This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Displays of ancient artifacts

Last week as I was killing some time during a break in the Commissioners' meeting, I took a closer look at the display case on the second floor of the Court House. (I also took a picture of a stained-glass window.) I had seen the case many times but had never really focused on what was in it.
 The case has the items that were put into the cornerstone of the Court House in 1896. The metal box that contained them is on the bottom shelf of the display case. The items on the top shelf of the display case are fairly easy to photograph, but those on lower shelves are harder to photograph without a lot of glare.
 Many of the prominent businessmen of the day included their business cards. Attorney and private banker is an interesting combination. I think the son of Arthur Hopkins was also an attorney. The Hopkins family was quite prominent, I believe, for the at least the first half of the twentieth century.
 Thompson and Bro also offered and interesting collection of services. Are these the Thompsons for which Thompson Street is named?
 The Hollingsworths pop up again in the Commercial State Bank.
 The card for Drs Washburn & English tells us that Rensselaer had telephone service in 1896. The Washburn House at the intersection of Front Street and Grace Street was build around 1910. Did I.B. Washburn build it, or did a son of his build it? For some reason I recall that there were two generations of Washburns that were physicians, but I may be wrong about that.
 Alfred McCoy's bank has A.R. Hopkins listed as Ass't Cashier and Emmet L. Hollingsworth as Cashier. I thought the first was an attorney and a private banker and the second was the Commercial State Bank. Who knows enough about early Rensselaer history to explain why the same people keep appearing in different businesses?
 The Rensselaer Branch of the Jasper County Public Library has a display called Ancient Technology aimed at teenagers. If you were born at the very end of the twentieth century, some of it may seem like ancient technology, but for us older folks, it seems pretty recent.
 Few teenagers would have had any experience with a rotary phone, so they may not understand what dialing a phone really means. The Nintendo Game Boy is the color version--it was only a few years ago I got rid of the old black and white Game Boy that my kids had abandoned. I do not remember when I last used a manual typewriter, but I suspect most high school students today have never used one.

If the public library of my youth had had a display like this, the record player they would have been one that you wound up and played the old 78 rpm disks. The 45  and 33 rpm disks were the common formats when I was young.

There is a Macintosh SE 30 on display, apparently to represent very early computers. I suspect that a teenager would have no difficulty using it. It had a small screen, but so do smart phones. Unlike the Apple II and the early PCs running Microsoft DOS, the Macintosh had a graphical user interface and a hard drive. I suspect that a teen given an old PC with a couple of floppy drives and no hard drive would be completely lost even if they could figure out how to boot up the machine. (I owned a SE-30 at one time. I bought it used on eBay and after a few years I sold it on eBay. It was for its time a very nice machine.)

A useful addition to the library's collection would be a dot-matrix printer. Remember how much fun they were? And if they want to get an old office machine, a ditto machine would be a great addition. When I started teaching, we did had not access to a Xerox machine. If we wanted to make multiple copies of something, the document had to be typed onto a ditto master and then run off on a ditto machine. The print was blue. There was also mimeograph, which had a better quality, but we did not use that much and I do not remember why. Teachers who have only made copies using xerox (photocopying) machines have no idea of how easy they have it. (Of course the teachers in the era before ditto machines would have said that same thing about my generation of teachers.)

(On the subject of technology, I made another step into the 21st century last week. My son gave us an old iPod Touch, which is like an iPhone without the phone (or camera, because it is a second generation iPod.) This little computer does not run many apps because most of the apps have been upgraded for later operating systems and our little machine does not run the new operating systems, but I figure I will learn whether it is a device that is useful for me or not. Also, last week I became the only member of the family who has never sent a text message. Maybe next year I can do that and take another step into the 21st century.)

Even though there were a lot of these old machines produced, my guess is that there are not too many that survive. When they became obsolete, almost all of them were junked.

Another display at the library is a display of tax forms. Taxes are due in less than a month. If you have a refund coming, you should have submitted yours weeks ago. If you are paying taxes, it is time to get started getting them ready.
Today (Monday) the library has a program at 2:00 that commemorates the days of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a large public works program of the Great Depression. The presenter seems to spend his days like a medieval troubadour traveling the county entertaining and informing audience. (See the sidebar for links.)

Have a happy St. Patrick's Day.

Here is the library blog post on their old technology event.


Capouch said...

Simon Parr Thompson, Sr., was an entrepreneur and large landowner in addition to his law practice. The town of Parr is named after him.

His great-grandaughter is Karen Donnelly, recently retired professor at Saint Joseph's.

Anonymous said...

Remember when you handed out a freshly mimeographed paper to your class, the first thing they did was sniff it? It was a strangely seductive smell....probably the caveman equivalent of huffing.