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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Farmhouse Antiques



PICTURESQUE bits of farmhouse furnishings have been resurrected by the antique hunter and promoted from their former humble uses. They are now helping to create in country houses, summer cabins and remodeled fishermen's cottages an aspect of homely simplicity.

From the kitchen, the barn and the dairy have come wagon seats and stools, spoon racks and chopping bowls, flails and butter churns-all to be given a dignity that would have astonished their hard-headed farmer owners of early America. Almost all of these accessories are interesting; many are quaint, and in a few one may discern a kind of naive beauty.

Among the most popular of these resurrected furnishings are old-time wagon seats. They were made to fit into the farm wagon when that vehicle was used as a carry-all to take the family to church on Sunday or to town on a holiday. With its rush seat, slat back and arms, the wagon seat has the appearance of two chairs placed side by side. Lower than any chair, and with a low back, a wagon seat really follows in its repetition of chair forms the style of the eighteenth century settees, which, in mahogany, graced Colonial parlors. A distinguishing feature of the wagon seats is the flattened outer side of the md legs-so planned in order to fit snugly into the wagon. Their short legs make them cozy fireside seats.

Decorative art has found glamour, too, in the benches that once upon a time, outside the back door of a farmhouse, held shining milk pails set to dry. Most of these benches were simple bits of carpentry, but some had a curved notch cut into the supporting ends, where they rest on the floor. Benches from the little red schoolhouse of a century ago and ancient schoolmasters' desks are other bits of furniture summoned from the past by the sentiment of moderns.

From the barn have come flails and wooden shovels; pails, either round or oval, their handles fashioned with the aid of the projecting ends of the staves. Even pieces of hardware from barns-hinges hammered out by the village blacksmith in curious branching forms and equally picturesque hasps and hinges for wagon tool boxes-are now cherished for their decorative charm. Milking stools are snapped up, prized for their quaintness; these are so scarce that English specimens have been imported.

Spinning wheels are not as popular as they were years ago, and butter churns have to some extent taken their place as fireside ornaments. A wooden churn sometimes serves as a wood box, although a big iron cooking pot or a small sea chest may better serve that purpose. Chests with wooden or rope handles, reinforced around the lower edge, perhaps, by a heavy strip of wood, are often given the generic term of sea chest; not all of them, however, have actually been to sea. Carpenters needed such furniture to keep their tools in, and many an economical housewife early in the nineteenth century had the village carpenter make her a box with a hinged lid for the storing away of household linens and winter clothes. A chest of this sort, with the dull hue of ancient paint, or the mellow tint of aged wood, is found useful today--decked out perhaps with turkey red cushions-as a storage place. The woodenware of the kitchen, of which in Colonial times there must have been a great deal in every household, may yet be found in a variety of forms. Made in many cases by local workmen or by the handy householder himself, with his own idea of size and shape, these chopping bowls and platters, small dishes and mortars for crushing herbs and grain, now serve as decorations on a fireplace shelf.

Spoon racks were another home accessory. On these spoons of pewter were hung. Later made ones often had a box below for knives. Some are found with the wood decorated with simply carved designs. Wallace Nutting places this bit of household gear mainly in the eighteenth century. Of course against many of these antiques of humble origin the accusation may truthfully be made that they are not beautiful. Their charm comes from their suggestion of early pioneer life of America when the largest part of the population lived in farm homes and most of these simple pieces of household equipment were made by the farmers' own hands during the long winter evenings.



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