Village Blog | Nature's Art Village | Montville, CTNature'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 CannonsMay 04, 2018

One of the most dynamic and rewarding collections within our antique shop is the impressive display of antique cannons.

Originating in China during the 12th century, cannons are a more sophisticated version of a “fire lance,” or an early weapon used with gun powder. The fire lance had a pyrotechnic mechanism (slow-burning gunpowder contained within a bamboo tube) attached to a spear. The heat created from igniting gases within the gunpowder causes the gases to rapidly expand, which generates explosive energy. The confined space of the tube made it even more explosive. As improvements were made to gunpowder formulas, changes in the weapon also took place. The tubes were made wider while the spear was eventually done away with, and Chinese warriors began adding pellets and debris before the powder was ignited to cause more damage with the explosion.


After cannons made it to Europe, a general rule of thumb by the 16th century was that a longer barrel would be able to hit a longer range. That being said, some manufacturers of the time crafted barrels that were more than 10 feet long! They also could weigh up to 20,000 lbs. Most countries developed a sizing system to keep track of how cannons were being built so that it would be easier to identify how much gunpowder was needed, or what kinds of cannon balls could be launched. (The bigger the barrel, the more gunpowder and larger cannon ball it required!) France decided on six cannon classifications, while England “narrowed” it down to sixteen!

Although most cannons used today are “autocannons” (which automatically load their own ammunition and fire faster than artillery), gunpowder cannons are still an important part of World History. They were used in all corners of the globe, from the Islamic world to Medieval Europe.

From signaling for help to operating as functional toys, the uses of the cannons on display vary greatly. Regardless of the model, the craftsmanship, ingenuity and longevity of these fascinating firearms are astounding. And some will actually fire!

With more than 90 antique and collectibles dealers between two handicap-accessible floors, The PAST Antiques Marketplace is sure to have something for the collector in all of us. Visit us at Nature’s Art Village on Route 85 in Montville!


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InkwellsApril 27, 2018

Like many practical inventions, creating ink from plant and mineral dyes has been traced back as far as 3000 B.C.E. in Ancient China. However, the inkwell does not appear to come along until 400 B.C.E, when Ancient Egyptian scribes used pieces of stone with hollows in them to hold their ink. The hollows were also used to mix the powders and solvents used to make the ink. Over the years, the wells developed into larger clay containers and eventually were fitted with a lid to protect from spills and evaporation.

In Europe, correspondence between noblemen was also done through scribes; members of the aristocracy were considered too important to write their own messages. Inkwells remained basic in design until the Middle Ages, when they were engraved and made of silver or gold. The 17th-century baroque style brought extremely ornate inkwells; they were often painted with intricate designs and cast in gold. In the 1700s, liquid ink was manufactured and sold in wide-bottom glass inkwells to prevent spills. Further developed during the American Civil War, soldiers were provided with portable, screw-top or clasp-top inkwells for their diaries or to write home to family.

Quill and dip-style pens were used well into the early 1900s. Although pencils became more accessible in the early 1900s, wooden desks in rural areas were designed with holes in them for inkwells. These were used into the 1950s. The ballpoint pen was invented in the 1940s, and this allowed the public access to affordable pens that were easier to use and not as messy.

Quill pens are still used by artists today, for projects involving (but not limited to) calligraphy.

Extravagant inkwells are highly collectible and are found in a large variety of styles. Inkwells are generally designed to be more of a decorative showpiece, not often made to carry around. They are crafted to display and hold ink in a stylish way. Inkwells can be made of various materials including glass, soapstone, onyx, marble, porcelain, horn, cast iron, ceramic, Bakelite, silver, gold, brass and pewter. Inkwells often feature a pen rest, while some incorporate calendars or hinged compartments. More modern inkwells can even have lamps attached!

The PAST Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village has a wide selection of antique inkwells, ink bottles, pens and other art supplies. Come entice your creative side and visit us on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to see our full selection of antiques and vintage collectibles!

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ArrowheadsApril 19, 2018

Early humans used crudely-sharpened flint pieces attached to the ends of sticks to hunt or use for protection as early as 6,000 years ago. There have also been instances found where wood or bone was used to form an arrowhead.

Arrowheads can be found all over the world, and they are quite a common find. Some of the ones in our collection have come from the Americas in the last few centuries and made of stone. Other examples are from the other side of the globe and were produced during a different era entirely.

Most likely cast of bronze or iron, two of these arrowheads were crafted in Ancient Rome between the first and third centuries CE. It is unclear whether they were used with a bow or at the end of a spear, but Ancient Roman archers of the time were widely renowned for their unmatched skill in battle. When the Roman Empire began to grow, auxiliary archers from other nations (either allies or conquered territories) were added to the Roman Army for supplemental support. These men were paid for their assistance and promised Roman citizenship when their service ended.

Spears, also known as hastae, were enormously effective in their own way in battle. They were used as an anti-cavalry weapon, as opposing forces on horseback were more easily taken down than with other means such as swords. These kinds of spears could be up to 6.5 feet long, and were typically attached to poles made of ash. In the late period of the Roman Empire, hastae were known as the official weapon of the Romans.

It’s a rarity that such ancient treasures are available so readily to the public, but at The PAST Antique Marketplace, there are arrowheads of all kinds for purchase. Visit us on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut for a chance to explore our artifacts and see history firsthand!

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Antique FrogsApril 13, 2018

The frog has been a symbol of good luck in countless cultures, from Japan to Ancient Rome and Greece, as well as in religious ideologies such as Christianity. They are often known to represent new beginnings, most likely because they appear annually in the springtime with the warm weather. Frogs are also associated with good luck, spiritual evolution and prosperity.Frogs are also known to represent fertility and life in Ancient Egyptian lore. The flooding of the Nile River would bring about large numbers of frogs, which they connected with a prosperous crop season. In times of drought, their crops could not survive, so the Ancient Egyptians looked to the frogs as a sign of good luck.

Decorating your home with these adorable amphibians can be traced back to times in Ancient China, when it was common to place a “money frog” in the home for good fortune. The money frog usually has three legs, and either holds a coin in its mouth or sits on a bed of coins. It was (and still is) practiced widely in the art of Feng Shui, so these decorations are also known as “Feng Shui frogs.” However, it is warned not to place the money frog in your kitchen, bathroom or bedroom.

At The PAST Antiques, we have an entire room dedicated to these cute creatures! And don’t worry- they won’t give you warts. These symbols of positive vibes and energy can light up any home with their quirky presence and wide eyes. They also each have their own distinct personalities that may match up with your own!

Hop your way down to the Lily Pad Lounge at The PAST Antiques Marketplace and check out our collection of antique collectible frogs! From figurines to planters, this room will leap-frog its way into your heart. And be sure to bring your tadpoles! The PAST Antiques Marketplace is located at 1650 Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut.

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Silver TeapotsApril 05, 2018

You could plan quite a royal tea party with all of these unique silver pieces!

The first recording of tea drinking is dated as far back as 200 BCE in China during the Han Dynasty. Small, earthenware pots were used at the time, and it was not until approximately 1670 in England that silver was first used to make teapots.

Then, in the early 1700s, Europeans began adding milk and sugar to their tea. From there, it was commonplace to own an entire tea set with several accessories. The accessories ranged from sugar tongs and sugar bowls to strainer spoons and cream jugs.

Silver tea sets are known as a status symbol, as even Queen Victoria had several silver teapots in her home, and the classic, vintage look of silver is still highly coveted today. But as the middle-class began gaining affluence in the eighteenth century, they also began buying more luxury items, such as silver tea sets. So, silverware is a perfect blend of elegance and timelessness that people across all walks of life can enjoy.

Designing teapots out of silver also had several benefits: the tea is able to stay warmer for longer amounts of time, as silver is known to retain higher temperatures than many other natural materials. That higher temperature retention consequently allows the tea to brew at a higher temperature, which releases more of the leaves’ natural flavoring. Finally, it is more durable over time and less likely to shatter if dropped, unlike other materials such as porcelain or ceramics.

We have a large collection of all types of silverware in dozens of shapes, styles and patterns that represented the trends of the time at The PAST Antique Marketplace. Come visit us on Route 85 in Montville at Nature’s Art Village!

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Elegant Depression Glass 1

Today’s Marketplace Spotlight takes us back to the late 1920s with a look into the history of Elegant Glass and Depression Glass. During the Great Depression there was a long stretch of glass producing factories on the Ohio River referred to as the “glass houses.” These factories produced mass amounts of cheap, pressed glass. This glass was made for everyday use and storage before plastics were available. The affordable glassware had imperfections in the finish, raised seams and various nicks and marks. Today, this glass is referred to as Depression Glass.

Unlike Depression Glass (although from the same era), Elegant Glass was fire-polished after it was pressed to remove imperfections, and thus produced a fine quality piece of glass with a more vibrant and rich color. The images show a set of 1920s green Elegant Glass tableware that was produced by the Cambridge Glass Company of Ohio.IMG_9480

One of the more popular colors of glass in the 1920’s was this translucent green. The color was obtained by adding uranium to the glass mixture during processing. The method of adding uranium to color glass was nothing new and had been done in the 1800s, resulting in a very yellow/green translucent color. This earlier yellow variety of glass is called Vaseline Glass, because its color looked like that of Vaseline petroleum jelly. The later translucent green made in the 1920s used iron oxide as well as uranium and this gave the glass a slightly truer green without the yellow hue. The uranium in the glass also gives the glass the unique ability to fluoresce under ultra violet light. Vaseline Glass fluoresces a more yellow green.

The Cambridge Glass Company soon became known worldwide for its beautiful designs and quality art glass. The opaque shades of Elegant Glass were produced early in the 1920s and then transparent colors were popular during the late 1920s. By the 1930s, new darker colors were introduced such as ruby red and royal blue.

The PAST Antiques Marketplace has many varieties of Depression Era Glass and accessories available. Visit Nature’s Art Village in Montville, Connecticut to see our full selection of antiques and collectibles!

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Comic BooksMarch 23, 2018

For those of us who are avid readers but also enjoy illustrations, comic books are the perfect combination of the two. Whether you prefer the action-packed stories of Batman, or the moral lessons found in Disney adaptations, there is a comic book for everyone.

The first comic books are believed to originate from Japan during the 1700s. The stories were printed on woodblock booklets and often relayed shorter versions of folk tales and legends. On occasion, they even depicted historical moments.

The “Golden Age” of comic books in the United States did not occur until the 1930s, where comics developed the structure we are familiar with today. From there, the “Silver Age” came about in the 1950s with the debut of the Flash, and an interest in superheroes. This secondary period consisted of the introduction of Marvel characters who had superpowers but were still relateable to the reader, such as Spider-man, and lasted until the early 1970s.

Although they are less defined, the last two eras of the comic book timeline are the “Bronze Age,” which lasted about from the early 1970s to the mid-1980s, and the “Modern Age,” which began in the mid-1980s and applies to the present era of comic books. Today, we have the privilege of being able to download mobile comics straight onto our phones and computers, which separates this era from the others in terms of print production.

Comic book collecting is a huge pastime all over the world, with collectors competing to find rare copies of first editions or editions with misprints. These unusual finds can cost thousands of dollars, and the most a comic has ever sold for was a record of $3.2 million! To no one’s surprise, it was for an edition called Action Comics #1, which featured the first appearance of Superman.

For those looking to collect, The PAST Antique Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village has a giant assortment of classic comic books to choose from. Come visit us on Route 85 in Montville to check out what other treasures we have to offer!

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IronsMarch 15, 2018

This week’s Marketplace Spotlight shines on 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 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 launderer had to be wary of soot, embers and temperature to avoid scorching 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 launderer had to use two irons; one for pressing and the other for reheating. 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.

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

“Chimney” irons had a small chimney added on the side of the sad iron to keep the smoke away from the user’s face or clothes. These 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 tended to all day by servants, and it even 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!

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LanternsMarch 08, 2018

Lantern 3

Shedding Light on The PAST

The days of cave dwelling have certainly passed humankind.  A generation of Mario Kart racing, Instagraming youngsters illuminate their world with the blue light of electronic devices.  Only earth’s eldest inhabitants remember a world where the complexities of lighting a home extended past flipping a switch.  In reality, we aren’t too far removed from the dark ages.  During the 1920s, 90 percent of Americans in urban residences utilized electricity, in comparison to just 10 percent in rural households. Without electricity, light was elusive.  These rustic homes relied heavily on lanterns to brighten an otherwise bleak world.  At The PAST Antiques, a collector or historian can find a variety of lanterns, each shedding a unique light on days gone by.

Lantern 1

To most, a lantern is nothing more than a portable apparatus used to hold light.  However, many variations exist in size, fuel, and purpose.  The earliest and most simplistic design was the candle lantern.  As its name indicates, these lamps were nothing more than an enclosed candle.  While moderately effective, the light produced by a candle lantern was not very substantial.

The solution was the mantle lantern.  This design allowed a mantle to be heated which produces light.  Several different fuels were commonly used to light a mantle lantern.  Early fuels included fish oil, whale oil, beeswax and olive oil.  By the late 19th century, kerosene became the primary oil for lamp lighting.

While conventional lanterns were used for personal lighting, lanterns were employed in many different circumstances.  As night travel on trains became common, so did the need to light the railways to ensure safety.  Signals were sent between trains and their stations, and sometimes were the difference between life and death.  Conductor’s lamps, inspector’s lanterns and short-globe lanterns each had their own purpose in ensuring the safety of train travel.

One of the most widespread and well-made manufacturers of lanterns was the R.E. Dietz Company.  Robert Edwin Dietz initially designed whale-oil lanterns at the age of 22, but made his name by patenting the first wick burner designed specifically for kerosene.  Dietz brand became a mainstay of the lantern industry and an innovator of automotive lighting.   Dietz was a popular brand in all capacities, but three of the most popular models of lanterns they produced were the Blizzard, Monarch, and Little Wizard.  All three of these lanterns can be found among The PAST Antique’s extensive collection.Lantern 2

Aside from a wide variety of Dietz lanterns, The PAST Antique Marketplace showcases many brands including Boston and Albany, Adams & Westlake and Coleman.  Our collection displays the unique features, and advances that brought light to an otherwise dark world.  While visiting, be sure to explore the Gateway Museum, which showcases the progression of technology over time.  Headlined by a functional printing press, The PAST Museum allows visitors to interact with industries of days gone by.

(Disclaimer: exhibits utilize modern lighting technology.  The magnitude of the museum and the difficulty of obtaining whale oil made lantern illumination impossible.  We apologize for the inconvenience.)

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Hog OilersMarch 01, 2018


Melon Hog Oiler

The Gateway Museum at Nature’s Art Village houses a plethora of one-of-a-kind artifacts.  From trivets to telephones, pie birds to potato planters, the individuality and ingenuity of our forefathers is on display. No relic is more indicative of the shrewdness and artistry of the agricultural past than the hog oiler.

Throughout the 1800s and into the early 1900s hog farmers were devastated by the influx of hog cholera and hog lice.  Hog cholera caused skin lesions, fever, and convulsions, often leading to death within fifteen days. For a farmer, the spread of disease through legions of swine could be financially devastating.  From 1846 to 1855 93 outbreaks of hog cholera were reported, as opposed to ten cases in the previous 13 years from 1834 to 1846. With this devastating disease on the rise, hog farmers desperately sought a remedy.

By the early 20th century, the hog oiler had become a primary implement in combating the variety of diseases that plagued swine. The hog oiler is a simple tool, but was highly effective in neutralizing the source of insect borne illness. The design of a hog oiler was basic; no more than a tank to house oil, and a mechanism to distribute the oil, such as a cylinder or wheels. It is a behavioral propensity of pigs to rub themselves against objects in their environment. Spikes and ridges were often included as a part of a hog oiler to entice the hog’s natural inclination to scratch themselves.  Therefore, when placed in their pens, pigs would rub up against the hog oilers which contained oil.  The common belief was that by coating the hogs in oil, insects would be stifled.

Hog Oiler Top

The type of oil used varied from farmer to farmer.  Crude oil, kerosene and motor oil were often used as a low budget option, while farm supply stores sold medicated oils. Variations existed in oiler design as well as oil.  Collectors have claimed that over 600 different designs of oilers existed.  Some common variations included walk through, fence mounted roller-type and weight-activated.  Each of these designs had its own strengths and weaknesses, but the purpose was uniform: protect pigs from insect borne disease.

During World War II the majority of hog oilers were melted down for scrap iron. Due to their resulting rarity, hog oilers have become a desirable collector’s item.  The value of these tools varies based on size, rarity, and artistic quality.  Some hog oilers are handmade, making them one of a kind and extremely valuable.

Hog oilers are just one of the many tools that exhibit the innovative spirit of American industry in the 19th and 20th centuries.  The ability of hog farmers to identify the problem of insect borne diseases and solve it with such a simple, yet effective tool is astounding.  At The Gateway Museum, a visitor can experience such advances in a variety of industries. Come visit us at Nature’s Art Village on Route 85 in Montville!

Hog Oiler

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