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Change of Address!


O Yez! O Yez! O Yez!

towncrier3as

Public notice is hereby given that this web log, formerly known as ‘Not Yet Published’, has, as of this date, Tuesday, the 15th of December, in this year of our lord, 2015, moved to more comfortable and salubrious surroundings, and that all new and future postings may be found at its new address!

Henceforth, this address shall remain dormant, vacant, unused and abandoned, forthwith! 

This blog, its contents, and its blogger, may be be found, and have reestablished themselves, at ThroughoutHistory, where all persons with a thirst for knowledge of history, antiquities and curiosities of times past, may satisfy their deep-rooted curiosity and hunger!

Thank you, loyal readers and followers of this publication, and I shall see thee anon, at our new establishment of knowledge and intrigue!

 

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Antique Gentleman’s Writing Slope. Ca. 1880.


Ever since I was a child, almost without exception, one type of antique has drawn my attention more than any other: Writing boxes. Also called writing slopes, lap-desks, box-desks and countless other things. This is the latest one which I found at the local flea market:

It’s not too shabby, but it ain’t fantastic, either. But I do like it, nonetheless! What we have here is a beautiful late Victorian (ca. 1880) gentleman’s writing slope. The plaque on top underneath the carry-handle says:

“~S. Neaverson, 1886.~”

Although this gives us a glimpse into the box’s history, there’s no way of knowing if 1886 is the date of manufacture (which it almost certainly isn’t); it’s merely the date of purchase.

Most boxes of this kind that I find are in HORRENDOUS condition with wildly inflated prices! On the same day I picked this up, I saw another one on sale for $400 and in nowhere near as nice a condition as this…some people and their money…

The deciding factor in me buying this box was the fact that it had its original glass inkwell still intact. Often, these glass inkwells go missing and you never find another one. People pinch them and reuse them and you never see them again. Keys going missing is a minor inconvenience. A missing inkwell is a pain in the ass.

I am rather proud to say that I cut and filed my own key for the lock in this box. This box had a warded lever-lock, which is a bit more complicated than a straightforward lever key, but I got there in the end.

A warded lever lock is one which has a sprung lever for the key-bit to press against, to push the bolt to lock or unlock. Filing a key for this is a matter of getting the key-bit to the right dimensions and then throwing the bolt. Easy enough if it’s a one-lever lock. If it’s a two-lever or three, four, or even five, or even EIGHT lever lock, then the challenges mount, as you have to cut new grooves into the key for each lever. As this box had a simple one-lever lock, it was easy.

But this box also had a warded lock. This means that there’s an obstruction inside the lock (a ward) which the key has to bypass BEFORE it gets to the lever. It’s an added security feature. Again, wards can be as complicated or as simple as you like. In this case, I was lucky. It was a one-ward, one-lever lock. So all I had to do was file one bit to the right size, and then cut in a groove at the head of the key, so that there was a gap to bypass the ward.

It took a couple of tries and I got very sore fingers afterwards, but I got there in the end!

The box fitted out with original and period accessories. The unsharpened, unused pencil reads:

“H.B. J.H. Jackson’s Drawing Pencil. Prize Medal. London & Paris”.

Underneath that is an ivory page-turner. An underneath that is a sterling silver dip-pen marked: “S. Mordan & Co. Sterling”.

The box, fully opened. There’s a lot of storage-space underneath the two writing-leaves which are both in excellent condition.

The hand-filed key which I cut for the lock. The gap underneath the barrel is to bypass the ward in the ‘warded’ part of the ‘warded-lever’ lock. And the square bit underneath the gap is to operate the spring-lever in the lever-part of the ‘warded-lever’ lock.

I think it’s the first key I’ve cut for a lock with more than one complication to overcome in opening it!

Still, for something that’s 130-odd years old, it’s nice to see this box in such great condition. Once I get a brass keyhole-plate to neaten up the front of the box, it’ll all be complete.

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2015 in Antiques

 

Antique Ivory Straight Razor


All things come to those who wait…in this case, I’ve waited about five years!

This lovely antique straight razor was mine for just a few bucks at the local flea-market last month. It’s from about 1880, and boasts original ivory scales!

I’ve always wanted a razor with ivory scales. They’re slim, cool and beautiful, and they have a lightness in the hand that celluloid doesn’t have. Plus, there’s the history factor behind it.

This particular razor was retailed by a barber in Colac, country Victoria back in about 1885, which is about the time I date this one, based on newspaper advertisements I’ve found. It was manufactured in Germany and shipped to Australia. The blade is carbon steel and is full-hollow in the grind. An excellent shaver and a wonderful addition to my collection.

Is it special? Not particularly. There must be thousands of antique ivory razors out there, but it is nice to finally have my own little piece which I can use and appreciate.

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2015 in Antiques

 

Miniature French Opera Glasses – 6th Anniversary Post! Whoo Hoo!!


Studying history is a lot more than looking at books and watching documentaries and reading about stuff online written by something else – it’s about getting in contact with the everyday relics and remnants of the past which have survived from bygone eras, and seeing with our own eyes what the past was like. Personal possessions tell us so much about how life has changed, how style and design and fashion and personal tastes have all morphed and moved over time, and with the times.

A few days ago I stumbled across this curious item at the local weekend flea market. It was so whimsical and cute, I just had to make it the focus of my 6th anniversary post!

Yep, six years ago, at the end of October, 2009, I started this blog. And in honour of that momentous occasion, of which nobody reading this is likely to be aware…I present this!

And ain’t they just the cutest things ever!? Huh? Huh?? HUH!!??

So easily overlooked, I found these in a display-case of bits and pieces at the flea-market last weekend. They are possibly the world’s tiniest pair of antique opera glasses!! And they are just adorable!

What we have here is a pair of early 20th century (Ca. 1910) miniature opera glasses!

Made by Colmont of Paris, they’re marked with “Parisette” and “-x-” on the bridge, and a tiny letter ‘C’ inside a six-point Jewish star (presumably the company logo).

Are these opera glasses rare? Perhaps a bit, but not excessively so. I know that other companies in France made tiny compact opera glasses, but from what I’ve seen, very few as small as these. They measure just 3.25in across, and 1.5in high, when fully extended! The eyepieces are the size of pennies! If that doesn’t make them the world’s smallest, I dunno what does!

Here they are, compared with my other opera-glasses. Up the back is a pair of Jockey Club de Paris racing binoculars, from about 1910. Next along is a pair of nondescript brass opera glasses, probably from the turn of the century. The next pair with the blue guilloche enameled sides was made in Paris around 1880. Same with the next pair.

The middle Mother-of-Pearl set were made by Le Maire, and date to 1885 (the date is engraved on the bridge). The lorgnette opera glasses (with the folding telescope handle) are from around the same date, and were made by Iris, another famous French optician. The final and smallest pair, the Colmont set are next to them. As you can see – the size of these, even next to the next largest, is just minuscule!

Opera glasses of this style date from the turn of the century, from what my research tells me, from about 1900-1920. My research hasn’t brought up any dates more specific than that. I have read some speculation that they’re this small because they’re children’s binoculars, but I haven’t seen this claim made anywhere but on one website, so their true age and reason for their size remains a mystery. I suspect that it’s nothing more fantastic than being miniature opera glasses designed to be ultra-compact and easily stored/concealed in a lady’s clutch-purse or something, when she went out for a night’s jollification at the local theater, but they are wonderfully cute.

The glasses are made of gilt brass (brass with gold fused onto it using a healthy and safe process involving the vapourising of mercury…yum!!) and leather, which has been wrapped around the barrels. They’re certainly the smallest, and possibly the most interesting piece in my modest collection! I just had to have them, and I had to share them!

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2015 in Antiques

 

The Return of the Indian Star!


This took a bit longer than I expected, but here’s the result:

Is it perfect? No.

Does that matter? Probably not.

The machine wasn’t in perfect condition when I got it anyway, so it was never going to look as good as brand new. But at least here it looks complete again, with a front panel back on and the missing pieces replaced. All in all, a very pleasing result.

And there you have it. A 1945 Singer 15 ‘Indian Star’ back to working order and saved from almost certain destruction.

Here is the interior of the new base:

And here is the new bed-support, to stop the damn thing from SAGGING whenever it sits down (which believe me is more important than you might think – it prevents you from opening the slide-plate!):

This is what the same machine looked like about two weeks ago, when I got it home:

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2015 in Antique & Vintage Sewing Machines

 

Back from the Dead: The Rise of the Indian Star!


The Indian Star! It sounds so regal. Like some great diamond hacked out of the dusty earth of the Subcontinent, back in the days of the Imperial Raj, which became the object of desire sought after by thieves and bandits and which played a key role in some dastardly Sherlock Holmes adventure!

Ahem.

THIS is the Indian Star:


It comes from this rather battered-looking Singer 15 sewing machine. My latest sewing-machine purchase:


At just $30 at the local flea-market, this thing was in a SORRY state when I got it. This is what the machine looked like after several hours of hard scrubbing and scouring to remove 70 years’ worth of grime!

That’s right. This machine dates all the way back to 1945! And for a machine that was missing its whole front panel, it was in pretty decent shape, apart from needing a damn good clean and a bit of rebuilding work. It came with its lid as well. Once I get the time I’ll rebuild the front panel and put in a new base for it (the base is absolutely dead), to keep this thing in one piece. It’s barely holding on as it is.

I replaced one hinge, the slide-plate and fixed a few other things, mostly by sanding or scrubbing off rust and grime.

This Singer is a ‘full-size’ machine. That means that it could fit into a treadle-base if I wanted it to. It’s an absolute beast and weighs a ton! It’s hard to believe that something like this (which weighs about 35lbs!) was ever considered “portable” back in the 1940s!!

Will be posting updates as this progresses…

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2015 in Antique & Vintage Sewing Machines

 

Two-in-One is Much More Fun! Sterling Silver Slide-Action Pencil-Pen Combo.


Sometimes you find the most unassuming things when you go into antiques shops.

While out recently I discovered a new place, and I just had to go in and have a look around. Inside a cabinet of odds and ends – chains and pens and knives and nick-nacks, I found this:

I was umming-and-aahhing over it, checking it out, admiring the beautiful engraving, when I noticed a panel on it which read: “S. Mordan & Co”.

Be still, my beating heart.

As you may recall from my last post on a similar find, the name S. Mordan (that’s Sampson Mordan) is pretty big in the history of both silver, and writing instruments!

I was so thunderstruck to find another item made by such a famous company, and within a year of finding the last one! And it was half the price of the previous purchase. The shopkeeper was generous and chipped the price down a bit more, and I trotted out the door with an 1874 sterling silver slide-action pen-pencil combination!

Granted, not in perfect condition (hey it’s 140 years old, give it a break!), but all the major components functioned, and that’s all I cared about!

It is hallmarked [SM] (Sampson Mordan), sterling silver (Lion Passant) for London (Leopard’s Head), in 1874 (t) and had the duty mark stamped on it of Queen Victoria (Monarch’s Head).

So what is this thing?

Well, it’s got two slides on it, with two slide-knobs sticking out the side of the barrel. Pushing one slide-knob draws out the pencil:


And pushing the other slide-knob draws out the pen:

This being 1874, what we have here is a dip-pen, not a fountain pen. The pen-point could be removed if it wore out or was damaged, and a new nib would replace it.

Of course, you could draw out the pen and pencil together…

Although you wouldn’t be able to do much writing with it!

It’s a mark of the quality of Mordan silver that this piece was purchased as a Christmas present, which I think is incredibly sweet. I know this because it’s been engraved on the cartouche:

It says: “F.E. EASTEN. Christmas, 1874”

I haven’t managed to find out who Mr. or Mrs. or Miss Easten was (although I assume this was bought for a guy), but obviously, someone thought enough of them to buy what was surely not a cheap present back in the 1870s!

Once I got it home, I ran it through the ultrasonic cleaner with hot water and soap, and just watched all the gunk and grease and grime inside this thing come oozing out like oil! You wouldn’t think something so tiny (about 3.5in. long, closed up) would expel so much gunk when it was washed, but the water was the colour of weak tea by the time I’d finished! But, it’s polished and clean now, and it’s in my writing instrument collection, safe and sound!

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2015 in Antiques

 
 
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