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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Finding Treasure in a Drop-Front Desk

I don't have a preference when it comes to searching for a good story. I write a lot about estate sales, and it probably would be easier if I just stuck with a single classification. It doesn't always work out that way.

Some weekends there are no estate sales, and a couple of saturdays ago this tag sale sign was all I had. As I walked down the driveway I was greeted by a member of the family running the sale. After a brief explanation of my desire to dig, I was met with an interesting lack of confidence that I wouldn't find anything there.

They had thrown down the gauntlet, in a very polite way.

Undaunted, I immediatly found a drop front desk that looked at least 50 years old.  If you have read this blog or any of my Patch articles, you know that I am not shy about pulling out drawers from desks and dressers to see what might have been left behind.

But I didn't need to even do that with this desk, because already I could see a slice of old paper left in one of the slots.  I called over the family member who had claimed I wouldn't find what I was looking for.

"What is this!? This is what I like to find." I teased as I unfolded the paper and spread it out gently on the desk to see that is was a bill from a Radio & TV repair shop in Middletown, CT.  As a piece of TV history, this is a neat find. The bill denotes a repair on an RCA Console TV with the problem of "Fades away." The diagnosis seemed to be "Tubes loose in tuner."  $3.50 later the problem was fixed, and one year later the first color compatible television was available for sale. "Fades Away" may have been a prophetic statement.

But there was more treasure than this inside the desk.

All the little cubbies and drawers in writing desks alway interest me. There are any number of things that can get lost in them.  The first place I like to look it the thin slot between the cubbies and the desk surface.

Can you see that?  Having a small L.E.D. light nearby is recommended so that the dark places give up their secrets.  The secret here looked to me like a piece of jewelry.  By removing the top drawer I thought I might get a better look from underneath.

I was right, and by now I had several family members and a few customers for an audience.

Despite pulling and pushing I found it was stuck pretty good.  Not unlike a surgeon, I asked someone to "get me a coat hanger." I don't know too many surgeons that use coat hangers to operate, but this was a difficult operation in a battlefield situation. I had to improvise.  In the end, this secretary finally gave birth to not one old watch, but two. Twins! (tho' non-identical)

Were they Rolex's? No. They almost never are, but what they were was exactly what I was looking for- a good story and a minor impromptu street performance with a happy ending.

Have you found anything hidden in a old desk?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Got old Bottles? Put a Cork in it!

I am always fascinated by the old things I find. These were found wrapped in newspaper next to a fireplace and I was permitted to photograph them.  Not everyone walks up to  sale with a camera, yet I was allowed to not have to buy them even after expressing great interest in their history.

I wanted to know how old they were, but unless I bought them I wasn't going to be able to take a long close look.  Can you guess their age?   This tincture says it is to be used "locally as a styptic and as an application to chapped or shredded surfaces, sore nipples, etc." 
I was never able to make out the name of the product because the string is stuck like glue to the label.
 I was hoping the name of the drug store would be a giveaway as to the date, but in my research I can find pictures of Alderman Drugs Store from 1940. When did pharmacies stop dispensing medicine in cork stopped bottles? What was Oil of Citronella used for? Today it is a bug repellant, maybe a treatment for lice?
This is my favorite of the group, mainly for its great typography and the condition of the label over all. Especially the directions:
I like the numerous references to "Kid" and the line to: "Keep Well Corked" good advice where ever you go. Any idea of the age of these beauties? If I had to guess, I would say late 1920's to the early 30's. Despite the cork, which would make me subtract a few years or decades, the machine neck and opening gives it a modern (so to speak) look. What do you think?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Guess the Gadget: Rust is the New Chrome

See if you can guess what this before you get to the 4th image -Hint: Found in a Garage, but Belongs in a House.
About a month ago I was in a garage/barn sale and enjoying the fact that I was the first one there. I wrote about it here. One of the many prized items I found was somewhat of a mystery.
It was a small box with an odd hinge or axle, three rivets and no markings. While most pickers are looking for what they collect, or what they can sell, I'm one of the few looking for an unknown item.
After some pushing and coaxing I finally got it to budge a little.
 Whatever it was, it had not been opened or used in a very long time. An even coating of rust didn't make it any less desirable to me. The contents looked like long caliber bullet casings.
Make that 2 telescoping bullet casings. I began to think that this was a set of portable rabbit ears for a TV.
 It should start to become apparent what this gadget is meat to be. If you think it might have been devised for some kind of torture, well you wouldn't be the first to make that guess.

Unfortunately the title of the video gives it away immediately, but I'm guessing you had this figured out several images ago.

This folding clothes hanger actually does have a name and patent date stamped on it "Midget January 7th 1913." I usually don't go by patent dates to indicate the manufacture date, but at least I can say it's no older that that.

If you want to see one of these in a more pristine state, there's a pair for sale here on etsy.

I suppose it could be dangerous only picking up things when I don't know what they are. There must be a fable by Aesop that speaks to that danger...

Friday, August 15, 2014

Don't Clean That Old Penny (It's Art!)

This is the oldest wheat penny I have ever come across in my "digs"
1918 US wheat penny heads
I wish (while it's heads up) that it was worth something, but no. It would probably bring about .04 cents. Then I took another look at it, and saw that it was priceless. It is so worn and layered with patina, yet still maintains its identity.
1918 US wheat penny tails
To me this is art.

Friday, August 1, 2014

These Nutrients are Essential, but they Scare me to Death

Being a cartoonist, actually a serial doodler, any time I see wildly colorful drawings such as these I need to do something about it. This early graphic cartoon book seems to be aimed at the kiddies, but lesson is ultimately direct (boldly) to the housewife. Look at the cover:
The adventures of the Vita-Men

The adventures of the Vita-Men
The dairy business grew by leaps and bounds in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, partly due to refrigeration, transportation and mechanization, and partly due to the health benefits of milk. Or, maybe it was due to marketing geniuses that could produce something like this in 1935.
 This wonderful piece of propaganda featuring 5 of the creepiest pitchmen you've ever seen was distributed by a Connecticut dairy. I doubt that they were the producer of this piece. As you can see on the cover, any dairy could have printed their name on this booklet. Was the government lending a hand to the dairy industry this early on?
There is no Vitaman "G," or at least that's what I repeat over an over again with my eyes shut hoping it will work, but no. I open my eyes and there he is in the body and form of pure terror. He was renamed as B2 mid century and no longer exists (whew!)

Click on any one of these for a read-able image. You will see that the real purpose of this is to ease your fears of "Irradiated" milk. This process which is done with ultra-violet radiation or electricity actually does destroy some of the bacteria and enhance the D vitamin. It is no longer done to milk in this way as the market desire for irradiated milk diminished over time. Likely due to the cold war.
The nutrition gained from milk was a partial solution to some of the diseases from 100 or more years a go, but then so was a balanced diet. I have no opinion either way on milk, but if I am having a bowl of cereal milk is the way to go.

Here is the question I need answered: Who was A.L. Warner and why can't I find out anything about him? Can you?