There are many obsolete technologies since mobile phones began taking over the world. I miss the elegance of watches in particular. However, some vintage technology is just misplaced and not obsolete. Frogs are one of those.
Not frogs of the living kind, but these frogs which were used in floral arrangements. The frogs usually came with a vase (or flower holder of some kind) which they fit inside. So the frogs were made to fit the vase.
Sadly the frogs were easily lost or misplaced. So not every vase still has the frog it came with originally.
We recently lost the frog to one of our own vintage vases. It was a silver frog, one of those which had to be polished. I hope we find it again, before it gets heavily tarnished. I can clean it but I can’t do much if the silver gets pits in it from being tarnished. I’m sure this is why silver has lost it’s popularity. As lovely as it still looks, stainless steel is much easier to look after.
Have you seen any frogs lately?
Vintage flower frogs…what are they? How many ‘frogs’ do you have? How many did your Mom or Grandma have? Frogs were used in the bottom of vases to hold the flower stems just right. They are usually metal basket weave grid, or fine textured metal spikes or made of clear or colored glass disk with holes.…
Remember when handkerchiefs were fine gifts to give? Practical & pretty! This vintage one remains in its original greeting card, complete with a pocket for the hanky to sit in. Made by Treasure Masters, Boston, U.S.A.
This one, also from the 50s, has a very romantic quality with its high-handled baskets and Azurite blue.
Of course, you can’t beat hearts and flowers with your strawberries for romance! In such a lovely pink, it would be great for romantic meals, Valentine’s Day, or, as the seller notes, for Spring bridal and baby showers.
This one may have been made as early as the 1940s — and I love the deeper, purple-red tones.
This one mixes in some other fruits, but who can complain with that sunny yellow around?
These simple seed planters were quite revolutionary in their time. And they still work today! They are simple to use. Simply stab the end into the ground and when you open the handles, the end “shovels” open a section of earth as a single seed drops into the freshly made hole.
We know this seed planter was made prior to 1912, as that’s when the company changed its name to the James Manufacturing Company, using the “James Way” slogan.
Before electricity made its way into most homes, Christmas trees had the warm glow of candlelight. The candles were attached to the tree branches via little metal clips. Most often they were decorative clips made in Germany, like these shown here. Since using candles to light your tree is neither practical, nor safe, we don’t recommend bringing back that tradition lightly. (No pun intended!) But that doesn’t mean you can’t safely use these charming bits of Christmas past this holiday. They make wonderful placeholders, with or without candles, at your holiday table.
More than that, these vintage and antique Christmas tree clips can be used to display your holiday greeting cards (collectible ephemera and the new ones you receive from family & friends this year), photographs, etc. (As always, I would recommend sliding old or collectible paper in clear sleeves to protect them from the elements.)
This sort of display would work well on holiday trim around doorways, etc.,; not just on trees.
In fact, since the designs on these old tree clips vary widely, including non-holiday motifs, like pine-cones, you could use them year round. For example, instead of clothespins on those framed bits of chicken-wire and other rustic ways to show-off photographs.
While I obviously prefer “old” pieces, if you prefer something more industrial (or at least not so shabby chic), there are contemporary clips as well. Whether you opt for old or new, whether you want to light the candles or not, the fact that they still make these tree candle clips means they still make the right size candles too.
Immediately, I thought of the holidays and the need for low centerpieces which wouldn’t get in the way of seeing family and friends.
I lined the drawer with this seasons’ hottest decorating fabric is burlap (probably because it is both rustic and natural looking for Fall), but you can use any fabric that goes best with your table settings. Inside, I placed some nested vintage brown glazed stoneware bowls, a vintage brown milk bottle, some little glass bottles with colorful rocks and shells, and then, for some extra seasonal flair, I tucked in some pheasant feathers. Pretty enough for a Thanksgiving table, don’t you think?
You can certainly fill the bowls with pine cones or something else decorative, or use the bowls to help with serving at the holiday table. And you sure can go crazy with red and green for Christmas; or change the colors and decorative combinations to match your china, your every day decor, whatever you’d like!
I may just keep this vintage wood drawer on the table top all the time. It can be awfully practical, serving to store the family’s usual table needs, such as napkins, salt and pepper shakers, the morning’s cereal bowls — whatever you find you need to leave on the table. And since it’s all in one drawer, you can pick it up as easily as any tray (maybe even more so, as the deeper sides mean less things will topple out and over!) to wipe the table clean, change the tablecloth, etc.
You may have seen these vintage wire desk sets, but chances are you didn’t know they had a name — or at least you probably didn’t know their name. Like many vintage items are found without the boxes, it can be hard to find out the actual name of an item. Thankfully, I found this one boxed so I know this little guy is Scotty The Pup, aka Mac’s Dog.
His metal coil body holds letters, his coiled tail holds a pen (or pencil), and you can hang paperclips off his chin. These vintage doggy desk sets came in silver chrome, gold, and matte black finishes. I’ve got one silver, and one black one. The silver desk secretary doggie was an early one; the box is marked that the patent was applied for.
By the start of the 1900s, home sewing and clothing patterns were big business. One of the last to enter the fray at the turn of this century, would become another one of the big names in sewing pattern collecting. According to Zuelia Ann Hurt in Craft Tools — Then and Now (Decorating & Craft Ideas, October 1980 issue):
Soon after 1900 a prominent fashion magazine called Vogue published a coupon for a pattern. For fifty cents, the reader received a pattern hand-cut by the designer Mrs. Payne on her dining-room table.
While Vogue was using its publishing power to spawn a fashion pattern business, the other sewing pattern companies did not slow down. Here are some notable moments — and collectible names — in sewing pattern history.
In 1902, James McCall’s The Queen of Fashion magazine changed its name again and became McCall’s Magazine, widening the contents of the publication to other womanly pursuits and interests.
In 1910, Butterick continued their sewing pattern industry innovation by introducing the “deltor” — the first instructions printed on a sheet included inside the pattern’s envelope.
In 1914, the Vogue pattern department officially left the magazine to become Vogue Pattern Company. (This was in no small part due to the 1909 purchase of Vogue by Condé Nast.) Vogue patterns continued to be sold by mail until 1917, when B. Altman’s department store in New York City became the first store to stock their patterns. In May of 1920, Vogue Patterns launches the Vogue Pattern Book.
In 1920, there was another major change in the sewing pattern industry. This time it was McCall’s leading the way by moving from the perforated tissue patterns to printed ones. Eventually the others would follow suit. McCall’s would also begin working with designers like Lanvin, Mainbocher, Patou, and Schiaparelli.
An advertising salesman for fashion magazine Fashionable Dress, Joseph M. Shapiro, was shocked to find that something consisting mainly of tissue paper would cost $1. Via his connections, he found the way to produce — and profit from — a pattern which would sell for just 15 cents. The Simplicity Pattern Company was born in 1927 and Joseph’s son, James J. Shapiro, was its first president. With such a low price, Simplicity expanded quickly, including internationally.
In 1931, Vogue starts Couturier Line and introduces new large format envelopes.
In 1931, Simplicity began producing DuBarry patterns exclusively for F. W. Woolworth Company (through 1940).
In 1932, Condé Nast starts the Hollywood Pattern Company. Hollywood Patterns featured designs straight of film and usually had photos of Hollywood stars on the packaging as well. The Hollywood Pattern Company ceased pattern production a few years after the end of World War II.
Also in 1932, McCall’s would again push the envelope by, well, pushing the envelope — now full-color illustrations appeared on the covers of McCall’s pattern envelopes.
In 1933, Advance began manufacturing patterns sold exclusively at (and for) the J. C. Penney Company. Because of the J.C. Penny connection, Advance was able to secure a number of designers (including Edith Head and Anne Fogarty) as well as rights from Mattel for authentic Barbie fashion patterns. (The company was sold to Puritan Fashions in 1966.)
In 1946, Simplicity finally fully converts from perforated patterns to printed sewing patterns.
In 1949, Vogue added the Paris Original Models patterns from French Couturiers and was the only company authorized to duplicate these fantastic designs. Such deals with international designers would expand, including millinery designs in 1953 and International Designer Patterns in 1956.
In the 1950s, McCall’s patterns produces another designer line which included French couturier Hubert de Givenchy and Emilio Pucci.
In 1958, Vogue Patterns fully transitions from perforated to printed tissue patterns.
In the 1960s, McCall’s “New York Designers’ Collection Plus” featured designs from Pauline Trigere and Geoffrey Beene, among others.
Starting in 1960s and continuing through 1970s, Butterick produces the “Young Designer” series, featuring designs by Betsey Johnson, John Kloss, and Mary Quant.
In 1961, Butterick licensed the Vogue name and began to produce patterns under the Vogue name.
As you may recall from part two, fashion sewing patterns were still rather complicated in the mid-1800s. However, some, like Ellen Louise Demorest and her husband William Jennings Demorest, began to assist those who were interested in sewing at home — assisting at a profit, of course.
By 1860, Madame Demorest’s Emporium of Fashion began advertising her patterns in magazines. This was still by-hand work, with the patterns cut to shape in two options for the consumer: purchased “flat”, which was the cut patterns folded and mailed, or, for an additional charge, “made up” which had the pattern pieces tacked into position and mailed. At this time, Madame Demorest’s Emporium of Fashion used fashion shows held in homes, along with trade cards, to promote her patterns — as well Demorest publications. In 1860, the Demorests began publishing Madame Demorest’s Mirror of Fashions, a quarterly which not only featured plates of their own dress patterns but included a pattern stapled to the inside as well. However, patterns were still only available in one size at this time.
The beginning of sewing patterns as most of us know them has its roots in the winter of 1863. According to The Legend, Ellen Buttrick and her complaint were the mother of invention; but it was her husband, Ebenezer Butterick, an inventor and former tailor, who revolutionized sewing patterns and fashion history in the winter of 1863.
Snowflakes drifted silently past the windowpane covering the hamlet of Sterling, Massachusetts in a blanket of white. Ellen Butterick brought out her sewing basket and spread out the contents on the big, round dining room table. From a piece of sky blue gingham, she was fashioning a dress for her baby son Howard. Carefully, she laid out her fabric, and using wax chalk, began drawing her design.
Later that evening, Ellen remarked to her husband, a tailor, how much easier it would be if she had a pattern to go by that was the same size as her son. There were patterns that people could use as a guide, but they came in one size. The sewer had to grade (enlarge or reduce) the pattern to the size that was needed. Ebenezer considered her idea: graded patterns. The idea of patterns coming in sizes was revolutionary.
By spring of the following year, Butterick had produced and graded enough patterns to package them in boxes of 100, selling them to tailors and dressmakers. These early Butterick patterns were created from cardboard. However, as most early patterns were sold by mail, heavy cardboard was not ideal for folding and shipping. Butterick experimented with other papers, including lithographed posters (printed by Currier and Ives). While these were easier to fold and ship than cardboard, they were still not ideal. Ultimately the search lead to less expensive and light-weight tissue paper.
For the first three years, Butterick patterns were for clothing for men and boys; in 1866, Butterick began making women’s dress patterns. This is when the sewing pattern business really began to grow. In order to promote the mail order patterns, Butterick began publishing The Ladies Quarterly of Broadway Fashions (1867) and the monthly Metropolitan (1868).
Madame Demorest’s Emporium of Fashion was still going strong, as was their publication. Although the magazine was expanded to include a lot more magazine content as Demorest’s Illustrated Monthly Magazine and Madame Demorests Mirror of Fashions in 1864. In 1865, the name was changed again, this time to Demorest’s Monthly Magazine and Demorest’s Mirror of Fashions — more commonly referred to as Demorest’s Monthly. This monthly was reaching over 100,000 readers.
The success of sewing patterns could not be ignored and the competition would really begin; by 1869, James McCall started his pattern business.
These early sewing patterns by Butterick, McCall’s, and Demorest were not printed, but rather outlined on the tissue paper by a series of perforated holes. They were typically sent in an envelope which had a sketch of the finished garment and brief instructions printed on it. These instructions included suitable fabric suggestions, size information, and a description of how the pieces were to be cut from the tissue and pieced together to form the garment (assisted by a code of shapes, such as v-shaped notches, circles, and squares, which were cut into the paper).
In 1872, Butterick began publishing The Delineator. As with the earlier publications, The Delineator was originally intended simply to market Butterick patterns. However, it quickly expanded into a general interest magazine for women in the home, offering everything from fashion to fiction from housekeeping to social crusading (including lobbying for women’s suffrage in the early 1900s). As readership skyrocketed, the earlier publications were folded into The Delineator — and the magazine would go on to become one of the “Big Six” ladies magazines in the USA.
In 1873, McCall’s would start their own publication called The Queen. In 1896, the name was changed to The Queen of Fashion and it would be the first magazine to use photographs on its cover.
In 1875, the first in-store sewing pattern catalogs appeared. These were produced by Butterick.
Madame Demorest was still around. In addition to marketing paper patterns through the magazines, the patterns were sold through a nationwide network of shops called Madame Demorest’s Magasins des Modes. In addition to the paper patterns and drafting systems, the shops sold ready-made fashion items, Demorest’s line of cosmetics and perfumes, and custom dressmaking services to wealthy clients. It was the latter, along with fashion exhibitions in London and Paris, which really boosted the designer and therefore the company’s profile. By the mid-1870s, there were 300 Demorest shops, employing 1,500 sales agents. Her employees were mainly women, including African-American women who received the same treatment as the white women workers.
In 1877, business was peaking. The Demorest’s Monthly began circulation in London and, along with the quarterly, the company began publishing Madame Demorest’s What to Wear and How to Make It. Just a few years later, however, Demorest business declined. This was unfortunately do to the Demorests’ failure to patent their patterns, allowing themselves to be bested by competition. In 1887, Demorest sold their pattern business, which went on to live on primarily in name only — including sewing machines.
To Be Continued…
Image of Mme. Demorest Hilda Polonaise Pattern via dakotanyankee; image of 1899 Butterick Pattern Ladies Double Breasted Coat via janyce_hill.
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.
(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.
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…
I love using old refrigerator drawers and crispers for things. The old metal drawers make great planters. If you’re thinking you’ll be missing fresh herbs from the garden, get yourself one of these old metal fridge drawers and voila! Indoor herb garden!
I have a pair of blue enamel fridge drawers — with the white plastic “tops” they would slid into inside the appliance — that I use as stack-able organizers on my desk. So much nicer looking that those open in-and-out boxes!
For less important doodles in text, the kind that go no farther than your desk or refrigerator door, the tactile pleasure of typing old school is incomparable to what you get from a de rigueur laptop. Computer keyboards make a mousy tappy tap tappy tap like ones you hear in a Starbucks — work may be getting done but it sounds cozy and small, like knitting needles creating a pair of socks. Everything you type on a typewriter sounds grand, the words forming in mini-explosions of SHOOK SHOOK SHOOK. A thank-you note resonates with the same heft as a literary masterpiece.
The sound of typing is one reason to own a vintage manual typewriter — alas, there are only three reasons, and none of them are ease or speed. In addition to sound, there is the sheer physical pleasure of typing; it feels just as good as it sounds, the muscles in your hands control the volume and cadence of the aural assault so that the room echoes with the staccato beat of your synapses.
I saw an article you wrote about antique trunks and there is a picture of one trunk that I would like to know if you know anything about it. I have the same one. It says patd. oct 2 1888 on the front lock.
I do not know much about trunks or their makers (nor am I an appraiser), but since Emily and I are related via the adoption of sibling antique steamer trunks, I’d try to share what little information I have…
Our trunks are classic flat top trunks, rectangular boxes covered with sheet metal (called metal backgrounds — some trunks have canvas or burlap backgrounds) and hardwood staves with additional metal trim and hardware. These trunks, produced in great numbers by various manufacturers worldwide between 1870 and 1920, were true shipping workhorses, stacked in cargo holds of ships.
These trunks are not steamer trunks; true steamer trunks (about half the height of most regular flat top trunks) were the trunks passengers were allowed to keep in their quarters during steamship voyages. Whatever was in the smaller steamer trunk was what they had access to during the trip; all other trunks and their contents were inaccessible, stored in the cargo hold until the end of the voyage.
The sheet metal used was typically plain old flat tin, but often you’ll find the metal embossed to look like canvas. Some people have questioned why such embossing would be done, when canvas would have been cheaper than sheet metal — let alone embossed sheet metal. I suppose that this could have been done to disguise a more expensive trunk — eyeballing it, a person perhaps wouldn’t notice it as different from the cheaper canvas backed trunks. But a porter would certainly notice the difference in texture and weight.
Primarily, trunks embossed with more ornate patterns, like ours, were surely designed to appeal to buyers. And they continue to appeal to us today — the more decorative antique trunks are, the more they are sought after.
Being that such large objects are certain to be not only on display, but noticeably so, collectors and those of us who find the practicality of trunks compelling, looks matter. The most beautiful are the domed or rounded-top trunks, but, as I said in that other article, I personally don’t own a single round topped trunk:
It’s not just the price which keeps me away from them. The same reason these trunks were coveted back in the day is the same reason I dislike them now: you can’t set anything on top of them.
Not only do I like to stack my trunks, but I like to use them as furniture. If the top is round, you can’t set a lamp or candle holder on them, nor books and a beverage. In a small house, anything that doubles as storage and a piece of furniture is a-OK with me.
However, clever porters storing trunks quickly realized that round-topped trunks set on their backs, fronts or sides gave a flat ‘top’ which could be both stacked and stacked upon. If it’s hard to visualize, imagine the the round top of a trunk like the spine of a book:
This is a novel idea for display of antique trunks too; however, it will require thinking about using them for storage, as the lids will now open ‘out’ rather than ‘up’ allowing for items inside to spill out.
Most trunks once had wooden trays inside, but these were flimsy (poorly constructed from soft inexpensive wood) and so the inside ‘lip’ to set trays on is the only remaining evidence. Trunks found with trays usually aren’t worth that much more, as the wood is brittle and disintegrating, unable to be of much use — and even the most appealing parts of these trays, the pretty printed wallpapers papers (or fabric), are usually too tattered, mildewed and water stained to really be enjoyed. If your trunk, trays and/or compartments have wallpaper, pictures, or cloth intact it could be worth more to collectors — but generally speaking, only if the outside and original hardware are in equally wonderful condition.
In general, flat-top trunks fetch lower prices than their round or dome-topped relatives, and, unless they are incredibly spectacular, they have little monetary value past storage and decorative objects. ‘Round here, you can get them for as little as $1 at an auction — though in retail settings, perhaps up to $150 or so (but those dealers will wait awhile for that sale). I don’t think I’ve paid more than $15 for an antique flat top trunk myself.
Prices will vary with your location, as always; but keep in mind that the large size of antique trunks limits the size of a collection more than figurines etc., so demand, in general, is lower and so the prices are lower.
When I saw this jangle of vintage copper molds at the thrift store today, I was reminded of my aunt Vicki.
When she was alive, her entire kitchen was decorated with them. It began, I believe, as an inexpensive way to decorate. Back when I was a kid, you could grab these copper molds for just a quarter or so, which meant for a dollar or two you could easily cover your kitchen walls. (They are more expensive now, but still less expensive than other forms of home decor for your kitchen walls.)
I remember how the copper would gleam off the walls and warm the room… Except for the lobster (he creeped me out — still does!)
As their monetary situation improved, even when they moved to a much larger house, my aunt continued to collect the copper molds — but she also began to add more pieces to her collection, like vintage chocolate molds.
I’ve sort of taken up the idea, but for even more practical reasons: space.
I’ve a modest collection of whimsical cake pans and I find that rather than attempting to stuff them into that wee drawer beneath the oven or fail at stacking them neatly next to the pots and pans, that it’s easier and prettier to display them on the wall above the kitchen cabinets.
Most of them, like the Wilton Scooby-Doo, have a small hole in the top from which to hang them. And cake pans without them can, like my vintage 3-D lamb cake mold, can sit up atop the cupboards. In either case, I’ve ended the clutter and crashes of cake pans that do not stack or nest nicely.
Plus, on display I know where each one is. The kids pick one out, I take it down and wash & dry it while they gather the ingredients. And I think they add charm to my kitchen too.
Frankly, I had no idea metalware came in DIY crafting sets…
So I searched, finding a vintage promotional Tole Craft “Paint-It-Yourself” Art Metalware piece at Pine Street Art Works:
And I found an ad from 1958, listing all eight of Tole Craft’s metalware craft kits: Hanging Picture Tray, Waste Basket, Desk Basket, Chippendale Hanging Tray, Snack Trays, Magazine Rack, Planter Plate, and Tissue Box. I need all of those! Especially the magazine rack.
But I did find and leave a few of these kits for you too. Like these six metal paint by number trays. It’s not a set of six, but three different pairs of trays; a pair of equestrian or horse trays, a pair of floral pattern trays, and two Scandinavian themed trays.
Along with kits by Tole Craft, look for kits and finished pieces by the Morilla Company, and even Family Circle. You’ll find wall sconces, book ends, and maybe more — if you patiently keep looking!
PS I just got this completed paint by number bookend with a heron as a gift for my bird-loving, antique addicted parents! (Shhhh! Don’t tell them!)
But not just any trash cans, mind you; I love the smaller-sized, vintage and retro trashcans more properly called wastebaskets.
At first glance, the uninitiated might dismiss these gems for several reasons.
“Eeeiwww, they’re used!” the skeptics recoil. I’ll acknowledge that, like most vintage items, these wastebaskets have been used — and that may mean bits of gum and I’m-too-afraid-to-guess-what-it-is spots. But in all honesty, doesn’t your brand new waste can end up the same? Wash it out as best you can and then stick a liner in it. Starting fresh and clean may seem preferable, but this is recycling. Do we really need landfills filled with old wastebaskets?
“They’re too small to be practical!” is the other complaint I hear. But I assure you they are not too small. They are just the right size to fit in those small but well-used places that you need a receptacle for used tissues, out-dated appointment cards, spent pens, unnecessary receipts, and other useless bits and bobs that pile up on desktops, counters, etc. because folks (not you, I’m sure, but other people you live with wink-wink-nudge-nudge) are too lazy to carry them off and properly dispose of them. Places like bathrooms, bedrooms, foyers… Any room with a desk — in fact, many of these vintage wastebaskets actually fit in that side-space on modern computer desks! The more places you put these little beauties, the less clutter you’ll suffer from.
And they are little beauties.
With decades worth of designs, there’s likely sure to be plenty to appeal to you and go with your home decor. Everything from kitschy fun retro wastebaskets with fabric Scottie dog appliques to classic feminine florals — and more.
When it comes to vintage wastebaskets, I prefer the metalware models (but plastic versions are available too). The big name in collectible vintage wastebaskets is Ransburg, but there are other names, less known and so less sought after.
Frances Martin made my blue painted wastebasket with gold flowers; the cans will usually have the name printed on the bottom, centered, like this (hard to read, even when you click and enlarge the photo):
My pink texturized waste can is by Pearl-Wick. It has a plastic rim-footer around the bottom which was once gold; but most of that has peeled away, leaving a milky clear band which isn’t noticed when it sits on the carpeted floor in the bedroom.
The fabric-covered metalware wastebasket — the adorable Scottie on burlap — was made by Creative Made (Hand-Crafted Gifts, Annapolis, Maryland). The paper label remains fixed to the bottom, with the hand written copyright date of 1975; many collectible wastebaskets have lost their tags and so go uncredited, making finding and/or identifying makers difficult.
Many vintage wastebasket collectors don’t mind signs of wear, as long as they do not detract too much (like other old things, signs of wear are part of the charm), but in terms of ‘collectible conditions’, the things to look for and avoid are rust, dents, splits at the seams, and damages to paint or other decorations.
To keep your vintage metalware wastebasket in great condition, avoid keeping it in damp or wet places. Cleaning the outside is best done by washing it with a mild dish soap and a soft cloth — and drying it thoroughly. Avoid harsh cleaning products, never use abrasive cleansers; test any cleaning products on the bottom of the can where boo-boos will not be noticed.
For more stubborn spots and marks on the inside you can be more industrious, if you’d like; trash liners will hide scouring marks as well as whatever you can’t remove. Be sure to dry it well.
A word on rust: If you want to slow or stop the spread of rust, you can do so with a very fine steel wool. I don’t recommend doing this on the outside of the can at all; but on the bottom and/or insides you likely can’t make it look any worse. Personally, I just leave it — or avoid buying those cans to begin with.
Some people save less-than-perfect cans for creative gardening, like Kathy Stantz; just know that such use will only further damage the vintage wastebasket — even if you don’t drill drainage holes.
I’ve written before of my belief in the versatility of small decorative vintage pottery planters. I continue to grab them when the price is right — and as these vintage planters only seem to be decreasing in price, I’m grabbing a lot of them. (Even the big names, such as McCoy and Shawnee, as well as those marked Made In Japan, are becoming dirt cheap.)
Recently I got this little gem, an unmarked piece showing a squirrel on a log.
The elongated rectangular shape is especially nice for use at the kitchen sink. It holds (a damp, but never soaking wet) sponge, scrubby, the old toothbrush I use for getting the gunk out from behind the faucet, around the stainless steel sink, etc.
The long fabric piece which rolls up onto a tube (also wrapped in the fabric) is a part of textile history nearly forgotten. It’s a doily holder! Ladies would roll their doilies, runners, etc. up in this to store them and keep them clean, back at a time when drawer space was at a premium (and also to accommodate wider textile pieces which would only fit in drawers if folded, which would crease them). So it still serves those who collect doilies and other textiles!
I’ll try to add more photos of the piece alone soon.