Antiques & Technology Archives | Page 2 of 14 | Nature's Art VillageNature'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

Cherry PittersFebruary 22, 2018

The focus this week is on cherry stoners, otherwise known as cherry pitters. Here at The Past Antiques, we have several different kinds of cherry pitters, but the one in the spotlight this week is our black Enterprise Manufacturing Company’s No. 1 cherry stoner.

Cherry pitters, at first glance, seem to be an odd and old gadget. Our Enterprise cherry stoner stands 7 ½ inches tall from the countertop. Generally, these devices were made of cast iron.

To use, first tighten the clamp in place onto a counter or table top. Then, place a small cup under the trough that extends from the stoner to catch the pits. Place a second cup, bowl or even a ready-made pie crust under the device for the cherries to fall into. Finally, simply turn the handle! The handle turns the rotary wheel so that the pitted cherries fall through.

A manual rotary cherry pitter like this one grew in popularity in the late 1800s, but there have been many similar versions of our Enterprise No. 1 cherry stoner released. There is a type that stands on four legs instead of clamping to the edge, and others include single and double-plungers. Today, there are cherry pitters that can be hand-held.

Before these types of cherry pitters, people had to pick out the seeds one by one, often tearing the whole cherry apart. The invention of the rotary cherry pitter gave the cherry a larger chance of coming out whole. A great innovation for bakers all over!

Enterprise Manufacturing Company also made items like apple peelers, coffee mills and even souvenir banks.

Cherry stoners can still be used (if kept in good condition) in the kitchen as they were used a hundred years ago. They also make for a lovely antique decorative item. Visit The PAST Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village in Montville, Connecticut to see our full selection of antiques and vintage collectibles.

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Salt & Pepper ShakersFebruary 15, 2018

In 1858, John Mason, inventor of the screw top Mason jar, created the first salt shaker. A receptacle with holes punched into a tin cap to distribute the salt evenly over a meal. This cleaver invention didn’t catch on immediately; it was still much more common to use salt cellars, small salt dishes with spoons for dispensing. It was not until 1910, when Joy Morton incorporated the Morton Salt Company in Chicago, Illinois that the true salt shakers emerged. In 1911, Morton began adding magnesium carbonate, an anti-caking agent, to the salt to combat moisture. Previously, moisture caused the salt to clump together; adding this anti-caking agent to the salt allowed it to flow freely from the shaker. In 1914, Morton created advertising featuring the slogan “when it rains it pours” with a little girl holding and yellow umbrella and pouring salt out of a Morton salt canister. The ad said that it will pour in any weather and not cake in the bottom of your salt cellar.

Morton Salt was the first to start prepackaging the salt in cylindrical containers. Salt, prior to this point, was dispensed by a clerk at a general store using a scoop out of a barrel or large bag. Morton’s canister was convenient and incorporated a handy spout for pouring and keeping dust out. Now that salt poured easy from a sealed container it was not long before salt and pepper shakers became common dining table decorations. Pepper never had a moisture issue; however, it is traditionally served with the salt and people want matching containers.

The invention of the automobile coincided with the growing popularity of salt shakers. This may seem like an odd connection; however, with people beginning to travel more tourism became a major industry. Tourists wanted unique souvenirs from every destination they visited and artful salt and pepper shakers were small, easy to carry and made excellent keepsakes. Today, these antique and vintage souvenirs have become highly collectible and beautiful dining room decorations. The Past Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village has hundreds of antique, vintage and retro salt and pepper shakers in artful and fun designs. Visit The PAST Antiques on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to see our full selection of antiques and vintage collectibles.

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PincushionsFebruary 08, 2018

While the specific origin of the pincushion is slightly fuzzy, there are records of the use of pin cases dating back to Europe in the Middle Ages. Metal was expensive, so pins used for various domestic responsibilities were carefully stored in these cases.

As time went on, their storage containers evolved to become open-faced “pyn-pillows,” or elaborately decorated fabric padding. Other preliminary names for the tool were “pimpilowes,” “pimpilos,” “pimplos,” “pimploes,” or “pin-poppets.”

By the 1700s, people began to mount the pillows on porcelain, silver, china or wooden bases. The cushions could also be weighted and attached to tables. Seamstresses in particular preferred weighted pincushions to hold down the hems of dresses.

However, outside of the professional realm, the pincushion was more of a fashionable home décor item than a practical sewing tool. Women would receive small pincushions as gifts that were specifically embroidered for special occasions or milestones in their lives, such as a pregnancy or marriage.

A popular pincushion design during the Victorian Era was a tomato with a strawberry fastened to the top. Tomatoes were a symbol of prosperity and also said to ward off evil. Many families placed them on their mantels for good luck, but if they were out of season, people would improvise and create their own out of red fabric stuffed with cotton, sand, sawdust or wool.

These makeshift good-luck charms also served the practical purpose of holding pins, but it was not until the 1900s that the pincushion became more widely used for sewing. The attached strawberry was even filled with emery powder to clean and sharpen the pins when needed.

From the late 18th century until the end of World War II, porcelain doll pincushions (otherwise known as “half dolls”) were very popular. Their design included the top half of a beautiful woman cut off at the waist. Holes were on either side of her waist in order to stitch a pincushion to the bottom to resemble a skirt.

Ornate and whimsical shapes are still common, despite the decline in the pincushion’s popularity. The designs can range from animals to food to flowers.

Come visit us at Nature’s Art Village off of Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to explore our collection of pincushions and other antique treasures! They are available for purchase at The Past Antique Marketplace.

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Ice TongsFebruary 01, 2018


Today, the thought of the ice and snow that winter brings has struck terror in many a New Englander. In the early 1900s, however, ice was a large commodity. The first chill in the air brought hopes of a prosperous winter, as harvesting ice was a major part of the early economy of New England. Ice was essential to chill perishable food and medical supplies. But the ’ice season’ was short, lasting from mid-December through March, with temperatures at their lowest throughout January and February.

During the 1800s, new techniques for storing ice were invented. Northern communities near large bodies of fresh water harvested ice for 10 hours a day, 7 days of the week until the entire crop was harvested. The ice also needed to be 14 to 16 inches thick to hold a team of horses and men.

To harvest the ice, the snow would be cleared, and then the ice would be sawed into large blocks (that could weigh up to 300 lbs!). An ice saw cut the ice, and then it was broken off with a breaker bar. Ice tongs were used to grab the blocks and manipulate them.

The ice was floated ashore, or attached to a sled and hauled ashore by horses. (This job was eventually done with a steam powered engine as industrial times progressed.) The ice was then hauled up a ramp and into a nearby icehouse or ice wagon.

Ice tongs were needed by both ice workers and the public, so they came in different shapes and sizes. Large platform ice tongs were used in the ice house, while lightweight ice tongs were used by delivery men. Homeowners used small camp ice tongs.

Icemen delivered the ice in ice wagons to local business and families. Many residential homes had ice boxes to keep their food and supplies chilled.
Between 1889 and 1890, the winter was very mild. This spurred inventors to find an alternative to ice harvesting, leading to numerous refrigeration inventions. By the mid-1940s, refrigerators were widely used, bringing an end to the lucrative practice of ice harvesting.

However, large blocks of ice are still needed for ice sculpting at venues such as fine restaurants, ice festivals and wedding. Come visit The Past Antiques Marketplace to view our selection of vintage ice tools! We are located on Route 85 in Montville, CT.

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HatpinsJanuary 25, 2018



Women’s fashion is constantly undergoing changes, and big hats were important statement items in the early 1900s. And what good was a giant hat without a fancy hatpin?

First, what is a hatpin? Their f unction is actually right in their name, as they were intended to secure a woman’s hair to her hat, or simply to keep her hair in place. They were originally created for wimples and veils, but as hats became more in fashion, the hatpin’s purpose adjusted accordingly.

Of course, as hats got bigger, hatpins became larger and more ornate. Hatpins come in many varieties of shapes and styles. Animals were common designs for toppers, as well as elegant portrait designs.

In the earlier years of the hatpin’s lifetime, Eli Whitney, known for his patent of the cotton gin, had a surprising connection to them. During his teenage years, the Revolutionary War was in full-swing and caused a shortage of nails. As a blacksmith’s apprentice, he began specializing in nail-making after creating a device to produce nails at his home. After he was met with success, Whitney moved his trade to the hatpin business. In fact, he became the country’s only hatpin manufacturer for a short amount of time.

Hatpins also held another interesting purpose. Suffragettes used them as weapons of defense when harassed by men, and would prick them with the pin side to be left alone. Some of the pins could be almost one foot long, so this created quite an issue with safety. In 1908, American men fought to limit the length of pins to no longer than nine inches. While this vote eventually passed, women were undeterred. They continued to wear lengthy pins and pay fines or even go to jail rather than have their freedom of self-defense compromised.

Because of their continued use as weapons, there was a law passed in 1910 which forbade the pointy ends of the hatpins being exposed. They had to be covered with hatpin covers to avoid accidentally (and purposely) injuring someone nearby. But by the 1920s (with the help of World War I restricting resources for everything but necessities), the popularity for the hatpin had ended.

A symbol of social status and femininity, yet also an indicator of independence and women’s suffrage, the hatpin is a beautiful, multi-faceted tool. Visit us at the Gateway Museum and The Past Antiques Marketplace to view our historic and ornate hatpins on display! Some are even available for purchase. We are located on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut.

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VacuumsJanuary 18, 2018


Most of us take for granted the minimal amount of effort it takes to clean our houses in this day and age. Vacuum cleaners are generally quiet, easily maneuvered and seem to be getting smaller by the day. But back when they were first engineered, vacuum cleaners were a little different than how we know them today.

There are several significant contributors to the evolution of the vacuum, originally called a carpet sweeper. Ives W. McGaffey debuted what he called the “Whirlwind” carpet sweeper in 1868, and although the invention was designed to lessen the task of cleaning, the “Whirlwind” needed to be hand-cranked as it was pushed.

The first successful carpet sweeper design was invented by Melville Reuben Bissell in 1876. Interestingly, Bissell’s inspiration for the sweeper came from his allergies to dust.

The process of dirt removal for these early versions involved blowing air into a receptacle instead of relying on suction. The “Puffing Billy” model, invented by Hubert Cecil Booth did just this, and was operated by an oil engine. It was so large that it needed to be carried from house to house by horse-drawn carriage! This model (understandably) received mixed reviews from the public.

Corrine Dufour received the first patent for a carpet sweeper that used an electric motor 1890.

Walter Griffiths from Birmingham, England, created a manual vacuum cleaner in 1905 that looked like vacuums we use today.

David T. Kenney established the Suction Cleaner Company and is also known for starting the American industry for vacuum cleaners.

William Henry Hoover is another early contributor, and is so entwined with the history of the vacuum that many people in Britain use the word “hoover” interchangeably with “vacuum.” But originally, vacuum cleaners were luxury items for only the wealthy until after WWII.

In the United States, the upright cyclone vacuum cleaner has become the norm. James Dyson is responsible for this surge in popularity. In 1985 he patented the cyclone vacuum cleaner and made it so that the force from the cyclone separates larger particles from smaller ones and will send them on to the appropriate filter for the most efficient dirt-removal process. Upright vacuums are better for wall-to-wall carpeting while canister vacuums can be more suited to non-carpeted flooring. In Europe, canister models are also called cylinder models.

In other Western countries across continental Europe, the canister vacuum takes precedence. Other parts of the world rarely need vacuums at all, as more popular tile or hardwood floors can be managed simply by sweeping or mopping.

In the Gateway Museum at Nature’s Art Village, there are several antique vacuum cleaners on display. Come visit us at Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to explore all of our historic artifacts.



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TelephonesJanuary 11, 2018

It is amazing to think how far technology has come in the last 50 years alone, yet the telephone was invented more than 100 years ago by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, when he said the famous words: “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.”

The earliest designs of the telephone were locally powered, with only a singular wire to send and receive voice signals. (This design was similar to the operating system of the telegraph.) In 1878, the “Wall Phone” was introduced, with its transmitter built directly into the phone. This phone was widely used until the early 20th century, when the first rotary phones made their debut.

Between 1900 and 1905, the amount of phones in the Bell Network jumped from 600,000 to 2.2 million. But, if someone wanted to make a long-distance phone call, they would have to set up an appointment to use a public phone booth. Interestingly, the first payphone was installed right in Hartford, Connecticut in 1889.

Women had an important role in the development of the telephone, as they were widely regarded as the most frequent users. In addition to fostering tighter social circles, the telephone enabled women to work in the area of telecommunications as operators and receptionists. This positive movement bolstered their autonomy.

Around 1930, the telephone began to take on a shape that some of us are still familiar with today, with its larger base and cradle to hold the receiver. The rotary dial was prominent in its design until approximately 1960, when people started adapting the “touch-tone” dial pad. From there, designer phones became a status symbol, and people began using telephones on trains and planes, and even in their cars.

The first portable versions of the telephone were developed in the 1970s by Motorola employee, Martin Cooper. They were created with cellular technology, thus giving way to cellular or “cell” phones. Then came the first text message in 1992, which read “Merry Christmas,” and gave way to camera phones becoming available to the public in 2000. Today, we carry this formerly chunky technology in a tiny square that fits neatly in our pockets.

The Past Antique Marketplace has several antique telephones for sale, some of which date back to the early 1900s. The Gateway Museum also has an enormous display of telephones for visitors to explore


and even test out; the phone booth in the museum is still able to send and receive phone calls!

To delve into our full collection of historic artifacts, visit us at Nature’s Art Village on Route 85 in Montville, CT.

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For some of us, it is hard to imagine writing out long division or simply adding a few numbers without the help of a calculator, possibly the calculator right on our phone! For the teachers who told us we needed to learn extensive math skills because we “won’t always have a calculator” with us, it may be frustrating to see that this is now largely untrue. But electronic calculators have only been in circulation for a relatively short amount of time.

Early versions of mechanical calculators, appropriately named “adding machines,” were clunky pieces of office equipment and specially designed for bookkeeping purposes. Their invention is recorded all the way back to 1642, with credit given to two men named Blaise Pascal and Wilhelm Schickard. However, adding machines did not become popular from a commercial standpoint until 1887 when Dorr E. Felt developed a version that he called a comptometer.

In the United States, this later design of the adding machine w as made to read in dollars and cents. In order to add numbers into a new list, the user would first have to “zero” out the adding machine, similar to clearing a calculator as we do today. The rest of the process was slightly more complicated, as keys had to be pressed multiple times in order to do more complex math like multiplication.

Other buttons on the machines include variations of “Total,” “Subtotal” and “Multiply.” Some models of adding machines have “full keyboards,” which includes a total of 54 keys. Smaller models can have as few as ten keys, which were first available to the public in 1903. Today, ten-key adding machines are the standard and most frequently used.

The Gateway Museum is proud to display a comptometer by Felt & Tarrant, as well as a Burroughs adding machine. There is even a Remington Rand adding machine available for purchase at The Past Antique Marketplace! Come visit us at Nature’s Art Village on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to explore all of our historic artifacts and collectibles.

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Thermos Company

The cold weather is here and nothing is quite as nice as having a thermos filled with a hot drink to accompany you as you stroll through the beautiful winter scenery of New England. Take a thermos along on a journey, has a long tradition to it. A thermos can keep a beverage piping hot or icy cold for over 12 hours making it an incredibly valuable piece of equipment for any explorer – especially during the early 20th century. Many early explorers took a thermos along on their legendary expeditions. Robert E. Peary took one to the Artic. Shackleton took one to the South Pole. Roosevelt brought it to Africa and the Wright Brothers even took one to the skies!

In 1892, Sir James Dewar a scientist at Oxford University was preforming experiments while doing research in the field of Cryogenics. This is the scientific study of materials at extreme low temperatures. While working with the rare metal palladium, he needed a container. He formed a copper chamber and enclosed a smaller chamber inside connected at the neck. He partially evacuating the air and created a vacuum. This provided insulation and prevented the cold from transferring. Thus, he created the Vacuum Flask. The Vacuum Flask became an important tool used by scientists to keep materials at a specific temperature for chemical experiments. Also known as the Dewar Flask or Dewar Bottle; though Dewar did not patent his device.

In 1904, two German glass blowers realized the potential of Dewar’s invention for the benefits of keeping beverages cold or hot for long periods of time. They renamed the new product “Thermos”, then sold their trademark and rights to it in 1907 to three separate independent companies. Located in New York, Canada, and England these companies went on to make the Thermos popular worldwide. Further improvements using glass and aluminum were made over the years. In 1910, the invention of the glass filler increased product demand significantly. In 1912, The American Thermos Company of Brooklyn, New York moved to a larger facility in Norwich, Connecticut where it remained until closing its doors in 1988.

The thermos, now a generic name for all vacuum flask beverage containers, continues to be a favorite household convenience. From school lunch boxes, to office boardrooms, to life-threatening expeditions, the thermos continues to be used across the world. The PAST Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village has a wide variety of retro and vintage thermoses available. Visit The PAST Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village in Montville, Connecticut to see our full selection of antiques and vintage collectibles.

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Lefton China & Porcelain

Our favorite part of the holiday season is decorating our homes with all the cute holiday figurines we save year after year. Many of these figurines have been handed down for decades, and bring back cherished memories of past holiday joy.

One of the major producers of holiday figurines throughout the 1950’s and 60’s was the Lefton Company. Their most famous figurine, Little Miss Mistletoe, was a cute little girl with ponytails riding in a candy cane sleigh. Other popular Lefton figurines included elves, angels and candy cane pixies.

The Lefton Company also made a wide variety of different styles of giftware. There are realistic looking animals, colonial figures, dainty flowers, mini vases, and other whimsical items with playful designs. These fine porcelain figures were all molded and hand painted.

The Lefton Company was founded by George Zoltan Lefton, a Hungarian immigrant, in Chicago in 1940. Lefton, who would go on to be known as the “China king”, began his business by selling basic bags of plaster of Paris. He went on to develop innovative practices in the porcelain giftware industry that are still in use today.

In 1941, directly after the bombing at Pearl Harbor, many Japanese owned businesses were being looted throughout the U.S. including in the Chicago area. Lefton helped a Japanese American friend board up his shop and, in exchange for Lefton’s help, his friend introduced him to businessmen he knew in Japan. This lead to Lefton developing relationships with Chinese producers in occupied Japan following World War 2. Lefton established his company and began importing porcelain giftware from Japan. He was one of the first American businessmen to work with Japan after the war.

George Lefton died in 1996 at the age of 90. The company was sold in 2002, after 60 years of production. Collector interest is mainly focused on the earlier Lefton pieces and the lines that have been discontinued; particularly products that were made in occupied Japan. Each piece of Lefton Company giftware is exquisitely detailed and well made.

The PAST Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village has a variety of Lefton Company items including pieces produced in occupied Japan. Visit The PAST Antiques on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to see our full selection of antiques and vintage collectibles.

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