10/12/09

Al Buell, Brown and Bigelow, and TED MANTES


This is a little piece of ephemera I've kept for years. I actually don't know how old it is. It's at least from the '60s, could be the '50s. Until today I really didn't pay much attention to any of the information on it other than the Mantes name. 

Al Buell_calendar_Mantes Scale_tatteredandlost
Click on image to see it larger.

I knew T. R. Mantes, Ted Mantes. He was a very kind man, boisterous voice, extremely vice like handshake. He was well known in the scale business. He died many years ago. I worked during a Christmas break in 1969 at his office in San Francisco which was just down the street from the police station. I used to sit and look out the window at the station. Turns out they were watching us too. People used to come in to buy small balance beam scales and say, "Uhhh, I need a scale to weigh ceramic powder." We all knew what they were buying the scales for and it wasn't ceramic powder. Well the police station knew it too and they'd watch the buyers leave and apparently follow them. Somewhere along the line Ted was talking to someone from the station who let Ted in on the fact the place was being watched. They told him that quite a few of his scales were in the evidence locker. Ted, being the salesman that he was, asked if he could get them back so he could resell them. The cop said "no."

It was because of Ted that I have this old promotional ink blotter. That's what this card is. An ink blotter. It even has an ink stain on the blue backing. Today I decided to research a little bit about some of the other information given on the front.

First off is Brown and Bigelow, a promotional company that's been in business since 1896 when their founder, Herbert H. Bigelow, produced and sold a one-color cardboard calendar with a picture of George Washington for the St. Paul, Minnesota coal and wood company. In other words, Brown and Bigelow has been manufacturing ephemera for us for a very long time. They produced this ink blotter. According to the Brown and Bigelow website:
In 1936, our president Charlie Ward stunned the calendar industry by paying the then extraordinary sum of $10,000 for the exclusive rights to Maxfield Parrish’s "Peaceful Valley." Other artists, including Norman Rockwell, C.M. Coolidge, Gil Elvgren, and Zoe Mozert, soon joined our company as contract artists.
And then there's this very interesting information available at this website:
Remember those great-looking Boy Scout Calendars from back in the day? With the classic Norman Rockwell paintings? All-American stuff! Couldn't get more American than that. What you might not know is that the company in St. Paul Minnesota that published those calendars was quite an operation itself.

Hubert Huse Bigelow was the CEO of Brown and Bigelow and enjoyed a measure of fame for his meticulous management style and his tendency to wear unnecessarily "cheap" suites. When the Sixteenth Amendment created the federal income tax, Bigelow simply ignored the law and became the first target of government prosecutors. He was thus convicted on June 24, 1924, fined ten thousand dollars and sentenced to two years in the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas.

Of course, prison life was not exactly Bigelow's gig. A guy like him needed "protection." That "protection" eventually came in the form of a new cellmate, one Charles Allen Ward, who was already four years into a ten-year sentence for violating the Harrison Anti-Narcotics Act. Ward was released on parole in 1925 and, when Calvin Coolidge pardoned Bigelow in 1928, Bigelow showed his gratitude and made his former cell-mate operating manager, then Vice-President, of Brown and Bigelow. He and Ward then proceeded, as a matter of company "policy," to hire hundreds of ex-convicts to produce those darling Boy Scout Calenders, playing cards and this and that. Franklin Roosevelt granted Ward a pardon in 1935 and Ward ran the company after Bigelow's death, until 1959. Bigelow and Ward, the former cell mates, both died as millionaires.
Brown and Bigelow is still in business as a "provider of promotional products and corporate merchandise services". Not bad for a company that started out hawking one calendar.

And now, the obvious. The lady of leisure. The pin-up gal painted by Al Buell. The following is from Wikipedia:
Alfred Leslie Buell (1910–1996) was an American painter of pin-up art. He was born in Hiawatha, Kansas in 1910, and grew up in Cushing, Oklahoma. He attended some classes at the Art Institute of Chicago, which, in concert with a trip to New York City, decided him on a career in art.

In 1935, Buell and his wife moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he joined the Stevens/ Hall/Biondi Studio. By 1940, he had opened his own studio. During this period, he did a number of pin-ups for the Gerlach-Barklow calendar company. Buell also did work for several other calendar companies in the early 1940s.

During World War II, Buell was rejected by the draft, so he spent the war painting a variety of popular and patriotic pin-ups for Brown & Bigelow. After the war was over, he began contributing to Esquire's Gallery of Glamour.

Buell returned to Brown & Bigelow in the late 1950s. He continued to paint glamour and pin-ups until about 1965, when he retired from commercial art. He remained active until he was injured in an accident in 1993, after which he remained in a nursing home until his death in 1996.
To see more of Buell's work see the following sites:
retrogirls.com which shows more work in the same style as shown on this blotter


A few more blotters at Majorettes

And finally HernĂ¡n Restrepo which shows the famous WWII poster
Until today this little card never meant much to me. Now I see a bit of the history involved on how it came to be. I value this now even more, though knowing it was from my family friend Ted Mantes was really enough. It's one of those little gems of ephemera that most people tossed away decades ago. A piece of paper with a history.

4 comments:

  1. Aarg! You have such an interesting blog I am not geting anything done this side of the world!

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  2. Rosie, your post made my day. It'll be a year in November since I first gave blogging a try and for quite awhile it was just me talking into a tin can, no string attached. It's really nice to know there's a string now running to other little tin cans around the world. I'm glad someone enjoys this weirdness. I try to make myself happy tinkering with it and hope others find some value in it. Yup, you made my day.

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  3. I came over to se how the Willow Manor ball was going for you. Has Thomas Crown remained above reproach? We wouldn't want him taking off with any of the jewelry and besides which, there is some chap there who is carrying around a sword, wearing a kilt no less. I'd have Thom steer celar of him if I were you. Lovely dress btw.

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  4. ...mmm...

    Fabulous ball, wasn't it?

    For those not aware, Willow of Willow Manor had a cyber ball that became on the dot of midnight. I was escorted by Thomas Crown who looks amazingly like Steve McQueen.

    I've been without net connection and iffy power the past few hours so I've had to stay away. Storms do that.

    Now I must go back over the Manor and bid adieu to this years social event.

    ...mmm...thanks for checking in on me.

    ReplyDelete