Tag Archives: newspaper

Prop-tastic Friday

Meet Jim – Our Props Director – The Milwaukee Rep Tumblr has a conversation with Jim Guy, their props director. Jim is also the President of S*P*A*M and knows 97% of the props masters in the US.

The Day They Nuked Buffalo – Propnomicon brings us this interesting historical tidbit. In 1952, the State Civil Defense Commission had the Buffalo News print a newspaper as if a nuclear bomb had been detonated over the city. It was “the only prop newspaper ever officially sanctioned by the US government.”

Check Out This Amazing Ghostbusters Proton Pack – The new Ghostbusters movie opens this weekend, and Make Magazine brings us this great Arduino-powered proton pack. It’s from the original film; maybe in the coming weeks, we’ll see more builds of the new equipment.

Punished Props’ Foam Viking Axe Build – Tested shows us how Bill Doran built a viking axe out of flexible foam in this video.

How to Build a Foam Cosplay Helmet – Also from Tested, Evil Ted shows us how to make a helmet out of flexible foam. Basically, you can build an entire suit of armor and weapons out of your floor mats.

Friday Night Links

Tomorrow, August 17th, I will be exhibiting some props at the Burlington Mini Maker Faire in North Carolina. I wrote up some more details about it a few days ago. There’s going to be Stormtroopers, robots and even a space launch. That’s right, they are going to launch a balloon into (near) space from the mall parking lot. I never thought I would live to see the day I could type the previous sentence.

The Library of Congress has a massive collection of digital images and photographs from throughout US history. It is an incredible resource for finding or creating specific paper props or for general research. I use their newspaper collection quite a bit.

I’ve linked to a few of blacksmith Tony Swatton’s videos in the past; he has a new one up where he creates Link’s Master Sword from the Legend of Zelda series. The result is an amazingly accurate replica of a sword which exists only in a video game, built out of the materials which a real life sword would be made from. It is far more intense than the Master Sword I created a few months ago, but then again, I don’t have a whole team of specialized metal artisans working in my shop.

Here is an article on Patrick Drone, the props master at the University of Michigan. In recent years, he has begun working at Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village, where he maintains a fleet of early Model T and Model A vehicles. He says the work is not unlike that of a props shop.

The guys at Tested recently visited The Hand Prop Room in Los Angeles to tour through their 1,000,000+ props. I often wish I lived close by to a props rental house that contained everything; then again, I probably don’t have the budget for that. I guess I’ll have to make my own.

Prop Jokes from 1911

Here are some jokes and funny anecdotes from various newspapers, all of which appeared in 1911.

In a fourth of July oration in Denver N. C. Goodwin once remarked on the small means wherewith Washington achieved such great ends.
“When I think,” said Mr. Goodwin, “of Washington’s terrible handicap, my mind goes back to the town of Nola Chucky.
“An actor manager was to appear for one night in Nola Chucky, and accordingly he wired the proprietor of the Nola Chucky opera house:
“‘Will hold rehearsal tomorrow afternoon. Have stage manager, stage carpenter, property man and assistant, chief electrician and all stage hands at theater prompt to hour.’
“He received this telegram in reply:
“‘He will be there.'”

The San Francisco Call, July 22, 1911, Page 7.

Property Man: “Did your company have a long run in Squeedunk?”
Comedian: “They chased us only two miles out.”

University Missourian, September 18, 1911, Number 7, Page 4.

An English actor tells a good story of the old days of the touring fitup companies. They were at Oldham playing a melodrama called “Current Cash.” One of the properties essential to the piece was a light rowing scull, with which the hero had to push himself off into the stream. When the company reached Oldham the oar was missing, but the property man promised to have one ready for the evening’s performance, says the Pall Mall Gazette. That afternoon, with evident pride, he produced from the sacred recesses of his room a real human skull, and when it was pointed out to him that it was hardly what was required he declared in haughty tones:
“If that skull’s good enough for ‘Hamlet’ it ought to be good enough for a piece like ‘Current Cash.'”

The Manning Times, August 30, 1911, Page 6.

William Bradley, Property Man, 1927

This article first appeared in the February 20, 1927, issue of The New York Times.

With the trend of the drama toward realism it is obvious that the relative importance of the property man in the theatre must have increased considerably. In the barn-storming days of the early ’90s a revolver, a window-sash and a back-drop depicting Niagara Falls at its most gushing moment, comprised an almost complete set of props. Today, the man whose business it is to supply all the effects necessary to create an authentic background must produce as part of his day’s work everything from a flying carpet to a cat’s meow.

It is just such effects that William Bradley, who has been tracking the prop to its lair for lo, these many years, has on tap at his studios. Bradley’s first experience in playing valet to the stage began in 1885 when he worked at the old Standard Theatre. In 1892 he wandered out to Dayton, Ohio, with his trusty three-piece set of props. There he not only dressed the stage, but he also did a song and dance turn, tended door on the balcony, and also rehearsed the orchestra for the incidental music.

In 1908 Bradley returned to New York to begin work as property man with the late Henry B. Harris. It was while furnishing the Harris productions with properties that he conceived the idea of opening a studio upon which producers could call for data and incidentals. On Mr. Harris’s death Bradley started in the property supplying business. Today, no matter what article of stage adornment is necessary to a show he will usually find it.

Any number of interesting quests fall to his lot. Take, for instance, the little matter of shark teeth. It isn’t often that the voracious specimen of cartilaginous fish, or even any portion of his anatomy, is called upon to make a public appearance. Naturally, Bradley thought that the shark would be pleased—nay, even willing—to turn professional. But not a bit of it. The property man spent a lively few days trying to gather together enough shark teeth to make a necklace. He searched high and low and at last rounded up two stuffed shark heads with the idea of extracting the necessary ivories. But the heads refused to lose their teeth. So the hunt for the necklace continued.

It was a week later that Bradley journeyed to the Syrian quarter on Washington Street looking for some pipes for another production. He happened into a Turkish delicatessen store. It was bargain day for dried okra, and Mr. Bradley was the recipient of an idea. Buying the okra, which is usually used for soups, he took the bag of herbs to his studio, hung the pieces on a string, and thus was born a necklace of shark teeth that, so it is said, would have turned any South Sea Islander green with envy.

It was in Dayton that Bradley first met George C. Tyler, whose productions he now outfits. Mr. Tyler was, at that time, a press agent with an eye on the producing end of the business. But the two did not meet again until Mr. Tyler did Tarkington’s “Clarence.” Ever since then Bradley has found the props for all Tyler shows, whether they be modern comedy or historical drama.

It is necessary for the property man, if he is to make a real business of his work, to have at his disposal a fund of information concerning almost every historical period in almost every country. In “The Constant Nymph” for example, Bradley was called upon to supply the props for a Tyrolean home. This meant that he had to furnish the potato barrels, the clumsy stools and tables, the pottery from which the characters eat, and that they all had to be true to life. For the property man never knows when some experienced traveler or historian, or even a native of Tyrol, may be sitting out front waiting to catch him up. And natives of Tyrol, it seems, are given to doing this.

Periodicals from a specific locality are often difficult to procure. There is in “Tommy” a call for a telephone book from a small town in New Jersey. This was fairly easy, for it meant that the property man made overtures to the town and procured the required prop. The question of having newspapers of a definite date and place on the stage is another problem—not a difficult problem, to be sure, but one that demands the attention of the property man. Should the “prop plot” call for the current issue of a daily paper, it is that functionary’s job to see that each day a fresh paper is supplied. Only he knows how many people out front will catch a slip-up on his part—and how many have!

The greatest demands on the property man today are for modern appliances, such bathtubs and kitchen furnishings as are used, say, in “Saturday’s Children.” These are easy enough to furnish and a supply is always at hand.

Originally published in The New York Times, February 20, 1927.

Monday Morning Links

Fon Davis runs a company called FONCO Creative, which makes miniatures and models for film and television. He’s worked on some lesser-known films such as MatrixStar Wars Episodes I-III, and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Make: Believe visits his studio and posts some photographs and this video below. It is great to see a fairly young and high-tech company still embracing the use of models and miniatures.

You should see this “Death Row” router table; so-named because it was found in a prison woodworking shop where tools often need to be, um, improvised.

New York Magazine has this snarky look at how terrible the newspaper was in Back to the Future. Slate Magazine than has a rebuttal, calling the critique very funny, but very wrong. Both articles are highly entertaining; you might remember them the next time you need to make a fake newspaper prop.

Here is an interesting Instructable for making your own machinable wax. Machinable wax is a wax which will not melt or deform from the friction of a high-speed rotary cutter; it is useful for trying out a part on a CNC machine before you waste your real material (and it can be machined faster and without wearing down your tools).