Weird Universe


Obsolete Vocations


Original ad here.
Posted By: Paul | Date: Sat Mar 29, 2014 | Comments (15)
Category: Self-help Schemes, Work and Vocational Training, 1920's

Gay’s Lion Farm


For almost 20 years, the only commercial lion breeding facility (and tourist attraction) "in the world."

The Wikipedia entry.

Article from 1926.
Posted By: Paul | Date: Wed Mar 26, 2014 | Comments (4)
Category: Animals, Farming, Sightseeing, 1920's, 1930's, 1940's

Mystery Gadget 20


Taking into account the presence of a wired-up conch shell, please explain what this gadget from the 1920s does.

Answer after the jump.

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Posted By: Paul | Date: Sun Mar 16, 2014 | Comments (10)
Category: Technology, 1920's

The Bald-Headed Men of America

Apparently there have been several instances of the formation of clubs to serve as fraternal organizations for bald men.

The New York Times has this 1896 report.


Then comes this account in 1920, also from The New York Times.


Then comes this report from 1954.


But sometime after that, the original group must have gone under, because in 1972, John T. Capps, III founded the Bald Headed Men of America. They were profiled in a PBS documentary from 1989, as partially shown below.

Apparently, they are still going strong.

Toby the Terrapin, Part 2

Back on Jan. 9, I posted about Toby the Piano-Playing Terrapin, owned and exhibited by Alexander Barbee of Savannah, Georgia back in the 1920s.

And then, about a week ago, I was contacted by Barbee's great-granddaughter, who reported that she came across my post while searching for info about her great-grandfather. She writes:

My great-grandfather was definitely a character.  He was written about by Joseph Mitchell for the New Yorker and also for his book, "Up in the Old Hotel".

My mother could tell you all about Toby, including the story of Toby's birth.  He was purportedly born in the hand of William Jennings Bryan (there's more to it).  And of course he would wink at the ladies, etc.  He is seated at one of my g-g's music boxes (there was an enormous collection of them).

She sent along some higher quality pictures of Alexander Barbee and Toby. In the first picture, Toby is a little hard to see, but you can just make him out on top of the table in the center of the photo (where he's seated at his piano).

WU is proud to be the premier online source of information about piano-playing terrapins!

Posted By: Alex | Date: Tue Feb 04, 2014 | Comments (4)
Category: 1920's

Hitler tamed by prison

Epic prison board fail: This guy, Hitler. Prison has changed his ways. He won't cause any trouble now!

From The New York Times - Dec 21, 1924.
Posted By: Alex | Date: Mon Jan 13, 2014 | Comments (9)
Category: Predictions, Prisons, 1920's

Seaweed Sweaters

Featured in Popular Science Monthly, June 1921

Seaweed is the latest victim of economists; new uses for it are being found constantly. The picture above shows it in its latest form — clothing.
Both the sweater and the pair of stockings that the girl is holding were made from seaweed that grows in China. Yet they look not unlike woolen garments.
Pine-needles are also being pressed into service; and so are many grasses and leaves. At a recent exhibition of the Commerce Bureau in the Customs House in New York city many grass-made garments were shown.

Posted By: Alex | Date: Fri Jan 10, 2014 | Comments (7)
Category: Fashion, 1920's

Toby the Piano-Playing Terrapin

A news-wire photo that ran in papers back in January 1925.

Terrapins have brains of a human-like quality, declares Alex Barbee of Savannah, Ga., owner of "Toby," the only trained terrapin in the world. His pet is seen playing a toy piano. "Toby" does lots of other clever things.

I found some more detailed information about Toby the Talented Terrapin in a short article by Zoe Beckley that ran in the Syracuse Herald - Aug 6, 1925:

Toby was a diamond-back terrapin of unusual gifts. He is owned by a man whose name I have forgotten, but who owns and manages what he claims is the only diamond-back terrapin farm in existence. It is in Savannah, Georgia, and Toby's father ships anything from one terrapin to a carload to any point east, west, north or south, in these United States where the delicacy of diamond-back terrapin may at that moment be desired. Also, he cans terrapin and makes them into soup.

Toby, however, has escaped this fate by virtue of the rare and great affection which exists between him and his master. He is a small terrapin, and he lived in his master's bath-tub. Each of the diamonds upon his back has been lovingly outlined in gold paint.

When Toby is taken from the bath-tub and into the parlor for the edification of visitors, he is instructed to wink his left eye, and Toby responds properly. Then he is told to cry, and up go his tiny flippers to his tinier eyes, while Toby would appear to be violently sorrowing.

But his crowning achievement is waving his flippers temperamentally over the keys of a tiny music box built to resemble a piano, on which his master has propped him. It would appear to the uninitiate that Toby was making music with all the fire of a Paderewski, albeit minus the hair and the politics. Truly, a talented terrapin.

Also found a picture of Barbee's Terrapin Farm in Streetcars of Chatham County: Photographs from the Collection of the Georgia Historical Society

Posted By: Alex | Date: Thu Jan 09, 2014 | Comments (8)
Category: Animals, 1920's

Emergency Bra Construction

Posted By: Paul | Date: Mon Jan 06, 2014 | Comments (4)
Category: Hobbies and DIY, Underwear, 1920's, Breasts

Mystery Criminal


What horrid crime did this nice little old lady commit? Murder? Embezzlement? Drunken driving?

Answer after the jump.

More >>
Posted By: Paul | Date: Mon Dec 02, 2013 | Comments (7)
Category: Crime, 1920's
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All original content in posts is Copyright © 2008 by the author of the post, either Alex Boese ("Alex"), Paul Di Filippo ("Paul"), or Chuck Shepherd ("Chuck"). All rights reserved. The banner illustration at the top of this page is Copyright © 2008 by Rick Altergott.