Publication Review: Antique Week

I tend to be vocal about my criticisms of Antique Week. It’s not some internet attitude talking, but human nature; we tend to be more vocal with our complaints than with our compliments. So I figured it was time I gave Antique Week it’s proper due and give it a proper review.

Antique Week is a popular industry publication for antiques and collectibles — and I say it’s an “industry publication” rather than a hobby publication as the weekly focuses heavily not only on pricing, but on information for dealers. Such marketplace information can be a bit of a turn-off for some, but this weekly newspaper (published on actual newsprint) contains lots of good information on antiques, art, and (mainly vintage) collectibles. There’s even a regular column by my no-so-secret crush (who I’ve met several times), Wes Cowan!

While the newspaper is published weekly, not all the stories are timely. (Not to toot my own horn too much, but hubby and I have often beaten Antique Week to the reporting punch. Most recent examples include my article on the antique vampire kit was published October 15, 2009, theirs in the January 11, 2010 issue; and hubby’s article on the 1913 Liberty Nickel was published December 24, 2009, Antique Week‘s was in the January 18, 2010 issue.) But I don’t suppose that matters too much; we’re talking about old things, not social needs or political issues.

Plus there’s lots of ads (from full pagers to classifieds) for antique shops, auctions, flea markets, etc. — including dealers and individual collectors who want stuff. You know when you hear folks on Roadshow etc. casually mentioning those specialized auctions held once or twice a year, or some private collection that’s been up for auction? Well, they’re (usually) found in Antique Week — and in time for you to plan to get to them (or make arrangements to view catalogs and bid) too.

Each issue is in two parts: the first section features news and information by area (Easter, Central, and Western) and the inner National section. And as a subscriber, you have access to the website, where you can search archived issues, auctions, etc.

Honestly, Antique Week is one of the few weekly publications I read every page of and save (though my saving of old newspapers probably surprises no one lol). So thanks, Mom, for renewing my subscription for Christmas!

Right now, you can register for a free four week trial subscription to AntiqueWeek with website access. And you can send a friend a free week or sample issue.

Remembering Barbie’s Evening Splendor

While trolling eBay, I found this vintage Barbie ensemble and let out a, “Hey! I had that!”

Hubby probably would have ignored me (I exclaim a lot of things while sitting at the computer, and if he paid attention to every one, he’d never get to enjoy his parts of the interwebs), but then I followed it up with a, “Whoa, $474.99…” to which he responded, “Still have it?”

Every collector has a price, and if I did have this particular vintage doll outfit for Babs, I might be tempted…

But my outfit was played with — well loved — first by my aunt, then by me.

I love-loveloved this outfit. The metallic gold threads gleamed, making Barbie appear to wiggle in that wiggle dress, even when she wasn’t even moving. The coat had those elegant cuffs of fur set against that gold and then -BAM!- you opened up that coat, and there was that unexpected (or at least thrilling) gleaming aqua lining. And, believe it or not, that aqua corduroy handbag was paired with nearly as many other outfits as the pearl necklace and basic black shoes.

I played with them all, but tenderly. Even still, I’m sure they wouldn’t approach the conditions of this one. And I don’t recall the fur and pearl headband.

However, I don’t think a few hundred dollars would be worth parting with the set if I still had it — no matter the condition. A few grand? Mmmaybe. It’s hard to put a price on memories. Harder still to put a price on the hypothetical ownership retained — because right now, all I want to do it have it back and dress-up Barbie.

For collectors who are interested, the seller of this vintage Barbie ensemble (modwoman of Retro-stop) offers information on Evening Splendor, one of the few original outfits manufactured in 1959:

Although the outfit itself remained in production through 1964, only the outfits marked TM were manufactured the first year. These outfits came with the #1 shoes with the hole in the bottom to accommodate the stand!

The TM version appears to be “more gold” than the more common R version. The gold glistens and sparkles and provides a stunning contrast to the aqua satin lining!

PS I obviously can’t recall if my outfit had the original, old, TM tag; but since Babs #1 was among the items given to my by my aunt, I’m pretty certain it was.

Falling In Love With The Toy Wife (1938)

Another guest post by Jaynie Van Roe of Here’s Looking Like You, Kid.

The second film I watched as part of TCM’s celebration of actress Luise Rainer‘s 100th birthday was The Toy Wife aka Frou Frou (1938).

In the film, Rainer plays Gilberte “Frou Frou” Brigard, who gets the name Frou Frou from the sound of her swishing dresses. And that certainly does imply more than a love of fashion, but a frivolity as well.

Many compare this film to Gone With The Wind, Camille, and Jezebel for more than its location and time period; like Frank Miller at TCM, folks refer to Frou Frou as a “tempestuous Southern belle.” But I disagree. For while she’s as beautiful and charming as those other women, fundamentally Frou Frou is not the hardened and man-ipulative woman of pride seen in those other films.

If she seems spoiled, it’s a result of those who have been so charmed by her that they’ve pampered and protected her into a perpetual state of childhood. Example: When the matronly Madame Vallaire complains of a toothache and claims that the worst thing about it is that treatment requires a visit to the city of New Orleans, Frou Frou, who desperately wants to see the glamorous city, fakes a toothache herself. It’s the obvious ploy of a child who has just seconds before begged to go to the city, but the next thing you know, Frou Frou, her sister, and Madame Vallaire are all in New Orleans.

Yes, Frou Frou is spoiled. But even so, she lacks a shewish quality — or even an iron sense of will bend others to. Her strengths lay in an innocence and a resiliency born of continual enchantment and enthusiasm.

In fact, Frou Frou’s childlike sense of wonder rather leaves her sans the mission and the guile (if not the means of feminine charms) to be the iron fist in the velvet glove genre of southern belle heroines.

Frou Frou wants a husband — but like many a young woman, she is more in love with love, infatuated with the idea of a husband rather than setting her sights on any one in particular… And in fact, it is her lovelorn sister who inserts Frou Frou into her own romance, creating not only a love triangle but breaking Frou Frou’s own burgeoning romance, and setting up the tragedies which ensue.

Luise Rainer’s portrayal of Frou Frou is as charming as can be. Not only is she a beauty (those cheekbones are to die for!), but she manages to encapsulate both an enthusiasm as frothy, delicate, and gay as those swishing skirts — as well as an appreciation and delight for what she has (which, as any parent will tell you, is rarely a virtue of children). When Frou Frou says, “I want to look at this room, it’s such a pretty room,” there’s a breathless wistfulness usually reserved for moments of longing… Yet this is about what she already has. And the scenes with her film screen son, Georgie, are so beautiful to watch.

In the end, film critics and movie-goers alike didn’t like this film. Frankly, they just didn’t get it. When they say Rainer is “too feminine,” it’s clear they are as ignorant to the delights of Frou Frou as they are the storyline and the plight of The Toy Wife.

But I get Frou Frou and The Toy Wife.

It’s a film like this which drives a person to collecting. I simply must collect all things Toy Wife!

I must have movie stills, magazine articles (like the one shown above, from Picture Show magazine, a London weekly, dated October 15th 1938), and (dare to dream!) something from that film that Luise Rainer as Frou Frou touched…

And please, TCM, I beg of you to get this released on DVD!

I won’t be collecting for me, for commercial reasons — I’ll be collecting for Frou Frou. She needs to know that someone, even all these years later, loved her as she was.

I know collecting yet another film means I risk collecting all things Luise Rainer, but I simply cannot, will not, abandon Frou Frou. So it’s a risk this collector is very willing to take.

Image credits, in order they appear in this post:

Color film poster for Frou Frou (aka The Toy Wife), via Benito International.

The Toy Wife film still featuring Melvyn Douglas, Luise Rainer, and Robert Young, from Movies & Things.

Reprint photo of Robert Young & Luise Rainer in The Toy Wife, from Hemetsphere-Auction-Services.

Two scans from feature article inside Picture Show magazine, October 15, 1938, Frou Frou and Georgie, and MGM Frou Frou article page), via LuiseRainer.Net

Color photo of Robert Young and Luise Rainer from ThePhotoArchive.

Old Buttons

My Grandmother had a button box. She would add any buttons from clothes that were worn out and being cut up to use for patches and cleaning rags. Sometimes she bought sets of 4, 6 or more buttons on sale somewhere and brought those back (kept on their cardboard packaging) and put them in the button box too.

As she got older she became legally blind and was no longer able to sew her own buttons (or anything else) as well as she used to. She was always more of a cook anyway. I still remember the white sweater I fixed for her. It had a few loose buttons and one missing. It was one of the very few times I got to look through something of my Grandmothers. She brought out the button box and let me have a look through them all. I found enough new buttons for the white sweater, all matching and all pink.

For years she would brag about how well I sewed those buttons on her sweater. She said I had done them so well they would never come off. I did too. I remember sewing them on and how honoured I was to do something, something real, for my Grandmother. Not just kid stuff playing around. She kept that sweater and the buttons did last years and years.

I still like buttons. I guess I have a soft spot for them. My Mother had a button box. My Grandmother’s buttons became part of that collection in time. My Mother gave me the button box a few years ago, when she started spending winters in Florida. We used to sew together but that was usually around the holidays. Now that I’m alone I still do some baking but not so much sewing.  It’s kind of sad. I have that button box but it’s been many years since I last looked at any of the buttons in it.

There are some nice crafts with buttons, like button bouquets. I’ve seen a few uses for them other than the traditional clothing fasteners. One site has old/ vintage buttons turned into fancy rings. I’ve seen scrapbookers use buttons as flower centres in drawings. We have used buttons in place of game pieces. They string up on ribbon and look pretty girlie and pretty too.

Old, Retro or Vintage Buttons

Button Swaps

People Who Like Buttons

Vintage Gay Fad Florals

A pretty pair of vintage glassware spotted at the thrift store. I believe the sweet pink flowers with unusual black leaves and stems was hand-painted onto clear glass creamer and handled sugar bowl at Fran Taylor’s Gay Fad Studios (located first in Detroit, Michigan, later in Lancaster, Ohio). Neither glass piece was marked, so I don’t know where the glass ‘blanks’ were from.

Had I deeper pockets, I would have bought them and really started a Gay Fad collection. (I have three pieces now; I do love the floral pieces and fruit designs — but there’s a lot to choose from!) Or maybe a pink and black glassware collection. (I have a few random single glasses with pink and black designs.) But you need to be more in the black to really start new collections, even at thrift store prices. *sigh*

Rescuing Silent Film: Christel Holch

While searching for Valkyrien’s 1916 presumed to be lost silent film The Hidden Valley, Mary Ann Cade came across some unknown film fragments through a link listed at SilentEra.com.

The photos of fragments of film, found in a Hungarian archive, resembled the known plot of The Hidden Valley, and the striking actress in the antique film images looked like Valkyrien…

But while the pretty actress was not Valkyrien, nor the film The Hidden Valley, with the help of the Danish Film Institute, Mary Ann Cade was able to get the old film frames or fragments identified as being from the Nordisk film Oldtid og Nutid aka The Dream (1915), starring Danish actress Christel Holch (and Frederik Jacobsen).

American Pickers

Monday night was the premier of the History Channel’s American Pickers. This hour long show is the channel’s latest foray into the world of collectibles and antiques, following one of my other favorite shows Pawn Stars. So I was wicked excited to see it.

The show documents the actions of Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz (friends since the 8th grade and business partners in Iowa-based Antique Archaeology) and Danielle Colby Cushman (who holds down the fort back at the shop), folks who make a living off doing the work that some collectors and dealers won’t: not only crawling through farms, sheds, garages and junk yards to spot the gems, but willing to ask the dreaded question, “How much?” and then dicker over price.

For some of us, this isn’t so much something we wouldn’t do, but something we simply don’t have time for. (And this is how the pickers do more than survive but thrive.) For me, this is my dream job.

It’s not just that I’d like to turn my hobby of digging around for stuff into full-time travel adventures, but I really, really, have a fondness for what hubby and I call “old coots.” I love old people, especially old men, with stories to tell — and quirks, I love quirks. And American Pickers finds them and shows them to us.

Like Bear, the guy who was a second generation carny with 35 years worth of old carnival equipment and rides. I don’t recall the names of the other charming old men who we met in this first episode, but hubby can attest to my rapt attention and squealing during commercial breaks — both of which express my excitement and delight with the show.

So American Pickers satisfies not only my need to see more junk but to meet more old coots. But maybe you have different needs?

For those more seriously interested in antiques and collectibles than living vicariously through the day to day fun of what Frank, Mike, and Danielle do, there are more practical matters included in American Pickers.

There’s the obligatory math analysis of how much paid for the item, it’s value, and the resulting (at least potential) profits. There’s the history of the objects found (another obsession of mine). And there are tips and tricks too. Such as the best places to pick are at houses and properties without satellite dishes and new vehicles, that you always get the owner to name his or her price first, and that, no, you don’t always get what you want.

If you’re new to collecting, never been so knee-deep in dirty stuff as a collector, or just want to brush up on your antique hunting and negotiating skills, there’s plenty to learn (or reaffirm) from Mike & Frank.

Personally, I’ll continue to watch for the eye candy — the antiques and the old coots. And I’ll keep hoping for my future career as a traveling picker — who writes from the road.

Locally, original episodes of American Pickers are on Monday Nights, up against NBC’s Heroes. I used to watch Heroes religiously, but it’s no contest: The American pickers are my real heroes.

Of Rusty Tools & Auction Fools

One of the things I find most interesting about collecting as a hobby in general is the vast differences in object availability and appeal by geographical area.

Having moved from the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, area to Fargo, North Dakota, you might not think (as I did) that there’d be so many differences. But there’s roughly a 100 year age difference as well as cultural differences — and the evidence of this is found in every rummage sale, antique shop, estate sale, flea market, and thrift store.

On Saturday, I found the sort of thing one typically does not find at thrift stores in Milwaukee: a rather large display of what I ignorantly yet affectionately call “rusty junk” at a Fargo city thrift shop.

Hubby, being both male and a former farm kid, can identify this sort of stuff. Not me.

But I am drawn to the sense of mystery of each piece and the artistic appeal of tools Vs. natural consequences (wear from use, nature, etc.). And I know from years of collecting just how popular such pieces are.

At farm auctions here, I’m never really sure if the (mostly) male bidders who gather around the old rusty tools and parts are buying solely for the sake of collecting (either for their own collections or as dealers who serve as middlemen to collectors or interior designers of T.G.I . Friday’s), if they intend to use the tools and parts to repair other collectibles, or if they simply want to use these old rusty tools “because they don’t make ’em like that anymore…” But I do know people want these old used and rusty tools.

And I know how they found their way to the thrift shop to — or at least I have a pretty good guess.

One old farmer moved to the city, and when he passed away (may he rest in peace), these things either didn’t sell at the estate sale or, because it’s too cold here to have a garage sale, were directly taken in for donation at the thrift shop. Because if these things had been available at a farm auction, they would have sold. And it’s rarely ever too cold for a farm auction here in Faro, North Dakota.

I know, because I’ve been to plenty of them. Even if I can’t identify half the things being sold in front of me.

Sweet On Jack Dempsey?

Then check out this vintage sugar packet featuring the famous boxer.

This packet of Jack Frost Tablet Sugar not only features the famous sports figure (and his “Best Wishes”) but it’s from his restaurant, Jack Dempsey’s Restaurant Bar & Cocktail Lounge located on 49th & Broadway in New York City (there were apparently several locations). So this particular item contains more cross-collectible appeal (vintage advertising, ephemera, restaurant items, and sports collectors as well as fans of Dempsey) than there are calories in the sugar — not that you should even think of tasting what is probably at least 60 year old sugar.

The item was found at, and the image credits belong to, noegretsantiques. (And, in the interest of full disclosure, No Egrets Antiques are my parents!)

Colorful 1935 Dixie Premium Photos awesome eye candy for collectors

After recently acquiring a batch of 1935 Movie Star Dixie Premium Photos … and, of course, making them available for sale … I wanted to revisit the popular collectibles one more time, something I see I most recently did last April on the VintageMeld.

1935 Katharine Hepburn Dixie Premium Photo

That post is more centered around Tom Popelka’s excellent Dixie Premiums Checklist book which is my go-to guide whenever I pick up a batch of Dixie’s. As Tom writes in his entertaining forward where he otherwise tells stories of collecting Dixie’s as a youth:

Most collectors do not know which year a premium or lid belongs in. There is also a lack of knowledge of how to identify the year a premium was issued … Other oddities exist as well.

Mr. Popelka’s checklist indentifies not only all of the Movie Star Dixie Premiums issued between 1933-1953, but also includes checklist pages for each of the non-film related Dixie issues such as Zoo Animals, America Attacks, Defend America, other World War II themed issues, and the highly valued Baseball Dixies.

By the way, you may have noted the quote I’ve included above refers to a “premium or lid.” This is what really makes this a fascinating issue to me. Lids were commonly available–they refer to the cardboard lid on your little cup of Dixie Ice Cream. Pop it off and there’s Clark Gable, Ginger Rogers or even Jimmie Foxx staring back at you.

1943 Roy Rogers Dixie Lid

While the lids are also popularly collected today what makes the premiums more, well, premium, is how one originally came to acquire them. Either by mail or, as Mr. Popelka tells of us own experience, through redemption center–it took a dozen Dixie Lids to acquire one Dixie Premium Photo. Thus beyond the advantage of the overall attractiveness of the larger Premiums there’s a rarity factor at work which actually makes them still a bargain at several times the price of the Lids!

1934 Ann Dvorak Dixie Premium Photo

I found my copy of the Dixie Premiums Checklist secondhand online, but at the time of that 2009 VintageMeld post Mr. Popelka gave me permission to include his address for anyone wishing to purchase a copy directly from him. For details write:

Tom Popelka
P.O. Box 3130
Temple, TX 76505-3130

To see some of the Dixie Premiums I’ve handled, beyond those currently available, please see my archived pages at things-and-other-stuff.com which show off the early black and white 1934 Dixie Premiums, which were issued as two separate sheets, and more of the colorful 1935 Dixie Premiums. The 1935 page also includes a gallery of later Dixie Premiums below and some of the pricey sports stars (Foxx, Bob Feller, Sammy Baugh, Bronko Nagurski, etc.) at the bottom of the page.

1938 Jimmie Foxx Dixie Premium Photo

If you’re looking to collecting something more than just cards at a great value on your dollar I can’t heartily enough recommend the challenge of either the Dixie Lids or Dixie Premiums. They’re fun, mostly affordable and yet at the same time challenging to piece sets together. To get a leg up I think one of your first purchases should be Tom Popelka’s excellent checklist which I’ll continue to recommend as the topic comes up!

Can You Catch The Vintage Gingerbread Man Cookie Jar?

Since I already have a topless vintage cookie jar (I use it to hold my vintage rolling pins and store it, along with other vintage kitchen collectibles, above my kitchen cupboards), I couldn’t justify purchasing this cookie jar without a lid when I spotted it Saturday at a thrift store — no matter how the bold blue or the charming old gingerbread cookie man beckoned…

I sure had second thoughts when I saw that the back of this vintage pottery cookie jar had Mrs. Gingerbread Cookie.

But if I bought it, I’d need more old rolling pins or something to put in it… Where would it end?! (I did briefly pick it up, just to look for maker marks; there weren’t any.)

If this cookie jar interests you, contact me and I’ll see if I can catch him — even if he is The Gingerbread Man.

Jessie Lee Had Great Penmanship, But…

The inscription on the first page of this vintage children’s book reads, “This Little Golden Book Belongs To: Jessie Lee.”

Only this vintage copy of Peter Rabbit Proves a Friend, like its friend, a copy of Young Flash The Deer (which, incidentally, does not have a similar inscription by the previous owner) is by Platt & Munk Co.

Poor Platt & Munk, still competing with Little Golden Books for recognition after all these years.

Movie Props: Holiday Inn Jewelry

Mary Ann Cade doesn’t only preserve silent film history, she also collects movie and television props: “It is fun to watch the program and see if you can see the item worn on the show by an actor or actress or see the piece as part of the set decoration. It also makes one pay attention to other things going on during a particular scene instead of just the actors. The fact that a famous person or someone I admire or respect held that piece, touched that piece, is also quite exciting.”

Among her recent acquisitions, glamorous jewelry from one of my favorite films, Holiday Inn (1942). (I’ve always preferred it to White Christmas (1954), which was really just a remake — or at least a cannibalized movie “update” that’s not as good as the original.) Here are the brooch and earrings from the classic film that Cade now owns:

As the collector herself point out, “The neat thing about jewelry or wardrobe is that one can wear it too instead of it sitting on a shelf collecting dust and taking up space.”

Pincushions

I use a corner of whatever I’m sewing to stick all my pins into while I work. It works fine while I’m repairing something small. Not so great with those bigger projects like hemming curtains, there is a lot of fabric to pin into and those little things can get lost. It’s not an accident that pincushions were invented. Once upon a time pins were more expensive than they are now. The women in those days didn’t want to lose any of them. Not like myself who just thinks I’m risking injury later on when I finally do find that missing pin, in a painful way.

My only pincushions have been a tomato which had been my Aunt Sally’s when I inherited her sewing basket and a plastic thing that was meant to sit on your wrist. I never gave the plastic one much of a try. I just knew I’d never get much done with something on my wrist. But, it was a nice idea as a gift, from someone one Christmas.

I think pincushions are like aprons, very fancy and pretty but mostly practical only in a fashion sense. An apron keeps your fancy dress from getting bacon splatter. A pincushion keeps your pins collected on a pretty little thing. Both practical and yet superfluous too. You can wash your clothes, much easier than your Grandmother could. You can stick your pins onto your sleeve or in a plastic grocery bag while you sew. But, the pincushions are a really sweet and simple craft to make. They can be very detailed with lots of applique and embroidery, crochet or tatted lace too, anything you care to add to that little puff ball for pins.

Crazy Harberdasher has a post about vintage pin cushions.

Preserving The Legacy Of Silent Film Actress Valkyrien

Being the fan that I am (both of Cade and silent film), I couldn’t just let Mary Ann Cade go that easily after delivering her recent silent film news — I had to ask her about her extraordinary collecting efforts regarding another silent film actress, Valda Valkyrien. As always, Cade graciously accepted.

Valkyrien fascinated me when I first saw her photo in the book The Pictorial History of the Silent Screen by Daniel C. Blum.

She does not look like any other silent star of the period. She has an ethereal almost angelic quality that radiates from her photos and looks quite different from other actresses. The photo got me to looking into her history and her film product as well.

When I started checking into her background, I only knew of one surviving film, her last called Shattered Dreams aka Bolshevism on Trial (1919) available for purchase through Grapevine Video. But perseverance and repeated inquiries have resulted in locating several other films.

Since Valkyrien made films in Denmark before coming to the U.S. in 1914, I started researching her films through my contacts at the Danish Film Institute. They informed me that two or three films in which she is a minor player survive in their archive, and that one of them, Circus Catastrophe, had been released in 2007 on DVD because it starred Danish matinee idol Valdemar Psilander. The only place to get this film is through the DFI archive, so it is really a very isolated title.

Most of Valkyrien’s films exist only in fragmentary form or survive only via movie still photographs. Here are some surviving images from The Valkyrie (1915) which show just how beautiful the actress was:

These next two movie still photos are from De Uheldige Friere and Guvernørens Datter, respectively; both are from 1912.)

The DFI archive sent me Den Staerkeste aka Vanquished (1912) and Dødsangstens Maskespil aka A Drama on the Ocean (1912) from their archive, but these are not available to the general public and Valkyrien, again, is a minor player in both.

Youth (1915), her first US film and starring part exists in the British Film Institute archive. I have had no luck in obtaining a copy thus far, but keep hoping.

Silas Marner (1916), is a partial surviving film from the Library of Congress and I was fortunate, as I mentioned, to get a copy. I received my copy from Ned Thanhouser; his grandfather, Edwin Thanhouser, started the Thanhouser production company. This shortened version of Silas Marner, the only one known to exist, was released by Thanhouser in October of 2009 on The Thanhouser Collection DVD Volumes 10, 11 & 12. Valkyrien is a supporting player in this one.

The Hidden Valley (1916), another Thanhouser release, was a starring role for Valkyrien and was thought to be a lost film.

valkyrien-in-hidden-valley-a-film-by-pathe-1916

In early 2009, while researching fragments which turned out to be for another film (stay tunned for another post!), I contacted the Library of Congress. They checked the FIAF database (paid filmography database in which you have to be a member to access the information) and stated that Screensound Australia might hold some footage of it. Screensound then sent these two pieces of film from The Hidden Valley:

And Screensound mentioned that they have something that indicates Florence LaBadie, the queen of the Thanhouser lot, was part of the cast. Ms. LaBadie was the reigning box office queen for the studio and Ned Thanhouser could find no records of her ever appearing in the cast, so he is intrigued as well. Ms. LaBadie died from injuries sustained in an auto accident in 1917 and her death was one of the events that eventually caused the studio to shut down.

We are still working on finding more Hidden Valley footage as well as determining if Ms. LaBadie was a cast member.

Since that time, we also have found Diana (1916), a Pluragraph release which is part of an Unknown Cinema box set release. However, the version Screensound has, from the Library of Congress, is a much shorter version of the film than the nearly complete print the Cineteca del Fruili sent me. I have been in touch with the Library of Congress to see if they want a more complete copy for their archive.

Another of Valkyrien’s starring vehicles is reputed to be in a private collection and we are making every effort to obtain the film from the collector, but so far we are running in circles. I keep hoping, though…

And we’re still working on a couple of silent films that may exist but I don’t have confirmation of the facts as of yet.

In other words, stay tunned to see what Cade & the crew dedicated to Valda Valkyrien dig up!


* Here’s the briefest of bios on silent film actress Valda Valkyrien:

Born Adele Eleonore Freed in 1894 or 1895, she began her career as a performer as a prima ballerina in the Royal Danish Ballet performing under the stage name Valda Valkyrien. She began appearing in motion pictures for Nordisk Film productions of Copenhagen in 1912, and married Danish nobleman Baron Hrolf von Dewitz, becoming Baroness von Dewitz, in 1914 before making films in the United States.

You can find more at FindAGrave, at the Danish Wikipedia, at Danskefilm.dk and the Danish Film Institute (to assist you, the Danish links are via Google’s translate).

Photo Credits, in order of appearance:

1917 photo of Valkyrien, from The Pictorial History of the Silent Screen by Daniel C. Blum.

Images/film stills (5) of Valda Valkyrien (billed as Baroness von Dewitz) in The Valkyrie (1915), from the film collection of Mary Ann Cade.

Valkyrien in De Uheldige Friere, courtesy of Mary Ann Cade.

Valkyrien in Guvernørens Datter, also from Mary Ann Cade.

Valda Valkyrien, photo from The Hidden Valley (listed as a Pathe film), also from The Pictorial History of the Silent Screen by Daniel C. Blum.

Pieces of film (2) from The Hidden Valley (1916), from Mary Ann Cade.

Florence La Badie movie card, from a series of antique movie cards with pink borders, circa 1915, courtesy Cliff Aliperti.

Valkyrien in The Valkyrie (last 2 photos), also from the collection of Mary Ann Cade.

Discovering & Cleaning Vintage Plastic Watering Cans

I like to collect vintage items that can still be used. One of the most charming little vintage pieces I have that I use every week (kept near my kitchen sink, next to my vintage squirrel pottery planter turned sink caddy), is this lively red watering can.

This particular plastic watering can is marked “EMSA, W. Germany, ges. gesch.” (ges. gesch. is short for gesetzlich geschützt and means Registered patent/design/trademark in German), on the bottom. From the ESMA logo, I can guesstimate that this watering pot was made after 1971.

I think it’s a melamine resin, also called melamine formaldehyde or just melamine; Melmac is a brand name. (Hubby doesn’t agree, but he’s a baby, and not as familiar with all the types and weights of plastics in my lifetime. lol)

In any case, there’s just something so charming about this old plastic watering can… Maybe it’s just the vibrant red?

But since it’s old and had a life before me, it had some signs of wear. Most troubling were the salt and mineral build-up inside the top and at the spout.

And, if you looked closely at the outside, you’d see white calcifications strewn here and there in the lattice work.

Most of this was (relatively) easily removed with some CLR, assisted, again, by my fingernails on the opening edge, and the good old toothbrush on the lattice work. (As always, do a small test with a Q-Tip on an inconspicuous spot first. And be certain to really rinse it well, so that the water is clean and safe for your houseplants.)

Now that it’s so clean, it makes me look for other vintage watering cans — plastic ones though, not the old metal watering cans that everyone, including Martha, seems to go ga-ga for.

I like the size of the smaller plastic watering cans, made for watering houseplants. I like the idea of rescuing the less valuable, deemed disposable, plastic models. And did I mention I love that cheery red?

But I’ve not found any such watering cans. I missed this beauty:

There’s very little vintage EMSA (sometimes mistakenly read as EMJA). I love a lot of what I find — I don’t even like eggs that much, but I would have loved this mint in box EMSA breakfast set:

But no watering cans. Yet.

I’ve also tried searching for vintage plastic watering cans, with little success. This one (from NettySue) is cute…

But it has such a build up of lime etc., that I fear the plastic will be too etched to really salvage it.

Like all collectors, I continue to search.

And I’d love to hear from anyone else who collects vintage plastic watering cans. It’s nice not to be alone sometimes *wink*

Giving A Ceramic Poodle A Bath (Or How To Clean Vintage Spaghetti Figurines)

When I was a kid, I had a number of vintage spaghetti figurines — mostly poodles. Sadly, I sold most of them at family rummage sales as I got older. So when I spotted this black poodle with the familiar ceramic spaghetti fur for just $2 at a local thrift shop I had to take him home. Even if he is not perfect.

The most obvious problem was a long stripe down his back where someone had likely priced him for sale with masking tape. (Lack of concern for damages to items when pricing them is a huge pet peeve for all collectors.) And his ceramic spaghetti fur was covered in dust and dry ick. In short, Blackie the vintage poodle figure was begging for a bath.

Before I share my tips on cleaning old figurines, please note: Do not wash or submerge any pieces which have been glued or repaired as the water will likely seep in and, if not dissolve the fixative, can crumble away the weakened pottery itself. Do not wash or submerge vintage chalkware pieces or any pieces which do not appear to have been fired.

The best way to remove sticker residue and other goo from pottery, ceramics and even (many) plastics is with liquid soap. Rather any liquid soap, from dish washing detergent to hand soap or even shampoo will do. But you should always do a small test of both the cleaning product and the tools you are using, preferably in a place which won’t show, such as the bottom of the piece.

First I like to rinse the piece. Just to get all the loose stuff off. Then take a finger tip full of liquid soap and apply it directly to the areas affected by the sticky residue.

Rub it in good and then let it sit a few seconds to soften the residue.

When you are ready, hold the figuring securely with one hand. Take care how you hold your piece. You will be tempted to set or lean the piece against the counter top or table; don’t. The pressure you’re applying can leverage a break or stress fracture, or simply risks bumping and sliding across the hard surface causing a chip. (Since I was taking photos while I did this, you’ll see I’m short a hand for holding in the photo; but trust me, I did it!)

Using your thumbnail, gently but firmly, scrape the residue off. (Personally, I find there is no greater tool than your own fingernails; you know exactly how much pressure you are applying and the ease with which the goo is sliding off.)

In cases like this vintage figurine, the sticker residue has aged and set so well that while you do make progress, not all of it will come off right away.

Simply apply more liquid soap with your finger tip, let it sit, and scrape again. You may wish to rinse or wipe the piece with a damp sponge to make sure you’re removing all of the loose bits of residue you’re scraping off.

This may take repeated efforts, but eventually the oils &/or emollients will break down the residue.

Now to clean between the ceramic spaghetti strands. This is best done with a toothbrush (I always keep toothbrushes in my cleaning kits). Wet the toothbrush, apply a bit of the same liquid soap, and gently brush it into the ceramic fur and other crevices of the figurine, creating a lather.

Be especially careful where there are damages, paint that you have not tested, etc. But overall, a light brushing with the mild soap won’t do anything but remove the dirt.

The rinse off and gently blot the piece dry.  Let it sit on a towel to try before placing it back on the shelf, especially if it sits on a wooden or painted surface.

Now Blackie’s clean. But he’s still not perfect. He’s got a number of places where the tips of the spaghetti strands have been broken; the white ceramic spots are obvious to the collector’s trained eye, even if he looks great on the shelf. So I’m leaving him alone. But if your spaghetti figurine is going to remain yours, there’s nothing wrong with taking a permanent marker and placing a dot of color on the bare white ceramic and hiding the flaws.

Collecting The History Of Silent Film

Ever since I first heard of and then interviewed Mary Ann Cade, I’ve been awestruck. It’s not just that her collection of film memorabilia is incredible (It is — can you even imagine owning the bracelet, belt, and chain that Theda Bara wore in Cleopatra?!) but her utter devotion and dedication to the discovery and preservation of honest-to-goodness silent film footage which amazes and impresses me. I mean this woman actually has found silent film footage previously considered lost. So when she contacted me, asking if I wanted an update on her collecting activities, you know I said, “Yes!”

kellerman-photo-from-october-1909-issue-of-burr-mcintosh-monthlyThe first bit of Cade’s news is regarding some of that previously mentioned presumed-lost silent film footage: Six minutes of Annette Kellerman (also billed as Annette Kellermann, “The Perfect Woman”) in the big budget silent film Neptune’s Daughter (1914).

While researching for a seminar on Annette Kellerman for Australia’s Powerhouse Museum, Einar Docker found Cade’s article on lost film at Silents Are Golden. During conversation about using Cade’s research in his presentation, Docker, the museum, and Australia’s Screensound archive were blown away to discover that the six minutes of film existed let alone that Cade knew where it was and that it could be viewed.

The six minutes of thought-to-be-lost film premiered again — over a century later — on November 4, 2009, at the Powerhouse Museum along with the 19 minutes of known Neptune’s Daughter film. (You can see a clip at the Powerhouse Museum link.)

Along with crediting Cade, Docker will be sending her a copy of the museum event on DVD and he was able to get her a copy of Kellerman’s short, Jephthah’s Daughter (1909) from the BFI archive.

You may not think getting a copy of a film isn’t very exciting, but this isn’t like buying or renting a DVD. This is a whole other animal indeed.

We’re talking about films which have not been commercially re-released, many of them have not been seen by the general public in nearly a century. They reside in film archives, like the BFI or Gosfilmofond of Russia. If you live in a community that doesn’t have silent film screenings, or only has screenings of the more popular silent films (films made more popular because enough people have seen then in the past 100 years to be fans and request them), you have to travel to an archive to see them. (If you think today’s movie theater prices are high, add in international travel, hotel lodgings, meals and suddenly you’re all too happy to buy ticket — and the over-priced popcorn.) Of course, you can try to purchase copies of old films… The prices vary considerably from archive to archive, with some charging minimal amounts for films while others may charge over $1000 for a copy of a film.

So for folks like Mary, who take being a film fan to a whole other level, receiving copies of such rarely viewed old films is a dream come true.

Here’s what Mary herself has to say about her passion and dedication to collecting and preserving silent films:

My feeling is that these films are the only legacy that many of these artists have as their testament to show they were a part of history, part of this planet, and that they made a contribution or a difference in some way while they were here.

It is not fair to the artist when they are held hostage in some archive and should be made available to the public for viewing. Some of these films that are held hostage in archives have been in that state for almost a century, which I think is criminal. It’s like someone who has a precious gemstone or car. What good is it if you can’t show it off to others? What good does it do to hide it away from everyone else? I think this is selfish and serves no real purpose whatsoever.

This is why Mary puts so much effort into tracking down old and even lost silent films. Which brings us to part two of her collecting news…

Through her international network of silent film collectors and archivists, Cade was also able to obtain copies of the following films:

  • Et drama paa Havet (A Drama on the Ocean or Dodsangstens maskespil) (1912) starring Valda Valkyrien
  • Den Staerkeste (Vanquished) (1912) Valda Valkyrien
  • Diana (1916) starring Valda Valkyrien
  • A Dream or Two Ago (1916) starring Mary Miles Minter
  • Silas Marner (1916) starring Valda Valkyrien
  • The Innocence of Lizette (1916) starring Mary Miles Minter
  • Out Yonder (1919) starring Olive Thomas

Jeesh, I have trouble finding just one movie from the 1980s that I want at Blockbuster. No wonder this is one collector who impresses me.

I’d like to think that the only thing holding me back from being as great a collector as she is that my interests are too varied — that if I wouldn’t be so easily distracted and fascinated by every little thing I find, I too could focus and do work as important as she does…

But until that day, Mary Ann Cade remains not only an idol of mine, but a collecting superhero. (I wonder what her cape looks like?)

And this isn’t even all her news! Come back soon for more on Mary Ann Cade’s silent film collecting and movie collectibles.

Photo Credits: Annette Kellermann photo from the October 1909 issue of Burr McIntosh Monthly, courtesy of Cliff Aliperti.

Reproduction Neptune’s Daughter film poster, via MovieGoods.com.

Mary Miles Minter photo on St. Louis Globe – Democrat Water Color Company Premiums (1916), also from Cliff Aliperti.

Tamar Stone On Collecting The Perfectly Imperfect

During one of my many conversations with Tamar Stone (on everything from the vintage inspiration for her corset and bed books to her collecting habits), the artist shared this bit on collecting imperfect things:

I like old tools, folk art, things are hand made but not perfect.

I once bought a piece of wood with string wrapped around it — it seemed to perfect as an object — and I knew I could never create that type of thing, but the person who made it did it for practical purposes and I just thought it was great… Of course, my husband just rolled his eyes.

in-flagrante-collecto-caught-in-the-act-of-collectingOh, speaking of that kind of collecting, do you know the book In Flagrante Collecto (Caught in the Act of Collecting), by Marilynn Gelfman Karp?

Put it on your wish list! It’s amazing — beautiful to look at, wonderfully written, and the collections in it are from things like bird nests to old paper ephemera.

History through Sales: Trading card of early film star Mary Fuller

I love it when my customers get talking. You never know when it’s going to come, a conversation could break out after a $5 transaction with as much likelihood as it will over a $100 and up piece. My most recent conversation was brief, after sale of this item:

Mary Fuller Kromo Gravure Card

But while brief this exchange of e-mails did inspire me to do a little digging out of which I discovered film star Mary Fuller, shown above on a circa 1917 Kromo Gravure trading card out of Detroit, was more important to film history than I ever supposed.

My buyer, to the best of my knowledge, is not a regular collector of movie cards and ephemera, but had her curiosity aroused through her job at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington DC, where Miss Fuller, who died in 1973, just happens to be buried.

After I replied to her e-mail, my customer suggested I check out a video featuring Mary Fuller if I had the 12 minutes to spare. Well, I did, and I was surprised to find the clip was from the famed 1910 Edison production of Frankenstein starring Charles Ogle as the monster (which I knew) and Mary Fuller as Elizabeth (which I obviously didn’t know).

Here it is:

On a related note, while putting this post together I came across FrankensteinFilms.com, which has to be the most fantastic site about Frankenstein out there! I really risked getting sidetracked when I got bogged down inside their pages!

Anyway, I was curious if there was more to Mary Fuller than Edison’s Frankenstein, which she actually wasn’t even credited in. The IMDb credits her with over 200 film appearances after coming to the screen from the stage, but her career was over by 1917 and other than Frankenstein, I must admit I don’t believe I’ve seen her in anything else.

That’s when common sense took over. Early last year I had the great pleasure of exchanging e-mails with the owner of The Picture Show Man website and I wound up by asking him for some reading recommendations (his movie and book release lists are not to be missed!). I’m about halfway through one of the top titles he’d mentioned, Million and One Nights: A History of the Motion Picture Through 1925 by Terry Ramsaye (affiliate link), originally published in 1926. You want to know how much early film history is packed in this title? Well, I’m on page 440 and the story, which runs chronologically, has only reached 1907.

Mary Fuller on a circa 1916 MJ Moriarty Playing Card
Mary Fuller on a circa 1916 MJ Moriarty Playing Card

I can’t even say I’m surprised but when I checked for “Fuller, Mary” in the index to A Million and One Nights it actually spit back some page numbers at me. I’d expected these entries to be about Frankenstein, but instead I once again learned something new.

Mary Fuller had starred in What Happened to Mary (1912), which holds the honor of being considered the forerunner of the movie serial.

Here’s some of what Ramsaye has to say about it:

Edward A. McManus and Gardner Wood, in the year of 1912, were engaged in promoting circulation for The Ladies World, a McClure publication. Out of the editorial department came a project for a continued feature to be built around a mythical heroine known as Mary, and to be introduced with a cover design by Charles Dana Gibson. There was to be an unfinished story and a prize of $100 for the best answer to What Happened to Mary?

So The Ladies World would publish the story, minus the ending, and Edison would produce a film which included the ending. I wasn’t clear as to whether the film would be inspired by the winning reader entry or if the winning entry would be the one which came closest to a pre-selected ending, but either way, a novel idea.

In noting that Mary Fuller was cast as Mary, Ramsaye writes, “She was now a full fledged Edison star.” Of the stories, the first, The Escape from Bondage, was released July 26, 1912. In mentioning that the second Mary feature was titled Alone in New York, Ramsaye points out that “each installment of the What Happened to Mary? series was independent and complete. It was not a serial. The magazine stories and the screen releases did not synchronize accurately, but it was none the less a successful promotion.”

So while Ramsaye explicitly states “not a serial” he does immediately lead in to the serial it inspired, The Adventures of Kathlyn starring Kathlyn Williams, which most definitely was a serial. As for Mary Fuller, following the 12 chapter What Happened to Mary she’d star in a sequel, the 6 chapter Who Will Marry Mary?

See that, Mary Fuller had previously been just another silent actress to me, but a spark of outside interest and look at all I’ve learned! You can be sure the next time I list an item depicting Miss Fuller there will be a lot of early film history racing through my mind.

Mary Fuller on a 1916 paper supplement issued with the St. Louis Globe-Democrat
Mary Fuller on a 1916 paper premium issued with the St. Louis Globe-Democrat

Categorizing & Organizing Collectibles: The Quandry Of Ephemera

Photographer Alex Waterhouse-Hayward’s post has me thinking… He writes:

The biggest worry in my mind these days as I toss and turn in bed the waning days of the year has been what to do with 13, four-drawer metal filing cabinets full of my life’s work in the form of negatives, slides, transparencies and prints. I can be objective enough about my own output to know that they are worth money. But to whom and when? Probably when I am dead someone will have a peak and realize what I know now, and that is that I have a diverse treasure of Vancouver’s everyday life since I arrived in 1975.

After some discussion of books on categorization, he gets to the crux of the problem:

This all made me think of my own personal classification which is not really cross-referenced and installed into some sort of computer program. My filing system is alphabetical and depends on my memory alone. If I forget a person’s name I cannot find the file.

This is my problem. Organizing collections can be challenging, but it seems worst with ephemera. At least for me it is. Unlike pottery or glassware, figurines or even books, ephemera is not so readily displayable. At least not in the quantities I have it in.

I don’t even have an alphabetical system; all my vintage magazines, antique photographs, old postcards, etc., are lucky if they are lumped together by those simple categories.

alex-waterhouse-hayward-readsI’m not a bad collector or a lazy collector; I’m an overwhelmed and confused collector.

I’ve pondered, many times, about organizing my ephemera. You’d think vintage magazines at least would be easy: sort and store them by publication title, placed in chronological order. But you see, I don’t look for articles, images, or whatnot by “May, 1958, Cosmopolitan Magazine.” My continuing fascination, inspiration and delight in collecting vintage magazines due to the serendipity of going through each issue, page by page, and making discoveries. It would be nice to be able to, after making such discoveries, organize each issue by some sort of theme… “Advertisements,” “women’s history,” “humor,” etc., so that I could find them again. But any magazine, then as now, has so many themes. How would I know that the magazine I filed under “humorous ads from the 1950s,” would also contain a great feature on “women’s sexuality in the 1950s,” and a dozen other categories?

And this doesn’t even cover such things as antique postcards, vintage photographs, old booklets & receipts… *sigh*

While Alex’s post provides more food for thought, I don’t have any real answers yet. I won’t stop tossing and turning at night — or collecting by day — until I do. So I’d love to hear from other collectors about how you’ve organized and/or categorized your ephemera.

Photo credits: Photo of a young Alex reading from Alexwaterhousehayward.com.