Buying Antiques Is Buying American History
By: Marc Washicheck
As seen in The Antique Shoppe Newspaper, August 2006
In this day and age where everything is made in China, and even customer service of many companies takes place in India, we want to see something warm and familiar. Nothing is more familiar than an antique dresser from your grandfather, a quilt from your mother, or a cross stitched pillow from your grandmother. These quality American antiques, which were made from 1700ís to early 1900ís add warmth and love to a home China could never match.
Furniture from the early years of our country was handmade by parents, grandparents, other members of the family, or even friends, and literally included their blood, sweat and tears. Back when furniture was handmade, they were made for a person and or occasion, such as a crib for new infant, bed for a child, or a farm table for a newly married couple. Only half the United States had electricity in 1932 which was mostly in cities, and this meant furniture was made by hand without any help from electricity. Nails were expensive and had to be purchased from a blacksmith until around the turn of the 19th century, so craftsmanís spent hundreds of hours making dovetails. Old fashioned American antique furniture was made out of real wood such as Black Walnut, Oak, Cherry, Chestnut, and Elm, some of which are extinct now. The majority of new furniture is made with fiber board and veneer, the wood grain is photographed on to the veneer so it wonít last long, and doesnít have the warmth or depth as real wood has. Antique furniture has lasted over a hundred years and will last a hundred more without much care.
Sewing was also completed by hand with light from a candle or kerosene lamp. If the women didnít sew it, they didnít have it, and this included quilts, clothing, and bed linens. All little girls learned to sew at an early age and used this craft for the rest of her life.
Quilts were often made by quilting beeís and were always made to use, very seldom just for display. Cloth was expensive so most quilts of the time were made from scraps of old family clothing. Rugs were very often made by braiding scrapes of clothing too. Almost all handmade quilts have some tiny blood marks which are caused by quilters pricking their fingers. If youíre lucky, you might find an antique quilt that is signed, dated by the quilters and even the name of who it was made for. Each quilt is a true work of art and is a one of a kind treasure.
Pillowcases and bed linens were also handmade by candlelight. They were made by mothers and grandmothers for the precious childrenís heads to rest upon. These wonderful women spent hundreds of hours crocheting, cross stitching, or tatting to make these one of a kind gifts of love. If they didnít have these treasures for their beds they would have to sleep on flour or feed sacks.
Most clothing was also made by hand. In the later years clothing could be bought in stores but the cost was much too high for all but the upper class. Fabric was expensive so mothers would make one good dress for there daughters which would be worn for church, and they would wear underwear and dresses made from flour sacks for everyday. Remember, even their towels were made from flour sacks. Of course every mother would try to embellish the plain cloth with cross stitch, tatting or even ruffles. Flour sack towels complete with hand embroidery are treasured today.
Glassware was one of the only items that was not made at home. Glass was still hand blown but in very hot factories, many without electricity. These factories used hazardous chemicals such as cobalt, which was banned in the U.S. in the early 20th century. These factories used very hot molten glass which caused serious burns, and also caused many lung problems. Antique glassware and pottery are treasures because they have deeper coloring, usually last longer due to the high quality and they also have wonderful histories behind them. The color will wash off on much of the modern colored glass. Many of their relatives worked in these factories with horrible working conditions and generations later are still working in them. There are still some glass factories in business today such as Fenton, and conditions have gotten better.
Toys were mostly made by hand, with no electricity or power tools and many times no supplies. Fathers and grandfathers made toys with old scraps of wood, leather, cloth, metal, paint and love. There wasnít money to buy expensive wood, cloth or metal so they had to be very creative. My grandfather made me a little step stool in the shape of a duck with a top hat so I could reach the sink to wash my hands. My grandmother was furious since he cut up her good Maple table to make this stool, but thatís all he had at the time. Todayís toys are mostly all made out of plastic or are electronic, and just arenít the same.
Many things purchased today are of the throw away society.
Each antique piece you have has a history of its own. Think of all the people, problems, special events and happy times your antiques have seen. If antiques could only talk. Remember, you never own antiques; you are just a caretaker who is adding your own history to that piece. Many people now are writing on backs of furniture or on bottoms of glassware etc, their history. Year received, why received, for whom and how much paid is the information to be preserved. There isnít anything made today that compares with the quality, value, patina, history and investment antiques have. These antiques were made when workers loved their craft, and worked with pride. Antiques will add many generations of history, love and warmth that the Chinese products can never duplicate. Open your home to real American history, buy antiques.
Marc Washicheck owns Cherry Hill Antiques, located at 120 W. Oak Street, Arcadia, Florida 34266. Feel free to contact him for more info or comments at 863-993-2344 or www.CherryHillAntiques.com
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