This little 1908 date book didn’t look like much of mystery when I tossed it, unopened, onto a pile of books I bought at a sale last week. I assumed it was just another small book with blank pages or industrial charts, both of which I oddly like.
At home, I browsed the sections on Postage Rates, City Population, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Weather Flag Signals, and Cleaning Tips.
I quickly learned:
- Books were third class postage, but blank journals were fourth class
- Only three U.S. cities had a population over 1,000,000: New York City, Chicago, and Philadelphia (1900 Census)
- Only three U.S. cities had a population between 500,000 and 1,000,000; Boston, Baltimore, and St. Louis (1900 Census)
- A blue flag meant rain or snow, while a white flag meant clear or fair
- A mixture of emery powder and soap removes rust from steel
But the surprise and mystery began with the February 1908 page. Little slits has been made up and down the right pages with almost 100 cigar labels inserted. I’ve read that children once collected cigar labels but I have no way of knowing if that was the case here.
I browsed a few cigar label collector sites and couldn’t find a reference for most of the labels in the book. I did find a mention that the Andrew D. White label in this book is worth $250 and luckily, there are four in the book. But I’ve learned that “what something is worth” isn’t really determined by a website, it’s determined by whether there is actually a willing buyer somewhere in the world that can find your item and actually shells out the cash for it. So I’m not holding my breath.
I noticed several handwritten entries on the calendar, sometimes behind the cigar labels, usually noting “$500 per week’ and a location. That was quite a sum of money in 1908, the equivalent of over $12,000 today. It was common at that time to earn less than $25 a week. So I began to wonder if these were wages or something else.
My best clues were the notations “Luna Park 12 Days Seattle” and “Closing Luna Park Seattle Opening Oaks Portland, Ore for four weeks”. A bit of Googling revealed that Luna Park and The Oaks were amusement parks that booked entertainment acts. The New York Dramatic Mirror for May 16, 1908 listed The Tyroleans as playing at both of these locations on the exact dates listed in the calendar.
The Sunday Oregonian further describes the act as Ranier’s Tyrolean Singers and Dancers. You can see a picture of them here. The paper reviewed The Tyroleans’ performance in the 2,000+ seat Airdome at The Oaks stating, “Trained among the Alps to outdoor singing, this band of singers have voices peculiarly adapted to their work, and it is safe to wager that at no previous time have Portland music-lovers been accorded such a treat as was given them”. I believe yodeling is involved in outdoor Alpine singing.
There is a slight possibility that the author of the calendar was Harry Breton, an automobilist who made a daily “leap of death” similar to modern day Evel Knievil. But while Breton was the other headliner at The Oaks with The Tyroleans he wasn’t mentioned at Luna Park and his act doesn’t seem to lend itself to a vaudeville theater like the Pantages theaters mentioned several times in the date book.
My research still leaves me wondering if, with certainty, the book belonged to a member of The Tyroleans or perhaps their manager. If the $500/week was for one person or split between the fourteen members of the troupe (for an average wage of $35/week). And… who smoked all of the cigars, who put them in this book, and are the cigar labels really valuable?
If you know the answers to any of these burning questions, please let me know.