Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Poetry of "Candee" Rubbers

Apparently, Connecticut born Leverett Candee (1795-1863) left the dry-goods racket in 1833—he needed a change from the business he'd been in for so long—and moved from the Constitution State to New York where he lost a bunch of money on start ups that never amounted to much. By 1842, more or less broke and, uh, stretched rather thin, he started messing around with elastic in, well, the hopes of a rebound. First it was suspenders. Then, when Charles Goodyear licensed his vulcanization process, Candee became the first person in history to start manufacturing rubber footwear. By 1894, his New Haven, Connecticut, factory was on, um, such good footing that it employed over 2,000 people and was, according to the New York Times, "one of the largest factories in the country."

Like many manufacturers, Candee's products were advertised via trade cards, like the rather thin and flimsy one pictured here, which oftentimes incorporated snippets of poetry or advertising verse. We here at the P&PC Office think this particular card must have been one of a set; titled "Autumn," it begs "Spring," "Summer" and "Winter" accompaniment. Here are the four lines of verse printed in gold lettering beneath a gold embossed picture of two figures celebrating the season's agricultural bounty:

In the cool, dark days of autumn
When the earth is damp and cold,
We should wear our "Candee" rubbers;
They are "worth their weight in gold."

Neither of the figures in the picture appear to be wearing Candee's product, though; the figure in the hat wears shoes that have highlighted-red bows on them, and the figure in back appears to be wearing heels. Why didn't Candee, uh, give 'em the boot? Probably because rubbers aren't the most attractive items to begin with. Knowing it's kind of hard to sex up a pair of galoshes, no matter how practical they are, Candee gives us a poem instead—one that's dense in alliteration (its w's, c's and d's give us something to chew on) and that diverts our attention to the proposed relationship between the value of warm feet and the value of gold that the "cold/gold" rhyme presses. Combined with the shiny gold-embossed design, the card does a pretty good job of compensating for the unattractive product it's hawking, even if its math is, well, a bit of a stretch.