The most widely loved and treasured antique and collectible books are children’s books. They are also the most difficult books to appraise because their prices can fluctuate dramatically. Capable of inducing the nostalgia of childhood, the sight of a treasured favorite picture book, formerly lost but now sitting inside the glass case at a used bookstore, can cause adults to dig deep into their pockets and pay hundreds of dollars for a book that sold for a modest two dollars when published.
Technology is always changing and evolving. Invented in the late 1800s, our standard light bulb with a filament that emits light by electric current—aka incandescent lamp—is gradually being replaced by energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs. Before electric light bulbs, there were rushlights, candles, and other light sources that were fueled by the burning of whale oil, colza oil, kerosene, gas, and burning fluid (usually a mixture of alcohol and oil of turpentine). Though the use of gas for lighting continued into the early 20th century, it competed fiercely with electricity for supremacy as the superior energy source during the period between 1893 and 1925.
Metal has a different feel than glass and pottery, and the colors of enamel on metal can be rich, bold, and strong despite centuries of age. Cloisonné is an enameling technique originally developed in China during the Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368). The technique became refined during the time of Jingtai (1449–57) of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) and was sometimes called “Blue of Jingtai” because the dominant color was an elegant navy blue.
Fiesta in Spanish means a party, a celebration. Certainly the vibrant colors of Fiesta ware, made by the Homer Laughlin China Company beginning in the 1930s, create a festive table setting for entertaining. However, these inexpensive pottery pieces were meant for everyday use. They were sold in department and hardware stores.
Durable, light weight, and available in a multitude of shapes and sizes, wicker is a versatile material that has been used for centuries to construct many types of furniture. Today wicker is primarily used on porches and in garden-theme rooms. When it was first introduced in the late 19th century it was used throughout the home.
The hat Aretha Franklin wore at Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration a few months ago made quite an impression on the fashion public. The unusual gray wool hat, adorned with an oversized bow decorated with Swarovski crystals, has been reproduced for sale to the general public after the designer, Luke Song, received thousands of requests for copies. Now that was a hat to keep your head warm, and a distinctive one at that. But with the return of warm weather and sunshine, most hats being purchased for spring and summer are designed to keep the sun off your face. Today we tend to think of hats serving a practical purpose, but in previous centuries and decades, hats were often a statement of social class and considered an essential fashion accessory.
Thomas Edison used to go to the end of his fishing pier at his home in Ft. Myers, Florida, and sit with his fishing rod in the water for hours at a time. His family and house guests knew better than to disturb him. Some days Edison didn’t even bother to put hooks or bait at the end of his line. His fishing time was his time to be alone, to think and meditate and get ideas for new inventions.
What do you do with a pair of louvered shutters that are covered with peeling, faded green paint? Rather than the way we typically use them to flank a window on the outside (after they’ve been restored), perhaps you can give them a role to play on the inside of your home instead. There are many uses for old shutters, and all it takes is a little imagination. One that’s fairly large can serve as the headboard for a bed. Hung on the wall as a pair, framing an imagined or mirrored window, can create an illustion of seeing the outdoors. Old shutters can also be converted into closet or cabinet doors, as well as used for room dividers. They’re often hung, in their battered and distressed state, on the walls of restaurants to add character and lend atmosphere to the surroundings.
I’ve always been attracted to the beauty of colored glass and the way it looks when illuminated by light. The deeper colors are the most dramatic, Ruby glass created with gold has been prized through the centuries. The Lycurgus Cup, in the collection of the British Museum in London is an early example of Roman glass that is a handsome red, utilizing a technique that was lost and then rediscovered in the 17th century.
It’s a new year and a new president has been elected. During the months leading up to Election Day, there was a lot of talk about patriotism. One of the patriotic symbols of our country is the eagle. The Bald Eagle is our national bird. The eagle is not exclusively associated with the United States; many other nations have also chosen the eagle as a symbol of religious power and martial strength, including the Persians, Egyptians, and Assyrians. Thinking beyond the vision of our red, white, and blue flag of stars and stripes, we often envision the proud eagle perched on a rocky cliff and surveying the wide expanse of our 50 states.