4 Leap Miscellanea

Cute as a Button

You see them less today, especially with the use of Velcro and zippers. Made from common materials such as wood and plastic, and seldom viewed as fashionable, buttons nevertheless have a long history as symbols of wealth and fashion throughout the world. In Europe, in the eighteenth century, robbers frequently cut buttons from their victims’ clothing because they were valuable and people of wealth carried little, if any, money on their persons. Buttons have saved lives too, specifically, a President’s life. Before a pistol duel, a friend recommended that Andrew Jackson wear a heavy jacket with metal buttons. When the duel commenced, Jackson struck his opponent mortally but was hit in return. In Hollywood fashion, the bullet was stopped by a button on his coat.

These interesting facts, plus many more, are found in Who’s Got the Button, by Catherine Roberts, a history of buttons, including quirky facts and anecdotes. Roberts also gives information on button collecting – just in case any guy or girl is looking to start. Perhaps you are wondering: “Who collects buttons any way?” Roberts provides this answer: “…a good many boys . . . have caught on to the fact that certain kinds of buttons make tremendously interesting he-man collections that they’re proud to show.” Don’t be fooled, though, collecting buttons is an interesting hobby for both sexes.

Roberts, Catherine. Who’s Got the Button? Old and New Angles to Button Collecting. New York: David McKay Co., 1962.

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Philosophy of a Beard

The Gillette Company has been around for over one-hundred years. The conundrum of facial hair, however, has been around far longer than that. Powerful kings, statesmen, and generals – both good and evil – have had beards. Facial hair has been a symbol of virility for hundreds if not thousands of years, and once to be clean-shaven was considered effeminate. Nevertheless, the appeal of the beard is cyclical, in fashion and then out of fashion, time and time again. Today, facial hair is more of a fashion statement than anything else. If you are troubled over this age-old problem, reading Look Sharp! Feel Sharp! Be Sharp! will, unfortunately, not help. What this pamphlet will do, however, is give some insight into the Gillette Razor Company.

The text presents the history of the company from its founding through its 50th anniversary in 1951. King C. Gillette founded the company in Boston in 1901, and ever since shoppers have known the name. Gillette came up with his idea as he himself was shaving and envisioned the product in his own hands. Though he knew little of engineering, design, or any other detail required to make his invention come to fruition, he created the most effective disposable razor of its time.

Spang, J. P., Jr. Look Shark! Feel Sharp! Be Sharp! Gillette Safety Razor Company, Fifty Years, 1901-1951. New York: The Newcomen Society in North America, 1951.

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The Incredible Amazing Stupendous Tale
of Eliza Bradley

This small text describes the trials and tribulations of Eliza Bradley, the shipwrecked wife of Captain James Bradley. In 1818, Eliza accompanied her husband on a trip to Madeira. Things went awry when a powerful storm caused the ship to run aground on the northern coast of Africa. The crew, along with Eliza and her husband, were captured by Arabs and forced to live as their slaves. Crew members were deprived of most of their clothes and were forced to walk in the blistering sand and scorching sun; Eliza was allowed to ride on a camel. She recounts the hardships that she and the crew faced, including brutal treatment by their captors and unsavory camel cuisine, their only food. Eventually, Eliza was separated from her husband and the ship’s crew and faced these hardships alone. Her freedom was obtained through the good offices of a Mr. Willshire, consul resident at Magadore, who learned of her captivity and offered to pay several hundred pounds to redeem her. Upon attaining freedom, Bradley was reunited with her husband and nursed back to health.

Bradley, Eliza. An Authentic Narrative of the Ship Wreck and Sufferings of Eliza Bradley. Exeter [New Hampshire]: Published by Abel Brown, 1826.

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A Bird in Hand…

How can you stop a flicker from drumming on your roof? Put a blanket or a burlap sack over the spot. What color should you paint your birdhouse? Anything that is a natural color. These concerns, and many others, are allayed in Solving Your Bird Problems by Paul H. Fluck. In this pamphlet, Fluck answers one-hundred questions pertaining to the observation and care of wild birds. He provides useful information on bird diet, housing, dealing with pests, attracting certain types of birds, and much more. While some questions are straightforward, others are a bit more unconventional. Should you, for instance, feed your birds whiskey? The short answer is no. Nonetheless, the pamphlet contains a wealth of knowledge that is useful to anyone concerned with our feathered friends.

Fluck, Paul H. Solving Your Bird Problems. Washington Crossing, PA: Published by the Nature Education Center, [n.d.].

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A Presentation Copy

This small book was awarded to William Walton Leap upon graduation from Grace Downing Grammar School on June 10th, 1942. The book contains the Declaration of Independence, The United States Constitution, and the New Jersey Constitution. The back pages record the signatures of Leap’s teachers, classmates, and “school chums.” Not only does this volume showcase the breadth of Leap’s collection, but also it provides an interesting and personal link to the past.

The Declaration of Independence; The Constitution of the United States, and Amendments Thereto; The Constitution of New Jersey, as Amended. New York: American Book Co., 1940.

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Bottle Town
This is a book about – you guessed it – bottles. Along with the button, the bottle is an intriguing item of bric-a-brac that causes many a savvy collector to drool. In the text, the author provides a basic overview of the glassmaking process, gives locations of early New Jersey glassmakers, and provides information on many different types of bottles. The chapters are organized into the different types of bottles – bottles for whiskey, fruit, bitters, medicine, beer, and others. There is also a section dedicated to figural bottles, that is, bottles that are shaped like US Presidents and other icons. Bottles for bitters are some of most sought after. For those of you who do not know, bitters is an ingredient made from herbs and alcohol that is put into many cocktails in order to flavor them. Not only is the text informative, but also the different types of bottles are very interesting.

Bailey, Shirley R. Bottle Town. Millville, NJ: Printed by Shirley R. Baily, 1968.