Sunday, October 26, 2008

Some more plastics...

Celluloid was created as a substitute for ivory in the 1800s.

Because billiard balls were made of ivory, one of the major manufacturers offered $10,000 for a viable replacement. (that is about $250,000 in today). According to a history of plastics, “An Englishman named Alexander Parkes developed a "synthetic ivory" named "pyroxlin," which he marketed under the trade name "Parkesine," and which won a bronze medal at the 1862 World's Fair in London. Parkesine was made from cellulose treated with nitric acid and a solvent which hardened into a hard, ivory-like material that could be molded when heated.

His products warped and cracked so they were not good for manufacturing. An American John Hyatt experimented with solvents, and by 1863 he discovered camphor would create a shapeable plastic that could be manufactured. Since cellulose was the main chemical, Hyatt named his plastic “celluloid.”

In 1871 the Celluloid Manufacturing Company was established in Albany, transferring to Newark, New Jersey in 1872. (For all those who “pooh-pooh” NJ, you would be surprised by how much this state impacted the US!) The first items off the line were dental pieces. Celluloid dentures were cheaper than rubber, but they softened when hot, and the camphor taste permeated the mouth.

Celluloid made its impact with waterproof shirt collars, cuffs, and the false shirt fronts. Corsets made with celluloid stays also proved popular, since perspiration didn't rust the stays, as it would if they had been made of metal.

This brings us to what most of us know in the celluloid world…its replacement for ivory, tortoise-shell, and bone. The dresser sets and hair combs were no longer for the rich.

Celluloid could also be used in entirely new applications. Hyatt figured out how to fabricate the material in a strip format for movie film. By the year 1900, movie film was a major market for celluloid.

However, celluloid still tended to yellow and crack over time, and it had another, more dangerous defect: it burned easily and spectacularly, unsurprising given that mixtures of nitric acid and cellulose are also used to synthesize smokeless powder.

Ping-pong balls, one of the few products still made with celluloid, sizzle and burn if set on fire. (There's a science fair project sure to entertain the judges!)

Cellulose was also used to produce cloth. While the men who developed celluloid were interested in replacing ivory, those who developed the new fibers were interested in replacing another expensive material, silk.

In 1884, a French chemist, the Comte de Chardonnay, introduced a cellulose-based fabric that became known as "Chardonnay silk." It was an attractive cloth, but like celluloid it was very flammable, a property completely unacceptable in clothing. After some ghastly accidents, Chardonnay silk was taken off the market.

In 1894, three British inventors, Charles Cross, Edward Bevan, and Clayton Beadle, patented a new "artificial silk" or "art silk" that was much safer. The three men sold the rights for the new fabric to the French Courtald company, a major manufacturer of silk, which put it into production in 1905, using cellulose from wood pulp as the "feedstock" material.
Art silk became well known under the trade name "rayon," and was produced in great quantities through the 1930s. Today it is blended with other natural and artificial fibers. It is cheap and feels smooth on the skin although though it is weak when wet and creases easily (notice rayon is dry clean only).

So, the next time you pick up that "mirror, mirror" keep in mind it was created in the 19th century...and, amazingly, it still works in the 21st century...just don't light a match around it!!!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Plastic Purses...not Plastic IN the Purses

It appears the current economic conditions are due in part to overuse of the flat plastic...aka charge card. In the 50s the purses were made of plastic, but the "charge card" was actually made of aluminum or white metal. They were issued mostly by department stores, and they were sometimes kept in the stores and retrieved by the clerk when an authorized user made a purchase.

From the American Credit Card Collectors Society (you know there is a collector group for anything!) we learn that charge coins are believed to have been first issued around 1865. At first they were made of celluloid, which is an early form of plastic. Later ones were made of copper, aluminum, steel or white metal, which is when they became known as charge coins. They came in various shapes, in sizes from a quarter to half-dollar. Not all were round; some were triangular and others had unique shapes. These credit pieces were usually displayed the customer's identification number and an image connected with the issuing company.
But, I digress...plastic purses...I recently acquired 2 in their original boxes...they had never been opened...

Bags in the 1950s were true handbags...carried by hand or held over the arm. In purse history, it is said that Princess Grace carried a Hermes purse in front of her to hide her pregnacncy...kind of like Sarah Palin using scarves to hide liberated are we, girls???

It was also during this era that a steady market was developed for novelty purses which reflected the country’s casual style and popular culture. This purse is made of plastic beads.

I am sure everyone has seen one of these beaded beauties in their flea market travels...What is interesting is that these purses are usually marked Hong Kong...we forget that we have always been importing from the Asian world.

Here are a few more...

Although they are made of plastic and not the elaborate beaded ones, they would look wonderful displayed on a wall as decorative art. Their neutral colors would blend into any shabby decor...even one tucked in a guest room with some toiletries or candies would be a sweet bedside treat...

As the Baby Boomers came of age in the 1960s, they broke sharply with their parents’ politics, mores and fashions. The carefree, hands-free shoulder bag emerged as the purse of choice during the era of the miniskirt and the “Age of Aquarius.” And those aging boomers can be seen with their Vera bags...a throwback to those days...little do they remember...but the Vera bags are no harm no the mini skirts...that could be another story on an aging boomer!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A little treasure...

The thrill of an auction is that you never know what is going to be is a weekly surprise party. This is the country auction I go to every Friday...

One of this week's finds is worthy of its own show and tell...

This is a Victorian child's dresser with original glass knobs, mirror, and decorative accents. In the 17th and 18th centuries, miniature porcelain sets were imported from China and England, but they were not playthings; they were designed for shadow boxes and show pieces. By the 19th century, Victorian families who were well-to-do spoiled their children. Welcome to the new consumer toy world. I do not get into the toys, but I do love the furniture. From tables and chairs to cupboards and cradles, it was produced to scale for children. This dresser is 21" wide, and 18" tall. The mirror is 19" x 12". Here are some close-ups of the glass knobs and the trim pieces.

When you look at a piece like this dresser, you realize how much things have changed. At the same time, you wonder if,in 2100, someone will post a picture of a Barbie house on a blog and rave about it!

But, today it can live on in a "big" girl's room as a storage piece for jewelry or crafts. Granted, these pieces are as expensive as a regular dresser, but, if you consider what you pay for a pressed wood jewelry cabinet, this is a great deal.

Another little gem is this is the front of the plate...

Cute...but anyone who is an antiquer knows that the first thing we do is flip the plate over to see its "provenance" is the "backside"!

Are you not flush with laughter!!!!! As I said, you never know what you will find at auction!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Go figure!

When I first started collecting, figural planters and wall pockets caught my eye. From the 1940s through the 1970s, these little pottery gems were favorite gifts for Moms and Grandmoms. A little plant tucked in one of these cuties made (and still makes) a wonderful gift.

Here is a little scotty planter with the original price tag on the bottom. McCrory's was a 5 & 10 cent store...comparable now to the dollar store and probably soon to be the 10 dollar store. But what treasures existed in those 5 & 10 cent stores!

I used to pick these planters up for 25 or 50 cents in the early 70s. Many of the well known potteries were into producing these figural planters. The little girl above is from Royal Copley...they are well known for their figurals. McCoy, Shawnee, Royal Haeger, Brush, and Morton were also into the market. The dog planter below is a piece of McCoy. The elf and wheelbarrow planter is a Shawnee.


Some of the planters just make you smile...check the pigs...

The Japanese stepped into the market in the post WWII days...this is an interesting Made in Japan planter...

Of course, whimsy is apparent in many of the know someone who has had a rough about this planter with some chocolate tucked into her! Or, perhaps a diva would appreciate her on her vanity!

For the retro fans, many are done in the black and pastels that work so well with 50s the poodle and the parakeets (that would be a good book title!)

Interestingly, the parakeet planter has its mold mark and Made in California stamped right on the front.

Some of these planters are designed to work as "wall pockets"--vases that are mounted on the wall. They usually came in pairs...this is another show and tell...and was a passion of mine...think I have 200-300 of them...but another day...

This violin can sit or hang...

Sweet baby planters from the baby boomer birth years are wonderful. I am collecting for a vintage baby theme for my shop for next spring. Here is a sweet lamb planter. It is in the wonderful celadon could even collect planters based on color.

Since people did use these, sometimes they will be soiled, but, if the lime or mineral deposits do not come out with a good cleaning, you can use a toilet bowl cleaner. Let it set for several hours, rinse well, and it should be fairly presentable.

They have many hold pens, make-up brushes, cell phone...or they can just sit there and make you smile!