Sunday, September 21, 2014

"My sheets are monogrammed, so is my silverware

 and pretty much everything else I own. My rule is, if it's not moving, monogram it."

                      ~Reese Witherspoon


I have always loved the vintage/antique monogrammed items.  It made it personal; you knew someone had owned that. 
The definition of a monogram is "sign of identity", and that really was its original purpose...to label personal property.  Ancient Greek and Roman rulers monogrammed their coins as way of identifying a region as a transition was made from bartering to a monetary system for trade. 

Nobility monogrammed everything from weapons to banners to household items.  In the Middle Ages, artisans used their monograms to sign their work.  Victorian aristocracy used the monogram to display their high rank in society.  Monarchs have always had monograms...

Early monograms only consisted of two initials, and the three initials did not gain favor until the 18th century.  In doing this research, I found that the wealthy took to monogramming in the 19th century, marking books, cigarette cases, lighters, the silver, the towels in the bath, the bottles in a cellar and the shirts in the closet—things small enough to steal—but eventually the monogram became
a matter of pride.
The shirt monogram began in grand households or colleges where many shirts
were laundered together—the elegant ancestor of today’s laundry mark. Now the
monogram isn’t there for the laundry but for the ego. It used to be said that the
proper place for the monogram is over the heart. Flashier dressers have long
favored the shirt cuff, as it will be noted in a handshake, at the card table, lighting
a lady’s cigar. 

There is also "Monogram Etiquette"!   The most common format is three letter representing the first, last, and middle names. (That causes some problems for those of us with double last names...or the Irish/Scots and their Os and Mc/Macs).  But, the last name initial goes in the center and is larger type.   Married monograms include the wife's first name, the married last name, and then the husband's first name.

Of course, in retail, monograms are also well known...          
• 
But what started me on this research was the celluloid set pictured above that I found last week...this defies the etiquette rules since it only has one initial. Was it a young woman? Why only an R? And despite the fact that it appears never to have been used, why did the R fade on the comb? The mysteries of the antique world! So, next time you see monogrammed clothes or other items, think about the person to whom these things belonged...and don't worry if the initials are not yours...we don't have to have "selfies" all the time! 



  "The monogram is an elegant way to make your mark. It’s your name boiled down to the essence, executed with graphic artistry."  ~ Glenn O'Brien    

Sunday, September 14, 2014

"I think of life as a good book.

The further you get into it, the more it begins to make sense."  ~ Harold Kushner

As one who turns 66 this week, I am not sure some days my book makes sense, Mr. K, but I am grateful to have this many pages to turn!  I am back to teaching, and it always amazes me how few of my students read on a regular basis other than their assigned readings.  There was a time as evidenced by books when reading was common.  Of course, there were no "I-things", and there is no denying that our culture has evolved.

I do have several customers who buy and read the older books.  Several volumes of a Grace Harlowe series are currently in the shop.
 Grace Harlowe is the protagonist of four series of books for girls, published by Altemus between 1910 and 1924. Some volumes were reprinted by Saalfield Publishing. The High School Girls Series, College Girls Series, Grace Harlowe Overseas Series, and Grace Harlowe Overland Riders Series were written by Josephine Chase, under the pseudonym Jessie Graham Flower.

I found a summary online of the series.  The books follow Grace Harlowe and her friends through high school, college, abroad during World War I and on adventures around America. In The High School Girls Series, Grace attends Oakdale High School with friends Anne Pierson, Nora O'Malley, and Jessica Bright. The four promote fair play and virtue while winning over troubled girls like Miriam Nesbit and Eleanor Savell, playing basketball, and founding sorority Phi Sigma Tau. The group becomes friends with boys in their acquaintance: David Nesbit, Tom Gray, Hippy Wingate, and Reddy Brooks, forming "The Eight Originals."
The College Girls Series sees the friends part ways: Grace, Anne, and Miriam depart for Overton College, while Jessica and Nora attend a conservatory. The Eight Originals gather on holidays, but the seven College books focus on the three at Overton, along with new friends like J. Elfreda Briggs. (Don't you love the names?) They form Semper Fidelis, a society devoted to aiding less fortunate students at Overton. Following graduation, Grace rebuffs offers of marriage for "what she had firmly believed to be her destined work,"  managing Harlowe House at Overton. By the end of the series, she and most of her friends have married within their circle.

Grace Harlowe Overseas Series follows Grace and many of her friends to Europe to serve in World War I. A number of the college friends join a Red Cross unit known as the Overton Unit, but as the war progresses, they grow more scattered. At one point, the remaining principal characters consist of Grace and J. Elfreda, while the rest fall to the periphery. Grace and her husband return with a daughter, Yvonne, whom they adopted in France.
Grace Harlowe Overland Riders Series follows Grace and some of her friends through adventures on horseback around North America, upon their return from Europe.

At the time of their publication, the Grace Harlowe series were advertised as "stories of real girls for real girls."  The Grace Harlowe Overseas Series, in particular, was written to translate world events to a generation of young girls. Sold as "War Books for Girls," one preview read, "Many war books fail to interest girl readers because they do not describe the Great War from a girl's point of view. But it is quite certain that every healthy girl reader will be enthused with the description of the Great War . . . These books give intimate descriptions of conditions found in France by the many young American girls and women who were there to serve their country by aiding the American fighting forces."

What is phenomenal is that the texts of all of these books are online as part of the Gutenberg Collection.   Project Gutenberg is a volunteer (catch that word) effort to digitize and archive cultural works, to "encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks". It was founded in 1971 by Michael S. Hart and is the oldest digital library. Most of the items in its collection are the full texts of public domain books. The project tries to make these as free as possible, in long-lasting, open formats that can be used on almost any computer. As of March 2014, Project Gutenberg claimed over 45,000 items in its collection.  BUT...if you want a real paper copy, we have some of the collection...and check out the new bookmarks my sea glass artisan has created!
But, I leave you with a line from Oscar Wilde, an Irish writer from the late 19th century...always amazing how the more things change, the more they stay the same as the old chiche goes!

In old days books were written by men of letters and read by the public. Nowadays books are written by the public and read by nobody.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

"I cook with wine,

sometimes I even add it to the food.”  ~ W.C. Fields 

Curiosity always gets me.  Fortunately, I have a degree in Library Science so research is second nature, but, as I was wrapping a customer's purchase of several wine glasses, I was thinking why the fine stems.  Why not just a typical tumbler?  There are reasons.
The 14th century merchants of Venice set the standard of elegance in wine-drinking by combining the skills of the glassblower and designer. According to my research, "the clarity and transparency of their cristallo glass allowed the color of the wine to be fully appreciated. The Venetian style persisted in the next centuries, however the ever-changing style of interior decoration influenced new designs for glasses."

In the 1670s an Englishman George Ravenscroft developed a new formula for glass using lead oxide. The lead glass was softer, stronger, heavier and more luminous. When first introduced, the styles continued to emulate the Venetian forms, however, the lead glass was too heavy and slow to set. In the 1690s the more simplified style of balustrade stems consisting of bold, massive “knops” came into fashion, modeled after the furniture of the time.
When the dining room became a clearly defined space within the house in the 18th and 19th centuries,  and formal dining customs were established, dining became a ritual, and dishes, flatware, and glasses had to match.   In the 19th century wine glasses were usually produced in sets. More enhancements were made over the years, and by the 1950s, some manufacturers produced different shapes and sizes for different variations of wine.
There really is a reason wine glasses are shaped the way they are, and the stems are not just for decoration. The proper way to hold your wine glass is by the stem.  Traditionally, white wine, excluding sparkling, is meant to be served at a temperature between 48 and 58 degrees Fahrenheit. The recommended temperature for serving red wine is between 58 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Should you hold the glass by the cup, your hand will warm the wine too quickly and the flavor might not hold as well as you wish.

Although wine glasses are primarily designed for the drinking of wine, people have used them in a variety of ingenious ways, including the teaching of sounds. (crystal glasses produce specific notes when struck)  If you want a wine glass, there is really no single good or bad glass unless you are  evaluating wine, and then subtle differences can impact your wine tasting.
The most popular is the chimney shape wine glass, which has a broader bottom and tapers towards its brim. You will have enough space to hold enough wine and still swirl it around safely. On the other hand, the narrow opening concentrates the aromas that will help you in your assessment.
The overall shape is more important than the size of your wine glass. Some people have points in favor of larger glasses while others argue equally well for smaller ones. What is important is that you choose a wine glass that you are comfortable with (mason jars work well depending on the day you have had).
Don't use soap when cleaning your wine glass, which may get trapped and interfere with the taste of the wine. Just rinse well using hot water.
“Do you drink?"
"Of course, I just said I was a writer.”
  
~Stephen King

Sunday, August 31, 2014

"This country will not be a good place for any of us

to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in." ~Theodore Roosevelt
 
Considering this is Labor Day weekend, we tend to forget the American workers and concentrate on squeezing the final hours out of the unofficial end of summer, but I am mindful of the American worker...from the woman who makes my cards and tags...
to a new creative spirit I found who designs journals...
or the creator of soaps and lotions...
as well as my jewelry designer...
...I try to support the American worker or entrepreneur.  Buying from small shops, at flea markets or shows does support American labor.   That is why we need to consider the American who is trying to create, invent, repurpose, and why the small...really mini...business is as crucial as the big companies even though there are few Made in America products out there.  I think people are trying to buy American or at least Fair Trade products, and even Ralph Lauren is retooling a factory in North Carolina.
 
 An American company that has been around for a century is Pyrex®.
  The Pyrex brand has gained popularity with the increased interest in "mid-century" (or as baby boomers know it...our childhood).  Their web site provides this background: "The heat-tempered glass that is the foundation of the Pyrex brand was created years earlier by Corning Glass scientists charged with developing lantern glass for railroads. They needed to tackle a particular problem—the heat of the lantern flame conspired with the cold air of winter to shatter traditional glass. They needed a glass that could handle changes in temperature.
By 1913, the glass was used in a number of industrial applications. But it found its way into the kitchen when Bessie Littleton, wife of a Corning scientist, asked her husband to bring home some glass to use in place of a broken casserole dish. He gave her the sawed-off bottoms of some battery jars.  A cake was baked, an iconic brand was born and, as they say, the rest was history. Pyrex glassware is proudly made in the USA, and has been used by generations of cooks and bakers from coast to coast."
 
Labor Day is more than a vacation Momday...it really represents all who create, invent, work, and, above all, dream.

“What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, August 24, 2014

“There is a difference between dining and eating.

Dining is an art. When you eat to get most out of your meal, to please the palate, just as well as to satiate the appetite, that, my friend, is dining.” ~ Yuan Mei 
My "show and tell" today illustrates some table items from fine dining-the water or drink pitchers.  How many now just pour from the plastic bottle or the box?  Even commercials show a family at a table with a giant bottle of soda and a bucket of chicken-not sure that really qualifies as dining, but the 21st century has redefined the art of eating...you want fries with that?

So, let us consider my objet d'art of the Victorian table...the pitcher, but first, homage to the Dutch painter Vermeer's "Young Woman with a Water Pitcher"!
The word "pitcher" comes from the 13th century Middle English word picher, which means earthen jug.  It is also linked to the old French word pichier which is the altered version of the word bichier, meaning drinking cup.  The pitcher’s origin goes as far back to the Medieval Latin word bicarium from the Greek word bikos, which meant earthen vessel with compares with Dutch beker, German Becher, and English beaker.
Here a pitcher is a container with a spout used for storing and pouring liquid contents, and it most likely has a handle, which makes pouring easier. A ewer is a vase-shaped pitcher, often decorated, with a base and a flaring spout, though the word is now unusual in informal English describing ordinary domestic vessels. An example of an ewer is the America's Cup given to the winner of the America's Cup sailing regatta match. 

In English speaking countries outside North America, a jug is any container with a handle and a mouth and spout for liquid—American "pitchers" are more likely to be called jugs elsewhere.

Jugs is a word that could cause some issues...telling someone you have some nice jugs...well, you might not want to go there!  Anyway, I have some nice pitchers! 




So, if you want to serve in something other than the can or bottle, stop by...and when it comes to drinking, David Auerbach wrote, "In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is strength, in water there is bacteria."

Sunday, August 17, 2014

"Don't grow up too quickly,

lest you forget how much you love the beach.  ~ Michelle Held
There was a time pre i-phones, i-pads, kindles, nooks, etc etc etc when everyone went to the beach to relax and enjoy sun, sand, and ocean.  Now there is probably an app for that!  But, from days gone by...the sand pail or bucket...
The buckets in stock are from the T.Cohn company founded about 1900 by Tobias Cohn. The company made many tin litho toys such as the sand pail.
They also produced the noisemakers that show up around Halloween and New Year's...
The first "playset" type item made by T.Cohn was a doll house in 1948. During the Korean War in the 1950s plastic was in short supply and the Lido Toy Company supplied T.Cohn with many plastic figures for their playset line. The term superior was used as a brand name for the T.Cohn company.

I confess that I had a gas station like this...do not know what brand, but I did love that station and the cars.
The company also produced dollhouses...
 This fort seems to be a big seller on etsy and ebay...
In researching the company, I found they were sued for copying a toy machine gun design and undercutting the price...that is 1949...half a century plus, copying goes on all the time...not to mention price cutting...lots of luck taking someone to court!
I am constantly reminded through one little item...like the sand pail...how much life has changed.  Plastic is the material of choice for sand toys now...heaven forbid a tin dollhouse or fort!  Ever wonder how the baby boomers survived with sharp edges or little plastic cowboys and Indians!
 But, if you want a true beach collectible...we have a couple of the Cohn sand pails...


“No one ever forgets a toy that made him or her supremely happy as a child, even if that toy is replaced by one like it that is much nicer.”  ~ Stephen King - The Eyes of the Dragon     

Sunday, August 10, 2014

"I quite like antiques.

I like things that are old and the history they bring with them. I would rather fly to Morocco on an $800 ticket and buy a chair for $300 than spend $1,100 on one at Pottery Barn." 
                   ~Walton Goggins
Our opening quotation today comes from a 40 something actor and filmmaker, and I think the idea is probably more the exception than the rule in today's millennial consumer market.  So many people from other areas of the country have mentioned that small shops like mine have closed, and it is possible that the brick and mortar - like the newspaper...yes, real paper - may be headed the way of the landline and the milkman.  But, E-commerce continues to lure shoppers...at least shoppers who have money or credit!  BUT!  For those who still like to roam and see things in person instead of "pinteresting" themselves to the I-pad, let us consider some pottery.  If you have been in my shop, you know that McCoy is a favorite of mine, but there is another McCoy partner...Brush Pottery.
The Brush Pottery Company was founded in Zanesville, Ohio,in 1906, by George Brush, and its early history is closely tied to a better-known name in pottery, McCoy. The first Brush Pottery lasted only a few years until it burned down, and George Brush went to work for the J. W. McCoy Pottery Co. In 1911, the two companies merged and became the Brush-McCoy pottery, and soon after, J.W.'s son Nelson McCoy founded his own pottery as well. After J.W.'s death, Nelson McCoy continued to be involved in the Brush-McCoy pottery until he resigned in 1918. The Brush-McCoy Pottery Co. was in existence for only 14 years.  On December 9, 1925, it became the Brush Pottery Co.  The “McCoy” name was dropped and the pottery became known as Brush Pottery, but McCoy went on to develop its own history. Brush did survive until 1982, but like so many American companies, it obviously could not survive in the Chinese dominated retail world.
 
In researching Brush, I found some interesting designs...like built in frogs in the console bowls - this one is in the shop
...and in Warman's guide, pictures show actual "frog" frogs in bowls! 
The older pottery does have the look of the early McCoy pieces.
The company made many figural and animal planters, and not all marked, but a distinctive feature is that Brush planters and vases often rest on two unglazed feet.

So, if you are out and about and see a piece marked Brush or unglazed feet (and they are not yours), you now know a little about that company.
 
“Buy what you don’t have yet, or what you really want, which can be mixed with what you already own. Buy only because something excites you, not just for the simple act of shopping.” 
                    ~Karl Lagerfeld.