A Cheating Set with a Surprise

Autry National Center of the American West, Los Angeles. Photo by Pamela Tartaglio.
Autry National Center of the American West, Los Angeles. Photo by Pamela Tartaglio.

The implements of a cheating gambler fit inside this box. Because he was serious about winning at any cost, he was probably a roving gambler.

The large pin with the ace is a “bug.” The ends are sharp and could spear the underside of the table and hold the card.

The other card is in a card trimmer. It looks like a miniature paper cutter.

The drills and metal guide are to load dice. Cheating gamblers drilled holes on the black dots of one side and filled them with a heavy metal such as gold. They painted a new black dot on top of each one they altered. When rolled, the dice were more likely to land with the heavy side down.

A gambler’s opponents were often armed with a derringer or dagger, so it astonishes me that the owner of this cheating set had his initials put on the box, along with the year (JMD 1867). The box does not lock.

It has a simple hook latch, and might fall open if dropped, and it could be opened by anyone, such as someone who just lost a bundle to Mr. JMD. He could have marked his box discreetly, like he did cards and dice, to tell it apart from boxes of other gamblers.

He risked getting shot by having his initials put on this. He liked taking a big risk, and he was one cocky son of a gun.

Gamblers of the Old West

There were two kinds of professionals, the gamblers who stayed in one town for months or years, and itinerant gamblers who traveled so they could play opponents they might never see again. Guess which type cheated more often.

Resident gamblers made their home in a town or city. They often worked in boomtowns, where a gold or silver strike or the coming of the railroad had caused a “boom” in population. Resident gamblers, like all good Victorian-era Americans, guarded their reputations. These men were seen as upright members of the community, men with a skilled profession, even though they may have worked in raucous saloons and gambling halls.  They were called “square dealers.” Square meant fair, honest, and straightforward. We still say “square deal.” Some resident gamblers were women.

They were skilled at the games, and they made a good living without cheating. Many of them probably cheated occasionally, for instance, they might if they realized an opponent was cheating them (The Gamblers, Time-Life Books).

Roulette Table. After 1900. Roulette Table. After 1900.
A portable roulette game from the 1860s. A portable roulette game from the 1860s.

 

The roulette table above is heavy, with the layout, the area where people placed their chips, painted on the table. By contrast, the roulette setup at right has a separate wheel and the layout is enameled canvas, which the itinerant gambler could roll up for travel, great when he needed to make a quick getaway.

Roulette wheels were sometimes rigged.

Itinerant gamblers liked playing travelers on the great Mississippi riverboats, river towns and trains. Travel was slow compared to today, so travelers had time, they carried money, and many had come west looking for fortune and adventure. Camps of miners and prospectors were prime territory for itinerant gamblers. Prospectors hoped to get lucky and strike it rich by finding silver or gold, or at a game of chance. The cheating, fly-by-night gambler was happy to play them.

Scarlett in “Mourning”

The month of Halloween, people often bring up Victorian mourning practices. Back then, it was an elaborate system, as was etiquette in general. I’ll talk about it another time, but here is something much more upbeat, a great movie clip from Gone with the Wind. The clip is four minutes, 45 seconds. At the end, Scarlett is a teenager in Deep Mourning, the first stage of mourning, which includes relative isolation. Note that even her jewelry is black. The other woman in mourning is her mother. Hattie McDaniel gives her Oscar-winning performance as Mammy. This clip sounds gloomy but is fun.

http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/281096/Gone-With-The-Wind-Movie-Clip–Savannah-Would-Be-Better.html

 

English Grandeur in San Francisco, Part One

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This gallery has paintings and 285-year-old furniture from Houghton Hall’s Saloon room, and a copy of its wallpaper.

It’s not the real Houghton Hall in Norfolk, England, but a San Francisco museum has plenty of its furnishings and art. Different rooms of the hall are depicted in the rooms of the California museum. Houghton Hall was built in the early 1700s by Sir Robert Walpole, the first de facto British Prime Minister. Houghton Hall: Portrait of an English Country House is an exhibit at the Legion of Honor, a grand building itself. The grounds have a sweeping view of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, and sea cliffs. The exhibit will be there until January 18, 2015.

Furniture from the Marble Parlour in front of a large photo of the real parlour papering the wall.
Furniture from the Marble Parlour in front of a large photo of the real parlour papering the wall.

 

The Marble Parlour was a dining room, and its beautiful china and silver is here along with its chairs, above.

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The Library, as displayed in San Francisco’s Legion of Honor.
Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a fifteen-volume work

The galleries have videos of the actual rooms, so ornate they are stunning!  I’ll give you a link to the real Houghton Hall below, and look in the bottom row for the room with the bright blue wallpaper shown below. That same room has a lavish bed for a child, the grandson of Sir Robert Walpole, a christening gift from the child’s godparents, King George II and Queen Caroline. The bed is in San Francisco, too.  This page of the website of Houghton Hall, Norfolk, England, has a dozen small photos you can click on to enlarge.

Wallpaper hand-painted and -printed in China about 1780. From Houghton Hall.
Wallpaper hand-painted and -printed in China about 1780. From Houghton Hall.

 

English Grandeur in San Francisco, Part Two

This is about Lady Sybil, not of the show Downton Abbey, but of the Houghton Hall of my last post.  This Lady Sybil rescued Houghton Hall from neglect. She and her brother Sir Philip Sassoon collected art which is now at the Hall, and some is now at the San Francisco exhibit.

Lady Sybil Sassoon (1894-1989), later Lady Chalmondeley, was a friend and supporter of statesmen and artists. She founded the Women’s Royal Naval Service.

The American painter John Singer Sargent painted this portrait of her as a gift when she married the heir to Houghton Hall, the Earl of Rocksavage, in 1913. Sargent gave her the cashmere shawl she wears and painted “To Sybil from her Friend, John S. Sargent.”

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Her husband inherited Houghton Hall six years later and it was Lady Sybil’s home for the next seventy years, and she restored it to its former glory.

Houghton Hall, Norfolk, England
Houghton Hall, Norfolk, England © Copyright dennis smith

Last week, I posted photos from San Francisco’s Legion of Honor’s current exhibit Houghton Hall. Here’s a photo of one more room in the exhibit, the gallery with artifacts from Houghton Hall’s Tapestry Dressing Room.

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 Lady Sybil wore this robe, train and dress at the coronation of George IV in 1937. A peer’s rank dictates the type of ceremonial dress. Her father-in-law, the 4th Marquess of Chalmondeley, had the role of Lord Great Chamberlain at an earlier coronation (Edward VII in 1902) and wore the uniform above, including this hat.

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Here is the website of Houghton Hall, a page showing its splendid rooms. Click on the thumbnail photos to enlarge them. The exhibit at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor closes January 18, 2015.

 

Zoom into 1890s Denver

Try zooming in on this panoramic photo. It looks hand-painted.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8d/Panorama_of_Denver%2C_Colorado%2C_1898.jpg

The cursor is a tiny magnifying glass with a plus sign. Move it to a spot you’d like to visit. Click to zoom in to Denver on Dec. 31, 1897.  Click again to zoom out.

The label on Wikimedia Commons says, “The view depicted is looking northwest down 16th Street, image taken from Colorado State Capitol.”

The Capitol was only a few years old, and the photographer William Henry Jackson must have looked out onto new buildings that seemed tall and modern. A vibrant, modern city.

The triangular building on the right is the Brown Hotel, which Google Earth shows as now dwarfed by high rises.The large one in the center foreground, red brick with pale granite lower stories, is the Majestic Building, which no longer stands. Same architect for both buildings. The tall, domed building on the left, yellow and facing us, is the county courthouse.

The street in front of the park in the foreground is much darker than 16th Street. It looks like 16th Street was not paved, and the pale dirt is covering some of the dark, paved street.

On the left foreground, the white sign painted on the building reads “Palace Stables.” There can’t be any livery stables left in downtown Denver.

Restored Film of 1906 San Francisco

This is before the earthquake, but Market Street looks chaotic:  cable cars, autos, horse-drawn carriages and pedestrians dodging all of them. You see the Ferry Building, which still stands, at the end of the street. The camera was mounted on the front of a cable car, so the people and cars crossing the tracks are crossing in front of a cable car.

This was shot only about four days before the catastrophic earthquake and fire, but by that time the film was safely on its way to New York to be developed. I wish all the people in the film had also been out of town.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpFvp_nWBkc&w=420&h=315]

This excerpt is sharper than the longer versions on YouTube.

A Frank Lloyd Wright Clubhouse in Hawaii

Two weeks ago, I posted here about the Oak Park, Illinois, neighborhood with several homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. When I was in Maui last week on vacation, I had to take a look at a golf clubhouse from designs by Frank Lloyd Wright.

I drove up the hill with two golfers, my husband and our friend Larry Franklin, who raved about the golf course, but our first look at the clubhouse startled us. Overlooking a large valley, hugging a hillside, the clubhouse looks futuristic.

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You see a small part of the valley below.
You see a small part of the valley below.

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Built in 1993, decades after the passing of Wright, the clubhouse of the King Kamehameha Golf Club, is from archived Frank Lloyd Wright designs for a structure or structures that were never built. They were adapted by Taliesin Architects.

Check out the link above. It has photos of a side with circular windows, and the interior, which I did not get to see. It is a private golf club. (Golfers can sample the course with a day pass.)

The video on the page, from the Golf Channel, says the design was based on a home for a certain screen legend. No spoiler from me.

The website also devotes a page to Frank Lloyd Wright’s design, with more photos.  I’m glad I bought that travel guidebook! I did not expect this in Maui.

Me at Kapalua Bay, Maui
Me at Kapalua Bay, Maui

 

A Sunday Stroll in a Frank Lloyd Wright Neighborhood

The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio was closed for the day by the time we arrived in Oak Park, Illinois. We bought a map in the gift shop and walked around the corner.

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On Forest Avenue, most of the homes were not designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The yards are not wide, so it’s one lovely house after another, mostly Victorian and conventional, as you see above.

And then, bang. The 1902 Arthur Heurtley House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. This is Prairie Style, horizontal as Great Plains. Wright wanted to create an American style for homes. This home has leaded windows, for which Wright is known.

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Across the street is the Moore-Dugal Residence, built by Wright in 1895. It’s a Tudor with some twists. Wright said, “A porch on a half-timber English Tudor. That never happened before.” I like the balls under the porch railing, and elsewhere, like the fence, where I got a close look at their ornamentation.

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This house went through a fire in the 1920s, and Wright, who had moved on from Oak Park, returned to redesign and rebuild the ruined upper half. The chimney had been conventional before, and he replaced it with a blade-shaped one.

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Too bad Wright’s studio and home were closed, but if I had got there on time, maybe I would have skipped the neighborhood tour, which I enjoyed very much. I did get to see his studio and home from the outside. The pillars have birds on them.

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There’s a lovely plaque with his name in stone, and above it, one of two sculpted crouched figures.

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Would I have noticed this, up high, if I had toured the interior? I don’t know, but I do know I will try to go back.

1895 Mail-Order Catalog

Just think what life was like in rural America before and after the mail-order catalog. Aaron Montgomery Ward used the trains in Chicago to get goods to far-flung parts of the country. Mr. Ward and his partners stocked goods to launch their first mail-order catalog, but his stock was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. He did not give up but started over, an inspiration to us all, and the Montgomery Ward Catalog debuted the following year. It was a single page long, basically a price list with ordering info.

I own a replica of an 1895 Montgomery Ward Catalogue, published by Dover. I am writing a novel set in the West in 1894, so an 1895 catalog is fantastic for me, but some of the items are remarkable. For example, it offers music boxes, the kind we had as children for our jewelry, but these played three songs, or six or eight, depending on how much you wanted to pay … it was the days before radio.

I bought it brand new several years ago. Wearing it out.

We’re all familiar with old butter churns where the person pushed a pole up and down. In 1895, people ordered butter churns that were boxes or barrels with a side crank. Everything’s up to date in Kansas City! If you could spend another fifteen or twenty-three dollars, you could buy a treadmill to attach to the churn’s crank and put your sheep, goat or one or two dogs walking on it, and they’d churn the butter.

The latest styles:  those little hats women wore, with lots of bows on them. Corsets. Stereoscopes — here’s a link to my post on those .  At over 600 pages, it offers thousands of items. It had no competition at the time, years before Sears & Roebuck.

Aaron Montgomery Ward used his fortune to sue the city of Chicago twice to remove and prevent structures in Grant Park, shown below, a lovely park between the skyscrapers and the lake. Bully for you, Mr. Ward.

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