Vintage Fashion: Neckties

It all started with one tie. One taste of the forbidden or the rare or the exceptional and then, our viewpoint changes. The ordinary seems  . . . well,  just ordinary.  The first necktie belonged to my father. He had a collection of old ties and I loved them! Silky and so funky. I inherited them, then gave them away – except for one. Olive green with orange paisley . . . it seemed to add a dash of pizzazz to whatever I wore. It is over four inches wide, crafted from silk by Hy Value Cravats.

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Two Neckties, Two Generations

 

I have another tie in my collection that is from the sixties – very narrow and a lot more conservative than my father’s tie! This tie is an all silk tie manufactured in England but has the retailer’s mark also, The Squire Ltd. in Columbus Ohio. This tie belonged to my sweetie – it is very worn with frayed threads! He was not a clothes hound – in fact he prided himself on a closet that was almost empty. A man of simple needs with one tie that he wore – a lot. The two ties are a study in contrasts – nope, as much as I love him, I did not marry my Dad.

Vintage Fashion Earrings

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Lately a lot of earrings! They are so interesting that they deserve their own little vignette.

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From Hand Painted Porcelain to Mod Sixties!

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Celluloid from the 1930s on a silver filigree back.

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Fifties Large Plastic Disc Clip Ons!

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Everyone needs one lipstick holder with a flip open mirror. Right?

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Vintage Fashion is fun – even if you don’t wear jewelry. It is a fantasy land just as Diana…

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The Gift: The Story of The Homer Laughlin Plate

Almost, thirty years ago, a package arrived postmarked from the Homer Laughlin Company, Newell, West Virginia quite unexpectedly. A few days before, we were at the International Housewares Exhibition in Chicago. It was a big deal, a really big deal. Now, as then, it was the biggest trade show in the country at one of the biggest exhibition halls in the world under one roof.  McCormick Place, a modernist structure designed by Gene Simmons, a student of Mies van der Rohe, is located on Lake Michigan. Sited as it was, the rebuilt McCormick place celebrated space perched on the coast with an unending vista of water and sky – the building occupies acres of land yet does not obstruct the view like a skyscraper while the interior remains open. Stepping into that place was a tad intimidating for a fledgling very small business owner but, how else to know what is happening?

Deep Rim and Classic Detailing of The Homer Laughlin Plate
Deep Rim and Classic Detailing of The Homer Laughlin Plate

One of the hundreds of exhibitors was The Homer Laughlin Company represented by a Mr. Wells. He was very generous with his time; he welcomed us into the booth heartily. As we spoke, the conversation turned to patterns. The new line of colorful Fiesta Ware was popular, but I gravitated toward a pure white plate with a deep rim, scalloped edge and classic ornamentation. It was very modern looking – but not. The plate was a part of the Best China Line i.e.. Restaurant Ware.

Best China by Homer Laughlin is Restaurant Ware
Best China by Homer Laughlin is Restaurant Ware

He asked, “Why would you want this plate?” Later informing me that he could not sell this plate to a retail outlet unless we could order large quantities. His warmth and kindliness made the bad news sound not so bad. Three days later, the plate arrived.

For many years, this plate was part of the lore of our family. . . the story was,  “a manager from Homer Laughlin sent this plate.” The plate packed a powerful message; generosity and kindness. This story remains one of the most important business lessons that I have learned. Over the years, the pleasant memory inspired a collection of white restaurant ware. It has been a sentimental journey from that memorable beginning.

Years later, I learned that the history of the Homer Laughlin Company was integral to understanding the history of Ohio River Pottery. As it turned out, Mr. Wells was not merely a manager or salesperson. His family owned and operated the Homer Laughlin Company.  The Wells family led an expansion of the pottery. By the end of the nineteenth century, five kilns produced white ware instead of the much maligned yellow ware produced throughout the nineteenth century.

Laced thought out early accounts of the Pottery Industry, there are comments made by workers, observers and reporters. Most commentators noticed the mutual respect that owners shared with workers – mutual respect become one of the core values for the Homer Laughlin Company and the other potteries in East Liverpool. So, it was no accident that Mr. Wells sent the plate that he could sell.

The Gift: The Plate from The Homer Laughlin Company (ca. 1985)
The Gift: The Plate from The Homer Laughlin Company (ca. 1985)

 

Lust and Vintage Linen

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Damask For Dinner

I am not sure how it happened. It all started in Missouri almost forty years ago . . . going to auctions and finding beautiful linens . . . looking for linens that were not polyester . . . finding vintage linens so soft, so detailed  . . . handmade by women who cared about the little things in life. It is not that they were not busy – wash dishes, wash clothing, make dinner without machines. Taking tatting thread and a hook and weaving lace trim for a hand towel; taking a needle and embroidering a name. Small details. Setting a table with a tablecloth or setting the table for lunch in the field or at the table with a luncheon cloth made with colorful mid-century prints. Those were different times and days. . .

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I would cringe at the idea of paper napkins or even paper towels at the table. Not because of any reasons other than, my admiration for the women that took the time to set a table, iron linen and even sew and embellish table linens and bed linens; and my preference for soft linen around a child’s shoulders at dinner time or in my hand. IMG_6286This apron was found in a trunk that was filled with the presents presented to a teacher over many years in our small rural community. The fabric is elegant, much like the cotton used for shirt making when shirts were made by shirt makers!

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Detail of Lace

My preference for linen napkins is to use them without ironing – they are so soft and luxurious! Vintage fabric is durable if cared for properly. In my opinion, it is best to wash but not starch especially when stored; lightly starch for use if you choose; never store unless washed since the tiniest bit of an edible will attract nasty little critters (bugs/mice). If storing for a long time, it is best to wrap them. Recently, I found a few old nightgowns but one of them was covered with dust from an attic. I very carefully hand-washed the gown. The fabric was so deteriorated that it shredded in my hand. So sad. The lace used however is stable and so beautiful – it is perfect for a project! Just as they did so long ago, we have now adopted the habit of recycling, reusing and up cycling these fragments of the past . . . not only as patchwork quilts but in so many ways.

 

I carried my new finds home. For many years, there were boxes of linens and no one seemed to want them not even my children! The collection soon outgrew the linen closet, chests of drawers and the dining room. Now, I have the pleasure of passing my finds on! And now, my children, older and wiser, appreciate my collection! Thankfully, many collectors now realize their value especially as those days become a more distant past.

Hopefully, they will once again be well loved and passed on . . .

Ephemera

Ephemera is one of those words that when spoken sounds like its meaning . . . a soft, wispy sound like whisper and rhymes with chimera. Ephemera are things that last only for a brief moment in time . . . like whispers and chimera, ephemera lack real substance but not necessarily importance in everyday life. You might even say that we take some of the most important things in life for granted.

The bits and pieces of ephemera that we come across can really stir memories. Monogrammed paper napkins carefully folded then placed in a book . . . garters thrown at weddings . . . matchbooks from a restaurant . . . cards, letters and postcards. Fragments of life . . .

So when I first spotted this A&W root beer container . . . IMG_4536I was so surprised! I had forgotten about these containers (waxed cardboard) in the shape of a bullhorn. The root beer was so damned good; hate to admit it but when I was pregnant with my first child, I craved root beer from A&W at all hours of the day and night!

Another example of ephemera are the round cardboard inserts that were used to seal glass milk bottles. I love the reminder to wash the bottles before returning. Reminds me once again that reusing is the predecessor of recycling. Hard to believe  . . .  but those were simpler times long before a madman decided to tamper with the supply of Tylenol.  Glass milk bottles belong to the time when we had public trust . . . like trusting the milk man to keep the milk cold as he delivered it to our homes every morning.

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Even though the milk bottle is not ephemera by definition,  I found a very special milk bottle  from Chicago Heights, Illinois – and so am I.

As the collection of ephemera grew, I realized that I needed a good way to pass it on without damaging papers sometimes fragile but always precious and quite often rare. I am now packaging many of these papers in a way that makes sense to me and I hope, makes sense to you. IMG_4597There are vintage wrapping papers for weddings and baby showers, rain bonnets for showers, postcards, old coins, buttons, illustrations among other bits and pieces that fit together in ways that seem to bring them to life. I imagine some of you might use them for scrapbooks or wrapping presents or in a collection of some sort or other. I have found them useful – as they were yesterday. And beautiful, each in their own way.

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Would love to hear your ideas . . . and you might want to take a peek on Etsy or see them in the store at Eclipse when we are back from summer break.

 

 

 

Pottery made in the Ohio Valley

I like restaurant china because it is built to last and tough to break in everyday use. Hitting it with a hammer will break it. But it is tough and durable. But I did not know anything about the history much less the economy of the along the broad swath of the Ohio River. For example, East Liverpool, Ohio was crowned as the Center of Pottery. I did not even know there was a place called East Liverpool!

The first pottery in Ohio was established in the mid-eighteenth century according to The Museum of Ceramics in East Liverpool, Ohio. Fifty years later there were thousands of potteries – large and small supplying the country with wares for their homes. You have certainly used Ohio River Pottery in a restaurant – eg. Hall, Laughlin, Syracuse – many believe that the best restaurant dinnerware is still made along the Ohio River!

Locally, it was bricks. In 1920, the Brick and Clay Record informed their readers that production at the two plants in Nelsonville and the one plant in Logan were busy fulfilling orders placed from the previous year. Bricks made in Nelsonville won accolades at the World’s Fair and what is more, are highly regarded to this day.  But still   many believed that the best ceramics were produced in Europe.

Local potteries fought to win the American market. This backstamp from Homer Laughlin illustrated their business plan – the American Eagle has launched an attack on the English Lion.

Homer Laughlin Backstamp
Homer Laughlin Backstamp

Patterns from all of these potteries abound. The colors and images reflect the taste and style of previous generations – and sometimes politics. The durability of “restaurant china” is truly amazing – you can almost throw it. And it all looks great no matter the pattern or the mix.