Monday, July 23, 2018

Good Night, Sleep Tight

QUESTION: My mother was an avid tea drinker, so she began to collect teapots. While she had some nice ones in her collection, she didn’t focus on value as much as she did on what she liked. She passed away last year, and I inherited her teapot collection. I, too, love to drink tea. I think I’d like to enhance her collection, now mine, by focusing on unique or unusual teapots, culling out the ordinary and focusing on the extraordinary. Recently, I bought an unusual teapot at a flea market. The dealer said that it was a “nightlight” teapot. I had never heard of such a thing, but she said she really didn’t know much about it. What exactly is a nightlight teapot and how does it differ from an ordinary one?

ANSWER: First, let me congratulate you on planning to enhance your mother’s teapot collection and take it as your own. Too many people who inherit someone else’s collection either sell it off or stash it away. They become the caretaker of the collection, not the curator.

I, too, never heard of a nightlight teapot until recently. Basically, it’s a bedside porcelain teapot that sits on a warming stand. The light from an oiled wick or tiny candle not only kept the tea warm but also served as a nightlight since the light from the flame flickered through the vents and through the porcelain, itself.

During the 18th century, like now, people often enjoyed sipping warm cups of tea just before retiring for the night. So bedside porcelain teapots became wedding gifts. In the days before electrical lighting, they served a dual purpose. They not only allowed people to take some sips of warm tea at bedtime but also emitted a soft diffused glow. People referred to these teapots as veilleuse-theieres.

The earliest veilleuses, used as food warmers for porridge, soup, or an invalid's drink in sick rooms or hospitals, had a bowl instead of a teapot on a stand. Later, the teapot replaced the bowl and veilleuse-theirres came into use. The French used them as a way of brewing and serving tisane, an floral or herb tea, to restless babies during the night. Not only did they offer a warm liquid for a restless infant or sick person, but also  afforded a night light in the sick room long before electricity. Most were translucent, making them useful as well as ornamental.

People filled a small boat-shaped or rounded vessel known as a "godet" with nut or vegetable oil, then floated a wick on top. Not only was the porcelain translucent, it also had been tempered to withstand heat for a long period.

By 1830, veilleuses made for the wealthy began to be more ornate and decorative, with some in the form of figurines or personages and others with insignia or crests.

Between nine and twelve inches tall, some of them looked exactly like what they were—teapots seated on warriors, fine ladies poised with fans, and monks clutching wine bottles. Others had smooth facades decorated with historical and literary scenes.

Although made for 100 years, between 1750 and 1860, information about veilleuses is hard to find. Most references simply document where someone purchased them, not their place of manufacture. Most of the factories that produced them didn’t place identifying marks on the bottom, making them extremely hard to identify.

Veilleuse-théières reveal ingenuity, attention to detail, and their creators’ sense of humor. Noses of the grotesques serve as spouts, as do the upraised hands of some figurine-styled pieces. One teapot made to look like a cottage had a cat perched on the roof that served as its handle.

Because of their fragile nature and their continual use, few veilleuse-theieres have survived.

Veilleuse-theieres sometimes mimic their origins. A delicate, skylark green, fluted teapot and pedestal veilleuse, translucent as an oriental lantern, hails from Hong Kong. A brown slated “roof” teapot tops a veilleuse-theieres that, down to its French advertisements, resembles a Parisian kiosk. A white and gold laced Gothic style veilleuse-theiere recalls windows of the great French cathedrals. Other architectural veilleuse-theieres include a towering turret, a quadrangular Normandy house, and a Spanish windmill.

Veilleuses also came in the shapes of all sorts of animals. A gold encrusted Spanish pig grotesque, its snout poised to pour, displays a scroll depicting scenes of Hades. A Siamese elephant, dashing in candy striped pants and blue waistcoat, pours from his nose. A tasseled Tunisian camel rests en route, while his mistress peeks out from her curtained howdah.

Many veilleuse-theieres are figural, bearing no outward resemblance to teapots at all. Some are pure whimsey. A rosy cheeked cupid, draped in blue splendor and cradling a golden pitcher, for example, sat astride a long-haired goat. A maiden straddled a fearsome, multi-colored dolphin.

Other figurals, however, appeared more realistic. A Turkish turbaned warrior twisted his mustache while fingering twin daggers in his cummerbund. An inscrutable, mustachioed Chinese Mandarin proffered a china tea cup on high. A courtesan, enticing in gilded and ruffled petticoats, fluttered her fan. All of these, at first glance, are simply exquisite porcelain creations. Yet somewhere underneath their cunning and fanciful features, lay utilitarian teapots combined with night lights.

To read more articles on antiques, please visit the Antiques Article section of my Web site.  And to stay up to the minute on antiques and collectibles, please join the other 18,000 readers by following my free online magazine, #TheAntiquesAlmanac. Learn more about Colonial America in the Spring 2018 Edition, "EArly Americana," online now.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Happy 10th Anniversary

QUESTION: I’ve been working on my family’s genealogy and was going through some boxes of documents and such that have been passed down for several generations. In one of them I discovered some invitations and some small tinware items, plus an article from the social page of our local newspaper, dated June 30, 1908, which says, “ Ten years ago, Mr. and Mrs. Cameron celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary on June 24 with general jollification, and the musical tintinnabulation of a tin wedding. The couple sent out invitations, and at 3 P.M.on the 24th, about 70 well-pleased guests gathered at their home. The couple, decorated in artistically designed tin ornaments that caught and reflected the rays of the setting sun, greeted their guests, shared with them a bountiful meal, then unwrapped a myriad of tin gifts." I’ve never heard of a tin wedding anniversary. Was this something that people celebrated back then? And what about the tinware gifts? Are they collectible today?

ANSWER: During the 19th century, tenth wedding anniversary parties were all the rage among wealthy and middle class couples. The gift for this anniversary was tin which enabled guests to give some imaginative gifts.

Tinware is any item made of prefabricated tinplate. Usually, it refered to kitchenware made of tinplate, often crafted by tinsmiths. It’s strong, easily shaped, and corrosive resistant. Though tinplate originated in Bohemia during the Middle Ages, it didn’t becomean industry until the rolling mill was invented in 1728.  By 1890, England dominated the market for tinware.

Tinware production in the United States began when a Scottish immigrant named Edward Pattison settled in Berlin, Hartford Country, Connecticut. His tinware goods became extremely popular due to their ease of use and cleaning. To help fulfill tinware orders, he took on apprentices, which later helped to make Berlin, Connecticut, the center of tinware manufacturing in the American Colonies.

Traveling salesmen called Yankee Peddlers usually sold tinware. These Yankee Peddlers were both employees of tinware shops or independent. Often, they traded tinware for “Truck”, or bartered items, which tin shopkeepers then sold in their stores.

Coffeepots and spice boxes were once the traditional gifts at a tenth wedding anniversary celebration. Utilitarian tin vessels, custom-made by the village tinsmith, blended in with tinware crafted for everyday kitchen use. Couples also received tin miniatures and whimsies.

Sometimes, couples sent out tin-edged invitations. Guests who couldn’t attend the festivities sent tin cards of regret. Those who planned to attend the party visited their local tinsmith to commission a gift reflecting the couple’s individual personalities and their interests.

A miniature tin hoe, rake and spade with turned wood handles would have delighted a housewife/gardener. Friends saw to it that she was also well supplied with tin adornments for her person, including tin curls, tin cuffs, a tin crown, and a very feminine brooch-and-earrings set. The husband, on the other hand, may have received a tin photograph album and stereopticon, as well as a tin pipe and an oversized pocket watch.

Tin, being a particularly malleable metal, lent itself to a seemingly limitless variety of forms. Flowing shapes, like ribbons, or delicately curved flower petals were easily achieved, as were wire-mesh, linked-chain, intricate filigree and stamped, textured surfaces. Tinsmiths polished most pieces to a bright shine, but also painted others or coated them with black asphaltum.

Tinsmiths who worked daily making and repairing skimmers and cake tins welcomed the chance to try their hand at any number of amusing objects. At times they even signed and dated their works of art. While they often crafted top hats and bonnets in the same size as their real-life counterparts, they produced other tin pieces either larger than life or smaller. A person who used a lot of salt on their food may have received a two-foot-tall salt shaker or one whos didn’t cook very much may have received a tiny tin step stove with a miniature kettle and pot.

A banker may have received a folded tin wallet marked "legal tinder,” filled with oversized tin "dollars.”. And someone who loved to play bridge may have received a full deck of boxed tin playing cards featuring photographs of the luminaries of the day.

Tradition for tenth wedding anniversary parties dictated that the original wedding party, family and intimate friends be invited, although friends sometimes converged on the couple with a surprise shower of tinware. American newspapers from the mid-1800s to 1910 .documented tin "showers" as a popular social event.

Women's magazines of the day had many suggestions for planning such parties, including the arrangement of flowers for the table in a tin bucket flanked by tin candlesticks. Food might be served from tin plates lined with paper doilies, and dessert passed in individual tin patty pans. Tin cups were used for punch or coffee. And the bride herself might carry a wedding bouquet fittingly arranged in a petite tin funnel.

Though mention of tin wedding anniversary celebrations can be found as late as 1923, they had all but died out by 1910.

In the years following tin anniversary parties of the 19th century, the gifts often would end up scattered among the celebrants' families, lost, or recycled in war scrap-metal drives. Most families didn’t have the luxury of space to save their tenth anniversary tinware gifts.

Prices for tenth anniversary tinware today range from $25 for a punched napkin holder to $200 for a tin coffeepot and more than $1,000 for a tin bonnet. But finding any tinware wedding gift items can be a challenge.

To read more articles on antiques, please visit the Antiques Article section of my Web site.  And to stay up to the minute on antiques and collectibles, please join the other 18,000 readers by following my free online magazine, #TheAntiquesAlmanac. Learn more about Colonial America in the Spring 2018 Edition, "EArly Americana," online now.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Hurray for Liberty Bonds

QUESTION: I grew up with Liberty Bonds. Back then, we called them just savings bonds. I received one for each of my younger birthdays and paid for some of my college education with them. They were a favorite gift to kids at birthdays and other major events. Recently, I saw a collection of items related to Liberty Bonds at a local antiques show. I never realized that there were so many things associated with savings bonds. Do these things have any value? And what sort of items can I collect?

ANSWER: Your experience with savings bonds is a common one. Although people rarely discuss them, there are probably thousands sitting in safe deposit boxes right now. In fact, these bonds have been around for over 100 years. A Liberty bond was a war bond that the U.S. Government sold to support the allied cause in World War I. Subscribing to the bonds became a symbol of patriotic duty in the United States and introduced the idea of financial securities to many citizens for the first time.

These bonds were a direct and unconditional promise of the U.S. Government to pay upon a certain date a specified sum of money in gold, together with interest at a specific rate, payable at specific dates until the bond matured Only by holding a bond to maturity could people collect the amount they paid plus interest.

“The Great War,” as World War I was known at the time, was an emotional issue. Not everyone was for it. The federal government knew that to wage a massive offensive against the Germans would cost a great deal of money. One third of the cost came from the revival of the personal income tax and an excess profits tax for businesses. The balance was to be raised by the sale of treasury bonds. The government would be asking people to dig deep into their pockets and purchase billions of dollars worth of Liberty Savings Bonds, as they came to be called.

But to get all Americans to buy these bonds took a Herculian advertising and promotional campaign which began in May of 1917. The various Federal Reserve Banks formed committees, on a state-by-state basis, which in turn organized vast numbers of volunteers. Entertainers, politicians, clergymen and persons from all walks of life took part in selling Liberty Bonds.

People couldn’t avoid the bond salesmen. They stood on street corners. The Boy and Girl Scouts went Volunteers sold bonds in every movie house, theater and concert hall, and during lunch breaks at thousands of factories. They came to be called "four-minute men" because of the length of time they spoke, appealed, pleaded and lectured on the necessity of buying bonds. From the war front came wounded heroes, especially fliers, to tour the nation and to attend mass public rallies. Banks even offered to lend money for bond purchases. Celebrities conducted frequent public rallies, usually in theaters. Movie stars came out solidly to lead many of them.

It all began on April 25, 1917 when Congress approved the Liberty Loan Act which gave authority to the Secretary of the Treasury to issue $2 billion of 31/2-percent convertible bonds for sale by public subscription. Interest rates were raised to 4 1/4 and 4½  percent in later offerings. In all there were five subscription drives, the first four being numbered consecutively.

The First Liberty Bond Drive commenced May 14, 1917, the day the United States declared war on Germany. Others followed in October of that year, and in April and October 1918. A Victory Liberty Loan subscription bond drive, the funds of which went to aid our exhausted Allies, took place in April 1919 and it, too, was a success. People could purchase bonds in denominations from $50 to $100,000. The five drives of from 1917to 1919 resulted in 22 million bonds sold.

The sale of all these bonds also produced a lot of memorabilia, mostly ephemera. Collectors became interested in the late 1970s.

Posters were the first items to become popular, followed by pinback buttons and postcards. Soon all ephemera, including handbills, magazine covers and advertisements, postal slogan cancels and promotional literature was being collected.

A federal agency headed by Charles Dana Gibson organized the nation's illustrators and painters to churn out patriotic posters, including many for the Liberty Bonds program. James Montgomery Flagg,  J.C. Leyendecker and Haskell Coffin were just a few of the hundreds lending their talents and donating their time.

War Savings Stamps booklets, used to hold 10, 25, or 50-cent stamps, that when filled were turned in for a bond, delight many collectors as do the various booklets the government furnished to its army of volunteer salesmen and speakers.

The U.S Postal Service issued postcards to dramatize the appeal. Various artists contributed their skills toward creating many fascinating poster art cards. A special effort was a seven-card sepia set that was used to bombard the mailboxes of most every American. Each card began "Liberty Bonds Guarantee.. "with a different listing of objectives, such as "Liberty Bonds Guarantee Unlimited Aeroplanes. ..our Flyers must control the air." This card showed a dozen military biplanes in flight.

The U.S. Army printed another sepia set, taken from photographs in the field, which they gave to doughboys to mail back home. Inscribed "U.S. Army Post Card" on the address side, the pictorials pictured the various implements of war that Liberty Bonds were buying, such as howitzers, tanks and food. Captions emphasized the need to buy bonds: "Liberty Bonds will keep these howitzers thundering at the Huns," etc.

Volunteers handed out small pictorial stickers to bond subscribers who proudly displayed them on their front door or living-room windows. Buying a bond also earned purchasers a special pinback button to wear. Several different varieties issued; some for specific drives, others for general use. Different companies manufactured theirs for the government, including Animated Toy Company of  New York, American Art Works  of Coshocton, Ohio, Ehrman Manufacturing Company of Boston, and Manee Company of Malden, Massachusetts.

Volunteers also distributed small poster stamps so people could paste or glue them on to stationery, envelopes and postcards. These usually had patriotic motifs, especially flags, shields and the American eagle. There were also 10-cent savings stamps that could be purchased and glued into booklets.

To read more articles on antiques, please visit the Antiques Article section of my Web site.  And to stay up to the minute on antiques and collectibles, please join the other 18,000 readers by following my free online magazine, #TheAntiquesAlmanac. Learn more about Colonial America in the Spring 2018 Edition, "EArly Americana," online now.