Saturday, April 7, 2012

Click to enlarge

I collect lots of vintage meat-related ephemera -- old butchery catalogs, old butcher shop photos, old recipe booklets with the word "Meat" in the title (I have about 60 of those), and so on. So when I recently came across an eBay listing for an old looseleaf binder filled with assorted Armour Meat Products brochures, I pounced.

But what I didn't realize, because the eBay seller didn't mention it in the auction listing, was that the materials in the binder had been used by an Armour sales trainee in 1947. His name was Harry E. Counts, and his certificate for having completed his sales training, which I found buried in the back of the binder, is shown above.

The binder also included more than 80 pages of notes, all in pencil, presumably taken down by Harry during his training -- very Permanent Record! The notes are actually much more interesting than the printed brochures. Much like the case of the vintage coat with the bounced check and shopping lists in the pocket, I once again bought something that I thought was pretty cool and ended up with something else even cooler.

Harry didn't have the best handwriting, but it's good enough to get a sense of the sales class he was taking, which was apparently geared toward giving the trainees a grounding in modern butchery practices and Armour's product line. Given the volume of the notes, the class must have taken at least a week.

A lot of Harry's notes read like Livestock 101. Here's a page explaining the difference between a steer, a heifer, a cow, a stag, and a bull (note Harry's spelling of "castraded"; you can click on all of these photos to see larger versions):


And here's one describing the various types of turkeys, ducks, and geese:


Here's some good info on fresh and smoked sausages (I especially like the designation toward the bottom of the second page -- "Loaf Goods"):

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Fun facts -- no, really! -- about lard:

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I'm sure it would have been interesting to have sat in the back of the room on the day the class learned about variety meats, tongues, kidneys, ox tails, and "fries" (i.e., testicles -- or as Harry spelled it, "testicals"):

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One of my favorite notes is on this page, which begins with "Wisconsin Cheese -- Is not made in Wisconsin":


And who was all of this knowledge and expertise aimed at? Why, Mrs. Consumer, of course:


And so on. If you want more, I photographed over 50 of the pages and gathered them into this set.

Toward the end of the binder is a list of the names and addresses of the "guys in school," also described as "List of Drunks" -- presumably Harry's fellow trainees. As you can see, they're all from Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas:


And here's the oddest thing of all: The very last page in the notebook has instructions for a pyramid scheme fueled by a chain letter, purporting to "bring you and your friends a sizable nest egg in a very short time. Take a look:


Interestingly, the last person in the chain -- O.D. Stephens of 1312 Cypress St. in Pine Bluff, Arkansas -- was also one of Harry's classmates. Was Harry playing his friends for suckers? And why was something like this in his sales training notebook?

Nearly all the chain mail addresses are from Pine Bluff, so I'm assuming Harry was probably from there as well. And of course we know he worked for Armour. Unfortunately, some quick Googling based on those parameters failed to turn up anything, and I don't have time right now to go digging through census records and other resources. But if anyone reading this wants to track down Harry, I'd like to know more about him.

1 comment:

  1. Kudos for making it to the end of the notes and finding the List of Drunks and the pyramid scheme. Scams have been around forever; they just take new forms and adapt to technology as it advances.

    Great find.