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Traveling back to Princeton 2021

Jelly Roll Morton Comes to Princeton

As we are approaching the birthday of Ferdinand Joseph La Mothe (October 20, 1890), professionally known as “Jelly Roll” Morton, it is interesting to note that during the depression and his most difficult years, Princeton University’s Dial Lodge (eating club) booked one of America’s first and best jazz pianists for their 1932 house party weekend.

As noted in the Daily Princetonian 57, no. 64 (April 26, 1932), “Well-known Bands Engaged to Provide Houseparties Music.” The smooth continental Enric Madriguera & His Hotel Biltmore Orchestra played for Cap and Gown, highlighting their just released rumba Adiós. “Colonial, Ivy and Tiger, according to their annual custom, will give their Houseparty dance together, and have arrangements for a Meyer Davis unit to play. This orchestra was at the Waldorf Hotel in New York last winter and has recently been broadcasting over the radio on the Lucky Strike dance hour.”

Morton’s home for a few years, 209 West 131st Street, New York City


Close to the bottom of the announcement is the note that “Jellyroll Morton and his orchestra will play for Dial Lodge while Phil Solari, directing a Meyer Davis unit, will furnish the music for Elm. Morton, who has been on a stage tour for two years, has made a number of records for Brunswick recently recording “Crazy Chords,” a selection which was written by himself.” They do not mention that Morton made his first recording in 1915.

“Morton was jazz’s first great composer, writing such songs as “King Porter Stomp,” “Grandpa’s Spells,” “Wolverine Blues,” “The Pearls,” “Mr. Jelly Roll,” “Shreveport Stomp,” “Milenburg Joys,” “Black Bottom Stomp,” “The Chant,” “Original Jelly Roll Blues,” “Doctor Jazz,” “Wild Man Blues,” “Winin’ Boy Blues,” “I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say,” “Don’t You Leave Me Here,” and “Sweet Substitute.” He was a talented arranger (1926’s “Black Bottom Stomp” is remarkable), getting the most out of the three-minute limitations of the 78 record by emphasizing changing instrumentation, concise solos and dynamics. He was a greatly underrated pianist who had his own individual style. Although he only took one vocal on records in the 1920s (“Doctor Jazz”), Morton in his late-’30s recordings proved to be an effective vocalist. And he was a true character.

Jelly Roll Morton’s pre-1923 activities are shrouded in legend. He started playing piano when he was ten, worked in the bordellos of Storyville while a teenager (for which some of his relatives disowned him) and by 1904 was traveling throughout the South. He spent time in other professions (as a gambler, pool player, vaudeville comedian and even a pimp) but always returned to music. The chances are good that in 1915 Morton had few competitors among pianists and he was an important transition figure between ragtime and early jazz.’

…With the center of jazz shifting to New York by 1928, Morton relocated. His bragging ways unfortunately hurt his career and he was not able to always get the sidemen he wanted. His Victor recordings continued through 1930 and, although some of the performances are sloppy or erratic, there were also a few more classics. …But with the rise of the Depression, Jelly Roll Morton drifted into obscurity. He had made few friends in New York, his music was considered old-fashioned and he did not have the temperament to work as a sideman. During 1931-37 his only appearance on records was on a little-known Wingy Manone date.” —

Read his autobiographical letter to “Ripley’s Believe it or not” above and see the article below announcing that Morton has been dismissed from his union.

Those of us at Princeton can play Jelly Roll Morton here:

Taking a break, back in September

Dutch designer Maarten Baas’s giant Real Time Schiphol timepiece replaces traditional clock hands with a 12-hour-long video performance (+ movie). The three-metre-high clock has been installed in Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport and features a film showing Baas drawing and redrawing the clock’s hands with a roller and paint. Intended to portray a “hyper-realistic representation of time”, the video took exactly 12 hours to film and will take as long to watch in its entirety.

More Books with Money

Thanks to those who responded with suggestions about where to find money in books. Dimitri Gondicas, Stanley J. Seeger Director of the Center for Hellenic Studies, The Council of the Humanities, and Lecturer in Classics at Princeton University pointed to this volume with 24 banknotes mounted on 9 pages. “The banknotes inside,” he writes, “are testimony of the rampant inflation during the WWII German Occupation of Greece.”

The anonymous author writes: “For us Greeks and the future generations the collection of bank notes and paper money put into circulation by the Italians and Germans will be a horrible nightmare and an uncontradicted proof of the hardships that our cruelly tried country has gone through. The Institute of Mining Credit worked out this collection as a symbol for one of Greece’s most heroic eras, which rivals its previous ones in magnitude. This collection represents one of the most important financial events of the most devastating war the world has ever gone through.”

Unfortunately, the bank notes are so gently tipped into the volume, many are already beginning to separate from the page. All except the final example are legitimate and rare.


Oikonomikē syntrivē tēs Hellados, Aprilios 1941-Noemvrios 1944 = Financial Breakdown of Greece, April 1941-November 1944 (Athens, Greece: The Establishment of Mining Credit Corporation, Scientific Section–Historical Collections, [1945?]). 2nd ed. At head of title: Hotan hoi Nazi kataktoun = When the Nazis conquer. On cover: Oikonomika gegonota tou deuterou Pankosmiou Polemou = Financial Facts of the World War II. Ex 2014-0277Q

The Cries of New York

In honor of the U.S. Open, here is a tennis player carved into the Murray Hill Building at 285 Madison Avenue. Nearly 100 grotesques frame the ground floor doors of this 1926 office building designed by Rouse & Goldstone for developer Isaac Harby. The building’s first tenants were Mad Men Young and Rubicam, fulfilling their contract with Jello to move the company to New York. Here are some other figures at 285 Mad.

See also: Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), Cries of London (London, 1820). Graphic Arts Collection (GA) Oversize Rowlandson 1820.01q

Ronald Sheridan, Gargoyles and grotesques (Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1975). Marquand Library (SA) NB170.S47

Laurel Masten Cantor, The gargoyles of Princeton University ([Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University, Office of Communications/Publications, 1983]). Architecture Library (UES) LD4611 .C36

Henry Hall decoration

The Class of 1904-Howard Henry Memorial Dormitory (first occupied in 1923) was designed by M B. Medary, Jr. as an upper-class dorm honoring Howard Houston Henry (1882-1919), Samuel Franklin Pogue, and John Baird Atwood, members of the class of 1904, who died during World War I.

While at Princeton, Henry played football for the Tigers and was selected as an All-American halfback in 1903. To each side of the Henry Hall front door are memorials to Henry’s athletic achievements [above].

Under the windows are reliefs with familiar revolutionary war scenes of George Washington crossing the Delaware and the Battle of Princeton. Around the corner on Foulke Hall (first occupied in 1921) is a similar relief celebrating aviation.

The March 11, 1955, Alumni Weekly clarifies it further:

The stone carvings which decorate virtually every building on the Princeton campus are a source of wonder to us, especially as they are so little known or observed. This one is at eye level on the east façade of Foulke Hall. The significance of the airplane is the Walter L. Foulke ’05, in whose name the dormitory was given by his family and classmates, was a pioneer aviator. Among his more colorful exploits was his leadership of a party of aviators who flew from Long Island to the Yale-Princeton football game of 1915-16. Foulke died in service in World War I, not as an aviator, but as the fatal victim of pneumonia. …


Above each building’s plaques are statues of St. George and St. Michael by A. Sterling Calder,  flanked by swords overlaid with open books. For more information, take the gargoyles tour:




How to Become a Part-Owner in Firmin-Didot, 1885

The French printer and type founder Firmin Didot (1764-1836) was a member of the Didot legacy of printers, punch-cutters, publishers, and paper manufacturers. Thanks to his significant contributions to French printing and modern type design, Napoleon appointed Didot the director of the Imprimerie Impériale typefoundry. When he retired in 1827, his sons Ambroise-Firmin Didot (1790-1876) and Hyacinthe Didot (1794-1880) took the management of the publishing business.

In April of 1885, ownership of the Paris firm of Firmin-Didot, 56 Rue Jacob, was divided into 1000 shares at 4000 francs each. The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired one of the rare certificates giving the owner 1,000th of the prestigious bookseller-publisher. Note the certificate has yet to be filled in, meaning that all the shares were not sold. It also specifies: “This share is transmissible,” and the transfer forms are also included here.


In the name of Mr. ____ following declaration in the transfer book. The Managers

See also: André Jammes, Spécimens de caractères de Firmin et Jules Didot ([Paris]: Librairie Paul Jammes: Editions des Cendres, 2002). Copy no. 21 of 275 exemplaires, in portfolio box; prospectus and sample pages laid in. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Oversize Z232.D53 J36 2002e

Eugène Piton, Famille Firmin-Didot, imprimeurs, libraires, fondeurs, graveurs, papetiers, inventeurs et littérateurs (Paris: Se trouve chez l’éditeur [Impr. de H. Carion] 1856). Rare Books (Ex) 2004-1687N

Air Ink

Graviky Labs co-founders Anirudh Sharma and Nikhil Kaushik have come up with an ink made from air pollution, which they call Air Ink. Each 30-milliliter Graviky pen contains 30 to 50 minutes’ worth of air pollution generated by a single car.

“If that [soot] was in the air, it could give you cancer,” says Sharma, co-founder and director of Graviky, who graduated from the Fluid Interfaces Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab in the United States.

“Taking particles captured by a cylindrical device on a car’s exhaust pipe, Graviky has developed Air Ink, oil-based paints, spray paints, and pens that contain pigments derived from carbon soot. In August, Graviky teamed up with Tiger Beer to provide local Hong Kong artists with 150 liters of Air Ink—from 2,500 hours’ worth of pollution—to create street murals. Their products aren’t currently sold commercially. They hope cities will use Graviky’s devices to revamp public transportation.” –Graviky Labs

Sharma, Kaushik, and two others have been refining their technology for more than a year and recently soft-launched their Air-Ink product as a Kickstarter project with a nearly $10,000 goal. They also hope to make black-ink production more sustainable and environmentally friendly. “We are replacing the consumption of fossil fuels to make carbon black [inks],” they say.

Pledges to kickstarter have far outreached the original goal but it is still possible to order your own bottle of air [pollution] ink.

Replacement kittens for the end of the week


In case you haven’t found the latest Chrome extension, Make America Kittens Again can be added to your Google Chrome browser to automatically detect images of Donald Trump on the web and change them to photographs of kittens. It works especially well with The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.



It works equally well with other members of the Trump family. Depending on the number of images, the replacement can take a few minutes. Give it a try.



When seen in person, these two well-known triptychs surprise the viewer in several ways. They are not flat paint but multimedia collage with molded gesso, string, glass, and other common materials. And they are not the work of a single artist but two. Originally installed at opposite sides of Catherine Cranston’s early twentieth-century Glasgow tea room, the mural above entitled “Wassail” is by Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) and “May Queen” below is by Margaret MacDonald (1864-1933) who trained alongside Charles and eventually married him.

While it is Charles who is always credited with receiving the commission and designing all aspects of the tearoom, Glasgow natives are fond of repeating his comment, “Margaret has genius, I have only talent.” In the early 1900s, the Mackintoshes worked on a series of interiors but unfortunately, Cranston’s business on Ingram Street was demolished. Today, only the Willow Tea Rooms (1903) remains intact.may queen

mackintoshArtist unknown, Stained glass from tenement room, ca. 1910.