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April 27, 2010

Pvt. M. C. Mayfield, A. Co. 356 Inf. 2189159
Posted by Teresa at 11:03 AM * 95 comments

This morning I was checking something on eBay, got distracted, wandered off, and wound up contemplating a Missouri antique dealer’s listing for a war souvenir: Old WW2 Silver Coin Soldier Engraved Germany LOOK. I scrolled down the page and looked. It was a silver coin from Germany that had been smoothed off and engraved on one side, like a primordial version of those souvenir re-stamped pennies you get at tourist traps. The rather elegant engraving on the coin appeared to say “Pvt. M. C. Mayfield, H. Co. 356 Inf. 2189159.”

I squinted at the lettering. Those were WWII-era letterforms? Sure didn’t look like it to me. Or was that lettering style still being used, twenty years after it was fashionable, by engravers of souvenir coins…?

I love Google because to think of a question is to begin to answer it. I opened a new tab and typed in H “356 infantry” mayfield. And lo, there was a listing for a book: “History of Co. A, 356 Infantry, 1st Battalion, 89th Division.” I thought it was a near-miss until I took a closer look at the sample text:

Marcellus H. Chiles, who had been in command of the Company for some time, …… Pvt. Maynard C. Mayfield, Oates, Mo. Pvt. Willie E. Long, Hinton, Alabama. …
Huh. I went back and looked at the coin again. Could that be an A, rather than an H? It could. I clicked through on the link to the book:
The World War with Company “A”, 356 Infantry, 89th Div., National Army:
From Camp Funston, Kansas to Schweich, Germany, via Canada - England - France - Belgium - Luxembourg
(Treves: 1919, Paulinus Druckerei)
Sometimes when you think you’re asking the internet an obscure question, the information falls right out of your screen and into your lap.

Company A went off to the Great War on May 23rd, 1918, saw their first action on August 19th at Montsec Hill, and took part in the Saint-Mihiel Offensive. They continued fighting in the Meuse/Argonne until they were relieved on November 13th, at which point their score stood at 10 dead, 61 wounded (three accidentally), four cases of shell shock, one guy listed as “missing in action” because he was never seen again after a shell landed directly on his position, and three Medal of Honor winners.* They expected to go home after that, but due to their good record were made part of the Army of Occupation, which is how they wound up hanging around in Germany, buying souvenirs and publishing their unit history.

Right there on their roster was Pvt. M. C. Mayfield: Maynard C. Mayfield, of Oates, Missouri, which is a dab of a town about 140 miles from the antique dealer. Is it the same guy? I think so. The only WWII-era 356th Infantry I can find was a unit in the Wehrmacht, and I can’t find any other Mayfields in the the WWI-era American 356th Infantry.

Writing to eBay vendors about their merchandise is starting to achieve the status of an old habit with me. This one’s my favorite so far:

Sir, I don’t believe that’s from WWII. I think it’s from WWI: Pvt. Maynard C. Mayfield, of Oates, Missouri, Company A, 1st Battalion, 89th Division. Here’s their history: Pvt. M.C. Mayfield is in their roster. You can pass that on to your winning bidder.
He hasn’t written back. I don’t mind. It’s not his problem. This is an editorial compulsion: sometimes you just have to query.
Comments on Pvt. M. C. Mayfield, A. Co. 356 Inf. 2189159:
#1 ::: Jim Kiley ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 12:24 PM:

"and three Medal of Honor winners.*"

Unresolved reference! Quivering in antici--

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 12:28 PM:

Run your text pointer over the asterisk and read the pop-up.

#3 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 12:32 PM:

(Abi does proper footnotes. I mutter asides under my breath.)

#4 ::: Daniel Klein ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 12:38 PM:

Also Meuse has always been one of my favourite place names due to its very close phonetic similarity to a very very dirty German word.

#5 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 12:40 PM:

Vendor unfamiliar with WW1 history and teh Google?
(Also, linky on Medal winners not working. Sorry...)

#6 ::: Larry ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 12:51 PM:

Some nice detective work. Amazing when the tubes are working like they should. I hope the dealer emails you back. I'd love to see their response.

#7 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 01:19 PM:

Every so often I run across something about a print-maker my grandmother represented on eBay, or a book that's not very well listed; if I have the item, or don't intend to try to buy it, I'll send information along explaining various points to the lister. It sometimes leads to more correspondence (like letting someone know that they probably shouldn't try to sell their original Imogen Cunningham photograph on eBay but instead should look for a reputable photography dealer because that's a serious item -- it was an item they were thinking about listing that came up in talk about Thomas Handforth).

#8 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 01:46 PM:

Not seeing any M. Mayfield the right age in the Social Security Death Index. Perhaps he died before Social Security came along.

#9 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 01:57 PM:

Bill@8: Maynard C. Mayfield was born May 17, 1894, and died Feb. 26, 1961, if is to be trusted.

#10 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 02:10 PM:

(P J Evans @ 5, it's not a clickable link -- just hold your mouse pointer over it without clicking, and a tooltip should pop up.)

#11 ::: Mark Wise ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 02:23 PM:

@Teresa "...sometimes you just have to query."

I hear you. Some things just trip one's ILF detectors.

#12 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 02:44 PM:

I think I'm going to have to find out which unit my grandfather was in - he was somewhere in the Meuse-Argonne area when he got shot. (Survived, came home, and lived another forty-some years.)

#13 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 02:45 PM:

Someone was wrong on the Internet!

#14 ::: hapax ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 03:35 PM:

It is the hardest thing in the world to frighten a mongoose, because he is eaten up from nose to tail with curiosity. The motto of all the mongoose family is 'Run and find out'; and Rikki-tikki was a true mongoose.

#15 ::: Don Simpson ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 03:52 PM:

Yes. When one comes across a pyx being sold as a watch case or a cavalry unit insignia identified as a bit of Odd Fellows lodge regalia, the fingers begin to move toward the keyboard....

#16 ::: bartkid ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 04:59 PM:

>Sometimes when you think you’re asking the internet an obscure question, the information falls right out of your screen and into your lap.

Okay, I don't mean to thread-jack, but I will take up your challenge.

I think ML's readership is sophisticated enough and has a deep enough readership of science fiction to help me with this question.

When I was eight or ten years old, in the late 1970s, I read a paperback of collected SF short stories about a mad scientist. It was already an old paperback, so I believe the book was published in the 1950s or 1960s. In each story, the scientist's patrons would put forth a task for him, and he would produce results which were, while following the letter of the commanded task, typically 90 to 180 degrees of the desired result. (Asimov's Azazel stories, which I more than a decade later, reminded me of this collection.) The one story that especially sticks up sharply in my memory was the military getting the scientist to breed or clone man-sized rabbits (à la Harvey) to be soldiers. The scientist was able to produce such leporine troops, and the brass are pleased, until the last paragraph where the scientist reveals that all the rabbits are female, and thus ineligible for combat duty.

What is the name of this book and who wrote it?

#17 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 05:49 PM:

Very cool story.

I ran across the US Army Heraldry organization early on when researching my father's insignia, and found people there who could answer some questions. And had others answered by random people hitting the page I put up with photos of the insignia and questions when I had them (verifiable answers, too, which is nice; it's generally much easier to find the insignia of a unit from its name than vice versa). There's clearly a lot of interest in old militaria still, even if the amount changes a lot from the POV of a dealer.

#18 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 06:18 PM:

Not the book you're looking for, bartkid, but you should check out (on a very similar note) H. Nearing Jr.'s The Sinister Researches of C. P. Ransom, which not only features several stories with that sort of anti-establishment kick but is all about academic politics. Hardback was Doubleday in the late 50s (with an Edward Gorey cover; one of a very few Doubleday SF books with such); paperback was Curtis in the 70s, and both are difficult to find these days -- not terribly expensive (Marty and Alice Massoglia have an $8 copy plus shipping on ABE), but not easy to find.

#19 ::: moe99 ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 06:32 PM:

While back east, visiting my family in KY last week, my brother mentioned, during a conversation about the Civil War, that he had obtained a copy of the two volume set of Grant's memoirs from our great aunt Marg's estate. I asked to see them and was astonished to find that they were first editions. I was even more astonished to find that Grant had personally inscribed the first volume. And as a capper to it all, in leafing through the book we found our great grandfather's discharge papers from WW1.

#20 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 06:41 PM:

moe99@19: Wow! What a great find!

Also, kids these days! (It was my grandfather who fought in WWI).

#21 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 06:52 PM:

moe99 @19 -- be careful with that book! Nice copies are being offered in the $2000 range. And apparently the first edition had a printed inscription from Grant dedicating the volume to the American Soldiers and Sailors -- without showing it to an expert, I wouldn't be certain it was actually signed by Grant. If it is signed by him, I'd expect it to be much more expensive.

First edition on the first volume appears to be 1885, the second 1886.

#22 ::: Tatterbots ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 06:54 PM:

O all-knowing Makers of Light, I have a question.

My grandmother owns a musical cigarette box that plays what sounds to me like a European (but not British) folk tune. I'd love to identify the tune. I've tried Musipedia, but it's no help. Any ideas?

#23 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 07:12 PM:

A sound file would help, Tatters.

#24 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 07:16 PM:

Find a friend with an iPhone and ask them to try Shazam on it, Tatterbots.

#25 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 07:33 PM:

moe99 continued -- Grant died in 1885 (July 23, to be precise) of throat cancer. It's very unlikely that the book was personally signed. If it was, it would be exceedingly valuable.

Ah, thought that might be the case: according to this reference on Grant's last years, he died before the book was published. There are also five different original bindings possible, listed at that site. Sorry to disillusion you.

#26 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 08:27 PM:

Tatterbots: I second the suggestions. Shazam can be an eerily smart application. However, if you don't have access to it, but you do have a site, contrive to put up a sound clip of yourself humming the tune.

I love dodges like that. It beats the heck out of waiting for years for someone in your vicinity to randomly sing, hum, or play a song you've been wanting to identify.

HelenS @9:

Bill@8: Maynard C. Mayfield was born May 17, 1894, and died Feb. 26, 1961, if is to be trusted.
If is to be trusted, he got married in 1917, before the war started, when he was 23. After the war he came home to his wife Alice, in Reynolds, MO, and as of the 1930 census they had four daughters, ages 9, 6, 3, and six months, and one son, age 8.

Maynard and Alice and his parents seem to have always been in Reynolds when the census was taken, so Oates, MO may have been an aberration.

I love the internet. Oh how I love the internet.

Which reminds me: Patrick and I are still trying to get rid of about half a ton of books we used to look stuff up while we were still waiting for Google to be invented. We don't have a car, Patrick can't carry a lot of heavy packages, and I can carry less than that. Does anyone know of a way to find all these books a new home?

Not just the fiction, either. We have a small asteroid's worth of science fiction and fantasy that could be doing more good if it were elsewhere in the world.

Nonprofit status is definitely not required. All suggestions will be entertained, including having someone pop up and say "Me! Give them to me!" Anything short of trashing them will be just fine.

#27 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 08:40 PM:

Teresa@--I'd start by giving the books a spot of their own at Librarything--even if you just list 200 or so, and only add others when some have been sent away and left blank spaces in your 200 (I think that's the maximum you can list for free). Then post the link here, with your requirements--whether you ask for money, or just postage, or nothing at all is up to you, although I don't know that I'd say anything about that over at Librarything. See what happens.

Some might also be apt for donation--wether to a public collection or archive, or to the mutitude of auctions out there for good causes.
You'd still be mailing stuff, just not all at once.

#28 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 08:44 PM:

I've answered three questions today about our BFAC auctions for this week and last. Being a seller (volunteer who does the eBay part) is always a little odd, too.

#29 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 08:46 PM:

TNH #26: Would you be interested in donating said books to a Nigerian university?

#30 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 08:47 PM:

It's quite possible that some of your accumulation of SF has significant value at this point, T. Have a person with a Good Eye look it over before dumping. Srsly.

#31 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 08:57 PM:

Give me a little time, Teresa, to piece together the logistics of popping up and saying "Me! Give them to me!" I get as far in your direction as Norwalk on a roughly monthly basis, so I should be able to make the rest of the trek at some point.

Have you any hope of cataloging the collection, or is the situation more dire than that?

#32 ::: TexAnnet ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 09:52 PM:

Teresa, may I suggest my alma mater?

#33 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 09:57 PM:

me @ 12
Sergeant, Company D, 3rd Kansas Infantry, 35th ID.
Which got beat up pretty thoroughly at Meuse-Argonne, apparently because their training had been for trench warfare.

#34 ::: Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 11:22 PM:

Teresa, check the value on those books on eBay, particularly if they're hardbacks or first eds.

I'm mulling over selling some of my collection simply to pay off bills. Some of the first eds I've got are worth $100+.

#35 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2010, 11:44 PM:

A few weeks ago, my friend Jason's father borrowed Jason's copy of Thirty Seconds over Tokyo. He took it on a trip to Dayton.

When Dad returned the book, it had acquired the signatures of three surviving Doolittle Raiders.

That's a good kind of dad.

#36 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2010, 01:12 AM:

It's hard to get money out of books quickly, though, cygnet.

The person to ask locally, T, is DGH. He'd be likely to know what Currey would pay for the better books out of the batch. And -- if you get that money, then you can use it in Appropriate Ways. You don't have to think about it being you making the profit, if you don't want to.

#37 ::: chris y ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2010, 04:22 AM:

If is to be trusted, he got married in 1917, before the war started before the United States got involved in the war which had been going on for three years at places like the Somme and Verdun, when he was 23.

Sorry to be pedantic.

#38 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2010, 06:56 AM:

Bill Higgins #35: Dad or no, that's a fantastic kind of book-borrower!

#39 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2010, 10:25 AM:

Teresa @ 26: Echoing TexAnne's suggestion, I'd also recommend looking into libraries that have special collections in science fiction.

Texas A&M, TexAnne's alma mater, has a good one; there are some others as well. Since you've been working editors and writers in the SF and fan communities for decades, I suspect your collection could be of keen interest to researchers. (Not just the books, either; if you've got zines, pamphlets, flyers, or any other SF-related correspondence, memos, and ephemera that's just cluttering up your place, it might be of significant interest to have in an SF research collection.)

I work in Penn's libraries. As far as I know, we don't really focus on SF in our special collections, though we have good runs of the major SF magazines in our general collections, and we recently acquired a largish comics collection. I can check to see if there's interest here, but you might prefer someplace that's already doing focused collecting in this field.

A bigger collection here in Philly is at Temple, where their SF special collections include major archives of fanzines as well as professional SF magazines, and various author manuscript collections.

If you get a library seriously interested in your collection, they'll probably be happy to move it for you. I'm not in special collections myself, but if you'd like me to help you look into library possibilities, let me know offline.

#40 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2010, 12:40 PM:

Fidelio, I was more thinking about having them go away in cartons. Maybe even crates.

Fragano, I'd be pleased to donate books to a Nigerian university if the Nigerians or their friends would come get them. The chief logistical problems are that my back has been getting worse, and we don't have a car.

Tom, I always have trouble thinking of our books as having serious value to collectors, even the ones in Frank-mint condition. I was recently checking the prices of Mike Ford's stuff at AbeBooks. Every one of his novels (including the one Michael J. Dodge and the five Milo Dennison titles) was available for a dollar, and you know how painfully uncommon some of those are.

Mark, they're uncatalogued, and you'd have to help fill boxes. If you're still interested ...?

Once we've gotten rid of a lot of the books in our house, we can start in on the storage unit.

TexAnne, I don't have much to offer a science fiction research collection. What they need are some really good blackmail photos of David Hartwell. Among the marvels and rarities in his collection is the only actual copy I've ever seen of Seventh Fandom Speaks.

Bill Higgins, your friend's father can borrow my books anytime.

John Mark Ockerbloom, I'll admit that we've got some good stuff in the fanzine collection. When the hot water heater flooded the basement shortly after we moved in, the prime collectible fanzines carton was the first thing I salvaged. Most of them came out looking no worse than they went in.

If there's an institution that has a more indiscriminate appetite for old fanzines, we can oblige. That's where the storage unit comes in.

I'm more than familiar with the history of Gary Farber's collection, and I've heard Moshe's stories about the last despairing salvage attempts at Joy and Sandy Sanderson's house. Anything would be better than that.

#41 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2010, 12:47 PM:

Teresa, #26: Another possibility you might want to consider is the Browne Popular Culture Library at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. It's not solely focused on SF, but that's definitely within its purview.

#42 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2010, 12:51 PM:

Teresa: You do know how many people you've set to hopelessly salivating at the idea of all those books, don't you?

#43 ::: Lawrence ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2010, 01:02 PM:

I've benefited from a misidentification of a military souvenir.

I was at a flea market in Lexington, Kentucky many years ago, and in a mood to buy a sword -- I think every fantasy author should own a sword, and I didn't yet. I had admired a few weapons, and looked at a few I didn't admire (mostly cheesy engraved ceremonial blades), but hadn't found any in the former category in my price range.

And then I spotted a sword that had a very unceremonious and businesslike look. I asked the owner what kind of sword it was.

"Uh... German, maybe? First World War?"

I could see that was nonsense. I didn't know what it really was, but it wasn't German. I offered him twenty bucks for it. He took it.

I went home and researched it -- no web back then, but I had my books, including the wonderful A Glossary of Arms & Armor.

It's an 18th-century Persian shamshir. Cleaned up pretty nice. It's on a bookcase here in my office now. No idea how it wound up in Kentucky, and I've yet to find a match for the swordsmith's chop.

#44 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2010, 01:13 PM:

Teresa @ 40: I'm more than familiar with the history of Gary Farber's collection, and I've heard Moshe's stories about the last despairing salvage attempts at Joy and Sandy Sanderson's house.
In case anyone else is curious about the latter, I found Moshe's Corflu GOH speech (as reprinted in Littlebrook) on efanzines.

#45 ::: minerva ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2010, 01:44 PM:

Chris @ 37 - not pedantic, and thanks for that.

Re books - perhaps the Merril collection in Toronto would be interested in picking up your collection and having it shipped up? They are a very active research & outreach centre with good facilities.

It's originally based on Merril's own collection, much like yours, of a wide variety of SF related items.

The Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy is a non-circulating research collection of over 68,000 items of science fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction.

See also the Friends of the Merril Collection, who advise on resources.

#46 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2010, 01:48 PM:

bartkid, given your age at the time, could it have been one of the Professor Branestawm books by Norman Hunter? It's a long shot, but the books are great fun anyway.

#47 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2010, 04:47 PM:

Teresa @40--I feel your pain. Especially in my right shoulder and lower back.

Still: Inventory List is the first step.

Although my suggestion might still work for the reference books, even if it's completely impossible for the scientifiction materials.

#48 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2010, 05:26 PM:

TNH #40: A friend of mine is collecting books for that purpose, I'll email you.

#49 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2010, 07:40 PM:

The Lewis Hines Project, or "what happened to the kids in all those old child labor photos?"

#50 ::: Nadya Duke ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2010, 09:12 PM:

I think I love you a little bit. Several years ago I bought an old flag at an antique store, thinking it was a signal flag. But a quick perusal of Chapman when I got home proved that wasn't right. I looked online and learned there was such a thing as a house flag - in other words the flag of a particular shipping line. A trip to the Central library found a book in the reserve collection called Brown's Book of Flags and Funnels. And there I found my flag was the house flag of the Portland Atlantic Steamship Company. It came from the estate of a former Captain in that company. One of my friend, who totally got it, said:"I don't envy you the flag, but I envy you the hunt!" You had all of the fun of the hunt without spending a dime!

#51 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2010, 09:55 PM:

"To think of a question is to begin to answer it."

That there, m'lady, is a sidebar quote. I'm hereby flagging it.

#52 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2010, 10:16 PM:

T @40: Yup, most of Mike's stuff is cheap because there are fewer people who want it than copies around. De gustibus.... On the other hand, a nice first of Ender's Game is an easy several hundred dollars, Speaker for the Dead also in three figures, and the early Wheel of Time hardcovers something similar. All of these are, you may have noticed, Tor Books, and therefore likely to be in your stash. Think "Award winners" when looking. Or early obscure works by later bestsellers.

Most of the libraries for SF materials will already have most of what T is likely to have to offer: and they're really unlikely to have the money or other resources to catalog it properly. It's all well and good to say "find a library who wants it" -- but that's harder than it looks. I'd be surprised if any of the specialty libraries would want the basic stuff. Now, proofs, oddities, correspondence, etc. -- that there's much more of a chance for finding someone who'll take it away.

It's almost worth my time to consider flying out there and advising you....

#53 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2010, 12:27 AM:

Is there any cheap, simple way to characterize most of this collection, say by photographing the spines all at once?

Or photographing every zebra code? There are programs that will swallow those and give you catalogue entries. I don't know much about them... but some of our friends do.

#54 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2010, 01:47 AM:

Aren't there iPhone apps for that?

#55 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2010, 03:16 AM:

Bill Higgins @ #53, one of the Library Thing wonders was its ability to incorporate data scanned with a CueCat. Apparently it's no longer sold or supported, but it looks like LT still accepts data from it.

That being the case, one could create an account at LT and scan the ISBNs into the account.

'Course, if the collection is like mine, half the material will have been printed pre-1970 thus pre-ISBN.

#56 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2010, 06:30 AM:

LibraryThing still sells CutCats. We find it very useful even though we have a whole bunch of Japan-American-published stuff that none of LT's lookup sources have ever heard of.

#57 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2010, 08:39 AM:

Scanning barcodes with a Cuecat might be more work than TNH wants to do... but it is a possibility.

There's another app (Delicious?) that reads barcodes using Apple's Isight video camera and produces catalogue entries. Not sure whether it works on the little cameras built-in to Macs, but if so, it might be ideal for the NH household. I think it employs Amazon's API (application program interface) to come up with book data.

My Android phone has Google Goggles, a program that can look at (certain) objects in the real world and find their counterparts in cyberspace. It can already recognize book covers, zebra codes, large text, DVDs, and famous landmarks.

I have been told that there are licensing problems with hooking it to Amazon API, so it can't be used with Librarything. Yet. Google is still tinkering with this, which is obviously the primitive beginning of something that will be ferociously useful in five years: a search engine that examines the non-virtual world. Especially after they build it into actual goggles.

I think Iphones have barcode and/or ISBN apps, but not Google Goggles. Don't know whether they can pump catalogue entries directly into Librarything.

I was also thinking that simple photographs of the spines on the shelves might identify most of the titles-- if not their editions. Perhaps crowdsourcing by volunteers could generate a useful fraction of the titles.

Or Teresa could open a recording app and speak the titles of all the books in a box or bookcase. Would that be faster?

* * *

I have an original Cuecat sent free to subscribers of Wired in the old days. I have experimented and it does pick up the barcodes on books. It has a PS2 connector, so will work with a PC but not a Mac.

I haven't pulled all the books with barcodes out of the spaceflight & astronomy bookcases, cut the trace on the Cuecat's PC board that injects its serial number into the data stream, hooked up a borrowed Windows machine, fired up the software that talks to Librarything, and catalogued that part of my collection that has barcodes.

But I mean to.

Or maybe if I wait long enough, Droid software will converge with Librarything somehow.

If I had a lot of the books catalogued, that would provide encouragement to enter the pre-zebra and pre-ISBN volumes. Someday.

(I didn't mean to sit down and write this. I meant to make coffee.)

#58 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2010, 09:37 AM:

Typing in ISBNs in LT works pretty well too; LoC numbers don't, not even searching LoC.

#59 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2010, 10:43 AM:

Doesn't Android have an app that can physically lift things and haul them from one place to another?

#60 ::: Rick Owens ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2010, 01:22 PM:

bartkid @ 16:

Not the one you want, but possibly of interest: Clarke's Tales from the White Hart collection included a computer built for the military that would only solve non-military problems. Checking... here's a link:

#61 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2010, 01:22 PM:

DanR @ #59:

You'd think, wouldn't you? In the old science fiction tales (the ones that told us we'd all have flying cars by now), an Android that couldn't haul heavy stuff for you wasn't worth knowing about.

#62 ::: moe99 ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2010, 02:02 PM:

Tom W @21 & 25: those are the dates of publication of both books, and the inscription in the first volume was to soldiers and sailors of the Civil War, plus on the left page facing the inscription there is also another signature of U.S. Grant. Do the other books you've looked at have that? I did tell my brother to get a rider on his homeowner's policy.

#63 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2010, 02:47 PM:

Those are signatures that were printed in as part of the book: they're reproductions. As the site I linked to indicated, the books were printed after he died, so it would be extremely difficult to find a copy that he actually signed. Signed letters laid in, various other documents signed laid or tipped in, quite possible: actual signed copies, not happening. The value of the books is very much related to condition and which of the bindings they have. No reputable dealer or appraiser will give you a value on a book s/he hasn't actually seen and handled. If your brother is getting a rider on his policy, the insurance company will want an appraisal. Depending on where he lives, it might be easy or hard to find a reputable appraiser. Remember that the appraiser should be looking for replacement value, not the price you'd get from a dealer (which is significantly lower).

#64 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2010, 07:00 PM:

HelenS @ 46 -- It's definitely not the first Professor Branestawm book (which I own), and the third and subsequent books in the series were published too late to fit. Could be the second one, I guess, though somehow the feel isn't quite right. (I didn't know until just now that there was a series beyond the original book.)

The general premise seems to fit the "Gallegher" stories by Lewis Padgett / C.L. Moore / Henry Kuttner, but I'm pretty sure that there was never one about Lapinemoth soldiers. At least there was nothing of the kind in the Robots Have No Tails collection.

#65 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2010, 11:05 PM:

We have the nation's premiere WWI museum here in Kansas City, built around our Liberty Memorial. Like a lot of folks who live near such attractions, I'd never visited it.

Until my friend, Roger Tener (founder of the Dawn Patrol, a loose collective of SF, aeronautics, space exploration, etc. fans who met because of Bob Tucker) said he was bringing up folks from Wichita to visit the museum and would I like to come, since I was unemployed, etc.

It is awesome and awful at the same time. At one point, halfway through (the first half is the conflict from European eyes, the second half is the American losses) I found a bench, sat down and started crying. It worried Roger but he understood when I told him that the amount of loss distressed me. A whole swath of young men died in that war, enough to depopulate whole towns/villages of young men for that period of time.

One of the most beautiful features of the memorial is the mourning sphynxs. One each is on both sides of the memorial, and they both have their wings covering their faces. It is a fit relic of that horrible war.

I want to visit again. If a flurospherian is in KC and wants someone come i while in town, I'll figure out how t find the time.

(I'm also good for tours of the downtown/midtown Kansas City area...)

#66 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2010, 02:59 AM:

Joel Polowin 64:

I remember reading, and enjoying, loads of these as a child. My impression is that in the later books, the author was treading water and recycling soime of the jokes. Even at the time, the first book had a differtent feel to it - as though when Norman Hunter was trying out the ideas for the first time he put more thought into them.

#67 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2010, 08:41 AM:

Paula Helm Murray @65--It is an astounding* place, isn't it? They planned the current display set-up quite cleverly, so that you can't help but get a very faint idea of what it must have been like, to have that as your life, up until the point where it was your death instead.

Go see this place if you are ever in Kansas City, whether Paula is available to come with you or not.

*Original Word Sense Moment

#68 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2010, 10:45 AM:

TNH @40

At the lamentable risk of making them much less common before I can do anything about it, Every one of his novels (including the one Michael J. Dodge and the five Milo Dennison titles) was available for a dollar, and you know how painfully uncommon some of those are.

Titles? Please?

#69 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2010, 10:56 AM:

When you figure in that half the population were women, and not all of military age, the WW1 casualty rates exceed 10% of the men of military age (and not all the men were in the armies and navies).

For the infantry, it wasn't so different in 1944-45 in NW Europe, but the balance of armies had changed. There were far fewer people in that sort of high risk part of an army.

Another figure I have to hand.

2,936 aircrew flew at least one operational sortie as part of RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain. Of those, 544 were killed during the battle, and another 791 died during the rest of the war. That's not quite 50% casualties.

For the whole war, RAF Bomber Command aircrew suffered a 44.4% death rate.

#70 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2010, 02:58 PM:

#26 & #39

University of Kansas has both a science fiction collection and a courses about it.

#71 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2010, 10:56 PM:

Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey @ 57:
Not sure whether it works on the little cameras built-in to Macs, but if so, it might be ideal for the NH household.

It should work; that camera reports itself as being "Built-in iSight" on the USB high speed bus

I think Iphones have barcode and/or ISBN apps, but not Google Goggles. Don't know whether they can pump catalogue entries directly into Librarything.

I've tried a couple of them and haven't figured out how to hook them up to Librarything. I'd love to be able to do it, if there is someone who knows how.

#72 ::: ErrolC ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 05:37 AM:

@69 etc
Some figures that came up in a usenet discussion in 2003:

> Bomber Command *aircrew* dead: 55,573;
> British Empire WWI officer losses 38,834.

Think what the former figure did to the pool of technical talent available to British industry post-WWII.

#73 ::: Sarah E ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 08:23 PM:

#43 ::: Lawrence:

Swords can get around:

#65 ::: Paula Helm Murray :
Found a picture of the sphinxes:
Those are very Weeping Angel spooky.

#74 ::: Stephen Sample ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2010, 10:59 PM:

Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey @ 57:
Not sure whether it works on the little cameras built-in to Macs, but if so, it might be ideal for the NH household.

Delicious Library's barcode scanning works with the built-in iSight on my iMac. I haven't tested with any other recent Macs, but they should all act alike.

#75 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 07:19 AM:

Paula Helm Murray@65:

Spotted earlier today in the Observer: Andrew O'Hagan writes about working at St Dunstan's, the UK charity for blinded ex-servicemen. ("One of the men was in his nineties. He hadn't seen a thing since the mud of the Somme.")

#76 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 08:01 AM:

Paula Helm Murray@65: In re the WWI death toll.

Something I read over here many years ago and which has stayed with me ever since was an article by a woman who had been a school girl during WWI. One day late in the war, during morning assembly, she and the other pupils at her girl's school (almost all wearing black armbands in memory of relatives lost in battle) were told by their headmistress that only one in ten of them would ever marry. This was, she explained, a matter of simple arithmetic. Most of the men they would have married were dead. Writing many decades later, the woman confirmed that this was what had happened. And that huge loss also had an effect in WWII a generation later. US generals sometimes complained about Montgomery's caution when it came to committing his troops, but he had no choice. The back-up pool he had was maybe half a million smaller than it should have been because those men didn't exist. The men who would have fathered them had died during WWI and they'd never been born.

#77 ::: Sarah E ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2010, 10:29 AM:

#76 ::: Rob Hansen
There's also the subsequent death toll from the 'flu pandemic, which was equal or greater to the number of war dead.

#78 ::: Lawrence ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2010, 03:18 PM:

#73: Yeah, they can; neat!

#79 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 09:34 AM:

I've found similar "Wow, that was easy to find out!" things while doing family tree research on (inter alia)

I watched my mom doing some of this in my childhood, the old fashioned way (mailing off for copies of birth certs that might or might not be for the right person -- you won't know till you see it!), and am simply amazed at the difference full-text index searchability makes. They have most publically-available censuses (modulo a bunch of really odd transcription errors in names, but they let you submit corrections) and a lot of other things, besides.

WWI and WWII draft cards (necessary for all males between 18 and 60-something) are a wonderful place to get exact birthdates, for example. Having an exact birthdate or deathdate gives you the Social Security Death Index (and usually the state index, too, which might have mother's maiden name), which gives you the other, and then Bob is, metaphorically, your uncle.

I mean, not MY Uncle Bob, just in general. :->

BTW, anyone wanting to babble at me about this sort of thing is more than welcome to contact me offlist via the blog linked above in my name ... not to thread-hijack.

#80 ::: bartkid ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 06:07 PM:

>The general premise seems to fit the "Gallegher" stories by Lewis Padgett / C.L. Moore / Henry Kuttner....
Joel, everyone else who responded, thank you.

I will have to have to do some more digging, but I think Henry Kuttner is the right trail for me to go down.

Like Joel, I'm fairly certain that the story I cited is NOT in Robots Have No Tails, but I think it is in a later Gallegher volume.

If nothing else, it will give me a good excuse to go through all the Kuttner I can get my hands on (right after the H. Beam Piper pile I'm working on now.)

Again, thank you, and, again, apologies for the thread-jacking.

#81 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 08:28 PM:

Teresa, the Open Library project (part of the Internet Archive) is accepting book donations and scanning them to lend them digitally. I can put you in touch with people there to see if there is a sensible way to get your collection to SF.

#82 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 09:44 PM:

There is no later Gallagher volume. Robots Have No Tails is all there is. (The time period still makes me think you should look at the uncommon, very silly and wonderful The Sinister Researches of C. P. Ransom by h. Nearing Jr., or possibly Clarke's Tales from the White Hart; not that the story will be in either of them, but you'll find a lot to like and some similar works.

#83 ::: Paula` ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 09:55 PM:

Thanks everyone. Yes, the statistics are grim for WWI. WWII was also a hard time for Britain and the continent, we got in a bit late but it was hard on our on-the-ground troops too.

And I think they've added some new exhibits at the WWI museum since I was there.

If I go to a particular place in a hallway where I work now, I can look up out the windows and see the Liberty Memorial every day, just not the pretty parts (I'm in a large building just to the North of the park...)

As a bright but scary (for me) part of the park, there is a fox that either lives up the hill in the Liberty Memorial park, or they mav have moved down into the safer, more wooded/shrubby Penn Valley park. I saw one of them carrying a cub across Broadway one afternoon after i got out of work a couple of weeks ago. There is more prey in the lower park. because there is a lake. I hope that keeps them safe but they're in the Goddess' hands.

#84 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2010, 11:22 PM:

I've found that the birthdate on the draft card and the one in the SSDI can be as much as two years apart.
What I'd like to find, starting from the draft card, is more information on 'uncle' Mike, who married my grandfather's next older sister. There's just enough there to make it interesting, not enough to be really useful, and I'll probably have to ask for his social-security application.

#85 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 04:57 AM:

Sarah @77

The Flu Pandemic was bad, but it didn't have a gender bias.

(Well, it might have killed more women, but only because the war had already killed so many men, and so there was a skewed population.)

I recall reading of some horrifying death rates in some parts of the world. Somewhere around 60% for some island groups in Polynesia, I think.

#86 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 11:34 AM:

PJ Evans @84: I'm betting that the birthdate in the SSDI is the accurate birthdate. Lots of fellows told the draft board they were older so they could enlist.

Take the SSDI birthdate and see if it would have allowed them to enlist at the time shown by the draft records. Enlistment age was 18 IIRC. And I've heard about a lot of 16 year olds that enlisted...same thing happened in WWI.

#87 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 11:49 AM:

Lori, I have the advantage of family records in this (not that women didn't lie about their age also; that particular great-aunt took 12 years off hers between 1900 and 1920). What has me a little baffled is the guys who made themselves a year or two younger.

#88 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 12:55 PM:

PJ Evans @ 87: It's baffling to you because it's been more than a generation since we've had what could in retrospect still be considered a just war - one that would make a teenage boy want to lie about his age to enlist.

#89 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2010, 01:21 PM:

PJ Evans: That IS weird. How old were they when they enlisted?

#90 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2010, 04:16 PM:

P J Evans @84 said: I've found that the birthdate on the draft card and the one in the SSDI can be as much as two years apart. What I'd like to find, starting from the draft card, is more information on 'uncle' Mike, who married my grandfather's next older sister. There's just enough there to make it interesting, not enough to be really useful, and I'll probably have to ask for his social-security application.

Coming in late, I agree -- the one Social Security has is more likely to be correct. Also, in addition to the Social Security death index, many states have their own, some of which list more information (like mother's maiden name).

If you can get a hold of the death certificate, specifically, sometimes that's an utter treasure trove -- in various years and jurisdictions, some of the ones I've found for my tree include full names and states of birth for both parents of the decedent, as well as any spouse's name and state of birth.

A city of birth will also help you find censuses with Mike living with his parents; if you know any of his siblings' names (assuming he had some), that can help you narrow down which family is his, even if you don't know his parents' names.

Look out, though; on old censuses, mostly they were just asked how old they are, so there can be a significant slop even when they were being truthful, depending on when their birthday and the date of enumeration (usually not listed) were.

Feel free to email me for further detailed babbling, if this subthread is, um, more offtopic than usually tolerated for ML? :->

#91 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 01:05 AM:

Teresa: Either UC Irvine, or UC Riverside, has a fanzine collection. They would, almost certainly be interested in yours.

#92 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 03:34 AM:

My Grandfather's situation, when he joined the Army in 1914, was unusual. He didn't have to lie about his age (you could be too old as well as too young), but the first time he tried, the Doctors told him he was medically unfit. So he came back the next day, bluffed his way in without the medical examination (well, he really had seen the Doctor), and carried on with the dodgy ticker that, a few years earlier, he'd been told would kill him pretty soon.

I don't think he was the nice guy that I remember. These days, my father keeps telling me some pretty startling stories. But, 70 years ago, Grandad joined the Home Guard when it was formed. And if you Google Tom Wintringham, he was a local man. Grandad met "Yank" Levy too. The TV Dad's Army was the selected funny bits.

#93 ::: Carrie S. sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2010, 08:39 AM:

It seems to have words, but is actually content-free.

#94 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2010, 08:51 AM:

Terry Karney #91: UC Riverside is the one with big SF collection, as I recall.

#95 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2010, 01:41 PM:

Except for the compressors it tries to sell you, of course.

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