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Friday, March 23, 2012

Permanent Waves Guaranteed!

The business of hair has been around for centuries from elaborate updos to stylish bouffants.  In Hannah Campbell's Why Did They Name It...? we learn the story of a skilled stylist, Charles Nestle (born Karl Ludwig Nessler), who was fixated for years on the idea of creating a product that would imbue women's hair with permanent waves.  After much trial and error he came up with an elaborate machine that looks a lot like a contraption for torture:

 When the inventor of the permanent waving machine, Charles Nestle, advertised the opening of his salon in New York, sixty-two women responded.  Sixty-one walked away without the permanent—frightened either by the waving apparatus itself (although it was guaranteed shock-proof) or the price.  But one woman stayed and this was the beginning of Nestle’s American success.  By 1919 a Nestle permanent was part of many women’s beauty regimen” (Campbell, following page 112).

Would you have been brave enough to stay (and pay) for this experiement on your hair, or politely decline?  Another option would've been to say to the woman behind you, "You go first!"

This process took nearly ten hours using harsh chemicals to break the bonds on the hair as it was rolled onto hot cylindrical hair rollers (electrical currents were not predictable in the 1900s) and then the hair was oxidized to maintain the newly formed curls.  This often caused hair breakage which coined the term "pocket perm" because the hairstylists would quickly tuck the broken pieces of hair in their pockets before the clients viewed their final style (Sherrow 303).

My colleague, Elisabeth, told me about a bonnet hair dryer bestowed onto her by her mother.  This contraption from the 1960s did not involve chemicals, but instead involved placing a nylon-like bag (bonnet) over your head with a hole in some vicinity around the bonnet just big enough for the tube attachment.  There was no place for the water to escape, and your hair line received a nice, itchy indentation from the bonnet's elastic rim upon finishing.  It looked a lot like this Lady Sunbeam bonnet hair dyer:

At least it was portable, and hopefully shock-proof!

Campbell, Hannah. Why Did They Name It…?. New York, NY: Fleet Publishing Corporation, 1964. Print.
Sherrow, Victoria.  Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2006. Print.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Happy Birthday to Randolph Caldecott

On this day in 1846, Randolph Caldecott was born in Chester, England. Caldecott was one of the most influential illustrators of the 19th century.

Ever year an award in his honor is given to the illustrator of the "most distinguished American Picture Book for Children published in the United States." The medal features on of Caldecott's illustrations from the "The Diverting Story of John Gilpin." It depicts John Gilpin riding a runaway horse along with startled geese, dogs, and onlookers.

"Sharp of Mind," Indeed.

MLC's state documents librarian, Greg, found this (eye-burningly bright) edition of Southern News and Views from September 1972 (Volume XII, No. 1) and thought we would enjoy reading about the remarkable Mrs. John Heiss. And we did!

We were charmed by Mrs. Heiss and her determination! In case Mrs. Heiss's future is too bright for you to read (might I suggest shades for that?), it states that she completed her undergraduate degree at the W in 1901 and had just received her master's in 1972!

Let's see...that means I'm due for another degree in 2067.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happy Home Education Day!

The Mississippi House of Representatives recently passed House Resolution 57, which proclaims the third Tuesday in March Home Education Day -- that's today! If you're a home educator or student, the Mississippi Library Commission would like to remind you of some of the services available at public libraries across the state:

• Learn-a-Test: A free, interactive tutorial service, Learn-a-Test provides online courses and test preparation for Mississippians of all ages. Courses include a range of options from 4th grade math skills improvement to PSAT and CLEP preparation. Ebooks are also available. Register online through your local public library.

• MAGNOLIA: Provides free access to thousands of journal articles, book chapters, reference book entries, images, maps, and more. Ask your local public library for the username to access MAGNOLIA from home.

• Programming for children and teens, including book clubs and other events, are available at many public libraries.

• Interlibrary loan service, which allows you to request materials not owned by your public library.

• Blind and Physically Handicapped Library Service: Children who unable to read standard print materials due to a visual, physical, or organic reading disability are eligible for the BPHLS service. Materials include audio books and magazines, Braille books and magazines, large print books, and descriptive videos (on DVD and VHS) that provide narration describing the on-screen action. For more information, visit the BPHLS page on the Mississippi Library Commission’s website.

If you have any questions about these services, or need information on your public library, please let us know!

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Days the Music Died

Last week, one of our regular patrons called with a question about a female singer who had died young. He described in great detail exactly where she gained her fame, and how, and how she died. He then fell to wondering about other young female singers who met their demises before their time. For him, and for you, I compiled this list of twenty ladies under 40 who knew how to belt out a tune:
  1. Evelyn Preer 7/16/1896 – 11/27/1932
    Double pneumonia at age 36   
    Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Preer was also a noted actress of the day and helped to define African-American women in film. She performed with the likes of Duke Ellington (
  3. Patsy Cline 9/8/1932 – 3/5/1963
    Plane crash at age 30
    Cline was a pioneering female country singer, being one of the first ladies to break into the genre (Cline, Patsy).
    Patsy Cline
  4. Cass Elliot 9/19/1941 – 7/29/1974
    Heart attack at age 32
    Elliot, who was born Ellen Naomi Cohen, was a member of the 60s pop folk group, The Mamas and the Papas (Cass Elliot).
  6. Janis Joplin 1/19/1943 – 10/4/1970
    Heroin/morphine overdose at age 27
    Blues rock musician of the late 1960s. Famous for singing, among other songs, "Me and Bobby Mcgee" (Janis Lyn Joplin).
    Janis Joplin
  7. Florence Ballard 6/30/1943 – 2/22/1976
    Heart attack at age 32
    An original member of The Supremes, Ballard grew up with Diana Ross and Mary Wilson (Florence Ballard).
  8. Tammi Terrell 4/29/1945 – 3/16/1970
    Brain tumor at age 24
    The talented Terrell performed with Marvin Gaye and other Motown favorites (Tammi Terrell).
  9. Sandy Denny 1/6/1947 – 4/21/1978
    Brain hemorrhage at age 31
    Denny was a British folk rock singer of the 1960s and 1970s (Sandy Denny).
  10. Minnie Riperton 11/8/1947 – 7/12/1979
    Breast cancer at age 31
    Riperton had an amazing voice with a 5 octave range (Minnie Riperton).
  11. Mary Ann Ganser 2/4/1948 – 3/14/1970
    Encephalitis at age 22
    Ganser was a member of the girl group The Shangri-Las along with her twin sister Marge (The Shangri-Las).
  13. Karen Carpenter 3/2/1950 – 2/4/1983
    Anorexia nervosa at age 32
    Carpenter sang with her brother Richard in the duo The Carpenters (Karen Anne Carpenter).
    Karen Carpenter
  14. Karen Young 3/23/1951 – 1/26/1991
    Bleeding ulcer at age 39
    Young was a one hit wonder with Hot Shot (Karen Young American singer).
  15. Eva Cassidy 2/2/1963 – 11/2/1996
    Melanoma at age 33
    Cassidy, who had a strong voice and was adept at harmonizing, became better known after her death (Eva Cassidy).
  16. Wendy Holcombe 4/19/1963 – 2/14/1987
    Cardiomyopathy at age 23
    Holcombe was a talented singer who also played the banjo (
  17. Mia Zapata 8/25/1965 – 7/7/1993
    Strangled at age 28
    Zapata was the lead singer for the grunge punk band The Gits when she was murdered. Her killer was found ten years later with DNA tests (Westmoreland).
  18. MC Trouble 7/30/1970 – 6/4/1991
    Epileptic seizure at age 20
    Born LaTasha Sheron Rogers, MC Trouble was the first female rapper signed to Motown (
  19. Selena 4/16/1971 – 3/31/1995
    Shot at age 23
    Selena was born Selena Quintinilla and later married guitarist Chris Perez. She was a major voice of Tejano music in the 1990s. She was shot by the president of her fan club, who was suspected of mismanagement and embezzlement (Selena).
  20. Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes 5/27/1971 – 4/25/2002
    Automobile crash at age 30
    Lopes was part of the all-female rap group TLC. Her vehicle was estimated to be travelling at 85 mph when she crashed in the Honduras (Lisa Lopes).
  21. Amie Comeaux 12/4/1976 – 12/21/1997
    Automobile accident at age 21
    Comeaux was a country singer who was just getting her big break when she died in a car accident (
  22. Aaliyah 1/16/1979 – 8/25/2001
    Plane crash at age 23
    Born Aaliyah Dani Haughton, Aaliyah was just coming into her own as a rising pop singer when her plane crashed leaving the Bahamas (Aaliyah).
  23. Amy Winehouse 9/14/1983 – 7/23/2011
    Alcohol poisoning at age 27
    Winehouse was a soul and R&B singer with a history of alcohol abuse and an outstanding musical talent (
Did I miss your favorite lady of song? Let me know in the comments.
Rest in peace, ladies. Rest in peace.

"Aaliyah." Contemporary Musicians. Vol. 47. Detroit: Gale, 2004. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 19 Mar. 2012.
"Cass Elliot." Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1994. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 19 Mar. 2012.
"Cline, Patsy (1932-1963)." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 19 Mar. 2012.
"Eva Cassidy." Contemporary Musicians. Vol. 35. Detroit: Gale, 2002. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 19 Mar. 2012.
"Florence Ballard." Almanac of Famous People. Gale, 2011. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 19 Mar. 2012.

"Janis Lyn Joplin." Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1988. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 19 Mar. 2012.
"Karen (Anne) Carpenter." Almanac of Famous People. Gale, 2011. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 19 Mar. 2012.
"Lisa Lopes." Contemporary Black Biography. Vol. 36. Detroit: Gale, 2002. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 19 Mar. 2012.
"Minnie Riperton." Almanac of Famous People. Gale, 2011. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 19 Mar. 2012.
"Sandy Denny: Mercurial Queen Of British Folk Rock." All Things Considered 14 June 2010. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 19 Mar. 2012.
"Selena." Contemporary Hispanic Biography. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 2002. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 19 Mar. 2012.
"The Shangri-Las." Contemporary Musicians. Vol. 35. Detroit: Gale, 2002. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 19 Mar. 2012.
"Tammi Terrell." Almanac of Famous People. Gale, 2011. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 19 Mar. 2012.
Westmoreland, Sean. "Suspect charged in rocker Mia Zapata's '93 murder." Boston Herald 6 Mar. 2003: 020. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 19 Mar. 2012.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Is that you, Ken?

Barbie made her debut in 1959, but her male counterpart Ken Carson, also known as the "Ken" doll, made his debut on March 13, 1961.  That's today!  Happy 51st birthday, Ken!
The Mississippi Library Commission holds, among many reference titles, titles on collectible antiques, figurines, and toys.  I hoped The Collecters Encyclopedia of Barbie Dolls and Collectibles would show the original Ken, and it did!
Check out the flop of hair on the first Ken updated to a slicked back hairdo (and a look of surprise)!

...but have you ever seen the "Now Look Ken" dolls, first made in Taiwan in 1976 (DeWein 108)?  Here are the first and second issues of "Now Look Ken," respectively (DeWein 108):

"Included were a brown hair brush and decal beard, sideburns and two moustaches" (DeWein 107).  What a treat! 

While this wasn't the last time they tried "real" hair on Ken, most of us can agree Barbie wore it (and still wears it) much better!

First Ken picture (DeWein 6)
Second Ken picture (DeWein 8)
DeWein, Sibyl and Joan Ashabraner. The Collectors Encyclopedia of Barbie Dolls and Collectibles. Paducah, KY: Image Graphics, Inc., 1992. Print.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Have Any Last Words?

Following in the footsteps of our post on tombstone epigrams, my eyes have recently happened upon the book Famous Last Words by Barnaby Conrad.  Out of my own morbid curiosity I immediately began to thumb through the book interested in what was uttered in the last moments of breath by little-to-well-known historical figures.  There were a lot of solemn quotes, as you would imagine, but here are some of the more amusing ones:

v  Barnett Barnato (1852-1897): “The English financier and diamond king of great success and notable failures, he jumped from a ship into the sea after saying: ‘What is the time?’” (Conrad 37).
v  Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922): “Cautioned not to hurry his dictation, he said: ‘But I have to.  So little done.  So much to do!’” (Conrad 42).
v  Johannes Brahms (1833-1897): “The German composer died of cancer.  He had just finished a glass of wine.  ‘Ah, that tastes nice, thank you!’” (Conrad 49).
v  Hart Crane (1899-1932): “His poetry was frequently obscure, but in the end his language was clear as he jumped overboard into the sea, ‘Good-bye, everybody!’” (Conrad 74).
v  Anthony J. Drexel III (1826-1893): “He was exhibiting a pistol to a friend.  The demonstration was complete.  “Here’s one you’ve never seen before…’” (Conrad 87).
v  William Palmer (1824-1856): “Hanged for poisoning a friend, he asked as he stepped on the gallows trap:  ‘Are you sure it’s safe?’” (Conrad 159).
v  James W. Rodgers (1911-1960): “A murderer, he was executed in Utah by a rifle squad.  When asked if he had a last request, he smilingly said:  ‘Why, yes—a bullet proof vest.’” (Conrad 172).
v  Stanislas I, King of Poland (1677-1766): “The former king died as a result of burns received when his bathrobe caught fire.  ‘You gave it to me to warm me, but it has kept me too hot.’” (Conrad 186)
Do you have a favorite “last words” quote?  If you have a morbid curiosity, like me, of the last utterings of a different historical figure not listed then let us know!

 Conrad, Barnaby. Famous Last Words. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1961. Print.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Paw sez...

Last week I was searching through the WPA files on microfilm on Tallahatchie County and I came across this gem. This is a letter to the editor of The Democratic Herald that ran on June 6, 1895.

"Paw sez we need a Magistrit in this communerty and sez he thinks Mr. George Sturkey would make a good un, and I think so too, if he is a married man. We girls would prefur one of our fellers to be called 'yer honer', but then he is older and knows the most I guess.

Say, Mr. Editor, do you know where my maw can swop some cotton nittin' yarn fer a settin' of terky egs, she wants 'em bad.

Well, I'll hev to kwit ritin' for paw sez ritin' for newsy papers wont make cotton or corn, nor kill grass nuther, so as the more renownd orthers say more anon.

Yourne trulie,

P.S. You needn't bother about my spellin' as our teacher sez I kan't bee beet."

My favorite part about this letter is "newsy papers"!
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