Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Writing on the Wall

On February 29, 2012 the ribbon was cut for the Bauer Diving Research Library. The personal collection of Museum founders Drs. Joe and Sally Bauer includes some of the earliest published accounts of the story of undersea exploration and is decorated with unique wall hangings. Visitors to the museum are first shown into our Research Library for a short three minute video about the exhibits. Guests can browse through the room and take a closer look at the shelves and other ephemera items along its walls.  Today we had a pleasant comment from one of our French visitors on the French Banner located near the rare books section. He smiled and said he had never seen a banner like this before and towards the end of the visit exclaimed that not only was he impressed with the collection but also with this particular item. The banner he was referring to was this one:
Banner on display in the Bauer Research Library
Photo from the HDM vault of museum founder, Dr. Sally Bauer holding the banner

The gentleman read the banner and said that he will try to explain in what he called his “broken English” to translate; he mentioned that it was about an association. He paused and started describing with his hands a deep sea diver and said it was in a port near Normandy, the sight of D-Day, North West of Paris. According to an archivist from Le Havre that we have been in contact with, “Union Amicale Des Scaphandriers & Aides Le Havre” translates as “The friendly association of helpers for the divers of the city of Le Havre.”  The banner is believed to be Samite, a luxurious but heavy silk fabric that is often weaved with gold and silver thread. We do believe the thread is real silver and was made before 1910.

It is believed that this society was formed by the families and friends of divers who were killed or injured. The banner was carried in annual procession during holy ceremonies for the Virgin Mary since the original name of the port was The Port of Grace. We are currently trying to find out more details on this particular banner. We will be sure to update you as things develop!
On the opposite wall are some interesting pieces of ephemera items. The main piece that catches visitor’s eyes are the diver cigarette cards.

The cards were used to reinforce and add structural support to the cigarette boxes during the late 19th century. The cigarette boxes during this time were made of paper and easily deteriorated.  At first some cigarette companies used the cards to advertise but later cigarette companies such as Allen and Ginter in the U.S created general interest cards. Since men were the majority of smokers, many popular subjects included famous actresses, cars and sports. In Britain, W.D. & H.O. Wills also began to produce general interest cards in 1895. This is very similar to what later developed as trading cards during the 1930’s. Although they were discontinued after World War II to save paper, one company has started printing them again. The museum managed to acquire the Deep Sea Diver cigarette cards from Victoria Gallery. They were made in 1993 and contain 50 deep sea diver related cards. They are also available for purchase in the museum store. Now you can start collecting too!

More information about each of these cards can be located on this website:
Please feel free to ask about any items in the Library or Museum or if you would like to make a comment about our collection please do so, we would love to read them!