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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

An Alphabet Of American Antiques
(Part 2 Of 2)



L:-For a long time I was undecided about L. I was torn between Lustre and Lowestoft. It may have been the result of breaking my mother's prized copper lustre pitcher, or of not receiving my great-aunt's Lowestoft tea-set, promised to me when I was a child. Possibly the loss of the tea-set made a greater impression, for I have decided to let L stand for Lowestoft. During the early part of the United States' history as an independent nation, large quantities of this porcelain came to America. Lowestoft was usually the "company set of dishes." There were various patterns used in the decorations, including Chinese designs, marine subjects, floral motifs. The tea-set I lost was covered with prim, small bunches of "posies." Other floral patterns included small bouquets lying in mass on the surface, festoons of small roses and green leaves, roses without stems, and a single flower. Borders were frequently decorated with a band of rich blue. The shapes of the pieces and the characteristic twisted handles resembled those used on certain types of Chinese wares. A mystery, resulting in innumerable discussions, is connected with Lowestoft. Some collectors believe that plain porcelain from China was imported to England and decorated at the factory at Lowestoft; others think that it was made and decorated in China and imported to Holland and England by the Dutch East India Company or brought directly from China to Boston and Salem. I have heard arguments for and against both theories. You will enjoy reading about it, and taking your choice.

M IS FOR MIRROR. Very few mirrors were made in America before the Queen Anne period. During the early years of the republic, they were manufactured in considerable quantities. In the American Empire Period mirror-frames were made both of mahogany or of lesser woods, gilded. The simpler forms of mahogany mirrors were framed with broad bands having bevelled edges. More formal types boasted of columns at the sides. Gilded mirrors were elaborate and were decorated with carvings, pilasters, and rosettes. Urns and flowers were also favorite forms of adornment. Sometimes a wood and plaster composition was used for the basis for the frames of gilded mirrors. Upright mirrors were frequently divided into two parts by means of a piece of molding. The upper part contained a painting on glass or a piece of embroidery. Some of the paintings were allegorical; others were of ships, landscapes, or flags. One type bore the emgy of an American eagle perching proudly on a broken arch. Like other pieces of furniture made in this country, mirrors were modelled on the lines of those designed by the English cabinet-makers. Lovely mirrors wene imported from England. The Adam Brothers designed beautiful mirror-frames which were gilded and delicately carved. The urn was one of their characteristic motifs, and it was often used in their mirrors. In shape they were oval, round, or oblong. A mirrorfi-ame, made by Chippendale and copied in America, was made in mahogany, and had a fretted bottom, as ipcll as a top piece carved in an elaborate fashion. Two-section mirrors were popular during the Queen Anne Period, and a type from which the American cabinetmakers took ideas was supported between two upright poles and placed upon a little stand of drawers. The piece was then set upon a chest of drawers.

N IS FOR NEEDLEWORK. American women did fine needlework even in our early days. Needlework is one of the oldest of handicrafts, and the knowledge of the art, learned in England and Holland, was brought by the women to the New World. Maids and matrons made their own clothing and that of fathers, husbands, and brothers. Plain sewing was an art in itself; hemming, tucking, gathering, overcasting, running, felling, button-hole making, and the executing of stitches such as chain-stitch, feather-stitch, and cross-stitch were part of every girl's education. Crewel work, drawn work, and cross-stitch were applied on clothing, bed-hangings, cushions, and chair-backs. The girls learned sewing from their mothers and at dames' schools. The Indians called the English women "lazie Squaes" when they saw them embroidering coifs instead of digging in the fields. Mr. Brownell, the Boston schoolmaster, in 1716 taught "Young Gentlewomen and Children all sorts of fine works as Feather Works, Filigree and Painting on Glass, Embroidering in a new way, Turkey work for Handkerchiefs two new ways." Girls learned to make hone lace with pillows and bobbins, and the goodwives met under instruction of a teacher who had paid a guinea a lesson to learn the art from Flemish refugees an London. All this was in Colonial. days; but needlework was kept up as a fine art until the invention of the sewing-machine.

O IS FOR OVEN. The brick oven was at one side of the fireplace and was connected with the kitchen chimney. An iron door opened to the floor of the oven, which was usually about three feet from the hearth. Over the oven, to serve as a covering when it was not in use, was a wooden door, matching the casings. In heating the oven the wood was allowed to burn for about two hours. Then the hot coals were drawn in a pile toward the front of the oven, and shovelled out into a recepta.de for carrying them away. The ashes were brushed from the oven floor by means of a turkey-wing, and the food was placed in for baking on a wooden shovel called a "peel." Brick ovens were used for the great weekly bakings so necessary in the large families of olden times. On one corner of the fireplace stood the Dutch oven. Coals were beneath it and on its rimmed cover. Later, meats were roasted in the tin kitchen in front of the huge open fire.

P Is FOR PRINTS. The highly colored prints, signed with the names of N. Currier and Currier and Ives are not to be correctly classed as "antiques." They are interesting because they picture the expansion of industrial life, the scenery, and the famous men of the period between 184o and 1870. They were printed to sell for fifty cents apiece and were quite as popular as the picture post-card of the present day. When their vogue waned, they were burned or thrown away. Now attics are ransacked to find them. Sport-prints and hunting-scenes, views of New York, the big fire of Chicago, ships, the railroad, scenes in the south, the west, views of the White Mountains; typical :beauties, as The Southern Beauty, The Northern Beauty, and The Royal Beauty; a series of children's pictures, including Little Brother and Sister, Little Jenny, and Little Kitty; the generals of the Civil War, and crude portraits of bandits and western outlaws are among the many subjects which were reproduced by the enterprising lithographers.

Q IS FOR QUILTED BED-HANGINGS, made by the housewives of colonial days to keep out the draughts in the poorly heated houses. We are told that the art of quilting originated in China. Designs for quilting were handed down from one generation to another. Many quilting patterns were known to early American needlewomen. Straight line patterns included the single diagonal, double and triple diagonal, single-line diamond, hanging diamond, inch squares, broken plaids, and concentric squares. The shell pattern was liked in the seventeenth century. Curved line designs included the fan, the ocean wave, the twisted rope, and the plate pattern or True Lover's Knot. Single feather, double feather, pineapples, tulips, and baskets of flowers have all appeared in the art of quilting.

R IS FOR RUGS. Have you ever pictured a remote New England farmhouse in winter? Before the days of radios and automobiles? Yes, even before the party-line telephones, popular-priced magazines, and the first ancestors of the graphophone! Seventy-five years ago, in isolated districts, people were thrown upon their own resources for recreation and amusement. And, so, in the midst of weaving, spinning, dyeing, sewing, pickling, preserving, and drying pumpkins and apples, the art of hooked rug-making was carried on! Some of tbcse old-time rugs have been carefully preserved, but far more were sold at country auctions, worn out, or given away to unappreciative relatives. Some were rarely beautiful, both in design and workmanship, and were hooked with such skill that they had the texture of velvet. Often the floral patterns followed the lines and colorings of the flowers from the designers' own gardens, bright and fragrant with "laylocks," "heartsease," roses, lilies, marigolds, peonies, columbines, grass-pinks, and sweet-williams. Sometimes the pictures of gentle cows, playful puppies, innocent-eyed kittens, chickens, ducks, parrots, and peacocks decorated prized rugs. Conventional designs were liked and bricks and plates often furnished patterns. Then, there were rugs "marked-off" in diamonds, squares, and shells, as well as the types known as "hit-or-miss" and rainbows. Landscape rugs pictured a bit of woodland or a house or perhaps the ships and waves of the New England seacoast.

S IS FOR SILHOUETTES. In 1759 when Etienne de Silhouette, the Minister of Finance, held the purse strings of France in a parsimonious hand, craftsworkers and artists, with paper and scissors, developed the cutting of black profiles, which took its place as a distinctive pictorial art. Thus silhouettes became fashionable, and the enthusiasm evinced in making them spread over the Continent and England and the idea was carried to America. Cutting silhouettes became a pastime as well as a craft, and it is recorded that Nellie Custis cut likenesses of the members of the household at Mt. Vernon. These quaint black pictures, some of them cut, possibly, by the exiled Edouard of the era of Napoleon, or by the American silhouettist, William Henry Brown, are treasured heirlooms in certain old families. Not only profiles of face, but full-length figures, as well, active in the pastimes of the day, as playing chess, reading around the family center table, and children rolling hoops, were shown in these charming vignettes.

T IS FOR THE TIP-TOP TABLE copied from Chippendale models by American craftsmen. It was of the tripod form, and its cabriole legs were usually carved and ended in the ball and claw feet. Plain legs were used also, especially in the American forms of this popular table. Sometimes the table boasted a round top, at others, the rectangular top was seen. Both were hinged in order that they might be turned up when not in use. Some tops were plain; others were sunken and surrounded by a moulded rim. The well-known pie-crust table was of this type. About 1720 mahogany came into use in England, and was the wood most favored by Chippendale. The finest of the tip-top tables, both in England and in Philadelphia where a group of cabinet makers adapted the Chippendale models, were made of the fine-grained wood.

U IS FOR URN, a decoration favored by the Brothers Adam. Robert and James Adam adapted the classic and Italian type of decorative forms to the designs of fine cabinet-work. The vase and urn both appeared in classic ornamentation. They were applied to many fine pieces of English furniture which were imported to America.

V IS FOR VICTORIAN PILLOW-TOPS, fashioned by slender fingers skilled in the art of weaving hair wreaths, making wax flowers, decorating boxes with shell and rice work, crocheting antimacassars, pulling wool through canvas for bags and slippers, and embroidering round collars for the full-skirted gowns worn by women of the Victorian Period. Green, red, brown, lavender, black, and light gray four-ply Germantown worsted, and cross-stitch canvas were used for one pillow which was placed primly on a haircloth sofa in the "parlor." Another, worked in 1825, was hexagonal in shape, and the pattern was composed of hexagons, joined in small squares.

W IS FOR WINDSOR CHAIR. Although the Windsor chair originated in England, it reached the height of its popularity in America. It was practical and comfortable and was used in all kinds of homes. American W'indsors were not manufactured of expensive woods but were usually constructed of ash, hickory, beech, and pine. In many cases, the legs were made of oak. Seats were shaped like saddles and legs were splayed to give strength. Altogether, the Windsor chair was built to last. Among the various types were the fan-backs, the low-backs, the hoop-back side and arm chairs, and the writing Windsor chair.

X Is FOR X-SHAPED CHAIRS made in early Jacobean days, and, truly, I do not know another thing about them.

Y IS FOR YARMOUTH POTTERY made toward the end of the eighteenth century by a potter named Absolon. The pieces were decorated by views of Yarmouth, marine subjects, arms, and inscriptions. Some pieces were brought to America.

Z is ZEST with which we delve into the past and for zFaL with which we try to interest others in the home life and arts of our forefathers; for, as Cowper says,

"No wild enthusiast ever yet could rest 'Till half mankind were like himself possessed."


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