Monday, August 25, 2008

Pottery canisters gained popularity in the late Victorian era. Made of somewhat fragile porcelain, it is amazing that these sets still exist in decent condition today. Unlike the “show” kitchens that exist today, the Victorian kitchen was used daily…no fast food in the early 1900s…but these sets represent the elegance of the times with the concept of usefulness as well.

The canisters were imported in large quantities in the early 1900s from Germany and Czechoslovakia. The sets averaged 13 pieces and were advertised in a Sear Catolog as a cereal set that included oatmeal, rice, prunes, sugar, coffee, tea as well as spices: cloves, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger. The price tag in 1908 was $2.69 which is about $143 in today's world. So, these sets probably found their way into upper class homes. Note the set above the stove in this photo.

The saltbox was sold separately, and, because it saw heavy use, many of them probably did not survive as well as the canisters. Some sets also included oil and vinegar, and the lids were either porcelain or cork. The set in my shop does not have the lids so I believe they were probably porcelain and did not survive.

You can tell the age of the sets by the marks. Starting around 1910, the United States began wanting foreign manufacturers to be more specific with this identification and, over the years, those labels or marks went from just “France,” “England” or “German” (and so forth) to “Made in France,” “Made in England” and “Made in Germany.”

Right now these canister sets are affordable again. A decade ago they could command $400 and $500, but now you can buy sets for less $100 or $200 depending on the condition and how complete the set is. Again...a look back at the romance of the kitchen. We have all the latest technology in our kitchens today, but have we sacrificed some of the charm and beauty? Or, does a canister set on the counter give us the best of all worlds?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella...or Parasol!

As summer comes to a close, the colorful beach umbrellas that dot the shore will be packed up for another year. Interestingly, the umbrella began its life as a sunscreen over four thousand years ago.
Ancient Greek and Roman women used parasols as fashion accessories, and history indicates that only effeminate men would carry them. And we think “macho” is a recent trait? Ha!

The Chinese were the first to develop a collapsible umbrella around 23 BC, and they also were the first to waterproof their umbrellas for use as rain protection. They waxed and lacquered their paper parasols in order to use them for rain. They just always seem to be able to create the unique!

The Europeans depended on cloaks for protection from the elements…hard not to picture Tess of the d'Urbervilles in a long cape on the heath, but in the mid 1600s the parasols from China made their way to England and France.

The early European umbrellas were made of wood or whalebone and covered with alpaca or oiled canvas. The artisans made the curved handles for the umbrellas out of hard woods like ebony, and were well paid for their efforts.

At first it was considered only an accessory suitable for women. Then the Persian traveler and writer, Jonas Hanway (1712-86), carried and used an umbrella publicly in England for thirty years, and he popularized umbrella use among men. English gentleman often referred to their umbrellas as a "Hanway."

This excerpt from the website of world famous James Smith and Sons Umbrella Shop is steeped in history. It “was founded in 1830 and is still owned and run as a family business. For 175 years the company has been making umbrellas, sticks and canes for both ladies and gentlemen and their reputation as the home of the London umbrella is well justified.
The historic and beautiful shop is on New Oxford Street in the heart of London’s West End and is a stunning reminder of the Victorian period. The shop retains the original fittings designed and made by the master craftsman employed by the business and is a work of art in itself.”

In the 1800s, Philadelphia was home to the most extensive umbrella and parasol manufacturing companies in the United States. These red parasols have Philadelphia labels inside. The workmanship on the button closure is so nice compared to the velcro of today!

Also fascinating about these umbrellas are the handles. From silverplate to bakelite to bamboo, they all have personalities.

This umbrella has a silverplate handle with a jeweled tip that is echoed on the tips of the umbrella also.
It has a label inside indicating it was made for Macy's in Italy...the inside is spectacular..
When you think of what we carry now…minis with no finesse…yet, designers are starting to incorporate parasols into their lines. Even the stars are showing up with them like Rhianna with her "umbrella...ella...ella" pop hit!
Of course, there is the oldie but goodie from crooner Perry Como...

Just let a smile be your umbrella,
On a rainy, rainy day . . .
And if your sweetie cries, just tell her,
That a smile will always pay . . .

Whenever skies are gray,
Don’t you worry or fret,
A smile will bring the sunshine,
And you’ll never get wet!

So, let a smile be your umbrella,
On a rainy, rainy day .

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I was tagged by Marie and Carolyn to tell you all out there in cyber land 7 things you might not know about me...


1. I am a caretaker of 20 cats...all strays...
2. I had a HS yearbook dedicated to me once...
3. I love to write cynical letters to the editor...I aspire to be the local
Maureen Dowd.
4. I could never work in an office.
5. I am an only child.
6. I always had a purple room when I was little.
7. I am a clothes fanatic...hats, shoes, dresses, skirts, etc etc etc

I should tag 7 others, but I think most have been tagged out...or...feel free to tag yourself and vent!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Here's looking at you...vintage compacts!

When women got the vote, they got the right to use makeup also. Before WW I, only “cheap” women (although they probably were not that cheap) openly used cosmetics. As women entered the work force, they started to use makeup and the compact became as much a necessity as the cell phone is to women today.

Ancient Egyptians used makeup, and nail polish dates at least to 3000 BC. The Chinese found ways to use gum arabic, egg whites, gelatin, and bees wax to create varnishes and lacquers for the nails. The Egyptians used henna to stain their fingernails. Nail color often represented social class. During the Chou Dynasty, (circa 600 BC) gold and silver were the royal colors. Later, royalty starting wearing black or red nail color. Lower ranking women were only permitted to wear pale tones. Wearing royal colors without the rank was punished by death. A little trivia on nail polish…modern nail polish is a actually a variation of car paint.

Max Factor is often called the father of modern makeup, created for the movies in 1914.By the 1920s and 1930s make-up was associated with Hollywood, and the compact was now part of the glamorous world.

Powdering the nose became an event. Long before pressed powder compacts were available in drugstores, ladies carried fancy compacts in their handbags. In fact, most ladies had an array of compacts to choose from since they were often presented to them as gifts by husbands, suitors and friends.

This is the inside of the large square compact...I love the personal touches of old things.

Some compacts were combined with music, watches, and even canes.
Truly unique compacts can be found on hat pins even! Vintage compacts come in a variety of styles, shapes, and motifs. They were crafted form precious metals, alloys, fabrics, and plastics.

At one time compacts were also favored souvenirs. All types of compacts featuring everything from the Florida Everglades to Mount Rushmore can be found on the market today. Sweetheart compacts are also popular crossover collectibles since they feature patriotic and military themes generally related to World War II.

There are "brand" names in compact: Elgin, Stratton, Max Factor, Estee Lauder, and Volupte. Many of the compacts found today are probably out of the 50s. Look for the marks on the inside or on the back of the compact. Here is an example of a Stratton.

Stratton compacts were designed and produced in Birmingham, England starting
in 1923. Some of the earliest Stratton compacts carry the name "Stratnoid", which was also the trade name for the company's knitting needles. In 1940, four of their five factories were destroyed during World War II. By 1946, they were up and running again.

So, next time you see a vintage compact at a sale, open it up...think of the woman who powdered her nose and dreamed of being a glamorous Hollywood star!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Not at all depressing...

I have been on these buying sprees at auction and at the flea I was able to unwrap some of the depression glass that I have bought. I could not possibly give you the history of this glass in a brief overview...but I can do a simple summary. Most people think of the pink and green glass when Depression glass is mentioned, but it did come in other varieties...cobalt being the most expensive and amber probably the least. Clear is also available, but it is not in great demand despite its versatility.

Depression glass was manufactured from the late 1920s through the 1940s. It was produced by machine in great quantities for that era, and it was not designed to be the high end collectible that it has become.

It was packaged in boxes of cereal and flour sacks...this sunflower plate which is seen in numerous collections and is valued at $15 originally came in 50 lb flour sacks!

Local theaters, gas stations, and grocery stores handed it out. Magazine subscribers and sellers could collect coupons to redeem for pieces. Even the farmers' wives could use coupons from seed packets to trade for the glassware, and coupons could also be found in butter and soap!

Depression glass is not perfect...sizes of plates may vary minutely, and it is flawed in that it was cheap glass!!! However, as you can see from the pictures below, it is not flawed by today's dollar store standards.

There is "elegant" depression sold at department stores...which has a finer look and is often etched as this console bowl above illustrates.

Also some companies such as Heisey became know for very fine glassware...the lavender creamer and sugar *sans lid* show the difference in quality. That color was called Hawthorne and was produced for only a year because they could not perfect the shade. You can see how it compares to the regular depression pink. The regular depression glass manufacturers such as Hazel Atlas, Jeannette, Federal Glass, Paden City, and Hocking were not as concerned about quality control so you will see variances in shades. Of course, there is new reproductions, but they are so poor that even a novice as a clue about the Chinese made glass.

I am always fascinated by the odd pieces in the older glassware...the pink is a celery dish...and I love the canoe shapes for olives, the jar, doesn't it?

These pretties always make me smile...they sparkle...they brighten a table...they remind us that maybe they did not have it so bad way back when!