Wife of the former premier

Here’s a photo from the October 29 1931 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of the wife of the former premier of Hungary.

Margit Bethlen de Bethlen (1882-1970) doesn’t have a large Internet footprint. I did find a photograph of her from 1929, when her play was opening at the Budapest Comedy Theatre.

Her husband, Istv├ín Bethlen (1874-1946) was Prime Minister of Hungary from 1921 to 1931. He managed to form a coalition of political interests that, according to his Wikipedia page, postponed the rise of fascism in Hungary by a decade. When the Soviet Union took over Hungary after the Second World War, they didn’t want Bethlen forming another coalition, so they arrested him and tossed him into a Moscow prison, where he passed away.

Austria’s most famous sculptress

Here’s a photo from the October 29 1931 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of an Austrian artist who was sculpting the Prince of Wales.

Gudrun Bandisch-Wittke (1907-1982), as she later became, had a long and productive career as a sculptor and ceramics maker. In 1935, she designed the new Austrian one-schilling coin.

She was based in Austria until 1936, when she divorced her first husband and moved to Berlin. While there, she undertook various commissions for assorted government buildings and people, and she married an officer, Karl Wittke, who became a successful businessman.

After the war, Ms. Wittke returned to Austria and founded a ceramics workshop. Other than accepting work from the Nazis, she doesn’t appear to have been associated with the party, though she and her husband did live in a house in Hallstatt that a Jewish family had been forced to sell.

Golf’s greatest teacher

The October 23 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this advice column for golfers:

Chester Horton (1881-1973) doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, but the Rogers Park – West Ridge Historical Society has a page about him. He wrote three golfing instruction books, and his column was syndicated in 126 newspapers. He also appeared in vaudeville with George Burns and Gracie Allen.

Old man Ontario

Here’s an ad from the October 23 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star for a laundry service:

In the 1931 Toronto city directory, Old Man Ontario is featured prominently in an advertisement for Ontario Laundry:

Ontario Laundry also bought ads, still featuring Old Man Ontario, that appeared at the top of some pages in the 1936 directory. The company was located at 260 Berkeley Avenue, with James H. Murphy as its president.

The laundry remained in existence and in the family at least into 1969, which is the last year for which I can access Toronto city directories. By 1941, Old Man Ontario was gone, and the laundry was no longer buying a bold-face listing in the directory, but James H. Murphy and his laundry were still plugging along.

James H. Murphy was listed as the president of Ontario Laundry in the 1951 directory, but the 1956 directory lists Mrs. Ethel Murphy, James’s widow, as the president and W. J. Murphy, who was presumably their son, as secretary-treasurer. In the 1960 directory, William J. Murphy is listed as president, which indicates that Mrs. Murphy had also passed on. In the 1969 directory, the younger Mr. Murphy was still in charge, and the laundry was still at 260 Berkeley.

Google Street View now shows no sign of Ontario Laundry; the building at 260 Berkeley appears to be a newer building. The 1936 directory indicates that Ontario Laundry was next door to the Acme Farmers Dairy.

Avoid that future shadow

Here’s a publicity photograph from the October 23 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star that featured two women, one of whom was much heavier than the other.

Mathilde Comont (1886-1938) appeared in over seventy short films and full-length features between 1908 and 1937, mostly in supporting or uncredited roles. She passed away of a heart attack less than eight years after this photo was taken.

Frances Dee (1909-2004) outlived Ms. Comont by over sixty-five years. She appeared in occasional movies throughout the 1930s, 1940s, and early 1950s. In 1933, she married Joel McCrea; they remained together until his death in 1990.

The photograph is a publicity shot for Along Came Youth, a 1930 picture in which Ms. Dee was one of the stars. Ms. Comont had an uncredited role.

One of the strangest cameras

Here’s a photo from the October 23 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a man who had invented a camera that could photograph the stomach.

Searches turned up some references to John Falenks and his invention:

  • A patent for apparatus for automatic inflation of cavities of the body, which was granted to Diversified Medical Corporation in 1972. Dr. Falenks apparently invented this apparatus.
  • A 1970 patent for the stomach camera itself, also assigned to Diversified Medical Corporation. Dr. Falenks now lived in Red Hook, N.Y.
  • A reference to Dr. Falenks in Close Encounters of the Worst Kind, a 2007 memoir by composer Phillip Lambro. When Mr. Lambro met the good doctor, he was “elderly, dimunitive, impoverished, and good-hearted”. You can buy this book from Amazon for $48.89.

The world’s greatest basso

Here’s an ad from the October 18 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star for both Heintzman pianos and an upcoming appearance by an opera singer.

Feodor Chaliapin (1873-1938) was a Russian basso who often worked with composer Sergei Rachmaninoff. His signature role was the title role in Boris Gudanov. While based in Russia, he maintained two separate families, one in Moscow and one in St. Petersburg.

As a result of the Russian revolution of 1917, he remained outside of his home country after 1921, eventually settling in Paris. His Wikipedia page states, “He was renowned for his larger-than-life carousing during this period, but he never sacrificed his dedication to his art.” Good for him!

He passed away in 1938, and was buried in Paris. In 1984, his body was transferred from Paris to Moscow in an elaborate ceremony. YouTube has some recordings of him, including this one from 1931.

The first mother

Here’s an ad from the October 18 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star in which Bovril was endorsed by the first mother to swim the English Channel.

Amelia Gade Corson (1897-1982) was from Copenhagen, but emigrated to the United States in 1919. She swam around Manhattan Island and from Albany to New York before first attempting the English Channel in 1923. She got to within two miles of her goal before the tides pushed her a further five miles away.

In 1926, Ms. Corson’s swim was financed by a businessman who paid $3000 in expenses and then made a $5000 bet with Lloyd’s of London that she would make it across, collecting $100,000 when she did it. Her feat earned her a ticker-tape parade in New York City.

Ms. Corson’s Wikipedia page claims that her husband, rowing behind her, fed her hot chocolate, sugar lumps, and crackers as she swam the Channel. I suppose that the hot chocolate might very well have contained Bovril.

Masterpieces for sale

Here’s a photo from the October 18 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a 13-year-old boy making his living selling paintings in Paris.

Searches turned up no references to Rene Seguin, either as a child or as an adult. I have no idea what happened to him, but if he was selling paintings at the age of 13 instead of being in school, I fear that life was tough for him.

From Albany to New York

Here’s a photograph from the October 18 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a woman who was planning to swim the Hudson River.

A search for Charlotte Moore Schoemmell (known as Lotty or Lottie) turned up a number of results, including:

  • Her Find a Grave entry, which indicated that she was born in 1895 and passed away in 1966. By the time of this photo, she was the mother of a seven-year-old child (after having her first child die in infancy).
  • Her entry in the Openwaterpedia website, which mentions that she swam the 251 kilometres down the Hudson River over 11 days, eating lumps of sugar soaked in whiskey for energy. In 1926, she also swam around Manhattan Island.
  • A page with a lot of links to stories about Ms. Schoemmell, including that she floated for 31 consecutive hours, swam for 72 consecutive hours, was sued by her sister for recovery of swimming-related expenses, and left her sister a dollar in her will. She also preferred to swim wearing a bathing cap, a whole lot of axle grease, and nothing else, which some considered scandalous.

The last link is to a page on a site that claims that distance swimmer Diana Nyad is a fraud. Her Wikipedia page doesn’t contain any accusations of fraud, but does mention that she is a descendant of the inventor of Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup and that she attempted several times to swim from Cuba to Florida when in her sixties.