Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pitchers and Bowls...great for display...glad we don't have to use!


I am not the camping type...I want to go where the water is running, and it is hot...and the toilets flush! But...until the mid 1800s indoor plumbing was not common, and it was not until the 1870s that home designs included a bathroom. Before that, the pitcher and bowl could be found in every "bedchamber".

Kitchens featured drysinks...many tin or copper lined...that would hold large wash bowls for utilitarian uses. But every home had one of these bowl and pitcher sets. Usually they came with more pieces such as a soap dish, a slop jar (for disposing of the waste water), a chamber pot, a toothbrush holder. They were placed on a piece of furniture called a commode...it featured storage below for the slop bucket and chamber pot. It is ironic to see people buying old bureaus to convert to sinks! What goes around come around!

This set is by W. H. Tatler, a Trenton, NJ, company that was in business 1874-1953, and the set dates to 1887.

Interestingly, ancient civilizations were tuned into the value of personal hygiene, and it is documented that the Mesopotamians used beauty products and ­rituals—­baths, facials, hairdressing, cosmetics, ­manicures and pedicures. Good grooming was an increasingly important sign of status. Egypt was the first capital of cleanliness deluxe, and its practices of mummifying and making up the dead are with us ­still.

Early Christians felt spiritual purity was better than personal cleanliness...bathing was out since it brought about the sins of the flesh. The Middle Ages brought a return to bathing, but from the mid-16th century well into the 19th century in much of Europe, a person could go from cradle to grave without a good wash. One historian says, “Water was the enemy, to be avoided at all costs.”

However, some families obviously understood cleanliness. This pitcher and bowl date to 1889 and were made in Bristol, England, by Pountney & Co. I have included some close-ups of the transfers...really a unique set.





Fortunately the Industrial Revolution brought about sanitation concerns, and according to this same historian "By the late 19th century, the United States was much cleaner than Europe. Amer­icans liked innovation, and hotels proudly advertised showers and flush toilets as tourist attractions. As more young women took jobs in offices and factories, the shortage of servants sped the introduction of new cleanliness technol­ogy into the average home."

This body pitcher is marked Peerless Pottery Company Philadelphia...and they are still in business making modern bathroom fixtures.

This dates to the early 1900s, and it is obvious not everyone was into running water or these were found in personal bedrooms so that one did not have to leave his/her room to bathe. The same goes for the infamous "porta-potty!"

So...bottom line...I am so grateful for my bathroom...running water...I cannot imagine myself in the early morning hours wrestling with one of these pitchers...I am amazed so many have survived! By the way, if you do have just a bowl, they are great for storing extra towels, toilet paper, or soaps in a bathroom.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thanks for the memories…



I can never resist a box of photos at auction or at a sale. I am quickly attracted to the people in the photos and immediately conjure up ideas of who they are and what the story is behind them (see why I teach Composition and not Math!).









In today’s high tech world, the photograph still reins supreme in the memory world. Sure, we have digital…fast access to pictures now…no waiting for the film to be developed. But. remember how excited you were when you picked up that envelope at the drugstore or wherever you dropped the canister off.

"Photography" is derived from the Greek words photos ("light") and graphein ("to draw") The word was first used by the scientist Sir John F.W. Herschel in 1839. It is a method of recording images by the action of light, or related radiation, on a sensitive material.


Interest--ingly, the French were the first into the art of capturing images. Joseph Niepce took nearly 8 hours to obtain a fixed image. This grainy picture above is the world’s first photograph called "View from the Window at Le Gras" (circa 1826), taken and developed by French photographer pioneer Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. He called this process "heliography" or sun drawing - it certainly was a long process: the exposure time was about 8 hours.

Louis Daguerre worked for another decade to reduce the exposure to 30 minutes and keep the image from disappearing. He named the technique after himself…the daguerreotype, and in 1839 sold the rights to the French government…and so modern photography was born. Can you imagine holding a position for 30 minutes???


Americans became involved in 1840 when Alexander Wolcott was issued a patent for his camera. In the late 1880s, photos were introduced into advertising, the process was sped up, and the negative technique was invented. In 1884, George Eastman…Eastman-Kodak to be…invents paper photographic film, and in 1888 the roll film camera rolls out of the factory. And every baby boomer will identify with this…the Brownie Camera was invented in 1900 (thank heavens…something older than we are!)

I love this group shot...the teacher looks like she could be Harry Potter's mother!


The 35mm camera came in 1913, the flash in 1927, better film in the 40s, the Polaroid in 1948. and the 70s, 80s, and 90s brought us to the digital world of today.

And a little trivia...In the 1920s, a brass birdie was often used by photographers to grab the attention of children during a portrait session (hence the saying "Watch the birdie") The bird was held by an assistant or parent. The brass base separates into two halves so the bottom of the base could be filled with water. Squeezing the rubber bulb causes the bird to make a whistling and warbling sound.


What fascinates me about all of the photographs I find...who are these people...sweet children...who are probably in their 80s or have passed on by now...or someone's wedding photo? How did it get tossed in a box of photos and end up for sale? I love to study their faces, their clothing, their backdrops...ghosts, but so much alive in my hands and in my imagination.
I had a customer once who bought several old photos, framed them, and hung them in a hallway in her house. That Thanksgiving her relatives started talking about the people in the photos, saying that was Aunt Sadie or Uncle Joseph...she had created the instant ancestors. She never did tell them that she "bought" the relatives for a buck a piece!

Photography...it's a good thing...made even better by the instant viewer of the computer...but, in the future, what will people have to hold and look at...a DVD drive...a memory card...somehow I am a little outdated...I love the photograph.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

R.S. "Pretties"


So many of what I call “the pretties” are from the German porcelain factories of the late 1800s. The Europeans tried to copy the fine porcelain that the traders brought back from their trips to China. A German chemist discovered the secret of making hard-paste porcelain in the early 1700’s, and it gave birth to a porcelain factory in Meissen in 1710, sometimes called Dresden. For nearly a century, it was the “gold” standard for pottery.

Sadly, political disorder in Germany and competition from Sevres porcelain drove the Meissen factory into decline during the late 1700's. It continued to operate but did not make wares of the same artistic quality. Studying the history of artifacts, it becomes evident how much wars and political strife destroy…lives being the worst…but so much culture is also lost.

In the German lines, RS Prussia is a common mark along with ES Germany and RS Germany. One of the most popular was the Schlegelmilch Procelain (say that fast!) Reinhold Schlegelmilch produced R.S. Prussia porcelain at his factory in the town that is now Suhl, Germany from the late 1800s through the beginning of World War. That area was known as Prussia.




R.S. Germany was manufactured in the German province of Thuringia. Schegelmilch also opened a factory in Tilowitz in Silesia (aren’t these great names?).

R.S. Poland is the mark used after WWII for a few years.







Not all the hand painted items were done at the factory. Blanks were shipped out for “crafters” to try their skill at painting on porcelain.


Sadly, there are reproductions. The porcelain is heavier, the pieces have decals instead of hand painted designs, and the wreath marks omit the Prussia word. What is so amazing are the pieces of the past attached to some of the pretties...yes, they are beautiful...but you can imagine how proud someone was of the set to mark it with this label.















The most valuable pieces of R.S. Prussia feature décor other than florals such as portraits, animals, classical themes and landscapes. Unusual objects and mold shapes are also prized by collectors. The pieces which command the higher prices are elaborately decorated and gilded. The lobster dish shown above and below here were designed simply as showpieces. They used to be rather expensive, but they have some down in price. I just find them intriguing...always beautifully crafted. Simple painted florals have values of $10-$20 so you can find pretties for pennies (well, several rolls of them!).

Monday, September 8, 2008


I have some USB issues with my camera so my planned lesson has to be postponed...so all I have until I get my connectivity issues resolved is a potted cat...say hello to Harry!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Short and sweet...


















Since it is Labor Day, I thought I would give you a holiday from learning before the fall semester starts...chuckle...so today we take a little breather with some ideas of what to do with that great vintage jewelry that you love and may not wear...and those figurines that Aunt Mary and Grandma Sally passed down. Why not combine the two for an artistic interpretation? Above are pictures of early German bisque figurines and 1950's beaded necklaces in matching colors. They make a decorating whisper...those things that catch your attention not by shouting but by sweetly making you look.

Here is a hand I picked up somewhere with some glass and metal Art Nouveau beads draped over. How neat would that be in a corner of a bathroom vanity...


A Japanese figurine becomes a show place for some 1940s crystal beads.













A 1940s figural planter holds a 1950s vintage bead and pearl necklace.



















I think so many of us labor over things that should just be enjoyed...where to put this...what to do with that...as Nike's ad people coined...just do it! You have a necklace you love...a pin you adore...a bracelet that has fond memories...pull them out of the jewelry case and enjoy them! Let them see the light of day! And "marry" them with some little treasure you inherited or found at a sale...and Happy Un-Labor Day!