Hidden treasures revealed

Found objects offer brief glimpses into earlier times

full table of objects

Resting on a display table in the HP Corporate Archives are 30 of the more significant items found at 367 Addison Avenue.

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Breath of Life Lung Invigorator and booklets

This device was most likely built and marketed prior to World War I. Tuberculosis (TB), a debilitating and potentially fatal disease affecting the lungs and other parts of the body, was not widely understood, either in its pathology or communication. Anti-tuberculin drugs, now used to treat the disease, had not yet been discovered. Then, as now, millions of people worldwide were afflicted with the scourge of TB. Dr. Spencer, a San Francisco city bacteriologist would have had a special interest in its prevention and cure.

The booklets were written for potential patients to consider. On the front cover of one, a fashionable lady with a Gibson girl hairstyle uses the lung invigorator as Cupid takes aim.

View Breath of Life booklet (PDF file, 1.3MB)

View Lung Invigorator pamphlet (PDF file, 350KB)

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Camera equipment

Kodak Brownie Starflash cameras like this one were made between 1967 and 1975. The camera case base for a vintage Argus Color-Matic camera is of brown cowhide; inside, camera setting recommendations and film types leave clues to the age of the item. The Argus camera flash unit probably matched the Color-Matic camera.

The disposable Westinghouse flash cubes were used in battery operated cameras. These are probably from the 1970s. Each cube had four bulbs, plugged into the top of the camera, and flashed and rotated with each use. The 4.5 volt battery is Italian in origin, possibly used for a camera.

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Subway tile and wallpaper

Found in the downstairs kitchen on the northeast wall of the house, these subway tiles probably served as a backsplash over Lucile's kitchen sink. Named for the style of tile used in building the New York City Subway c. 1904, these tiles are 3" x 6" and set in a brick pattern.

This wallpaper, with its repeating red, gold and green oak leaf motif, was found in the downstairs kitchen wall, beneath drywall installed in the 1970s. It is a sturdy paper-on-fabric material. It is, quite probably, the paper that was on the wall in Lucile Packard's kitchen in 1938-1939. Scorch marks left on the paper from the Wedgwood Stove tell us where the stove stood.

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Coat hangers

"Between 1900 and 1905, 89 different patents were granted in the United States for wire garment hangers. Two such hangers found in the Addison Avenue house appear to be of pre-1920 design. The larger, "bow-tie" model and the less sophisticated trouser hanger may well have still been in use in the house in 1938-1939. On the trouser hanger, newer-style spring-clamp clothespins are affixed to the hanger by bending the wire through the spring.

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Carved coconut

This hand-hollowed coconut shell is intricately carved with birds and other fanciful patterns.

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Wall switch plate

When it was taken off of the wall at the top of the second floor staircase in January 2005, this 1920s vintage light switch was still operating. It is of knob-and-tube design. The mother-of-pearl buttons were pressed separately to turn lights off and on.

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Glass bottles and jars

Left to right:

  • This small, common glass bottle has side seams and molded threads to accommodate a screw cap. Possibly used for ink or paint, its age is unknown.
  • This bottle may have held spice and closed with a cork. It is clear glass and embossed on the bottom with a small diamond shape, a Japanese character, and, in English, the words Japan Bottle Company. Its age is unknown.
  • This thin-necked bottle contained a tobacco-based tincture for gardening called Black Leaf 40. It is threaded for a screw cap. The remaining portion of its red and white label, printed in black, still sports a skull and crossbones figure indicating its poisonous contents. The product appears to have been made in the state of Virginia.
  • This small opalescent drinking glass that probably came filled with jelly or jam. Its age and brand are unknown. A horseshoe is embossed on the bottom.
  • This somewhat larger jar, designed to be kept as a drinking glass, is embossed on the bottom with "Willman Foods." A web search yielded no information about the company.
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This small whistle or flute has four irregularly spaced finger holes and a dragon stencil; it appears to be carved from a bamboo reed.

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Drill bit

Because of the notch at the base of this 1" drill bit, it would appear to be from a compound hand-powered drill used prior to electrification of hand tools.

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Two thousand dollars are carefully accounted for in this register detailing work done to convert the house into two apartments in 1918. Among the entries, made entirely by Mrs. Spencer, are payments to carpenters, painters, planters and pavers as well as for the purchase of necessary supplies and furniture. A most interesting entry to the Joseph D. Bell Company is $23.25 for a wall (pull-down) bed-also known as a Murphy bed. It's probably the same one that was still in use in the Packards' apartment in 1938-1939.

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Child's toy

The running boy, with his hands extended over his head, looks like he may be flying a kite. He wears a shirt closed with a blue bow-tie under a red jacket. His tan knickerbocker pants tuck into black boots. The little boy has a small hook on his back. Speculation is that the uncoiling spring drove a propeller that moved him along a wire. Amazingly, the wind-up spring still works in this tiny metal toy.

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Biscuit cutter

Looking very much as though it were made from an old vegetable can, this biscuit or cookie cutter probably delivered many years of service before being retired.

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This slender key probably opened one of the interior doors, such as a closet, bedroom or bathroom. It is the only one of the house's original keys found.

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Christmas card

Hand lettering in the upper left corner indicates that it is being sent by the Honorable Dr. Spencer. The card is undated and unsigned and was probably never sent.

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Personal check

One of the more amazing survival stories, this check is the only one that was found in the house. It is drawn on the Bank of Palo Alto, signed by Mrs. Spencer, and was cancelled on August 27, 1907. It is made out to Northwestern Smithing Company in the amount of $17.50. It may have been drawn to pay for metal work around the house, or perhaps for carriage or bicycle repair. Blacksmiths were the mechanics and metallurgists of the time.

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Letter with envelope

Addressed to Mrs. Maude C. Tupman, this letter probably came along with her when she bought the property from Mrs. Spencer in 1944. The envelope indicates the letter was mailed from the San Diego post office on September 30, 1938 - the same month and year Bill and Dave began their work in the garage. The cost of a first-class stamp in 1938 was three cents.

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Valentine card

This colorful Valentine card is addressed to Dr. J.C. Spencer. It was mailed from Berkeley in 1919 and sent to his San Francisco office in the Butler Building at the corner of Geary and Stockton streets. That became the I. Magnin department store and is today part of Macy's Union Square.

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Similar in appearance to an 1883 patent clothespin belonging to one R.B. Perkins, this carved pin would have secured laundry to a drying line in the backyard during good weather. Electric and gas clothes dryers would not become commonplace until 60 years after the house was built.

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