Harmon’s Histories: Gifts for that hard-to-please, has-everything someone

Jim Harmon is a longtime Missoula news broadcaster, now retired, who writes a weekly history column for Missoula Current. You can contact Jim at harmonshistories@gmail.com.

It’s time to sit by the fire and settle in for another cold winter.

This time of year, I like to pull out a copy of Stoves and Hardware Reporter: A Weekly Record and Review of the Trade and review the latest hardware products. One can also learn about developments in heating technology.

Why yes, I do possess a rather refined collection of quality literature. Thank you for noticing.

My eye immediately goes to the ads on the front cover. After all, Christmas is just around the corner and it’s best to have one’s shopping done early.

I see there’s a new model of the Quincy corn popper. Darned if they haven’t added a hand-operated flywheel that keeps the corn stirred so it “never burns of scorches.”

The Lansing (Michigan) Wheelbarrow Co. is offering some clever new runners for our vehicle. As they say, “Why store your sleigh for nine months when you can take off the wheels and change your vehicle into a sleigh in a few moments.” It doesn’t mention whether it works with a ‘57 Chevy, but I’m certain it will.

Since I updated my facial appearance in recent years to include a close-cropped beard, I’m also intrigued by the latest offering of the Coates Clipper company of Worchester, Mass.

They offer “every kind of hand or power clipper.” Their latest model is the “easiest running clipper in the world” and is fully warranted. That sounds like just what I’m looking for.

Oops – I fear I may have dangled or stranded something prepositionally, and even worse, overlooked a rather important descriptive term related to the “easiest running clipper in the world.”

It’s actually the “Number 59, anti-friction, ball bearing horse clipper.” Thankfully, my wife is not looking over my shoulder to assert, as I am sure she would, that it is actually a quite appropriate gift for my personal grooming.

Double oops – I fear I have also failed to mention that my reading material is circa 1897. Perhaps I should have disclosed that a bit earlier. No matter, it’s a still fascinating insight to technology of the past, like improvements in wood and coal burning stoves.

The Cole Manufacturing company of Council Bluffs, Iowa touts its newest “Air Tight” model, guaranteeing “a savings of one-third the fuel.” They have dealers from Minnesota to California and from Jacksonville, FL to Missoula and other Montana cities.

The Columbia Falls dealer Lord Brothers calls it “the best woodstove in the world,” that will “keep fire for 24 hours (and) will burn chips, trash or chunks.” What’s more, it “is the cleanest, cheapest and best heater for home, store, office or nursery.”

Lewistown’s Judith Hardware Co. offers similar air-tight wood-burning models ranging in price from $3.75 to $7.00, but they also offer “Oil Perfection smokeless oil heaters…ideal for the bath room or sick room” for $7.00.

As a trade publication, the Stoves and Hardware Reporter offers advice to dealers on advertising and promotion. They urge targeting a mature audience in their holiday advertising – those “who have arrived at years of (fiscal) discretion”.

Fair enough, but when they specifically define that more mature demographic, I call foul!

“Especially is this the case with married people where there is but little sentiment or romance left to induce them to prefer ornamentality to utility in their choice of gifts.”

Harrumph! “Little sentiment of romance left,” indeed!

OK, I’ve recovered – I’m better now.

The periodical also emphasized the importance of window displays – after all, just because a stove or other appliance may be a bit utilitarian, “their usefulness will not be detracted from one whit by artistic draperies in harmonious shades with festoons and wreaths of holly interspersed among them.”

And of course, the distributors must advertise unless they wishes to “remain at a standstill and allow others to forge ahead in the race.” They need “well written advertisements which inform the public of new goods appropriate to the season at reasonable prices.”

If you aren’t a skilled writer, the Stoves and Hardware Reporter declares it’s just fine to steal.

Say what?

“(T)hose who have the ability to write well must necessarily be plagiarized to some extent by the less skillful writers. Efforts have been made to obtain copyrights for advertisements. So far they have not been successful. 

“In the recent litigation over catalogues issued by rival firms both containing similar illustrations of bath-tubs, the judge said that advertisements were not entitled to copyrights, unless they possessed some value as compositions to the extent of serving some purpose other than for advertising, which is not within the protection of the copyright law.”

That’s it – that went too far, as I pitch my copy of the Stoves and Hardware Reporter into my Cole “Air Tight” stove.

Where’s my copy of “Puck?”

Jim Harmon is a longtime Missoula news broadcaster, now retired, who writes a weekly history column for Missoula Current. You can contact Jim at harmonshistories@gmail.com.