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April 2, 2007
Volume 85, Number 14
p. 80

Blasts From The Past

Newscripts recently wrote about DIANE LEATHER CHARLES, who was in two pictures—one in a lab and one on a track—found in C&EN's photo "morgue" (C&EN, Feb. 12, page 104). Newscripts had not been able to track Charles down at that issue's press time but has heard from her and other readers since.

First, thanks to the readers for e-mails about Charles's age. We regret the math error placing her in her 80s. At 74, Charles says she still takes pleasure in remembering beating five minutes for the mile, a first for women.

Second, Newscripts thought readers might like to know that Charles left chemistry at Sir John Cass College (which became part of London Metropolitan University) and went on to raise a family and pursue social work. She retired only four years ago from Cornwall Social Services as a manager of the Children & Family Court Services, in Cornwall, England.

Although Charles retired from running following the 1960 Olympics in Rome, she is on the go daily as a social work consultant and as a volunteer, not forgetting her family, which includes 11 grandchildren.

Linda R. Raber loves eBay. What does C&EN's assistant managing editor for ACS News & Special Features bid on? Lots of interesting stuff, but here, we're only going to talk about the CHEMISTRY MEMORABILIA.

Chemistry sets: Found on eBay.

A 1950s Gilbert chemistry set with two proud-looking boys on the box was one of her first acquisitions, and it has been a fixture in the C&EN offices in Washington, D.C., for about five years. She recently acquired a "Gilbert Lab Technician Set for Girls," also from the 1950s.

Raber has come across tons of ACS meeting pins and postage stamps on eBay. Her latest meeting-related find was a pristine white mug from the ACS winter meeting in Minneapolis in 1910. She has also found vintage publications for the chemical enterprise. We'll mention two.

First, a well-preserved report from around 1920 is titled "The Future Independence & Progress of American Medicine in the Age of Chemistry." Among its nine authors were past ACS presidents Charles H. Herty and Julius Stieglitz. On the first inside page reads the following: "We ask the careful reading, discussion, and consideration of this report by physicians and surgeons, by mothers and fathers, by educators, hospital directors and trustees, and all others whose hearts are interested in the welfare of the future generations of American children."

And the second publication? A memorable and sharp contrast, to say the least. Raber says the 1950 issue of Chemical Peddler looked innocent enough on the eBay listing but was full of surprises.

Looks like the Salesmen's Association of the American Chemical Industry put out an annual issue during the 1950s and 1960s "celebrating" the heyday of chemical sales. Ironically, credit for "pictures" was given to a former C&EN reporter.

When Newscripts showed Peddler to a longtime veteran of the C&EN staff, he said, "Oh yes, the magazine with all of the nude ladies."

Those ladies are prominently featured in ads seemingly put out by chemical companies and take up more than half of the 128-page, black-and-white publication. Almost any of these "ads" would fuel lawsuits charging either racism or sexism. They would certainly fluster just about anyone's sensibilities these days.

For example, a smiling, voluptuous woman wearing only shoes is surrounded by the words "Of course we're proud ... we have so much to offer!" and a company logo. Another ad shows a scantily clad, buxom young lady coyly sitting on a barrel of chemicals marked with the company logo and reads, "Our products may not be the best thing in the world—but they're next to it."

Sure, there are "tips for tipplers," more info about liquor, and the, er, "hindsights" of two naked salesmen. But most of the text probably consists of inside jokes, because they make little sense to the Newscripts gang nearly 60 years later.

This week's column was written by Rachel Petkewich. Please send comments and suggestions to newscripts@acs.org.