Monday, June 24, 2013

Photo courtesy of Bryn Mooth; click to enlarge

Last summer, a Cincinnati food writer named Bryn Mooth was poking around in an antiques shop and spotted a bundle of old recipe cards from the 1930s, which she bought for $3.95. That led her on a fun odyssey that recently culminated in her making contact with the original owner of the cards. I've written a short article about this for the food site Grub Street — check it out here.

(Big thanks to Jeff Ash for letting me know about this one.)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Photo by Kathleen Galligan, Detroit Free Press

What have we here? It's a bona fide message in a bottle! The note was written 98 years ago ago by two Detroit residents named Selina Pramstaller and Tillie Esper. They put the note in the bottle and dropped it in the St. Clair River just off of Harsens Island, which was once the site of a popular Detroit amusement park.

The idea behind a message in a bottle, of course, is that it'll float away and be discovered by some distant stranger (like the one I wrote about last year). But this bottle didn't float off — it just sank to the bottom of the river, where it was recently discovered by a recreational diver named Dave Leander.

Leander soon connected with a local historical society that's now trying to track down the descendants of the two women who wrote the note (no success yet, but they've already found a fair amount of information on the women themselves, so I suspect tracking down a relative should be feasible in the not-too-distant future). You can read more about all of this here.

(My thanks to James Poisso and Taha Jamil for letting me know about this one.)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

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Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register

Okay, this one's a little freaky-deaky. The woman shown above is a California resident named Marion Shurtleff. She's holding a 65-year-old essay that she found in a Bible that she recently purchased at a used bookstore.

Here's the freaky part: The essay was written by her.

According to this story, Shurtleff didn't even look closely at the sheets of paper tucked into the Bible for about two months. Then she took a closer look, recognized her own childhood handwriting, and saw her name on the first sheet. She had written the essay to get a Girl Scout merit badge back in 1948, when she was a 10-year-old girl in Kentucky -- 2,000 miles from where she now lives.

The used Bible in which Shurtleff found the sheets of paper was not as old as the papers themselves. So someone had saved her essay and then put it in the Bible at some point, and then Shurtleff just happened to purchase that Bible by bizarre coincidence.

I have to admit, I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around this one. You can read more here, and here's a video report:

(Special thanks to James Poisso for alerting me to this one.)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Photo by Angela Peterson, JSOnline; click to enlarge

The documents you see above were part of a large stash of old papers, photos, and other ephemera that a Milwaukee woman named Lisa Crum found in the garage rafters of a home that she purchased more than a decade ago. Crum wanted to return the materials to their family of origin, but many of the documents were in German, which complicated her efforts. But she was never gave up. Her family moved to new homes twice after the found the documents, and each time she brought the papers with her.

Now her efforts have finally borne fruit. With the help of a local museum, Crum recently made contact with Lori and Steve Zeitlin, who are descendants of the now-deceased couple that had saved the photos and papers. The connection has extra resonance because, as it turns out, many of the documents track the family's efforts escape the Nazis during World War II.

You can get the full story in this excellent article, which is accompanied by this slideshow. It mentions that Crum always felt that the documents were her "responsibility," and that she and the Zeitlins "call each other family now."

So much of this feels familiar to me. It took me more than a decade before I made contact with anyone connected with the Manhattan Trade School report cards. During that time, I moved to a new apartment but took the cards with me, knowing that they were my responsibility. When I eventually began contacting some of the students' descendants, it forged a series of intense bonds, some of which still remain. It's great to see other people experiencing this same kind of connection via found objects.

(My thanks to Nicole Haase for letting me know about this one.)