Village Blog | 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

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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This time of year is perfect for settling into the kitchen and trying out new recipes for all kinds of delicious confections. With the help of modern technology, the process of trial and error is quick and easy. Imagine how time-consuming it would be to whip up these tasty tr eats without the help of an electric egg beater!

Hand-operated rotary egg beaters have been around since approximately 1860, and were eventually patented by inventor Willis Johnson in Ohio in 1884. He originally intended it as a mixing device for all ingredients, not just eggs, and in that way, modern mixers have essentially come full-circle.

The design of the rotary beater helps to cut down on the time and effort needed to whisk the eggs. By turning the handheld crank, the motion of the gear revolutions transfers the energy to the beaters to spin them. This is much faster and more efficient than whisking by hand. Another perk of this machine is that it is able to add a significant amount of air into whatever is being mixed –this would lighten the consistency of the recipe or dessert and add to its quality.

By the 1890s, the Dover Stamping Company had a monopoly on egg beaters in the United States, so most people referred to them as “Dover Egg beaters,” regardless of the maker. Dover also popularized the shape and design we are familiar with today, and between 1870 and 1890 they sold 4 million egg beaters. The prices for these devices could range from $1.25 to $1.50.

Americans also used the egg beaters to mix other household substances such as paint. While modern rotary egg beaters are typically made from stainless steel, they were historically made from tin-wire or brass-wire.

Across the pond, Europeans seemed to prefer the ordinary method of hand-mixing or whisking with a hand whisk. The demand for the rotary beater was quite low until the early 20th century.

The Past Antiques Marketplace in Nature’s Art Village is home to several antique egg beaters for purchase. Visit us on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to check out our entire collection of antiques 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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When we get together with our families for the holidays we may be seeing relatives that we may not normally see during the year.  This may make it difficult to find a gift because you may not know what they want or need. The Shops at Natures Art Village carry unique items that will make anyone’s face light up. Take a look at our last minute gift ideas below for some excellent ideas you can pick up any day this week at The Shops:

Great ideas under $30:

  1. Games carved out of stone or wood with gemstone playing pieces. We carry a variety of games and dice made out of these materials.
  2. Healing Touch Pottery. These one of a kind mugs come in a variety of styles and have a gemstone set into the handle of the mug.  Each mug is hand-thrown and glazed by artisans in nearby New Hampshire.
  3. Essential Oils, Incense and Smudging supplies. We carry these items plus many accessories that go with them.
  4. Carved Stone Kitchenwares. We have a line of stone plates, trays and canisters.  Stone is hugely versatile for kitchenwares because it can hold warm and cold temperatures evenly and for a long time.
  5. Minerals and Crystals. We have many beautiful specimens.  Some of our minerals have been made into candle holders, wine bottle stoppers and beautiful gemstone trees.
  6. Trinket and storage boxes. We have boxes made of carved stone, shell and even enameled Swarovski jeweled boxes.

Come down to The Shops at Nature’s Art Village on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut and browse our endless aisles of amazing gifts. We are open 7 days a week from 9:30 A.M. until 7:00 P.M. through December 23, 2017. Happy Holidays from all of us at Nature’s Art Village!

Want to get a great gift for a co worker who has gone the extra mile for you? How about a gift for your boss, manager, or supervisor who has supported you throughout the year? The Shops at Natures Art Village have the perfect items for you!

Great office gift ideas for under $20:

  1. Hand carved desk supplies. Onyx marble pen and pencil holders, stone business card holders and carved change bowls.
  2. Coasters and coffee cups. The shops carry a good selection of stone coasters and different styles of coffee mugs.  Pick out a set of agate slices for coasters.
  3. Model Sets. The Metal Earth line features many reproductions and characters/vehicles from movies such as Star Wars and The Avengers.
  4. Himalayan Salt Products. Our gift shop carries salt lamps, cooking salts and other Himalayan salt items.
  5. The Shops at Nature’s Art Village carries a nice variety of candles from both Crystal Journey and A Cheerful Giver.  We also have a full line of candle holders as well.
  6. We also carry unique gifts such as Zen Gardens, Buddha Boards and gemstone trees.

Next to come is our gift guide for other adults in your life! Come down to The Shops at Nature’s Art Village on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut and browse our endless aisles of amazing gifts. We are open 7 days a week from 9:30 A.M. until 7:00 P.M. through December 23, 2017. Happy Holidays from all of us at Nature’s Art Village!

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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Marbles & Onyx Giftware

Monday, December 11th, 2017 until Sunday, December 17th, 2017 Select Marble & Onyx Giftware is on sale for 20% off at Nature’s Art Village!

These beautiful and durable jars, mortars and pestles, vases, wine chillers and more make memorable gifts for anyone on your holiday shopping list. Carved from marble and onyx, these pieces standout and add a unique ambiance to any dining room or kitchen.

Visit The Shops at Nature’s Art Village on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to see our full collection of stone giftware and holiday gift ideas perfect for everyone on your shopping list!

It is the time of year where you may be asked to provide an office “Secret Santa” gift, or asked to give ideas on a supervisor’s/manager’s gift, or even meet relatives that you have not seen for a long time. Each of these situations may cause a little hesitation or indecisiveness when choosing a gift because we may not be familiar with what these people like or want.

Never fear, here at Nature’s Art Village we have a wide selection of items that could potentially provide a well thought of gift.

Gift cards are an excellent gift because they allow a person to pick out something they may have had their eye on for long time. If a gift card seems too impersonal, here are a few suggestions for gifts with a more personal touch:

Great ideas under $10 for the younger ones in your life:

  1. Sticker sets are always timeless. We have one use stickers and reusable stickers with scenery.
  2. Art supplies from colored pencils to doodle pads. These items will keep children occupied and the refrigerator art gallery full.
  3. Small science and craft kits. Most of these kits provide more than one project and can help teach different life skills.
  4. Edible insects. What more can I say?  For the youngster who likes the “gross and unusual.” – Yes, they’re real insects and yes, they’re delicious!

  5. Tumbled stones or natural mineral specimens. Pretty crystals and colors fascinate children of any age.
  6. What child isn’t mesmerized by shark teeth, dinosaur bones or other evidence of life from thousands, or even millions, of years ago?

Next to come is our office gift guide! Come down to The Shops at Nature’s Art Village on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut and browse our endless aisles of amazing gifts. We are open 7 days a week from 9:30 A.M. until 7:00 P.M. through December 23, 2017. Happy Holidays from all of us at Nature’s Art Village!