Antiques & Technology | Nature's Art Village

1650 Hartford-New London Turnpike, Montville, CT 06370

Nature's Art Village & The Dinosaur Place: 860-443-4367
The PAST & The Gateway Museum:860-437-3615

Antique Baby Carriages – 1848

Before strollers, parents were constantly inventing new ways to carry infant children around with them as they go about their day. Native Americans would hang cradle boards from a travois, a wooden sled-like frame, which was pulled by a horse when traveling. During the 1700’s, royal children were pulled along by a mini horse or goat in fancy shell-shaped baskets on wheels.

Charles Burton invented the “pram” in 1848 in New York City. The pram, short for perambulator, is a 4-wheeled cart with an infant’s bed that the baby is laid down in facing the person pushing as so to keep an eye on the baby’s face. The idea did not catch on, the public at the time felt it was not safe and too many pedestrians were being hit with carriages on the busy streets. Burton went back to England where he opened up factories to build his prams that became popular with royal families in Europe. Queen Victoria, the mother of nine children, ordered three. Prams, and other baby carriages, could be quite ornate with detailed decorations. Some applied the family crest to the side and many had fancy parasols and upholstery. These early carts and carriages were bulky and dangerous, resulting in accidents that injured and sometimes killed the young children.

It was ten years later in 1858 that two cousins, F. A & F.W. Whitney, opened the first American baby carriage factory in Leominster, Massachusetts. This area of town where the factory was located is now known as the F.A. Whitney Carriage Company Complex Historic District. The Whitney baby carriage motto was “Fashioned for Baby… in fashion for you”. Enhancements to the original carriage designs, such as brakes, better suspension and hoods that could be retracted, made baby carriages more popular over the next few years.

Antique prams and baby carriages are very stylish and still able to be used with care. They make great collector pieces as they often feature intricate designs. Wicker baby carriages sold for between $2.50 and $33.50 before World War II. Antique prams available today range in price depending on their age, condition and how ornate they are. A small plain pram runs about $75, antique wicker baby carriages go for $150 – $250, and more detailed carriages can cost far more. The PAST Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village has antique F.A. Whitney Company prams and baby carriages available, as well as other antique and vintage children’s accessories. Visit The PAST Antiques on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to see our full selection of antiques and vintage collectibles.

Check back next week for a new Throwback Thursday post.

Curling Irons – 1866

This week’s Throwback Thursday examines an interesting invention in hairstyle, the curling iron! In 1866, Hiram Maxim obtained the first patent for a hair curling iron. This, however, was not the first curling device. Throughout history as we see in the ancient carving and artwork left behind, ancient peoples cared about the style of their hair. It was no secret that you could apply heat to a lock of hair and shape it. The trick was not to overheat and scorch the hair. The first curlers were metal cylinders heated over an open fire and temperatures were nearly impossible to determine and control. Many of the historically popular hair styles involved curled hair. Babylonian men dyed their hair black and crimped and curled their beards with curling irons. Persian nobles were also known to curl their beards. Many cultures including the Egyptians used bronze curling tongs.

Curling irons were not only for use on a person’s actual hair; it soon became more customary and hygienic to shave one’s head and use fancy wigs and perukes. During the 17th & 18th centuries, hair dressing became a very popular profession though it typically was the styling of wigs. The wigs were worn by the wealthy elite and styled with curls using curling tongs. Marie Antoinette, Queen of France in 1770, did not like wigs and began the fashion of curling natural hair and supplementing with pre-curled hair pieces and readymade clips with attached curls.

Vintage curling irons were often referred to as curling tongs as they resemble a pair of tongs or needle nose pliers. The wooden handle of the curling iron remained a safe temperature to touch the metal end was heated and consisted of two pieces that hair could be clamped between or a single piece of metal that hair would wrap around. Crimping irons crimp hair in a saw-tooth-style iron.

Many 19th century local blacksmiths would make curling irons for the wealthy ladies in town. Antique cast iron curling irons stands attached to the gas unit on a stove. The inner metal rod would heat up and the curling tongs were laid across to heat.

Coal oil curling iron furnaces allowed women to use a curler in the privacy of their room. Coal oil was the first clean burning fuel. Brass box style coal oil furnaces were used in place of a stove. The advent of electricity brought electric curling devices. Modern curling irons are now made of a variety of materials including Teflon, titanium and other metals, ceramic, and even tourmaline.

Antique and vintage hairdressing tools are highly collectable. Rare curling tongs are worth several hundred dollars. Barbering accessories are diverse, interesting and are beautiful to display. The PAST Antique Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village has antique straight edge razors, shaving mugs and more available for sale. The Razor Sharp Barber Shop exhibit inside The Gateway Museum at Nature’s Art Village has an extensive collection of antique curling irons, barber shop and hairdressing tools and supplies. Visit The PAST Antiques on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to see our full selection of antiques and vintage collectibles.

Check back next week for a new Throwback Thursday post.

Bausch and Lomb Company – 1853

The Bausch and Lomb Company began in 1853 when German immigrant John Jacob Bausch opened a small optical goods store in Rochester, New York. He soon partnered with Henry Lomb, a friend who had loaned him money while starting out. The company began selling hard rubber eyeglass frames made from vulcanized rubber, a new revolutionary material at the time. In 1883, it was John Jacob Bausch’s son Edward Bausch that produced the first photographic lens. In 1912 John Jacob’s other son, William Bausch, became the first producer of optical quality glass in the United States. The company manufactured 40,000 pounds of glass over the next decade to be used during World War I for binoculars, rifle scopes, telescopes and searchlights.

In 1911, the Bausch and Lomb Company produced their version of a magic lantern called the balopticon, the precursor to the overhead projector. These easy-to-operate lanterns used 400 watt gas mazda lamps with an internal chamber insulated with asbestos. They used transparent slides and reflective light to project still images on screens or walls. The projectors became popular among teachers, professors, scientists and artists.

The name balopticon comes from combining “ba” from Bausch, “lo” from Lomb, “opti” from optical, “co” for company and adding an “n”. The 1927 model used a 600 watt lamp providing enough illumination to shine an image up to 12 feet in width on a surface. A spherical glass reflector was attached directly to the lamp bulb for greatest efficiency. A 1911 catalog advertises the balopticon for $22, and by 1927 the machines cost between $50 and $75.

The PAST Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village has a 1911 Bausch and Lomb balopticon double lens dissolving projector. Dual lenses were used at angles allowing projected images to overlap, as well as providing the ability to have images fade in and out. In addition, The Gateway Museum at Nature’s Art Village has an extensive collection of antique photography and projection equipment on display in the “Snap Shot Photography” exhibit. Visit The PAST Antiques on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to see our full selection of antiques and vintage collectibles.

Check back next week for a new Throwback Thursday post.

History of Ironing

Today’s Throwback Thursday is a “De-Wrinkle” in time! We’re discussing the history of ironing. It is quite difficult for modern historians to determine the exact date of when humankind began to press and smooth cloth; however, most sources point to China as being the forebearers of ironing as we know it today. The ancient Chinese used pans of iron or bronze to press stretched cloth, and this practice was quite common by the time of Late Antiquity (284-632 AD).

Moving forward a half-century, evidence of primitive ironing techniques started appearing in late Middle Age Europe. Blacksmiths began forging basic flat irons, generally made of iron or stone, with some eastern examples made of terracotta or soapstone. All of these irons were heated by an open fire or stove, and the laundress had to be wary of soot, embers, and temperature in order to avoid scorching of the cloth.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, flat or “sad” irons became typical in western households. These were manufactured in many different styles. The term “sad” is an Old English word for “solid”, distinguishing the heavier irons from the flat irons. To iron effectively, the laundress had to use two irons; one in use for pressing, and the other re-heating. In some laundries and larger homes a special stove was implemented, the sad iron stove, and was able to heat several irons at once by aligning the irons around the trunk of the stove in inserts.

These early irons had difficultly retaining heat, so the “charcoal” or “box” irons were invented in the 18th century, allowing the iron to stay warm longer. These “box” irons were essentially a lidded container, which would be filled with hot embers from a fire or brazier, and used air vents to let the smoke escape while continuing to smolder.

“Chimney” irons, where a small chimney was added on the side of the sad iron to keep the smoke away from the user’s face or clothes, were also produced in the 19th century. Throughout the 19th century, many clever inventors patented various styles and designs of the sad iron, including early crude steam irons with mounted water tanks. The most important aspect our generation must realize about laundering is the incredibly grueling task it was to iron before the advent of electricity. Fires had to be stoked and tended to all day by servants and it became customary in colonial America that Mondays were “wash-day” and Tuesdays “ironing-day”.

The Gateway Museum at Nature’s Art Village hosts a number of sad irons, flat irons, trivets, washing machines and devices, all housed in our Laundry Shop exhibit. The PAST Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village also features an assortment of laundry related antiques and collectibles. To learn more about the history of laundry and ironing, please visit our massive collection on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut!

Check back next week for a new Throwback Thursday post.

Coca-Cola – 1886

This week’s Throwback Thursday is all about the world renowned Coca-Cola Company! Founded in 1886 by Dr. John S. Pemberton, the beverage that is bought by millions every day started as an experimental drink sold in a local Atlanta pharmacy. In an attempt to popularize the drink, Pemberton’s friend and bookkeeper, Frank Mason Robinson, handed out coupons for free beverages. He also created the recognizable Coca-Cola logo in 1885.

Dr. Pemberton died two short years after starting his famous company, and never got to see his legacy that still lives on. As popularity grew, Coca-Cola wanted to serve even more groups of people. Rabbi Tobias Geffen of Atlanta kept receiving questions from other rabbis across the country inquiring if Coca-Cola was kosher for year-round consumption. The company provided him with the secret Coca-Cola formula, just as long as he kept the ingredients to himself. He saw that the beverage was made with tallow, or beef fat, as well as a grain that was not permissible during the Jewish holiday Passover, and suggested the company change them to vegetable-based kosher ingredients. The formula was tweaked, and in 1935, Coca-Cola was certified kosher.

Starting in 1915, the company wanted to filter out competition by manufacturing the same bottles all across the board. There were a lot of different and unique designs; some original bottles for the drink had a wide middle with a smaller base. Coca-Cola continued to toy with different designs until the final bottle was patented with the base wider than the middle and the top; or the “contour bottle” as the company calls it.

Cans of Coke started being manufactured in 1955. In the late 2000’s, Coca-Cola glasses were introduced, as well as aluminum Coca-Cola bottles, which were later used for their “Share a Coke” advertising campaign. Many vintage Coca-Cola bottles can be found at The PAST Antiques Marketplace!

Coca-Cola has experimented with many different flavor combinations in the past, and still are coming up with new ones! There are the standard Coke, Diet Coke, Caffeine-Free Coke and Coke Zero, as well as flavored ones like Cherry, Lime, and Vanilla still in production, and fairly new ones such as Coca-Cola Life and Coca-Cola Ginger. The Coca-Cola Company has filtered out flavors like Lemon, Orange, Raspberry, and Black Cherry Vanilla, though some are still available in Coca-Cola Freestyle machines, which can be found in many chain restaurants across the country.

Coca-Cola, as of today, is a billion dollar franchise that hosts many more of our favorite beverages under their company name. The PAST Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village holds many Coca-Cola Company antiques and collectibles including signs, bottles, and more! To learn more information on The Coca-Cola Company and to browse our full selection of antiques and collectibles, visit The PAST Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut!

Check back next week for a new Throwback Thursday post.

Fenton GlasswareMay 12, 2017

Fenton Glass

Fenton Glass has been around since 1905 when it was founded by brothers Frank and John Fenton in Williamstown, West Virginia. Today it is known as one of the world’s foremost producers of handmade, high quality art glass. Over the years, the company was renowned for its use of innovative colors and hand painted decorations on their pressed and blown glassware. Fenton is the largest manufacturer of colored glassware in the United States.

For more than a century, Fenton’s tremendous success was due to the fact that they appealed to many types of customers. Their array of customers was due to their use of new vibrant colors, hand painted floral decorations, and use of 22k gold accents.

In 2011, the company ceased production of their traditional art glass and sold off their assets to the Fenton Gift Shops Inc. Now only a fraction of their original size, they currently make handcrafted glass jewelry including beads and earrings which are geared towards sorority, collegiate, and inspirational outlets.

Nature’s Art Village has an immense collection of Fenton Glassware from a variety of different decades. Visit The Shops at Nature’s Art Village and The PAST Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to see our full selection of this brilliant glassware.

Barbie Doll – 1959

This week’s Throwback Thursday looks at one of the most popular toys of the 20th century, Barbie! Elliot Handler founded Mattel Creations in 1945 in a Southern California  garage workshop with co-founder Harold “Matt” Matson, combining the names Matt and El (Elliot) to form Mattel.  Mr. Matson left the company due to illness in the first year; Elliot bought out Matson’s share and Elliot’s wife Ruth took over his position. The business originally made costume jewelry and decorative photo frames. Elliot began producing doll furniture with the scrap wood. Mattel Company went on to create many of America’s most iconic toys. These include such names as Fisher Price, American Girl, Matchbox and Barbie.

Barbie was invented in 1959 by Ruth Handler. Ruth’s idea for Barbie was inspired by a doll she found while visiting Europe in 1956. The German doll she bought was an adult novelty doll fashioned after a high-end call girl named Bild Lilli. This risqué doll was sold in tobacco shops and bars and was a collector’s doll not intended for children. Ruth combined the look of the Lillie doll and fashioned a doll like the paper dolls her daughter often played with. Barbie was created to portray character roles in make believe play, such as college student or career woman. Unlike the children’s dolls available at the time Barbie was the first teenage doll produced. Ruth wanted the doll to be shapely like a college age girl for role playing so young girls could envision their futures while they played.

Barbie’s first appearance was at the American International Toy Fair in New York. Original Barbie wore a black and white striped bathing suit. There was a choice of 22 other outfit ensembles offered to wardrobe this doll. Over 70 different fashion designers have created clothes for the dolls over the years. The Ken Doll came out in 1961, two years younger than Barbie and ½ an inch taller at 12 inches tall.  Barbie and Ken are named after the Handler’s 2 children; Barbie’s full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts. Barbie and Ken Carlson hail from the fictional town of Willows, Wisconsin.

Barbie has had over 130 different careers over the last 58 years. You name it and there is probably a Barbie doll rendition for that career: astronaut, Major League Baseball player, even presidential candidate! Accessories are numerous and available to enhance each play experience. Shoes, glasses, jewelry, gloves, sports gear, automobiles, pets, and Barbie dream houses with furniture. Until 1966 Barbie houses and furnishings were made of thick cardboard. Many of these vintage Barbie accessories are small, rare and hard to find.

The price for an original Barbie was just $3.00, when first sold. In a 2014 auction an original boxed 1959 Barbie sold for $27,450. Mattel has sold over a billion Barbie dolls since its creation. The Past Antiques Marketplace features an entire room dedicated to dolls and stuffed animals, including a variety of unopened boxed Barbie’s as well as other name brand collector dolls. Visit The PAST Antiques Marketplace on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to view our full selection of antiques and vintage collectibles.

Check back next week for another Throwback Thursday!

Spearfishing – Approx. 14000 B.C.

This week’s Throwback Thursday explores the incredible history of spearfishing! Humankind has hunted oceanic and river wildlife with sharpened stakes and harpoons since the Paleolithic Era. Sixteen-thousand year old European Stone Age cave-drawings have detailed scenes of aquatic mammals and fish being speared for sustenance.

Early fishing spears were made from stone or flint and usually strung with sinew or animal hair then attached to a sturdy wooden pole. Hunters would generally fish by boat or wading in shallow waters with a source of light in order to illuminate the fish’s location in the murky depths.

Moving ahead to the Greco-Roman Era, iron harpoons and tridents were widely used throughout the ancient world, from the Mediterranean coast to the banks of the Nile. Neptune, or Poseidon, the classical god of the sea and water, famously carried his epoch trident and was feared by nearly all Ancient Greeks and Romans living along the sea. Greek historians Polybius and Oppian described spearfishing in their writings, including traditional gigging tactics – the practice of using a small multi-pronged spear to hunt small marine life.

The fishing spear or trident became a common sight across the Roman Empire (27 B.C. – 395 A.D.), even being wielded in gladiatorial matches for sport fighting. In the east, primitive Indian and Indonesian tribes commonly used copper harpoons with long chords to fish ancient waterways.

Spearfishing and gigging remained almost completely unchanged for almost twenty-millennia, until the advent of the rubber/pneumatic spear gun. However, the ancient practice of spear fishing continued in popularity during the first half of the 20th century, especially on the Italian and French coasts where European sport fisherman would dive without breathing apparatuses and carried no more than crude swimming goggles and a harpoon.

Spearfishing is highly prohibited in many areas throughout the world, and only allowed to be practiced in certain seasons. That being said, there are many individuals that continue to legally spearfish as a means of livelihood in tropical regions, where fish in shallow waters are plentiful.

The PAST Antiques Marketplace houses several fishing and maritime spears for sale and on permanent display, including a 19th century wrought iron eel spear, featuring a five-pronged spear head, forged entirely in one piece of iron. To learn more about the history of spearfishing and explore our incredible selection of antiques and vintage collectibles visit The PAST Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut!

Check back next week for another Throwback Thursday!

Schwinn Bicycles – 1895

Spring has arrived and that means one thing: it’s time to get out the Schwinn and go for a spin! Today’s Throwback Thursday takes a ride down memory lane and looks at the history of Schwinn bicycles. The Arnold, Schwinn & Company was founded in Chicago in 1895 by a German immigrant named Ignaz Schwinn. Prior to immigrating to America, Schwinn had worked on draisines, foot-operated railroad vehicles used to bring maintenance crews to trains requiring service. The draisine’s design was an early predecessor of the bicycle.

The first safety bicycles became popular in the mid 1880’s. Unlike the high wheeled bicycles, which had been used previously, the safety bicycle was low enough so riders’ feet could touch the ground; thus making stopping much easier. Safety bicycles also implemented a new chain design instead of having pedals attached directly to the wheels.

During the late 1890’s there were over thirty factories in Chicago producing bicycles. This came to be known as the golden age of the bicycle craze. Schwinn received backing from German-American Adolph Fredrick William Arnold and together they opened a factory. This bicycle golden ages passed quickly and by the early 1900’s the popularity of bicycles waned with affordable motorized motor bikes and automobiles now available. Many of the Chicago bicycle manufacturers went bankrupt. Schwinn chose to buy out many of the smaller companies and was able to position his company as the leading American bicycle manufacturer.

Schwinn developed a cruising-style bicycle in 1934 called the aero cycle. This bike featured balloon-style tires that were more durable and could withstand rough terrain. Theses sturdier bikes were targeted to younger riders. The heavy frame design, modeled after an airplane fuselage, was much more durable and a faux gas tank and battery powered light completed the look.

In 1938 Schwinn introduced the Paramount; a lightweight track race and touring bike for adult enthusiasts. During the 1960’s Schwinn developed muscle, lowrider chopper-style bicycles with banana seats and ape hanger handle bars. Recreational mountain and geared racing bicycles were developed in the 1970’s and once again targeted adult riders.

In 2001, The Schwinn Company and brand name was sold to Pacific Cycle; then, in 2004, Dorel Industries acquired Pacific Cycle. Schwinn brand name bicycles are now made in China and are not the quality of original Schwinn bicycles. The Past Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village has several vintage Schwinn bicycles available among other vintage bicycle brands. Visit The PAST Antiques Marketplace on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to see our full selection of antiques and vintage collectibles.

Check back next week for another Throwback Thursday!

License Plates – 1901

Today’s Flashback Friday examines the history behind American license plates. We travel to the turn of the 20th century, when the first American automobile factories began production. At this time, automobiles were expensive and reserved for the wealthy upper class. As automobiles became less expensive and grew in popularity, outdated traffic laws and undeveloped roads made driving conditions extremely hazardous.

In 1901, New York was the first state requiring residents to display an identification tag. California followed soon after requiring a tag on bicycles and wheeled carts as well. There was an obvious need for the tags as collisions were common and the drivers involved needed to be identified.

The first New York tags were do-it-yourself license plates, with the residents responsible for making their own ID tag with their initials and state name. That same year the state realized that conformity was necessary and began issuing individual registration numbers to be used. These homemade tags were often made of leather or rubber and some people just painted the ID on their car.

The use of homemade tags created obvious problems, such as counterfeit tags. Massachusetts became the first state to have state issued license plates in 1903. These early plates were fashioned of iron coated with porcelain. This style did not last long as the porcelain coating was too fragile. The state of West Virginia designed the first stamped and embossed style metal plates in 1906.

The first Department of Motor Vehicles was established in 1915 and all states required license plates by 1918. During WWII no plates were issued, and to save metal in 1943 and 1944 other materials such as cardboard and stickers were issued as replacement plates. It was not until 1960 that the size of the license plate was made uniform throughout the United States.

The Past Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village has a wide variety of vintage license plates and transportation memorabilia for sale among its assortment of over 90 vendors. Visit The PAST Antiques on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to see our full selection of antiques and vintage collectibles.

For more antique history, check out our Throwback Thursday posts!