Sunday, November 30, 2014

“Life is like a blanket too short.

You pull it up and your toes rebel, you yank it down and shivers meander about your shoulder; but cheerful folks manage to draw their knees up and pass a very comfortable night."
          ~Marion Howard
Let's have a little trivia for December start-up...December starts on the same day of the week as September every year and ends on the same day of the week as April every year.  I am sure after the madness of Gray Thursday and Black Friday, minds may have to let that float around upstairs for a little bit, and you probably just want to crawl back under the blanket!

Which brings me to today's history lesson...the blanket!  Do you know there was a man named Blanket (no, not Michael Jackson's son!) who supposedly "invented" the blanket?  From my research a fascinating narrative...

In England, Bristol’s most colorful Victorian newspaperman, Joseph Leech, wrote an extremely fanciful account of the blanket’s invention/discovery. In a story in Brief Romances from Bristol History (1884, a collection of what were originally articles in the Bristol Times) he imagined ‘Edward’ Blanket struggling to make his weaving business a success. One very cold night he and Mrs B were shivering in their bed covered only by a ‘camlet’ of goat hair. Then he had an idea; he went to his loom and took a length of woollen cloth he had been working on that day, and covered the bed with it. They slept snugly, and the following morning he told Mrs. Blanket that he was going to go into the bed-covering business.

“My dearest dame,” said he, “I shall have the honour of giving a name to the article that will make my fortune and carry down my name to all future ages. Let others devote themselves to making cloth to keep them warm by day; be it my business henceforth to manufacture only that which will keep folks warm by night.”

Leech went on to call for an annual Blanket Day, in which Bristol would celebrate Mr Blanket’s most excellent discover/invention.
 The words ‘blanket’ and ‘blanchette’ (plus assorted other medieval spellings) had been in use for at least 150 years before Edmund Blanket’s time. The Blanket family themselves might have got their name from being makers of this cloth, just as medieval blacksmiths acquired the surname Smith, and bakers became Bakers.

Weaving was medieval Bristol’s main industry, but it was tightly regulated by the guilds and the corporation to maintain the quality of the finished cloth and protect the interests of the weavers and associated trades.  King Edward III (reigned 1327-1377) started to change all that. He wanted the vast English cloth industry to be more profitable, all the better to tax it to pay for his wars. He restricted the wearing and importation of foreign cloth and the export from England of raw wool. He encouraged Flemish weavers to settle in England in order to build up the cloth industry. Some of them came to Bristol; the Blankets may have been Flemish themselves, or they may have brought in some of these foreign weavers.

In the late 1330s, Thomas Blanket (Edmund's brother) set up several looms at his property in Tucker Street, just south of the Bristol Bridge. He was effectively setting up a factory, employing weavers rather than working as a self-employed artisan. Presumably his weavers hadn’t had to serve long apprenticeships in the traditional manner. The guilds and the Corporation didn’t like this and tried to put a stop to it.
The King was not happy with the guilds and issued the following order:
“The said Thomas and the others who have chosen to work and make cloths of this sort, and also the workmen, should be protected and defended from injuries and improper exactions on that account. Order you, that you permit the said Thomas and the others who are willing to make cloths of this kind to cause machines to be erected in their own houses at their choice for the weaving and making cloths of this kind … “

The direct personal support of the King means Blanket was no mere clothier but a very significant figure. The Corporation got the message and hurriedly performed a u-turn, and Thomas Blanket was made a local official in 1340. Blanket’s importance and royal support would have made him a well-known figure.

Beds were not common, and most poor people probably slept on the floor (perhaps on straw), fully or partially clothed, though getting completely naked to sleep was often favoured where possible as it helped get rid of the lice which infested most of our ancestors’ bodies.

The more prosperous classes owned beds and may have slept in linen sheets under animal skins. Woollen cloth, meanwhile, was expensive stuff, produced by artisans  until entrepreneurs like Thomas Blanket came along.

Blanket’s industrial production methods, however small they were by modern standards, may well have gone some way towards making woollen bed-coverings more affordable and fashionable.  So, as you get all comfy in your bed, tonight, you can thank Mr. Blanket...and the King...for giving all of us affordable comfort!


“I like to hear a storm at night. It is so cosy to snuggle down among the blankets and feel that it can't get at you.”   ~L.M. Montgomery 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

"Be thankful for what you have;

you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough."   ~ Oprah Winfrey
At this point, I am sure plans are laid out on the shopping GPS for Thursday.  I do not understand why every holiday has to be tied to buying stuff, but did you know Thanksgiving actually has a consumer background?  President Franklin Roosevelt wanted to help merchants in the post-Depression era (1939-1941), and so he proclaimed Thanksgiving to be moved to the third Thursday in November to create a longer buying season for Christmas. 

President Lincoln had declared it a national holiday at the urging of poet Sarah Hale (best known for "Mary Had a Little Lamb").  She had lobbied the previous 4 Presidents as well, but Lincoln decided it would unite the nation and in 1863 declared the last Thursday in November a "day of thanksgiving."   George Washington had declared it a holiday in 1789 but only New England rallied in support.

When FDR tried to permanently move Thanksgiving to the third Thursday, Congress said "NO" (see--you thought that was a recent phenomenon!), and they passed a joint resolution (at least they did pass something!) in 1941 decreeing that Thanksgiving should fall on the fourth Thursday of November where it now remains.

This Thanksgiving, ingredients for a typical holiday feast, with turkey and all the trimmings, averaged $49.41, up 37 cents from $49.04 in 2013, the American Farm Bureau Federation said in its 29th annual survey. Some grocers also use turkeys as “loss leaders" to entice shoppers to buy other popular Thanksgiving foods.
The Farm Bureau's dinner also includes bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, plus coffee and milk, all in quantities enough for a family of 10, with leftovers.

Foods with the biggest increases were sweet potatoes, dairy products and pumpkin pie mix. Among those declining modestly in price were stuffing, fresh cranberries, pie shells and brown-and-serve rolls.  The average cost of the dinner has remained around $49 since 2011.

So, whatever your day holds, remember...

“Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.” 
                        ~ Ernest Hemingway   

Sunday, November 16, 2014

“Life can only be understood backwards;

but it must be lived forwards.”  
~     Søren Kierkegaard

I am interested in where the antique/vintage world is headed.  As much as I hope for the survival of small shops, I tend to think they are the endangered species of the retail world although there is a revival of thrift shops...and I use that term lightly since many thrift shop prices are higher than many vintage shops and co-ops.  American Express has been running ads supporting the Mom and
Pop shops, and they are offering their card holders extras for using the card in small shops on November 29 (my shop does take American Express so we are participating).

Reading through some recent emails, I was intrigued by Kovel's latest list...

During October 2014, collectors were searching for prices of: 1) Fenton, 2) Coca-Cola, 3) Occupied Japan, 4) Stoves, 5) McCoy, 6) Wedgwood, 7) Bavaria, 8) Depression Glass, 9) Delft, 10) Capo-Di-Monte, 11) Lamps, 12) Pepsi Cola, 13) Hull, 14) Banks, 15) Belleek, 16) Scales, 17) Satsuma, 18) Trunks, 19) Haeger, and 20) Red Wing.

Now as I look at that list, I think some of the items were probably things found in clean-outs as grandparents and parents moved on...literally and figuratively...and how much can I get for this stuff probably reverberating in their minds.  The article went on to talk about banks...this one is a real showstopper of a bank!
Ives Palace bankIt mentioned that this "Palace" bank sold November 7 at a James D. Julia auction in Maine for $18,368. It was made about 1890 by Ives, Blakeslee & Co. of Connecticut. Ives made some of the finest iron mechanical toys and banks, but few still banks. The Palace bank is usually found with a japanned finish. This painted version is in excellent condition and exceptionally rare. Another bank depicting a black fisherman is part of an amazing collection that will be auctioned on November 14 and 15 at Bertoia Auction Co. in New Jersey. The 1880s bank has a pre-sale estimate of $225,000 to $250,000 – it’s one of only two known that have the original fish dangling at the end of the fisherman’s line.

Since the late 1860s fun and fascinating banks have been made to encourage children to save money. While prices for mechanical banks can be thousands of dollars, novice collectors can find still banks for less, even under $100. Look for banks that look like buildings, banks that work like cash registers, banks that advertise products or banks made of tin, glass or pottery. 

Something to look for.  Of course, with the holidays coming, you might not have many leftover coins to fill a bank, but this has given me something new to consider in my buying adventures! And, that is the difference with small shops...we are always on the look-out for something since we don't go to the antique/vintage catalog and order...we are the 21st century explorers...searching for that unique spice to favor our shop or booth in a co-op.

 “I've always had a keen sense of history. My father was an antiques dealer and he used to bring home boxes full of treasures, and each item always had a tale attached.”  
             ~ Sara Sheridan

Sunday, November 9, 2014

"In Flanders Field the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,
  That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
  Scarce heard amid the guns below.
                                                              John McCrae (1915)  "In Flanders Field"
I remember in 7th grade history having to memorize this poem and then recite it in front of the class.  Everyone had to do it, and we all did, but it was not until Vietnam that war really impacted my thoughts.  My Dad fought in WWII, but he never talked about it.  So, as we consider Veterans Day this week, how nice it would be to think of it as more than a commercial holiday although in America it seems as though we do not celebrate anything without sales...BOGO reigns.
The flag is one of our key symbols, but have you ever thought about the colors.  We know the stars stand for the states, and the stripes for the original colonies, but what about the colors? Mike Buss, a flag expert with the American Legion, says that the most obvious reason for the flag’s colors is that they were simply taken from our mother country’s flag — the Union Jack of England. “Our heritage does come from Great Britain, and that was some of the thought process that went about in coming up with our flag,” Buss says of the American flag’s red, white and blue. “They come from the three colors that the Founding Fathers had served under or had been exposed to.”
Various historians have their thoughts on what the colors of the American Flag stand for. Some would argue that the colors on the American Flag represent philosophical values, with red representing blood, war and courage, blue standing for justice and freedom, and white representing purity.

However, others speculate even further that George Washington had his own interpretation of Old Glory and her colors: stars were taken from the sky, the red was inspired by the British colors, and the white stripes indicate secession from the home country.

“For us veterans, the flag represents why we served,” Buss says. “We were there because the flag represented our freedoms — freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion.”

And don't get me started on the small numbers of people who vote!  Men and women died for our right to vote, yet few exercise it and still complain about life in America.
Maybe as you are standing in line at that big box store or downloading an app at Macy's, remember those who gave their lives and those who still put their lives on the line for us.

“I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, ‘Mother, what was war?’” 
                                                                  ~Eve Merriam

Sunday, November 2, 2014

"Is the glass half full, or half empty?

It depends on whether you're pouring, or drinking."

      ~Bill Cosby

That applies to an antique-translated into whether you're buying or selling.  I thought it was interesting to read this comment in Kovel's recent collector newsletter ..."Cut glass offered at a Michigan auction sold for high and higher prices. A green-cut-to-clear punch bowl with 12 cups and a ladle sold for $132,000. The bowl is 14 inches in diameter and was made by Dorflinger in the Montrose pattern. Other cut glass pieces sold well over estimate: $39,000 for a Turkish-style coffee pot in the Harvard pattern and $20,400 for a clear Hawkes punch bowl and cups in the Queens pattern."  Now, based on 10 or so years ago, those prices are not outlandish.
Many years ago at auction the "cut to clear" was a phrase heard often and prices were strong, but then that look was no longer in vogue.  Maybe "pretties" are coming back, or maybe it is just a holiday buzz.  Still that is a reasonable price for a set like that.

Based on my research, cut glass can be traced to 1,500 B.C in Egypt, where vessels of varying sizes were decorated by cuts made by what is believed to have been metal drills. Artifacts dating to the sixth century B.C. indicate that the Romans, Assyrians and Babylonians all had mastered the art of decoration by cutting. Ever so slowly glass cutting moved to Constantinople and on to Venice.  By the end of the sixteenth century it was in Prague, and Czech glass still reigns supreme.

Apparently the art did not spread to the British Isles until the early part of the eighteenth century.

Although glass making was the first industry to be established in America at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1608, no glass is known to have been cut in the New World until at least 160 years later. Henry William Stiegel, an immigrant from Cologne, Germany, founded the American Flint Glass Manufactory in Manheim, Pennsylvania, and it was there in about 1771 that the first cut glass was produced in America.
For the next sixty years the "Early Period" of American cut glass, our wares were virtually indistinguishable from English, Irish and continental patterns, and little wonder, for most of the cutters originally came to this new country from Europe. About 1830, which historians label the beginning of the "Middle Period," American ingenuity began to influence the industry, and a national style began to develop. This came into full flower about the time our country was preparing to celebrate her hundredth birthday and what is now termed the "Brilliant Period" began. From about 1876 until the advent of World War 1, American cut glass craftsmen excelled all others worldwide, and produced examples of the cut glass art that may never again be equaled.
The outbreak of World War I dealt the final blow to brilliant cut glass. Lead oxide – an essential ingredient in glass made for cutting was needed for more urgent uses, and by the time the war ended, the few factories that had managed to survive used their resources to produce less costly glass. Thus ended an era of Yankee ingenuity never to return because American ingenuity seems to go with cheap.
Cut leaded crystal (or cut glass) has three distinguishing characteristics: a bell-like ring when gently tapped with the finger, a clarity and brilliance unmatched by pressed or molded imitations, and weight noticeably greater than the same sized piece made of unleaded glass. America's Brilliant cut glass is appropriately named, for that is literally what it is. The cutting is brilliant because it is sharp and deep, reflecting light from highly polished surfaces. It is deep because it was made from leaded crystal that was beautiful in its clarity even though thick enough to be cut in high relief.

So, if you would like a touch of elegance, check out cut glass.  It is reasonably priced these days, and it really would make a statement on a holiday table.

A fine glass vase goes from treasure to trash, the moment it is broken. Fortunately, something else happens to you and me. Pick up your pieces. Then, help me gather mine.” 
Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration