The stories behind antiques.

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A candlestick style telephone sits on a display table, summer sun shines down upon it. A kitchen stove, wood-fired, sits also waiting patiently for a buyer as it’s done for years.

Things used to be tangible, unlike much today. Back in the day, the utilitarian factor on many goods was high. And they were worth the value. Items like that phone and stove, now considered antiquities, come from a simpler time, but still holding their value are sought after today.

This summer I went to one of the biggest antique show and sales in Bouckville, N.Y. and the number of antique goods and vendors was out of control. It took me hours to get through it all and although my minimalist mindset said no, and I walked away empty handed, I was still able to appreciate that in former times things were real, made to last for generations.

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Wood-fired stove

I know I wasn’t around to use most of the items at Bouckville, but I developed a passion for what they represent and what their purpose was originally for.

One of the things that caught my attention was an array of tools, hand drills, rakes, shovels, pickaxes, hammers and many household tools like a variety of laundry irons, which were actually made of iron. I guess this is the thrill I got out of this show. Things were actually made from metal.

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And they were heavy and strong. They could be repaired, rebuilt or recycled into something else. They were not made of molded plastic. A cheap resource, that once broken, well, it’s time to trash it and buy a new one. Plastics, one of the scourges of our culture is generally made to be thrown away.

The goods for sale at the antiques show were not destined for the dump. They were handcrafted and made to be around many years, if not generations. And behind everything I saw at the show I felt a kind of nostalgic energy behind it. Like the children’s tricycle I stopped to check out.

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Somewhere years and years ago, most likely in America, an iron worker made this toy for a youngster. The worker, bending the steel, welding it, painting it, had a life and a soul. Unlike the automated-machines churning out products every five minutes overseas in an overcrowded and dangerous factory.

The thought of someone actually building this little trike intrigued me. I looked around more and found watering cans made of steel, a coffee grinder made of solid brass. All of these items were unique and intended to be used for, well, long after the skilled worker built them is gone.

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What’s now important is that these tools, household items, toys and other you-name-its are still being given the gift of life. A second chance, another run. They may not be used for the naturally intended purpose, but they’ll be on display in a collection, be part of a film or included in the set of some broadway play. And they will be used to not only tell the story of an era of time, but to display what as people we are able to create.

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Brass coffee grinder

So much different than what we’re doing right now. I guess Bouckville was more than an antique sale to me. It was a living history and tribute to the way things were. Some say maybe a simpler, easier time. Other saying more complex, not modern and mechanized.

Who’s really right anyway? I suppose as long as we can remember and learn from our past neither is a wrong interpretation.

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2 thoughts on “The stories behind antiques.

  1. It’s a shame that things are designed to be throw-away today. Plastics needn’t be throw-away, they can be sturdy and long lasting, as shown in that Bakelite phone. I think the main difference is in the rise of disposable incomes at the end of last century…back when these were made (wages were about $500 p.a. and a bike cost about $16 in 1900), if you had $2 left over each week, then you were doing very well indeed!

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    • Thanks for the comment. However I have to disagree with you about plastic. First, plastic is a derived from petroleum, making it fossil fuel dependent. Secondly, it’s a leading cause of pollution worldwide. Look at the garbage patches in the oceans.

      http://education.nationalgeographic.com/encyclopedia/great-pacific-garbage-patch/

      My main point was that plastic is not as durable as these antiques made of metal are. And it’s a shame that plastics are in such wide use and cannot be repaired from damage. They are just thrown away, and will not biodegrade.

      I do agree with you about disposable incomes rising in the industrialized world, which brought a whole new class of citizen and marketplace to the world. And depending on your viewpoint it may or may not have been a good thing.

      Thanks for sharing. I am always looking for a good discussion.

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