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

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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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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