mill in northern Florida [near Alabama border], but ceased cutting in 1923." Falco is so close to the Florida state line that captions for these photographs by Collier say "Falco, Florida [ie, Alabama]." The photographer may have thought he was in Florida when he took these pictures.

"All that is left of the railroad line running to the Falco lumber mill, as it crosses the old log pond (mill closed in 1923)"

 "Mill pond of the Falco lumber company twenty years after the last of the logging"

"Only the charred foundations remain of the Falco lumber company mill, fifteen miles from Escambia Farms. Once the largest lumber company in northern Florida [i.e., Alabama near Florida border], it passsed out of existence in 1923 because of the depleted timber due to unplanned cutting."

Another exterior shot of the grist mill

Railroad depot - Falco, Alabama

Falco Railroad Depot, ca. 1917

From a 1905 Geographic Publishing Company map of Alabama
Source: UA's Historical Maps of Alabama Digital Collection

Monday, February 2, 2015

Birmingham Photo of the Day (27): Hotel Hillman in 1908

As the BhamWiki article notes, construction on the Hotel Hillman was completed in October 1901. Until the original Tutwiler opened in 1914 it was the city's showplace hotel. Located on the corner of 4th Avenue North and Nineteenth Street, the Hotel Hillman building remained until 1969. The BhamWiki article has a link to a Google Earth view of the site now--a parking lot. That article also has photos of the hotel around 1906 and 1926. This photograph comes from the wonderful 1908 book Views of Birmingham. The title page and a link to the book are below.

The hotel was named after Thomas T. Hillman, an executive of the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company. As I have discussed in a previous blog post, he was a driving force behind Hillman Hospital.  

This book was published in 1908 and can be found online via the Internet Archive