Sunday, December 28, 2008

Squeezing the last drops out of 2008!

As we try to squeeze the last hours out of 2008, I have once again created a unique show and tell for you for this week…the reamer! (Hey…these segue ways do not come easy!)

In 18th century Europe, reamers were designed to extract juice from citrus to counter scurvy, but citrus was also used in other medicinal treatments. Today many studies are being done using Citrus flavonoids which have potential antioxidant (prevents aging), anti-cancer, antiviral, anti-inflammatory activities, effects on capillarity, and cholesterol-lowering ability. See…that cosmo could be made with citrus! Not to mention a Harvey Wallbanger!

Ceramic reamers were produced by some of the major china companies in Europe (Bayreuth, Miessen, Limoges) and graced the tables of the upper class. I have none in stock so we will feature the glass reamer.

According to my research, the first reamer was patented in the United States around 1867, after the Civil War. It was a hand held reamer. Next came the one piece reamer with a small saucer and a cone that was meant to fit on top of a glass. These were quite messy as they slid and slipped off of the glass. In the 1880's a glass rim was added to the bottom of the saucer to help keep the reamer on the glass. Around the same time, wooden squeezers with a press action were also being used. Two-piece sets with measuring pitcher bottoms and separate reamer tops did not come along until the mid 1920's.

The biggest boom for reamers came in 1907 when a a co-op named the "California Fruit Growers Exchange" was formed. This co-op marketed the name Sunkist to sell fruit to the east coast. Sunkist reamers were produced as a promotional item. However, not until 1916 when the "Drink an Orange" campaign was launched, were reamers marketed to the masses.

Sunkist reamers were manufactured in a variety of colors, like green, pink, blue, yellow, black and white. Three different glass companies manufactured the Sunkist reamer from 1916 till the early 1960s.

In 1922 Fry Glass Co. introduced "Pearl Glass.” Here is a Fry reamer…but even more striking is the design when you flip the reamer upside down.

It was so popular that it prompted the company to add colors such as pink, green, amber, white milk glass and finally jadeite, delfite and vaseline colors up through 1928. The other big glass companies like Anchor Hocking, Jeannette and McKee copied the styles. They produced a variety of shapes and colors, with green being the most popular. Jeannette made the last of the well known glass reamers under the Jenny-ware line in pink, jadeite, delfite and ultramarine.

Pottery companies made reamers also, but in the 1930s cheap Japanese ones were sold in the 5 & 10 cent stores…kind of like China and the Dollar Store stories of today. Anyway, by the 1940s frozen concentrate was on the market and so begins the processed food saga! Always many layers to these tales, don’t you know?

Anyway, may your New Year be juicy and may all your “reamings” be good ones!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Have a ball!!

By now, those who celebrate Christmas are looking at a tree filled with ornaments, but in the 19th century, those with the most glass balls were the winners since only the very wealthy could afford glass balls. Glass balls come to us through Bohemia (Czech), and, according to research, they are the result of some end of the day shenanigans by glass blowers in the late 1700s-early 1800s.

The glass blowers would have contests to see who could blow the largest ball before it burst…this bottle is actually from a modern contest held to see who could blow the biggest bottle! It is signed and dated December 28, 1979…boys never outgrow their games! But, Southern New Jersey used to be renowned for its glass making.

Anyway, the wives would collect the balls and swirl silver nitrate inside to color them, and they took them to local Christmas markets…see…those of you who do craft fairs are following centuries old traditions! These balls were sold as Christmas balls to avert evil from the home over Christmas, or hung or stuck onto sticks in the hallway of the house.

For a time, the balls fell out of favor being labeled witches’ balls as the early missionaries tried to convert people to Christianity.

In 1863, Lauscha, Bohemuia got Gas (and no, it was not from overeating), and this made glass blowing much easier. The glass could be blown much thinner without bursting, and it was possible to use wooden molds to blow the glass into to create shapes and 'figurals'.

By the 1870s, the balls were being exported to England and to America where the East Coast became very fashionable with their glitter and glass. The rest of America still used home made decorations as the pioneer spirit was not into high fashion.

But, the history of the Christmas ball, as we baby boomers know it, is tied to the man behind the Shiny Brite boxes…the sight of which turns me into a 5 year old!

The Germans had cornered the market by the Depression, and Max Eckhardt realized that the future hostilities…which became WW II would impact his ornament trade. In the late 30’s, he and buyers from F.W.Woolworth, the largest seller of Christmas ornaments in the country, persuaded Corning Glass to make the ornaments in the U.S. Corning adapted one of their light bulb machines (still can be see in the Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI).

By 1940 Corning was making about 300,000 ornaments a day, compared with the perhaps 600 for a skilled German glassblower, and sending them to other companies for decoration. The largest customer was Max Eckhardt who opened an American company known as Shiny Brite. Initially Shiny Brite Ornaments were lacquered by machine on the outside and then decorated by hand.
The following year the ornaments were silvered on the inside so they would remain “shiny bright” for longer periods, but WWII intervened and material shortages caused the company to decorate the clear glass balls with simple thin stripes in pastel colors which didn’t require as much metallic oxide pigment. Corning, moreover, was able to alter its machines to produce a greater variety of shapes and sizes of glass ball without using scarce war material.

But the necessities of war persisted and the sturdy metal cap that held the little hook for hanging the ornaments had to give way to cardboard and often you had to provide your own hanging device. Here is a close up of a ball with the paper cap.
Today, Christopher Radko, the entrepreneur who discovered and recreated many of the historic glass ornament molds from Germany and Czechoslovakia, has recreated much of the Shiny Brite ornament collection. Interestingly, many of the vintage ornaments are still available. People do take care, and I am always searching for them at auctions and sales.

While I appreciate the reproductions...and they will have their value in 100 still is inspiring to find the old think of the trees they adorned and to give them a chance to live again.

So, in the spirit of glass and glitter, whatever you celebrate this time of year...may it fill you with a "shiny brite" glow!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hats off...

"Few women have ever been able to resist the temptation to try on a hat and discover in the mirror a person they never suspected was there. A hat alters the image we have of ourselves, and the image others see as well. For the hours we wear it, it brings out different dimension in our personality, much as a costume aids an actress in her role." (unknown)

Did you know that you lose 85% of your heat through your uncovered head? For those of us in the northern climates, we need those hats! Now, consider the sun need a hat that covers you yet allows the heat to escape...hence, the straw hat.

And...guess what I got at auction this week? Hats off to this buy! (None of them red though!)

From ancient times, women were always expected to have their heads covered by veils, kerchiefs, hoods, caps and wimples. A formal hat for a woman was first recorded in 1529 when the term referred to the products for which Milan and the northern Italian regions were well known, i.e. ribbons, gloves and straws. The haberdashers who imported these highly popular straws were called 'Millaners' from which the word was eventually derived.

By the mid 1800's Swiss and Italian straws, together with imitation straws made from paper, cardboard, grass and horsehair were available to women, along with the introduction of velvet and tulle. Bonnets were common during this time, but they gave way to the large flamboyant creations.

The Roaring 20s saw women's hair cropped short, and so the cloche helmet hugging hat came into vogue.

From the 1930s through the 1950s between the depression and WWII, it appears that hats tended to be more conservative. With the influx of immigrants from Europe, New York became the world's leading millinery city, with department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Henri Bendel and Bergdorf Goodman leading the way with their own millinery workrooms.

During the 1930's and 40's the tendency was for hats to have higher crowns with smaller brims and once it was War-Time again, it was mainly the trims which were changed with women making do with turbans made from pre-war materials.

In my stash, I did not have winter hats from the 50s, but I did have some florals from the spring lines. The hats seem to reflect the joy of the post war days, yet women were feeling their independence after being part of the workforce, and the wardrobes were changing.

Jackie Kennedy introduced the pillbox in the 1960s. Despite the fact that the baby boomers saw that look, I do not believe we fully embraced it as hair became far more important...remember the musical "Hair?"

As less formal dress took over, the hat fell by the wayside...until Lady Di made it fashionable again...
...still many women say, "Oh, I can't wear hats!" Well, maybe it is just a matter of trying different ones on and finding one that is just right...but, then again, how many women want to be bothered? I love to wear hats...and not just for special fact, there is a white fur in this stash that will be on my head this winter!

"I can wear a hat or take it off, but either way it's a conversation piece."
Hedda Hopper

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Seeing red...and green!

This time of year red and green are totally Christmas, but how? Before Christ came into Christmas, the Romans kept evergreen branches in their homes during winter through the beginning of January and then they would exchange branches with their friends. They would trade them to show a sign of good luck.

The Egyptians treasured and worshipped evergreens. When the winter solstice arrived, they would bring palm trees into their homes to show triumph over death even though the palms dried out.

In medieval times, Miracle Plays were produced to convert the pagans. On December 24 the church presented The Paradise Play, the story of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden. Since apples were unavailable (be grateful for our grocery stores), the missionaries fastened apples to pine trees--they are green year round. Pine came to represent the Tree of Good and Evil, churches began incorporating the tree into their Christmas displays each year. But it didn’t stop there. Following the church’s example, people began assembling pine trees in their homes and decorating them with red apples. This act introduced two modern traditions: the Christmas tree and our seasonal colors, green for the pine tree and red for the apples.

The color green is a natural representation of eternal life, specifically the evergreen tree and how it survives through the winter season. That’s why, in Christian belief, green represents the eternal life of Jesus Christ. The color red symbolizes Christ’s blood which was shed during his crucifixion.

Now that you have a little is a little background on many of the red dishes and glass that you pull out of the cupboards this time of the year. Ruby glass is more expensive because it requires gold which is dissolved in a solution called Aqua Regia, made up of nitric acid and hydrochloric acid, producing gold chloride. Ancient Romans may have accidentally discovered ruby glass. They would add scrap metal to molten glass to color it, and they may have had no idea what created the colors.

Cranberry glass is made by adding less gold chloride to molten glass than for ruby. It is an expensive and difficult process. A slight error can result in a muddy color instead of pink cranberry or the intense red of ruby glass. Modern glassmakers can buy gold ruby glass rods from manufacturers ready to use for their own designs.

Here are two Victorian cranberry glasses...

Most of the ruby seen in antique shops is from Anchor Hocking who began making glassware in the Royal Ruby color in 1938. The "Royal Ruby" name is patented by Anchor Hocking, so only glassware made by them can be called by that name. Most of the pieces in the market today were made in the 40s, 50s and 60s.

Royal Ruby was also used in the Bubble (1962-1964), Classic (vertical ribbed partyware), Coronation, Manhattan, Oyster & Pearl, Old Cafe, Queen Mary, and Sandwich patterns. Here is "Bubble"...

I managed to pick up some Fenton ruby at an auction the other week. They obviously had never been used...the original price tags were still on them! That always fascinates me because I think things are meant to be used not merely stashed away...but that is another whole entry!

So, the next time you see ruby glass, you can you know it takes gold to make that color? And people will are really smart!