Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Our Life in the World of Antiques, Part II

Marty at Camden, Maine Antiques Show
(At last year's show...)
            This is the second part of the story of our life in the world of antiques.  If you didn’t see the first part, you might be interested in reading it before you read this.

            Summary:  While we spent 30 years living in various places in the U.S., and in Russia, Japan, Iran and Italy, Marty was filling her brain with antiques knowledge.  Then, when I retired from the Navy, she went into action. 
            We had an antiques shop right on Main Street in downtown Rockport, and many interesting people came in to visit us, and some bought antiques.  But, alas, there were not enough sales to justify the rent, and the other expenses, so after three years, Marty closed her shop and moved her goods to Chebacco Antiques, a group shop in Essex, MA.
          Group shops have a number of different dealers and each is assigned a particular sector, or booth.  They take turns serving as salespeople, opening up the shop each morning, attending to customers all day, then tidying up and locking up at night.  Many customers are really more interested in socializing, and they can take up hours talking about antiques they have at home, or that they once had, that might be much better than something they see in the shop. They’re glad to inform you that this or that item is  “priced wayyy too high.”
Dealers in a group shop can be as unlike each other as chalk and cheese.  In this shop the leader was dear Jane, a wonderful lady, who would be quick as lightning to tell a dealer to remove something that was not antique but a reproduction.  Allowing “repros” and any fakes to slip into a shop gives the shop a lasting bad reputation.
Then there was Shirley, a sort of extra-special woman who had arranged not to shop sit, and just called in occasionally to see if anything had sold.  She seemed to look down her nose at all the other dealers, as being far less knowledgeable than she, etc., etc.
And there was Harry, a tiny little man who had bought and sold many thousands of dollars’ worth of antiques in his time.  He specialized in moving “stuff”, and never really concerned himself with “fine” antiques.  Harry had once been a young Marine in World War II, and had landed in one of the first waves at Iwo Jima.
            Essex in 1997 was a popular destination for antiques shoppers, with perhaps two dozen shops lining the streets of that village.  However, in about 2004, with road construction in the heart of town that continued for years,  business started to slow down, and the group shop closed.  Marty then moved her goods to Concord, MA, and entered Thoreauly Antiques, a group shop right on Walden Street in the center of town.
            Concord is a fascinating town.  While Marty held forth in the shop one day a week, I often spent the day exploring Concord, which seems to be filled with very bright, interested and politically involved people.  That’s the way they were on April 19, 1775, when British troops marched into town to locate a supply of weapons and ammunition that the Americans were reported to have collected. 
            I visited the Old North Bridge, where local Minutemen gathered and fired the first shots at the Redcoats that began our Revolutionary War.  From there you could walk the same route the Redcoats took as they left Concord and headed back to Lexington, and then all the way to Boston

Granddaughter Kit with Grandfather at North Bridge
(One day I showed Kit and a friend around Concord and Walden Pond)

            The Battle Road, where the Redcoats marched, with Minutemen attacking them from all sides, is now a marvelous National Historical Park, and you can walk as much of it as you want, or ride your bicycle, or jog it, from Concord to Lexington.  There’s another trail that starts in Bedford, right next door to Concord, and the two converge in Lexington, and this Minuteman trail, which is a real asphalt road, carries bikers, walkers, runners, roller skaters and people pushing baby carriages all the way to Cambridge.
            As you walk along the Battle Road, you pass memorial plaques and little American or British flags that mark the place where an American or a British soldier fell on that day in April, 1775. 
            Not only is it great exercise, but you can get drenched in American history.
            Concord is also famous as the home of Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, and you can visit all their graves in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.  You can also visit Walden Pond and swim or hike, and walk to the site of Thoreau’s little hut that he built there in 1845.
            Many of those bright people in Concord, especially the female ones, drifted through Thoreauly Antiques.

Marty’s booth at Thoreauly in Concord.

After about two years, Marty felt like moving, so we took her whole set of antiques across the street to North Bridge Antiques, and she was there for three years.
            In between the shops and all the hours of shop-sitting, we shopped for new stock.  Usually we went to outdoor antiques markets in Nashua, Milford, Amherst and Hollis, NH.
            We also went to to lots of auctions.  We went to high end auctions, where some items went for a million dollars, and lots of low end auctions, sometimes held out under a tent, on an old farm.  A favorite still are the James Julia Auctions up in Fairfield, ME.  Julia gathers amazing, wonderful items into his barn, and although some are going for astronomical prices, there are always bargains. 
One of the interesting features of some auctions would be an old man who sits in the front row, looking very much like the typical old Maine farmer, maybe with long beard, and wearing overalls.  Although he looks like a penniless hick, he may end up filling up a large truck with things that barely reach auction reserves. There must be a bunch of these good old boys who show up at Maine and New Hampshire auctions.
            At many auctions, particularly when fine old estates are getting rid of their Persian carpets, there will be a little knot of Iranian rug merchants from all over the Boston area.  They usually gather at the back of the hall and talk loudly in Farsi, ignoring the auctioneer until the carpets come up.  When they buy, they pay for the carpets by peeling off wads of $100 bills.
            Now that we have been shopping at these markets for over 20 years, Marty has gained a whole raft of dealers who remember what she buys, and sometimes save things especially for her.
            Antiques dealers are interesting people, and some are very knowledgeable people who know a lot about the things they sell.  Some may have once worked for a large auction house like Sotheby’s, some are appraisers, and some have elite credentials, like a master’s degree in fine arts.  There are others who truly must live in depressing situations.  One look at the automobiles of some dealers gives you a clue. Not a few drive cars or vans where there is a small hole carved out for the driver to operate the vehicle.  Everything else is filled with stuff thrown in over the years, and apparently coagulated into a colorful mass.  From this they pull enough things to put on the table of their booth. 
            These people often tell you about their homes, which may include banana boxes stacked to the ceiling in every room, including dining room and living room, and lamps, books and much miscellany all over the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. They may also store additional stock in a couple of old trailers or trucks in the yard.
            Some of these more colorful dealers appear not to have much use for showers, clean clothes or shaving.
            My favorite ephemera (or paper) dealer is a scruffy guy who lives on the side of a mountain in New Hampshire, and arrives in an ancient station wagon, brimming with interesting old railroad timetables and Victorian advertising cards, 19th century magazines and newspapers, books, license plates and antique girlie magazines.  He has an amazing eye for items by important old illustrators, can point out an 1865 newspaper with an obscure story about John Wilkes Booth, or show you an old copy of Atlantic in which Edgar Allan Poe published his first short story.
            Then there are buyers, most of whom are polite and agreeable.  But there are a few who give the impression that if they cannot buy this item their world will end.  They have to have it, and heaven help you if you also have an interest in buying it. These are the super aggressive ones, and they are rude, pushy and obnoxious.
            You see these pushy people again at the start of antique shows where we are set up.  These shows are usually in rather elite locations, where the typical customer is well-dressed and well-mannered.  But these people swoop in, eyes darting like a snake’s.  You greet them, but they don’t answer, because all their sensors are looking for the next prize.  Often you are just putting your booth together, still removing things from storage boxes when they hit, but if they see something they want, they ask its price, and then seem offended when you won’t let them have it for one-third of that amount. 
            Perhaps the worst of this beady-eyed lot of early shoppers are the silver and gold buyers.  These men have no eye for beauty.  If they find a piece of the most delicately fashioned piece of Sterling, and they feel that they can sell it for scrap to be melted, they’ll pull out their tiny scale and weigh it right there.  Never mind if it is a silver mirror once used by Marie Antoinette, they’d take it to the smelter! 
            Another creature often shows up when you are doing shows, or in your shop, and this is the lonesome soul who can consume hour after hour of your time, even if you are trying to serve real customers.  One, a young man, has an endless reel of stories to tell you about his profession as a statistician.  He has worked on space projects, ship construction, secret government projects, tells about designing a miniature house in which he now lives; he knows about flying saucers, and has complex theories for solving world hunger.  When you see him coming, you try to look very busy!

            We’re doing our next show Saturday, August 6th in Little Compton, RI at the Sakonnet Vineyards at 162 W. Main St.  It’s a very nice show, with a Preview Party Friday, Aug. 5th from 6 to 8 p.m.

Antiques—buying, cleaning, repairing, polishing, researching and selling—it’s been a wonderfully educational experience.  Each new acquisition offers a chance to look into another corner of someone’s world of a day gone by. 
            Marty stood by my side, and helped me all during my naval career.  Now it’s a pleasure to be her chief schlepper* and assistant salesperson!

*[Yiddish for one who lugs, hauls something with difficulty.]  

Antique Chinese leather boxes

Now, about those books and papers:

Child care, 1913 style:
Care and Feeding of Children, The; by L. Emmett Holt, M.D., LL.D., Professor of Diseases of Children at Columbia University, Sixth Edition, Revised and Enlarged. 1913 New York, NY: D. Appleton & Co. Author's aim is not to alarm the mother by acquainting her with all the possible diseases and accidents which may befall her child, but to open her eyes to matters which are direct and chief concern. Care of children: bathing, genital organs, eyes, mouth; cover chest with soft flannel band. Napkins (diapers) which have only been wet may be used for a second time without washing, unless there is chafing. Airing the nursery. When to take a baby out for an airing.  Infant feeding. Mothers who have had tuberculosis should not nurse their babies. Weaning children from the breast; from the bottle. Modification of cow's milk.  Common mistakes in milk modification. Kissing infants  -- tuberculosis, diphtheria, syphilis and many other grave diseases may be communicated in this way.  Colic, Earache. Croup. Convulsions. Rubella. Scarlet fever. Chicken-pox. Mumps.  Scurvy. Constipation. Diarrhœa. 212 pp. 12 x 17 cm. Olive green cloth on board with gilt lettering, minor rubbing, very good. (5250) $17.00.  Women's/Child care

All about women in the 1880s…
Daughters of America; or,  Women of the Century, Illustrated  by Hanaford, Phebe A. ca. 1883 Augusta, ME: True and Company. Marvelous copy of a grand celebration of and for women; Dedicated to the women of future centuries of the USA. Author Phebe Ann Coffin Hanaford (b. 1829— d. 1921) was a lifelong pioneer of feminism, abolition and women's suffrage.  Frontispiece steel engraving of Phebe Hanaford. Stories and illustrations of famous women include Hannah Duston, Martha Washington, Lucretia Mott, Phoebe Cary, Alice Cary, Ida Lewis, Miss Frances E. Willard, Mrs. Sarah K. Bolton, Mrs. R.B. Hayes, Mrs. Dr. McCabe, Mrs. Mary T. Burt, Elizabeth Comstock, Mother Taylor, Emily Huntington Miller, Mrs. Mary C. Johnson. Chapters devoted to  women leaders in many fields; women during the Civil War, wives of Presidents, literary women, women poets, women scientists, women reformers, women preachers (including Mrs. Hanaford), women missionaries, more. 730 pp. 14 x 22 cm. Elegant copy  with fresh decorated cover in muted gold, with image of Martha Washington, slight edge wear on heel and toe of spine. Gilt-edged pages, quite bright and clean. Very faint foxing on frontispiece. Handwritten inscription from "Aunt Fannie" to Elva on front free endpaper, dated 1893.  Very good. (1674)  $66.00. Women's/Biography

"Oh, I am so nervous! No one ever suffered as I do!”—Ad for Lydia Pinkham’s…
Delineator, The; A Journal of Fashion, Culture and Fine Arts, March, 1896, Vol.  XLVII No. 3 New York, NY: Butterick Publishing Co. Excellent collection of women's, girls' and children's styles for 1896; little boys in skirts; many good ads. Lydia E. Pinkham's Vegetable Compound adv.:
"Oh, I am so nervous! No one ever suffered as I do! There isn't a well inch in my whole body! I honestly think my lungs are diseased, my chest pains me so; but I've no cough. I'm so weak at my stomach and have indigestion horribly. Then I have palpitation and my heart hurts me. How I am losing flesh! and this headache nearly kills me; and the backache! --why I had hysterics yesterday!... there are the pains in my groin and things. I can't sleep, walk or sit. I'm diseased all over.  The doctor? Oh! he tells me to keep quiet." 156 pp. 20 x 28 cm. Paper periodical, good. (5107) $35.00. Women's 

Commentary on the European Revolutionary Epidemic, Catholics, Abolitionists…
Ladies' Repository for 1850, The, Rev. B.F. Tefft, D.D., Editor 1850 Cincinnati, OH: L. Swormstedt & J.H. Power.  Splendid collection of elegant engravings, poetry, music, religious thoughts, travel, all manner of literature, book reviews, commentary, attacks on "corrupting literature."  Impressive array of reading for educated women: Lead article for February discusses three books on The Jesuits, gives a colorful description and discussion, but ends with a stern message against the "Romish denomination."  An Incident of the Hungarian War. Adulation of Kossuth. "Tracks of a Traveler" for September relates journey from Canada to Syracuse to Albany and eventually to Martha's Vineyard and Boston, MA. In Boston, editor attends wild meeting of the "radical, abolition, non-resistant, woman's rights, anti-Church, no-government, general-reform, out-and-out, come-out, Garrisonian Society of Fanatics. Never since the flood, has there been such a congregation of lunatics, as were assembled."  Report from Germany on new strides in women's equality. 412 pp. 16 x 25 cm. Red leather on board, moderate edge wear, engravings and some pages foxed, very good. (4821) $60.00. Women's/Religious/Travel/Poetry/Literature

Teaching Women how to handle the Law…
Laws of Business for All the States of the Union with forms and directions for all transactions, Revised Edition by Parsons, Theophilus, LL.D 1875, Hartford, CT: S.S. Scranton & Company. Harvard Law Professor prepared this book for everyman.  Mortgages of land, goods, chattels; rights of women (very few); Bankruptcy; Notes of Hand and Bills of Exchange; Infants or minors; Apprentices. Married Women: …" a married woman is wholly incapable of entering into mercantile contracts on her own account. By the fact of marriage, her husband becomes possessed of all her real estate during her life, and if a living child be born of the marriage, he has her real estate during his own life, if he survive her."  Includes laws of each state with regard to Married Women.   697 pp. 14 x 23 cm. Maroon cloth on board with calf spine, edges frayed, leather quite scuffed; inside hinges cracked; owner name dated 1875 on ffep. Good. (4818) $30.00. Reference

More on Lydia Pinkham’s Medicine for Women…
Lydia E. Pinkham's Private Text-Book, Revised Edition ca. 1930 Lynn, MA: The Lydia E. Pinkham Medicine Co. In front of book: Caution to the owner:  This little book treats of  delicate subjects and has been sent to you only by request. It is not intended for indiscriminate reading but for you own private information. Book teaches women about menstruation and women's illnesses, and care, including Lydia E. Pinkham's medicines. Also includes very explicit testimonials, two blank postcards addressed to LEP Co., and an offer for a hot plate rest. 63 pp. 11.5 x 15.5 cm. Paper booklet with tape spine, very good. Included are testimonials for Sanative Wash, two blank postcards, and a typed letter offer. (5555) $30.00. Women's/Medical/Advertising

1 comment:

  1. The dealers in metals remind me of a guy who called me up, after I had lost my Aggie ring in Pease Park. He had used a metal detector, and when he read my name in what had been my ring, he felt charitable in giving me a chance to buy it back. I said all the wrong things. I should have made feel like the weasel he was. Gail bought me another, and it must have cost several hundred. It had cost me $25, and the former students association paid the other half, in 1958. Of course, $25 bought a lot more, back then. For example, in 1962 or so I could have bought the house next door for $10,000, if I had $9,500 more than I had. These houses got up to $500,000 or thereabouts, lately. Supper's calling. Bye. Enjoyed your blogs. (The former students quit paying for half of students' rings after gold got so expensive).