Sunday, July 25, 2010

Pitcher this!

These 90+ degree days we are having in the east certainly call for ice and liquid...either drink it or sit in it! This is off my computer from a weather site up the road as I work on this post!
But, probably better is to picture the pitcher...The word "pitcher" comes from the 13th century Middle English word picher, which means earthen jug. It is 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.

I do have some "earthen jugs" in the shop...not medieval...

late 1800s and early 1900s.







This heat wave definitely calls for pitchers filled with ice and refreshments, does it not? Iced tea has an intriguing history. The first iced teas were actually cocktails of tea and alcohol, and green tea was used (funny how we think we are always the first to discover something like green tea!) In an 1839 cookbook entitled The Kentucky Housewife, author Lettice Bryan suggested combining 1 1/2 pints of strong tea, 2 1/2 cups of white sugar, 1/2 pint of sweet cream, and a bottle of claret (dry red wine) or champagne. The beverage could be served hot or cold. The tea punches went by names such as Regent's Punch, named after George IV, the English prince regent between 1811 until 1820, and king from 1820 to 1830.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, American versions of this punch begin to acquire regional and even patriotic names, such as Charleston's St. Cecilia Punch (named for the musical society whose annual ball it graced), and Savannah's potent version, Chatham Artillery Punch. Check out this recipe. I think if you drank this, you could care less about the weather!Catawba Wine, Rye whiskey, rum, Benedictine, gin, brandy...whew!

The oldest sweet tea recipe (ice tea) in print comes from a community cookbook called Housekeeping in Old Virginia, by Marion Cabell Tyree, published in 1879:

Ice Tea. - After scalding the teapot, put into it one quart of boiling water and two teaspoonfuls green tea. If wanted for supper, do this at breakfast. At dinner time, strain, without stirring, through a tea strainer into a pitcher. Let it stand till tea time and pour into decanters, leaving the sediment in the bottom of the pitcher. Fill the goblets with ice, put two teaspoonfuls granulated sugar in each, and pour the tea over the ice and sugar. A squeeze of lemon will make this delicious and healthful, as it will correct the astringent tendency.

Iced tea's popularity parallels the development of refrigeration: the ice house, the icebox (refrigerator), and the commercial manufacture of pure ice, which were in place by the middle of the nineteenth century. The term "refrigerator" was used for the first patented ice box in 1803. Some research will say that ice tea was invented at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair when Richard Blechynden, Commissioner of Tea for India, was the director of the East Indian Pavilion at the fair. Mr. Blechynden had prepared samples of hot tea for fairgoers, and noticed that no one was taking advantage of them, as it was an unseasonably hot day (we know that feeling!), and everyone was going for the coldest beverages they could find like the Bavarain exhibit called the "Tyrolean Alps" that Adolphus Busch (as in beer)and other brewers hosted with a restaurant seating 3,000 people. Blechynden had the idea of icing down his hot mixture and presented it to the public that way. The crowds loved it, and word spread of this delicious way to enjoy a healthy (or non-alcoholic at least)drink. Mr. Blechynden did not invent the iced version, but he did make it more popular with Americans(or at least the sober ones!).

So, if you are looking for some unique beverage pitchers, I have some Depression era pitchers...glass...

and pottery...

and even some 50s era retro pitchers...

So, if you picture a pitcher on your porch, please pop in for a pourer. (Had enough "p" words? Brain melt...sorry!)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

“When life hands you lemons -


break out the tequila and salt.”
This heat wave does bring one to consider the tropical drinks!

But, salt is what brought me to this post...and salt cellars or open salts. I got several in an auction lot. Of course, that always prompts the research. Did you know that most governments have seen salt as a suitable commodity to tax? Since salt in excess is unpleasant, consumption by the rich does not much exceed that of the poor, and thus a tax on salt is fundamentally a poll tax.

About 4,700 years ago in China, Peng-Tzao-Kan-Mu, the earliest known treatise on pharmacology discussed more than 40 kinds of salt, including descriptions of two methods of extracting salt and putting it in usable form that are amazingly similar to processes used today.

China was the first to create a tax over 2000 years ago. Salt extraction was difficult, and salt had to be pumped from the sea and then allowed to evaporate. The salt tax was the mainstay of government revenue. In India during the late 19th century it cost a month's wages to provide salt for the family.

After 1879 until the end of British rule, wage inflation gradually eroded the severity of the salt tax. In 1930, Mahatma Gandhi protested against the unjust tax. He and his followers marched to the sea to illegally gather salt. This and their subsequent imprisonment were key episodes in the fight for independence when the salt tax was abolished.Salt has played a prominent role in determining the power and location of the world's great cities. Liverpool rose from just a small English port to become the prime exporting port for the salt dug in the great Cheshire salt mines in the 1800s.

Salt created and destroyed empires. The salt mines of Poland led to a vast kingdom in the 1500s, only to be destroyed when Germans brought in sea salt (to most of the world, considered superior to rock salt, and you notice how many of our food manufacturers are promoting the sea salt...like Campbell's). Venice fought and won a war with Genoa over salt.

In the Revolutionary War, the British used Tories to intercept the rebels' salt supply and destroy their ability to preserve food. During the War of 1812, salt brine was used to pay soldiers in the field as the government was too poor to pay them with money. (Californians better watch out!--not to mention those of us here in New Jersey!) Before Lewis and Clark set out for the Louisiana Territory, President Jefferson spoke in his address to Congress about a mountain of salt supposed to lie near the Missouri River which would have been of immense value.

Most of the "salts" seen in shops are from the Victorian era. An old guide came with the salts...there are a thousand tiny pictures of these little tabletop jewels.Salt came in rock form and had to be chipped off or ground (yes, salt grinders are back), and so the salt shaker is fairly new...around 1940 new methods of processing allowed a finer salt.

This salt shaker is part of a set from the Griffith Laboratories. The company wanted to "brand" themselves to the general public. They created a set of twelve high-quality spices, each in its own stylishly designed, gleaming white glass jar. Each jar was sealed with an airtight cap with a convenient sifter top beneath. The company, concerned about contamination from mold and bacteria, used a revolutionary proprietary purifying method to make sure the spices were clean, safe and pure.
Sold through the home furnishings departments of Marshall Field's, Macy's and other fine stores, the Griffith spice set was successful immediately. Over the years, Griffith updated the design and introduced bright colors to coordinate with the popular color schemes of the time.

Salt has played a vital part in religious ritual in many cultures, symbolizing purity. There are more than 30 references to salt in the Bible, accounting for the significance of salt in Jewish culture. Roman soldiers were paid partly in salt...hence, salary...and there are salt museums around the world. You could put them out with the new gourmet salts...they did have tiny spoons for each salt, or you could repurpose it for a ring or a special jewel..or a tooth to surprise the fairy. So, if you are worth your salt or the salt of the earth, you do not need to take that compliment with a grain of salt. Cheers!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

For whom the tray toles...

Groan, I know...but what do you expect from an English prof and former librarian...my apologies to Mr. Hemingway and John Donne, but it was a hot week...the mind does drift in 100+ degree heat and matching humidity!

All right...tole trays...let us consider them...technically, tole describes French painted tin wares, not American products, and the English produced tin tea trays with the pierced borders long before Americans.

The term tole is French, meaning a lacquered or enameled metalware, usually gilded and elaborately painted. The painting technique developed in the the 1700s and was called "one stroke" painting. It enabled artists to paint pottery, trays, and furniture quickly...commericialism is not new!


From the 1920s through the 1940s, American decorating experienced a colonial revival. As a result, tole painting gained favor...here is a close up of the wooden fireplace screen in the shop...it is 1920s era.
































The Mexicans created a wood tole painting style. These are 1950s wood batea "bowls," a Mexican folk art done on bowls that were originally used by Mexican and Californian miners for washing sands and pulverized ores.The Scandavians developed a style that has a tole feel. There is Rosemaling (Norwegian rose painting, a form of decorative flower painting that originated in the low-land areas of eastern Norway around 1750. Rosemaling designs use C and S strokes and feature scroll and flowing lines, floral designs, and subtle colors. Script lettering, scenes and figures may also be included.












But, most people relate tole to the trays from the American Colonial Revival.Many of the trays will have the Nashco label on the back; this New York company made most of the tole trays that are available today.
I have an ivory colored one that has an artist label and is out of Philadlephia so there were other companies, but I have not seen many other labels.
Although most of the trays are black, I have had green, Chinese red, and Wedgwood blue. All the ones in stock now are black except for the ivory one above. This is a large round tray with a hanger on the back.
And this is a smaller oval. I have had desk accessories, but they sold before I could get pictures.
When it comes to pricing, these trays have been shown in Country Living with a value of $145!!! Now, I know the housing bubble burst, and I do believe the antique folks should pay attention. While $50 for a large tray is acceptable, I do not believe triple digit prices are in order for the simple trays.

But, remember as this summer heat continues, “Madness takes its toll. Please have exact change.”

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Made in America


I have been trying to promote the American business, and, even though the 21st century is global, it is nice to be aware of American products. I have been selling a good bit of vintage/retro jewelry lately, and I am learning about it. Recently I got a stash...and this pile had a number of "silver" necklaces.
I noticed that they were tagged Monet......so I looked up Monet. The line was manufactured in Providence, Rhode Island in the 1920s. The company was organized by Michael and Jay Chernow who initially called it Monocraft because they created handbags with gold-plated appliqu├ęs and monograms. The metalwork used on their handbags distinguished them from other companies because they used intricate designs on their products. In 1929 the Monocraft Products Company, under the name Monet, began creating costume jewelry, necklaces, bracelets, pins, earrings, and ornamental clips, but they did not market their jewelry pieces as Monet until 1937. At the time, Monet was the only company making earring clips for both pierced and non-pierced ears and barrel clasps for pierced earrings. This technology, as well as their use of gold and silver plating and sterling silver, set them apart from other jewelry makers of the time. Their jewelry used open metalwork and straight edges. Those designs were not common in the 1930s and 1940s. Before 1955, Monet Jewelry was characterized by their use of precious metals and their unique designs. However, in 1955, it became easier for people who wanted genuine, vintage jewelry from this manufacturer to differentiate them from imitators of their designs. In that year, genuine jewelry carried the Monet Trademark. Marks include:
Uneven script: Monet
Capital M (remaining word in small letters)
Monet that crosses over the “t”
All caps MONOCRAFT
Monet Sterling

Monet managed to maintain their unique designs, but several companies have had the right to the trademark designs. From 1969 to 1989, General Mills acquired Monocraft Products Company, the company that held rights to Monet the longest. From 1989 to 1994, the jewelry was sold through Crystal Brands Jewelry Group, and from 1994 to 2000, Chase Capital Partners, Lattice Holding. Presently, Liz Claiborne, Inc. produces Monet Jewelry, a right they've held since 2000, but it is not made in the US so one has to be concerned about the metals being used.

So, the vintage is a good buy because vintage Monet jewelry is durable and long lasting, and you can still find old pieces in like-new condition. Most collectors of vintage Monet jewelry can pick up good quality pieces inexpensively. Earrings can be purchased with their original tags for as low as seven dollars. The goal of Monet was to create elegant yet affordable women's jewelry, and, to add that special touch to their line, Monet was the first costume design house to stamp their trade name into every piece of jewelry, so you can easily track down Monet.