We draw a certain meaning from any work we do. One can’t be in the antique business and not think about time and aging. You constantly handle artifacts from simpler eras. Many dealers are old-timers who have been in the game a long time and know how much it has changed. The insight I have drawn from antiquing is a change in the pace of life. Thank you, industrial revolution!
Collecting antiques and displaying them in our homes is a recognition that we value history. Estate sales are glimpses into the past as lived by ordinary people with sometimes extraordinary bits of residue from historic moments.
I once knew a dealer who bought an old bottle at an estate sale in the Pennsylvania coal regions. He was intrigued by the french inscription etched in the glass and the thick black liquid sealed inside with a crystal stopper. It turned out to be oil drained from the engine of the Spirit of St. Louis at Le Bourget airport. When Lindbergh landed, the mob that greeted him began to take bits and pieces of the plane as souvenirs. Police had to guard it through the night.
Today’s advertising can be overwhelming, even annoying. You will find any antique mall and many shops to be chock full of old advertising treated as high art. The multitudinous tins and bottles of kitchen and other household products are equally celebrated for their rarity and quaintness. Back in the sixties we rebellious types bemoaned our materialistic throwaway society. No archeology site is complete without it’s midden. We celebrate junk by viewing it in a new light.
The average antique shop is not a palace of treasured items built by the best craftsman of times past. genuine Chippendale is apt to already be in a museum or some stinking rich guys mansion. Instead we have the horse collar from the days of slow transportation, The typewriter from the days of slow communication, soda fountain stools from the days before fast food. When my father was a boy no aircraft flew past the speed of sound. When my Grandfather was a boy there were no airplanes. He plowed with a horse and when he grew up he took a slow boat to Europe to fight in The Great War.
Maybe the slower pace of the past meant less luxury and harder work. Although the reports I see on the news are indicating that Americans spend more time at work and of course the two wage earner family is becoming a necessity in this economy. We are definitely on the go and have adapted to a hurried lifestyle.
This became apparent to me a couple of years ago when I found myself in a situation where I was required to use an old rotary dial phone. They were the only thing available in my world until about 1968. I placed my finger in the hole corresponding to the first number and rotated the dial. Then I let it return to the starting position. This continued for all eight digits in the telephone number. Half way through this process it occurred to me that the whole thing was very annoying. Why should I be annoyed at a stupid old phone?
It wasn’t the effort of dialing that put me off. My fingers were not weak. I didn’t lack faith that the call would go through. It was simply having to wait for the dial to return to the starting position before dialing the next number. It was robbing me of precious seconds. So, how pathetic am I? I wonder if my Grandson will look back on the cell phone and think, ” how quaint? Imagine pushing all those buttons. Where did they find the time?”