true detective: how did we find the history behind the inventory?


Brunswick Bar

The first clue we found to learn the story behind this bar was the logo of the company that manufactured: The Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company. We found that the Brunswick Company is still in existence, but has evolved into a major corporation producing a wide range of recreational products. Looking through the history of the company, the recreational product manufacturing began solely with billiard tables, and other wood furnishings, including this wooden bar. The company’s bars were so popular, they were shipped around the world. The hardware on the bar suggested that it might have been made in the 1960s, but evidence from reading the history of the company proved otherwise. When prohibition was passed, the company no longer made the wooden bars, and instead worked on the production of wooden phonograph cabinets, which means this wooden bar is a genuine antique from before 1922!

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Iron Fence

Many customers ask us where we find all of our products, and the answer is, from many, many different sources. People may call us, send us pictures of their antiques, or stop by with pieces to sell. We might be driving on our way to a salvage and find something set out by the side of the road that we stop to pick up. We have contacts all over the nation, so that we can find antiques from many locations. This iron fence that we came across may be over 100 years old! One thing that is special about this older fencing is that it will probably be a lot sturdier, and last longer, than your modern day fencing because of the material used to make the fence. Cast iron has excellent resistance to deformation and wear resistance, and will withstand the test of time.

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Bishop's Altar Bench

When these benches first came to us, it was clear that these had been originally produced for ecclesiastical use, but how were they used exactly? Where in the church did they belong? Why was the center seat larger? We quickly deduced that the center seat of the bench must have been for a clergy with a higher level of authority than the others that were to be seated beside him. After some research, we found that the name for this bench is called a sedilia. Some older examples of sedilias were often set back into the main wall of the church. These were placed at the front of the church, so that the front altar could be accessible to the users of the bench. These included the priest, who sat in the middle and largest chair, the deacon, and the sub-decon. The seats were covered with green on ordinary days of the liturgical calendar, and purple during the holiday seasons. 

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Iron Coat Rack

When we first obtained this coat rack, we could tell it was pretty unique. We only had a small inscribed patent date to go off of. Luckily, this date led us to the original patent information, with drawings and a history of the design. On December 6th, 1904, J.H. Petroskey of the American Metallic Furniture Company of Detroit, Michigan, patented his new design for a coat rack. In the patent specification form, he detailed that his invention was to “provide a rack that shall be simple and easy to construct, easily taken apart and assembled, and that will be strong and rigid after being set up.” As Petroskey indicated, the ease of using this piece came from its ability to be disassembled and reassembled, providing a flexibility that couldn’t have been imagined prior to this. During a time period in which metallic furniture pieces were big, bulky, or all in one piece, this gave a lightweight solution, while still having artistic detail in the functional hooks of the rack, and even includes claw foot feet. This was the beginning of an era where to stay competitive, mechanization to create products easily and quickly was necessary. As the standards of living increased, so did the supply and demand of products.


General Electric Co. Light

Knowing what kind of power light fixtures run on, gas or electricity, will provide a good clue about when they were made. Gas lights were most commonly used between 1820-1920, gas/electric combinations between 1880-1920, and electric starting in 1880. The General Electric Company was a pioneer of electric lighting technology, having been formed through the merger of Thomas Edison's Edison General Electric Company and the Thomson-Houston Electric Company. By 1890, the first incandescent lamp factory was up and running. Because electricity was so new, and many people knew little about it, many people still kept their gas lights, or had gas and electric combination lighting. It wasn’t until 1920 that enough awareness had been raised about the possibilities of fires caused by gas lighting, and the safety of electric lights in comparison, that almost all gas lighting had been removed, and discontinued from being manufactured. Some residents who had been born right after this change in the 1920s, and only ever used electric lights, probably lived in houses that had at one time had lighting fixtures that had all been powered by gas.


Mitchell Vance Light

To see what a light fixture was like when it was originally manufactured and sold, we look through catalogs or journals that the companies produced for ordering from home. The catalogs include drawings or pictures of the original products, and other detailed product information that we compare to the product. Some journals are filled with articles boasting of the artistic beauty and class of their products. In their publications, the Mitchel Vance Company included drawings of their finest lamps that look more like art than lighting, with grand, lavish detail and ornamentation. While this pendant light may appear simple, it includes Greek revival style geometric fret, as well as being shaped like an urn, which was a popular shape used in Italianate design. The Mitchel Vance Company took their knowledge of style and sophistication very seriously. 


Franklin Pottery Ceramic Flush mount

Sometimes pieces remain a mystery. This Ceramic lighting mount is only marked “Franklin Pottery 505” on the interior edge. From there, we tried to find a Franklin Pottery company. Our search did grant us one such company that was only in existence for two years between 1880 and 1882. Apparently the company performed so poorly, they made the list of Bradstreet’s Journal of Mercantile Failures and Trade Embarrassments. While this makes pieces made by the Franklin Pottery Company of Franklin, Ohio very rare, this flush light mount has to have been made much later in history, based on its aesthetic characteristics, and its use of an electric bulb. We would guess it was made in the 1930s. The mystery continues…


Two-Candle Moe Bridges Sconce

In their publications, the Moe Bridges Company stated that “lovers of the beautiful will quickly appreciate the wonderful effect these fixtures will have on the general decorative scheme. Not only are they beautiful in themselves, but because of the soft rich colors, they lend splendor to modest surroundings.” The Company knew how to get customers excited about furnishing their home, and appealed to the notion that luxury was a possibility for any homeowner. The catalog showed vignettes of spaces in the home with people sitting beside or under the light, enjoying activities and socializing. The product description on these types of sconces stated that “the vogue” towards these lights was becoming more pronounced. In all forms, these sconces showed a small flower set into the middle of the back plate, and curving scrolls of metal to provide a sophisticated look for the home.

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Mallory, Wheeler, &Co. Arabic Cast Bronze Door Hardware Set

The search for the story behind the rare design on this doorknob began by looking for images of doorknobs with the same design. We found that this design was produced by Mallory, Wheeler and Company. Through further research into their products and company, we came across a journal from the Doorknob Collector Convention of 1989 in Iowa City. The theme of the annual convention was Mallory, Wheeler and Company. One enthusiast had written a piece on the history of the company, indicating that Wheeler knob patterns were so distinctively designed, the designs themselves were patented by the company. One of the more well-known designs the company produced was this one, our doorknob with the Arabic character meaning “welcome.”