Original 1885 Chesapeake Lighthouse Photographs Mounted Albumen Prints

Looking for some assistance in pricing and marketing a set of 9 mounted albumen prints of Chesapeake Bay lighthouses.

Prints are part of a series of photos taken by Major Jared A. Smith for the US Lighthouse Establishment in 1885. Research has shown that the USCG Historian’s Dept has copies of some of these prints but for other locations the reference shows “Photo Unavailable”.

Deanna Dahlsad‘s insight:

Have any info to share?

See on iantiqueonline.ning.com

Vintage Paint By Number Metalware

Combining two of my favorite things, vintage metalware wastebaskets and vintage paint by numbers, what’s not to love about this 1950s paint by number Tole Craft Wastebasket!

Vintage Tole Craft Paint It Yourself No 17 Oriental Teahouse

Frankly, I had no idea metalware came in DIY crafting sets…

So I searched, finding a vintage promotional Tole Craft “Paint-It-Yourself” Art Metalware piece at Pine Street Art Works:

tole_craft_brochure_small

And I found an ad from 1958, listing all eight of Tole Craft’s metalware craft kits: Hanging Picture Tray, Waste Basket, Desk Basket, Chippendale Hanging Tray, Snack Trays, Magazine Rack, Planter Plate, and Tissue Box. I need all of those! Especially the magazine rack.

Now that I do know about these vintage paint by number metalware kits, I’ve saved eBay searches for vintage “tole craft”, and vintage metal paint by number — and I purchased/bid on a couple of kits. *wink*

But I did find and leave a few of these kits for you too. Like these six metal paint by number trays. It’s not a set of six, but three different pairs of trays; a pair of equestrian or horse trays, a pair of floral pattern trays, and two Scandinavian themed trays.

vintage paint by number metal trays

Along with kits by Tole Craft, look for kits and finished pieces by the Morilla Company, and even Family Circle. You’ll find wall sconces, book ends, and maybe more — if you patiently keep looking!

PS I just got this completed paint by number bookend with a heron as a gift for my bird-loving, antique addicted parents! (Shhhh! Don’t tell them!)

vintage paint by number bookend with heron and birds

What’s This Thing From The Past?

People have asked what the pretty floral fabric item is in this photo of the antique child’s chair:

The long fabric piece which rolls up onto a tube (also wrapped in the fabric) is a part of textile history nearly forgotten.  It’s a doily holder! Ladies would roll their doilies, runners, etc. up in this to store them and keep them clean, back at a time when drawer space was at a premium (and also to accommodate wider textile pieces which would only fit in drawers if folded, which would crease them). So it still serves those who collect doilies and other textiles!

I’ll try to add more photos of the piece alone soon.

Vintage Folding Sewing Cabinets

Having recently written about the various types of vintage sewing baskets and boxes (part one, part two), I was thrilled to find this vintage newspaper photo:

The photo of Jan Norris (of NBC’s It’s A Man’s World television show) was featured above an article promoting patterns for making this folding sewing cabinet and other sewing boxes. Unfortunately, the microfilm copy isn’t very clear; but you can still get the idea.

Vintage Industrial & Primitive Candle Holders

Vintage dairy cream separator funnels have a great industrial look — and a great primitive look when rusty.

They make great candle stick holders!

If you plan on lighting the candles, you should place them on an appropriate heat resistant/fire-safe container — antique saucers and plates work well for this and you can even mix and match leftover saucers or find a use for those in not-so-great condition. You might even want to weave some lace or ribbon in the holes to play up the textures against the old metal. …And if you are using ribbons and things, why not add some vintage buttons too? There are lots of possibilities.

The Magic Of Polavision

I’ve been shopping for “lots” on eBay lately: sellers box up a bunch of low-end things, like cameras or 8mm movies, and then sells them as a set.  I’ve found I can get some pretty cheap fun stuff — plus, the mixed-bags aren’t always described very well, so sometimes you get a surprise.  In a lot of three movie cameras, I got this strange little beast:

It looks about the same size and vintage of Super8 cameras, and upon opening it up I can see it required a film cartridge.  However, the cartridge is too long and too thin to be Super8, or even a cartridge-loading 8mm roll-film camera.  The Polaroid logo on the front should have been my first clue — In the land of Land, Polaroids weren’t the kind of camera that used over-the-counter film formats.  This is a Polavision camera: Polaroid’s first and only foray into self-developing movie film.

Yes, that’s the part that blew my mind:  the magical Polaroid 600 film that everyone shakes like a Polaroid picture is awe-inspiring enough, so doing that at 20 or 30 frames a second blows my mind.  The film was, technically, 8mm film, but it wasn’t the same beast.   The film was pre-loaded in a cartridge, along with a reservoir of developing fluid.  The movie was filmed in a Polaroid camera, like any other normal home movie.   The specialized player did most of the work:  the first time a cartridge was played, the player released the developing fluid, and in 20 seconds the whole movie was ready to be watched.

Polaroid devoted enormous amounts of money and resources into producing these instant-watch films — compared to regular 8mm home movies, which could take days to get back — and when they released it to the market they expected these Polavision cameras to take off like hotcakes.

In 1950, maybe:  color silent movies were the standard of the day, and quick developing would be a big advantage.

In the 1960s,  Super8 film, with a larger frame and better sensitivity, was beginning to take over the market — but Polaroid might have still been able to hold their own.

The Polavision home movie system, unfortunately, debuted in 1977 — the same year the VHS tape broke into the United States market.   Betamax had been around since 1975.  Even Super8 got sound recording in the early 1970s.    The self-developing technology was an enormous breakthrough, but as a personal movie-maker it was about twenty years too late.

The image quality was too poor, even by the low-quality bar that VHS lived with well into the 1990s.  It could only shoot for two minutes at a time, and being locked in a cartridge means no splicing film together into longer movies.   The Polavision film had a very low ISO, so it only worked well in outdoor bright daylight.   The Polavision viewer that was crucial to the development of the film was inadequate for shared viewing, and wasn’t able to project on a large screen.  Pretty much the only advantage the Polavision system had was that magical quick developing, which made it only useful for speed, and not for, you know, enjoyment or artistic creativity.

The Polaroid company was already beginning to implode, even without this huge financial failure;  Land left the company in 1980, and the business struggled to hold on until 2001 when it was sold off to investors, and stopped producing instant film shortly thereafter.   The quick-developing technology didn’t die, though, at least not right away:  Polaroid upscaled the process and loaded into standard 35mm rolls, releasing it as the quick-developing Polachrome instant 35mm slide film.

A Vintage Mae West Scrapbook

Today’s scrapbooks are filled with photographs of family & friends, complimented by decorative papers and supplies purchased for the sole act of creating fantastic looking photo albums. But once upon a time, scrapbooks bore more resemblance to their name: they were books full of “scraps” of paper.

Some of these vintage scrapbooks did chronicle personal events or lifetimes, of course; but many were just compilations of neat things people found in newspapers and magazines. Some people were quite dedicated, focusing their efforts on specific themes. At least each scrapbook had its own theme. And some of the most popular themes were scrapbooks dedicated to movie stars. Like this old Mae West scrapbook.

It’s filled with carefully clipped images of the film star from various newspapers and magazines of the time. Looks like there are a few publicity photos sent to fans as well.

I know some people will balk at the seller’s price tag of $450. But when you consider how much it would cost to find and purchase enough vintage publications and the like to attempt to recreate this nearly-antique scrapbook, it seems a pretty small price to pay in comparison. Plus, even if you could manage to locate all the same scraps, would it be the same as knowing someone dedicated themselves to the selection and organization of this old book? I don’t think so.

When you think about it, scrapbooking isn’t much different than blogging is today. But as ephemeral as old paper is, there’s something more lasting about it… Perhaps because none of us knows what will become of blogs and websites in the next 80 years. Even in that unknown future, I can’t imagine someone not enjoying holding an old book like this and carefully turning the pages to see what someone created.

Image Credits: All images from empressjadeoftheuniverse.

Antique Real Photo Postcard Featuring Female Backsides

Another “stumper” old photograph featuring the backs of women, this one, from bondman2, is a real photo postcard, circa 1910s. We’re still hoping to hear more about these photos, so if you know anything, please share!

The Medium In The Math Lesson

When I first spotted this page in Study Arithmetics: Grade Three, a vintage school primer published by Scott, Foresman and Company, I thought of the old filmstrips we had in school. But it turns out, the film show in this old math lesson is “moving picture” film. There are actually several lessons using film as a teaching tool, which is rather cool. If the concept of movie film being understood enough at this time for the average third grader to put to use learning math amazes you, just remember that film was then more commonplace than it is today.

Not all of the lessons are as outdated as you might think! You can see different images from this book here.

A Trip To Hippie Tom’s

In May, I went with my parents to an open house at Hippie Tom‘s farm. (If you don’t completely recall the name or recognize him, Hippie Tom is a fan favorite on American Pickers.)

Walking about Tom’s farm is phenomenal. There’s almost too much to take in!

Along with the incredible vintage and antique pieces, mostly organized by theme (sometimes obvious, sometimes personal — enough to inspire by itself!), there are many repurposed and recycled pieces and project ideas to be seen.

My favorite building was the church. The photo doesn’t do the scene justice… The church sits down in a little valley, like it opens up before you, yet somehow in the distance… Inside there was a mix of religious items and a few oddball works of art which showed a sense of humor.

Then again, Hippie Tom’s joie de vivre and humor are exposed everywhere!

Hippie Tom is clearly a fan of collecting shows; this vintage stroller had a paper label with “as seen on American Restoration” on it!

Among the items I purchased at Hippie Tom’s was this antique pelican weather vane. (Something I sniffled about selling last weekend!)

Hippie Tom’s place is called Serendipity Farm — and I also bought one of the old Serendipity Farm signs which Hippie Tom happily signed for me!

That autographed sign is not ever going to be up for sale! But if you want something from Hippie Tom and can’t get to his place or a sale he’s at, check out the merchandise at his website.

Collectors Are Like Artists; Collections Like Works Of Art

Combining my usual theme of collectors being curators, just like museum curators, with digital or online curation comes this story of New York collector Peter J. Cohen. Cohen snapped up vintage and antique snapshots of women — among other things. Over the course of decades, Cohen amassed some 20,000 photographs taken by amateurs. This particular collection contains 500 portraits of women.

The photographs, taken in the US between 1900 and 1970, each contain three females. Once the collection lived in a box labeled “Women in Groups of Three” in Cohen’s living room; but now the collection is called The Three Graces and it’s part of The Art Institute of Chicago’s collection.

The collection was shown at The Art Institute of Chicago last fall — but as Cohen donated the collection to the museum, they remain at the AIC which has promised to keep the collection together as an historical depiction of 20th century women in America. The AIC’s graciously put up an online gallery of the collection for you to look at, and put out a lovely hardcover book too: The Three Graces: Snapshots of Twentieth-Century Women.

I love how Cohen’s friend, Stephanie Terelak, captures the essence of photograph collection:

The lines of collector, curator, and artist are blurred in this case. Individually, these photographs are worth very little, probably a few dollars on ebay I would guess. But amassed, sorted, and curated in large specific groups, seemingly worthless stuff on ebay becomes art and the collector becomes artist, selecting each piece to belong to a greater whole that our best museums’ curators deemed worthy of their walls.

This can nearly be said of any collection. Collections are works of art, like collages or mixed media projects — or bonsai trees. Often continuously in process, collections are nearly alive with the story narrated by each individual collector’s act of collecting. Each curates — feeds and prunes — for meaning and growth as well as with an artistic eye, to tell stories with objects.

Museum desired collection or not, this is why I love collecting. Not just personally, but professionally too. I love connecting people with the items, objects, and stories they need to complete their collection — or at least assist them in their artistic process.

Ghost Signatures and Diamond Dealers

The front page of the Pittsburg Post-Gazette for Tuesday, August 3rd, 1920, brought a mysterious story:

Diamond Merchant’s Sudden Death Closes Pages In Famous ‘Ghost Book’

Chicago, Aug. 5 — The sudden death of Samuel T.A. Loftis, millionaire diamond dealer, after a night of wine and taxis, has closed the pages of a famous “Ghost Book,’ which Loftis has kept up for 14 years.

The book was found in the dead man’s apartment. It’s pages are of glazed paper, which, after being written on, were creased down the middle, causing the writing to blot in a freakish double smear.

Loftis, friends say, gave credence to the significance of “ghost signatures.”

This verse occupies the front page of the “Ghost Book”:

“Shadows form in our ghostly past; Ho! Ho! young man. Ho! Ho! From forgotten graves they will rise at last; It is so, young man, it is so. You may run, you may dodge, you may Twist, you may bend, The flying phantoms win in the end; Ho! Ho! old man, Ho! Ho!”

No further explanation of his death is given, not even why a photograph of his ex-wife was made part of the story.

The late Mr. Loftis held the distinction of inventing a new business model for diamond dealing: selling directly to the public on credit. Loftis Bros. and Company advertised in large metropolitan newspapers, offering low monthly payments for fine diamond jewelry. Owning diamonds was now within the reach of the burgeoning middle-class, but excessive debt was also one facet of the beginnings of the lending crisis that brought on the Great Depression. Loftis’ business was launched shortly after DeBeers began their campaign to push diamonds into the forefront; Loftis’ credit system helped make the diamond the de facto wedding ring stone for people of any income.

A “ghost signature” is produced just as described in the Loftis article. The process was much more effective in the days of fountain pens, with slow-drying India ink and a loose method of depositing the ink. The ‘glazed paper’ helped the process by preventing the ink from soaking in. The book was held sideways and the subject was encouraged to sign the book on half of a page, in their official hand and leaving as much ink as possible. The page was creased in the middle and the page folded back upon itself, creating a Rorschach-like inkblot, something for the mind to interpret in innumerable ways. Faces, bodies, animals, spirits, and monsters all appeared in the squished and smeared John Hancocks of the willing contributors to a Ghost Signature book.

As you might have guessed, the business model of preying on the turn-of-the-century middle-class with a promise of acquiring unaffordable luxury doesn’t spring from the minds of well-balanced, altruistic people. In June of 1907, Samuel Loftis suffered a gunshot wound and a split scalp…caused by his brother, Joseph Loftis — one of the “Loftis Bros.” on the masthead — during a business meeting. Samuel Loftis had read a motion to remove his brother as vice president due to unignorable indiscretions; the secretary of the company, Loftis’ wife, seconded the motion. One dissenting ‘nay’, from the soon-to-be-ousted vice-president, wasn’t enough to overturn the motion. Joseph Loftis was discharged from his position, and in return he emptied all six chambers of his revolver in Samuel Loftis’ direction and then leapt upon the wounded president with the intent of finishing the job by beating him with the butt of the revolver.

Samuel Loftis declined to press charges. Joseph was sent west and was the head of the Loftis Bros.’ Omaha office until Samuel’s death.

In 1910, Clifford Loftis, the other member of the “Bros.”, was arrested, but acquitted, in the murder of Joseph Lafferty in Bakersfield, California.  Lafferty had stopped Clifford from beating a horse, which resulted in a fistfight.  Clifford wasn’t satisfied with the result and brought a gun along to renew the discussion the next day.  The New York Times reported that Clifford, a cowhand at the time, had been sent west and left out of the diamond business “to get him away from the temptations of city life.”

Mark Twain wrote that the “last fad is ‘ghost – autographs.’ You write your name down the crease, then fold & press the paper while the ink is still wet & will blot. It generally makes something resembling a skeleton.” He had made one of his own in 1905 and sent it off to his daughter, Clara. The “fad” enjoyed a brief popularity at a time when autograph books were becoming passe. From the mid 19th century until the early 20th it was a friendly gesture to exchange or collect signatures in a little autograph book as a memento of friendships and other events. The mid-19th century also brought the fun artwork of “klecksographie,” popularized by the poet and artist Justinus Kerner. The “ghost signature” overlap of inkblot art and autograph exchanges wasn’t a lasting fad, but it held enough attraction to spawn custom hardbound books designed specifically for making ghost signatures, like the one owned by Samuel Loftis. At the height of the fad, around 1909, ghost autographs were solicited from presidents, dukes and dutchesses, and other celebrities.

In 1909, Samuel Loftis and his wife, Harmon — the company secretary — dissolved their marriage in a fit of hostility. Harmon cited abuse and neglect, stemming from Samuel publicly striking Harmon in the face at at the South Shore Country Club ballroom. Samuel responded by charging his wife with drunkenness and infidelity. The divorce was granted in 1912, and Harmon moved to California with a $125,000 check in her pocketbook.

Samuel T. A. Loftis

Samuel, free of the shackles of marriage, set himself on a path marked by wine, women, and song, and his multi-million-dollar diamond business allowed him to afford all the indiscretions his heart desired. The housekeeper of his Chicago apartment described dozens of women coming and going over the months he resided in the apartment, which would prove to be his final residence. On August 30th, 1920, a drunk Samuel Loftis brought a girl to his apartment, Miss Ruth Woods, the fiancee of a business partner. By the end of the night, the fiancee, furrier Roy Shayne, was at the apartment, and Loftis was dead from a blow to the head. Woods claims she called Shayne for help after Loftis fell and hit his head on the floor. The story the police believed was that Loftis had attempted to ravage Miss Woods by force; she summoned Shayne for assistance, and a liquor bottle to the head ended Loftis’ conquest. An inquest was held, both Woods and Shayne were questioned, and when the inquest ended on August 4th the death was ruled accidental, due to a fall. On August 8th, ten days after Loftis’ death, Shayne and Woods were married in Milwaukee, after receiving a special dispensation to waive the five-day waiting period on Wisconsin marriage licenses.

The original, complete wire story about Loftis’ death included many more details of Woods’ and Shayne’s testimonies, and more information about Loftis’ life. Whether due to sloppy editing or a taste for the bizarre, most newspapers cropped the story down to end just where my quote above finishes: Loftis died, and he had a book of ghost signatures. The sensationalism of the reporter who composed the original wire story appears to have attempted to tie together the reckless life of the Loftis clan to the occultism of the 1920s, and to start a much longer story with an attention-getting zinger. Reporters visited crime scenes, and the book probably caught the eye of a beat reporter looking for something interesting to punch up the article.  Loftis was probably just hip to the fads of the time, and used it as a conversation piece, collecting the autographs of friends and marveling at the mysterious shapes. Loftis’ actual life was far more sinister than the so-called “ghost book” of the news reports.

The poem the newspaper quoted from the forward of Loftis’ ghost book helps identify his book as The Ghosts of My Friends, the most common of the preprinted spirit autograph books from the first decade of the 20th century. The poem is by Gerald Villiers-Stuart, and appeared in his book The Soul of Croesus. Ghosts is attributed to Cecil Henland, who had made a name for herself by producing other books of the same format, with some front material and then blank pages for the purchaser to fill in, and in founding the National Society of Day-Nurseries. Henland married Lieut. Col. Arthur Percival at age 38 in 1907, but was widowed in World War I. Heland’s next most popular book was The Christmas Book, which included blank pages for people to write their wish-lists, and additional pages laid out to record the celebrations and events of the Christmas season.

The Ghosts of My Friends is somewhat common in online stores and websites, with the price varying quite wildly, but mostly sells for around $40. In 2009, a copy belonging to Fred Astaire, or someone in his family, was placed for auction and sold for several hundred dollars. Your Hidden Skeleton is less common and tends to bring a little higher price. People who own copies of either book tend to be rather proud of their ghost signatures, frequently posting samples online. If you’d like to make one of your own but without damaging an antique book, there is a company producing ghost autograph books similar to Cecil Henland’s, which can be purchased from Reflections of My Friends.

 

A Cool Way To Display Your Matchbook Collection

Yesterday, I wrote about collecting vintage matchbooks at Collectors Quest, but I couldn’t find these photos; so here I am, adding a Post Script, of sorts. While matchbooks, with their small size, seem like a manageable collection, let me assure you they can literally pile up.  Placing matchbooks in jars seems kind of lazy and a possibly unsafe way to display your matchbook collection. Organizing matchbooks in binders might work if you have the time and discipline — but it still relegates your collection to sitting unseen on shelves. But this idea, spotted at a flea market, seems rather ingenious!

Here matchbooks are slid inside the hollow plastic parts of a plastic poster frame. (These are the cheap frames you can find at Wal-Mart; the kind you just slide apart. Since you only want the plastic frame parts, just get the frames with the cardboard backs.) Since the matchbooks are about as thin as the poster with the cardboard backing, the plastic holds them in place and on display.

I would suggest that the plastic “rods” be set or hung inside a curio cabinet — that way, the antique and vintage matchbooks can be protected behind glass.  The plastic frame parts are very easily cut.

Country Rustic Display Frame

Strips of wood from an old weathered lattice, twine, and clothespins are used to make this picture frame to display photographs.

Of course, this could be used to display a collection of postcards or other ephemera too. I would heartily advocate placing the photos or ephemera in protective plastic sleeves first.

Hidden Values In Antique Collecting & Genealogy In The News

Spending time with my collectibles is a huge part of why I collect — and I don’t mean the dusting! In fact, one of the reasons I blog is because I love the time to spend examining and researching each object. I truly believe this is a huge part of the value of collecting as a hobby.

Two recent news stories reminded me of this fact.

16th-Century Map of Lost Colony

The first is a matter of maps and historical mysteries… The British Museum’s recent re-examination of a 16th-century coastal map of the Tidewater coast of North Carolina has revealed hidden markings that may show what happened to the so-called American Lost Colony. While this colony was the second English settlement on the North Carolina coast, it was the first settlement to include civilians, including the legendary Virginia Dare, the granddaughter of the colony’s governor, John White. Virginia was born within weeks of their arrival to the settlement in 1587 — making Virginia Dare the first child of English descent born in the Americas.

Now, I’m not saying that all map collectors have a map of this magnitude; but even that vintage shell oil map may lead to a discovery, a road not taken, a connection you’ve not made before. Who knows what mysteries you might solve — or even find?

Speaking of connections, this next news story discusses how genealogy may help provide evidence that proves humans are continuing to evolve. Your family tree alone may not seem like much, but when combined with others, it provides scientific information:

“Studying evolution requires large sample sizes with individual-based data covering the entire lifespan of each born person,” said Dr Lummaa. “We need unbiased datasets that report the life events for everyone born. Because natural and sexual selection acts differently on different classes of individuals and across the life cycle, we needed to study selection with respect to these characteristics in order to understand how our species evolves.”

Doesn’t that all just inspire you to go antiquing, to organize those family records? It certainly makes me want to raise that bidding paddle!

Nothing To Write Home About? Letters From WWII

In my post at Collectors Quest today, I share my disc-overy of WWII voice mail: audio letters sent during the war.

While I encourage you to read that history, I have two other items to share regarding that story.

First, in the January, 1946 issue of Audio Record (published by Audio Devices Inc., a manufacturer of blank discs used by the USO for the voice recordings), there was this cute story:

From a USO club in the South came the story of a man who made a special record for his family. His mother wrote back that when his pet dog heard the boy’s voice he sent up great bays of delight. So the soldier went back to the USO club ad made a whole recording just for his dog, Fido.

Since this is an industry publication, this heartwarming wartime story may be made up, simply propaganda — but it still works!

And that brings me to the very true fact stated by Letters on a Record Home, a documentary directed by John Kurash which focused on these Word War II recordings from the USO, Gem Blades, Pepsi and local radio stations:

At one point, over 25,000 letters on a record were sent home each month. Very few remain but what we have offers us insight into the lives of the soldiers and their families during the second world war. Most soldiers came back home to become part of the Greatest Generation. But not everyone comes home from war, not every soldier was able to keep their promise.

This short film is part of the GI Film Festival, and will be screened on Sunday, May 20, 2012.