This has to be the coolest notebook I’ve ever bought. I almost had a heart attack when I stumbled across it on eBay, and it only took me a split second to hit the “Buy it Now” button and grab this beauty for about $45 including shipping. When the notebook arrived in the mail, it was everything I’d hoped for and more!
Why do I love this notebook so much? First of all, if I’d been able to buy this notebook brand new, it would be perfect. It’s just the right size (about 3 1/2 x 5 1/4″, shown below next to a pocket Moleskine for comparison), with a nice leather cover. No pockets, no frills, no bells & whistles, just a minimalist black looseleaf. I probably have a dozen small black looseleaf notebooks that are similar to this in many respects, but none of them were quite right. This is what I wanted them to be– or to become. Because, of course, this notebook is not brand new– it’s wonderfully broken-in and well-loved. It’s in surprisingly good condition given that it must be at least 60-75 years old, maybe even older. And then there are the contents– lovely paper with red edges and a red top line. Some of the pages are beautifully hand-written in pencil or fountain pen, but some are TYPE-WRITTEN! And there are a few little sketches and floor plans.
On the inside back cover, there’s a stamp for the manufacturer, A. Pomerantz & Co. of Philadelphia. The company actually still exists, but they’ve changed a lot: it must have started out as an office supply and stationery company, but they now specialize in workspace design– not just office furniture, but moving and storage, flooring and wall coverings, repair, lighting, asset management, and more.
One odd thing I noticed about the notebook was that there is no lever to open the rings– usually, there’s something you push at one end of the metal spine to pop the rings open. I figured you must just have to pull these open by carefully grabbing the rings themselves– I was terrified I’d break the mechanism, but I finally tried it and they worked– but they open separately in two groups. If you pull one of the top 3 rings apart, those top 3 rings all come open and the bottom 3 stay closed. I’ve never seen any other looseleaf that operated this way.
The notebook was once the property of an interior decorator– at least, I’m assuming he must have been a decorator based on the contents of the notebook. He seems to have catalogued all sorts of furniture from various stores in New York City, with detailed data on measurements and fabric yards needed for upholstered pieces. There’s a list of store addresses, and in a few pages, he sketched the furniture or a floorplan of a room, and on one page, he stapled in a clipping of a lamp. He also had a timetable for trains into New York, noting the fare. I would imagine that he made periodic buying or research trips into the city so he’d know all the latest furniture styles available for his clients, and kept notes on the rooms he was working on. There don’t seem to be any notes on other aspects of decor such as paint or wallpaper or carpets, so perhaps he was a specialist in furniture who worked for a larger company. Regardless of his exact job, I love how organized he was! He obviously had a system and his notebook was a big part of it.
I would guess that he used this notebook at some point between the 1920s and the 1940s– I found two listings for this man’s name in old census records, obviously a father and son, and also the obituary for the son. The obituary mentioned a career that had nothing to do with decorating, so it must have been the father born in the 1880s who used this notebook. Another clue is that the train line mentioned hasn’t existed since the early 1960s, and I know at least some of the stores listed went out of business years ago. When the son died, a junk dealer probably bought whatever his family didn’t keep and this little notebook made its way onto eBay and into my adoring hands.
I have to confess that I’m obscuring some identifying details because I’d be heartbroken if someone in the family happened to Google their way to this site and think “Gee, that old notebook was pretty cool! We should ask her to give it back to us!” I guess the odds of that happening are pretty slim– it’s hard for me to believe sometimes, but I have to remind myself that a lot of people would just think this was some cruddy old notebook full of obsolete information! But it’s found a loving home with me, and I’d like to think the original owner would be happy to know someone appreciated his notebook and the way he used it.