L.S. has two Japanese woodblock prints by Hiroshi Yoshida: "The Temple Yard" and "The Toshogu Shrine." Since the market today is soft for these works of fine art, Japanese woodblock prints are wise purchases. Indeed, all the value indicators are in place. By virtue of the delicate medium, the prints may decrease in quantity/quality over time. They are a niche market, yet most sellers do not have the research tools to price them correctly, so bargains abound! I often find these works in thrift stores for under $20, which makes for an opportunity to start a collection of underappreciated works on paper.
And what a storied tradition! Woodblock print techniques in Japan date to the eighth century, where the technology was used for multiple Buddhist texts. The "word" woodblock was supplanted by the illustrated woodblock print in the 18th century. The key to understanding this genre is the emphasis on narration — the image serves a story and is presented as a visual text, horizontally, in sets; seen together, the images read like a play.
The apex creation of the Japanese woodblock print are the large (30 to 100 separate illustrations) portfolios by one artist. The smallest series are in twos or threes. I have seen many sets of three (triptych) dismembered and sold separately, as each of the series are framed (in the Western style) separately. Another reason to collect sets of three or, even more fortuitously, the large portfolios is the importance of keeping the narrative set together. The complete, unframed portfolios are so rare they are very strong on the market.
Originally, these nishiki-e were hand-colored after the paper was inked with outlines in black on mulberry paper. Breakthrough technology after 1765 enabled the new technique of multiple block printing, a separate block carved for each color. The process was laborious. An image was sketched on transparent paper, glued to blocks of cherry wood. A carver cut in negative. The lines and wide area of colors are the raised areas, called relief carving. Up to 20 separate blocks struck different colors. L.S. might unglaze her prints to see if the margins around the image show two "hash" marks, which are the telltale "register" (alignment) marks seen only on an original woodblock print.
The harvesting and printing of the paper was also laborious. The inner bark of the mulberry tree was used to create it, and it was very strong and absorbent to color. Up to 20 blocks were pressed to paper with pressure, using a pad to the image's back.
As illustrations in the portfolio form of Japanese woodblock prints go, perhaps none is better known than Hiroshige's 1852 and 1858 series of "Twenty-Six Views of Mount Fuji," created in response to an earlier narrative portfolio by the great artist Katsushika Hokusai, "Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji (1830-32)," and his subsequent book, "One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji." Many consider these portfolios the classics of Japanese woodblocks. Perhaps the best-known image is Hokusai's "The Great Wave Off Kanagawa."
L.S.'s two prints were created in the late 1930s and bear the hallmark of sentimentality, perhaps because the Japanese feared the changes in their traditional way of life during the Second Sino-Japanese War, 1937-45. The artist Yoshida pictured a temple and shrine, depicting traditional kimono-wearers amid cherry blossoms. L.S.'s prints are overtly traditional, unlike those of the golden era of the woodblock print with their visual directness.
The future hinted at change. Such sentimental subjects failed to attract a growing number of mid-20th century Japanese artists. As the 20th century evolved, another school of artists was influenced by the abstraction of the West. This modernist school is valuable today, perhaps because of the strong graphic quality that dovetails with midcentury-modern interiors.
Another clue to the value of L.S.'s prints is the artist's signature (written in Western alphabet in pencil), in the lower-right margin. Classically, Hiroshige and Hokusai signed in the print, in a vertical, framed box called a "chop."
Yoshida continued the woodblock narrative tradition of a creation of a portfolio of concurrent images. L.S.'s print series included "Country Holiday," "Toshogu Shrine," "Sarasawa Pond," "Plum Gateway," "Hirosake Castle," "Shokozan," "Benten Shrine in Nezumigaseki," "Gion Shrine Gate," "Yasaka Shrine," "The Way to Kasuga Shrine," "The Kamo River," "The Chikurin (Bamboo Grove)" and, traditionally, "The Tea House in Azalea Garden."
L.S.'s images are not as valuable as the woodblocks from the golden era (late-18th to mid-19th century), bringing $300 to $400 each, tops. What a bargain! Another reason to collect these traditional, romantic images, nostalgic in the face of modernity.
Sleeping in this bed, which R.S. sends from San Francisco, could have been Oscar Wilde, Max Beerbohm or Aubrey Beardsley. They would have dreamed in late 19th C. of artistic creations that did not preach to their audience in the style of the Victorian works, or moralize, or politicize. Indeed, they would dream that their next quotable quote, essay, parody, cartoon or illustration would be anything but welcomed by the status quo. They hated art or design which was practical or utilitarian. Those high-minded design principles were goals of The Aesthetics, a philosophically based art movement of the late 19th C.
This bed is an American (late Victoria period 1875-85) New York Aesthetic Movement carved bed. The important phrase in this description is “Aesthetic Movement,” which was a culture-wide movement proclaiming “art for art’s sake,” begun in England with men like Wilde and Beerbohm. Those two creative types were co-conspirators to upset the Victorian standards of the late 19th C., and they alternately loved and hated one another. Wilde wrote about the young Beerbohm: “The gods bestowed on Max the secret of perpetual old age.” All of us know someone like that: brilliant, cantankerous, scholarly, a little hunched over, and devastatingly cynical. Perfect qualities for the occupant of a bed like SR’s.
As Beerbohm’s “old age” was recognized by Wilde, so was the Middle Ages style recognized by the Aesthetes. The hankering for all things Gothic was a hallmark of Aesthetic Movement design, clearly seen in R.S.’s bed. R.S. sleeps in this bed while visiting his friend, and when he does, he dreams he’s in church. Yes, this Aesthetic furniture has an ecclesiastical feel to it, as well as something very Asian in its simple geometric joinery. The period in furniture design that slightly pre-dates and parallels Aesthetic Movement is Eastlake, having similar geometric lines as opposed to the curly-cues of late Victorian ornate and over-blown furniture. The proponent of that movement was a curmudgeon himself.
Sir Charles Locke Eastlake (1839-1906) was an English art director, collector, painter, architect and writer pursuing “reform” of Victorian gaudy design. His book Hints on Household Taste in Furniture, Upholstery, and other Details was published in 1872 in the US and became a designer’s bible. Eastlake insisted that good taste was HIS taste: a mixture of Old English and Gothic elements. So pared down did later generations find Eastlake Taste that his furniture today is known as Stick-Eastlake.
When it came to the Aesthetic Movement thought and design leaders, they decried anyone who suggested “taste” could belong to a style or a nation, as Eastlake did. Ironically, what the Aesthetic Movement did for art and design was to make ‘alternative’ taste a style, and the Aesthetes were lampooned for their snobbish Bohemianism. Yet the Aesthetic thought leaders loved to define taste: as Oscar Wilde said, “I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.”
I have a suspicion that R.S.’s friend’s bed is a design by one of the leading American furniture houses of Aesthetic Movement furniture, New York’s Herter Brothers, 1865-1907. The brothers Herter, Gustave and Christian, designed for forward thinking wealthy folks, because although their designs are not based on Victorian ponderousness, they were old world German finish carpenters who liked artistic flourishes: they added fine inlay, tile work, hand crafting rich designs. They made furniture for the most prominent New York families, the Vanderbilts, Goulds, and Morgans. Thus, like R.S.’s friend’s bed, the lines of their furniture were simple and Gothic in statement, but elegant in their detail and flourish, such as inlaid marquetry work. The Herter Brothers were known for creating whole SUITES of furniture for a room with themed designed characteristics, so R.S.’s bed would have been mated with two dressers, mirrors, nightstands and an armoire.
If I am right, and R.S.’s friend’s bed is a design by the Herter Brothers (I would need to check Herter’s design books at Winterthur Museum in Delaware) the bed would sell at auction for upwards of $4,000. If made by an unnamed craftsman, the bed would fetch $1,500 at auction. Yet this furniture as “Aesthetic” is a good investment because not many people collect this short-lived design. Those that do will pay top dollar. By the first quarter of the 20th C., just as Aesthetic era artists and designers were very old men, the design world leapt into modernism with the onset of World War I.
R.P. likes garage sales, he writes, and 20 years ago found this "Bo Peep"-themed silverplated tumbler. The vessel bears the inscription "Robert 1888." The tale of a shepherdess losing her sheep is usually associated with female children, but like all nursery rhymes, the legend bears a moral directed to children in general.
Moralizing in stories for children was a habit of the late 19th century in both Victorian England and Rutherford B. Hayes' America (markings on the cup indicate either country of origin). "Bo Peep" is thought to be onomatopoeic for "Bleat Sheep"; another origin story credits the nursery rhyme with political symbolism, having to do with punishment. A "fine peep" (beau peep) referred to time spent with one's head in the pillory. In 1364, a barkeep named Alice was pilloried for a "short pour" (skimping on the liquor), says Louis Francis Salzman's "English Industries of the Middle Ages."
Bo Peep's song is an instructive one. The moral of the rhyme centers on the irresponsible Bo Peep who falls asleep while tending her sheep. When they return, they are tailless. Various versions and further stanza in the rhyme tell us that Bo Peep saw the bloodied tails arranged in a row along a fence. She gathered them up, haplessly attempting to reattach each one.
Always macabre, Mother Goose rhymes are a mystery of authorship. As early as 1626, the author of "Bo Peep" was given as "Mere l'oye"; by 1697, Charles Perrault gathered rhymes together in "Tales of My Mother Goose," republished in English in 1729 and brought to America in 1786. The revival of nursery rhymes in the late 19th century was part of a late Victorian interest in the regional folksong genre. It is easy to understand this fascination. In the light of growing industrialization, the loss of agrarian lifestyles, the rise of the big city, artists and writers turned to old folktales and ballads from the likes of Robert (Rabbie) Burns and Sir Walter Scott. Culture and identity were tied with regional ways of speaking and traditional poetry, English late medieval nursery rhymes like "Bo Peep" included. Across cultures, the late 19th century relished regional nationalistic poetry, and songs were recreated from folk traditions. Every major nation had versions of children's stories in themes from the 16th century told again in the late 19th century. Most were disturbing.
Children's eating and drinking utensils were a popular medium for the folktale revival, dovetailing nicely with the late Victorian propensity to turn story time into a morality tale. Across the 300 years since the unknown authorship of "Little Bo Peep," the late Victorian parents found the tale instructive — "don't dawdle!" Other silver and porcelain manufacturers did the same: Royal Doulton china bore "Old Mother Hubbard" and "Bunnykins"; Royal Bayreuth china carried "Sand Baby," a Russian tale; and Kate Greenaway's illustrations were pictured on china, in books, and on children themselves, as revivalist fashions were worn as children's clothing.
Christening mugs like R.P.'s were given to children with the image of the nursery rhyme characters picked out in repoussé (a raised relief) around the sides of the mug. Popular little mugs bore Red Riding Hood and Little Jack Horner, to name a couple, and I have seen other versions of R.P.'s Bo Peep mug. Middle- to upper-middle-class godmothers and fathers presented silverplated mugs to their godchildren. The upper classes gave sterling nursery rhyme mugs. R.P.'s is silverplated, and similar antique Bo Peep mugs are worth $50 to $75. The marking on the bottom, "1082," refers to the pattern. If the mug were sterling, we would find both a pattern mark and a hallmark (if British), or a stamp, "sterling," if American. If sterling, the mug would be worth $200 to $300.
The design of the mug features Bo Peep shielding her little eyes against a full sun. The back features a pack of dogs running under the moon. I have never seen a version of the Bo Peep rhyme featuring dogs. Perhaps dogs introduced on this innocent-looking christening mug have a 19th century interpretation — the dogs are responsible for the loss of the sheep tails! Notice the dogs running at night under a moon, ominously.
A Victorian interpretation of the old rhyme, the adding of dogs in the night to the Bo Peep tale is in character with the late 19th century, when children were alternatively idolized for their innocence and purity, or condemned for their cunning natures and wickedness. An object from a certain period of history gives a visual lesson of the culture and attitude of its time.
K.F. owns a black crepe kimono inherited from a friend whose dad collected it in Japan for his wife in 1930. The only identifying mark is a white embroidered circular shape, a stylized chrysanthemum, called a “kiku,” with a depth of meaning to Japanese culture. In the Kamakura period (1199-1333) the flower, exported from China, was believed to prolong life, becoming the symbol of the royal family. The Imperial House of Japan officially adopted the symbol in 1869, stylized, with 16-petals. This crest is located on the back between the shoulder blades.
K.F., you have a Kuro Tomesode, an all black kimono with one crest (Mon) on the back: the more crests, the more formal the garment. This might have been worn as Mofuku (a funeral kimono) during the early stages of mourning, with black Obi and accessories. As mourning progressed, the wearer would reduce the amount of black she wore. The lining of patterned silk indicates it was worn in the fall or winter. The long swinging sleeves, called Furisode, indicate an unmarried woman at that funeral wore this kimono. (Once married, a woman would not wear those long deep sleeves.)
Despite its severe look, this is not a man’s kimono, because a woman’s kimono sleeves swing free from the body to allow her to wear a wide Obi (sash) which sits up high on her torso. Man’s sleeves are attached to the kimono body, and men’s Obis are worn low on the stomach.
The more solid the embroidery of the crest (nui-mon), the more formal the kimono. K.F.’s is picked out in “Mid-Shadow,” indicating a moderately formal kimono. Since a maiden wore this kimono, this Mon represents her family (onnomon).
This kimono is part of the process of mourning. It may have been first worn at a semi-formal funeral, and, then worn afterwards, through other rites involved in remembering the dead, as the tradition of mourning moves slowly with dignity and ritual. Japanese funerals are Buddhist, honoring the severing of the deceased spirit’s ties to the earthly plane, assisting in that spirit’s movement to “The Pure Land.” The living help the dead in this process. The goal at “The Pure Land” is to refine oneself, away from the distraction of earthly life. Thus, the spirit moves away with the family’s help over time.
Although the mourners would have worn black kimonos, and might have worn them for a while after the funeral, the deceased would have worn white in the coffin, but folded upon the body in reverse; many funeral traditions are the reverse of traditions acted out in life. The coffin would be laden with small objects of meaning to the deceased, along with six coins for the crossing of the Sanzu River (River of Three Crossings), upon which the dead will stand on the seventh day after death.
If the deceased led a good life, he will have the easiest of the three places at which to begin the crossing. But if a ‘bad sort,’ the deceased will have to cross facing a snake. If the deceased hears their name after death, they might look back, so Buddhist priests give the dead a new name; a ‘good’ name can be purchased at a premium.
The wearer of your kimono would have had to sit with the deceased and her living family members all night (in the tradition of Buddha’s followers sitting with his body overnight), attending the wake the next day, and the funeral two days afterwards. Japanese funerals are expensive so mourners are expected to help with envelopes of the appropriate amount of money for their standing with the deceased. The first coffin nail is driven by the priest, the rest of the family finish, and the deceased is cremated.
After cremation, the wearer of your kimono would have used special chopsticks held by all family members to help each other separate out the bones from the ashes of the deceased. Now the spirit is free to leave on a 49-day journey, moving farther away from his earthly family. On the 49th day, the family celebrates. Yet the spirit is not completely free until its 49th year after death, and the family returns to the grave marker to clean it during the Oban holidays, one of the biggest in the Japanese yearly calendar.
What a story your kimono tells, of a young maiden woman attending a family member’s funeral ritual, in the first years of the 20th C., one early winter. The value of your semi-formal kimono is $250.
G.C. of the Santa Barbara shop Random has a toy train set by A. C. Gilbert Co. In the world of objects, each "thing" is a unique idea; an object is the exercise of visual imagination. Mechanical sets made for boys in mid-century America are solid, material, industrious examples — none better, perhaps, than the American Flyer train set.
Although Alfred Carlton Gilbert (1884-1961) didn't invent the toy train, he revolutionized it. In 1938, he acquired the rights to the American Flyer from W.O. Coleman and moved production to New Haven, Conn., adopting a 3/16 scale while keeping the three-rail O gauge track. G.C.'s set follows World War II, as his is a two-rail S gauge track. Gilbert's revolution was his trains' realism; American Flyers looked like real rail cars.
Gilbert was a true Renaissance man, as emphasized in his interestingly titled biography, "The Man Who Changed How Boys and Toys Were Made: The Life and Times of A. C. Gilbert, The Man Who Saved Christmas." Gilbert's stroke of genius was his invention of the Erector Set in 1913, springing from his imagination as he witnessed the construction of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. Yet because the U.S. needed factory space for World War I war production, the government banned such toys. Gilbert lobbied (and won) against this, hence he was "The Man Who Saved Christmas" for WWI-era boys.
His business acumen was acute, producing 30 million Erector Sets by 1935. His biographer's assertion that Gilbert "changed how boys were made" refers to Gilbert's inventions of do-it-yourself mechanical toys for boys, such as microscopes and chemistry sets. He advocated the teaching of "innovation" in American schools, which he found lacking, so he honored the importance of "invention" by founding the Gilbert Hall of Science on Broadway in New York City in 1941. Although impelled by Gilbert's spot-on capitalism (he sold his products from the museum), this was one of America's first museums of science and technology.
Gilbert was the impetus behind further halls of science: a "Gilbert Hall" in Miami on Flagler Street in 1943; another in Washington, D.C., in 1944; and a Chicago Hall on Michigan Avenue in 1953. Gilbert halls were devoted to massive, elaborate and imaginative American Flyer layouts. By visual example, they taught young boys mechanics, the American landscape and the glories of American technology.
New York's multi-storied hall featured three continuous room-sized displays of "Flyers" on the first floor: the Small 3-Rail, the Railroad Empire and the Super Layout (bridges included). The second floor was devoted to merchandising directed at young visitors whose parents opened wallets, a prescient coup for Gilbert. These halls kept the American Flyer in the public eye during yet another "toy" prohibition during WWII.
If a boy couldn't visit the Gilbert halls, there were always the Gilbert catalogs, which were mailed nationwide, featuring the halls' Flyer layouts. An extravagance beyond boys' reach, these unattainable (for most in the 1940s) trainscapes sweeping through the American landscape were picture-perfect visions of the model train. An aging aficionado on www.AmericanFlyerDisplays.org remembers, "For most of us (boys), it was a glimpse (of magnificence) and we didn't know what we were looking at, as the photos were never labeled. It was just the most fantastic layout, what we wished we had (ourselves) to run our trains on."
Gilbert's early sets and publications for boys reveal the breadth of his interests, as well as the ubiquitous blessing of never growing up. An early interest in magic led to the mechanical: Gilbert Mysto Magic (1913), Gilbert Chemical Magic, Handkerchief Tricks for Boys (1920), Gilbert Hydraulic and Pneumatic Engineering, Knots and Splices with Rope Tying Tricks, Magnetic Fun and Facts, and Fun with Chemistry.
The Collector's Guide to American Toy Trains gives the value of G.C.'s locomotive alone at $920. But the value of the American Flyer is also the legacy of boys' education, building realistic mechanical objects in realistic American geography, technology American-style, 1920-50.
Gilbert led a full life; not only did he found a brand of industrious play, but he epitomized the American boy. At the age of 16, he broke the record for consecutive chin-ups in 1900, and at 22, he set records for the pole vault, and tied for gold in the pole vault at the 1908 Summer Olympics. In Gilbert's 1954 autobiography, "The Man Who Lives in Paradise," the paradise is eternal boyhood. A true American Hardy Boy who was also a brilliant industrialist, Gilbert is remembered by legions of grown men whose hobby is model trains.
L.T. from Santa Barbara sent me these two – a matching pair – of paraffin oil lamps, dating to – what I suggest – may be 1880. I can date them, not by the technology alone, but by the style. The late 1800’s was a time of sentimental revivals of past eras, and in these lamps, we see a hint of the nostalgic French Revival style. The hand-painted ladies are fine French coiffured beauties that perhaps did NOT look like your average parlor maid in the 1880’s. In addition, the delicate expressions, demure and chaste, are a clue to how the late Victorians thought of female vulnerability.
We are also given a clue to interior decoration of the late 1800’s. Because these lamps are a pair, they were meant to be set together on a dressing table or vanity, and the latter location – the vanity – was a late 1800’s necessary and upper-class piece of a lady’s boudoir. This indicates that certain objects had a gender. And these lamps signify this interesting design quirk of the time.
French styles and designs were appropriate for women’s rooms and public rooms where women were present and actively participating, such as dining rooms and personal dressing rooms – as well as sewing rooms and lady’s parlors. Men had their own designs and styles for rooms most often containing men, like the smoking room, the billiards room, and the library. Masculine design was anything but French, and more often than not, in the 1880’s, Tudor or Renaissance Revival style furniture and fittings, which were bolder in line and heavier in shape. These lamps would never be in a man’s room.
The idea of gendered objects – if you think about it – makes no sense, but it is such a part of our past cultural heritage that we do not often think about it. I had nannies that, back in the 1980’s when my son was small, told me to get rid of Lock’s French design furniture for fear of his future masculinity. These ideas about gender and appropriate objects are still with us. Think of blue for boys and pink for girls.
Also, indicative of these lamp’s age is the circular burner and the circular wick. The burner – you can still see it – had three prongs to support a glass chimney or hurricane to guard the wick that held the flame. The lighting fluid in the lamp baluster itself was paraffin. Before the use of paraffin, lighting was achieved with kerosene, which was smelly and sooty, as kerosene was derived from coal oil.
These lamps tell the story of quite a momentous invention in the world of lighting – the circular burner, invented in the early 1800’s by Frenchman Aime Argand. His first lamps are today usually one central shaft that holds kerosene with two arms branching from that shaft that hold two light sources. Early lighting collectors call this shape Argant Lamps.
L.T.’s lamps are not of this shape – so we think of them as later and more common paraffin oil lamps, yet the history of oil lamps involves many types of oil – animal fat (especially whale), olive oil, coal oil, then, at last, paraffin.
Since ancient times, people had been attempting to extend daylight hours. In fact, the day we homo-sapiens rubbed together two stones to create light was the beginning of civilization. From those beginnings, we learned that oil would extend the life of a flame and used animal fat and olive oil to light our torches. In fact, the word “lamp” derives from the Greek word “lampas” which means torch. A hand-held light is still called a “torch” if you are British.
The first containers for this oil were bow-shaped with a spout that help a wick, made of clay or terracotta. In later antiquity, lamps became important and were made in important materials like bronze, stone and alabaster.
L.T.’s pair of 1880’s oil lamps (converted to electricity, which was done often, and sometimes poorly, botching the porcelain of the baluster from a crude drill hole for the cord) is not worth as much as you might have assumed having read their storied history. Current taste does not welcome sweet sentimental views of simpering young beauties, and therefore at auction these lamps would perhaps only fetch $400 the pair, or less.
"805" has an antique leather postcard, featuring a 1 cent stamp, postmarked by offices in Palo Alto and Dixon, Ill. The address simply reads "Ms. Sisquella Crosby, Dixon, Ill." If the town was small enough, no street address was necessary in those days.
The postcard, bearing an embossed image of the Stanford Memorial Church, arrived in Dixon on Nov. 25, 1907. Coincidentally, Ronald Reagan lived in Dixon from the time he was 9 to 22; visitors can tour the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home. Today, the city boasts 15,000 residents (2,500 are prisoners in the Dixon Correctional Center); historical notoriety occurred in this small town.
Abe Lincoln joined the Illinois Militia at Fort Dixon in 1832 during the Black Hawk War. In 1873, a group of 45 people went straight to heaven as the bridge over the Rock River collapsed. Heaven? Yes — they were on the bridge to witness a baptism ceremony. In 1880, a farmhand murdered a traveling salesman, whose body was found near a stream at the bottom of a gulch near what is today called Bloody Gulch Road. Quarter horse breeder and Dixon Municipal Comptroller Rita Crundwell embezzled more than $53 million from 1990-2012, the largest theft in U.S. municipal history.
So ... the addressee, Sisquella Crosby, would have remembered (or perhaps anticipated) the glories of her town of Dixon, Ill., as she received this postcard from Stanford, unsigned.
Postcards at that time were only a 60-year-old tradition, invented in England in 1840. Picture postcards were not invented until 1870 to honor the Franco-Prussian War; these depicting French battlegrounds were the first souvenir "image" postcards. Illustration was a French specialty; 19th century French postcards featured nude ladies.
The first U.S. souvenir postcard was printed by the U.S. Post Office as an 1893 token of the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The U.S. had invented the pre-stamped postcard in 1873. The Post Office held a monopoly on printing any image on postcards until the Private Mailing Card Act of 1898. Not until 1907 could an American write anything more than an address on a postcard (no personal message was allowed). The year 1907 was a landmark because the "divided back" postcard was legalized for both address and message.
The golden age of American postcards was dominated by women sending cards to other women (1907-10) because of the beauty and popularity of "German postcards." Trade ceased with the onset of World War I, yet the act of girlfriends sending souvenir pictures to girlfriends in the mail lived on.
This postcard owned by "805" is an example of pokerwork or pyrography. The souvenir image was burned or hot-stamped on leather or wood, a handcraft that was popular among ladies from 1904-15. A cottage industry, women made these images using a heat press, then over-painted with color ink. It was a brief but exciting period in postal history — exciting because the images were burnt not just on leather but also small planks of wood and sent through the mail! Pyrography was adopted by noted artists of the Arts and Crafts period.
We can learn much from the postmarks and cancellation. U.S. stamp cancellation in the late 19th century was mechanized. Early and mid-19th century stamp cancellations were done by hand at post offices, but savvy Americans figured out how to wash and re-use hand-canceled postage stamps. By 1907, high-speed cancellation aimed to deface the stamp, which to some collectors is seen as detrimental. "805's" postcard has both an origin postmark and receiving postmark as well as an American flag cancellation mark.
Regarding the clarity of the American colonial flag cancellation: Some philatelists collect legible cancellations and not stamps. "805" can consult Hanmer's Guide to U.S. Machine Postmarks, or get in touch with the U.S. Cancellations Club or The International Machine Cancel Society, to see if the Dixon or Palo Alto postmark is rare (I doubt it) or if the 13 starred American flag cancellation increases value.
All this rich history does not indicate a great value — the card is worth $12. "805" asked me to look into the value of the postcard, but often the value is not in the card type, writer or picture but in the stamp. The 1907 1 cent Franklin stamp could be worth more than $600. "805" should consult philatelists at the Santa Barbara Stamp Club, founded in 1947, which meets once a month at Maravilla Senior Living.
Certified appraiser for estates, inheritances and trusts.
Dr. Elizabeth Stewart's column appears every week in the Salon & Style section of the Santa Barbara News Press. Email her your questions and high-resolution photos at ElizabethAppraisals @ gmail.com
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