Jon Crispin's Notebook

Pennsylvania License Plate

Posted in Automobiles, Family, Transportation by joncrispin on 31/07/2013


My parents were pretty straight-forward people for the most part, but they did something together in their later years that was very amusing to me .  When the state of Pennsylvania changed the format of license plates sometime in the early 1990s, my folks were forced to give up a plate number that they had had for ages.  They were really unhappy about this so instead of having a new random number assigned to them, they opted to pay for a vanity plate with their old number on it.  I am sure it was a small victory as these things go, but it meant a lot to them.  After my mom died and we sold their car, I took the plate off and kept it as a reminder of  their spirit and sense of playfulness.  It is on the door of my studio and brings a smile to my face whenever I look at it.

Willard Suitcase #22

Posted in Uncategorized, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 29/07/2013

This appears to be the oldest case in the collection.

Josephine S. was 25 years old when she was admitted to Willard in 1898.


There weren’t a whole lot of her possessions in this case, but what was there was pretty amazing.

A few photographs, 3 books, and not much more.

The hairbrush is quite lovely as is the small piece of fabric with her name and some numbers written on it (by I presume the staff at Willard).  The plate is hand painted.

What was most interesting and touching was this wedding invitation postmarked “1906”.  Since she was from Canandaigua, it is possible that the Lapham family thought she could attend.

I was also interested in this copy of “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.  I looked and it is a first edition (at least of this printing).  Dust jacket and all.

Josephine died at Willard in 1973 at the age of 100.

I will be back shooting tomorrow and will post something later in the week.  Thanks for following.

Donut Challenge

Posted in Food, Jon Crispin by joncrispin on 25/07/2013

I was back shooting suitcases today.  I hope to have a post up tomorrow with a few of the latest.  It was a good day. /  I believe I have mentioned earlier here that I often stop at the Donut Dip in West Springfield  to pick up some treats.  Peggy was mentioning this to the woman who works the counter at the Schuyler Bakery in Watervliet, and of course donut quality came up in the conversation.  We did a bit of an experiment today.  Peg couldn’t get an “old fashioned” but we did have glazed and jam donut parity.  The glazed (bottom row) were markedly different.  I preferred the Dip’s but Jeff and Peg liked Schuyler’s (the latter seemed to me more “cakey” and less melt in the mouth.)  Next up was the jam (top row).  We all liked the Donut Dip’s offering.  Peg was pretty sure it was raspberry.   The lone cake on the left is from the Schuyler and she called it a “raised”.  Not sure if the Dip has an equal but I’ll check.

Washington Nationals

Posted in Advertising, Architecture, Baseball, Buildings, Community, Family, Landscape, Sport by joncrispin on 21/07/2013

Cristine and I are visiting Peter in DC for the weekend.  Pete is working as a “fan ambassador” for the Nationals.  His job is to welcome people into the park and help them with any questions that they might have.  So if you go to a game, chances are good that he will be around the center field entrance just inside the main gate.  Look him up!  He is a great guy and would love to chat.  / The Nats are having a rough season this year and last night was emblematic of how things are going for them.  A difficult loss in 10 innings.  Everyone was moving very slowly on a hot summer’s night and the game lasted over 4 hours. It was a sell out and the only tickets Cris and I could get were standing room.  But at $15.00 a real deal.  Peter got us comp tickets for Monday’s game vs the Pirates and we are looking forward to having actual seats.

Willard Suitcase #21 / Irma M. (update)

Posted in Asylums, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 18/07/2013


My good friend Connie Frisbee Houde (who works with clothing and fabrics at the New York State Museum and is also a photographer) sent me some information about the shawl that was in yesterday’s post.  The technique is called assuit.  Very interesting, so click the link to read more.  She also mentioned that the garment with the purple lining is more likely a coat than a bathrobe.  She said sometimes these are referred to as opera cloaks.

Willard Suitcase #21 / Irma M.

Posted in Asylums, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 17/07/2013

I was back at the museum shooting suitcases yesterday.  Irma’s possessions were in several storage boxes and we weren’t able to finish up last week.  This time I concentrated on some of her travel memorabilia and a few pieces of fabric.

As I had mentioned in last week’s post, she seems to have travelled extensively before coming to Willard.  One of the boxes contained many items from Scandinavia including this beautiful collection of photographs from Norway.

She was quite a collector.

This interesting card was addressed to her when she was in New York City and I think it might have been from her sister.  Below is the reverse side.

And it appears that she spent time taking the cure at Mont-Dore.

This brochure is very cool.

For those of you fortunate enough to read French, you can get an idea about the treatments available.  I am totally diggin’ les “Costumes du Mont-Dore”.

Here is a small section of the map that opened up in the center of the brochure.

And here she is in all her beauty.  Heart-breaking.  Note the sheet music in the photo on the left.

There was a large collection of family snapshots.

And I believe that the gentleman on the bottom left is her brother or brother in law.

This is a detail of a bathrobe that was obviously hand sewn.

Above are two beautiful scarves with this small clutch purse.

And a nice detail of the beads on the clutch.

Yesterday I also shot a case of a woman named Josephine who came to Willard at the age of 25 in 1898 and died at the institution in 1973.  Her case is the oldest in the collection and I hope to post some shots next week.  Thanks for following, and thanks so much to the New York State Museum for allowing me access to this amazing collection.

Meadville, PA

Posted in Family, Plants, Trees by joncrispin on 14/07/2013

I am in Meadville sitting in a Tim Horton’s.  It is the only open café with WIFI and I wanted to do a quick post before I head out of town.

My dad died in 2007 and in memorial to his time teaching at Allegheny College the family decided to plant a tree on the campus.  I wanted to check on it to see how it was faring and was happy to see that it is in good shape.

My sister Karen knows a lot about trees and gardens and she suggested a Winter King.  Here’s a link describing it and it seems an apt choice. (It is cool that the link goes to Penn State’s Extension program as dad got his doctorate in German Literature there.)  I especially like how the bark peels off; it kind of reminds me of a sycamore which is a tree I also like.  I have been thinking about a long post about my dad which I hope to get to in the next few months.  He was a very interesting guy.

Willard Suitcase # 20

Posted in History, Jon Crispin, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 10/07/2013

This past Monday I began documenting the Willard suitcases again after not having done so since last September.  I had stopped shooting at that time to prepare for the Exploratorium exhibit.  The New York State Museum has given me permission to continue the project and it is both exciting and daunting, as there are still over 300 cases to photograph.

Craig Williams thought that Irma M.’s cases would be a good place to start, and so after getting set up, Peg and I began shooting in the late morning.  Irma had several cases, and most of her possessions were in museum boxes.

There wasn’t much in the brown suitcase, but I liked the design of the fabric liner.

She was initially placed in Ward 3, South West

This large trunk had a couple of nice labels on the outside.

I appears that this trunk was shipped to Willard in 1933.

Irma led a very interesting life and it is clear that she spent time in both Europe and North America.

We had the usual problem with deciding what to shoot, as one of the museum boxes was completely full of sheet music.

It appears from her papers that she taught both music and languages in New York City after she moved to the US from Europe.

It is interesting that the composer Jack Bauer signed this one with such a nice dedication.

In addition to all the sheet music, there was a large collection of books and diaries from her travels.  This Panama Canal book is incredible.

As is this sweet little booklet honoring George Washington.

I appears to be written for children what with the large illustrations and the somewhat dodgy history of his time with Native Americans.

Some of the books were in pretty rough shape, as was the interior of the trunk.

This illustrated dictionary caught our attention.

 Peggy is a fluent French speaker and I asked her what her favorite word was.

She responded immediately with “pépinière” and “pépiniériste”.

I especially liked this representation of flags with annotations for the colors.

We were not able to get through all of Irma’s things and I hope to finish her up next week.  This was our last set-up of the day.

The umbrella handle is so delicate.

I was able to find a link to Dr Charles Flesh Food.

This small diary contained some interesting entries.

Whenever I see an address like this I can’t help but wonder who lives there now.  And what about Mrs George Covert?  What was her connection to Irma?

From her diary of 8 January, 1925.

If feels so good to get back to this project and I hope to have more updates soon.  Cheers,  Jon

Neil Gaiman / Poets & Writers

Posted in Published work, Work by joncrispin on 09/07/2013

I mentioned a few months ago that I photographed Neil Gaiman for Poets & Writers Magazine.  The issue is on the newsstands now.

It was a great shoot and he is an amazing guy.  I don’t think I have ever photographed anyone who is so comfortable with a camera pointed at him.  He really made my job easy.

Yesterday, BBC Radio 4 started his latest, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” for “Book at Bedtime” and I listened to the first installment on my way back from shooting suitcases in Rotterdam.  I am pretty sure it is available to hear online and with Michael Sheen reading it is really gripping.

Thanks to Murray at P&W for the assignment.  Great fun.

Block Island Again

Posted in Advertising, Family, Ships, Transportation, Travel, Water by joncrispin on 02/07/2013

We are back out on Block Island visiting our friends Scott and Lisa.  They are so nice to include us in their vacation.  The ferry crossing yesterday was quite rough and kind of fun on the rolling waves.

Cris and I went for a nice bike ride to the North end of the island this morning and then came back and played cribbage.  I love this little travel board.  It was my gramma Krieghoff’s and it is so sweet.  I especially like the Michigan Abrasive Company playing cards that came with it. / Back home tomorrow.  Before we left I tried to set up an “out of the office” auto-reply in my mail program and it totally buggered things up.  Some of you received a ton of email from me with the announcement.  Sorry; I disabled it as soon as I realized what was happening.  /  Happy Fourth of July to you Americans who follow this site.

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