Saturday, April 23, 2011

Gifts that live.

It's a steady Saturday here at the bookstore and since I can't stray too far from the register, I'm using the down-time to whittle away at the pile of books waiting to go online. (In case you're not familiar with our system, most books at an eight-dollar price-point or above are cataloged so that they can be sold online as well as in the store.) In one of the piles I unearthed quite an interesting catalog from 1941.

The product is "sold under the fairest plan and easiest terms ever offered." There is a "30 Days Trial" and the buyer has "4 Months to Pay."

Can you guess what it is?

. . . 

Employee Ben couldn't, either.

The product--sold via mail-in orders only--is singing canaries. The world's finest.

The canaries are sold* by Roderick Bird House of South Bend, IN and come in such varieties as Yankee warblers, American singers, gypsy serenaders and Manhattan serenaders. There are Seifert Roller canaries, Glucke canaries, white canaries. An English Norwich canary is "half the size of an ordinary canary" and "can be furnished in yellow or mottled," while the English Yorkshire "stands very erect" but does not sing as frequently as other canaries. The Dutch frill is a "large bird with a fairly good song" with a plumage that "consists of curls and frills." 

There's even a handy name guide for your new canary. Roderick Bird House suggests such gems as Andy, Beauty, Buttercup, Dizzy-Dean, Dempsy, Dillinger, Lindy, Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Playmate, Dandy-Jim, Jumpin'-Joe, Kayou, Whiz-Bang, Franklin D., Pretzel, King-Ben, Moon-Mullins, Tarzan, Vander-Meer, Little-Boy-Blue and Torpedo. They caution, however, that these are "merely suggestions" and "maybe you can think of a better name."

The two-page, step-by-step canary breeding section is particularly amusing because of two, solitary sentences--in all caps--in the body of the text. (Evidently the most important instructions to heed when mating your pets.) DON'T LET PEOPLE STAND OVER THE CAGE AND WATCH THEM, one sentence says. DO NOT EXPECT YOUR MALE BIRD TO SING WHILE IN THE BREEDING CAGE, warns the other. 

Canaries aren't the only bird offered, though. The catalog has a big boast to make about cousin cockatiel. 

There's even a coupon inside titled FREE BIRDS FOR YOU! Each male canary ordered from page 4 or 5 of the catalog comes with a complimentary female companion of the same breed.

So what do you say? We can't give you a free canary, but we can sell you an incredible catalog for $8. 

Title: "Gifts That Live" Birds [catalog for canaries, supplies and other birds]
Publisher: Roderick Bird House
Year: 1941
Condition: G+ [front cover is somewhat foxed and rear cover has small edge-tears]
Price: $8

*well, were sold. I imagine this business is long defunct. 


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