Bathing Beauties

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At the turn of the 20th century, there was a great cultural and societal shift.  As the Victorian era ended in 1901, the Edwardian era of King Edward VII and Art Nouveau, ushered in a new era for women.  Sharon Hope Weintraub, the author of ‘Bawdy Bisques & Naughty Novelties’ is quoted in a 2008 article saying, “I was fascinated by the wide variety of figurines and the creativity and workmanship that went into their manufacture. I was also intrigued with the way the bathing beauties reflected the loosening of moral, cultural, and sartorial restrictions on women between the 1890s and the 1920s.” 

Art Nouveau was a reaction to the academic art of the 19th century.  It took inspiration from natural forms and structures, particularly the curved lines of plants and flowers.  This trend was reflected in the fashions of the time as well.  Corsets were being discarded.  In this atmosphere of Art Nouveau, where nature is celebrated, so too was the human form celebrated.

Social and political change also brought more freedom for women.  WW1 saw more single women working as men were on the battlefield.  Bicycles gave women a new level of transportation independence.  In 1920, women won the right to vote. 

Free moving clothing allowed for more athletic endeavors.  Changing fashion also meant more relaxed dress of bathers in this period; less clothing that covered a woman’s shape also allowed for swimming.  A new appreciation of the female form gave birth to the bathing beauty.

 These little bisque pieces of art also represented the growing appreciation of vacationing by the sea.  What began in the 1890’s as a naughty item, soon became souvenirs of fun times spent on the beach, or at countless other summer vacation sites.  They were purchased by a new generation of adults who rejected the stiff rules and mores of Victorian etiquette.  This period lasted until the 1930’s.   

Bathing beauties are all bisque figures that have a bathing suit either painted on or are made of fabric.  The fabric used was a light netting or lace that often has disappeared over the decades.  That is why many bathing beauties are naked.  However, these women wear bathing caps and matching ballet type bathing slippers, indicating they also once wore a fabric bathing suit. 

The first example is a somewhat rare example.  Galluba and Hoffman was a leading manufacturer of these ladies. These figures have a dome head and wear a mohair wig.  It is very hard to find the wigs still intact. They are most likely to be reclining and have no base.  The poses are more complex, with limbs extended away from the body.  A makers mark may be incised on a part of the figure that was covered by the fabric suit.  The example shown was most likely manufactured about 1915.

Most of the beauties in my collection have painted swim suits, and painted hair with a bathing cap and matching bathing shoes.  The factory of Hertwig & Co., was one of the biggest manufacturers of bathing beauties of this type.  They are the most common beauties to be found.  Pink pre-colored bisque would be poured into a mold. Hertwig would use one basic mold to make different size ladies, with  added or subtracted materials.    So, these figures are found with wigs, and a multitude of different bathing suit colors and styles.  Some have suits made of the rough “snow” material similar to snow babies.  Arms were molded separately, and legs were often manipulated so that they could be sold in several different poses. Some bathers appear standing on a base, often with the name of the vacation spot printed on it.  Most of these figures are part of the 5000 series mold mark, and were mostly made in the late 20’s into the early 30’s.

Some of the most difficult bathing beauties to find are ladies emerging from sea shells, or laying on top of a turtle.  Most often, they ended up at the bottom of an aquarium, where they languished until the aquarium was thrown out or given away.  Many of these are from the 1930’s and were cold painted.  This means the paint was added after firing, and the paint easily wore off.  Care should be taken when cleaning them.  You may inadvertently wipe the paint off along with the dirt.

Other souvenirs incorporated the bathing beauty into a utilitarian souvenir for vacationers to buy.  They are found as pin cushions, lamp bases, vases, match holders; or posing on top of candy boxes, pin dishes, powder and trinket boxes.  The pictures shows a Bathing beauty created by atop a cushion that creates a porcelain powder box, with the Sitzendorf Porcelain Factory makers mark. Desirability is based on scarcity and quality of the piece.  The quality of facial painting is very important.  Like pin cushion dolls, the more limbs extended away from the body and the more complicated the pose; means that it required multiple separate molded parts.  They are more likely to be broken and damaged. 

How Collectors Decorate their Homes and Men Caves

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As a collector myself, I know what it means to feel comfortable in a home (note I did not say a house). My home is decorated with things I love and feel comfortable with. I live with history and things that remind me of a simpler time and memories. The great thing about collectors is that they are a community of people who have the same passion. A passion to collect and live with their collections.

It does not matter what you collector or how you display it or even if it is in a box, your collection is personal and cannot be found in a big box store. I have been very honored to have been invited into many collectors homes to share their passion. These collectors enjoy showing their collection and letting me take photos. I hope you enjoy these collection’s pictures as well as give you some ideas on how to display and enjoy collecting. No matter if you like country, a theme or have a formal home…home is where the heart is!

Toy Trains Through the Years

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Many books have been written about toy trains, but I will confine my article to the most popular 0 Gauge which measure 1 1/4″ between the inside of the rails. Other gauges include the smaller HO and S (American Flyer), and the larger Number 1 and 2, Standard and G (Garden or Grubbe).

Toy trains were developed in the U.S. back before the Civil War by George Brown. They were windup clockwork as electricity was many decades ahead. In Germany, Marklin became the first company to make toy trains with actual tracks. Their early 20th century trains and accessories are some of the best quality ever made and often sell well into the five figures.

Lionel Trains, the most popular of all makers, started in 1901 by Joshua Lionel Cowen.


In 1915, he introduced the 0 Gauge and set the standard for electric train sets as more and more homes had electricity. The decade from 1910 – 1919 was a booming growth time for Lionel. In 1926, he bought Ives Trains, an excellent toy train manufacturer that came with the reversing unit that allowed trains to change direction. The company suffered during the depression in the 1930s but came back strong after WWII. The pre WWII locomotives are still highly desirable and hard to find in very good condition.

Lionel 225E with 2235T pre War 2-6-2 steam locomotive and tender

In 1946, Lionel introduced smoke for the steam engines. By the early 1950s, Lionel was at its peak, but Television started to grab everyone’s interests.

The 1960s were a period of social changes in America and interest in toy trains was dying. Cowen died in 1965 and the company filed for bankruptcy in 1967. By 1973, the company became part of the General Mills Fun Group.


Lionel Gulf Tank Car and Louisville & Nashville Searchlight Car

The 1960s were a period of social changes in America and interest in toy trains was dying. Cowen died in 1965 and the company filed for bankruptcy in 1967. By 1973, the company became part of the General Mills Fun Group.

In 1985, General Mills sold Lionel off to Kenner Toys and a year later, Richard Kughn of Detroit bought Lionel Trains. In 1992, Neil Young bought into the company and helped rejuvenate the line with the Trainmaster Control system. Kughn sold out in 1995. In 2006, Lionel bought K-Line and started manufacturing their trains. The company moved its headquarters to Concord, NC.

Some Terminology:
Box Car – an enclosed railroad car that carried commodities
Couplers – hardware that joins the cars of a train
Flat Car – a freight car that is not enclosed
Gauge – the distance between the rails
Rolling Stock – freight, passenger, or maintenance cars
Reefer – a refrigerator car

Identifying Lionel trains, e.g. 2-6-4 means that the locomotive has one axle and 2 wheels up front, 6 wheels on 3 axles that drive the engine, and 4 wheels on 2 axles that support the firebox.

Of course, there are other fine trains that can be bought in today’s auctions and online, including Marx, American Flyer, MTH, and K-Line. Personally, I really enjoy the post WWII models as they as rugged and well built, and if taken care of, will last a long time. Some of the modern locomotives by Lionel and MTH can be found for over $1000 and they are very well made and realistic.   

Model trains have maintained their prices well over the past 10 – 15 years in comparison to some of the pressed steel and windup toys that have gone down in value. When I go to auctions, I always check the condition of the trains, especially the locomotives. Look for any wear and tear on the sides, broken parts such as wheels and lights, and make sure that all the parts are there. I always check out the engines on my own track and transformers when I get home. In the past 5 years, I only bought 2 or 3 engines that did not run well. Some of the rolling stock can be quite expensive and Lionel made some outstanding accessories such as the coal loader, automatic gateman, icing station, and light up stations.

Lionel Commemorative Rolling Stock #9431

The thing I like best about buying and selling toy trains is that does remind me of the many hours that I spent back in the 1950s and 1960s playing with my Lionel and American Flyer trains. The joy of making new layouts for my trains or going with my mother (usually) to the local department store and buying a new accessory is Lionel 225E with 2235T pre War 2-6-2 steam locomotive and tender long winters so much of my time was spent indoors. Of course we did not have computers and TV started in the late afternoon. You really had to use your imagination back then.

For more information, check out the Train Collectors Association. Steve Soltan, our guest blogger and his trains that he has for sale can be found at www.icollect247.com/sandsantiques

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Illuminating The World

Imagine your only light source in the black of night being a candle or oil-burning lamp? For centuries that was the source available to most people. Brilliantly, in 1896 Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulb (created in 1879) and George Leclanche’s battery (created in 1866) were put to use in a portable, hand held devise known as the FLASHLIGHT.

The name FLASHLIGHT originates from the early weak carbon filament and weak batteries these devises held. Early lights would only “flash” light briefly and only had a ring or tab switch which had to be pressed against the metal to make the electrical connection. Later, flashlights would see improvements in the batteries and bulbs and could illuminate for up to two straight hours.

Assortment of Early Winchester Flashlights

Assortment of Early Winchester Flashlights

The American Electrical Novelty and Manufacturing Company was one of the first and most successful companies to make these early flashlights. A large part of their success came from the realization that they could not just make the flashlight as a stand-alone product, therefore, they invested heavily in making their own batteries. Flashlight batteries would have to constantly be replaced which generated impressive sales for the company. These high sales rocketed the company, now known as EVEREADY, to the most successful flashlight company in the world.

Everready Display

My passion for collecting these illuminating beauties may have sprouted during my youth growing up in the north woods of Michigan…no street lights, no yard lights. Of course, my father had several flashlights for us to use when we would venture out into the darkness. They were not the best flashlights, however, as a kid I would have fun using them to cut a bright hole into the darkness and find my way. My father and I would often go hunting, fishing and camping. For all of these journeys our trusty flashlights were right by our side.

Since those early childhood days, I have become an addicted antique collector. My focus has been antique soda advertising, early bottles, vintage perfume bottles, antique oak furniture and Winchester items.

Approximately two years ago, I purchased my first Winchester flashlight and as any addiction goes, I have been trying to amass a first class flashlight collection since. Those fun childhood memories of cutting through the darkness with a trusty flashlight came flooding back. The older and more unique the flashlight…the better for me. I have been fortunate to acquire some of the earliest flashlights ever made. I have also been lucky enough to find early electric candlesticks. These were the perfect devise to help people transition from carrying candles to utilizing this new, much safer technology.

A wagon full of Winchester Flashlights and other Winchester Collectibles.

After acquiring a large and varied collection of flashlights, I’ve now decided to focus on early Winchester and Eveready items. Pictured is a portion of my flashlight collection. One of the most fascinating things about collecting flashlights is the incredible variety of different designs that have been created such as bicycle lights, vest lights, table top lights, penlights, projector lights, mini lanterns, toy gun lights, purse lights, and the list goes on and on. There is a light for every need in every size.

Assortment of Different Early Flashlights
Case full of solid Copper, brass and bronze Winchester Flashlights

Equally enticing is the incredible amount of flashlight advertising, which is extremely collectable and beautiful. Even the old batteries are now collectable and can be worth quite a bit of money.

It has been a fun and illuminating experience searching out these useful and often beautiful pieces of history. There is nothing like holding a solid copper flashlight in the palm of your hand, flipping the switch and having it brighten the room. They just don’t make them like they used to. Antique flashlights are truly little works of functional art.

Thanks to guest blogger – Kevin Kissel kkissel@triad.rr.com

BUYING WATCHES in the 1880’s

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If you were in the market for a pocket watch in 1880 where would you go to buy it. You would go to a store. Right?

Of course you could do that, but if you wanted one that was cheaper and a bit better than the store models, you went to the train station.

Why were the best pocket watches found at a train station? The railroad company was not selling the watches, the telegraph operator was. Most of the time the telegraph operator was located in a train station because the telegraph lines followed the railroad tracks from town to town. Telegraph operators sold more watches than almost all the stores combined for the period of about 9 years.

This was arranged by “Richard”, who was a telegraph operator himself. He was on duty in the North Redwood, Minnesota train station one day when a load of watches arrived from the  East. It was a huge crate of pocket watches.No one e came to claim them.  So Richard sent a telegraph to the manufacturer and asked them what they wanted to do with watches. The manufacturer didn’t want to pay the freight back, so they wired Richard to see if he would sell them. So Richard did. He sold the case in less than two days and made a handsome profit. That started it all. He ordered more watches and encouraged other telegraph operators to set up  a display case in the stations offering high quality watches for a cheap price to all travelers. It worked.

It didn’t take long for the word to spread and, before long, people other than travelers came to the train stations to buy watches. He hired a professional watch maker to help him with orders. That was Alvah. And the rest was history as they say. The business took off and soon expanded to many other lines of dry goods.

Richard and Alvah left the train station and moved their company to Chicago – and it’s still there.

THE REST OF THE STORY

It’s a little known fact that for a while in the 1880’s, the biggest watch retailer in the country was at the train stations. It all started with a telegraph operator: Richard Sears and his partner Alvah Roebuck.

Thanks for our guest blogger – The Watch Guy. Check our his watches – https://www.icollect247.com/happymiller

Peanut Butter Lovers’ Day

Always knew that my birthday would fall on a famous day… and here it is March 1st. Really interesting when we think that peanut butter is something that we invented, but it dates back to the Aztecs and Incas. Really? The real important date is when the peanut butter machine was invented in 1903, with Peter Pan licensed in 1928 and Skippy in 1932. Jif followed behind in 1955 and Planters Peanut butter in the 1950s. Perfect day to start collecting and displaying old Peanut jars. Check out these jars and early pails for sale on icollect247.com.