Vera Francis As The “Indian Girl” In The Prodigal

For those of you who love Vera Francis, here’s another vintage photograph of the nearly forgotten & neglected African-American actress.

From the 1950s, this photo features Francis in what is called “a Southeast Asian view” of costuming.

vera francis vintage MDM publicity film photo

Publicity from MGM’s 1955 film The Prodigal, in which Vera played an “Indian Girl.”

Measures 10″ x 8,” on a single weight glossy paper stock.

For sale here.

Memorial Day History: “Good Work, Sister”

This holiday weekend, in honor of Memorial Day, I’ve seen this poster circulating quite a bit…

good work sister vintage wwii women poster

But there are some things you should know. (Yes, feminists often don’t have the luxury of taking the holidays off.)

Info on this vintage WWII poster:

“Good work, sister.  We never figured you could do a man-size job!”

America’s women have met the test!

Artist:  Packer.  For Bressler Editorial Cartoons, Inc.

What a lovely backhanded compliment this whole poster is.

The whole gender dynamic is astounding…

…The language — use of “never” and “a man-size job” — is insulting.

…The man being shown as larger to impress upon us both the size of the job and the ‘little lady’ is a bit of visual overkill. (But, hell, shouldn’t that USDA prime cut of red-blooded American beefcake have been drafted?)

Fundamentally, it seems this poster was designed to assuage male discomfort at the notion of “Rosie the Riveter” women working outside the home rather than actually thank women for their work.


During WWII, almost 400,000 women served in the US armed forcesincluding 6,500 Black women who faced even larger racism hurdles to do so. Those are pretty big tests too, poster.

However, despite any of their wishes, women could not serve in combat. Because “menstruation & bears!” or something.

But still, even without combat duty, many women — over 400 of them — lost their lives serving their country in the armed forces. In addition to the fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons we lost, we also lost mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters. More were wounded. Women sacrificed mightily. And not just the danger of “those spreading hips that may come from long hours of sitting” too. They gave their lives and limbs, just as men did; only the women suffered more in secret. Just as they do today. Just as they always have during war: See This.

Whether women & girls worked in factories or shipyards, in the armed forces, in their yards planting victory gardens, in their homes — wherever they worked — they served this country. To the best of their ability — and as much as they were allowed.

This holiday, remember everyone who gave for this country.

Just How Innocent Are These “How To Attract Women” Websites?

The Men’s Right Movement (MRM) may have begun in support of women and feminism, but it’s gone to hell.

How to Get Along With Girls vintage adThere’s always been an element of “I want to be a playboy” in the world of modern Western men. From the somewhat harmless fantasies of bachelors who want to play with sex kittens in what they imagined “the good old days to be like”, to the sincere and earnest pleas of men who feel they are less desired than so-called traditional masculine males, they (and a number of women) have created decades of openly making money off the “how to get girls” marketplace. You can make an argument that this sort of thing gives women the upper hand. That even men in “the game” (often referred to as Game with a capital ‘G’) are at the mercy of women. Certainly, many Third Wave Feminists would agree. And, frankly, many of us struggle with where to draw the line between what is harmless and funny and what is perpetuating negative stereotypes and outright misogyny.

But now, too much of the behavior from the MRM removes any notion of this being a fun “game.” It has crossed that line and angrily morphed into a hardcore hatred of women. Even if it seems hidden behind benign men’s help sites.

Typified by phrases about “reclaiming their balls”, as if the fact that women are equals somehow feminizes men, and given the supposedly harmless name of “The Manosphere”, it has grown on the Internet, connecting like-minded males and converting others. Dagonet of The Quest For 50 explains:

The history of the Manosphere is nebulous.

…Like an echo, a shadow, a vague thought that has reverberated louder and louder with time. You can trace its DNA through the works of ancient poets and philosophers– great men throughout history who identified truths of human nature– through to the modern era. For millennia, these truths were regarded as common sense, and they were integrated functionally into the way society was organized, and the social standards of each population. But with the cultural revolution beginning in the 1960s and reaching a tipping point in the 1990s, a need arose for men to more explicitly teach each other these lost truths. The Manosphere might have begun with Tony’s Lay Guide, The Mystery Method, or other forums hidden in the dark crevices of the nascent internet of the 1990s (such as alt.seduction). It might have begun with The Futurist’s essay “The Misandry Bubble.” It might have begun with Roosh (f/k/a DC Bachelor), Matt Forney (f/k/a Ferdinand Bardamu), and Heartiste (f/k/a Roissy) coalescing around a shared worldview at the crossroads of sex, politics, and a restless sense of lost masculinity, awaiting a revolution.

As more voices began to join the swelling chorus of disenfranchised, horny, clueless men looking to reclaim their balls and dignity, the “Manosphere” as we currently know it was born.

Lest you believe this sounds harmless enough, Dagonet goes on to complain about how so many in the Manosphere have been “‘outed’ and had to delete their blogs in hopes of preserving their privacy and maybe keeping their job/relationship/reputation.” How innocent could these poor victims have been?

And Dagonet’s the guy who claims to be part of Red Pill Thinking yet he feels that the #YesAllWomen response to an all too typical tragedy is not part of reality but rather is an “absolute shitstorm of idiocy, misinformation, and narcissism.”

His collaboration with The Real Christian McQueen should relegate that site to “questionable” at best.

Then you’ve got guys like Jeff Allen, an “Executive Coach” with Real Social Dynamics Nation, a site the exists to sell a boatload of “how to be attractive to women” books, products, and seminars. Again, this might seem innocuous, maybe even helpful; but take a look at Allen’s Twitter account and you’ll be enlightened. These are some of his stellar tweets:

All this, & we didn’t even get into the series of nauseating legislation proposals or anything.

Manosphere diminishing? You’ll get no tears from me.

(Some screen caps in case the tweets disappear.)

FireShot Screen Capture #357 - 'Twitter _ JeffreyLAllenIX_ If a woman vomits blood after ___' - twitter_com_JeffreyLAllenIX_status_369307985798914048

allen tweet about strippers and rape incest

FireShot Screen Capture #358 - 'Twitter _ JeffreyLAllenIX_ Girls date unemployed filthbeard ___' - twitter_com_JeffreyLAllenIX_status_397525867116519424

50 Years *sigh*

Today, June 21st, is my birthday; I turn 50. I feel pretty much the same way I did when I wrote this two years ago, “A lifetime of so little progress is just too much.”; only more so. *sigh*

I was born on June 21, 1964; I joined this world, as Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney left it. My mother’s screams may have been dulled by the twilight sleep of that time’s hospital deliveries, but I passed through the same veil, entered the ether echoing with the agony, pain, and fear of those men, their families and friends, and all who possess any shred of humanity… And I have lived in a country filled with those sounds and the stink of racism ever since.

On Thursday, Rachel Maddow drove this one of the points home — like a dagger in my heart.

Michael Schwerner James Chaney Andrew Goodman

In honor of the three American Heroes who gave their lives that Freedom Summer, which most decidedly lead to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — which was struck down by the Supreme Court last summer, spawning lots of laws to suppress voting, the show went to James Chaney’s grave to show if times have really changed beneath the PC surface. It was disturbing, to say the least. Watch it. Do it as a birthday gift to me.

Recently, my sister mentioned, “What’s wrong with voter ID?” and, out of respect for not ruining some rare extended family time, I just sighed and said, “This conversation won’t end without an argument, so let’s not discuss this…” Maybe she will read this.

An African Princess Who Stood Unafraid Among Nazis

African Princess Who Stood Unafraid Among Nazis

Between 1939 and 1946, Fatima Massaquoi penned one of the earliest known autobiographies by an African woman. But few outside of Liberian circles were aware of it until this week, when Palgrave McMillian published The Autobiography of an African Princess, edited by two historians and the author’s daughter. The book…

Deanna Dahlsad‘s insight:

See on

Bad Hair Is No Joke (Or, Hairy Situations In Racism & Misogyny)

I have not been doing a lot of “link round-up” posts since I’ve been curating at, but sometimes I will still find a thing or two which will spawn so many quick thoughts that it seems best to fire all the rounds in one quick-draw post. That’s certainly the case today as one vintage image and one blog post have me quickly shooting from the hip.

Via this post at Doc Blue’s Bullshit Emporium, I found this vintage ad for Jeris Hair Tonic at Retro Adverto. Along with the horrid ad copy, there’s the racist and gender obscene headline:

“I Knew,” Said The Sioux, “That Squaws Would Go For His Scalp”


I don’t know that I actually have to beat all the dead horses in this vintage ad, do I? With so much horribleness going on, it’s hard to imagine that Jeris would survive; but the company — and it’s hair tonic — is still around today. I do hope they die a little on the inside whenever this ad is resurrected.

While we are on the subject of hair…

Lip Mag has a piece on hair: crowning glory: hair, sex and gender. My profound dislike for the absence of capitals in headlines aside, the post is rather provocative and worthy of a good read. However, it is a bit incomplete. I don’t think it is proper to discuss or rant about such things as “long and blonde” being the ideal femininity standards for women’s hair without pointing out that there are some biological reasons for this.

Often, “beauty” is really just about genetics, healthy children, and the survival of the species. Long hair is a sign of health, and health is genetically preferred. Lighter hair, especially blonde hair, is often an indicator of youth and therefore fertility. The fair skin which typically, naturally, accompanies the blonde hair also makes it easier to see signs of disease, infestation, infection, and the like. Such blemishes are signs of genetic weakness, aging, or other potential problems with the viability of offspring. This is all hardwired into humans biologically. It’s primal evolution. This is why fake blondes enjoy the same attention as natural blondes; for even when everyone knows they’re seeing a bleach-bottle-blonde, the sight triggers an unconscious response of, “Yes, this is preferred genetic material.” This biological drive is what is sets many “beauty standards”. And since blondes, especially the light-white-skinned and blue-eyed variety, are fewer in numbers, their rarity is akin to “coveted and collectible”. [After decades of hair styles, lengths, and colors I know (NWS) that blondes do have more fun — if by “fun” you mean “attention.” Not all of it positive, either; especially when the attention is from other women (NWS). Women hating or deriding blondes, real or fake, is like any other body shaming issue and should be stopped.]

While genetics and evolution are typically not conscious thoughts in the process of calling someone “beautiful” or “attractive”, there are many recorded acts of using beauty standards as markers for desirability in gender and race. From the Bible and organized eugenics programs to the less organized attacks of societal judgements (NWS), history shows that women have been — and continue to be — judged, humiliated, marked, and controlled by their hair.

This brings be back to the aforementioned issue of “scalping” and how I often feel that the current trend in removing the pubic hair of women is not unlike the “pussy scalping jokes” of the past (NWS). It’s not only racist, but all about controlling women and their bodies.

Racist Shots

A pair of “His and Hers” shot-glasses featuring rather racist images of Africans. One glass, shaded blue, features a man running from a lion with the caption “One for the road.” The second glass, shaded purple, is captioned “A pick me up” and shows a hunter being bested by a rhino. The glasses sit in a little wooden stand which states the set is a vintage souvenir from Barnesville, Minnesota.

These are vintage pieces of Black Americana I do not want to own; we have put them up for sale for the right collector. Contact me here if interested.

racist vintage shot glass souvenir

Some Of You May Recognize This Song As Hi-Ho Silver Away

In celebration of the new Lone Ranger film (with the usual semi-racist depictions of Tonto, this time played by Johnny Depp), we dug out our copy of The Masked Man by Eddy Bell & the Bel-Aires. Since TheRodge76 already did the work of uploading it to YouTube, my work here is done. (Though now that we are digging through the old vinyl, lord knows what will show up in our online shops and in our spaces at the antique stores; so keep an eye out.)

masked man 45 rpm

“Lynchers!” She Screamed

The Road To San Jacinto, by L.L. Foreman, a genuine Pocket Book Western (#824). Cover art by Carl Mueller, depicting a buxom woman holding a gun to the threat of at least four men wearing those white hoods synonymous with the KKK.

Why were Dain and Cleo hunted like animals? Why were they constantly forced to hide? Only Cleo could answer. For the secret was hidden in her birth — and she dared not reveal her dangerous heritage to the man she loved!


Be My Racist Valentine: Native American Edition

A vintage die-cut Valentine greeting card that children passed out to one another in school, featuring a Native American mother and child — and including racist, stereotypical, “Indian” puns.

I’d like to make a reservation on you to be My Valentine! We have heap fun!

Interestingly, there are two signatures on the back; proof that someone had trouble spelling their name. Dennis or Denise? I am not certain.

As I’ve said, I can’t keep them all. And as a white woman, I probably should not keep this one. You can buy it here.

Sign Of The Times, 1970

In this photo, veterans protest the Cassius Clay VS. Oscar Bonavena match at Madison Square Garden in December 1970.

Their signs read, “GI’s fight & die at $5 a day; Clay gets million; Remember Pearl Harbor” and “Boycott Clay Bonavena fight; Remember Pearl Harbor.”

Muhammad Ali would triumph a year later, when the Supreme Court would reverse his conviction and uphold his right to be a conscientious objector against the Vietnam War.

Happy Birthday Me

Birthdays are a time of reflection — but don’t worry, this isn’t one of those sentimental personal pieces full of beauty and gratitude, a wistful and wise piece about aging, or even one of those sad yet triumphant stories of survival. While I have moments of deep gratitude, brief bits of wisdom, and small moments in which I feel triumph sits on the horizon like a ship I can see and might one day board, I’m still working on all those things.

Instead, this birthday is like most birthdays since I was to turn 16. That year I told my parents that I didn’t need or deserve a party; I had achieved nothing and they deserved the credit for having kept me alive. Today I feel rather the same — only with a much heavier sense of futility. For in 48 years, neither the world, my status in it, nor my feelings about it has changed much.

I was born on June 21, 1964; I joined this world, as Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney left it. My mother’s screams may have been dulled by the twilight sleep of that time’s hospital deliveries, but I passed through the same veil, entered the ether echoing with the agony, pain, and fear of those men, their families and friends, and all who possess any shred of humanity… And I have lived in a country filled with those sounds and the stink of racism ever since.

I was born white; but such privilege doesn’t preclude the ability to know how wrong racism is, to hate what separates and enslaves.  …To feel the futility of such efforts even to educate that we the privileged have an obligation to do what is right is a heavy rope around my own neck.

I was born a girl; I joined this world with my rights up for debate and my womb under the control of others men. Any progress towards equality and the right to my own person has been met with struggle, abated with state allowed terrorism, and, indeed, is being wrestled away as I sit here today. Such abuse, rape, and control by the state fills me with the same pain, indignity, helplessness, and shame as the abuse, rape, and control experienced at the hands of individuals. …And then there are the more subtle, less violent, means of control — disrespect, dismissing, muzzling, belittling, economic inequality, shaming — used to assert government control, which perpetuates the abuses by individuals.

I was born “straight”; but, like being white, I know that my privilege of heterosexuality obligates me behave as a human being towards my fellow human beings. Ostracization and inequality based on orientation &/or gender identity is still in practice, in vogue in some places. It sickens, saddens, and wearies me as if it were my own personal struggle. …Then again, since this is very much tied to male power, beliefs about sexuality, it really mirrors — nay, is, my personal struggle.

I was born without silver spoon in mouth, or nearby. My parents worked tirelessly to provide a better future for their children. It was achieved; but brief. Those born with silver services and gold flatware have worked just as tirelessly to ensure that the poor and middle class would assume their place at the feet of their economic masters. I now work tirelessly to ensure my children survive; “thrive” is a question which lies under the boot heels of social and economic masters — i.e. wealthy white men and their corrupt corporations which are allowed human status.

Survival isn’t as easy as it sounds.

So you’d think I could hang my proverbial birthday hat on that, give myself some credit for just having made it to 48.

But I am just too tired.

Too tired to even go, as is my birthday custom, and visit graveyards and cemeteries. For when I see how the nuns who gave their lives in service and faith are buried like paupers, adoringly facing the monuments of their male leaders — presumably to serve even in death, I cannot bear the energy such emotion evokes. Not even when I see that the little cement slabs which mark where the nuns lay are less lavish, less cared for, than the markers for the never-born, the aborted. Really? Are female lives given in such service worth so little that they must still be treated as less-than virtual beings, ideas of beings?! It’s all just too-too much.

A lifetime of so little progress is just too much.

Borders Bleed & Blow My Mind (Thoughts On Context)

Sometimes history is thought of as it is taught: In separate chunks. But history passes, weaves, and certainly is attached and connected to time — the time behind it, the time before it, and simultaneously to persons and events which, even in attempts to understand and reclaim, we have neatly severed into subjects and categories.

History and culture isn’t simply a matter of dates or compartmentalized periods. The subject of context isn’t merely one for writers, bloggers or content curationists, i.e. photo or image with research or text story, properly credited, for real readers. Context is even more than the object, person, or event in cultural context of what came before it, what came after it. Context must include what and who are contemporaries.

For example, do you think of opera legend Marian Anderson and artist Frida Kahlo as contemporaries? As friends even? Most probably do not.

[About the image: Marian Anderson and Frida Kahlo with Diego Rivera, Miguel Covarrubias, Rosa Covarrubias, Ernesto de Quesada and others in Mexico, 1943.
More astonishing than this photo which went wild on Tumblr is the video.

The video is silent home film footage of that same trip, from the Penn Libraries Marian Anderson collection, A Life In Song, use of and upload to YouTube approved by Nancy M. Shawcross, Curator of Manuscripts, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, University of Pennsylvania on June 19, 2012.]

For in our (admirable) attempts to reclaim lost stories of Black Women and Hispanic Women (groups who have felt marginalized from Feminism and Women’s Studies), separate stories emerge. Separate stories may narrow focus, provide an ease for our brains (which many falsely claim are over-stimulated and bombarded with information; information overload is a myth) tasked with absorbing information, but so many separate stories not only lead to false notions of separate lives issues (which fosters a sense of competition, risks alienation, and further divides what is Us), but removes the full complex beauty of cultural context.

Oxford University historian Dr. Cliff Davies, in his discussion of the myth of the Tudor era, describes this compartmentalization of history as “seductive” and helping “to create the idea of a separate historical period, different from what came before and after.” I say this seduction also includes the temptation to remove the context of contemporaries. And that it ought to be avoided. Even in an age of working to create filtered focus.

Even when you have multiple blogs, collections, and curated topics — each with its own focus, there is likely to be some overlap between them. If you are aware of and include context with your collections, there will be, ought to be, some repeated content and objects across collections. Even those with the most dedicated focus.

I consider this to be not redundant overlap but more connections, yet another layer to your stories. Practically speaking from a marketing approach, it is another way to find more readers too.

And another way to blow their minds.

The History Of Driving While Black

I’ve written before about why I don’t collect Black Americana; as a white chick, I don’t feel I have the right to document such history. (I’ll stick with documenting women’s lives with my collecting, thank you.) But since collecting the history of oppressed people intrigues me, I really enjoyed this article about David Pilgrim’s collection which will soon be on display at the grand opening of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia on April 26th at Michigan’s Ferris University.

I love a good story about collecting, and Pilgrim’s begins thus:

David Pilgrim was 12 years old when he bought his first racist object at a flea market: a saltshaker in the shape of a Mammy. As a young black boy growing up in Mobile, Alabama, he’d seen similar knick-knacks in the homes of friends and neighbors, and he instinctively hated them. As soon as he handed over his money, he threw his purchase to the ground and shattered it into pieces.

But it get’s really interesting when Jennie Rothenberg Gritz, an Atlantic senior editor who wrote the piece and interviewed the collector, asked Pilgrim about his progression from destroying the objects to collecting them:

I went to a historically black college, Jarvis Christian College in Texas, and in addition to teaching the usual math and science, our professors would tell us stories of Jim Crow. One day, one of my professors came into the classroom with a chauffer’s cap. He set the hat down and asked what historical significance it had.

Now, the obvious answer was that blacks were denied many opportunities, and chauffeuring was one of the few jobs open to them. But that was not right answer. He told us that a lot of professional middle-class blacks in those days always traveled with a chauffer’s hat. The reason: If they were driving a nice new car through a small southern town, they didn’t want police officers, or any other whites, to know the car belonged to them.

I remember that story so vividly. No object has any meaning other than what we assign to it. But that was an incredible meaning to assign to an object that, on the surface, had little to do with racism.

This is not only proof of my theory about using collectibles to teach, but it shows just how old the problem of Driving While Black really is.

Chinese Laundry Blues

More vintage sheet music of the racist variety. (Via.)

Chinese Laundry Blues was George Formby‘s signature tune, and the first of his “Mr Wu” songs.

Now Mr. Woo was a laundry man
In a shop with an old green door
He’d iron all day, your linen away
He really makes me sore
He lost his heart to a Chinese girl
And his laundry’s all gone wrong
All day he’ll flirt and starch your shirt
And that’s why I’m singing this song

Oh! Mr. Woo, what shall I do
I’m feeling kind of Limehouse Chinese laundry blue
This funny feeling keeps round me ceiling
Oh won’t you throw your sweetheart over, do.
My best silk shawl, now it won’t fit my little brother
And my new Sunday shirt has got a perforated rudder
Mr. Woo, what shall I do
I’m feeling kind of Limehouse Chinese laundry blue

Now Mr. Woo, he’s got a naughty eye that flickers
You ought to see it wobble when he’s ironing ladies blouses
Mr. Woo, what shall I do
I’m feeling kind of Limehouse Chinese laundry blue.

Now Mr. Woo, he’s got a laundry kind of tricky,
He starched my shirts and collars
But he never touched me waistcoat
Mr. Woo, what shall I do
I’m feeling kind of Limehouse Chinese laundry blue

(Instrumental Interlude)

Mr. Woo, what shall I do
I’m feeling kind of Limehouse Chinese laundry blue

Here’s George Formby singing the song, performing on stage for the last time on The Friday Show.

Spin The Wheel, Land On Vera Francis

Who wouldn’t fall in love with a vintage roulette wheel of pinups?

The seller (Grapefruit Moon Gallery), says this in the item’s description (links added by me):

ITEM: You are bidding on a very rare vintage pin up photograph of African American 1955 Hollywood sensation, and later boulevard of broken dreams archetype Vera Francis and a number of other showgirls as a proverbial roulette wheel where every spin is a winner. Measures 8″ x 10″

We are happy to be offering examples from the archives of Vera Francis, who was called a Hollywood Tragedy after being blacklisted from the screen for allegedly selling stories to the scandalous tabloid Confidential, about the inappropriate behavior of her often white co-stars and superiors. But the real tragedy of her career is that despite appearing in movies throughout the early 50s and being splashed upon magazine covers (Jet and Ebony notably) for her breakthrough role in “The President’s Lady” a story about the interracial affairs of American president Andrew Jackson, her name isn’t even featured in imdb for many of her known parts. The combination of her outspoken role in civil rights (Lena Horne was her oft mentioned hero), her “loose talk” and the scarcity of roles for black actresses in the 1950s meant that she disappeared quickly from the scene. However, she retained a lot of her allure in African American theater communities, performing in touring productions throughout the 1950s and 1960s and appearing in cabarets and as a model and pitch woman.

I was intrigued…

According to the San Mateo Times (September 30, 1954), the photo isn’t a true movie still, but promotional photo for MGM’s film, The Prodigal, sent out on the AP.

Researchers working on “The Prodigal” discovered that beautiful girls were the stakes in a gambling game popular in ancient Damascus of about 70 B.C., and so this wheel of feminine fortune was incorporated in the movie now being made at M-G-M. The girls will wear Damascus costumes in the movie, but for this photo the studio dressed the beauties in modern swim suits. The girls, all from Southern California and all making their movie debuts are: (1) Nancy Chudacoff, (2) Alice Arzaumanian, (3) Jolene Burkin, (4) Bobbie White, (Barbara White, (6) Aen-Ling Chow, (7) Marion Ross, (8) Patrizia Magurao, (9) Marjory May, (10) Vera Francis, (11) Jeanette Miller, and (12) Sheela Fenton.

But who was Vera Francis?

In the Encyclopedia of African American Business: Volume 2, K-Z, Vera is a single line entry, listed among the “pioneer models” which drove the development of the Barbara Watson Charm and Model School. In Style and Status: Selling Beauty to African American Women, 1920-1975, she’s merely a “Los Angeles model” quoted along with a few other models quelling the fears of middle-class magazine readers, of the non-white variety, that “the image of models as reckless party girls with loose morals was much exaggerated.” Vera’s comment was “I always keep a regular job, it’s one sure way of staying out of trouble.”

What were Vera’s “regular” jobs? According to the September 25, 1952 issue of Jet magazine, which contains a profile of the young starlet, “Curvaceous Vera Francis, a Hollywood nurse and model, is the comely girl who will steal the affections of Susan Hayward’s husband in the forthcoming 20th Century-Fox film, The President’s Wife the life story of Mrs. Andrew Jackson. Best known for her magazine photo stints, Miss Francis is a Boston-born beauty who worked as a dental assistant and later a nurse for Jeanne Crain‘s children before getting a movie break.”

But sadly, there’s not much more known about Vera — despite the fact that, at least since 1952, Vera Francis was a staple on the covers (and pages between) of Jet, Hue, Sepia and other magazines for persons of color.

So, you know me, I obsessively set about researching Vera Francis, trying to create a biography…

However, I can’t honestly call this a biography; it’s more of a Vera Francs timeline at this point as most of what little (too little) I found is centered on gossip and one-line bits of info. However, given that Vera was a starlet, one can’t entirely ignore the gossip; that’s the only way one really finds more photos. In the Jet pages especially, you’ll see that Vera’s “loose talk” was probably based on some pretty hot action — along with movie talk and other gigs, there was plenty of gossip to rival the starlet’s “staying out of trouble.” Clearly, Vera was out and about, making the scene, hoping to make it in Hollywood.

[If you take these images to post elsewhere, please credit me with a link — I spent more hours than you want to know researching, scanning, cropping, editing this!]

The Vera Francis Timeline

The Daily Gleaner, Jamaica, April 11, 1935, Vera and Beryl Berth were arrested by Detective Hutchinson on a charge of selling ganja.

The Daily Gleaner, June 1, 1935, Vera Francis was “fined five pounds or two months hard labor for a breach of the Dangerous Drugs Law, to wit, selling ganja.” (No mention of Beryl.)

The Daily Gleaner, July 27, 1936, Miss Vera Francis is mentioned in a recital and is listed as being from Boston, U.S.A.

Oakland Tribune, July 13, 1937, Vera was mentioned as an NBC staff actress to take on the roll of Molly Pitcher on the Professor Puzzlewit program.

Jet, September 25, 1952: Announcing Vera’s role in the interracial romance film The President’s Lady.

Jet, October 16, 1952: Featured in “Why Brownskin Girls Get The Best Movie Roles.”

Jet, September 25, 1952: In press about The President’s Lady, a studio spokesman says, “When Lena Horne retires, Vera Francis will take her place.”

Jet, February 19, 1953: Photo caption reads:

Rock-A-Bye Baby: Midget liquor salesman Frankie Dee proved a real attention-getter when he turned up at New York City’s Beaux Arts ball in diaper attire. Actress-model Vera Francis and actor Jimmy Edwards made it a family threesome by obliging “baby” Frankie with his bottle.

Jet, April 16, 1953: when returning to Hollywood, “received offers as high as $100 for her address book that contains names of New York’s bachelors.” (Foreshadowing of the Confidential scandal?)

Jet, August 27, 1953: A guest at a birthday party for Lucky Millinger — Millinder is fed cake by “hi-de-ho” bandleader Cab Calloway while Francis and others look on.

Jet, September 10, 1953: Vera Francis crowns Betty Elaine Parks “Miss America” in an Elks Beauty Contest in Atlanta.

Jet, Sepembert 17, 1953: The actress is featured in the article “Why Hollywood Won’t Glamorize Negro Girls.”

Jet, October 8, 1953: Talking About “Exotic Vera Francis who does public relations work for a national cosmetics account. She was assigned to demonstrate the beauty products in an Atlanta five and ten, but when the store managers, who had asked for her, discovered that the movie starlet’s features were brown, they quickly called off the deal.”

Jet, November 26, 1953:  “Movie actress Vera Francis lost her job as assistant to disc jockey Jack Walker. He fired her for not having ‘humility’.”

Jet, May 6, 1954: At the Shalimar Cafe party for disc jockey Tommy Smalls “Joe Louis is fed by Delores Parker, Vera Francis.”

Jet, May 13, 1954: Caption for the photo reads Elephant Girl: Turning out for the spring arrival of Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Baily Circus in New York, film actress Vera Francis and comedian Nipsey Russell visit with a friendly elephant named Ruth. Vera climbed aboard but Russell played it safe on the ground.

Jet, April 22, 1954: The actress has “midgets” Frankie Dee and Pee Wee Marquette fighting over her.

Jet, June 17, 1954: Caption for the photo reads “Cotillion Capers: A guest at the Cotillion Club’s annual deb ball in Detriot’s Graystone Ballroom, movie star Vera Francis gets an affectionate lift by admiring club members. Curvacious Vera recently embarked on a new career as a calypso-style song and dance entertainer.”

Jet, June 24, 1954: Poses for amateur photographers.

Jet, July 22, 1954: Sheesh — “Mose Thompson, the Detroit  financier, who invited movie starlet Vera Francis to town for a little light balling only to have her snatched from his fingertips by dapper cigar huckster Sterling Hogan.”

Jet, Augus 19, 1954: Vera Francis and Juanita Moore, signed to portray women inmates in Columbia’s Women’s Prison.

Hue, August, 1954: Vera Francis photographed at the Surf Club “Puckered Up for Kissing”.

Jet, September 2, 1954: Said to play role of a jungle girl in the next series of Tarzan pictures.

Jet, September 30, 1954: Said she signs for a feature role as one of 12 international beauties in MGM’s Biblical movie, The Prodigal to play a “maid of India.” (The roulette wheel that started all my obsessive hunting.)

Jet, December 2, 1954: “Now that she has had several minor roles in Hollywood films, shapely actress-model Vera Francis has changed her stage name to Vieja.”

Jet, December 16, 1954: A note that the  “model-actress” to appear in Kiss Me Deadly (a Mickey Spillane feature) and Universal-International’s Tracey (starring Anne Baxter and Rock Hudson — near as I can tell, eventually titled One Desire).

Sepia, December 1954: Vera Francis on the cover and the subject of a feature story.

Jet, May 12, 1955: “Showgirl” Vera Francis adjusts Sammy Davis Jr.’s Windsor knot at the Harlem YMCA’s salute to Sammy.

The Gleaner, March 17, 1955: “Vera steals the show” in Kitty Kingston’s Personal Mention column. Vera is said here to be “of Indian as well as Jamaican origin” which “thrilled” party guests, especially “the ten Government employees of Pakistan on UNESCO Fellowship.” Here Vera’s new professional name, “Veijah” is mentioned and stated as meaning “victory.” The films Vera is to be gearing up for are listed as The Ten Commandments, Kismet, The White Witch of Rose Hall, and The Jungle Drums, to be filmed in Tunisia for Italian Films.

Also in that paper, an ad for Vera Francis appearing in person on the Carib Stage. (Note that Vera Francis is listed as “Jamaica’s Very Own” despite the paper saying in 1936 that she was from Boston.)

Jet, September 8, 1955: Francis “the movie bit player,” underwent a hernia operation at Cedars hospital, LA.

Jet, October 6, 1955: A note that Vera is rehearsing for a road company tour of the play Seven Year Itch. “She’ll wiggle her hips in the role that move actress Marilyn Monroe made famous.”

Lima News, August 24, 1957: In coverage of the Confidential libel scandal, Vera was named as paid informant regarding John Jacob Astor and Edward G. Robinson.

No details were offered. But, according to Shocking True Story: The Rise and Fall of Confidential, “America’s Most Scandalous Scandal Magazine”, “Vera Francis, a black actress, was paid for a story on her affair with socially prominent John Jacob Astor.” (I believe it was this John Jacob Astor — a family with enough scandal that whatever info Vera sold is a footnote too small for me to bother researching. At least right now.)

Jet, January 2 1958: Words fail, so I quote:

Ex-actress Vera Francis writes pals from the West Indies that she’s been secretly wed to a white employee of the New York Central Railroad she met at Billy Graham’s recent revival meeting.

Jet, May 15, 1958: “Former actress-model Vera Francis has turned “producer” in Jamaica, BWI. She presented her husband, George Handiwerk Jr., with a bouncing seven-pound, three-ounce daughter.”

The Gleaner, August 24, 1958: Mentions that Mrs. Vera Handwerk (the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Carby) is slated for the leading role in Calypso, to be filmed in Jamaica.

Jet, June 18, 1959: Vera “now Mrs. George Handwerk Jr. is four months again on her motherhood career, leaving behind in Kingston, Jamaica, her German husband to mind the first-born which she visits her sister.”

Jet, August 27, 1959: Vera Francis divorced “her white husband, George Handwerk,” married on September 8, 1957. They had a daughter, Francena, and Vera was pregnant with a second child.

Jet, January 14, 1960: “Pretty actress Vera (Francis) Handwerk gave birth to an eight-and-one-half pound girl, Janna, her second, in Jamaica, Britsh West Indies.” Here’s the photo that accompanied the news bit.

The Gleaner, November 26, 1961: Vera is listed as the hostess who also M.C’eed a fashion show at Babs Boutique.

But by September 1962, in Negro Digest (Black World), people were wondering where Vera Francis was.

The Gleaner, October 3, 1964: Vera is listed at the Bunny Mother for the Jamaican edition of the Playboy Bunnies.

Pontiac Daily Leader, February 12, 1969: She is mentioned as the “former Vera Francis” — now the Mrs. in Mr. and Mrs. Harlan Robertson. The couple, along with son Randy, were in Odell visiting Vera’s father, Perry Francis. No mention of the daughters.

Nowhere do I find any proof of Vera’s “outspoken role in civil rights”, though clearly she lived her life as a woman who resisted labels and limits — in terms of color and gender.

Additional image/info: In June of 2011, Bonhams auctioned off a lot of Vera Francis archives for $915.

Magazine Equality: Stuff White People Worry Needlessly About

I get mail, paper and electronic. Today’s winner is this one:

Hey, you sell and ship a lot of stuff, and you write about racism, so I’m tossing this question to you — I don’t care if you post your reply, but please don’t out me. (Outing my stupidity is fine! Just not me!)

My question is this: Is it OK if I use torn pages etc. from publications like Jet magazine as packing material, or is that offensive?

Obviously, this is a white person who is worried about this, right? Right.

My Latest Issue Of Jet: Click To Read My Address As Proof (Posting Stuff Like This Is Why I Get A Lot Of Mail)

Why would anyone else even consider what magazines, newspapers, etc. were used as packing material? As long as it’s not Playboy pictorials or other adult stuff, who cares? Even magazine collectors like myself don’t wince (too badly) at the thought of destroying publications in terms of recycling them rather than collecting the past issues or saving them for future collectors.

This is one of those cases of being so overly sensitive to race issues that you go full circle and become racist.

The underlying premise here is based on faulty and racist assumptions:

1. That all people are white unless otherwise stated. And so…

* Not knowing otherwise, the seller here fears that a white person will be somehow offended by a non-white publication included in their box of merchandise.

* The assumed-to-be-white person receiving this package will now assume the seller is black — heaven forbid!

2. That people of color are intolerant and ridiculously possessive of their culture. And so…

* Should the recipient be a person of color, they will somehow be offended that anyone would ruin a proper African-American publication in such a fashion.

* A non-white person receiving their order with such packaging will assume the seller is also non-white; the seller has somehow misrepresented themselves.

3. That people should only read or subscribe to publications by color. And so…

* Any person of any color will find a white person reading or subscribing to any publications for or by persons of color to be some sort of poser or culture-thief.

These are not only faulty and racist assumptions, but fear based ones which, when given in to, perpetuate stereotypes and limit us all.

So my response is this: In the spirit of saving the planet by recycling, in the spirit of saving the planet by practicing brotherly and sisterly love, please, use any and all of your unwanted publications as packing materials — including your Jet Magazine. Treat your publications as you do people — as equals.

I would recycle my copies of Jet; but I save most all of my magazine back issues, no matter their “color.”

The Irony Of Jimmy The Greek (He’s Rolling Over In His Grave)

In January of 1988, Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder was fired by CBS for racism after he made the following infamous comment to an NBC affiliate, station WRC-TV:

The black is a better athlete to begin with because he’s been bred to be that way — because of his high thighs and big thighs that goes up into his back, and they can jump higher and run faster because of their bigger thighs. This goes back all the way to the Civil War when during the slave trading, the owner — the slave owner would breed his big black to his big woman so that he could have a big black kid.

[I remember, as a kid at the time, thinking it was odd no one was offended by the nickname, “The Greek” — especially as it, and even “Jimmy,” likely came from the general (lazy) inability to pronounce the man’s real name, Dimetrios Georgios Synodinos.]

I won’t deny there were more tactful ways to communicate realities of racism (it was, in fact, a breeding program; let’s not deny the horrors), but it seems “Jimmy” was also onto something… Something biological. Something which sounds even less, well, probable.

In a study published last year in the International Journal of Design and Nature and Ecodynamics, Professor Andre Bejan of Duke University, Professor Edward Jones of Howard University in Washington, and Duke graduate Jordan Charles, found that there’s a biological physical trait at the center of athletic performance:

The navel is the centre of gravity of the body, and given two runners or swimmers of the same height, one African origin and one European origin, “what matters is not total height but the position of the belly-button, or centre of gravity,” says study lead author Professor Andre Bejan of Duke University.

“It so happens that in the architecture of the human body of West African-origin runners, the centre of gravity is significantly higher than in runners of European origin,” which puts them at an advantage in sprints on the track, he says.

The researchers charted and analysed nearly 100 years of records in men’s and women’s sprinting and 100-metres freestyle swimming for the study.

Individuals of West African-origin have longer legs than European-origin athletes, which means their belly-buttons are three centimetres higher, says Bejan.

That means the West-African athletes have a ‘hidden height’ that is 3% greater than Europeans, which gives them a significant speed advantage on the track.

“Locomotion is essentially a continual process of falling forward, and mass that falls from a higher altitude, falls faster,” says Bejan.

The science, physics, of belly-buttons gets weirder…

In the pool, meanwhile, Europeans have the advantage because they have longer torsos, making their belly-buttons lower in the general scheme of body architecture.

“Swimming is the art of surfing the wave created by the swimmer,” says Bejan.

“The swimmer who makes the bigger wave is the faster swimmer, and a longer torso makes a bigger wave. Europeans have a 3% longer torso than West Africans, which gives them a 1.5% speed advantage in the pool,” he says.

Asians have the same long torsos as Europeans, giving them the same potential to be record-breakers in the pool.

But they often lose out to Europeans because Asians are typically shorter, says Bejan.

Many scientists have avoided studying why Africans make better sprinters and Europeans better swimmers because of what the study calls the “obvious” race angle.

While the study “focused on the athletes’ geographic origins and biology, not race, which the authors of the study call a ‘social construct,'” it seems Mr. Georgios wasn’t too far off the mark…

Jimmy The Greek

I should stop this now before I step into even deeper stereotypical waters.

But I can’t help but think that our hyper-sensitivity, our unwillingness to deal directly with racism in this country, leads not only to problems with firing the admittedly-tactless messenger (be it Jimmy The Greek or some angry comments to this blogger), but in any sort of rational discussion…

In even hearing this sort of news…

I mean this study was out a year ago, and if it weren’t for my visit to Chris Cruz’s blog, I never would have heard of this research.

Mississippi Paper Burning (Hot Vintage Magazine Blog!)

I’ve fallen in love with a newly discovered blog: Visual Arts Library Picture & Periodicals Collections, part of New York’s School of Visual Arts. And not just because David Pemberton, the Periodical/Reference Librarian who runs the blog, linked to my (obsessively detailed) post on The Mentor magazine, either. (Though I am a sucker for librarians and curators — and links don’t exactly hurt.) No, I’m in love with this new-to-me blog because of it’s content.

Sure, the visuals are great — as you’d expect from a visual arts school library. But it’s more than that. It’s the writing. Not just the historical context I crave, but the frank tone I adore. Such as the delightful description of National Lampoon Magazine as having “heaping sides of boob and toilet humor.” (I know I’m a fan of heaping boobs and even side-boob *wink* I’ve even succumb to toilet humor plenty of times.)

But the best part is the mix of selected offerings. Again using the National Lampoon post, look at this gem from the August 1975 issue:

Many of the magazines have embedded publications in them that parody other actual publications, such as this one that is supposed to have been put out by the state of Mississippi Bar Association featuring articles on “Closing Those Loopholes in Mississippi Lynch Law” and “No-Fault Rape–New Concepts to Protect Our Menfolk:”

I’m absolutely dying to read that! I bet most of the satirical messages are still relevant today. But then I love to read what I collect. …How else can I obsessively research it, over-analyze it, blog about it?

Still Using The Word “Negro” In 1977

In 1977 I was 13, and I know use of the word “negro” was a no-no. But here’s proof it was not only said by ignorant white trash folk, but used to peddle dolls, doll parts, etc. A page of from the 1977 Standard Doll Co. catalog featuring “negro dolls” — alongside “Indian dolls,” a term which is still bandied about far too often (but then Native Americans are the most overlooked people in our country — and that’s saying something).

Before There Was Princess Jasmine…

There was this Chinese Princess costume and mask by Ben Cooper.

OK, so maybe she’s not exactly a dead-ringer for Princess Jasmine. And so what if I get more of an Indonesian-vibe than a Chinese one; we could debate such things all day. But not debatable is the fact that this princess is very fair. I also have the vintage Ben Cooper Yogi Bear costume and mask (I also have it up at auction on eBay), which is, if not the same shade, a bit darker.

Be My Racist Valentine

It’s been a few years since I did a racist Valentine’s post, so I thought it was time for another.

Vintage Black Americana Valentine, complete with watermelon and poor puns, via sienna42:

You don’t need to know that the maker of this vintage Valentine (available via Vintage-Mood-Swings) is Klinker Kraft Kard, Los Angeles (triple “k”s are always suspicious to me, especially when this card was made in 1932) to note the poor stereotypes of the “frugal” Scots who “save dates” via a Valentine with a calender:

This vintage Valentine’s Day postcard from D-L-Antiques-and-Collectibles is not only offensive to Asians, but who wants to be just another girl in a man “ports” in?

This next one from lut20 is racist for sure — but the reference to “ball and chain” has me a bit confused… It sure could be sexist, but then there are only men on the card, so…