Friday, March 28, 2008

Motoring in the north

I don't know if you are aware of this, but it turns out that you can do a lot more with the internet than leaving agitated, punctuation-free comments on celebrity blogs.

A mildly interesting story follows. Read on only if you like old things.

I had some people over one recent night for some good old-fashioned drinking and garlic-eating, and I was cleaning my apartment in the morning. Picking some spent National Bohemian cans off my mantelpiece, I noticed something protruding through the bottom of the mantel, wedged between it & the wall above the fireplace. Upon fishing out the filthy thing, I realized it was an ancient postcard.

The front of the postcard features a pastel-colored photograph of a dull low skyscraper, with the caption "The John B. Starks Building. Louisville, KY." The rear of the card informs the inquisitive reader of the Building's size, location, and date of completion (1918). Apparently the choice of postcard didn't merely reflect an odd appreciation for the omnibus speculative office building: the entire text of the postcard reads "New Year's Greetings from 'The Starks.'"

Indeed, the postmark reads "December 31," but the year is illegible. It is addressed to a certain John S. Gibbs, Jr., at 1026 N. Calvert St. in Baltimore, MD. I live in a carriage-house, and enter from an alley running parallel to N. Calvert; 1026 is the address of the apartment building attached to the rear of my place. So this was John S. Gibbs, Jr.'s carriage house (and, apparently, postcard-storage facility).

30 minutes of Googling followed. To narrow down the date, I identified the stamp on the postcard. Not being a philatelist, this was kind of annoying, but still relatively easy: it's a 1c Washington of the Washington-Franklin series, issued from 1912-1922. So 1918-1922, probs.

Next, Gibbs. His dad was a fancypants finance man; he was a receiver of the derelict Baltimore Iron, Steel, and Tin Plate Company in 1897, and a director of the Union Trust, which had some trouble in 1903 when its railroad ventures in Mexico collapsed. The guy was a canning magnate: founded Gibbs & Co., Inc.

Our boy Junior was an usher at the Carr-Brown wedding in 1902, as covered by the New York Times. He had a lovely socialite wife. From the Baltimore Sun in 1918: "Mrs. John S. GIBBS, Jr., who has been occupying a cottage at Chatham, Cape Cod, since the early summer, where Mr. Gibbs joined her several times, is returning by motor and stopped over at Providence, R. I. On her return she will go over to the Eastern Shore, where she will visit her mother, Mrs. DIXON at her country home for the late season. Mrs. GIBBS, who was the beautiful Miss Anne RANSON, is with Mr. GIBBS motoring in the North. She has recently had her portrait painted by Mr. Alfred Partridge KLOTS, one of the most charming that he has done. It is to be placed in the home of Mr. and Mrs. GIBBS at Roland Park." Stop the presses.

By 1921 he was a director of the Fidelity and Deposit Company of Maryland. By 1946 he was the President of the Board of Trustees of Johns Hopkins Hospital. Hats off, Junior.

He died in 1953. His NYT obituary tells us that he was 77, that he was president of the board of Gibbs & Co. canners, that he died at his "Baltimore County estate, Tyrconnell," and that he was fancy in various ways. One may trace his surviving relatives on the web in a similar fashion.

Finally, the John Starks building: it still stands, on Fourth & Muhammad Ali in Louisville. It was sold in 2006. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, and has its own unspectacular Wikipedia entry.

30 minutes of Googling. I realize this is all fairly boring, but the notion that all this was easily recovered from one dusty postcard? God-damned amazing.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008

Happy World TB Day

9 million active cases per year. Rising.
Almost 2 million deaths per year.
#1 killer of those with HIV.
5% of cases multi-drug-resistant.
Most currently available drugs about 40 years old.
About 2 billion people-- 1/3 of the planet-- with latent TB.
Etc. Go wiki the hell out of it.

Monday, March 03, 2008


I did not survive the Holocaust running drugs in an East Baltimore tower with my mother, who does not have Asperger's. The queue forms on the left for publishers who would like to offer me book deals for my traumatic journey through the hell of attention-whoring.


I survived the Holocaust running drugs in an East Baltimore tower with my mother, who has Asperger's.