Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Biscuit Jars

      A biscuit jar, you ask?  What is a biscuit----a bun, a roll .....  The antique biscuit jar I have belonged to my grandmother Winnie and always had a special place on the built in shelves in her living room.  She had many beautiful tea cups, plates and other pieces of china but only one little biscuit jar.  She never placed it on the dining table, nor did she ever offer me a treat from it so I always wondered where it came from or to whom it belonged before it found a home on her book shelves.  She also had a very large china cabinet/closet in which she kept her German made gold trimmed dishes along with clear cut glass goblets and fancy bowls.  But all of the hand painted or colorful porcelain pieces were on the book shelves in the living room.  Hmmmm, I finally decided that she must have enjoyed looking at all of the pretty flowers and designs that decorated those pieces because Winnie wasn't a "fancy" woman and indeed, I always have a picture of her in my mind weariing house dresses with sensible granny shoes, so for her to have something soft and pretty was slightly out of character.  However, she had some interesting hats and they also reside at my house so maybe some day I will have to find some photos in which she is wearing them at a very jaunty angle.  At any rate---back to the biscuit jar.  It might have belonged to her mother or to her mother in law, but neither of those stern looking German women seemed the type to cherish such a fine piece of glassware considering that they both had long journeys in early covered wagons or bumpy train rides before they settled into their new lives.  At some point my grandmother started attending local auctions and I know she won the bid on some very nice items that were being sold by prominent people in the community.  My grandparents had moved from the farm into town so perhaps she decided to treat herself by buying  some old antique pieces which fit into her new lifestyle.
     Biscuit jars originated in the 18th century in England and were used to store tea time treats such as scones or tea cakes since this activity was indeed a very big deal in homes at the time.   I can't picture placing Hi Hos or Saltines or gummy bears in these delicate and pretty jars so let's just pretend that they became  early cookie jars,  although  by today's standards,  plastic will be the chosen product.  At any rate, my biscuit jar is in a closed glass fronted cupboard that holds some of my favorite things that include other hand painted  china pieces as well as goblets and sherbets that came from generations of  mothers, aunts, grand mothers and great grandmothers and maybe a few friends. When my grandma passed away, I found that she kept newspaper articles, pages torn from magazines with poems or the odd photo of friends or family so it did hold memories for her, but not biscuits.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Dead End Photo Albums

I assume all of you of a certain age will remember the dead end letter department of the U.S. Postal service.  Since most of humanity uses phones, texts, emails, computers etc. instead of letter writing the art of communication has changed dramatically in the past ten years----yikes is that all of the time that has passed?  Anyway,  saving  photos on those devices as well as  our memory cards and  clouds in the sky are the usual method for preserving our memories these days.  Recently, I have had occasion to purchase at auction or in antique shops  a number of photo albums containing wonderful studio cards and photos depicting women, children, military men and newly wed couples usually dressed in their finery and seated in photo studio with ornate wicker, ferns, arty back drops and sometimes heavy drapery.  The clothing and d├ęcor give excellent clues as to the time period these very personal photos were taken.  I have admired the carefully coifed "dos" of the women or the outrageous hats they donned all for vanity.  Men's fashions don't usually vary greatly from one decade to another, although now and then a young fellow will display a touch of dash with a watch fob or rakish hat.  Children are particularly fetching because they, of course, are the most natural in their poses.  Some early photos have survived and they are poignant in their simplicity----no fancy clothing or furniture but rather a couple or single person looking out at us with a certain degree of sadness.  Usually, the new pioneers or emigrants  had these pictures taken in order to send something home across the vast ocean or to prove that they had indeed survived the journey and made it to the new land or new home across the vast American landscape.   Genealogists love photos and often use them as clues when trying to determine the time period depicted.  Unfortunately,  most of these wonderful historical photographs are never identified and the only clues as to location is the name of the photographer and usually the name of town or city where they were located.  Those old photos will never have names attached and even though they may have survived a hundred years, it is likely they won't survive another.  Their destination won't be a dead album department, but more than likely will be tossed in the trash and sent to a landfill or burned in a barrel. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

What is the Belamy salute?

For years I have wondered why the children of District 11 in Grant County Minnesota appeared to be using the Nazi salute in a photo I have of my dad and his sister ca: early 1920s.  Finally, I challenged myself to spend time trying to figure out the mystery.  This gesture is called the Bellamy Salute.  Originally this pledge of allegiance  was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy who was a Christian socialist magazine writer and at some point the pledge and gesture appeared  in a children's magazine called The Youth's Companion.  This magazine was subscribed to by many schools and they also received a free flag, probably as a promotion.  The inventor of the saluting gesture was James B. Upham, a partner and editor of the Youth's Companion.  Bellamy recalled that Upham, when reading the pledge saluted the flag, snapped heels together, and said "Now up there is the flag; I come to salute; as I say "I pledge allegiance to my flag,"  I stretch out my right hand and keep it raised while I say the stirring words that follow."  This ceremony was first demonstrated October 12, 1892 during National School Celebration of Columbus Day.  In the 1920s -30s the salute became associated with Italian fascists and later in the 1940s the Nazis adopted a similar  form---outstretched arm., clicking heels.   It was formally replaced by Congress with the familiar hand-on-heart gesture we use during the pledge to the flag.  Where did the idea originate-----it was thought to herald back to the time of the Roman soldiers hailing Caeser.  There are many articles written about this subject so if you are interested in learning more start googling!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Memories of Nan

     My mother was a crafter, knitter, crocheter, sewer and follower of trends in the do it yourself era when it was popular in the 1970-1980s era.  Of course there are DIYers these days but usually the crafts involve more industrial elements, lots of rusty relics and repurposing.   My mom never went by a yarn display or fabric bin that didn't beckon her with siren songs, so when she passed away, there was an array of boxes with unused "planned" projects to be sorted through plus endless supplies.  However, she also loved making things for her family at Christmas time so basically I never felt the need to be terribly crafty because there are only so many sweaters, mittens, afghans, quilts etc. that any one family could use, and more importantly, make room for.  Now, as I'm in the process of looking through Christmas boxes in search of particular ornaments to pass on to the next generation as part of their yearly bonanza of family treasures, I have to smile at several things that were revealed in some of the many tubs and boxes I pulled from the storage area under the basement stairs.  Now I have to say that I was an only child, grandchild, niece-----you get the picture so you understand my responsibility in preserving, or as my three sons say "hoarding" things that will be theirs.  I should mention that my mom always made things in triplicate so that all three boys would receive gifts of equal value-----in other words, handmade with love!  They know that I usually am able to find things that have been carefully packed away so as to preserve those items they enjoyed as children.  This also includes items I saved  that came from us, their mom and dad.   The nice thing about being able to share these treasures and memories of Christmas past are the stories which invariably arise and the laughter that results so now our grandsons can join in the fun of remembering and learning more about their daddy's childhood celebrations.  In my estimation this is lots more fun than unwrapping another electronic device........So, I hope you enjoy looking at the examples of my mother's loving hand-i

-work through the Advent style Christmas trees on felt banners, a few of the Christmas stockings to be filled with goodies, one remaining Wise man created from a plastic dish washing bottle filled with sand (!), and an honest to goodness ca 1940 hunting stocking (there are two) which I had used and later was filled with stuff for our first two children.  When the third son arrived my mom started making stockings from kits.   Merry Memories

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Gargoyle?

We recently bought an assortment of "grandma's" items from a fellow that brought his barn treasures to us in the trunk of his car.  Several boxes of rough and relics that he had just tossed in boxes since he didn't really know what we might be interested in.  Several weeks ago he had stopped in our shop to talk about the stuff he was trying to get rid of since he was downsizing his grandmas farm.  Of course, we were interested to see what he might find so we were finally able to agree on a day last week.  In the midst of lots of canning jars (!) and other this and that was an interesting Mobiloil can with the logo Gargoyle and a strange looking animal---not the flying pegases, but an orange thing.  It was marked "E" and especially recommended for Ford cars, made in the U.S. for the Vacuum Oil Company. This round can isn't in mint condition by any means, but after all it is OLD; probably ca 1914-1920 and it has been in the barn for a long time :)  Well, since research is among my favorite hobbies, I looked and looked to see what I might find  on line.  Not much on 1 quart cans as it turns out.  The price varied from $30 to several hundred for larger or square cans and found only one round one that had been sold, but of course the selling price wasn't available.  I did learn that the Gargoyle logo was used between 1904-1932 and that this particular brand was used in magazine ads featuring Ford automobiles.  There are resources that describe the transition through several well known oil companies and how they grew, changed hands and names.  Included in the history you can find Vacuum Oil Co that merged to Socony, Socony and Vacuum Oil Co that became Mobile and Standard Oil Co.  Lots to learn about this area of petroliana and automotive collectibles.  So another lesson learned in the antique/vintage objects area.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Old Stuff $3..00

Usually,  I don't have a lot of luck at garage sales but every now and then I find treasures or other good stuff at estate sales.  Recently, my daughter in law and I managed to "escape" while grandpa was in charge of the grandsons,  and stopped at a few neighborhood sales that included one that was advertised as an estate.  These days we head for the garage and basement since the garden and industrial goods seem to be what customers in antique shops are looking for. (if you've read my biography, you know that we have space in three locations!)   Eventually we perused the main floor before heading up to the bedroom area.  I just happened to scan one of the tables and found a little box marked "old stuff"  $3.00.  I could see clearly through the plastic cover that there were some little treasures to be had-------tiny pin back and lapel pins.  I really didn't open the box  to look at each one but just handed it to the lady in charge and asked her to add it to my little pile of goodies.  Later at home, I checked out my little treasures and I can only say they reminded me of my grandmother.  I have her sewing machine and years ago I found similar little buttons from WWI and II  era in the drawers.  I have to wonder where these latest pins lived and if they also might have been tossed  in a grandma's sewing machine drawer until the owner or the relatives had the responsibility of selling a life time accumulation of wonderful goods.  There are several buttons which I found particularly charming:  the little goat which you can see in the top left hand side which reads "you can't get my goat" ,  For the boys over there and the sweet little oval framed photo of a young lady.  The photo pin is similar to one I have of my Grandpa George which is in my box of special keepsakes of memories.  I think that little box of old stuff that cost  $3.00 was a real treasure!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Token token who has the tokens?

My husband is but one of many avid collectors of tokens which seems to be an ever increasing area of interest.  Tokens were in use long before the present day coupons or perks or any of the other adjectives used to attract customers or followers.  There are wonderful sources of information about the history and continued use of tokens available on many internet sites so I encourage you to check out the various resources to learn more.  At any rate the use of tokens in the United States increased as the west was settled-----think remote villages, mining camps, stage coach stops, military bases and you'll get the picture.  Tokens were created in the absence of government issued coins and paper money.  They were made in a variety of shapes and  materials ie:  tin, copper, cheap metals, but not precious gold or silver.  Grocery stores, saloons, restaurants, small towns and even individuals gave them away as a way of attracting customers to their retail establishments.  Often, small businesses   in mining towns needed to compete with scrip which was issued to miners in order for them to shop at the business owned by the large absentee mining companies.  In addition, there was a scarcity of ready cash in the far off west during the 19th and early 20th centuries, largely due to slowness of transportation.  Later, buses, subways, car washes and states also issued tax tokens.  (hmm, wonder if they could be used instead of cold hard cash these days?)   Tokens now  provide us with an interesting source of information about  local businesses and small towns that are no longer in existence.  How much fun it would be to find the name of your ancestor on a grocery store token or one from the small town settled by your great, wish I could be so lucky!  I have included photos of a few of the tokens including many from area businesses in local towns near Grant County in Minnesota and eastern North Dakota. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Hand painted china----a DIY project for young ladies?

In my collection of glassware that has come to me from mother, grandmothers, great grands, aunts etc. etc. I have one little cup and saucer that is quite delicate and fragile.  It was apparently painted by one Mamie Williams McCleod of Tacoma, Washington who was my grandfather's niece.  She moved with her family that included mother Clara, father Frederick and sister Lena after a devastating fire of a mill at Pomme de Terre Village  in Grant County Minnesota.  Frederick had been in business with his father in law, August Schaeffer, who had come to the area in 1873 with the intention of building a large flour mill.  I have done a lot of research on the family and it appears that Frederick and Clara decided to head west and establish a new business called  the California Winery Warehouse, in Tacoma.  They apparently were quite successful attested to by the fact they lived in a grand house with extensive gardens, accumulated an impressive collection of art, Chinese artifacts and LOTS of exquisite china.  Mamie appears to have been the favorite since in pictures she is decked out in what I would describe as "over the top" fashions with hair done up in latest dos.  Meanwhile, sister Lena appears to have been the dowdy one and not much is documented of her growing up years.  Mamie also apparently married "up" and continued to live in an upper class social circle.  She was involved with charities and other activities which were mentioned favorably in news articles.  I found that her artistic talent was considered to be good enough to be included
 in several articles and books.  Now I have only the little lavender Haviland cup decorated with pansies and with a sizeable crack to remember Mamie, who lived to be 100 years old.  Wish I had other pieces to remember her by.

Monday, December 23, 2013


A few years ago I became the proud keeper of a collection of Skookum dolls which had been compiled by my late aunt.  She had traveled many times to Arizona for winter holidays and probably began to bring them home as a remembrance of fun warm times.  Skookums were designed and sold by Mary McAboy after her husband passed away and she was in need of income to support herself.  A patent was granted on Feb 17, 1920 and thus began a career which expanded from a do it yourself artist production until the business was sold in order to accommodate ever expanding demand for these unique tourist souvenirs.  The Skookum can represent several tribes based on the costumes and decorations worn by the dolls.  Their  history can be traced by the materials used in construction as well as the type of fabrics used in clothing;  particularly the shoes.  1913--leather moccasins, 1918---suede on wood or painted designs, 1924---composition and in 1950---plastic became the standard.  Dried apples were used for the first heads, but this became a problem when demand for the dolls increased faster than Mary and her staff of artist women could keep up with the orders and the apples would rot.  The earliest bodies were stuffed with twigs, leaves, straw or grass, legs were wooden dowel rods, eyes were pins, shoes were of  felt, leather or suede over wood. ( After 1948 the shoes were brown.) The early dolls had human hair wigs.   The dolls represented men, women and women with babies in addition to a separate baby attached to a mailing card which were very popular for many years.  The most common facial features show eyes to the right but there are some with eyes turning left and these are considered rare and difficult to find.  The costumes consist of a folded camp or Navajo blanket hugging the body while jewelry, feathers, headbands, beads may be used for decorating the costume.  Just an interesting point----when Mary sold the company the dolls became factory made by an all male staff!   So what happened to a woman's touch? 

 In addition to the Skookums, there were also several dolls which were probably purchased in South America and Mexico and I have added a few of my own selections.  However, whenever I happen to pass the glass front cupboard and look their way------all of those eyes seem to follow me and watch my activity-------hmmmm, what do you suppose they're thinking?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Is it or Isn't it?

The starkness of a winter woods with a hint of pink in the clouds and on the horizon.

Every now and then we who are collectors  face a conumdrum if what we have found is a true treasure worth a lot of money, or just another pretty face/thing that we might as well enjoy or sell for a little.  Long ago I bought a number of interesting pictures at a local auction  that included both lithographs and hand painted oils.  Apparently the oils were done by a local artist----oops, not so fast.  One of them was and the other is the question mark!  I decided to display it on a nice brass  easel that my mom had stuck in the attic for years,  probably with the idea of using  it for one of her folk art style paintings that she attempted now and then.  It was one of the items that I decided to keep as we were cleaning out her house after her passing,  because it had always fascinated me and  I thought how cool it would be to actually use it  somewhere in my house.  So, after bringing the picture home and setting it face to the wall for quite a while,  one day a "decorating " bug bit so up from the basement store room came the easel and the art was relegated to a place of honor in my living room.  Actually it is oil on board measuring 19" x 13" with a 4" carved wood frame.  I have no idea if the frame is original to the picture or not,  but it has a certain shabby feel that goes with our cottage on the lake look :) smile here. There is a small paper tag on the back with Amsterdam, Neumann & Vettin, fine art packers, forwarding agents.  I have seen these stickers  with the Amsterdam lable on other items  so don't know exactly what that indicates.  Oh yes, there is a 25/350x  which I assume means this is   # 25 of 350 that were done.  Also, in the September 15, 2010 issue of Antique Trader,  I perked up when I found an article in an auction preview featuring  a photo of a painting by Anthony Thieme which was estimated to bring $30,000-$40,000.  Sure looked very similar to mine  so  I have had the magazine displayed with my picture---several guests have commented on the similarities!    I can dream that someday I might actually get to Antiques Roadshow or an institution where I might get an appraisel by an expert to tell me if yes, indeed, it is a valuable treasure or whether I'll be told to enjoy the picture even though it isn't worth more than a few dollars.  .

close up of the figure in the horse drawn cart.
Meanwhile, I'll just enjoy the thought or illusion of owning a valuable piece of art

Saturday, October 12, 2013


Probably those of you of a certain age remember those famous words of  then President Ronald Reagan, spoken  to Mikhail Gorbachev while visiting the Berlin Wall:  "Mr. President tear down this wall."  Well, not all walls are as famous or relinquish such memorablia as the chunks of that wall did.  However, in my family there have been discovered certain items stashed/hidden behind stone or dirt barriers in old houses.  At one time in the 1980s it was my responsibility to care for the home of my elderly aunt who had gone to live in a nursing home and I was a bit nervous assuming the duties since I lived some 5 hours away.  Granted, my dad lived in the same town, but he, too, was getting on in years and I hated to burdeon him with too many  extra chores.  One spring after a particularly rainy week, I arrived during spring break to find that an entire wall of the basement had collapsed and in the debris of broken tile and dirt we found-----lots of old tin food cans with some of  the labels very well preserved!  Hmmmm, what was this all about?  It is well known that people put old newspapers and magazines behind walls to provide extra insullation for those cold winter months or that sometimes unusual keepsakes were placed between studs for preservation?  But, why save old cans from the kitchen?  My sons and I collected a number of examples of vintage goods to keep on our memorabelia shelves but threw away many that were rusted and dented.  Come to find out, this is not the first example of my familys'  "thrifty" ways:  a few years later, I received from a cousin, an article written in a Tacoma, Washington newspaper in which there was a story recounting a remodeling job in a basement where a number of full bottles of liquor were stashed behind the walls.  The original owner of the home was my grandfather's sister who, with her husband and two daughters moved to Tacoma ca 1890 and established the California Wine Warehouse which apparently thrived for a number of years.  At any rate, it was opined in the news article that perhaps during prohibition, Clara had hidden away a little secret cache of choice bottles of whiskey which were to be consumed
at a later date.  Well, 50 - 75 years later, it was still there!  Not sure how the bottles were disposed of or whether the present owners of the house enjoyed well aged spirits!   By the way, my little stash of kitchen tin cans was found in the same town as the $100,000.00 + comic found earlier this summer------no my tin can collection is not in the same category as aged alcohol or vintage comics but it certainly makes me smile!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

School Days School Days.......

I come from a background of school teachers;  all strong women, who blazed a trail for me even though I came to the profession kicking and exclaiming that I wanted to do something else with my life!  Of course, at one time I worked 10 years in a museum, which called upon my educational training  and certainly being a history buff who loves geneology , finds me broadening my horizons and using teaching skills once again.  So, it only seems proper that I am attracted to vintage teaching supplies, books, pictures and certainly artifacts that are unusual as well as rare.  Recently, on a hunt and gather road trip, I discovered an intriguing item that decidedly had to come home with me.  I found a copyright date of 1895 and made by Powers Brothers, probably for the wood case device.  The various lesson sheets have a variety of dates, including one for 1913.   I searched the internet looking for info to help identify it and found one source that called it a child's portable wood school desk.  AHA---this made sense since it has a scroll down set of instructional lessons that include shorthand, alphabet, cursive writing, electrical symbols , business forms, shorthand, telegraphic codes and other topics  that I am hesitant about trying to  access since there is the beginning of a rip in one section.  There are springs on either side with an old piece of  chalk in the coils, a part in front that looks as though it would hold a small book or note book and wires at either side that probably were connected to a drop down lid or cover.  But wait a minute!  How many "children" do you think would be studying such advanced lessons or even be introduced to them in elementary school?  Conundrum for sure.  Now I will need to do further research to see if I can find more detailed info on this intriguing piece of educational history.  If any of you readers of this blog can help me out, please feel free to comment.....let's solve this mystery!

An old crusty US map is still attached to the back of the unit.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


OK, so how many of you see something that just speaks to you and home it goes ?  I came across an item several weeks ago that lured me in several times as I browsed through an antique store; going back more than once to check out details and to really think long and hard about whether I should cave in and buy  the one of a kind tin bathing tub.   As a matter of fact, we arrived home and I decided to call and see if it could be held for me.  So the next morning I traipsed back 60+ miles to check it out again and finally made an offer which was quite a bit less than the asking price.  BUT, after closely  checking the interior, it was obvious that it had rusted out considerably and resembled a sieve  so after questioning the propriator further, she thought that the owner probably would consider my offer since she had brought it in last year.  (this is a seasonal shop so was closed during the winter)  Long story short, the tin tub came home with me along with several other fun items that I couldn't resist!  I tried to find information on the internet as to era and use in order to add to the info supplied by the vendor.  She had found a site after a lengthy search and offered to provide the link, but unfortunately the email I was given for her was returned so wasn't able to contact her.  She did have a note with the tub that states  it dates from the 1860s, probably the Civil War era.  I was able to determine several identifying names:  namely sitz, hip, foot, shoulder tub.  I feel that the painted elements, including flowers, were added at a much later time, possibly to add some pizazz to this little unique piece.  In my imagination I prefer to think of a saloon gal lazing in her cute tub before she goes out to entertain the cowboys with song and dance!  Is this too much of a stretch?  Oh yes, around the edge is a French saying similar to one most of us are familiar with:  Cleanliness is the next of kin to God.  I still think this is a hot little tin tub has a history that shall forever remain a mystery :)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Little Pep Pins from Pep Cereal

One of my husband's favorite collections that survived his mom's housecleaning after he left for college, are his little Pep pins.  He has continued to purchase the more unusual and harder to find ones when the opportunity presents itself.  He has his original  86 enclosed in plastic coin holders in a three ring binder that is safely stashed in a safety deposit box.  Why, you may ask?  Recently we checked on line after he bought a Pep cereal beanie with 6-8 pins at an auction.   Wow----discovered the selling price on e-bay was over $350.00 for one with 18 buttons........A lone beanie brought $150.00.   Big Boy's Toys are highly saught after and often bring big bucks in antique stores as well as at auctions.  The nice thing about collecting little items such as pins is that they don't take up much space as opposed to often large rusty metal trucks and cars from the 40s-60s!   Originally Pep cereal, introduced in 1923,  was called the "Sunshine" cereal and was competition for Wheaties.  They sponsored the Superman radio series but eventually lost popularity as "tastes" in food/cereal changed.  In 1945 the pins were introduced with 5 series of comic characters from newspapers , as well as planes from U.S. Army squadrons.  In all there were supposedly 90 total pins.  We found an  entire collection of pins  listed on e-bay at $1,099.00.  It is highly doughtful that my husband will ever consider selling his personal collection, but the items purchased at auction----------time will tell.  That might be a topic for another blog!  How do you part with collections?

Monday, June 10, 2013


I don't know much about Superman or any of the other super heroes, but sometimes it's good to follow a hunch/gut feeling/woman's intuition?  We were at an auction where there were two tables loaded with piles of vintage pennants, including sports teams, colleges, towns,  tourist destinations----you get the picture.  My husband is knowledgable about anything comic book related and remembers collecting a few other pieces relating to Superman.  I was the one who, mainly out of curiosity, stopped by the tables while waiting for furniture  I was interested in bidding on.  By the time selling on pennants started, I had decided there were several items I was definitely interested in and really thought all of the guys standing around seriously perusing the "goods" would certainly snap up some of the most unusual and oldest of the pennants.  As bidding on the first table commenced, I causually started looking through the piles on the second one and saw a familiar figure----Superman in a pink cape!   I nonchallantly peeled more back and found another :) However the second one was the usual image of the super fellow in blue with a red cape. ! So hurry up and cover them back up so no one else sees them!  Wow, wonder how many bidders I'll have to fight off?  I checked out some other older felt pieces and found several that looked pretty cool.  So what happened when the crowd progressed to "my" table?  Couldn't believe it----I got the bid for only a few dollars each.  Then I ended up buying some of the other older pennants and figured I had gotten a few fun items.  The guys were mainly interested in anything sports related or some of the college memorabelia.  Lucky me---I am completely happy with my unexpected treasures.  If anyone is interested in prices on several of these pennants, follow the link to my business facebook.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Grant County Minnesota in the Civil War

     Recently, the Grant County Historical Museum in Elbow Lake, Mn, updated and added to, a display in the Veterans Hall containing artifacts and memorabilia commemorating the soldiers who fought during the Civil War.  Patty Benson, the director, researched census records, county data and numerous family files in order to compile a list of men who were known to have had a presence in Grant County be it for a brief time or a life time;  but all served in the Civil War.   Some are buried in country cemeteries in Grant County while others moved away and are resting elsewhere.  Often we tend to think that the military consisted of men who were from the east coast area, not from Minnesota which was on the western frontier.  My great grandfather's brother, newly arrived from Germany fought with Wisconsin infantry, probably conscripted by a businessman or landowner who couldn't or wouldn't get involved in what many believed to be a cause for which they weren't willing to fight.  There were many such newcomers to America who probably didn't understand the reasons, but needed the money in order to survive in their new country.  In addition, the Sioux Uprising was under way in Minnesota and many Civil War soldiers ended up here fighting a different enemy.
In the new addition to the display are photos and short biographies of men somehow affiliated with Grant County who served in the war.  The permanent display which was created several years ago is a dignified and moving tribute with a drum, photos, guns and several other artifacts including a Civil War era quilt.  The new photo exhibit will become part of that permanent tribute to those who fought 150 years ago in a war that nearly divided our country. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013


My  husband has complained for 50 years about the fact that his mom "disposed" of his collection of sports cards and comic books when he left for college.  He's not alone in his grumbling since often when men of a certain age gather together and speak of their lost childhood treasures, it always goes back to "mom's fault."  Wow--what was/is the deal?  I must admit I've never encountered any women who lamented that their mom's threw away Barbie dolls, paperdolls, china dishes etc. etc..  So what was wrong with little boys and teenage boys collecting things as ordinary as baseball cards with famous athletes or comics such as westerns, sports heroes, funnies and a few Superman or Batman books?  My husband had hundreds of collectibles that he kept in his dresser drawer or the fruit cellar in the basement which never held homemade canned goods.  Best friend Dick used to join him in the backyard alley behind the downtown upstairs apartment  where the family lived,  and they  created  a "comic book" store where  one comic was traded for two with neighborhood kids. This was in a small town, population about 1,000 so there wasn't  a lot of activity for young boys.  In those days comics sold for 10c at the local drugstore;  Dick and D sold used comics for 5c. Some baseball and football cards escaped the housecleaning but none of the comics.  To replace them today would cost a lot more than 10c and try as he might, my husband can't even find some of those comics  he knows were the most valuable.  Over the past few years he has started collecting again so he isn't without a considerable supply!  Now,  I, as the wife, am not without guilt-----I insisted that he get rid of all of his sport's magazines in an attempt to create a bedroom for one of our boys.  Oh oh, I  joined the ranks of those wives/mothers who are into a cleaning frenzy, but only as it pertains to the belongings of the male members of the household.  My decorating magazines survived the purge!!!  However, I did vow that I wouldn't throw items belonging to our three sons-----well sort of.  Every once in a while someone will "remember" a certain toy or game and wonder whatever happened to it.  Probably sold at a garage sale, boys.  At least my mother-in-law donated the cards and comics to a good cause --- the church rummage sale.   So is that better?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


We attended an auction recently at which everything in sight went for big bucks.  I found an old scrapbook which contained a calling card with a name I recognized from my great grandmother's extended family so I was hoping to bring it home.  I actually was able to buy two scrapbooks filled with miscelaneous trade cards, calling cards, pretty pictures of flowers, birds and lovely  children..  Back in the day---whenever that was---creating scrapbooks became a favorite hobby which probably replaced the samplers of colonial times that taught young women the art of sewing as well as a way to decorate one's home.  A fellow in front of me was also bidding on 4 scrapbooks being held aloft by the auctioneer's helpers, but he dropped out and I was able to "score" the bid.  My husband and son were with me and we immediately started paging through to see what wonderous things there were inside and the other bidder was also interested in checking it out, so there we were with our collective heads hovering over the pages.  One item in particular, drew the attention of the guys---a little picture of Curtis Welch, centerfielder for St. Louis showing him in all of his vintage glory in the baseball uniform of the time.  My son, with his smart phone, was able to pull up some info about his playing days and we were quite impressed with his stats.  1889--hit 39 doubles, finished in top 10 in stolen bases for 6 seasons,  49th in career stolen bases.  More can be found in his biographical info on line.  I did find one little tid bit which made me laugh---according to a source, he hid cases of beer behind billboards of Sportsman Park and consumed them during home games. He was born in 1862, made his playing debut in 1884 at age 22, played his last game when he was 31 in 1893.  He died at the young age of 34 in 1896.  Since I am a history buff and love detecting, I started googling to see what I could find about the cards-----and wow, was I surprised!  These little cards were a series of 18 players and were probably meant to be kept in scrapbooks, glue and all. Some are doubles, connected with a paper tab, but even individual ones are worth a lot since they are so rare.  Several auctions have yielded impressive prices. 
                                 Now what will I do???  That's the question.  Save it?  Sell it?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Grandma Winnie's knick knacks

My paternal grandparents lived in a house that Winnie's parents,  Jacob and Dorthea Triese had lived in previously, and the story goes that they had it moved in from the country about 1915-18.  Over the years there were updates and remodeling  done  that reflected changes in lifestyle due to old age and for convenience.  From the time I was very young I was fascinated by the little objects that graced the corner shelves on either side of the kitchen window----the same type of shelves later appeared in the ca 1940s house built by my parents.  At any rate they were always there and very seldom were they removed for cleaning  while I was in "house" or certainly not for me to play with!  Since I was an only child and only grandchild, I could often coax my elders into granting me a little leeway, but not with grandma's knick knacks.  There was also a large wall length bookcase that was added in the living room which replaced a window on that side of the house.  Here was a multitude of things that included lots of interesting books my aunt collected and brought home when she came to live with my grandparents.  There were unusual covered dishes, fancy cups and saucers and other artifacts that had belonged to my great grandparents.  There were also my favorites----figurines.  A boy minus one hand balancing an apple on his head, a little cart drawn by pigs, a chalkware cat and a truly ugly homemade cloth dog  stuffed with straw which had been used as a toy by my dad when they lived in Pomme de Terre.  It really is in rather remarkably good shape for it's age, but then he spent most of his time playing outside fishing in the river, skiing, skating and trapping.  One of the strangest items is a little rubber doll that looks very much like the painting called "The Scream", due to the loss of the squeaker mouthpiece, I'm sure.  There was also a little hand held game called Cootie which is from WWI era.  Perhaps the oldest items that I have are a little tea set given to my grandma by her parents and a glass stein used by her father, Jacob.  All of these items are now displayed in a built in bookcase in my living room.  Recently a friend asked what I was going to do with all of this stuff. ( meaning what are my kids going to do) My answer was that my sons would have to deal with the issue when the time comes.  For now I'm going to enjoy looking at the treasures and knick knacks and honor the memories of my ancestors.

Friday, March 15, 2013


I have seen lots of posts on facebook business pages asking people to offer opinions about whether to paint particular pieces of antique or newer furniture or to leave it as is.  Sometimes the items are beautiful walnut, cherry, or pine treasures that have withstood a hundred years or more of use.  Here in Minnesota, oak is still a popular wood that never seems to lose its appeal.  Often the pieces I've seen in shops or at sales are newer, but of good quality.   Have to admit that I have on occasion, painted smaller pieces as well as tackeled a newer china cabinet that was not in good condition, nor was the wood of good solid quality. However, I have a really difficult time taking a beautiful treasure and applying paint: whether it be white, grey, aqua or some of the newest variations of chalk.  I have also found that most occasional sales feature painted furniture and are showing similar decorating accents so lots of things are being treated to all colors of the rainbow.  I don't want to be a spoil sport, but I am thinking there should be room for painted as well as wood  pieces  in a really interesting home.  In the 70s we had "antiqued" moss green, pink with black with lots of flowers and stripes. (at least friends of my parents sported those designs in their houses)  A friend hates anything Ethan Allen, which was a solidly constructed line in the " Early American"  period.  We loved it because it was sturdy, looked good with authentic antiques, was affordable and best of all stood up well when put to the test  by three little boys.  Lest we think painted furniture is something new---it isn't.  In fact, some of the earliest examples of folk art style cabinets, trunks, boxes or chairs command enormous prices and used to be much sought after.  Most of the truly early primitive items are probably in museums or private collections.  Isn't it good that each of us can find something attractive or beautiful in a wide variety of colors or patterns that can be changed with the season or with the emergence of a "new look."  All it takes is one piece to bring a focus to a room, or for that matter one piece can cause an entire room to be redecorated and remodeled.  Hmmm, that reminds me of the time we got a new microwave and ended up with a new kitchen..............So what do you think is the answer? 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ashby, Mn restaurant: no wild game served here

The owl that started it all!

Threre is an institution in Ashby, population about 450 (give or take a few) that is well known far and wide.  It has had various names through the years as well as quite a few owners, some of whom have been related.  No, it wasn't passed down from one generation to the next but there were several years separating the relatives.  At any rate, the City Restaurant has been a gathering place since at least the 1930s, if not before.   Ca 1938, it gained noteriety (?) fame (?) distinction (?) when someone shot an owl thinking it was a duck, had it stuffed and it became the first of an extensive collection of waterfowl that are native to this area of Minnesota.  There is a three ring binder that identifies each of the thirty  birds with additional information about its nesting grounds, feeding habits etc.  Over the years some owners have thought of changing the decor but there arose such a clamor of dismay that these momentary lapses in judgment were quickly quashed.  At some point other taxidermied items were added to the display and these include a huge northern  (which many have claimed to have caught), a sly red fox and a bear family that sports appropriate decorative items depending on the season or time of year.  There are also lots of photos of "the locals", many posed showing their catches or shoots of the day.  This area used to be one of the greatest fly- ways for canvas backs in North America and drew famous as well as infamous hunters from far and wide.  Now who would mistake an owl for a duck you ask?  Well, must have been one of those city slickers who stayed at the lodge near Lake Christina----certainly not one of the local Joes!  The present owner, Gail, calls her place Ruby's City Restaurant in honor of her mom.  Still serves the locals plus lots of out of towners during hunting season and the fishing opener.  There are always new folks awed by the one of a kind display.