Uncrowned king’s stamps

Here’s a brief article and photo from the March 1 1933 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of stamps issued by a man who had proclaimed himself king.

Martin Coles Harman (1885-1954) was an English businessman who bought the island of Lundy, located in the Bristol Channel, in 1925. When postal service was discontinued on the island in 1927, Harman covered all postage costs himself for the next two years. In 1929, he issued the postage stamps shown above to cover these postage costs. The unit of currency on these stamps was the puffin, with one puffin being roughly equivalent to one English penny. They are still printed today.

In 1931, Harman decided to go one step further and print his own coins, producing half-puffin and one-puffin coins. He was charged under the Coinage Act and was fined five pounds plus fifteen guineas expenses.

Life dealt Harman a number of blows at this time. In 1931, his wife died of kidney failure. In 1932, he went bankrupt. In 1933, he was charged with conspiracy to defraud and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Saddest of all for him: he lived long enough to see his son, John Harman, die in battle in the Second World War after winning the Victoria Cross for bravery.

The island of Lundy was purchased by Jack Hayward in 1969 and donated to the National Trust. It is now best known for its birds and its shipwrecks.

Clogged drains pile up roads

This is the time of year where thawing of melting snow can cause floods. For example, consider this photo from the February 25 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:

I looked up the weather records for 1936 in Toronto. The middle of February of that year had been cold and snowy: the city received over 24 cm of snow over three days in the middle of the month. This was after a few snow dumps in January that had not had time to melt.

If the city was at risk of flooding, it was unfortunately about to get worse. February 26 brought a mix of rain and snow: 14 mm of rain and 5 cm of snow. And there was 7 centimetres of snow on February 28.

March was warmer, and it must have almost seemed like spring was on its way – until 25 cm of snow fell on St. Patrick’s Day. As everyone knows who lives here, winter can be persistent in Toronto.

The maid and myself

Here[s an ad from the February 25 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star that I found fascinating.

First off, the ad followed a social convention of the time that is horrifying to my modern eyes: the woman providing the testimonial for Princess Pure Soap Flakes doesn’t even get to use her own first name. She’s “Mrs. Walter Kennedy”.

Since she had a maid and lived in the Westmount district of Montreal, I would assume that Mrs. Kennedy was from the city’s English upper crust. Also, she sounds so formal: instead of “The maid and I”, it’s “The maid and myself.”

I would guess that the maid did the actual washing of the wool and silk, but of course I have no way of knowing.

American pianist here

Here’s a photo from the February 25 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a piano player who was about to perform in Toronto.

Dalies Frantz does not have a Wikipedia entry, but the Texas State Historical Association has a page on him. He had an extensive career performing in the U. S. until the outbreak of war, during which he served as an intelligence officer before receiving a medical discharge. He was plagued by health problems later in life and passed away in 1965 at the comparatively young age of 57.

The Internet Movie Database has an entry for him that lists the four movies that he appeared in between 1938 and 1940.

Screen star presents cup

Here’s a photo from the February 19 1931 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a movie star presenting a tennis trophy to a nurse.

Pola Negri (1897-1987) was a Polish stage and film actress who had a successful career during the silent film era. She was considered a sex symbol and reportedly had affairs with Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino, among others. She also started some notable fashion trends, including red painted toenails and fur boots.

After the silent era ended, she moved back to Europe and continued her career there until the Nazis drove her back to the United States. She retired from the film business in 1945 except for the occasional role, and she became a U. S. citizen in 1951.

The Lady Fripp cup mentioned in this caption is almost certainly a reference to Margaret, Lady Fripp (1880-1965). She was the wife of Alfred Downing Fripp, who was the surgeon for both King Edward VII and King George V.

First taste of grease paint

Here’s a photo from the February 19 1931 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a detective who was about to go into the movies.

William J. Burns (1861-1932) was arguably the most famous American detective of his time. Called “America’s Sherlock Holmes”, he was the head of the Bureau of Investigation (the predecessor of the modern FBI) from 1921 to 1924. He founded his own detective firm, the William J. Burns International Detective Agency.

There is an Internet Movie Database page for Burns that lists him as appearing in 19 movies in 1930 and 1931 (along with four film credits from the 1910s). He passed away a little over a year after this photo was taken, so presumably health might have interfered with his film career.

World cruise for their honeymoon

Here’s a photograph from the February 19 1931 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a young couple about to travel on a schooner for their honeymoon.

Zane Grey (1872-1939) was a popular novelist who specialized in Westerns. Originally a dentist, he gradually improved his writing skills with the help of his wife Dolly, who edited his work. He became a prolific enough writer that, after his death, his publishers had enough manuscripts on hand to publish a new Zane Grey novel every year until 1963. His total book sales are estimated to be 40 million copies.

Betty Zane Grey was named after an ancestor, Betty Zane, a heroine of the Revolutionary War. She and her new husband had two children and then divorced in 1939. Ms. Grey later married and divorced again. She passed away in 2007 at the age of 94.

Will accomplish as much

Here’s a photo from the February 19 1931 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a young woman who was the granddaughter of a former United States senator.

I couldn’t find any information on Miss Martha Fall, which suggests that she didn’t accomplish as much as her more well-known ancestor. But this might have been for the best: her grandfather, Albert B. Fall, was Secretary of the Interior in President Warren G. Harding’s cabinet and was caught up in the infamous Teapot Dome scandal. He was convicted of bribery and sentenced to a year in jail, becoming the first former cabinet minister to be imprisoned for acts committed while in office.

Minister voices threat

While I enjoy looking at old newspapers regardless of what year they are, I find that the most interesting items are from newspapers from the early 1930s. For instance, the February 19 1931 edition of the Toronto Daily Star has proved to be a rich source of material.

Here’s a photograph of a minister who really did not want a sewer easement next to his home:

Breaking heads seems un-Christian to me, but then I’ve never had my side yard expropriated for a sewer easement (and I am not a Christian), so what would I know?

Reverend Brown had been living in his house since at least 1920 – he is listed in the Toronto city directory for that year – so, understandably, he was a bit attached to it. He is listed in the city directories up to 1934, but someone else is listed at 293 Delaware in 1935.

I couldn’t find out whether the sewer easement was ever built, but 293 Delaware is now a multi-residential dwelling that looks like it was built some time ago. So, in the end, it didn’t matter.

India’s Jane Russell

The February 7 1953 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained two photographs of an actress from India:

Searches turned up very little on India’s Jane Russell. I found separate Internet Movie Database entries for Mohna and Mohana; a little digging revealed that these were the same person. From this, I learned:

  • She was born in 1929.
  • Her birth name was apparently Mona Cabral.
  • Her current husband was her second – her first husband, also an Englishman, died in a plane crash. Her son was from this marriage.
  • She and her second husband moved to Beirut.
  • She passed away of a heart attack in 1990.

Jane Russell (1921-2011) was an actress and singer known for her well-rounded figure. She was discovered by Howard Hughes in 1940; he directed her in The Outlaw (1943), a movie that controversially showcased her natural endowments.