Tears: In which silent picture actresses tell us how they weep

Tears: In which silent picture actresses tell us how they weep

This behind the scenes story on how silent picture actresses produce tears on cue by Gordon Gassaway appeared in PhotoPlay magazine in September of 1915.

PhotoPlay, September 1915

PhotoPlay, September 1915

Ever since a certain famous director filmed a certain famous star with real tears coursing down her cheeks and splashing mournfully on a ham sandwich she happened to be holding in her hand out of the vision of the curious camera lens, tears have been the rage. No self-respecting five-reeler appears without them. A feature film, without a close-up on tearful thoughts, is like Southern California without sunshine, almost impossible and dour to contemplate.

“Register tears 1” directors are shouting at our best known film queens, and the same BKDFQ’s are promptly registering the same in a space of a few minutes or a few hours or a few seconds.

It took Blanche Sweet twenty-four hours, once, to “get tears” — but that is another story.

How do they do it? Is it an easier thing to do for the camera than for an audience in a theater? What does an actress think about while she looks so sad?

These questions and more are best answered by the moving-picture stars themselves. Some of them are the champion weepers of the film world — not because they are sad by nature, no, but because they are super emotional, perhaps — and to these I turned for a woman’s most sacred thoughts — the things she cries about!

Mary Pickford believes that weeping is purely and simply a part of an actress' calling.

Mary Pickford believes that weeping is purely and simply a part of an actress’ calling.

I began my painless extraction interview plan on Mary Alden, at David Griffith’s picture shop in Hollywood, with a phrase which was meant to sound something like this: “Oh, why do you weep, my pretty maid?” — thinking, of course, that the subject was (quite delicate and required arbitration. Not at all.

Mary Alden is one of those who have taken time to give subjects like “tears and why” and “how to be happy though hungry” some serious consideration. In other words, she is a psychologist and it shows in her working. Which proves, moreover, that brains are not fatal to talent, and that a few more in the heads of the World’s Most Beautiful Women would make Benedicts of us all!

“Tears?” inquired Mary Alden.  “Tears? Easiest thing in the world. Want me to make you some?”

Into her eyes came a far-away look, as though she were witnessing a vision cut-in of the death of a young and harmless child. She seemed to be going gently but firmly into a trance. I was alarmed and took her by the arm. I was not ready for tears. I had not wanted to see tears — I had merely meant to ask about the things, and not to take part in any lachrymose demonstration there in front of several hundred extra men and women. I think I shook her. just a little. She came back to us from that cut-in vision of the young and harmless, and started to talk.


How Not to Hire a Prostitute

How Not to Hire a Prostitute

This ran in Chicago’s Day Book on January 17, 1916. Fine work there officers!


Police Official Suspicious of “Position for Woman” Ad.

Another proof that (Chicago) Daily News want ads are fine tools in crooked hands is contained in a story that broke in the morals court today.

Captain Meagher looked through the Daily News ads one day last week as he sat in his station at 2138 N. California av. He noticed one that didn’t look quite right to him. This ad called for a housekeeper. An easy job was open with good wages, it said. Applicants could call “Albany4336.”

Meagher told Policewoman Anna Schumann to call the number and answer the ad and she did. She was told to come to 3876 W. Grand Avenue for work.

At this address was a saloon, and Miss Schumann applied to the flat above. She was given such an enthusiastic welcome that she grew suspicious of the place from the start. She chatted with the men and women in the flat and answered their questions readily.

After sometime she says, the purpose of the want ad appeared. She was offered a chance to solicit men in the saloon below, she says. Her board and room would be furnished her and she could have half of what she managed to “get from the men. She could take the men from the saloon to her room upstairs, she says she was told.

Miss Schumann acted as though she thought the proposition a good one and told them she had a friend who would like to come to the place under the same terms. Then she left. Straight to Cap’t Meagher she went with the story and he sent her back, this time with Policewoman Mary Hoover by her side and a squad of detectives following her.

No sooner did the policewomen gain entrance than a squad of detectives knocked at the door of the flat. They were admitted by the women sleuths and the place was raided. Eight men and women were arrested, including the owner of the saloon, Mrs. Mary Becker, and her bar tender, Ulysses Smith. They were sent to the morals court on charge of being inmates of a disorderly house.

Cap’t Meagher is glad he watched the News ads so carefully that night “Just suppose,” he said today, “that a young, innocent girl had seen the ad and had gone there to get work as housekeeper. What would have become of her? If we hadn’t noticed the phone number and decided to investigate there is no way of telling how many women might have been taken into the place on promise of a job.”

Source: The Day Book., January 17, 1916

42 Rules for Shop Assistants

42 Rules for Shop Assistants

Canadian Dry Goods Review from 1900

Canadian Dry Goods Review from 1900

One of the collections in the Internet Archive that I find interesting is the Canadian Trade Journals Collection. This collection of Canadian Trade Journals and Catalogs was provided by the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library and the Toronto Public Library and contains catalogs full of beautiful illustrations and advertisements from the late 19th and early 20th century.

Highlights of the collection include Canadian Grocer, Canadian Jeweler, Dry Goods Review, Farmer’s Magazine, and Hardware and Metal Merchandising.

Most of the publications are a combination of news and research items interlaced with Business-to-Business advertisements.

Dry Goods Ads

These suggested rules for dry good store’s front of house staff is from the Canadian Dry Goods Review from 1900.


  1. Wait on children as politely as you do on grown people. They are our future customers.
  2. Salesmen, when disengaged, will take position near the front door, instead of the back. Customers do not come in at the rear.
  3. Don’t stand outside the front door when at leisure. It is an excellent notice to competitors and customers that trade is dull.
  4. Salesmen are paid for waiting on customers, and are not expected to turn them over to the boys or new men who are learning the business, while they busy themselves arranging or putting away goods.
  5. Don’t take a customer away from another salesman until he is through with him.
  6. Don’t turn a customer over to another clerk, if possible to avoid it, except for the dinner hour.
  7. Go for business in every direction; in the store or out of it; wherever you see a chance to make a sale, work for it with all your might. RUSTLE!
  8. Salesmen will sell at marked prices. Do not go to office for a cut price. It always makes trouble.
  9. At retail the dozen price is to be allowed only when the customer takes half a dozen of each kind, or more. Less than half-dozen, in all cases, to be at price for each.
  10. Sorting up a line of goods allowed to make the quantity, the highest dozen price of the lot to be charged, when half a dozen or more are bought.
  11. Clerks or other dealers are to be charged regular retail prices. If the houses they work for buy the goods for them it is a different matter.
  12. Don’t send a customer up stairs or down by himself.
  13. Salesmen will avoid the responsibility of trusting customers whose credit is unknown to them by referring all such cases to the manager. Extending credit without authority makes the salesmen responsible for the amount.
  14. In opening a new account get the business and post office address of the customer correctly.
  15. Never show a price-list to a customer; it confuses him.
  16. Salesmen are expected to sell the goods we have, not the goods we have not.
  17. Salesmen are responsible for their mistakes and any expense attending their correction.
  18. Always charge goods first in the day books. Make out the bill from the charge in the book. Make this an invariable rule.
  19. If you have a charge to make, enter it before waiting on another customer; your memory is apt to be defective and the sale forgotten before it is entered.
  20. All cash bills over $5 enter in your sales book.
  21. Make your charges accurate in detail or description by number, size, etc. By so doing, it facilitates correction, in case of a dispute with the customer.
  22. Close your entry books after making entry. Valuable information may be gained by competitors.
  23. Clerks receiving change from the desk will count the same and see if correct before handing to the customer. Always hand the cash memorandum with the money to the cashier.
  24. If you know of an improvement of any kind, suggest it at once to the manager; it will be impartially considered.
  25. Keep retail stock full and complete on the shelves, so as to avoid detaining customer. Notify each man in charge of a division when you find anything short in it.
  26. Always put the stock in order when through waiting on customers.
  27. Each clerk is expected to see that his department is kept clean and in perfect order.
  28. In arranging goods, put the smallest to the front; when the same size, cheapest to the front.
  29. Use the early part of the day and the last hour before closing in sorting and straightening up.
  30. Prices are not to be cut. Report every cut price by other firms to the manager after the customer is gone, unless he is a well-known and regular customer, in which case report at once.
  31. Do not smoke during business hours, in or about the store.
  32. Employees are requested to wear their coats in the store. It is not pleasant for a lady to have a gentleman waiting on her in his shirt sleeves, or with his hat on.
  33. Employees are expected to be on hand promptly at the hour of opening.
  34. Employees will remain until the hour of closing, unless excused by the manager.
  35. The company will ask of you as little work after regular hours as possible. When demanded by the necessities of business, a willing and hearty response will be appreciated.
  36. If an employee desires to buy anything from stock, he must buy it of the manager; in no case take anything without doing so.
  37. In purchasing for individual use around town, under no circumstances use the name of the company as a means to buy cheaper.
  38. Employees pay for whatever they damage; they are placed on their honor to report and pay for it.
  39. Employees using bicycles will keep them in the cellar or in the back yard; they must not be left where they will cause inconvenience.
  40. Conversation with the bookkeeper, or the cashier, except on business, interferes materially with the work. Do not forget this.
  41. Watch the ends of stock, make as few as possible, and always work them off first, to keep the stock clean.
  42. Keep mum about our business. Always have a good word to say for it, and never say it is dull. Keep your eyes and ears open about your competitors.

Source:  Dry Goods Review 1900

Of course it was about slavery

Of course it was about slavery

There has been a major resurgence in pro-Confederacy rhetoric on social media lately. The public’s increased awareness of the fact that a white supremacy based sub-culture is alive and well in America has produced a backlash against the symbols of the Confederacy that dot the Southern United States.

Heritage not Hate has become a rallying cry that completely misses the point. Honoring your individual ancestors is a personal matter. Using public lands and money to celebrate their rebellion and what it represented is an entirely different matter.

If the Confederacy was built on a foundation of love, it was a love for the status quo at a time when men and women could be property and the wealth resulting from the use of their minds and bodies could be collected by the people enslaving them.

Rewriting History

Rewriting History

The various states that attempted to secede from the Union each individually codified and publicized their reasons for forming a new nation and a major theme that ran across most of them was the passionate desire to keep the institution of slavery safe from limits that might be imposed by the newly elected Republican President and keep the institution growing into new lands to the west. (see: The Declaration of Causes of Seceding States)

There are other reasons that states and individuals supported secession but those were in addition to the preservation of slavery, not instead of it.

Some of the people in charge of elementary and high school history curriculum have done a great disservice to the nation. For almost a century now we have worked hard to insulate students from the harsh realities of nineteenth century America. As a result, we now have adults walking around who think that the causes for the war are unknown and only exist in a murky realm of debatable  opinion. We know the facts, but the facts are rarely presented clearly alongside the supporting documentation that removes a lot of that murkiness.

The same Internet that helps draw these pro-Confederacy activists together provide easy access to primary source materials that let us fully understand what has happening before and during the war if we just open our eyes.


Miscegenation Seems Here to Stay

Miscegenation Seems Here to Stay

The historical taboo among American whites surrounding white-black relationships can be seen as a historical consequence of the oppression and racial segregation of African-Americans.

In many U.S. states interracial marriage was already illegal when the term miscegenation was invented in 1863. The first laws banning interracial marriage were introduced in the late 17th century in the slave-holding colonies of Virginia (1691) and Maryland (1692). Later these laws also spread to colonies and states where slavery did not exist.

The bans in Virginia and Maryland were established at a time when slavery was not yet fully institutionalized. At the time, most forced laborers on the plantations were indentured servants, and they were mostly white. Some historians have suggested that the at-the-time unprecedented laws banning interracial marriage were originally invented by planters as a divide and rule tactic after the uprising of servants in Bacon’s Rebellion. According to this theory, the ban on interracial marriage was issued to split up the increasingly mixed-race labor force into whites, who were given their freedom, and blacks, who were later treated as slaves rather than as indentured servants.

By forbidding interracial marriage, it became possible to keep these two new groups separated and prevent a new rebellion.

Repealing the Anti-miscegenation Laws

Most states in the Northeast, Northern-Midwest, and Western states with these laws repealed them by 1967 with some, including Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Maine, and Ohio, within a generation of the end of the US Civil War.

Repeal Over TimeThe final blow to these laws came with Loving v. Virginia, a landmark civil rights decision of the United States Supreme Court, that invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

The case was brought by Mildred Loving, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, who had been sentenced to a year in prison in Virginia for marrying each other. Their marriage violated the state’s anti-miscegenation statute, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which prohibited marriage between people classified as “white” and people classified as “colored”. The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision determined that this prohibition was unconstitutional and ended all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.

Ku Klux Klan, [between 1965 and 1980]

Ku Klux Klan, [between 1965 and 1980]

In 2013, it was cited as precedent in U.S. federal court decisions holding restrictions on same-sex marriage in the United States unconstitutional, including in the 2015 Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges.

There are still plenty of non-governmental organizations opposed to interracial relationships.

Bob Jones University banned interracial dating until 2000 and segregationists (yeah, they still exist), including modern Christian Identity groups, have claimed that several passages in the Bible should be understood as referring to miscegenation with certain verses expressly forbidding it. Most theologians interpret these verses and references as forbidding inter-religious marriage, rather than interracial marriage.


Chicago Police Hide Boy for Three Days (1915)

Chicago Police Hide Boy for Three Days (1915)

The Day Book was an experimental, advertising-free daily newspaper published in Chicago from 1911 to 1917. It was owned by E. W. Scripps as part of the Scripps-McRae League of Newspapers (later Scripps-Howard Newspapers).

With the Day Book, Scripps sought to eliminate the often adversarial relationship between his editorial staffs and the advertisers that sustained them. To his disappointment, pressure from the business community had at times forced the Cincinnati Post to temper its firebrand campaigns against bossism and cronyism. The Day Book began publishing on September 28, 1911. Like his other penny presses, the Day Book championed labor rights while delivering a mix of politics and lowbrow, sensational content.

Youth Held in Jail Without Booking Since Last Friday
Judge in Boys’ Court Calls the Case Outrageous
Advises Boy to Sue Police

Police Hide Boy for Three Days

Police Hide Boy for Three Days

Just how rotten a stunt the police can pull on a young fellow, or on anybody was queried in the boys ‘court this morning when Judge Fisher balled some coppers out and turned Walter Allan, 5345 Blackstone Ave., out in the open air after three days in the lock-up.

Allan was grabbed Dec. 3 that’s way last Friday by Officers, McGuire, Higgins, Tapscott, as they were signed on the booking sheet, because he happened to look like one of the boys who were throwing stones in the neighborhood of 1505 B. 63rd St. way last October.

The boy was taken to jail and not booked until this morning. He was held three days, under no booking, but just because he happened to look like one of the stone throwers. This morning he was booked for breaking a window and brought into the boys’ court

And then Judge Fisher took a hand. He celebrated his first day on the boy’s court bench by taking a
good hard, and direct, wallop at the methods of the police.

“If such a case as this comes into this court again while I am here I will send for the officers and the captain of the district -to explain things,” Fisher said.

“The whole affair is an outrage. It’s rank police methods. The idea of holding a boy, or anybody else, in jail for three days without even booking him!”

Fisher then advised the boy to sue the city and the officers and turned him loose.

B. Simon, store owner, who had complained of the stone throwing, absolutely failed to identify Allan as one of the boys.

Source: The Day Book, December 06, 1915

A few weeks later The Day Book provided this update to Judge Fisher’s activity on the bench.