One of the things I like about volunteering at Governors Island on Sunday as opposed to Saturday is that the morning commute is quiet and easy. There are so few people around and one usually has the sidewalks to oneself. It is not unusual to see film crews out-and-about taking advantage of the quiet to shoot commercials, tv segments, and movies. The rest of the week it is usually just not possible. The film industry is a big part of the local economy and I don’t just mean the actors. Carpenters, craft service persons, and others are all necessary to make it happen. I have seen it so many times over the years now that I hardly think of it. This morning at 8:30 however, I could not help but pause when I saw this just south of Wall Street.
Here is something you don’t see every day. It is a butter sculpture of Roosevelt as Rough Rider. As the caption indicates it was sculpted for the 1910 Minnesota State Fair. Butter sculpting assuredly dates back as far as the Original Churn. From what I learned in the article from which this image appears it became part of popular culture at the 1876 Centennial Expo in Philadelphia. Perhaps because butter’s simplicity contrasted so markedly with the rapid technological changes of the Gilded Age? Whatever the inspiration, one Caroline Shawk Brooks displayed the portrait of a lady in butter in Philadelphia which she had titled Dreaming Iolanthe.
In her article “Butter Cows and Butter Buildings” Pamela H. Simpson notes that Roosevelt was a popular subject of butter sculpting because of his creation of the Food and Drug Administration. Butter Sculpting thrived through the Great War into the 1920s. The Depression and then the rationing during the Second World War ended the practice as a widespread phenomenon. Still, one might still it at state fairs even today.
(image from the private collection of Pamela H. Simpson and published in “Butter Cows and Butter Buildings: A History of an Unconventional Sculptural Medium”, Winterthur Portfolio 41, no. 1 (Spring 2007): 1-19 via Wikimedia Commons)
I was at work yesterday and mentioned that tomorrow (now today) was the 30th anniversary of the Sidd Finch hoax. For those who have never heard, Finch was a hot prospect for the New York Mets in 1985. This was the moment when the Mets were turning it around. Daryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden had won the Rookie of the Year the previous two seasons. Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter were now with the club. Finch was going to take the Mets to Promised Land. There was only one thing: he didn’t exist. It was all an elaborate hoax that appeared in the April 1 edition of Sports Ilustrated. George Plimpton wrote the fifteen page piece on the hurler who could throw it 168 mph. Finch, as the story went, had never played organized ball but had learned an amazing throwing technique while studying Eastern Philosophy in Tibet.
The story sounded so implausible but what made it work was that the April Fools project had the blessing of the Mets management and ownership. Nelson Doubleday owned the publishing firm under which Plimpton was under contract at the time. The general manager of the team and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre also chipped in their support, giving fake interviews to build up the hype and feasibility. An SI photographer went to Port Saint Lucie to record Finch at the Mets training camp. They even found the perfect guy to play Finch, a middle school art teacher from Chicago named Joe Berton.
In today’s world such a tall tale would be debunked pretty quickly. In those days before the internet though, millions fell for the joke. Commissioner Peter Ueberroth was getting anxious calls from baseball people asking for details; editors were chastising beat writers for missing out on the story. It captured Americans’ imaginations for the first of April. It was even on Nightline.
The folks at my job to whom I mentioned it had no idea who Finch was. When I mentioned Plimpton though they lit up. Little did I know that we are in a Sidd Finch renaissance. ESPN’s 30 for 30 released a short today about the whole thing. Take fifteen and have a laugh this April Fools Day.
It is another early Sunday morning. There is about another month to go in the Governors Island season. I was at the public library doing some Roosevelt stuff yesterday. When I was done I went up to the History Department and noticed this display for the World War 1 Centennial. Of course I had stop top and take a quick pic. Which one stands out?
Enjoy your Sunday.
Some people dream of living on a plantation. Jerry Litzel of Ames, Iowa made it a reality. My favorite part are the pillars imported from Georgia.
I love stuff like this, where people take their passion and turn it into something unique and quirky and wonderful. I’m the guy who once made his not-yet-wife drive 1 1/2 hours out of the way, back and forth, to visit Graceland Too in Mississippi.
No one loves his ereader more than yours truly, but a husband and wife team in Toronto remind us of why we should always cherish the real thing. Hat tip to the Hayfoot.
Hey everybody, I am sorry about the lack of posts this week. There are a few weeks to go in the semester and the Hayfoot and I have been busy. The week has been something of a grind.
On the lighter side of things I ask this question: What do FDR, Peter the Great, Crazy Horse, and Martin Luther King Jr. have in common?
Answer: They made Travel + Leisure’s list of the World’s Most Controversial Monuments. Fear not, internationalists among us. Bad taste knows no borders; everywhere from Argentina to Uruguay is here.
Enjoy these misguided homages the good and the great.
Hey everybody, you may or not know that President Ulysses S. Grant created the first national park when designated Yellowstone as such in 1872. Who was aware, however, that at least some of the great sequoias were named after our Civil War generals?
Enjoy your weekend.