“Here Dwells Youth”: Selections from American Pamphlets, 1820-1922: From the New-York Historical Society
Included in this month’s release are pamphlets on American food and cookery, a satire on the role of insurance companies in the aftermath of the Great Chicago fire, a promotional brochure touting a revolutionary beauty treatment, a colorful souvenir program from the Russian Ballet’s visit to New York City in 1916, and elegant catalogs from coach and automobile manufacturers.
Here are descriptions of the latter three.
The New Beauty (1921)
“Here Dwells Youth” trumpets the first page of this illustrated pamphlet produced by Primrose House on East 52nd Street in New York City. This establishment promised women the key to manifesting their real beauty, proclaiming:
That subtle beauty really is within every woman. When she can be made to realize that, her ability to express it will simply have to follow a really scientific method of correcting difficulties and of bringing out her own best points.
This “really scientific method” was called the “Primrose House Face-Molding Treatments.”
The potential client is counseled that “It is careless and unnecessary for a woman to allow signs of neglect—a sagging chin, a drooping cheek, a tired eye” because, after all, “Every man likes to feel proud of his wife. Children love to think mother is the most beautiful person they know.”
There is a description of the lengths to which the founder of Primrose House and her staff have gone to collect only the most exotic beauty preparations from the four corners of the Earth:
One was found, in the palaces of an Egyptian princess, a method by which hands are kept feather soft and smooth. Another has brought from a diplomat’s wife a tonic that restored hair ravished by the horrors of war. A distinguished archaeologist has found, in Syria, the formula for a cream that had preserved the black beauty of a Syrian noblewoman’s eyelashes a thousand years ago.
But the most important treatment, unique to Primrose House, was face-molding. “Those muscles under your skin make all the difference between a sagging tired, aging face and a bright, firm, young one.” We are advised that face-molding is assuredly not face massage which only makes things worse. “Primrose House will have nothing to do with this old-fashioned method.” The modern way includes neck and shoulder treatment which “makes thin necks and undeveloped shoulders a thing of the past.”
There are many more marvelous treatments, all of which are applied by highly trained nurses and “so simple and scientific.”
Souvenir: Serge de Diaghileff’s Ballet Russe. With Originals by Leon Bakst and Others (1916)
This elegant souvenir publication was produced by the Metropolitan Ballet in celebration of the 1916 visit to New York by the legendary Ballet Russe. With many photographic illustrations, it also includes descriptions of the dances and the company. The introduction states that...
Artistic unity and harmonious cooperation are the keynotes of the Russian Ballet. It is important to remember that the supreme technical excellence of individual dancers is the least remarkable element contributing to the sensational success of M. Diaghileff’s organization.
It sings the praises of Stravinsky’s music, the stage and set designers, and…
the interpretations of the mimes and dancers….But how much more thrilling their work becomes when magnified on an ample stage! A perfect performance is essential to intensify the values and originality of these various elements, and it would seem that the Diaghileff Company alone can give such performances. America is fortunate in being offered a dazzling repertoire in which every phase of their amazing versatility will be given full scope.
These two pamphlets published 34 years apart—17 years before 1900 and 17 years after—are expressive of the transition from centuries of horse-drawn conveyance to the transportation revolution ushered in by the automobile.
Phineas Jones & Co.’s Illustrated Catalogue of Fine Carriages (1883)
This pamphlet is richly illustrated with drawings of the handsome carriages produced by the company for prosperous gentlemen. The carriages have specific names and descriptions. Some examples:
Piano Elliptic Spring Buggy—“preferred by many who drive principally on country roads”
Piano Side Spring Buggy—“commended because of its easy-riding qualities on country roads or city pavements. The springs being of unusual length makes it particularly desirable as a business wagon.”
Howell Gig Phaeton—“which has supplanted all others in popular demand. The curved lines of the body give it a remarkably graceful appearance. Being hung low, it is easy of access. It makes a very desirable ladies’ phaeton; being roomy and comfortable.”
Extension Top Park Phaetons—which boasts “Top with rubber centre piece and leather sides and back. Side curtains of fine quality rubber. Upholstered in good quality cloth and velvet carpet. Tastefully painted and striped.”
In addition to the buggies, gigs, and phaetons, the company also offered two-wheel carts and a handsome sleigh. Less than four decades later the automobile was rapidly replacing real horsepower. While mechanics were developing the combustion engine, it was largely the coach makers who were evolving their carriage designs to accommodate this revolution in mobility.
Brewster & Co. Automobiles (1917)
The Brewster family had been engaged in the carriage-building trade for a nearly a century before they began constructing car bodies for the automobile industry. Their focus was on luxury. At one point they were the importer of Rolls Royces for which they designed the coaches. Like the Phineas Jones & Co. brochure, this sales catalogue for Brewster & Co.’s upscale products is extensively illustrated with elegant drawings. Some examples of the descriptions and prices: