Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wonderful 1850 Sand Toy~ A Diamond in the Rough.............

I am so excited about this little toy I just had to share it with you all! Above, you can see my little Diamond in the Rough that I found on eBay. Seller didn't know what it was, I kinda knew what it was....meaning that I could remember seeing something similar, but at that time couldn't remember just where.... Seller had said there was sand leaking from the box, which I found very intriguing so I bought it anyway, it was so utterly charming!

When my little prize came in the post, poor girl was a MESS. She was just taken, box and all~ loose cover glass and platform glass, and put in a zip lock bag. geeze. Its a miracle she made it to me with just a broken arm. Amazing. After staring at her a bit, I remembered where I had seen one of these now~ the Mary Merritt Museum sale catalogue! Yep, lot 132 was a wonderful little sand toy! Little hand colored paper doll was on a wire, and me being a curious sort, I found the weakest area of her box, pryed it out a bit, and voi-la! Side popped open and I could clearly see the workings. The entire time I keep saying to myself~ 'wow~this is SO neat~ really amazing!'

One thing I could tell for certain, was that the box had never been opened before. Everything was original, except for a single piece of black electrical tape on the back, which was doing absolutely nothing, so it came off first thing! I was very careful to just sit with a flashlight and examine what was inside...there was a funnel shape cone at one end, I could see the wire that dollye was hooked to, a little pin hole at the bottom of the cone~ that's where the sand must pour out from...and nothing else but a neat paddle wheel made out of paper with a metal pin going thru the center.....well~ I am not rocket scientist, but I could tell the little wheel had been bumped and come out of the little socket it was resting in so it wouldn't my trusty needle nose pliers, placed it carefully back on its axis, and that was it!

Here you can clearly see the German print on the back of some of the lacquered paper the box was sealed with.

Once I was sure she was dancing to her little hearts content, I carefully glued the side of the box back in place

Mended her broken arm, and refit the little paper covered glass platform she dances on. This really makes a difference in her movements~ she is much more springy now than in the video~ she really hops and bops! Her feet, each suspended individually on their own little wire, bounce off of it and get her grooving. She is also jointed at the waist by means of wire

So I could leave the bottom of this area open, but the originals I have studied have a paper here~ hers would have originally had the green plaid paper continue down to the bottom of the box. It didn't look right to me leaving it empty, so I made my own little secret compartment here~ inside I wrote on a paper the date, and what I did to the box to get her working again, and sealed it inside I like the looks of it, and it is the ONLY part that I have added to this box~ everything else is original. I just happened to have a partial scrap of an 1849 Grahams book, with a hand marbled endpapers in just her colors~ now how is that for providence! Paper from the same period as when she was made, prolly why it looks so fitting....

As I went carefully around and re-glued all the separating papers, the top revealed a little secret. Under the thick paper, towards the back, was a hole about the size of half a quarter, that was open and directly above the sand funnel~ so obviously these were fully assembled, then filled with sand and the last bit of heavily lacquered paper was glued over the opening to seal it. NEAT!
Her cover glass horribly dirty.

But upon close inspection, I could see the remains of the original 'passe partout' embossed gold paper that trimmed the border of the glass front. really neat! All of the original ones I have seen, have a tissue paper border, usually scalloped, at the inside top of the glass, to which mine has just a minuscule amount left~ I decided to leave it as original & charming as it is~ showing its age of nearly 160 years.

* above photo copyright Victoria and ALbert Museum, London
I scoured the Internet trying to find out more information on my little sand toy~ and golly it wasn't easy! I found out from the Victoria & Albert Museum, that these are indeed very rare that they have only 3. The above picture is one they acquired from a NY Collection in 1999. Made in both France & Germany, the sand technology goes back to the ancient Egyptians. These toys were first made around 1800, and are extremely fragile and were easily broken and discarded. They also were not made in great numbers, so all this adds to their rarity. The Museum of London is said to have one, and the Castle Museum in York has one. I know from the catalogue that the Mary Merritt Doll & Toy Museum had one, but I don't know who won it or where it ended up.

Here is my girl, all ready to perform again. It really is a wonder how she survived all this time~ these are SO very fragile! They weren't kidding at the V& A when they said 'they don't travel well'.... If you ever see one, snatch it up in a heartbeat~ once you hold one, and see and feel and hear it working, you will be mesmerized by its charms just as I have been!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Some eBay Specials~

I just listed some end of the year GREAT deals on eBay, if you want to take a peek :) I have also 2 Christine Crocker dollys from a consignor on offer, and some little late 19th c odds and ends. Most of you know I am narrowing the focus of the Museum to only include fashion up to the 1860's, and have been culling the collection this year. I was hoping to have it done by the end of the year, but am so far behind, it doesnt look like Im going to make it totally. I still have a couple of adult gowns, and some childrens things that need to go. I have run out of my flat storage, and have been focused more on the earlier years for a while now. I hope you all have a VERY! Merry !! Christmas!!!! this year, and I wish all my readers a Joy filled and Heathly 2010!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Ohhhh Christmas Tree....

One of my most favorite things about Christmas is the Tree~ matter of fact, it may be my favorite thing! I have always loved them, and can remember when I was little, my brother and I would have our own separate Christmas tree in our bedroom~ it was wonderful! Decorated with toys and paper chains, and huge Gaudy Ornaments we made at school from Styrofoam meat trays from the grocery, with Christmas cards glued in the center. I wonder where those went????

I thought I would share a couple of my trees with you all this year~ above is the tree we have in our dining room. My husband got up before dawn the day after Thanksgiving, and took our son Josh to the 'tool sale' at Sears, and seeing nothing they could live without, stopped by the Feed store, and Josh picked this tree out. Jayson said he didn't pause a second~ he saw it from the parking lot and would not change his mind, he wanted THIS one. As you can see, its a little uhhh....'full' ! Even after Jayson whacked quite a bit off the bottom, its still just 2" shy of being 10feet tall, and a little over 6 feet wide at the bottom! The girls and I were all awoke at 6am with those two guys stuffing it in the house! Ohh, but they all had so much fun decorating it

This is a much smaller tree~ and not a real one. I love it~ its very sparse and scraggely looking, and very narrow~ each year I put it up in my little Gallery, and it keeps my most precious of precious ornaments, all handmade and each one with a special memory attached.

When I was little, in the early 70s, Ma always made ornaments from real chicken eggs. Coated the inside with paraffin and glitter, and the outside with different color velvets. She had wonderful treasures she put inside each one, and this one, was MINE. I never got to touch it, but little Raggedy Ann & Andy in there were mine and I loved it~ I cant remember a Christmas without this ornament. Its one of my most favorite.....
Along with this one Ma painted for me in 1976. She made Andy for my brother.

Sharon Mitchell makes the most wonderful wax ornaments, and her primitive angels look so pretty with my little pip berry garland I stuck in the tree this one. Ok. It is a close tie with my egg ornament for being my favorite~ it just wouldn't be Christmas without this one on the tree.....Ma cant remember if she bought it or made it, but I don't care! I have spent time every year for nearly 40, loving this little felt drum

Ma made this neat Soldier, he is a cross stitched band stitched into a tube and filled. LOVE him!

One of my little Queen Anne ornaments I made for me this year~ I just love them! She is out of special 18th c bits and bobs. Behind her you can see one of my eggs I did one year, with Victorian scrap Angels and the Nativity nestled in excelsior. I always make some kind of ornament for Christmas

And my tree is filled with the special MOST special ones the children make me at school~ I adore them! This is Emma a few years ago. I bet each and every one of you has at least one special ornament made from Popsicle sticks and glitter!

My friend Sarah Laird cross stitched this little owl for me for our 6th grade gift exchange. She moved away not long after, don't know where she is now, but I love this and always remember when she gave it to me. She was worried I wouldn't like it, and I LOVED it

Do you remember this one Ma??? I cant remember if I got it in Nursery school, or Kindergarten, it was so long ago, but I remember going into class and seeing the tree full of them, and searching all over for mine! So what my name is spelt sooooo wrong~ it had a little candy cane in it and I was SO PROUD taking it home after school.

Some ornaments are too fragile and special for the tree now, so I just unwrap them and look at them for a bit, and put them away safe again. I made this little reindeer in the 3rd grade, from flour dough. He used to have little sticks poked in for his horns. In't he cute cute cute!

And last, this one~ a little Holly Hobbie, or Sun Bonnet girl dough ornament. Mrs Peterson's house, our Girls scout troop 180 Christmas party....she had made one for each of us and hung it on her tree. The paint is separating and flaking off, perhaps I will try and get it all back together and give it a coat of glue or something~ silly little things to some, but to me, they hold my most Cherished Christmas memories
I hope you all have a Wonderful Christmas, and make many memories for years to come

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Early Woodens....

Could they be sisters? I bet they most certainly could! Here are two of my special early girls. One came with her full original wardrobe, and one came in her birthday suit~ I love them both dearly! I have always admired the early wooden dolls~ especially Queen Anne dolls, but these are a little later in period, and date c18teens to 1820. They are nearly identical in size, but each with special distinctive and very interesting features I will share in details later~ for now, just a little background history, in case you ever wondered what a 'Grodnertal' doll was.

Pictured above, the Dolomites~ part of the Alps in Northern Italy and SO breathtaking! This is the birthplace of my dollys, and so many others. The Grodner Thal, or Grodner Valley, is home to several wonderful little villages, but the center of doll making was St. Ulrich (Ortesei as known by locals). A very pioneering woman, Amelia B Edwards, came upon St. Ulrich while hiking int he Dolomite Range in the early 1870's and told all about her experience in a book she wrote in 1873, 'Untrodden Peaks and Unfrequented Valleys'. She toured the warehouses while there and reported

" The two largest warehouses in the village are Herr Purger and of Messrs. Insam and Prinoth. They show their establishments with readiness and civility; and I do not know when I have seen any sight so odd and so entertaining. At Insam and Prinoth's alone, we were taken through more than thirty large store-rooms, and twelve of these were full of dolls-- millions of them, large and small, painted and unpainted, in bins, in cases, on shelves, in parcels for exportation"

Can you just imagine what a sight! This was however a view of the toy making there in the mid to late 19th century, after Queen Victoria had helped to make the little precious wooden dolls famous. As with anything that eventually gets mass produced, the quality is directly related to the quantity of manufacture. At the time my dollys were carved, time was spent in getting all their little details perfect~ hands had individually carved fingers, whereas later, in the 1830's, spoon hands with shallow slits for fingers were the norm, then later, just smooth spoon hands with no fingers, until at the turn of the 20th C these poor little dollys had but nubs and blunt ends to their arms, with no differentiated hands at all.

Early dolls were carved with much care, and painted with even more~ very artistically done, and many of the early ones are referred to as 'Portrait type' as their features are so distinct, they must have been done from life, and there are recorded in history Royalty that commissioned dolls to be carved after certain likenesses. Made entirely from wood, the mortise and tenon joints of the early dolls are amazing, and allow for a full range of movement~ dolls were even joined at the waist allowing them to swivel(mine are not). Shoulders, elbows, hips and knees all have nearly 360 degrees of movement! By the time Amelia toured the warehouses in the mid 19th c, the dollys were more quickly and crudely carved to meet the high demand, and had simple joints held with pegs ~ no longer on ball joints, the arms and legs could just move up and down, and the little ones had no joint at the elbow or knees. These came to be affectionately called 'Peg Wooden' dolls. They were also know as 'Penny Wooden' dollys, as they were sold by street vendors, or peddlers, for a penny. Locals would spend all winter carving dolls, and they would be 'distributed' throughout the world by traveling vendors. With the popularity of the high hairstyles of the 1820s & 30s, they were also referred to as "Tuck Comb" dolls, for the comb carved at the top of the head. My dollye on the right above, once had such comb, now long lost to time...or was it? More on that later

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Another Look at our Little Boy's 1830's jacket

Sorry it has taken me a week to get this post up~ the Holidays have me absolutely SWAMPED! I hope you all are enjoying the season, not forgetting to take time for yourself to relax a bit.

I have several scans of fashion plates of little boys in nearly the exact jacket as this one, but alas, I cannot get my disk to run....its driving me I went down and picked one similar, and snapped a picture for you. This original hand colored fashion plate is from La Mode, and is titled "Costume Parisiens 1831 No. 2904" In the time, this jacket was referred to as a 'redingote'. Even tho earlier than mine here in this post, you can see the evolution of fashion in young boy's wear, especially in the skirting. Throughout the late 1820s and early 1830s the skirting was 'full' in, with both sides of the skirting reaching center front. Id say, with what I have seen and have here , the height of both the gigot sleeve fullness and skirt fullness reached its peak 1835-6, from then, the sleeves started to deflate and ooze down the arm, and the skirt fullness(in boys/men only) slowly faded back ....pausing at side hips for a year or two, then narrowing into what we now recognize as the tuxedo cut, or 'tails'.

As you can see, if you click on and enlarge the photo, that our jacket skirting is about midway between full-on skirting, and half skirting, ending at the hip sides. The top fullness of the sleeves have been pleated and banded down with stitching, yet this still retains earlier fashionable collar and decorative rows of buttons...........more on those grande little gems later

Flipping to the back, as side not much viewed in most museums and books, their is just as much goings on as on the front. The seam lines have been accented with amazing zig zag trim~ hand made of coarse... with a faux back vent, pleated and complete with button on flaps, except they are non functional and just for show. One could speculate that they were once open and just stitched shut, but actually, this is all a single, solid piece of fabric. A small version of Pappa's Redingote, right down to the trim

Who ever said clothing is not art, has never studied the field. To behold and examine such original works, brings a soul ever so much closer to the hands that wrought it so long realize and ponder how many hours of toil the fingers made, and what the mind of the stitcher was thinking? For those of you who sew, what do you think about whilst doing so? Sometimes I go into an 'autopilot' sort of state...all the while my hands are sewing, and I am trying to figure out what I will make up for supper, or if I have to keep an appointment or what chores I need to get done ect ect.... One would certainly think stitching this little zig zaggy trim would be so redundant...

Weensie little flat braid was folded very cleverly into Van Dyke points and hand stitched into place.... The original 'rick rack'. Makes you wonder what clothes would look like, if they had access to the mass woven rick rack trim. Little fine details such as these, and the buttons, were what set your little boy's clothing, and social status, apart from his neighbor

Shoosh! Look at all the cloth covered wood buttons! Trim, and buttons especially, were superfluous, so the more you had on your garment, the more well off you a days its glitz and flash to show how rich you are in clothing....but in the early 19th century, it was buttons and trims.
Of all the sixty buttons on this jacket, only a scant five of them are functional! The center front closing utilizes only every other button with its own buttonhole

The sleeves are expertly pleated then held with a chain stitch only. The pointed sleeve cap is a very becoming and simple feature that adds so much style, and is accented again by the Van Dyke trim
The same chain stitch holds the vertical pleats that gather the sleeve fullness at the cuff

And in closing, a picture of my favorite features of early clothing. Darning! I adore darning...if I see something with mended areas, I will buy it just because of the darning alone. To me, it shows first hand how expensive textiles were~ something that most folks think nothing of in todays world. If its ripped, throw it out. NOT SO in early times! Clothing was worn with more respect for the garment than now-a-days to be sure, and if a spot gave out, it was mended quickly and carefully, lest it make into a bigger problem. I have my Great Grandmothers olde darning egg, just a little gourd really.......but within its surface, millions, literally, of needle pricks and scraps. I wish I had a sample of Grandma's darning, the badge of Honor, I feel, for any true needlewoman.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Amazing! Many of you know that I have a particular affinity for early painted basket purses, and have collected them, and the images with them in it, for several years now. Well occasionally I will get lucky and find something special on eBay, and this week was no exception! The above image was listed as a daguerreotype, which I knew directly it was not. I figured it was possibly a tin type copy of an earlier daguerreotype, and the precious girl was holding a spectacular painted basket purse, so I had to have it!

When it arrived yesterday, I opened the case and took it out to clean the glass, only to discover something wonderful and fascinating that I had never seen before. Sandwiched between 2 clear glass plates, and affixed directly onto the back of the ornate brass preserver, was the perfect rendition of our little lady, but not on tin, or glass...or even leather like I have heard of before~ but a piece of felted cloth!

This i s a close up view of the back of the cloth~ it has a felted nap, with the weave clearly visible. In fact, the weave is also visible from the front~ that is what makes the little bumpy texture in the second picture above. Isn't that just amazing?!

I had read about images on leather, very rare, but couldn't for the life of me remember what they were called...Impressed into the side bevel of the brass preserver I could read " HOLMES, BOOTH & HAYDENS SUPERFINE" on one side, and "WAT......EY CONN 12" on the other. After a little research, I found that Holmes, Booth & Haydens was founded in Waterbury Connecticut in 1853 as a manufacturer of photographic equipment basically. VERY interesting! But I couldn't find anything referring to my image on cloth, so I called Dr. Dusan Stulik at the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles Ca, and got alllll my questions answered!

He identified my image as a "pannotype", and that the Greek word pannos actually translated to 'cloth'. The process was invented in 1853, and only in use until 1860. They were initially hailed as the first 'unbreakable' images, as up until then, you could either have a daguerreotype or ambrotype photograph made~ the dag was on a silver plate and very fragile, and the ambrotype was on a glass plate. Not many have survived due to the fact that the emulsion cracks over time and the cloth disintegrates, so I am overjoyed to have this one, and in near perfect condition!
The technical specifics of how a pannotype was made are very involved and fascinating, as described by Marc Osterman in his book on Pannotypes~
"These direct positive collodion images were made on glass and transferred onto a secondary support material by placing the glass plate bearing the image in an acidified water bath that caused the collodion film to shrink. The secondary support was then placed int the water and the two were taken out of the bath with in image in contact with the surface of the secondary support. The back of the support was then pressed against the glass with a squeegee and the plate. The back of the plate was then gently heated until the image and support fell from the glass. The images were transferred onto black oil cloth, patent leather and black enameled paper"
Dr. Stulik said he has them also on wood, and now I have this felted cloth one~ just amazing to me~ what invention was hatched to try and preserve the human image! And just look at that basket~ painted with FRUIT! A double plus for me to find, since I could not tell from the auction picture what was there~ I assumed a floral arrangement like so many others. NOT! There are apples and a pear~ wonderful wonderful!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

1830's a' la Martha Stewart.....

Was Martha around in the 1830's? She well could have been ;) This monochromatic color scheme in taupes was an early- mid 19th century favorite, and here, it is easy to see why. Martha would adore these little gowns~ simple, and oh so very elegant.

Above right is a little boys jacket, c1838, middle 1820 white mull frilled Mother's Nursing gown, and to the left, a gorgeous c1832-5 girls long sleeve summer dress, of which I will be sharing with you today.

The first thing to catch one's eye is the beautiful white embroidery that accents the wrap front style of the bodice. This dress would have been made up just like Mamma's~ following the fashion trends nearly exact. At a time when roller and block printed cottons were all the rage, the fact that this has been made up from a solid color cotton would have one thinking it was of lesser quality and belonging to a lower class....but with the addition of the superbly wrought embroidery so expertly placed, this little dress is of the highest taste and quality~ a Mother with money, and a refined, yet elegant taste, commissioned it for her precious little girl. Of coarse it helps also knowing the provenance, that our little dress was worn by one of Capt. Rufus Lincoln's little girls in Wareham, Massachusetts.

But having money was not an excuse for frivolity and waste~ this dress has been made up of so many little pieces fit perfectly together, I wonder if it was made up from the extras of one of her Mother's gowns. All hand stitched, the bodice is made of a linen base, with only the outwardly showing pieces in the fashion fabric~ the embroidered front is pieced of 3 smaller pieces, and stitched onto the lining.

It was just as important to look good going, as it was coming, and much design was put into the back of the bodice. The piped and tabbed waist band was a really common feature of the 1820's & 1830's, and if I remember right, nearly all the gowns I have here of this era, have a piped waistband that ends in a tab.

The embroidery is expertly done, I think too perfect for it to be a sample of the little girl's own work, but I could be wrong. What a beautiful tribute and perfect way to show off the works of thine own hands.... than to have them made up into a pretty dress

This is a close view of the center band of embroidery on the skirting

The long gigot sleeves are amazing, as I find all of them to be~ marvels of engineering! But we can see again, the unique piecing, to take advantage of every scrap of fabric, as these sleeves really did requite a lot of fabric. It was easy, to have just as much fabric in the sleeves of a gown, as in the skirting. This view is actually the back of the sleeve, see the 2 horizontal seams there?

Flipping same sleeve over, there is a horizontal seam again, then a strange triangular piece, and an augmented rectangle....very good use of fabric~ I bet there wasn't an inch of waste when this was finished.

The 1830's is one of, if not my most favorite era in early fashion~ the lines and silhouettes are so feminine~ see how the little boys jacket mirrors the same seam lines as the girl's? Beautiful. I will share him with you in a another post~ so much going on there you wont believe it!

And a precious side view. For the weight of the fabric, I would say most definitely this was a summer dress~ cold New England winters and drafty homes would have made this impractical to wear in the winter months

Thought you would enjoy this~ a current picture of the Rufus Lincoln estate in Wareham Ma. Minus the window air conditioning units of coarse, this is much how it would have looked when our precious was squirting about the grounds, perhaps playing with a favorite dollye right there in the yard. Things that dreams are made of, don't you think?