New Year’s Brew

New Years Brew
Robert Howell's "New Year's Brew", with artwork by Spencer Wright

Before continuing on, stop and read the text of Robert B. Howell’s “New Year’s Brew.” I’ll wait.

Now, read it a second time, keeping in mind the devastating 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, which happened just seven months before.  It does not sound like the work of someone wailing in despair over the still-ruined city. Instead it is full of hope and good cheer. Paul Elder and John Henry Nash had moved to New York City in an attempt to revitalize the business in the nerve center of American publishing. John Howell was put in charge of the new bookshop at Van Ness and Bush, designed by Bernard Maybeck.

I’m guessing that Robert Howell was related to John Howell, does anyone have more information on him?

May these words of good cheer follow us into the new year. Happy 2011 to all!

A Christmas Message of Peace and Love

This Christmas card was issued in late 1906, after Paul Elder and John Henry Nash had setup an outpost in New York City following the earthquake and fire of April 18th. It was issued with an envelope that doesn’t match the card’s artwork; it may have been a generic Christmas envelope used for all the store’s cards.  The poem is by Mary Ogden Vaughan, of whom I know little except that she published other poems in The Overland Monthly. The illumination is by Santa Barbara artist Robert Wilson Hyde.

May you have a warm, healthy and peaceful holiday season.

Hyde Christmas
"A Christmas Message of Peace and Love"
Hyde Christmas envelope
Envelope with non-matching artwork

The Great Small Cat and Others

A decade after publishing her popular “101” cookbook series, May Southworth wrote The Great Small Cat And Others (1914), a collection of seven tales for cat lovers. Handsomely bound if unimaginatively typeset, the book is illustrated with eight sepia photographs. From an Arts & Crafts perspective, the book is notable chiefly for the decorations by artist Pedro J. Lemos (1882-1954), who was just becoming well known for his wood-block prints.

I dedicate this post to the memory of Fuller the Cat, who gave us six years of companionship and affection.

Here is short eulogy for Fuller on my blog. And here is a longer piece about Fuller that I wrote for the Kaddish Project.

Fuller onepaw large
Fuller the Cat, 1999 – Dec 10, 2010
Great Small Cat cover
Cover of “The Great Small Cat”
Great Small Cat title
Title page of “The Great Small Cat”
Great Small Cat poem
Poem from “The Great Small Cat”
Great Small Cat p8
“The Great Small Cat,” page 8-9
Great Small Cat p61
“The Great Small Cat,” page 61


In Japanese mythology and folklore, Ebisu (恵比須) is the Japanese god of fishermen, workingmen and good luck, and is one of the Seven Gods of Fortune. Although slightly lame and deaf, he is happy and auspicious. He is often displayed with Daikokuten and Fukurokuju, two more of the Seven Gods of Fortune, in shopkeeper windows.

Paul Elder published this doggerel about Ebisu exactly 100 years ago, as a greeting for the Christmas season of 1910. It is a large format piece—25″ wide—that folds in thirds to a 8.5 x 10″ finished size. Cutouts reveal photographs of the front and back of a pottery Ebisu figure. It’s unclear whether Elder also sold the figurines along with the greeting.

The poet was William O’Connell McGeehan (1879-1933) a sportswriter and editor of the New York Herald Tribune. He wrote primarily about boxing (which he euphemistically called “the manly art of modified murder” or “The Cauliflower Industry”). The Herald Tribune sent McGeehan to Dayton, Tennessee in 1925 to cover the famous John Scopes trial, no doubt sensing a metaphorical boxing match between the attorneys Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan. McGeehan had written Ebisu long before, while he and his wife, journalist and playwright Sophie Treadwell, were still reporters for newspapers in San Francisco.

Ebisu p1
Title page of “Ebisu”
Ebisu p3
W. O. McGeehan’s poem “Ebisu”
Ebisu p4
Ebisu sculpture, with more poetry
Ebisu p5
Back of Ebisu sculpture, with more poetry