Curator of Your Own Museum: Part Two

art-vintage-photos-collection-deanna-dahlsadPerhaps the one area in which you are least likely to feel “like a museum” or a curator is that, at least in the beginning, you may not have defined your collection.

Museums have a plan which includes the definition of their collection, generally before their first purchase is made. In part they do this for funding as they have to answer to a board of directors, benefactor, or other funding source — often they do before they get or expand a location.

You might not think so, but in many ways you and your private museum have many luxuries that ‘real museums’ don’t have. Some of the larger museums may ‘win’ in the bigger budget department, but you don’t have the same accountability — unless it’s to get the spouse to agree to that floor-to-ceiling shelving unit for those Smurfs. You may attend an auction with the intentions of acquiring a specific piece and it the price goes too high, you are still allowed to spend your allotted amount at the auction on something else. This may not be so for a museum which has been given (granted) funds for one specific item. You may have to ask or include your spouse in decisions regarding purchases, but this is relatively little compared to grant proposals and accounting for every penny in your budget.

However, you can learn from museum curators.

One of the first things curators do is to define the purpose of the collection.

What is it they are trying to preserve?

Why is this important? To whom?

What is scope of the collection?

Is there a specific time period, artist, movement etc which has a natural contained set of parameters, or must they create a somewhat artificial yet natural cut-off point?

They not only ask themselves these questions, but they answer them. This becomes their Mission Statement, outlining the philosophy of the collection as well as identifying specific pieces which are ‘must haves’, and the objectives of the museum. (The Smithsonian website had an excellent section on this; you can view it here.)

Thinking in terms of what your collection means, its scope etc. is challenging. It often requires that we put into words what we do not consciously think about. For most of us, our collections weren’t planned. It started with just one impulsive Smurf purchase, and before you knew it you found yourself buying new shelving just to house them all. But answer the questions; this is where the really interesting stuff lies.

Why do you collect these things? What does it represent? Is there a central piece? What does each piece mean, and what does it mean as a collection, a whole?

At first, some of these questions may seem silly. How can you seriously discuss preserving the integrity of Smurfs, circa 1980? Or write down “why Smurfs are important to me” in 100 words or less?

But once you start to answer these questions, you are on your way to a definition. With definition comes purpose. Now you can begin to articulate what you are looking for to form, organize and complete your collection.

This article was previously published at CollectorsQuest (October, 23, 2006); it is being shown here as an example of my work, per contract with CQ.

The Lovely & Disturbing: The History Of Wax Dolls

In The Beginning…

Dolls, the playthings we know today, began their lives as something quite different. Called poppets or puppets originally, they were created as educational tools and for use in religious ceremonies.

wax-roman-masksAs icons, creche figures, totems, effigies, votive artifacts, offerings, masks, and other stand-ins for human figures, they were ritualistically used. Those poppets lucky enough to have survived the ceremonies were often given to children as playthings. Certainly children delighted to have them — for just as use of poppets in religious ceremonies began to wane, dolls started to become the playthings we know today.

These early poppets were like their earlier votive artifact incarnations in two ways.

1910 French P. Imans Full-Size Wax Mannequin Bust DollOne: The form they took. Like the ceremonial poppets, these early dolls were in adult rather than child form. Kid leather bodies were preferred over cloth ones because the leather was much better at forcing the stuffed poppet bodies into the shapely figure of a corseted woman. Something the fashion industry quickly latched onto, using poppets to sell the fashions of the day (until print advertising became a more economical option, anyway). This is at least partly why dolls made prior to the 1850s are not baby dolls.

Two: What they were made from. Wax had widely used in modeling to make the religious effigies and votive artifacts, dating back to 14th century. As dolls grew in popularity, it was only a matter of time before those skilled wax model makers began to see how production of dolls would expand their markets — and income.

Once people could see the beauty of these wax dolls up close, they became quite popular. By the end of the 18th century, wax dolls (wax heads attached to cloth doll bodies by sew-holes on the shoulder plate) were being produced in England, France, and Germany.

Waxing Nostalgic Over Wax Dolls

Wax may not seem to be a great material for making dolls, especially for children. But it makes sense when you compare wax to the other materials available at the time.

Prior to the manufacture of wax dolls, the dolls children had were either ceremonial cast-offs or handmade dolls of wood or cloth. Sometimes the kids themselves made crude little dolls from sticks and the odds and ends adults had cast off as garbage. Remember, there was no plastic or even composition at this time. And wax doll heads didn’t shatter when dropped, like china, bisque, or porcelain dolls.

But the true beauty of wax dolls lies in, well, the wax itself!

For many of us today, all we see are the old, aged, discolored, and cracked wax dolls. But when wax dolls are new, they are incredibly lifelike. Wax can be tinted with beautiful, realistic skin tones. The facial features, like cheeks and mouths, can be enhanced with paint. And when dusted with a fine pumice to remove the shine, the whole surface looks like translucent human skin. Those dolls must have seemed like magic!

Three Basic Types Of Wax Dolls

Antique wax dolls are categorized by the way they were made.

poured-montanari-wax-doll1) Poured Wax Dolls Poured wax dolls, sometimes called “thick wax” or “solid wax” dolls are made by pouring a molten wax blend of bleached beeswax, coloring, other additives into a heated plaster mold, resulting in a entirely wax head.

The eyes were cut open and blown or moulded glass eyes were inserted; a small amount of hot wax was used to fix the eyes in place. The hair is either mohair or human hair, quite often inserted a few strands at a time.

Usually poured wax dolls also have poured wax arms and legs, which were also sewn onto the body.

The majority of these poured wax dolls were made in England. These were the first wax dolls; and the most expensive.

wax over composition doll violet2) Wax Over Dolls These less-expensive, later, dolls were made by dipping heads made of papier mache (and even later, composition) into melted wax. This overlay of wax allowed for tinting and a more lifelike appearance than a standard papier mache head. Manufacturers experimented with single and multiple layers of wax, although the final thickness was normally no more than 3 millimeters thick.

The majority of these wax over dolls were made in Germany and France, however, the English made some wax over dolls as well. One English version is the egg-shaped or slit-head wax dolls. These wax dolls are so named for the middle incision where the doll’s hair was inserted. (This hair, usually human, was then parted and drawn to each side.) These early wax dolls usually had dark eyes, without pupils.

While these wax over dolls were much less expensive than their poured wax counterparts, wax over dolls came in many different styles.

Many of the wax over dolls have mohair wigs, but some dolls had molded bonnets and hairstyles, such as the “Pumpkin-Head” or “Squash-Head” dolls with molded hair arranged in a pompadour style and the Alice hairstyle with headband.

Wax over dolls also had variations in their glass eyes: Either fixed or sleep eyes. Yes, as early as 1825, there were sleep eyed dolls! Often called wire-eyed wax dolls, the eyes were worked by a wire (or string) which came out at the side of the doll’s waist. French versions of these dolls usually have paperweight eyes, while the German dolls have spun glass eyes which are flatter in appearance.

There were also multi-faced wax over dolls. A single head was molded with two or three faces; you turned the head around to change the doll’s face.

Body types can vary widely, including almost any number of combinations of cloth, wooden, leather, composition, or wax over limbs attached to cloth stuffed bodies. Some dolls had the Motschmann floating-joint body.

Some of these early wax over dolls even had the ability to cry by pulling a string!

reinforced-wax-doll3) Reinforced Wax Dolls Reinforced dolls are later dolls which are rather a combination of the other two types of wax dolls. First, a wax doll head was poured — and then the inside was reinforced by using either plaster or strips of cloth soaked in composition. This provided a stronger support layer to the wax.

While most of the reinforced wax dolls have closed mouths, like the other wax dolls, there are examples of reinforced wax dolls having open mouths. This is likely one of the benefits of the supportive reinforcement material. A few of these open-mouthed reinforced wax dolls even had wooden teeth.

Most reinforced wax dolls have wigs made of mohair or human hair, but some of them have inserted hair. Like the other wax dolls, they too have glass eyes.

Reinforced wax dolls had a variety of body types; the most common being a cotton or muslin body, with either composition or wax arms and legs. These dolls were primarily made in Germany.

The Wax Doll Sensation

Most wax dolls are without maker marks. (There were some later wax dolls do have stamps on the torso to identify the maker; but this is rare.) However, we do know of one of the most famous names in wax dolls: Madame Montanari.

montanari-wax-dollMadame Augusta Montanari may be the best known wax doll-maker of all time, but not much is known about her or her wax sculpture studio. We do know that she and her poured wax works first attracted attention at London’s Crystal Palace Exposition in 1851. There she and her winning exhibit of dolls created a sensation that led to imitation, the sincerest form of flattery.

Montanari’s dolls were beautiful. Each strand of human hair on the doll’s head was set directly into the wax with a hot needle and then an iron roller was used to gently but firmly roll over the head. This secured the strands of hair so well that the doll’s hair could be combed without causing any damage or loss.

Her exhibit included male and female dolls — and what is said to be the first baby doll! Many also credit Montanari with creating the first character dolls as each doll was dressed for age and occasion, like an actual person. Eventually, Montanari would create wax dolls for royalty and other wealthy persons, including wax dolls representing some of Queen Victoria’s children. These are called the Royal Wax Baby Dolls.

Very few dolls survive with proof of being made by Montanari, Occasionally, one is found with what is believe to be the Montanari signature on the cloth body. But good indications of an authentic Montanari wax doll are the well-defined fingers, chubby arms of wax (or later, composition), and a more natural-looking down-turned mouth.

Historians are not exactly sure when Montanari passed away. We know she left the studio to her son, who had worked with her making the dolls; but by 1890, the studio seems to have closed. By that time, composition and bisque dolls were so inexpensive that was dolls were on their way out. Montanari’s death seems to also mark the passing of wax dolls.

Spook-Tacular Antique Wax Dolls

It’s October, and with Halloween just around the corner it wouldn’t be right not to mention a few spook-tacular or creepy wax dolls.

As mentioned earlier, one of the earliest uses of poppets was for educational purposes. Among these were the medical dolls, like the ancient Chinese medical dolls. Since the doctors were not allowed to view or touch their modest female patients, the women were given a stick which they used to point at a small, usually ivory, medicine doll to show the doctor where they were hurt. But since we’re talking about wax dolls…

antique-human-anatomical-modelIn the late 17th century, wax modeler Gaetano Giulio Zumbo and surgeon Guillaume Desnoues, collaborated to solve a problem. At this time, there were few bodies available for dissection, and little way to preserve them — which made it difficult to properly educate medical students. However, by using wax modeling techniques it became possible to highlight specific bodily features and structures, painting and marking them, thereby making it easier to isolate and identify them and their functions. And, of course, these wax anatomical models did not decompose (or smell!). They could be stored and used again and again. That made these incredibly detailed wax anatomical models increase in popularity throughout Europe in the 18th century.

Creating these wax medical models was highly labour-intensive: Plaster casts of dissected anatomical specimens were used to produce wax copies. Structures and vessels were painted (others imitated using thread) and then varnished to protect them. The finished pieces were then assembled to provide the illusion of living tissue. Many of these wax anatomical models were so beautiful that they were also sought by museums and private collectors.

Anna Morandi Manzolini, wax sculpture created by the scientist-artist herselfLike Augusta Montanari, there was a female wax sculpture artist at the forefront of these wax pieces. Her name was Anna Morandi Manzolini. She was an anatomical wax modeler during the Italian Enlightenment. During her lifetime (1714–74), she was celebrated for her exacting sculptures of human organs and systems. Crowds of physicians, medical students, and the curious would gather in her home to watch her anatomical demonstrations. Recently, there was a book written about her, entitled The Lady Anatomist: The Life and Work of Anna Morandi Manzolini.

While these wax anatomical models were about doctors trying to save lives, there was another type of wax doll all about death.

Some of you may have heard of the many Victorian mourning practices, or mourning memori, such as postmortem photography and mourning hair art. These may seem morbid, but they were deeply valued traditions involving keepsakes to remember lost loved ones by. Another common practice in mourning at the turn of that last century was that of the effigy or burial doll.

grave-doll-wax-effigy-1860-with-bookWhen a child had passed away, it was traditional for families who could afford it to have a life-size wax effigy of the child made for the funeral. The wax doll would be dressed in the infant or child’s own clothing. Most often the deceased child’s own hair would be used to make the doll even more realistic. These wax dolls usually show the deceased in repose, eyes closed, as if sleeping. The backsides of the heads were made flat so that the doll would lay nicely when laid out to rest.

The effigy doll would be put on display at the wake. Often the doll would then be left by the grave-site. But we do know, from the effigy dolls which still exist today, that in some cases these wax effigy dolls were kept.

Wax effigies of infants would be placed in a crib, their clothes would be changed, and otherwise treated like a real baby. The bodies of these wax dolls would be cloth, weighted with sand to give it a more realistic feel when being held. Other times, the effigy itself would be framed. For older children, just the head and shoulders were created in wax effigy, also with the flat backsides, so that they could be placed in a picture frame. They were the ultimate way to attempt to reject the finality of death of a loved little one.

This practice of effigy dates back even further than the Victorians, to Roman times. But other than effigies made in marble or stone, none are left. In fact, these Victorian burial dolls and effigies themselves are extremely rare.

Some people consider these wax effigy grave dolls and the wax anatomical models to be creepy, if not disturbing. Some consider them history objects; others folk art. Still others think they are rare and valuable works of art.

Image Credits (In Order They Appear): Antique Roman wax masks; French P. Imans Full-Size Wax Mannequin Bust Doll; poured wax doll by Montanari; Wax over composition doll named ‘Violet’; antique reinforced wax doll; Montanari wax doll from Debra’s Dolls via Victoriana Magazine; antique Human Anatomical Model; wax sculpture of Anna Morandi Manzolini, created by the scientist-artist herself; wax effigy child doll.

Collecting Halloween: The History of Halloween Postcards & Costumes

Like all collectors, collectors of Halloween items are busy collecting all year ‘round. Unlike most collectors, however, Halloween collectors find discussion and articles about their category of collecting mainly relegated to the month of October only. Here’s is one such article. *wink*

The two most popular categories of vintage and antique Halloween collectibles are postcards and costumes.

The most popular Halloween postcards are from the Golden Age of postcards, which began in the USA with the Private Mailing Card Act of 1898 and lasted until about 1918. While many of these postcards were designed and published in the USA by names such John O. Winsch, International Art Publishing Company, and Raphael Tuck & Sons; the cards themselves were printed in Germany. Superior lithographic techniques combined with inexpensive wages made Germany the place for printing up until WWI. (German printing never quite recovered after the war.)

halloween-bewitching-vintage-postcardThe number one reason for collecting antique Halloween or Hallowe’en postcards are for the graphics, of course. There are plenty of jack o’lanterns, black cats, and witches — from comical to scary. As with postcard collecting in general, the hold-to-light postcards and those with fringed borders are among the most rare and sought after. But another area that is quite popular with collectors are the romantic Halloween cards.

Many of these romantic postcards offer the traditional Halloween fare of witches and cats. Sometimes there are simply ladies with icons or symbols of witchcraft, such as cauldrons, clocks, mirrors, and potions. But with these cards it is the messages which are most charm-ing. While some of these old postcards offer sweet sentiments and courtship rituals, others go a step further into the magic of love. Quite obviously directed at young and/or single women, these antique Halloween postcards have a parlor game fortune telling aspect or offer bewitching true love spells.

Halloween costumes are nearly as old as Halloween postcards, however most true antique Halloween costumes were made to be scary — and made to be worn by adults at rather wild carnival-type events featuring drinking and other rowdy behaviors. It wasn’t until the Victorian era that American’s toned the holiday down and focused it mainly on children.

vintage-antique-halloween-costumesThese early costumes were handmade, rather more like simple theatrical costumes than the pop culture icon costumes we think of today. Some were actually just festive garments featuring holiday colors and decorations.

However, by the late 1930s, with The Great Depression having put many theatres and other live performance events out of business, professional costume companies began to try to save their business by mass-producing Halloween costumes for children. The most famous of these companies, and most popular names in Halloween costumes among collectors, were A.S. Fishbach and Ben Cooper.

Fishbach was the first to secure major licensing rights — and with Walt Disney Company yet. But Cooper Inc. quickly assumed control of Fishbach, and by 1937 was producing Donald Duck, Snow White, and other Disney character costumes under the name Fishbach’s Spotlight brand. By 1942, Fishbach and Cooper would merge and the Fishbach name would be but a footnote in Halloween costume history. The Golden Age of Television would usher in the near death of homemade costumes, and Ben Cooper would capitalize on this by being one of the first to not only license popular TV and film characters but to get costumes on the shelves quickly. This cemented the company’s place as one of the biggest Halloween costume companies.

vintage-ghosts-with-signs-1960sThe homemade Halloween costumes are more rare; however, those commercial made costumes are often those which inspire more nostalgia and so can be quite pricey. In either case, if you can’t afford to collect vintage or antique Halloween costumes (or simply don’t have the space to display them all), many collectors opt for photographs featuring people in Halloween costumes. These can be far less expensive and take up a lot less room. Plus, there’s a lot of personality in these old snapshots — no two ghosts are quite alike!

Halloween collectors (like collectors of other holiday items) often find shopping for their collectibles is rather limited to the holiday season itself. Like shopping for contemporary holiday merchandise, antique shops (online and off) make a special effort to list and display holiday wares during holiday time. The good news is that you can find sales right after the holiday has passed, just like in most retail shops. And Halloween items for sale “out of season” may be lower priced as well. So if you’re reading this after the holiday, take heart — you can still find great Halloween collectibles, and possibly at a better price too.

Image credits: Bewitching Halloween postcard; vintage homemade Halloween costumes; vintage Halloween photo.

Doll Prehistory

Dolls have been around nearly as long as humans have been on this earth. Small human-shaped figurines carved of mammoth ivory dating back to 28,000 and 35,000 years ago were found in Germany. And many believe dolls go back even further in our prehistory too; but, as these even older dolls were likely made of wood and fur, they have long since decayed and therefore no longer exist to be found.

antique-egyption-rag-dollSince those very early days of doll-kind, other ancient dolls have been discovered made of wood, clay, ivory, marble, stone, bone, leather, cloth, wax, and even papyrus. Not all early dolls were overly simple pieces either. In fact, jointed dolls of clay existed in ancient Egypt, and a fragment of an alabaster doll with movable arms was found in ancient Babylon. That means articulated dolls date back to thousands of years before the birth of Jesus Christ and the start of our current, Gregorian, calendar system!

While we see dolls with movable limbs as having been created to delight children, many archaeologists say that such jointed dolls were charms, created simply to make noise — noise designed to keep bad things away. Truth be told, there is a lot of debate among professionals as to whether these early prehistoric and ancient dolls were first and primarily made for religious reasons, or if they were the playthings of children.

In ancient Egypt, for example, there are many dolls found. Dolls were so popular, that there’s archaeological evidence of an ancient Egyptian doll factory!

paddledollAmong the oldest, dating to 3000–2000 BC, are the flat wooden dolls with strands of hair made of sun-baked clay strung on flax thread. These ancient Egyptian dolls seem to emphasize the female form, especially the hips. The wide hips of these dolls have earned them the name “paddle dolls”. The more exaggerated female shape of these “paddle dolls” leads the experts to believe they are fertility dolls, much like the Venus of Willendorf, and not toys.

While we can thank the Egyptians and their elaborate burial rituals for preserving so many of these ancient dolls, the very fact that dolls were included in burial chambers and tombs has lead many to believe that dolls had more to do with religious ideas of death and afterlife than with the life of a child. However, since a number of dolls have survived simply due to the arid environment deftly preserving them, we have other evidence of dolls in Egypt.

When it comes ancient Egyptian dolls, clay dolls seem to have been the most common. For living along the Nile meant everyone had access to the two basic ingredients in sun-baked clay dolls: clay and the sun. Therefore, as strange as it may seem to us, wooden dolls and rag dolls made of cloth (often stuffed with papyrus as well as textile scraps) were more costly than clay and not so available for everyone. But while those dolls may have been more expensive (and, by today’s thinking, more coveted), clay dolls seem to have been very popular among children. No matter what level of society they lived in. That’s probably because the children themselves could make and “bake” their very own clay doll designs. Not unlike what many children do today with modeling clay.

When and how dolls truly became the playthings of childhood is very open to debate. In some cultures, old and new, dolls are made for use in religious ceremonies; however, once the ceremony is over, the ceremonial dolls are “retired” and given to children as playthings.

In ancient Greece and Rome, the lines between dolls for religious ritual and childhood pastime appear to have a very different trek — and an exceptionally poignant connection.

bone-doll-with-articulated-limbsDating back to at least 200 BC, many dolls in Greece and Rome had jointed limbs that moved, and some even had removeable clothing too. Then, as now, doll clothing was as fashionable and up-to-date as what young ladies and women of the day were wearing. (It’s difficult to imagine that such clothing would be purely for religious reasons.) We know this from the number of young girls buried with dolls. Most dolls found in the tombs of children were very simple creations made of terracotta, rags, wood, or bone. However, some of the more unique dolls, designed to look as lifelike as possible, were made of ivory or wax.

There also are the stories and images from ancient Greece which depict little girls playing with dolls. And, in fact, the ancient Greek word “kore”, which literally means “little girl”, was also applied to dolls. This takes on an even more powerful meaning when a young Greco-Roman girl came of age.

As a Greco-Roman girl approached marital age, she would dedicate her doll to a goddess. This doll dedication was a gift presentation given to the goddess in hopes of receiving the blessing of fertility during marriage. When she became a woman, she would literally put away her childish things!

While the archaeological record may seem confusing in terms of the true origins and purpose of dolls in human history, it is not difficult to imagine that children would be fascinated by miniature versions of people. No matter what the original purpose of dolls, children would want to play with them.

Image Credits (in order of appearance): Egyptian rag doll, paddle doll, and ancient Grecian bone doll with articulated limbs.

Wes Cowan’s Personal Antique Stereoview Collection Up For Auction

When hubby & I met Wes Cowan, one of the things we learned about him was that he was an avid collector of antique photographs. He began collecting them as a child and within 15 years, he’d amassed what was, at the time, the best collection of Frank Jay Haynes photographs & stereoviews. (Stereoviews are those cards with side-by-side photographs on them which, when placed in a viewer, appear three-dimensional; see stereoscopy.) Cowan, somewhat painfully, sold many of them to start his auction business, Cowan’s Auctions. But he didn’t quite stop collecting them either…

However, now Cowan has announced that his entire stereoview collection is going up for auction — including some by Frank Jay Haynes.

antique f jay haynes stereoviews cowans auctions

Frank J. Haynes, aka F. Jay Haynes or the Professor, was the Michigan native who started his photographic business in Moorhead, Minnesota, and is likely known by most for his work with Northern Pacific Railway and his photographs of Yellowstone.

The Cowan collection, a total of 249 lots, features many other antique images of historical value.

civil war death stereoview

antique african american slave black americana stereoviews

Along with one of the earliest known images of Buffalo Bill (holding a Creedmoor long range rifle), there are numerous Civil War era images, antique photographs of Native Americans, Black Americana slavery photos, and many other historical images.

American Indians antique photos Chief Jacob, Nez Perce, with Missionary Henry H. Spalding, Fort Lapwai, Idaho Territory

early antique buffalo bill photographs

The bidding began March 13, 2015, and closes at noon EST on Monday, March 30, 2015. You can view lots as well as bid online here.

History Of The Silver Screen

In the early days of motion pictures, movie theaters were experiencing a number of public attacks as to their safely for patrons. Among the numerous concerns regarding the dangers movies and theaters presented to families there were the fears for women, primarily of the white slave trade, and the usual new media concerns of eye strain. Naturally, the movie industry sought to calm the public down, including offering movie-goers premiums, which were primarily targeted at women. They also sought to approve amenities, including the screens that the movies were shown upon. Of course, this lead to fierce competition between companies who sought to capitalize on all the money to be made in the film industry.

Many of these ground-breaking and creative companies did not last long. But even if they dominated the industry for a time, both the companies themselves and the technology they provided remain but a footnote in books on film history. This is why ephemera, particularly advertisements from the period, remain so important.

At some point in the 1910s, the Wisconsin Theatre Supply Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, produced this bulletin solely promoting the Gardiner Velvet Gold-Fibre Screen:

Gardiner Velvet Gold-Fibre Screen Wisconsin Theatre Supply Company Advertising

Testimonials on the back page include The Thomas A. Edison Electrical Establishments, the Nicholas Powers Company, Havana’s “The Fausto”, the United States government, John H. Kunsky of Detroit “who probably controls more high class picture houses than any single man in America or probably in the world” and many others.

In the 1920s, the Glifograph Corporation (located at 280 Broadway, New York City) promoted their Glifograph movie screen with this brochure. Glifograph said their screen “makes every seat a good seat”, with “perfect pictures from any angle” due to “stereoscope view”. Promised “no eye strain — no distortion”.

Glifograph Movie Screen Brochure Stereoscope

Also, in the 1930s, there was the “Lustro-Pearl” made by Mandalian Manufacturing Co., of North Attleboro, Mass. If that name sounds at all familiar to you, it’s because Mandalain made those metal mesh purses! Well, at least until the company was bought-out by Whiting & Davis. But just imagine, a film screen made of mesh metal!

Like Flies To Honey… An Antique Primitive Fly Trap

We’ve sold a number of these primitive antique fly traps — but none quite this large. (I forgot to measure it, but it’s at least a foot tall.)

large primitive antique fly trap ayr north dakota

Nor did any have their original maker tag with instructions for use.

The Wonder Fly Trap
Made By
W.P. Rose, Ayr, N.D.

Bait with cake or bread with sugar and vinegar over, or anything that attracts the flies

Patent Pending

These taps work for hornets and bees too. No reason it wouldn’t still work today. But some continual baiting and cleaning of the trap would be required. 😉

Rose was quite the inventor and a member on the board of directors for the Ayr Farmers Elevator.

This one was purchased at that Bonanzaville museum auction this past Fall. It is now available for purchase; available in our space at Exit 55 Antiques located on I-94 in Fergus Falls, MN. (The shop’s Facebook Page is here; our personal sales page at Facebook is here.) Also, more photos and information regarding what we have for sale right now can be seen at We Have Your Collectibles.

antique wonder fly trap primitives

Salvaged Antique Church Fixtures and Furnishings

This past July, a fire broke-out in the historic St. John’s Lutheran Church on the grounds of Bonanzaville in West Fargo, North Dakota. Bonanzaville, a pioneer village with 12 acres, 43 historic buildings, 400,000 artifacts, “and millions of memories” is operated by the Cass County Historical Society. The church was not only a preserved historical building, but it still served as a place for many weddings. After the fire, pieces were salvaged from the church and they, along with hundreds of other items deaccessioned from the collections, were auctioned off to raise funds for the organization — including bringing in a new-but-old church to Bonanzaville.

Hubby and I attended the auction yesterday and stood among all the others in the cold morning air. (It was so cold, objects had frost on them!) We did purchase a number of things (Stay tuned here — and here — for more details!), but we didn’t purchase anything from the church. We did, however, take lots of photos. You can view them below. (Photos of other items from this auction can be seen here, here, here, here, and here.)

Happy Birthday, There’s a Corpse in Your Cake!

See on Scoop.itAntiques & Vintage Collectibles

Last week I came across a photograph of an item that was, at one time, available for purchase on Etsy. A small, metal viewing coffin with the unnerving inscription, “Don’t talk so much.” From the v…

Deanna Dahlsad‘s insight:

About Frozen Charlottes & Charlie dolls.

See on nourishingdeath.wordpress.com

Dakota Death Trip History Blog

See on Scoop.itAntiques & Vintage Collectibles

Derek Dahlsad, the hubby half of Fair Oaks Antiques / We Have Your Collectibles, was just featured in today’s Fargo Forum — on the front page, no less! The article features Derek’s Dakota Death Tr…

Deanna Dahlsad‘s insight:

My husband & his history website make the Fargo newspaper!

See on www.wehaveyourcollectibles.com

Pawn Stars Casting (An Exclusive Interview)

Of all the TV shows about antiques and collectibles, we’re still huge fans of History’s show Pawn Stars. So we were thrilled to receive a casting call announcement from the show — and turn it into an exclusive interview with the show’s Casting Director, Martin Hardy!

Pawn-Stars-Wants-You

How does the casting process work?

We are always looking for real sellers of unique, new items and encourage anyone who is interested in selling or pawning an item to contacts us through our casting email: pawnstarstvshow@leftfieldpictures.com. We get hundreds of submissions daily from potential sellers who are looking to sell their items on the show. Our casting department works very hard identifying rare and unique items that we have not shot with before but that also tell an interesting historical story.

Once we receive a great item that we feel is right for the show, we generally notify the seller to grab some more key information about it. Then we present it to the guys at the Gold &Silver Pawn shop to see if it is something that they would be interested in purchasing. Once we get the go ahead from Gold and Silver, we tell the seller their item has been approved and we schedule a date for them to come in.

Is there any compensation for being on the show? Do you pay for transportation, lodging?

Because we use real sellers of real items, we don’t provide any compensation for being on the show. Each seller has the opportunity of making a deal and being compensated for the purchase of their item.

We know that not everyone on the show sells their item; but does a person have to at least be willing to sell? Or can they just want to show off their item, get an appraisal, find out more information, (just meet the Pawn Stars!) etc.

At this time we are only able to cast sellers who are serious about selling their item. Of course they need to be comfortable with terms of the deal they reach with the shop, but we always hope they make a sale. We do not offer any appraisals for anyone who does not appear on the show with that item.

Are there any categories that you are more interested in than others?

At the moment we are really interested in anything that is rare and unique (books, autographed originals, artwork, historical documents and coins etc.)

Should a person get on the show, how much of a time commitment does it require?

Depending on the item, the filming of scenes generally last anywhere from 3-4 hours.

If you have something you think is rather rare and special — or wonder if it is, why not contact Martin and casting team? They’ll tell you if it makes the Pawn Stars grade. And we’ll all learn a little something along the way.  More information is in the casting flyer below (click to see a larger version). You can contact them at pawnstarstvshow@leftfieldpictures.com (and you can mention Inherited Values sent ya!)

Pawn Stars Casting Flyer

Antique Logging Stamp Hammer

This is an antique stamp hammer, and part of lumber history. A stamp hammer was used to make “end marks” on lumber and logs. These end marks are much like bands in that they are used to identify cattle. Like cattle brands, end marks and bark marks (cut with an ax), were symbols of identification and ownership. As such, the log marks were registered with the state. In fact, “sinkers” or “deadheads” with log marks still belong to the owner of the mark.

antique lumber tree marker hammer

While your lumber doesn’t exactly mosey on off down the prairie, lumber was left to float on down the river to a sorting works (or boom, which had many divisions, called pockets), or shipped with other logs to a lumber company via railroad flat car. In either case, unmarked logs meant lost property. Like stray cattle found without a brand, a stray log without an end mark was a finders-keepers prize which could be kept. If unmarked logs were found, the finder could use their own stamp hammer to make it their own property; but when unmarked logs were found while sorting, the company would put the logs into a “bull pen”. The contents of the bull pen were auctioned off to the highest bidder and the boom company or mill would keep the proceeds.

As for identifying stamp hammers, you are looking for hammer with a three to eight pound cast iron head with a design on it. Like branding irons, the marks on stamp hammers are cast backwards so that the embossed design can be read properly when struck into the wood. The wooden handle of a stamp hammer is about three quarters the length of a common ax handle.

antique logging stamp hammer

155 Years Before the First Animated Gif, Joseph Plateau Set Images in Motion with the Phenakistoscope | Colossal

See on Scoop.itAntiques & Vintage Collectibles

Nearly 155 years before CompuServe debuted the first animated gif in 1987, Belgian physicist Joseph Plateau unveiled an invention called the Phenakistoscope, a device that is largely considered to be the first mechanism for true animation. The simple gadget relied on the persistence of vision principle to display the illusion of images in motion.

Deanna Dahlsad‘s insight:

You have to click to see all these in motion!

See on www.thisiscolossal.com

Positive Things You May Have Missed At EBay

I know that many of us who regularly hunt for collectibles at eBay are likely to start with our “My EBay Page” or a bookmarked link to one of our favorite category pages, and as a result we often never visit the main page of the site. As a result, even if it’s nearly a year old already, you may have missed eBay’s new blog called eBay Stories.

Unlike most things eBay, this part of eBay proper actually manages to focus on antiques, vintage items, and history. One of their latest posts was about how a lost WWI medal was found again. What collector doesn’t like to hear about a story like that? We love happy endings like that! To keep up with other similar stories, you can bookmark the “Remarkable Listings” category of the blog. Or make just one visit and subscribe to the newsletter.

PS If you’ve heard about eBay Collections, but aren’t sure what they are or how to use them, here’s a nice tutorial.

ebay stories wwi medal

Historic First World War banjo comes back to Canada


This story just resonates on many levels. It’s about a chance discovery that included a mystery – partially solved through luck, skill and perseverance. The tale combines history writ large and humanity on an individual level.

Deanna Dahlsad‘s insight:

Why we all collect!

See on blogs.northcountrypublicradio.org

Program teaches history via beloved quilter, ‘Pioneer Girl’ Grace Snyder

Grace Snyder’s lively eyes gaze out of her 1903 wedding photograph. There’s an astonishing hat atop her head and a tiny, cat-got-the-cream smile on her lips. She perches just behind her cowboy husband, her clasped hands resting near his left shoulder.

            Her story, in many respects, mirrors Nebraska’s history in the late 19thcentury and much of the 20th century.

            Born in 1882, reared in a sod house on a Custer County homestead and married to a Sandhills cowboy and rancher, she recounted her pioneer life in the 1963 book “No Time on My Hands,” as told to her daughter, author Nellie Snyder Yost.

            Along the way, she became nationally known for her quilting expertise. Two of her quilts were designated as among the 100 best 20th-century quilts by Quilters Newsletter Magazine in 1999. She was named to the National Quilters Hall of Fame in 1980, two years before her death at 100.

            Now Grace Snyder is the focal point of an innovative new history curriculum developed jointly by NET Learning Services, the International Quilt Study Center and Museum at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Nebraska State Historical Society.

            Called “Tiny Stitches, Big Life,” the online multimedia project uses Snyder’s quilts and her life experiences to bring pioneer history to life for Nebraska elementary school students. It is the first module of a larger project, “Stories of Nebraska Quilters,” with plans to develop additional material about other Nebraskans who are remembered through their quilts.

See on newsroom.unl.edu

The Beard Tax

beard-tax-token

We’re at the height of Movember, a charitable movement raising money for men’s health issues like prostate cancer by encouraging men to grow their facial hair while people donate money in amounts appropriate to the growth accomplished.  Sort of like Jump Rope For Heart, but with less panting and leg cramps.   Beards have been used to raise money in the past as well, but in a much different way.

Evstafiev-old-believers-oregon-usa

Peter the Great ascended to the tsarist throne of the Russian Empire in 1682, at only ten years old, and by the time he turned twenty he had seen Europe’s cultural and scientific growth and wished the same for Russia.    From a purely superficial stance, one of Peter’s goals was to adopt the dress and style of 17th century Europe.

Until Peter’s modernization push, a thick, bushy Russian beard was a sign of status; when Peter shaved off his beard in the style of au courant European culture, he passed a resolution that encouraged everyone else to follow in kind.

A beard tax was instituted in 1705: men who wished to keep their beard could pay a tax, otherwise men would have to shave.   Men who paid the tax were given a proof-of-payment token to show they had made their payment.

beard-token-obverse-and-reverseMembers of the Boyards received silver beard tax tokens and the lower classes received copper tokens.  A counterstrike indicated if additional years had been paid.  On one side depicted the double-headed eagle of Russia and the words “payment received”, and the reverse showed a nose, mustache and beard with the words ” The beard is an unnecessary burden”.

The tokens are quite rare today and sell for thousands of dollars each.   As one might expect, people interested in keeping their beards without paying the taxes made for a flourishing counterfeit beard token market, so fakes are somewhat common.   Then, in later years, the Russian mints began producing “novodel” replica beard tax tokens, which are “official” as they came from the mint but are not original nor from the correct era.   If you’d just like the pleasure of carrying one around in your pocket to prove your beardiness, you can buy pewter replicas here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos Reveal Harsh Detail Of Brazil’s History With Slavery – NPR (blog)


NPR (blog)
Photos Reveal Harsh Detail Of Brazil’s History With Slavery
NPR (blog)
Brazil was the last place in the Americas to abolish slavery — it didn’t happen until 1888 — and that meant that the final years of the practice were photographed.

Deanna Dahlsad‘s insight:

Have you ever looked at your collection of photographs and noted what stories they tell and preserve?

See on www.npr.org

Fashion & Sewing Pattern History, Part Two

As we left things at the end of part one, we were moving into the early 19th century and taking a closer look at how clothing pattern history closely parallels domestic sewing machine history.

In the early 19th century, sewing machines were not only impractical and complicated, but seen as threats. In 1830, for example, another French tailor, Barthelemy Thimonnier, found himself thwarted by another group of French tailors — this time, the tailors were so fearful of unemployment that they burned down Thimonnier’s garment factory. Four years later, American Walter Hunt would build a sewing machine; but he did not follow through on the patenting of his invention because he too feared his invention would cause unemployment. Early 19th century paper patterns, while apparently less economically feared than sewing machines, were so complicated and off-putting as to be considered fearful themselves.

These early 19th century patterns had all the pieces of a garment superimposed on one large sheet of paper. This meant that each piece was coded with specific lines, in different patterns (straight lines, dotted lines, scalloped lines, broken dash-like lines, and even combinations of these; sometimes all in the same color). To make matters worse, multiple garments were often on the same page! To make use of this map of crisscrossed patterned lines, one had to place a plain piece of paper beneath the paper pattern and use a tracing wheel to follow the (hopefully correct!) lines to make a separate pattern for each pattern piece. Even after all of this, the person attempting to make the garment was still not done. As these patterns were sold in a “one size fits all” sort of mentality, it was up to the seamstress or housewife to measure and grade (enlarge or reduce) each piece to fit the individual who would be wearing the garment. Make any mistakes along the way, and you would have wasted the fabric and your time. Perhaps ruined the pattern as well. No wonder these early sewing patterns weren’t wildly popular.

uncut paper patterns from Journal des Demoiselles with illustrations

(Photo of uncut paper patterns above from Journal des Demoiselles, with illustrations, via Whitaker Auction Co. These items are part of the Fall Couture & Textile Auction to be held November 1 – 2, 2013; auction estimate value of $100-$200.)

However, by the 1850s, sewing machines would go into mass production for domestic use. To say that sewing machines became popular for home use is an understatement; between 1854 and 1867 alone, inventor Elias Howe earned close to two million dollars from his sewing machine patent royalties. (Isaac Singer built the first commercially successful sewing machine, but had to pay Howe royalties on his patent starting in 1854.) Like computers and the Internet today, those who purchased sewing machines for use in the home found themselves dedicated to putting them to use. In Victorian London’s Middle-class Housewife: What She Did All Day, Yaffa Draznin writes:

The housewife with free time in the afternoon was far more likely to spend it at the family sewing machine than in making social calls. For the first time, it was possible to make a man’s shirt in just over an hour where before it would have taken 14 1/2 hours by hand; or to make herself a chemise in less than an hour instead of the 10 1/2 hour hand-sewing job. No wonder the middle-class married woman welcomes the domestic sewing machine with such enthusiasm!

…However, considering how complicated fashionable dresses for women were, it is probable that most housewives, even those who had to watch their expenditures, did not have the talent for mastering complex dress construction; they would continue to call in a dressmaker for their more elaborate clothing. Still, sewing on a machine, like the art of cooking, was a learned skill that gave the middle-class matron both pleasure and a feeling of professional competence — job satisfaction in a sphere where a sense of inadequacy was too often the norm.

No doubt this was all equally true of women in America too.

While the upper classes may have frowned upon use of the sewing machine (for everything from the potential decline in the art of hand-stitching to the encroachment upon upper-class fashion looks), and purse-string-controlling husbands may have resisted investing in arguably the the first labor-saving device for the home (why would any self-respecting husband spend money on something his mother had done for free — besides, women were incapable of operating complex machinery!), middle-class women themselves ushered in the era of the sewing machine. With a little help from Isaac Singer.

Singer’s first consumer or domestic sewing machine, the Turtle Back (named for the large container the machine came in), sold for $125 — at a time when the average household income for a year was $500. To overcome objections, Singer introduced America and the rest of the world to installment payments. The marketing combination of “small monthly payments” along with demonstrations offering free instruction with each machine proved irresistible.

Gilt and Mother-of-pearl Floral singer turtleback sewing machine

This, of course, could not go unnoticed by the ladies magazines and household manuals of the day. These publications began to include long and detailed sections on home dressmaking, covering everything from measurement taking to advice on fitting garments. And, of course, on patterns themselves. Soon, these magazines began to print dress patterns inside their pages. Such “free” patterns made for great promotions; it drew women to purchase and subscribe to the magazines and no doubt sold advertising space as well. But still, these were those complicated types of sewing patterns…

To Be Continued.