Posts Tagged ‘Jacy Lee’

  • Let’s do drugs: An addicting corner of the antique world

    Jan 1, 16 • ndemarino • 5enses, FeatureNo CommentsRead More »

    By Jacy Lee With a title like “Let’s Do Drugs,” you probably think this article is going to be about drugs. You know, drugs — like reefer, opium, cocaine, and alcohol. Well, these articles are about antiques and collectibles, so fat chance. This one is mostly about things that held drugs. Let’s start with cocaine. Cocaine, a derivative of the coca plant, was a popular drug in the late 19th to early 20th century. Aside from use as a recreational drug, it also appeared in many over-the-counter products. Hair tonics for ladies, such as Lydia’s and Burnett’s, contained cocaine. Women would massage these tonics into their scalps. You’d have to be a numbskull not to figure out where the term “numbskull” came from. Old bottles and boxes of these products are very collectible. Let’s do more cocaine. There is one cocaine-based product from the 1800s that has spawned more collectibles than almost any other product on Earth. That’s both an amazing boast and probably true. You guessed it, Coca-Cola! The most prolific “soft” drink in the world was initially a syrupy elixir based on cocaine. It was later modified into a soda and went global. Obviously, it had an addictive nature. Long into the mid-20th century, cocaine was still an ingredient. Today its addictive property has been replaced by caffeine. Still, think of the myriad real antiques and modern collectibles

  • Listen up, people: How something invisible spawned goofy furniture

    Dec 4, 15 • ndemarino • 5enses, FeatureNo CommentsRead More »

    By Jacy Lee There are so many things in our day-to-day life that we totally take for granted. We flick a switch, and lights go on. We turn a tap, and water comes out. We hit a button, and we hear radio. Whether it’s in your car or home, radio is pretty much taken for granted. But not even 100 years ago — more like 90 or so — radio didn’t exist. The reproduction of voice through Edison or Victrola machines had been around for a few decades, but the transmission of voice through thin air was a modern miracle. Instead of boring you with the historical details of such radio pioneers as Maxwell, Hertz, or Marconi, let’s jump to the 20th century. Early in the 20th century, wireless was reserved for nautical, military, and school use. There were radios in the hands of private people but no commercial radio stations. In 1920, KDKA, Pittsburgh, went on the air, just in time to cover the election of Warren Harding. This spurred an explosion of popularity in home radios. The Radio Corporation of America, formed in 1919, was one of the first large companies to manufacture home radios. Their popular line of Radiola was the rage in the ’20s. These were table-top models, long, low and boxy, and made of wood. They were quite heavy for their size, with vacuum sealed

  • You read me?: Word games for observant logophiles

    Dec 4, 15 • ndemarino • 5enses, FeatureNo CommentsRead More »

    By Jacy Lee [Editor’s note: These are word puzzles. Read the stories then follow the directions after them.] Gardening My gateway to adventure started with some heroic attributes. I always do good, but I live on the cusp. I’d error in family matters, but nothing to really malign us. Then one day my brother Roger told me that to use all my potential, I should start gardening. I saw some seeds that I just had to get. I germinated them using water and a full ion system. Soon I saw one little leaf. Roger said it looked like a beet. Leave it to Roger to bring up beets, which I abhor. See, I was forced to eat them when I was young. I just threw everything away and went to the farmer’s market. Try to find the names of 11 different animals/bugs/amphibians/birds in the story above. [Hint: Read between the words.] The Hotel I went to a fancy hotel out of town. I walked up to the desk clerk and noticed on her chin a scar. I wondered how an ex-con got this sweet job. From the back room, the manger man yelled. He knows we dented his car when we parked. I feel his pain, but just then William Holden walks into the lobby. Holden marks his spot for tonight’s dinner and states, “The last time I was here,

  • Your mamma’s a Hoosier: Sometimes a cabinet’s not a cabinet

    Nov 6, 15 • ndemarino • 5enses, Feature3,973 CommentsRead More »

    By Jacy Lee The modern kitchen has refrigerators, stoves and ovens, islands for prepping and scads of cabinets. The kitchen of 80 to 100 years ago was quite different. Some had ice boxes made of wood. Most had ovens, although some ovens were in separate rooms. A few larger kitchens had room for a baker’s table. But almost none had built in cabinets. Their answers to cabinets were pie safes and Hoosier cabinets. The Hoosier cabinet was the kitchen back then. It combined cabinets, drawers, a work surface, a flour bin, and often a spice carousel. The typical Hoosier cabinet was about 40 inches wide and 70 inches high. The top half was about a foot deep and the bottom was about 30 inches deep. Most had a porcelain coated tin or zinc counter which pulled out from under the top cabinet, thereby increasing the work area. In the days of their practical use, the more accessories they had, the better. These days, the more sought after Hoosiers are also the ones with more accessories. The most common accessory is, of course, the flour sifter. The flour sifter was usually in the top left cabinet and made of zinc coated tin, sometimes with a small glass window. A more desirable feature among these cabinets was a spice carousel, usually attached in the top cabinet, to the right. That one’s harder

  • Thank you for smoking: From paper to walnut, from Bakelite to sterling silver, tobacco makes its mark on the antique world

    Oct 2, 15 • ndemarino • 5enses, Feature3,648 CommentsRead More »

    By Jacy Lee Billions of people use tobacco products worldwide. Billions. Millions of those people are in the U.S.A. Millions. A dozen or so people read my articles. A dozen. Or so. I attribute this numerical trend to the fact that reading my articles is far worse for you than using tobacco products. Although an unfathomable number of cigarettes are sold each year in this country, we’re going to ignore that part of the tobacco industry and, instead, focus on the accessory industries that it creates. Our first subject — which also generates billions of dollars a year in this country — is advertising. Early American colonists were not bombarded by big tobacco’s advertising. Native Americans said it was cool, so we accepted it. With the advent of the 20th century, tobacco companies saw the potential for huge profits, and the advertising onslaught began. Colorful magazine ads touted the virtues of particular brands. In the 1920s to the ’40s, Chesterfield claimed they were the preference of tobacco auctioneers. The Kool penguins were playing golf and offering coupons redeemable for merchandise with each pack purchased. Camels were good for the nerves of both cowboys and housewives. Even other products often have cigarette smokers placed in them. Framed vintage cigarette ads have become collectible. Cigarette cases were a popular item in the early to mid-2oth century. It was both convenient and chic

  • All aboard: Train your collectibles on the road less traveled

    Sep 4, 15 • ndemarino • 5enses, ColumnNo CommentsRead More »

    By Jacy Lee In his song “The City of New Orleans,” Arlo Guthrie bemoans, “This train has the disappearing railroad blues.” And he was right. Although freight trains are still quite prevalent, non-commuter passenger travel on the rails is a trickle of what it once was. On a recent drive across America, I saw numerous freight trains, some with hundreds of cars, but only one passenger train, with a half dozen or so cars. It’s true, the golden age of rail travel is dead, but the age of railroad collectibles is very much alive. There is a multitude of railroad-related items in the antiques and collectibles world. I’ll cover some of the more common ones here. But, trust me, there are so many. Almost anything that would be in a house was also in a train. There were also many items that were on the outside of trains. Probably the most common outdoor railroad collectible is the lantern. Kerosene lanterns were used by brakemen, mechanics, detectives, and, most notably, inspectors. The typical lantern is about 10 inches tall, with a metal bail above that. The metal base and cap sandwich a glass globe, usually clear or red. To differentiate railroad lanterns from common barn lanterns of the same make, railroad lanterns are embossed with the company initials. A lantern manufacturer such as Adlake would have made both barn and rail

  • Amid the mid-: A middle-of-the-road guide to middle-of-the century antiques

    Aug 7, 15 • ndemarino • 5enses, FeatureNo CommentsRead More »

    By Jacy Lee As time goes on, the broad spectrum of antiques and collectibles continuously expands. The furniture made in the 1920s and ’30s was obviously not considered antique when it was made, but now abounds in antique shops. Likewise, when I started in this business in the 1970s, items from the ’50s and ’60s were either dumped or donated. Now, they’re a hot, trendy genre known as mid-century. What exactly is mid-century? To define it by style is insufficient. It’s an enigma unto itself — plain, clean lines on the furniture offset by splashes of bright upholstery and avant-garde wall art. Therefore, it’s best to define it by its era. Its earliest start is probably post-World War II and stretches into the 1970s. It can almost be equated to the Baby Boomer generation, but the real heart of it is the 1950’s and ’60s. The overall look of home furnishing was somewhat sparse and uncluttered during this era, but styles for each room could be quite varied. Mid-century seemed to affect every room in the house, whereas some genres of antiques, such as Victorian, were light on the dining room and kitchen. Bedrooms and dining rooms abounded with the clean, unadorned, straight lines of such makers as Heywood-Wakefield and Conant Ball. Complete matching sets were the order of the day and often included chairs and mirrors for the bedroom

  • Rug addiction: A rehabilitated vice for the up- & downtrodden

    Jul 3, 15 • ndemarino • 5enses, FeatureNo CommentsRead More »

    By Jacy Lee Whenever you enter a crowded room, you never even pay attention to me. You talk to everyone without even saying a word to me. I feel like you just walk all over me sometimes. I’m not some neglected, significant other, totally taken for granted. I’m a rug — also totally taken for granted. The history of rugs, in the Western world, should be anything but taken for granted. A rug was a prized possession, almost non-existent in Europe until the Middle Ages. Tapestries were common among the elite, but tapestries were made for walls and weren’t durable enough for floors. The capacity to actually weave rugs didn’t hit Europe until the 1500s. But the craze to cover cold stone or rough wood floors really blossomed earlier than that with the Crusades. The Crusaders returned back to Europe with various items from the Middle East. Rugs — mostly smaller size, or “scatters” — were among these items. The major rug weaving areas of the world were, and still are, the Middle East and Near East. Rugs from these areas are known as Oriental rugs. Only a small amount of Oriental rugs are from the Orient, but rather most are from countries like Iran, Iraq, Turkey, India, Pakistan, and many of the provinces and independent states of the one-time U.S.S.R. The commonly used term “Caucasian rugs” refers to rugs

  • ‘Stone me’: A meditation on American stoneware

    Jun 5, 15 • ndemarino • 5enses, Feature15 CommentsRead More »

    By Jacy Lee Have you ever been to a Tupperware party? Well, I haven’t, although I use Tupperware. And Pyrex. And glass jars. And plastic bins of all shapes and sizes. With the exception of the glass, these are fairly modern conveniences. What, you might rightly ask, were the common ways of home and store storage 150 years ago? Well, there were tins, crates, and wooden boxes. And there was stoneware. Stoneware, or earthenware, held several distinct advantages over its metallic and wooden counterparts. Compared to tin, stoneware was easier to produce. Metal had to first be discovered in ore form then mined, thus metalware was often more costly and time consuming. Good, pottery-quality clay for stoneware was often available courtesy of a relatively shallow dig in the ground. Easily molded by hand or on a wheel, clay was decorated then fired. Although firing required high temperatures, it didn’t have to be smelted, that is, refined and separated. Once it’s cooled, the piece is done. In contrast to a wooden crate, stoneware was impermeable to moisture, bugs, and vermin. (Incidentally, I’ve sold many a kitchen cupboard with rodent damage to the back or drawer back. This is considered quaint now, but when a rat chewed through a 1 inch solid plank in the 1880s, it was a travesty.) Stoneware was impervious to rot or corrosion from acids, like vinegar, and

  • Get the phone: It’s a dead ringer for an antique

    May 1, 15 • ndemarino • 5enses, Feature19 CommentsRead More »

    By Jacy Lee Sometime in the 1870s, A.G. Bell accidentally “spilled” upon the formula for transposing the human voice through wire. Shortly after this, “Get the phone” became a battle cry of both the home and office. Had he not been experimenting with acid at the time (Sorry, not that kind of acid), who knows where telecommunication would be right now? But he was, so this article continues. Widespread phone use didn’t occur until the first quarter of the 20th century. Radio makers like Stromberg-Carlson jumped into the blossoming field. These early phones were composed of heavy iron and copper materials encased in oak with Bakelite earpieces. The earpiece was cradled on one side, usually the left, and a mouthpiece of iron was attached to the front. Also attached to the front, above the mouthpiece, were one or two bells, shaped like inverted bowls with an iron clapper inside. On the right side was the crank. There were no dials or numbers. You rotated the crank a specific number of times to reach a certain party or the operator. The next major style of phones were known as candlesticks. These were basically shaped like, you guessed it, candlesticks. The mouthpiece was attached to the main stick, while the earpiece hung on a rack on the side. The earpiece was attached by a thick cord. These phones were mostly iron, some

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