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Friday, October 31, 2014

Can I get information about an artist?

“I inherited a Chandler pastel painting. Could you give me more information on the artist?”

Our first step was to find out the artist’s full name. Searching “Chandler pastel artist” in an online search engine brought up Timothy Osha’s Pastel Masters website, which has a section devoted to Chandler and his works. Along with an online gallery showcasing Chandler’s paintings, Pastel Masters also provided a brief biography. The artist’s full name is William Henry Chandler and he lived from 1854 to 1928. He’s known as an extremely prolific pastel artist and, as such, his work tends to vary dramatically in quality. The article also mentioned that Chandler was featured in the book The Power of Pastels, but it seemed to be long out of print and, unfortunately, wasn’t available through any library we could find.

We weren’t able to find William Henry Chandler in any of the reference books we checked, but we were able to turn up a little more information online. The Butler Institute of American Art gave a short biography going a little deeper into his personal life. Chandler grew up in New Jersey where he suffered a hunting injury that left him with a permanent limp. He moved to Chicago to work as a cameo engraver in the button industry, and it was in Chicago that he met his wife. They had three daughters together. Sadly, though, the youngest died when she was only a few months old, and Chandler’s wife died soon after, so he returned to New Jersey to raise his daughters with the help of his sister.

While the Butler Art Institute covered his personal life, appraiser Mike Wilcox wrote an article for WorthPoint that fleshed out Chandler’s professional life a little more. According to the article, in 1887, William Henry Chandler and his brother Frank Chandler established W.H. Chandler and Co. in Manhattan. The company produced decorative art to be sold through gift shops, art dealers, and department stores, but unlike similar companies (such as Currier & Ives), they didn’t rely on mass production. Instead, they had a loft with up to twenty easels set up and artists working on several paintings at a time. Landscapes are the most common Chandler pieces, followed by still-lifes and hunting scenes, with seascapes as the rarest.

Price It!, the library’s database for estimating the values of antiques and collectibles, lists Chandler paintings as having sold for anywhere from thirteen to one thousand dollars. Such a large range makes it difficult to estimate how much something is worth, but fortunately our patron had the name and contact information of a professional appraiser who could price her painting accurately for her.

If you’d like to see a Chandler painting in person, the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown has Scene in the Adirondacks in its collection.

Friday, October 24, 2014

How Do You Get a Copy of Your Driving Record?

“How do you get a copy of your driving record?”

According to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles website, there are a few different ways to go about it, depending on what you need and how soon you need it. You can request a certified copy of your record either online, over the phone, by mail, or in person.

To order online, go to If you’d prefer to use the automated phone system, you can call 1-866-675-2837. You can also get an official copy of your record through the mail by filling out form BMV 1173 and sending it in. The cost for ordering through the mail is $5.00. Be aware, though, that it can take two or three weeks to go through.

If you want to order your driving record in person, you can visit a License Reinstatement Center, a Deputy Registrar license agency, or the Shipley Customer Service Center in Columbus. A copy of the record will cost $8.50 if purchased at the Shipley Customer Service Center or a Deputy Registrar license agency and $5.00 if purchased at a License Reinstatement Center. You’ll be required to fill out a different form depending on where you go, but you’ll need to bring your license or identification.

You can also access a free, unofficial copy of your driving record online by going to and going to the link in the second paragraph under “Online Driving Records.” To view the record, you’ll need your driver’s license or state ID number and the last four digits of your Social Security number. (If you don’t have a license or ID but do have a letter from the BMV, there should be a number on that to use instead.) The record only goes back two years, but it will let you know if you have any points on your license.

For information on automobile law, Nolo’s Encyclopedia of Everyday Law includes a section on cars and driving and is available here at the library.

Friday, October 17, 2014

How Do You Tell a Crow from a Raven?

“How do you tell the difference between a crow and a raven?” These scavengers look similar, but there are a few ways to distinguish them.

Ravens are about a quarter larger than crows and have shaggy feathers around their throat. They have longer bills; longer, more narrow wings; and their tails are wedge-shaped as opposed to crows’ rounder, fan-shaped tails.

The subtle differences of appearance are harder to notice when you aren’t seeing the two birds at once, but fortunately, they also have different behaviors to watch for. Ravens are less sociable than crows, often appearing only one or two at a time, although Fred J. Alsop III writes in Birds of North America that they’ll move in larger groups in the winter. While crows tend to fly in a steady, methodical way, ravens will soar, riding the thermals and updrafts, and pairs will engage in impressively aerobatic courtship flights.

Crows and ravens are both members of the corvid family, along with jays, rooks, and magpies. Corvids are considered some of the most intelligent birds. Magpies, according to Noah Strycker’s The Thing with Feathers, are thought by some to be even smarter than parrots, and have been observed grieving their dead. In 2008, Michelle Nijhuis wrote an article for the New York Times exploring crows’ and ravens’ ability to remember faces. As it turns out, ornithologists have been harassed in the field by birds they've trapped in the past. John Marzluff, a biologist at the University of Washington did a formal experiment on the phenomenon and concluded that crows are indeed remembering the faces of the researchers who trapped them, and will continue to pester them around campus. 

Both birds are mimics, and, according to The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior, can imitate human speech. However, if you’d like to hear their typical calls and learn to tell them apart by sound, Bird Songs: Eastern/Central, Birding by Ear: Eastern/Central and Lang Elliott’s Know Your Bird Sounds: Volume 2 are all available for checkout at the Newton Falls Public Library.

Friday, October 10, 2014

When Were Bar Codes Invented?

“When were bar codes invented?” One of our patrons remembered when prices were stamped on all the items at the supermarket, but wasn’t sure how far back it was.

We found our answer in Ideas that Changed the World by Julie Ferris et al. and World of Invention, edited by Kimberly A. McGrath. Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver patented the bar code in 1949. They had been looking for something that would be able to quickly and easily identify products at the supermarket, considering Morse code, when Woodland was inspired by going to the beach and drawing lines in the sand.

There weren’t yet any lasers or computers that could properly read the codes, and, unfortunately, Silver died in 1963 before his and Woodland’s idea could come to full fruition. Woodland kept at it and finished developing the UPC (which stands for Universal Product Code) by the early 1970s.

In either 1973 (according to World of Invention) or 1974 (according to Ideas that Changed the World), the first item – a pack of gum – was rung up at the supermarket using its new UPC code. Bar codes aren’t only used in supermarkets, though. They were used early on to identify railroad cars and, of course, you can find them on our library books!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Where Did the Phrase "Blood Is Thicker Than Water" Come From?

“Where did the phrase ‘blood is thicker than water’ come from?”

You’ve probably heard the saying “blood is thicker than water,” meaning that family ties take precedent over any other relationship, but you may not have realized how long it’s been around. In the Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings, Gregory Titelman traces its origin back to John Lyndgate’s Troy Book. Lyndgate’s book, a long poem about the history of Troy from its beginnings until the end of the Trojan War, can be found in the Cleveland Public Library’s special collections department, and parts of it can also be found online at It was written around 1412 in Middle English, so it’s interesting to have a look at.

Titelman cites a few other early uses of the phrase: A Collection of English Proverbs by John Ray, written in 1670, and Journal of Athabasca Department (which seems to refer to Sir George Simpson’s Journal of Occurrences in the Athabasca Department), written in 1821. Both are available at the Cleveland Public Library, the former in microform and special collections and the latter in the history department. An edition of A Collection of English Proverbs is also available at

However, claims that “blood is thicker than water” first appeared in Sir Walter Scott’s Guy Mannering; or, The Astrologer, published in 1815. The exact quote where it appeared is "Weel, blude's thicker than water; she's welcome to the cheeses and the hams just the same." 

The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins (3rd Edition) by Robert Hendrickson traces it back even further. According to Hendrickson, the phrase became famous when used by U.S. commodore Josiah Tattnall in 1859. Tattnall came to the aid of the British against the Chinese even though it would violate U.S. neutrality, and gave “blood is thicker than water” as his reason for doing so. However, Hendrickson writes, the phrase is much older than that – it was first recorded in Germany in the 1100s.

Despite whatever you think about family ties, the phrase is scientifically true – blood is indeed thicker than water.