Monday, January 24, 2011

Show and Tell Monday: Planetary Plate

mannings_plateThis plate is not mine, but I wish it was. It belongs to a friend's boyfriend, and it was shown to me somewhat casually; my incredibly enthusiastic response was greeted with some bemusement.

Look at this thing! (Click to enlarge.) The front is dimensional and hand-painted; the back includes all sorts of 'planetary data'. It was produced in Holland, apparently in 1957, by Frank W. Manning of New Orleans. He includes his belief that "Somewhere out in space is the secret of all life. Even the secret of the soul." How awesome is that?

I immediately checked online to see if I could buy me one of these, and turned up nothing, nada, zilch. As far as I can tell, no-one is selling their Planetary Plates. Who can blame them?

My research turned up a bit of information about Frank Manning. He was quite a colorful figure in New Orleans from the 20s through the 70s. He was born in 1903, and was Chief Investigator for the Louisiana Department of Justice. Prior to that he was Chief Investigator for the Department of Revenue for the State of Louisiana. In the '30s he served as one of Huey Long's bodyguards.

He was also a scientist, inventor, and avid amateur astronomer. He assembled two of the world's largest mobile telescopes, and was the first person to depict the topography of the moon on a sphere (the “Manning Moon Ball”). He also patented and manufactured the Manning Tasty Shrimp Fish Lure.

How cool is that?


kt said...

This is all so cool. The plate first off, I wish they were still making it too! Who would have known that this whole story existed behind this plate. i want his belief about space written on a plate I would hang that up in my house:)

Rhea said...

What she ^^ said

Anonymous said...

what an interesting one of kind find!

Lindsay Jewell said...

Ah, interesting. I would have liked the plate on its own, even without knowing about the back story, but now it's even more intriguing. Good luck finding one - I can see why nobody would want to sell it. :)

Anonymous said...

I have this plate also - mine is 1955 & the coloring is different, same design but with some metallic paints on spaceship and planets.
Thanks for giving the backstory-- like the other comment-- I would have liked the plate anyway, but the story adds so much more dimension!

Jonathan said...

Wonderful! Our family has this plate, inherited from my grandfather Donald Menzel (google him), a renown astronomer and a collector of all sorts of astronomical 'stuff'. I have some of his tie collection (stars, space ships, etc.), and some other astronomical plates as well. I love the story you found about it, and that you reacted with such enthusiasm!

Anonymous said...

Frank Manning was my grandfather, and my family also has a plate. :)

Lee said...

I have one of these plates as well. I inherited it from my grandfather who lived in New Orleans. My grandfather likely knew Mr. Manning since he was a famous photographer in the city and took pictures of many of the notable people in the city. I can't believe I finally found out that there are several of these in existence.

cameron said...

I, too, have one of these plates, and cherish it! Despite the billions of items of information out there on the web, there is very little about Mr. Manning, or his plate. Your blog had more info than I've ever found before! Why don't we start a "club" for fans of this plate (I found a description of a bowl, too, but don't know if it ever actually existed or not) and, since I see an anonymous post stating Mr. Manning was your grandfather, could we get a biography?
What an adventurer and philosopher he must have been! How could he have gone unnoticed and unmentioned?