Monday, April 8, 2013

More History in the Cards - a la Vuelta!

My mother in law, now departed, was a bit of a pack rat.  I think she was the one who gave me a stack of unusual patent medicine trade cards.  They are from the H.K. Wampole company of Philadelphia, and pitch a product called Wampole's Preparation.  Or, since most of these are in Spanish, Preparacion de Wampole.

These are odd ball cards.  They are of better than average quality, with some really nice images.

(The back of this card describes how much children like the taste of the stuff.  Probably it was not the basic ingredient, cod liver oil.  The cherry flavoring might have been popular.  After a while the significant alcohol content might have been appreciated.)

But I like these cards because they attempt to address topical issues of the day.  Consider this one:

A la Vuelta translates from the Spanish as "around", so I at first thought the entire series was devoted to notable happenings.  But it probably just means: "turn the card over and read about our product".

The back of this one also has the following information: (choppy Google Translation)

"Zeppelin airship. Count Zeppelin of Germany, made a remarkable journey in his airship in May, surpassing anything previously done with similar balloons. Personally directing his new giant zeppelin II. Toured 850 miles in 37 hours. The same Count remained at the helm, assisted by two engineers and a crew of seven men aboard. Declares that his balloon can travel two thousand miles and bear arms and ammunition."

I must admit, this is a bit of a puzzler.  Early zeppelin trials were indeed undertaken over Lake Constance on the German-Swiss border.  That fits the scene.  (In fact the first few zeppelin flights were launched from a floating hanger....that way they could direct the launch to accomodate favorable winds by moving the hanger!")

But this image and the record of early zeppelin flights do not seem to match up.

Here, is a nice history with photos covering early zeppelin flights.  If the "zeppelin II" refers to the LZ-2, well, it made a single short flight in 1906 and cracked up on landing.  And it was a January flight, not in May.

Other possible candidates by time frame could be LZ-3, LZ-4 and LZ-5.  LZ-4 did get a bit of international attention when it managed a 12 hour flight in July of 1908.  A planned and much ballyhooed attempt at a 24 hour venture in August of the same year ended again in a crash landing and destruction of the airship.

Here the LZ-4 leaves its floating hanger getting ready for the 24 hour flight.  The rudder configuration is similar to the card image...but not spot on.

There were quite a few zeppelins  built in the period of 1900-1914. Only the LZ-5 and LZ-10 really looked anything like the "zepp" on the card.  LZ-5 had a short ignomious career, with the usual "downfall".  LZ-10 was a fairly successful passenger craft, but I find no mention of any historic flights in May of any of those years. And by the time they were doing regularly scheduled passenger runs the great novelty of zeppelins was much reduced.

So, who knows?  The copy writers probably just made stuff up.  Or perhaps anticipated the success of the LZ-4 flight and could not be bothered to change the text when it flopped.

The dating of this series of cards is problematic...a few have calenders in the 1905 to 1909 time frame.  An interesting time for the H.K. Wampole company.....their founder, H.K. himself, seems to have went crazy and drowned himself on the way to an asylum.  Afterwards some $200,000 of company funds were discovered to be missing.  

Never to be seen again.

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