Village Blog | Nature's Art Village

1650 Hartford-New London Turnpike, Montville, CT 06370

Nature's Art Village & The Dinosaur Place: 860-443-4367
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Blue Ridge Mountain Boys Mugs – 1947

Mountain Boys MugsThrowback Thursday takes a look at the story behind these interesting mugs created by the Imperial Porcelain Corporation of Zanesville, Ohio in 1947. The mugs feature popular characters from a 1940’s comic strip created by American cartoonist and illustrator Paul Webb. Webb was the creator of a single-panel cartoon called the Blue Ridge Mountain Boys. These Mountain Boys became featured on a large variety of merchandise during the 1940’s including the porcelain mugs shown here.

Paul Webb‘s comic strip series in Esquire Magazine, the “Mountain Boys”, was published in 2 collections: “Comin’ Round the Mountain” in 1939, and “Keep ‘em Flying” in 1941. In 1960, a paperback collection was published. Webb also produced paintings, calendars and illustrations of the popular Mountain Boys characters: Ma, Grandma, Pa, Willie & Luke.

American Art Pottery, which was first produced in Cincinnati, Ohio during the 1870’s, was still popular in the 1940’s. The pottery was hand-thrown and hand-decorated. In the 1930’s potters began making more creative and artistic pottery and wares. Collectors consider pottery made by a select group of pottery companies during the time period of 1876-1950 to be “Art Pottery”.

IMG_1793 (002)The Mountain Boys mugs were some of the last Art Pottery pieces to be created and wildly distributed. As they are all handcrafted, no two pieces are identical; this adds to their value. The caricatures portray southern mountain country daily life in a humorous and whimsical fashion.

Paul Webb passed away in 1985 after producing decades of artwork and collectibles. His folk art and creations are now highly sought after. All of his art is unique and each is signed and dated by Webb. The Past Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village has a collection of Paul Webb Mountain Boys Art Pottery Mugs available for purchase as well as many other popular Art Pottery from famous American artists. 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 another Throwback Thursday!


Hitchcock Antique Furniture – 1818

hitchcock-chairThrowback Thursday take us back to 1818 with a look into a Connecticut furniture company. Lambert Hitchcock of Cheshire, Connecticut was a skilled master woodworker schooled at the famed Cheshire Academy and apprenticed under Silas Cheney. Hitchcock opened a furniture factory in the town of Riverton located in Barkhamsted Connecticut. The large Hitchcock Chair Company Factory Mill was powered by the Still River a branch of the Farmington River. The factory had over 100 employees and became so well known the town was renamed as Hitchcocksville. The Hitchcock Chairs were made of cherry, maple or beech; woods local to the area. The Hitchcock-style chair combined several popular styles of the times such as Sheraton, Empire and Baltimore styles.

Lambert Hitchcock’s great success was attributed to his ability to build his quality chairs using a new style of mass production. He had studied with great clock-makers in Connecticut and had seen master clock-maker Eli Terry mass produce wooden clock parts. Terry used an assembly line process to cut different parts, then assembled many clock varieties on an assembly line. Hitchcock used this same production method to make the parts for his chairs. His chairs were the first pieces of furniture sold with semi-assembly required. This mass production made Hitchcock furniture affordable to the public and allowed the factory to produce over 15,000 chairs a year!

hitchcock-chair-deskHitchcock antique furniture is highly sought after by collectors. Most genuine pieces of Hitchcock furniture can be dated and identified by a stencil marking along the back or underneath. In 1825, the company moved to a larger factory and began labeling the pieces “L. HITCHCOCK HICTCHCOCKS-VILLE CONN. WARRENTED”. Then in 1832, Lambert Hitchcock went through business difficulties and merged with his brother-in-law, Arba Alford, to form a new company. The stencil was changed to read “HITCHCOCK. ALFORD & CO. CONN WARRENTED”. There was an unfortunate mislabeling of backward N’s on the stencil. This company then dissolved in 1844 and Lambert Hitchcock went on to open a new Hitchcock Furniture Company in Unionville, Connecticut. The label was again changed to include the Unionville location. Lambert Hitchcock died in 1852 and The Hitchcock Company was closed.

In 1946, John Kenney and Douglas Roberts, a descendant of Hitchcock, renovated the old Hitchcock factory and reopened Hitchcock Chairs. They manufactured replicas of Hitchcock’s famous furniture. The company stenciled the signature emblem on the furniture pieces. The Stencil reads the same as the first stencil did in 1825, only it incorporates the backward N’s in the wording. If your Hitchcock furniture has the original style stencil but with backward N’s it was produced after 1946. The company has continued to change hands over the years, but is still in operation in Connecticut.

The early pieces of furniture were painted black or dark green and the then using a stencil they would apply a bronzing powder to create various decorative patterns of flowers, leaves and cornucopias. Yellow-ochre striping and gold banding on the turns of the legs were added by hand. This decorative enhancement is the classic Hitchcock look. The seats of the chairs were made of cane, woven-rush or planks. The later pieces were made of lighter wood colors. The Past Antiques Marketplace features many pieces of famous Hitchcock furniture available for purchase. Visit The PAST Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to see our full selection of antiques and vintage collectibles.

Check back next week for another Throwback Thursday!



Brownie Box Camera – 1900

This week’s Throwback Thursday sends us to 1900 and the introduction of the Brownie box camera. This camera was the newest invention of the Eastman Kodak Company and forever changed the field of photography. The Brownie camera was a small and portable device. Previous cameras were large, cumbersome and required subjects to pose for extended periods of time. The Brownie box camera provided snapshot ability for the first time.

img_1555-002The new camera was not only more portable, it was now affordable for the general public. Families could now take their own photos and document their life events and memories. Kodak advertising promoted the catch phrase “celebrate the moments in your life” and picturesque scenes were now described as “Kodak Moments”. The first model was made of simple cardboard and cost $1. Then, when your roll of film was complete, you mailed it in for processing for another small fee. The pictures were processed and mailed back within a few weeks.

George Eastman invented the first day-loading camera. This meant the camera could be reloaded without the use of a dark room. He manufactured box cameras with paper film in 1885 and began using celluloid film in 1888. His first camera was called the Kodak. These cameras came with 100 exposures. The quality of the pictures improved with the lighter Brownie model camera. This model remained popular until the 1960’s. The old-style gelatin dry-plate models continued to be produced and used for fine photography.

brownie-8Interestingly, the Brownie camera got its name from a cartoon strip that was popular at the time called “The Brownies”, created after the book written by Palmer Cox in 1887. A Brownie was a small sprite or hobgoblin believed to dwell in the eaves of houses throughout England, performing small favors and never being seen.

The amazing invention of the camera and photography has enabled us to preserve history. The Gateway Museum at Nature’s Art Village has a Brownie box camera and many more of the early model cameras and photography equipment of the past in its Snap Shot Photography Exhibit. The Past Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village has a variety of Brownie cameras as well as many other vintage and antique cameras and equipment available for purchase. Visit The PAST Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to see our full selection of antiques and vintage collectibles.

Check back next week for another Throwback Thursday!



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The word ‘vane’ comes from the Old English word fana meaning ‘flag’.

Much like flags, weathervanes are used for showing the direction of the wind but are also commonly used for their innate architectural beauty. They are commonly found at the highest point of a building – often on a barn or church.

weather-vaneWeathervanes have been found around the world and it is believed they have existed as far back as 2000 B.C. Artifacts resembling weathervanes have been found in Ancient Greek, Roman and Chinese civilizations.

Around the time of the American Revolutionary War, weathervanes began to be used in the United States. George Washington had a weathervane at his Mount Vernon home. Other notable American figures such as Thomas Jefferson and Paul Revere also had weathervanes on their properties.

In those early days of American farming weathervanes were used to tell wind direction because almost every task on a farm was either helped or hindered by the weather; especially those tasks involving cutting, baling, rolling, stacking and storing hay. As the popularity of weathervanes spread throughout New England, people began to create unusual and fun designs. In addition to the traditional banner and arrow, some designs on barns included a running stag, a prancing horse, and a horse with carriage.

Although still used today on barns and outbuildings, weathervanes have become collectible as folk art. Antique weathervanes, made before 1900, can sell for thousands of dollars. 20th century weathervanes typically bring in the hundreds of dollars at retail, depending on the intricate and elaborate designs they display.

The PAST Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village showcases a unique weathervane from the early 20th century along with a collection of other antique and vintage farming essentials. To see our full selection of antiques and vintage collectibles visit The PAST Antiques on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut.

Check back next week for another Trivia Tuesday!


Charter Oak Bridge – 1941

charter-oak-bridge-treeThis week’s Throwback Thursday looks at local Connecticut history. These large ornamental cast iron plaques were once fitted into the railing along the entire length of the original Charter Oak Bridge in Hartford, Connecticut for nearly half a century.

The Charter Oak Bridge was named after the famous Charter Oak Tree, the Nutmeg State’s official state tree. In 1662, the Connecticut Colony was granted autonomy by King Charles II and created a charter. In 1687, the new King James II revoked the autonomy and appointed a governor-general to rule over the New England colonies. This governor-general sought to seize and destroy all the New England charters. The legend says that colonists hid the Connecticut Royal Charter in a massive oak tree to avoid detection by the English governor-general. This tree became known as the Charter Oak Tree. Unfortunately, the Charter Oak Tree was struck by lightning in 1856 and fell; however, its legend lives on and the lumber from the Charter Oak was used to create chairs now sitting in Hartford’s Capitol Building.

In the early 1930’s, motor-vehicle travel was steadily increasing and to relieve traffic on the Bulkeley Bridge (1908), the Connecticut General Assembly commissioned the creation of a new bridge from East Hartford into Hartford. The $4.4 million project was set to break-ground in 1933; however, with the Connecticut economy at an all-time low due to the Great Depression, construction was halted for almost a decade. The project was reopened in 1940 and the building of the foundation began later that year.

On Dec. 4th 1941, disaster struck the construction crew as a 222 foot section of the bridge fell into the icy Connecticut River. Sixteen workers fell to their deaths; while, another sixteen workers were courageously rescued by the Hartford Fire Department. Structural engineers concluded the fall was a result of a shift in the falsework. To finish the project on schedule, the American Bridge Company replaced the nearly 800 tons of steel the exact same day of the disaster.

charter-oak-bridge-capitol-buildingThe 3,016 foot Charter Oak Bridge opened its four lanes to traffic on Sept. 5th 1942, collecting tolls in both directions. At the time of its opening, the Charter Oak Bridge was hailed as the longest plate girder bridge in the country. Connecticut motorists traveled the bridge for nearly 50 years until the late 1980s, when the state decided to rework the congested I-84/I-91 interchange on the Founder’s Bridge. Realizing the Charter Oak Bridge was aging poorly in both materials and design, rather than widening or converting the old bridge, a new bridge was to be built south of the original. The Charter Oak Bridge was to be dismantled. The $204 million new bridge was opened in August 1991, free of tolls, and continues to serve motorists to this day.

These cast iron mementos from the Charter Oak Bridge tell the story of Connecticut’s early transportation history as well as preserving our Nutmeg State’s history for future generations to come. Visit The PAST Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to see these amazing Connecticut collectibles and many more antiques and vintage collectibles from around the country.

Check back next week for another Throwback Thursday!


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The creator of Raggedy Ann, Johnny Gruelle, wrote stories about the doll for his daughter, Marcella.

raggedy-ann-w-collectiblesRaggedy Ann, the little rag doll with striped red socks and a heart on her chest that says “I Love You”, is a staple of the American toy industry and a beloved doll for countless children over the last century. Artist and writer Johnny Gruelle created the character of Raggedy Ann around 1910. Many myths have been created about the origin of Raggedy Ann; though Myrtle Gruelle, Johnny’s wife, says the tattered rag doll was originally found in Johnny’s parent’s attic. Johnny believed the doll could become a great character in his writing; however, he did not immediately begin using the doll in his stories. It wasn’t until his daughter, Marcella, was born that he remember the doll, fixed it up and gave it to her as a gift. Inspired by Marcella’s creativity, Johnny began to create stories about Raggedy Ann. Sadly, Marcella became gravely ill from an infected smallpox vaccine and passed away from her infection soon after. Johnny continued to write stories about the doll in memory of Marcella.

The Raggedy Ann doll was patented in 1915 and the story books, written by Johnny Gruelle, were first introduced to the public in 1918. Raggedy Ann was joined by her brother Raggedy Andy two years later. Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy went on many adventures and traveled to many places, both real and imaginary. The stories were so popular that they were eventually made into movies and even a television series. Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy have been marketed along with a variety of merchandise including coin banks, lunch boxes, games, prints, salt and pepper shakers and more.

Many versions of Raggedy Ann have been produced since her inception about one hundred years ago. The earliest dolls have a patent date mark of September 7, 1915. They are made completely of cloth with tin or wood button eyes. Their hair is brown and their nose is very thin. These rare, early edition dolls are worth thousands of dollars today. Raggedy Ann dolls produced between 1918 and 1920 were handmade with hand painted faces by Cottage Industries. between 1920 and 1934 the Volland Company produced over 75,000 Raggedy Ann dolls with machine stamped faces. The company was sold and resold several times since, each time slightly changing the doll’s design. These variations help with dating each doll. Hasbro has owned the Raggedy Ann label since 1984. The Past Antiques Marketplace has Raggedy Ann dolls and collectibles available for purchase as well as all your other favorite toys from the recent past. Visit The PAST Antiques at Nature’s Art Village on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to see our full selection of antiques and vintage collectibles.

Check back next week for another Trivia Tuesday!

Selenite – Mineral MondayNovember 21, 2016


Selenite – Mineral Monday

selenite-2aToday’s Mineral Monday from The Shops at Nature’s Art Village is selenite! Selenite, a variety of gypsum, is an extremely common mineral which forms by evaporation of saturated water solution creating long and thin or flat blade-like crystals. It is a very soft mineral often found in volcanic hot springs or mud. The most famous location for selenite is the “Cave of the Crystals” in Mexico, containing senile crystals over 5 feet long! Trace elements within gypsum cause color variations; but selenite frequently forms clear crystals. Sometimes sand causes grainy inclusions within selenite, known as sand selenite. Selenite crystal formations may produce radiating flower shapes or ‘roses’, referred to as “desert rose” (image on left of page), or clear diamond shapes or twin crystals forming together but at slightly different angles. Selenite has many uses including making plaster, fertilizer, alabaster and even some explosives!

desert-rose-selenite-11848Metaphysically, selenite is said to provide clarity of mind, aid judgment, and expand awareness. It has been used to treat disorders and deformities of bones as well as epilepsy. Visit The Shops at Nature’s Art Village on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to see our full selection of selenite specimens and mineral displays!

Metaphysical and healing properties of crystals and minerals are not to be taken as fact. Metaphysical and healing information is collected from various resources as well as gemstone lore, and the information should not replace any advice given to you by your doctor. Nature’s Art Village does not guarantee any claims or statements, both made in our store or on our website, of the metaphysical or healing properties of crystals and minerals and cannot be held liable under any circumstances.

Mosasaur – Fossil FridayNovember 18, 2016

fossil-friday-link-adMosasaur Fossils

Mosasaur Jaw 3 - Fossil Friday - ShopsToday’s Fossil Friday looks at the jaw of a fierce aquatic predator; the mosasaur! The name mosasaur is from the Latin word “Mosa”, meaning “Meuse River” in the Netherlands where the creature’s first remains were discovered around 1780. “Saur” or “Saurus” is Greek for the word “lizard”, giving mosasaur the title “Lizard of the Meuse River”. With a name ending in “saur”, many mistakenly consider mosasaur to be a dinosaur; but instead, this beast was a sea-dwelling reptile. Mosasaurs lived during the late Cretaceous Period, 96-66 million years ago. Mosasaur fossils have been found all over the world in regions once covered by large lakes, seas and even oceans.

mosasaur-jaw-aSpanning between 10 and 45 feet long, mosasaurs had double-hinged jaws and flexible skulls, which enabled them to devour their prey whole. What was this prey? Mosasaurs ate nearly everything in their marine habitats including seabirds, ammonites, fish and even marine dinosaurs and reptiles. It’s believed that the bite of a mosasaur had at least as much force as that of a Tyrannosaurus Rex! Interestingly, mosasaurs, unlike modern reptiles, reproduced through live birth instead of laying eggs. This was revealed due to a recent discovery of two baby mosasaur skeletons within the belly region of another. Mosasaurs went extinct during the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous Period.

The Shops at Nature’s Art Village has a large selection of mosasaur teeth and jaw bone fossils; to view our full selection stop into Nature’s Art Village on Route 85 in Montville.

Check back next week for another Fossil Friday.



Erector Sets – 1913erector-set-2

This week’s Throwback Thursday takes us back to the early 1900’s when toy construction sets were first being introduced to the market. The first American toy construction set was the Erector Set, invented in 1913. Following Erector Sets, Tinkertoys were released in 1914 and Lincoln Logs were created in 1916. Erector Sets, although invented first, were not immediately popular and initially lagged behind Tinkertoys in sales. Tinkertoys were a hit from the start thanks to an impressive advertising campaign targeting families during Christmas. In 1916, to compete with Tinkertoys, the A.C. Gilbert Company, creators of Erector Sets, hired workers to build 20 foot long expansion bridges using Erector Sets that stretched over the cash registers at leading department stores in New York City, such as Macy’s and Gimbel’s. This ad campaign was a great success and Erector Sets became the country’s most popular construction toy.

Alfred Carlton Gilbert invented Erector Sets after watching workmen use steel girders during construction. A construction set using nuts and bolts named Meccano had been manufactured in England around the turn of the century; so the idea of creating toys based on construction was nothing new. The Erector Set was different from the Meccano Set because the pieces had the ability to create a model, then be taken apart and reused in a different model. Erector Sets were also the first construction toys with gears and an electric motor. The 1916 No. 4 Erector Set came with 401 parts and could make 276 different models.

erector-sets-1A.C. Gilbert went on to create more elaborate sets including sets that could create a crane, 6 foot towers, a circus, working Ferris Wheels and much more. One of the first national ad campaigns by a toy company was for Erector Sets, with the slogans: “Hello boys, make lots of toys” and “Boys today, men tomorrow”. The sets, originally marketed to boys, became equally popular among girls and even became popular among adults. A.C. Gilbert was dedicated to making educational toys until his death in 1961. His Erector Sets taught valuable spatial and engineering skills. The Erector Set was the bestselling construction toy for decades.

Vintage Erector Sets, especially the rarer and larger sets, have become highly sought after collectibles. These toys make excellent gifts for children to play with or for adults to reminisce in the nostalgia of simpler times. Erector Sets, Tinkertoys, Lincoln Logs and more vintage toys are available for purchase at The Past Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village. 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 another Throwback Thursday!


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“Onion skins”, “Clearies” and “Clouds” are all types of marbles.

marblesAround the turn of the 20th century, in Akron, Ohio, the M.F. Christensen & Son Company, a massive toy manufacturer, began creating the first mass-produced marbles. The founder, Martin F. Christensen, invented the first ball bearing machine in 1899, and in 1905 he patented the first machine to make marbles. Over the next few decades, Akron, Ohio would go on to be known as the birthplace of the modern toy industry and by 1929 over 120 toy companies were manufacturing in the Akron area and 32 of them were producing marbles.

Modern glass marbles with the colorful inserts were first invented in 1846 in Lausch, Germany; these marbles were handmade. An artisan would gather a single lump, or lobe, of heated glass and shape it while adding colored bands of glass inserted into the lobe. When finished, the artisan would clip the spherical marble off from its glass stem. This process would leave a “pontil mark” where the glass marble was broken away from the stem piece. A pontil mark, a small rough spot, is one way to identify older handmade marbles from machine-made marbles.

marblesMarbles have been made of many materials including clay, stone, ceramic, agate, porcelain, steel, ivory and actual marble. Each variety of marble has a nickname. “Clearies” are clear marbles; “clouds” are opaque, “onion skins”  refer to marbles with small shards of colored glass within them wrapping around and looking like the skin of a peeling onion. “Onion skins” are also called “end of day” marbles as they were often created by using the leftover glass scraps at the end of the day. Marbles are also classified by the materials used to make them: “Swirls” include beautiful spirals of color, “Steely’s” are steel ball bearings, “Aggies” are made of agate and so on, with well over 30 types of marble styles.

The game of marbles is the most popular game in United States history and is still the most popular game played worldwide. Marbles are collected for art, game play as well as the incredible sense of childhood nostalgia they provide. The Past Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village has a wide variety of antique and vintage marbles available for purchase. With a huge selection of prices, colors, sizes and materials, your unique marble collection is just waiting to begin! Visit The PAST Antiques on Route 85 in Montville, CT to see our full selection of antique and vintage collectibles.

Check back next week for another Trivia Tuesday!