JOURNAL — Desk Accessories RSS



József Pulitzer

On this day in 1917, the first Pulitzer Prizes were awarded—in three categories: Biography, History and Journalism.  They were awarded by Columbia University in New York, thanks to an endowment by Hungarian immigrant, József Pulitzer (1847-1911), who had made a fortune in American publishing.  It was Pulitzer's bequest which had established the Columbia School of Journalism in the first place. Pulitzer was born to a Jewish family in Southern Hungary, near Romania.  His father was a successful merchant and eventually moved the family to Pest (along the Danube River, the eastern portion of Budapest).  The Pulitzer children were privately tutored, learning French and German.  When Pulitzer's father died, however, the family went bankrupt, forcing the young József to find work....

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The End of Italian Monarchy

On this day in 1946, the people of Italy voted to abolish their monarchy (54% to 46%) and the Republic of Italy was born.  From this point, by law, no male heir to the crown (or queen consort) was allowed to set foot on Italian soil.  Within 11 days, King Umberto II left Italy peacefully, never to return.  He lived most of his final 37 years in Cascais, along the "Portuguese Riviera." This last Italian monarch, Umberto Nicola Tommaso Giovanni Maria di Savoia, had only been king for about five weeks.  His father, Vittorio Emanuele III (who had ruled since 1900), stepped-down and let his son succeed him.  The former king, Vittorio Emanuele III, was exiled to Egypt and died...

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Brushin' Up

When I was a boy, I remember the Fuller Brush Man coming to the house every couple of months.  His range of items on-offer seemed endless, a brush for every conceivable household purpose.  There were toothbrushes, toilet brushes, hair brushes, scrub brushes—even brushes to clean other brushes.   My mother usually placed a little order with each visit. We don't seem to use as many brushes today.  Or as often.  In the past, many households—working or middle class—had a "hall butler" near the door: a hanging mirror with hooks or a shelf to hold a few brushes,  It was customary to take a quick look in the mirror before leaving the house.  And one could brush-off any lint or dandruff...

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May-ple

Mayo, Maypo, Maypole, Maple.  Some days the puns flow more easily.  Today's not that day. Day-in and day-out, regardless of the month, this maple "dish" remains handsome and moderately useful.  It is cast of pewter and finished with a brassy wash.  The dip in the center makes it perfect for holding a few small objects: paperclips, cufflinks, rings or house keys.  It would also "present" a small stack of business cards with "North-of-the-Border" style.

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Indian Clubs

Exercise clubs are believed to have been developed first in Persia, called "meels," which were used in individual and group exercise routines.  They later became popular in India where Colonial British soldiers discovered and adapted them for their military fitness regimens.  It was at this point that they began to be called "Indian Clubs."  English Commonwealth and American civilians embraced them during the Late Victorian age.  The clubs range in weight from about a pound (for use in calisthenics) to very heavy (up to 100 pounds, for resistance training).  After World War II, and the advent of more sophisticated exercise equipment, Indian Clubs lost their popularity.  Today they are most often used as a decorative accent for a clubby, athletic...

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April First, Diamonds and Paperwork

This is one way to organize paperwork.  And it's branded "Diamond," the birthstone which begins April First. The organization of paper makes me think of this story from last week: Deep within the dozens of boxes of "misappropriated and recovered" government documents this year was found an "Official Presidential Order" written sometime during the waning days of 2020.  According to Avril Foulin, staff assistant at the National Archive's Stolen Document Recovery Department, the document—which may or may not have been officially processed—was found in a folder, clipped to commercial import invoices for "Chinese Antiq. Style PVC Ecomomy Fawcet (with high-gloss golden color sprayed)."  Interestingly, the presidential order under scrutiny may have been related to these cheap and tacky plastic bathroom fixtures.

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Imperial Glass

In the Nineteenth Century, Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and the Ohio River Valley emerged as the preeminent glassmaking region of the United States.  The region had all the necessary ingredients for glassmaking: raw materials (silica-sand and limestone), cheap heat (natural gas and coal), cheap labor (and much of it from glass-making Eastern European countries) and rivers and railways (to ship-out the finished product).  Riverboat captain, Edward Muhleman, had made a tidy sum plying the waters of the Ohio River during America's Industrial boom.  As he got older, he found himself ready to wrap-up his "seafaring" career—but he wasn't quite ready to retire completely.  He set the goal of building the country's largest glass manufacturer in the Ohio River Valley.  He...

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Bohemia's Golden Days

While I love the Art Nouveau, I always have been hesitant to enter "The Art Glass Fray."  It's a world chock-full of passionate, opinionated and discriminating aficionados—people who seem to loooove setting other people straight.  These experts all seem to have 75 years of collecting experience (and don't you forget it!).  Interestingly, my reluctance has proved convenient.  Glass breaks easily and I am always shipping merchandise (either from Europe or to my customers).  The less delicate merchandise I stock, the less-fraught my life should be.  (Right?)

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Time to Leap

A calendar year, on Earth, is 365 days long.  However, it takes a little more time than that for the Earth to complete its full revolution around the Sun—365.242374 days, to be precise.  (A true "Earth Year" is 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, 1.1 seconds.)  This small difference would add-up to 24 days in a century.  After 100 years, the calendar would be off by nearly a month.  Within 500 years, our Summers would be freezing cold! So, in 46 BC, Julius Caesar instituted a leap day—an extra day added to the calendar every four years—on his new Julian Calendar.  This "intercalary date" was still not quite right (the adjustment was too much).  So Pope Gregory XIII instituted his Gregorian Calendar (in...

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Trench Art

The term "trench art" is used to refer to the folk crafts fashioned of (or partially fashioned of) the used or spare materials of warfare.  This art form was especially popular during and after World War One.  Trench art was made by all the major WWI participants: England, France, Belgium, Germany, Canada, Australia and the United States. But very little trench art actually was made "in the trenches"—or even on the front lines, for that matter.  Much of it would have been made away from the battlefield, for example, at training camps or other military posts.  Some might have been made in hospitals by recuperating soldiers.  And some may have been made back at home—by soldiers awaiting call-up.  Even after...

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Wooden It Be Useful? - V

Can one have too much organization on one's desk?  This English early Twentieth Century oak stationary stand bears the crest of Queen's College, Oxford.  Store stationery supplies: envelopes, paper, business cards.  Perhaps a stash of commonly used forms or cards.  Or keep your to-do cards and paperwork close-at-hand. And the handsome, wooden construction adds a small touch of architectural interest to your office, den, kitchen or entryway.

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Wooden It Be Useful? - IV

To hold this Japanese hand-carved business card case is to appreciate its beauty and craftsmanship.  The delicately tapered "wedge" (thicker on one edge than the other) feels great in the hand.  The hinged cap, at top, closes with a satisfying magnetic click.  Pulling the case from the breast pocket of a jacket will provide that extra measure of confidence before handing one's business card to that important professional contact.  

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Wooden It Be Useful ?- II

Yes, this English Arts & Crafts Letter Rack is made of wood—though it is embellished with plenty of hand-hammered brasswork.  A winged dragon stalks in a field of botanicals, while an undulate amethyst glass cabochon floats overhead.  The hand-tooled panels are riveted to the oak understructure.  This piece is made to hang (on its mounting ring) or it can rest of a flat surface.

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Wooden It Be Useful? - I

Is there anything more wonderful than wood? Warm. Useful. Natural.  For millennia, humankind has been fashioning wood for tools, shelter, warmth and all sorts of decorative items.  Perhaps it is the most malleable and accessible of natural materials.  And the nature of wood makes it ideal for many uses—which no other material can replicate. For the next several days, we'd like to share a selection of our wood-crafted objects, items which are handsome and useful. Shown here, an American Arts & Crafts slatted oak wastepaper basket.  The quarter-sawn strips, bound with rawhide lashings, add an additional level of textual interest. What Arts & Crafts desk (or office) wouldn't look better with this handsome basket?

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Sailing Towards Christmas

True, Christmas is eleven months away.  But it is coming! This cast iron "Spanish Galleon" doorstop was made by Hubley (Lancaster, PA) in the Twenties or Thirties.  It still has much of its original hand-painted color—though that paint is now well-aged (and full of character).  Imagine this doorstop holding the door (or decorating the mantelpiece) of your favorite sailor's den or office.  And imagine what style it would bring to someone's house at the shore.

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Style, Quality, Mass-Production

One of the recurring themes of my Journal Ramblings is the confluence of taste, quality and modern production methods. There was a time in the Nineteenth Century—during the height of the Industrial Revolution—when good & tasteful design married the economically advantageous benefits of industrial mass-production.  The idea was to create a beautiful original and then to produce them in great quantity—an effort "to bring good taste and quality to the masses."  This happened in England and, a little later, in America and throughout the industrializing world. The simple 19th Century letter and pen holder, shown above, is an example of this phenomenon.  Two identical "ends"—formed as a pair of flared, booted legs—are spaced three-and-a-half inches apart, joined with rods.  A...

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Storage Space Upgrade

It's the New Year!  Time to reorganize, refresh, retire that To-Do List, sitting oh-so-long upon the desk.  Perhaps this pair of Victorian cast iron brackets—embellished with delicate, pierced "tracery"—will give your storage projects a lift?  They were made in the 1880's or 1890's and are six inches in one direction, eight inches in the other.  This means you can install a wider or narrower shelf, based upon your needs and the space you have available (supporting shelves from six inches to approximately ten inches wide).  These brackets would provide a small but powerful shot of architectural interest wherever they might be installed: in the kitchen, a bathroom, or in the office-den.

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Welcome, Winter

This evening—at 10:27 pm Eastern Time—Winter will begin in the Northern Hemisphere. 10:27 pm will also mark the moment when the Earth's North Pole is tilted furthest from the Sun.  Thus it is the shortest period of daylight in the year (for those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere).  Starting tomorrow, 22 December, the days (that is, the daylight) gradually will get longer and longer. Today is also our Seventh Wedding Anniversary!  Though we have been a devoted couple for (almost) 34 years, legal marriage was not afforded us for most of that time.  On this day, in 2016 (with President Obama securely in-office for one more month), Bob and I ran-down to City Hall for a late morning...

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A City on a Hill

The United States Capitol building is a glorious feat of Neoclassical architecture. Construction began in 1793.  Central portions of the building were complete by 1800—only to be partially burned-down by the British in 1814.  The damaged portions were re-built and the entire building expanded in the 1850's.  The cast iron dome (weighing nearly nine million pounds) was finally completed in 1866.  Like other important Washington, D. C. buildings, the Capitol is Neoclassical in design and painted white.  Indeed, it gleams like the proverbial City on a Hill. The glass-slab paperweight, shown above, features a sepia photograph of the Capitol.  It's a handsome and useful gift for your favorite historian, architect or future Congressman.

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From Birmingham, with Luck

The brass paperclips, shown above, are designed in the form of a lucky horseshoe—and are embossed with a wish for "Good Luck."  They have a loop on  the back, allowing one to hang the packet of paper sheets on a nail on the wall.  They were made in 1870 in Birmingham, England, by M. Myers & Son. Birmingham had a very important "Jewelry Quarter" since the Sixteenth Century.  It was here that much of England's jewelry was produced. With so many skilled workers in the area, other small metalworks manufacturers sprung-up: makers of buckles, blades, metal buttons and pen nibs.  Besides inexpensive labor, Birmingham also had the materials of production (iron ore and the coal to process it) and the means...

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The Sporting Life - IV

If you can't get enough of the outdoor sporting life—or if you only wish to experience it from comfortably indoors—this English cast brass ashtray will bring a touch of Nature onto your desk, counter or coffee table.  Two bird dogs, Setters, emerge from the water.  Let them bring their bold, outdoor energy into your home.

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For A Doll's House

I am always looking for "things to hold other things."  Near the top of that perpetual search list are objects which can be used to hold business cards.  Coolness, style and unexpected adaptation always goes a long way.  This little vintage bench—made of pine twigs—was made in the Fifties for a doll's house.  In order to keep the cards from slipping between the twiggy slats, I folded one of the cards ("just right") to create a smooth, impermeable surface.

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Measuring Up

125 years ago, rolling tape measures were made of printed fabric, wound around a spool in a bulky cartridge.  One would pull out the tape measure and reel it back in, as one would a fishing reel.  Modern, stiff metal tape measures were invented in the Twenties; the concave-convex metal tape allows it to remain relatively stiff, an aid to measuring.  The "thumb lock" tape measure was patented by Stanley in the Sixties. Speaking of Stanley, this New Britain tool manufacturer made the folding pocket measure, shown above.  This is the "Stanley #62," made of boxwood and brass (which is used for the hinges and along the sides of the ruler).  A measuring stick like this would be carried in...

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Quit or Do It In Style

I have never liked smoking.  I just don't understand the allure of bathing one's lungs in carcinogenic smoke.  One's first cigarette—and the disgust it induces—should be enough to preclude a second one.  The act seems so foreign to me.  However, I must admit, I really do like many smokers.  And I love the accoutrements of smoking: tobacco jars, pipe holders, smoking cabinets, humidors and cigarette cases.  And, of course, beautiful ashtrays. Shown above, a large Italian Modernist ceramic ashtray—impressed, incised and glazed in a "Rimini Blu" glaze.  It was designed by Aldo Londi for Bitossi and made in the Sixties.  The Bitossi family had been making ceramics in Tuscany since 1871.  In 1921, Guido Bitossi founded his own pottery workshop outside of Florence....

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The Right Hold on Books

When reading a large, heavy book—a reference tome, a Bible, a cookbook—it is often easier to read when placed on a stand.  There are also times when one must use his or her hands while referencing the book.  In such cases, a sturdy (and handsome) bookstand, like the one shown above, comes to the rescue. This Nineteenth Century English bookstand is made of pierced brass, stands atop four feet, and has an adjustable "tilt" to create just the right angle for reading.  And the whole unit folds shut for storage when it's not being used.  It is also a fine place for displaying a framed photo, a piece of art, a menu, or a sign atop a table or credenza.

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Bird Bell

A proper Victorian household would not be complete with a broad collection of bells, scattered variously about the house.  A "quick tinkle" of a tea bell would summon the servant to bring-in the tea, collect a letter for posting, or to escort a guest from the sitting room.  Bells should sound nice, of course, but their sound must also travel a reasonable distance, sometimes through walls or closed doors. The handsome Victorian bronze tea bell, shown above, may have helped keep a proper household properly moving.  The handle is in the form of a parrot.  And the hand-painted coloration (on the bird and on the skirt of the bell) is referred to as "cold painting"—that is, paint applied to the...

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Art Nouveau Belge

This Belgian Art Nouveau bronze platter ticks so many boxes for me.  It's Art Nouveau.  It's Belgian.  It is highly sculptural.  It is cast of heavy bronze.  And it features an exuberant spray of highly-realistic tulips—each one dressed in a gilded bronze patina.   Is it practical?  Well....  Sure, you could place business cards on it. It could be used to hold pens or clips on the desk.  It's perfect for corralling few cufflinks, collar stays or earrings at the bedside.  And it could even present a small offering of wrapped candies on a table.  But its greatest feature is its beauty.  It would perform no task better than being a beautiful accent on a flat surface—a Nouveau punctuation on your...

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Make Your Mark

"Handsome and Useful" has always been my lodestar—at least when it comes to selecting gifts and other antique items to offer in my shop.  The dressmaker's "Skirt Marker," shown above, ticks both of these boxes.  A cast iron base holds the boxwood measuring stick used to achieve a level hem while marking the skirt or dress. It is patent-marked from 1940 and was probably made shortly thereafter (before America diverted much metal production to the war effort).  Perhaps you've fashioned your final couture creation?  Well, this piece of vintage sewing paraphernalia will help maintain the atmosphere of an old-time tailoring shop.  It would also be a cool gift for a fashion designer friend or graduate.

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Autumn is Here - part XIII

As the Autumn chill increases, we find ourselves hanging-up the garden tools and returning to our indoor pastimes: reading, baking, arts & crafts.  For those who sew (or practice other needlecrafts), this hand-carved Swiss Blackforest pincushion might be a handsome and practical solution.  Leaves and scrolling branches provide the frame—which, if desired, can be hung right on the wall (next to one's sewing spot).  It can also be stored in a sewing basket or on a sewing room table or shelf. If sewing isn't your hobby of choice, this pincushion might be a useful place to hang some of your jewelry:  pin-on the brooches directly and hang earrings or necklaces on a straight pin.  It is also a clever and handsome...

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Autumn is Here - part IV

Even a Non-Canadian is likely to agree: the maple leaf is a beautiful thing.  Add to that the splendors of "birdseye" or "curley" maple wood—and let's not forget the wonder of maple syrup.  O, Canada! Shown above, a cast pewter maple leaf "dish," finished with a brassy patina.  It could be used to hold rings, cufflinks, collar stays, paper clips, wrapped candies or a stack of business cards.

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Back-to-School - III

Back-to-School cannot be (must not be) all study and drudgery.  American Football plays a major role at many schools across the nation.  Get into the school spirit with this Japanese crystal football by Sasaki, c. 1960's -1970's.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it.

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René Jules Lalique

René Jules Lalique was a French jeweler, interior decorator, medal sculptor, and (most famously) the designer and maker of luxurious decorative art glass wares during the Belle Epoque period.  He was born in Aÿ, France, in 1860 and moved with his family to Paris at the age of two.  As a teen, he took drawing classes at school, supplemented with night courses at the Ecole des arts décoratifs.  When Lalique's father died, René became an apprentice jeweler to a Parisian goldsmith. learning the trade of jewelry production.  He continued taking art classes at the Ecole des arts décoratifs.  At twenty one, René began providing freelance jewelry designs to such luminaries as Cartier and Boucheron.  At 26, Lalique founded his own jewelry...

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Counterbalance

Before digital scales were invented, objects were weighed by "balancing" the object against another group of objects whose weights were already known and could be added-up.  On one side of the balance, a measure of grain.  On the other side of the scale, a group of counterweights which balance the weight of the grain. The handsome—and sculptural—industrial scale weights, shown above, were made in the early Twentieth Century.  Each brass weight (raging from .8 ounces to 10 pounds) is marked with its weight.  These counterweights would have been used, in combination, to ascertain the weight of some other object.  Add and subtract weights until balance is achieved.  Then, simply add-up the total weight of the multiple counterweights.

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St. Johnsbury to the World

Thaddeus Fairbanks, of Saint Johnsbury, Vermont, was an inventor, mechanic and wagon-maker.  He developed a cast iron plow and a cast iron oven, yet he was disappointed with contemporary weighing scales.  They were inaccurate and difficult to use.  With his brother, Erastus, he formed the E & T Fairbanks Company.  With their clever new inventions, the brothers' business rocketed—and their timing was perfect, right at the start of the Industrial Revolution.  By the 1860's, at the time of the American Civil War, Fairbanks scales were the most famous American product in the world.   Thaddeus achieved ease and accuracy of weighing by applying the physics of leverage to reduce the amount of counterweight needed to measure heavy objects.  He developed...

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Always Good Intentions

I remember Eighth Grade Shop Class quite well.  It was at Kapaa Intermediate School, on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, and we would rotate through the various "disciplines" quarterly: woodworking, metal craft, technical drawing and gardening.  If Mother's Day or Father's Day happened to coincide (even approximately) with the woodworking or metal craft interval, you could be certain that a "love-crafted gift" would be going home to the parent in question.  Now, 47 years later, I can still clock a shop class creation from across the flea market.  The piece always has good intention; it's the level of finesse which varies.  And I always spare a thought for the (poor?) parent who was required to "oooh and ahhh" at the...

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I'm Not Going Native!

Though I live in the City of Pittsburgh, I am part of a multi-dealer group shop, The Antique Center of Strabane, in Washington County—the suburban (and rural) region south of The Steel City.  Thus I am a daily witness to the aesthetic "taste preferences" of this non-urban population.  What's most popular in this area is a rustic country look, sometimes called "primitives."  This means crocks, old kitchen accoutrements, and rustic, painted wooden furniture. One such example of primitive goods is the weathered knife box, shown above.  It displays the "life wear" which primitive collectors want, plus substantial traces of the original paint, in this case white.

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Summertime!

Although we have been "in-summer" for a full two weeks, it really seems to be kicking-in now, with the temperature spiking and Independence Day behind us.  I find myself heading out to my garden early in the day—before it gets too hot.  If I can do my weeding and trimming and fertilizing before 10:30 am, I can shower and focus on "work" for the rest of the day. These working dogs—English Birddogs—seem to be enjoying a cooling splash in a steam. They also seem to like getting out of the house and into the countryside.  Though I have endured many a hot day in England, on the whole, there is nothing more beautiful than an English Summer.  The light, the...

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The Paperweight

In the days before air-conditioning, offices had windows.  Eventually, offices got fans.  But paper, windows and fans can be a risky combination. Paperweights were standard-issue equipment in every office—of every variety and strata. Paperweights came in all manner of styles.  Railroad magnates might enjoy a fancy, expensive, sculpted-bronze masterpiece by Tiffany.  The billing clerk at the fruit wholesaler might employee an old, worn horseshoe.  Everyone in-between would use an appropriate paperweight which comports to their industry, budget and the aesthetic sophistication of their office. A good paperweight must satisfy several criteria.  First, it must be weighty.  Stone or metal are typically heavy for their size, making them appropriate paperweight materials.  They should be small-ish—so that they don't obstruct (or hide)...

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Rip, Cut or Slit?

How one opens an envelope tells you a little something about that person.  (Not everything, but a little bit.)  Most people are content to insert a finger into the flap and "rip-away." What does it matter if the top edge of the envelope is tattered crudely?  The envelope will be binned momentarily.  The envelope already has served its purpose; let's not get precious.  Other people are fastidious about being neat, exercising precision, or preserving options (specifically, the need to save the envelope to store the enclosed document). Such people prefer to use a letterknife to execute a clean opening.  If the document needs to be saved or stored, the envelope is nice-and-tidy—ready to receive the returning letter, bill or form....

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Take Note

In the Nineteenth Century (and much of the Twentieth Century), notes, orders and receipts were all on paper—usually hand-written.  Shops, offices and government agencies needed a place to store small scraps of paper for proper filing at a later time.  Workers used "note spikes" to hold such pieces of paper—usually on a desk, sometimes mounted to the wall. The cast iron note holder, shown above, was made in the last quarter of the Nineteenth Century (it is patented 5 November 1872).  The Aesthetic Movement backing is made to attach to the wall with a screw or it can hang from a nail.

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Amethyst

Amethyst is the purple variety of quartz—"contaminated" with iron, thus its color.  Pure, clear, purple sections are cut and polished into jewelry.  Larger, variegated slabs can be carved and used for other decorative purposes: vases, amulets, inlaid surfaces. The paperweight shown here was hand-faceted into the complex octagon you see above.  White veins flash across the stone, creating wonderful movement and energy.  

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Song Birds

Spring is here—and, with it, comes the increasing presence of avian life: bird song, fluttering and the empty halves of turquoise egg shells, tossed from the nests above.   When I first moved to Pittsburgh, six years ago, I was astounded by the din of morning birds—loud and oh, so early.  By now, I've grown accustomed to the ruckus, much as I grew used to the clatter of automobile traffic when I lived in New York City.  For a more controlled birdie-reverberation, consider this cast bronze bell.  A quiet chickadee perches atop a twig—atop a bell.  He'll only tinkle when you tell him to.  Handsome, practical, and perfect for the bird lover in your life.

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April Showers - Part Nine

Although I generally hate smoking, I have always liked the handsome accoutrements of lighting-up.  And, I must confess, I have occasionally enjoyed the (light) waft of a really nice pipe tobacco.  Ashtrays, tobacco jars, cigar cutters—these are all things which have intrigued me (and have often become part of my stock).  Perhaps it's because smoking used to be part of a Man's World (and, thus, smoking items often had a handsome, masculine, grandfatherly aesthetic).   The English Arts & Crafts pipe rack, shown above, boasts sensational hand-hammered repoussé work: birds, flowers, scrolling foliage.  And it has space to hold seven special pipes.  It is meant to be mounted to the wall, perhaps next to Dad's chair or over the smoking...

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April Showers - Part Three

The Victorians had a tool—or an implement—for every conceivable need.  Tidying-up the fireplace was no exception.  And they found a way to do it with stye and class!  This Victorian English horsehair fireplace brush is housed in a retractable brass "sleeve"—embellished with Springtime flowers and scrolling foliage.  Between uses, the brush can be pulled-back into the sleeve and the brush can stand (tenuously) or hung until the next use.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it,

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You Had Mail . . .

On this day in 1950—73 years ago today—the U.S. Post Office reduced mail deliveries to once per day (Monday through Saturday).  Many of us don't remember the time when mail came more frequently.  In the Nineteenth Century, households received mail deliveries up to five times a day.  In the first half of the Twentieth Century, households received a morning and an afternoon delivery; businesses received mail up to four times a day. This Edwardian English wall-mount letter caddy was the perfect spot to stash newly delivered letters and newspapers at the Turn-of-the-Century.  A handsomely chamfered oak panel is mounted with brass holders—embellished with enameled lettering and decoration.

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Twice-as-Wise

I have loved these "Wise Owl" letter racks since I first opened the LEO Design doors in 1995.  The flamboyant Art Nouveau "whiplash" silhouette is tempered by the masculine owl, pine foliage and dark, antique brass finish.  I always try to keep one of these letter racks on-hand, in-stock, since it makes such a handsome and meaningful gift.  Almost everyone can use one on his or her desk. In 28 years of business, however, I have never had this deluxe version: a pair of owl letter holders, connected with a book rack between them.  Made for a partners' desk in the early Twentieth Century, each partner could stash his mail in his letter rack and share a small collection of reference...

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Knight Time

An armored night stands atop this Belgian Art Nouveau heavy cast brass letter knife, a souvenir from Belle Epoch Brussels.  Part of the allure of Art Nouveau was its "reviving" of earlier, local culture, literature or mythology.  The Gothic—the Medieval—was a popular choice in several Western countries.  This handsome fellow will add a touch of Gothic Glamour to one's desk.  It is also a practical gift—sure to remind the user of a generous friend each time a letter is opened.

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Dental Delight

Though modern dentistry has come far in the last 50 years, basic dental hygiene—brushing one's teeth two or three times a day—has been standard practice for decades.  In a middle class English home of the 1880's, a toothbrush holder, such as the one above, might have sat on the edge of the heavy porcelain sink.  It was made in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire—that center of British ceramics production since the 1700's.  The handsome Aesthetic Movement decoration is applied with "transferware," a process by which a pattern printed on paper is applied to the ceramic item before firing.  This allowed complex or delicate patterns to be quickly (and inexpensively) reproduced on ceramics en masse. The material is called "Ironstone," a common...

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Giving Alms

During Lent, Christians are encouraged to pray, fast and give alms—that is, provide money (or other necessities) to those in need.  These disciplines prepare the heart, mind and soul for the the joyous season to come: Easter. Sure, almsgiving is (and always has been) important.  And not only amongst Christians.  But who knew it could be done with such style?  This handsome Arts & Crafts alms plate, made around the year 1900, is fashioned from hand-carved oak.  The exhortation, "Give Alms of Thy Goods" surrounds the plate and a soft velvet pad is affixed to the bottom of the bowl (to muffle the vulgar rattle of coins).  It's a beautiful plate—and one which has done much good, collecting unknown amounts...

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Hanging in Style

Oh, for those former days of simple quality!  This "Union" brand folding traveling hanger, from the Forties, melds function, quality and style—in one clean stroke.  Two chromed-steel wire "wings" rise and drop from a nicely carved beechwood body. Early Modernism at its best.  Light, durable and practical (not to mention super-cool), this hanger would fit easily in your carry-on or make a statement hanging on the hook of your office door.  Initially, I thought this hanger might have begun its life on the railways, but I have not (yet) found any such connection.  I wish I had a gross of these!

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Back-to-Work

Spring is coming—and summer "beach weather" will not be far behind.  We will not be able to hide beneath those chunky-knit sweaters for much longer.  Time to hit the gym! A century ago—when these turned maple dumbbells were crafted—"strength training" was the domain of a very few, hardy souls: bodybuilders, screen actors, circus performers.   25 pound dumbbells were not to be found in everyday homes (or even exercise rooms).  What the Edwardians did have, however, were light dumbbells like these—used to augment calisthenics or stretching regimens.  A bit of extra weight (a couple of pounds) can make a difference in a prolonged jumping-jacks routine or regimen of "windmills" for the arms. Even if one doesn't intend to use these dumbbells...

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Made-to-Measure

Not so long ago, metal spring-roll-up tape measures (which are common today) had not, yet, been invented.  Printed cloth tapes might be used for measuring long distances, though two people were required to unroll and pull-taut the soft tape measure.  The tape could then be retracted—like winding a fishing spool—into its leather or metal case.  For smaller jobs, a boxwood folding pocket ruler, like the one shown above, was de rigeuer.  This one, made by Stanley in New Britain, Connecticut, was the go-to tool for many a carpenter, cabinetmaker, or contractor.  Stanley made variations on this tool; different styles varied as to their measurement graduations, whether the numbers read right-to-left (or vice versa), and some had add-on features (like bevelled...

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Saint Valentine's Day

Valentinus—today known as "Saint Valentine"— was a Roman priest (and possibly a bishop) in Third Century Rome.  He ministered to the persecuted Christian locals which angered the authorities and, eventually, led to his arrest. Valentinus was brought before the emperor, Claudius Gothicas, who came to like the priest.  But, when Valentinus pushed too hard to convert the emperor, the monarch provided his own ultimatum: the priest must renounce his Christian faith or he would be clubbed and beheaded.  The priest refused to renounce his faith and was martyred on 14 February 269.  Before he was killed, however, Valentinus is said to have restored the sight and hearing to his jailer's daughter.

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Clean Sweep

Christmas is behind us and we are squarely into the New Year.  Time to clean-up, re-organize, get sorted!  Perhaps the hearth needs a little attention—so active was it during a season of Holiday entertaining.  This Victorian English fireplace brush is a handy and stylish way to make quick work of the mess.  A soft horsehair brush is concealed within an embossed, heavy brass sleeve.  Retract the brass cover and reveal the brush within.  It will stand upright in a protected spot (as long as one does not bump it).  And the decorative brass work will provide handsome punctuation to your fireplace 365 days a year.  

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Arts & Crafts Modernism

In some cases, the Arts & Crafts Movement can be viewed as the early stages of Modernism.  Simplicity of design and an aesthetic of functionality can be seen in many Turn-of-the-Century Arts & Crafts objects—such as the oak book trough, shown above.   Of course, the Arts & Crafts Movement spanned a wide range of countries and aesthetics (with each contributing a different "vocabulary" of design features and styles).  But the mission of "honest simplicity" which informed the Arts & Crafts Movement was clearly carried-onward throughout the Modernist school. This "book trough," made of thick planks of oak, is simplicity and elegance itself.  Six screws—three on each side—are the only joinery or decoration to be had, save the handsomely cut...

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Fair Winds & Following Seas

Over the years, I've bought and sold a fair number of barometers—mostly from England (and most of those using imported German mechanisms).  I never gave much thought to whether they were accurate or not.  I always assumed they had already been "sprung," to coin a term.  In truth, I didn't really have a method of accurately measuring their accuracy except when extreme weather happened to come around. So, when I purchased this nautical "ship's wheel" barometer, I assumed the status quo would endure.  But now I have an iPhone—with a fairly sophisticated local weather app.  Over the last two weeks, I've been monitoring the accuracy of this barometer (two or three times a day) and, I must confess, I've been...

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Cyber Contrarian

It's "Cyber Monday."  Of all the manufactured "holidays," this one seems particularly crass, to me.  Particularly manufactured. Particularly self-serving.  And, although I do make (part of) my living by selling on-line, I cannot bring myself to cheerlead the event. Instead, I will find and present the oldest, "least-techie" toy in my possession—no screens, no electricity, no internet connection.  It's an early 19th century wooden cradle, made to hold a little doll, fastened with old, square nails. Which makes me think: how many modern toys last 200 years?  I have mobile phones and laptops which are obsolete after 15 years! For those who cannot help themselves, have a Happy Cyber Monday.

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Back-to-School - Part XII

Over the past several days, LEO Design has shared some interesting Back-to-School offerings—ideas to help organize, cheer and distract as students push-on through their matriculations. Let's end our parade of offerings with this sweet idea: an Early Twentieth Century shop counter cracker jar, complete with metal lid and metal stand.  In Mom & Pop Stores before World War Two, jars like this would have been commonplace—for crackers, cookies, candy, or other foodstuffs.  Most times, the metal stand would be long gone, broken or lost.  And the stand's design is interesting.  It allows the jar to be tilted at numerous angles, as desired.  In a dormitory, it would be a wonderful depository for candies, cookies or other treats which need protection.  In...

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Back-to-School - Part XI

It happens to most of us.  At 45?  50?  55?  We start to notice that all the font sizes have suddenly shrunk.  Inexplicably, someone down-sized all the print!  Add to that: all those Twenty-Something tech wizards—who think they will never age—design the world's electronics and packaging and graphics with the assumption that "old folks" aren't interested in adopting their technology.  Hence more teeny-tiny "buttons," micro-links and fine print to scrutinize.  Well, sometimes old-time solutions will still solve new-age problems!  Thus, one can never have too many magnifying glasses scattered around the house.  In the bathroom for reading bottles.  Near the TV for reading the PBS guide.  Or in the glovebox for checking receipts.  (Those mundane tasks which populate the pursuits of...

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Back-to-School - Part X

Sometimes an ordinary paperclip will do.  In fact, most times the classic clip will suffice.  But—every now and then—an extra splash of style is required.  For these moments, may I suggest these Italian spiraling paperclips, called "Chiocciola" (which is "snail" in Italian).  A tin of these in your desk may provide that little extra element of interest to your resume package, note to an important customer, or proposal to a prospective client.  They also look great sitting in a little bowl upon the desk—awaiting their next assignment.

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Back-to-School - Part VIII

For the last several days, LEO Design has been sharing some interesting Back-to-School offerings—ideas to help organize, cheer and distract as students push-on through their matriculations. Style meets Function with this Edwardian English brass and oak letter rack, circa 1905.  Simple swirling metalwork stands atop a wooden plinth, finished with a moulding edge.  It's sized just-right for holding a supply of stationery and envelopes, bills and documents to be processed, or to do lists and other reminders.  A small measure of sculpted motion means just the right amount of visual interest.  Otherwise, the piece exhibits pure Edwardian utility.  

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Back-to-School - Part VI

So much for "the paper-free society."  There is nothing as durable and conspicuous as a hand-written note posted in a prominent place.  To do lists.  Reminders.  Addresses.  Good wishes.  Having a small piece of notepaper at-hand is always convenient and efficient—including in a productive dorm room.  This polished pewter notepad holder was designed by Erik Magnussen (Danish, 1940-2014) for Royal Selangor.  The 4"x 4" replacement notes can easily be purchased on-line or can be cut-down from recycled copy paper.

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Back-to-School - Part V

Over the past several days, LEO Design has been sharing some interesting Back-to-School offerings—ideas to help organize, cheer and distract as students push-on through their matriculations. In terms of sheer indulgence, this Arts & Crafts wastepaper basket wins the "Dorm Room Makeover Challenge."  Made of slats of quarter-sawn oak, it is finished with rawhide lacing at the corner tops.  It's the handsome, finishing touch beneath that built-in dorm room desk.  (Or under that costly Stickley writing table.)

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Back-to-School - Part IV

It's been said that "Time is Our Most Precious Commodity."  Each day is allotted only a fixed number of minutes—and as each moment passes, it is gone forever, never to return.  More time cannot be purchased at any cost, regardless of how rich one is.  And further complicating things: though each of us possess a "bank" of time left on Earth, none of us knows his bank balance.  Wise people think about and plan the use of their time. If a high school senior does not, yet, appreciate the value of her time—and the challenge of managing it—a college freshman will soon be made aware.  Packed course schedules, layers of projects with varying due dates, and all those enticing extra-curricular...

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Back-to-School - Part III

For better or worse, some Americans cannot (or will not) separate their favorite academic institutions from the institution of American Football.  The Autumn—with its sweaters, crisp temperatures, and crackling leaves—means Back-to-School and the start of Football season.  Tailgates, marching bands, gambling brackets.  Some schools (and student bodies) are better known for their American Football prowess than they are for their academic achievements.  Personally, I'd prefer a world where educators prioritized educating—and sports games were just a casual, weekend distraction.  But such is a minority view amongst the concepts of conferences, school budgets and broadcast rights. Shown above, a Japanese crystal American Football sculpture, made by Sasaki.  It could be used as a paperweight on the desk or an interesting conversation piece in...

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Back-to-School - Part II

Who can't use a little more organization at the desk or in the dorm?  Or office, kitchen or craft room?  This Edwardian English oak stationery rack, circa 1905, is meant to hold a supply of writing paper, envelopes, cards and letters.  But it's a very handy place to organize your paper-in-motion.  I use mine to hold paid bills (checks written, envelopes stamped and sealed) while waiting for the correct day to mail them.  Documents, brochures or articles which need attention also call to me from their oaken stand.  In large families, it might be a good place to leave member's mail—or, perhaps, provide a little "in-box" for intra-family communication.  The organizational uses are many.  And the stand looks so handsome...

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Back-to-School - Part I

The school bell has rung!  Pupils to their desks!  While college freshmen may have encountered wistful parental partings, grade school returnees likely perceived their parents breathing a muted sigh of relief.  Such is the annual tide of school-going: students flow in and out of their institutions with seasonal regularity.  Like water, the droplets are always changing though the tides themselves remain regulated.  Over the next several days, LEO Design would like to share some interesting Back-to-School offerings—ideas to help organize, cheer and distract as students push-on through their matriculations. I've sold dozens of English bells over the years, many of them styled like the one shown above, a Late Victorian Aesthetic Movement design from the 1880's - 1890's.  This one, however, is the...

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Welcome, LEO!

Today is the first full day of LEO—acknowledged King of the Zodiac!  The Sun entered "LEO airspace" overnight and it will remain there through 22 August.   The LEO zodiac sign holds much significance for us. The shop, as you can see, was named after the regal lion.  And the store was built and opened during the LEO period (though I gave myself a "short day" on my birthday).  And LEO marks the highpoint of Summer.  Who doesn't like Summer (at least a little bit)? LEOs are known for their energy, adventure, gregariousness, their generosity and their affinity for the limelight.  They love being in-charge, especially if they have a First Mate close at hand (and especially a loyal Taurus)....

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The Best of Intentions

I bought this Edwardian travel magnifying glass twenty years ago, thinking it had such convenience and style—not to mention, impressive magnification.  The style was simple and cool.  The leather case possessed much character.  And the lens was powerful, indeed.  It went into a drawer, awaiting the day when my little plastic loupe finally gave-up-the-ghost (or was lost).  That day never came.  Thus, two decades later (while cleaning-out my desk drawers), I found the magnifying glass again and decided it was time to allow it to find a new home—with a more active user.  This is not to say that I haven't appreciated it under my possession. It was made by the American Optical Company in Southbridge, Massachusetts, around 1910.  The...

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It's SOOO Hot!

Whether you live in London or Lisbon or Lubbock...it's soooo hot!  What would be nicer than taking to the water—sailing across a cooling bay or mountain lake? Step aboard!  Certainly, your generous host needs a little gift, a token of your gratitude.  Give the captain a pair of "Sailor's Decision Makers": a pair of cast pewter tokens which can be flipped to make your choice—"Sail" or "Get Off the Yacht."

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Attention to Detail

Immigrants to America have continually "refreshed" our country—its culture, its food and its gene pool.  Many of those immigrants have conceived new ideas, creating business opportunities for themselves, their employees and their communities.  One such immigrant was Adolph M. Holstein, a German Jew who moved from Warsaw, Poland, to Syracuse, New York, where he founded the Syracuse Ornamental Company in 1890. Adolph was an accomplished, European-trained woodcarver.  Once settled in Upstate New York, he invented a new product, "SyrocoWood," which revolutionized the home-building trade of the late Victorian Era.  Prior to his invention, high-quality carved wooden items required slow processing in the hands of a highly-skilled woodcarver.

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Tea Time!

It's difficult to think of an England without tea.  But it was only about 400 years ago that tea began to be imported to Europe on a regular basis.  In the 1500's, Portugal first made contact with China.  Missionaries and traders were introduced to the "bitter red beverage" which was popular with wealthy Chinese. Small quantities were brought back to Europe, perhaps for a monarch or aristocrat, after which the popularity of tea sparked a huge tea-trading scramble—initially in Portugal, the Netherlands and  (a little later) England.  History tells us that Catherine of Braganza (Portugal) brought tea with her when she arrived to marry King Charles II of England.  And, boy, did it take off from there!  During the 18th...

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Summer School

Just because class has been dismissed for the summer, one need not cease the learning.  Bring a touch of the schoolhouse into your home with this early 20th Century two-sided, wood-framed slate.  Larger than the traditional "student tablet" variety, it was probably used upon the desktop (not the lap).  And, if you can't bear the thought of jumping-back into the classroom so soon, this blackboard would make a great, old-fashioned "family communication" center in the kitchen, study or mud room.  

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Humble Beauty

One would think that a wastepaper basket would be a very modest possession.  And, indeed, it usually is. This handsome receptacle is the exception to that expectation.  Crafted around 1910, it is simply-constructed of strips of quarter-sawn oak.  Rawhide lashings near the top are the only visible (functional) embellishment.   Over the years, I've sold a number of nice Arts & Crafts wastebaskets.  It seems that customers view such a canister as the important finishing touch to a nice Arts & Crafts or Turn-of-the-Century desk.    Though over 100 years old, this wastebasket remains in fairly solid condition—though I would always handle such a nice, old beauty with tender care.  With TLC, this wastepaper basket may provide another 100 years...

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Queen's College

Queen's College, part of Oxford University, was founded in 1341.  It was originally intended to educate clergymen for the distant reaches of Northwest England, snuggled just under Scotland (today designated Cumbria County).  In addition to clergy, the school also began to educate sons of the nobility and a good number of "poor boys" who were smart but could not have afforded an expensive education.  The school was named after its patroness, Queen Phillippa of Hainault.  She was married to King Edward III and served as his political advisor and regent (while he was away during the Hundred Years' War).  The school is known for its handsome architecture, some of it designed (or influenced) by Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) and Nicholas Hawksmoor...

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The Mailboat Cometh

In 1950, US households received twice-daily mail delivery.  Businesses, especially in cities, might receive three deliveries a day.  Written addresses were checked and any mistakes were cheerfully corrected.  And postal drop boxes were emptied multiple times a day—even on Sundays. 72 years later, our experiences (and expectations) regarding the Post is quite degraded.  And it's a shame: only can a large and well-managed system (like a USPS) deliver quick, safe and inexpensive delivery. "In the olde days..." some mail might have arrived by boat, from overseas or to remote, watery locations.  The English hand-hammered brass letter holder, shown above, would have hung on a Twenties British wall—holding mail (either incoming our outgoing).  The Art Deco lettering indicates a post war...

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Oh, For the Good Ol' Days...

Remember "The Good Ol' Days"?  When airborne maladies were vanquished with a simple little sweetie?  Whether this was truly the case—or just wishful thinking and deceptive promotion—this English Thirties "Flu-Nips" apothecary jar  would have stood at-the-ready on the counter of druggist, barber or candy shop proprietor.  A handsome graphic label (presenting a red cross) sits beneath a red bakelite screw-down lid.  Its soft square shape provided shipping efficiency; the maximum amount of product could be shipped in the smallest possible box when  square vessels are snuggly packed together in a multi-bottle carton.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it. Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store...

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Flowers for Mom - VI

The Japanese have a sophisticated crystal-making industry which really blossomed after World War Two.  Glassmaking is notoriously labor-intensive—which contributes to the traditionally high price of fine crystal.  After the war, countries like Japan (and Germany) found themselves with a large workforce desperate to get back to work.  And, with a relatively low labor cost, Japan was well-suited to develop attractively-priced, high-quality goods for an international market.  In the decades after the war, high-volume, labor-intensive manufacturing moved from the victor countries (like America and England) to the vanquished countries (like Japan, Italy and Germany).  Ceramics and glassware were some of the industries which saw such large-scale global shifts after 1945.  To its credit, Japan made a great effort to elevate the quality...

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Countdown to Mother's Day - X

We've been counting-down the days to Mother's Day with an assortment of thoughtful gifts for the important women in our lives.  Be sure to request gift boxing, if you'd like it.  We can also ship directly to your mother, possibly saving a few days in-transit.  (Please be sure to specify your desired greeting for an enclosure card to accompany your gift.) A beautiful and functional letterknife is always a welcomed gift.  And this one, shown above, is extra special.  The handle is finely cast pewter, selectively gold-plated and enameled with a light olive green.  To complete the design, hand-set Swarovski crystals are mounted into the handle.  The nicely-shaped brass blade provides the working end of the implement.  Click on the...

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Countdown to Mother's Day - VII

We're counting-down the days to Mother's Day with an assortment of thoughtful gifts for the important women in our lives.  Order early and be sure to request gift boxing, if you'd like it.  We can also ship directly to your mother, possibly saving a few days in-transit It's time to let our mothers kick-back, relax and demand a little service for themselves!  This Edwardian English tea bell may give her the assist she needs.  Tea bells were a fixture in British middle class households—back in the days when "middle class" meant a houseful of servants.  Kept on a side table or tea tray, the bell would be used to summon the help quickly and discreetly.  The specimen shown here, made of bronze "bell...

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Countdown to Mother's Day - IV

Everyone can use a little help organizing, especially busy moms.  So much the better to help her do it with style. This Edwardian English letter rack is made of brass mounted upon an oak base with handsomely chamfered edges.  A swirling bale handle emerges energetically from behind brass botanical panels.  Such a letter holder can be used on a working mom's desk or in the household: a place to sort mail, keep lists, save recipes, or store envelopes until they are ready to be mailed.  The handsome design elevates these otherwise mundane tasks—and will add a bit of visual interest to her office, den or entry hall table.

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Countdown to Mother's Day - III

Once upon a time (and not so long ago), sewing was a basic skill familiar to most households, especially (but not only) amongst women.  While at-home dressmaking and tailoring was coming to a quick close after World War I (when "ready-to-wear" in department stores became quick, easy and affordable), most mending and altering of garments still could take place in the hands of a talented amateur.  Every house had a drawer, box, or cake tin which held the needles, pins, seam-rippers and thread required to replace a button, mend a seam, or darn a sock.  It was during this period, just before World War I, that this pincushion would have been in-use. The pincushion shown here is Edwardian English, made around 1905....

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Light My Fire

Back in "the old days"—a time period which includes the Arts & Crafts period—maintaining and managing fire(s) was an important task.  Fires might be used for lighting, cooking, heating, manufacturing and other industrial tasks.  And sometimes one needed to "transfer" (or spread) a fire from one place to another.  In a wood-burning fireplace or stove, a "Cape Cod" style "fire starter," like the one shown above, was a useful tool to have in the household.  The "pitcher"—this one is hand-hammered steel in the Arts & Crafts style—would hold a supply of lamp oil.  A wrought-iron "wand," with a soapstone "egg" at one end, would soak in the lamp oil, thus absorbing a good amount of the fuel.  This wand would...

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The Sign of Peace

From ancient times—in Mesopotamia, Ancient Greece and Jōman Era Japan—the dove has been used as an important cultural, religious, and aesthetic symbol.  Even today, the world's biggest religions (and Paganism, too) all use the dove, usually in the role of messenger, symbol of purity or harbinger of peace.  In the Jewish Old Testament, Noah releases a dove from the ark which returns with an olive leaf in her beak, a message to Noah that the flood waters have begun to recede.  The Christian Gospels refer multiple times to a dove which symbolizes the Holy Spirit—or, more specifically, the Holy Spirit descending to Earth.  Even in secular language, a person is called "dovish" if s/he prefers peacemaking to taking-up arms.

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The Tax Man Cometh

Two weeks from today—18 April 2022—is Tax Day, that annual heavy lift that we keep putting-off 'til the last minute.  For me, it is also the annual season of resolution: resolution to organize myself and "never go through this again!"  To that end, here's a small solution.  (A very small solution.)  This little bronze Arts & Crafts organizer, made by Silvercrest (c. 1920), could make your organizing just one little bit easier.  The bronze has a mottled and textured surface and is enhanced with an applied silver scrolling pine motif.  It could hold fresh stationery, payments to be mailed, or envelopes containing receipts for tax time.

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Technology Face-Off

Technology—and the corporate campaign to exploit it—transforms and adapts to satisfy the "needs and opportunities" of the times.  Sometimes a "face-off" ensues: as technology marches forward, new businesses blossom and grow while other businesses wither and fall-away.  Over the last 150 years, industry has responded (multiple times) to the way society reads and collects information. Let's close-out the month of March with this interesting bookrack, made shortly after the Turn-of-the-Twentieth-Century.  Before the Industrial Age, there were very few people in the Middle Class.  There were a handful of land and factory owners and a mass of people who worked for them.  Though people were taught to read, only the wealthy could afford to collect many books.  A private library was only within...

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Beautifully Receptive

Yesterday we shared a French ceramic "comb dish"—once used to neatly tuck-away a comb on the dresser, washstand or vanity table. Today we share an Edwardian English "hair receiver."  An object like this would be found on many an upper class woman's dressing table.  As a woman brushed-out her hair, probably before bed, and loose hair collected in her hairbrush, she would gather that hair and stuff it down into the hair receiver.  When a sufficient amount had been accumulated, she would send it to a hairdresser who would fashion it into a hairpiece.  That ornament, made of her own hair, could be worn by the woman to supplement her hairstyle. This turned ebonywood hair receiver is topped with an engraved...

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Hidden Treasures

During the Victorian Age, there was an object dedicated to every possible use.  This was especially true when it came to food service: celery vases, spoon warmers, berry bowls. But personal care and tidiness also enjoyed a wealth of strange and specific objets, like the French ceramic "comb dish" shown above.  This ceramic covered bowl, decorated with a handsome Greek Key transfer print, would be stationed at a vanity table or upon a dressing table—providing a place to store one's comb between uses.  It would contribute a measure of orderly process to one's morning ablutions.  At a woman's grooming station, there also would be a "hair receiver," a small canister into which she could push the loose hair pulled from...

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Ode to a Shrinking Font Size

Every year, it seems, the fine print on boxes, documents and mobile phones gets smaller and smaller.  Is Kellogs attempting to use less ink?  Perhaps Apple is trying to conserve pixels?  Never mind, I say.  Just start a collection of magnifying glasses—and position them strategically around your home and office.  This brass-framed magnifying glass is nice and strong.  The antique patina provides a handsome finish.

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School's Back

To the delight of parents nationwide, "real" school is back, at least for now.  After months of video classes, isolation and hoping for a children's vaccine, it seems that the morning school bell has finally rung.  The school bell, shown above, was made in England in the late Nineteenth Century.  It is made of a type of bronze—sometimes called "bell metal"—in the Aesthetic Movement style.  Horizontal etching on the body becomes horizontal ribbing on the shaft—carried-through to a turned, ribbed ebonywood knob at top.

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Puzzled

Art meets engineering meets intriguing plaything.  This finely-engineered and beautifully sculpted "toy" could stand-alone as an objet d'art on your desk.  It would certainly make a nice (and heavy) paperweight.  But it is also a puzzle; its meticulously-honed solid brass members assemble into the geometric shape you see above.  Made in Brooklyn, this little work of art will prove hard to resist.  Visitors to your office will be unable to not pick it up!  

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Tracks in the Snow

While Spring will be here in less than two weeks, there's still a chance that we may see a bit more snow.  And, where there's snow, we find foot tracks.  Human tracks, including the occasional skid mark.  Doggie tracks, occasionally turning in circles.  And the random tracks of wildlife—rabbits, squirrels, birds, deer and other indiscernible creatures—which "violate" the perfection of a new-fallen blanket of snow. My "new" neighborhood in Pittsburgh adjoins the University of Pittsburgh—in a fairly well-urbanized district called Oakland.  There are plenty of deer in the nearby Schenley Park, however, they rarely venture-out into the urban bustle.  

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Tuesday, Two Twenty-Two Twenty-Two

We interrupt our regularly-scheduled programming (Victorian cufflinks) to make note of this exceptional day:  Tuesday, Two Twenty-Two Twenty-Two! Two golden (polished bronze) eggs sit in this rustic cast-bronze nest, lovingly crafted in Canada.  Such an interesting desk item will certainly provoke visitors to pick-up and fondle the clutch.  The nest, alone, would make a perfect clip holder, ring saver or place to throw your keys near the door.  And, of course, the two eggs will forever commemorate this special date. And now: back to our regularly scheduled programming...

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Pulling it Together...

Though it seems I've only just packed-up my Christmas decorations, the next big deadline looms: getting my tax information to my accountant!   This always seems like a big lift:  all that digging, all that sorting, all that collating.  But, usually, the anticipation is far more painful than the actual process.  Usually I can get everything together in 8-10 hours—one long day (or two short days).  Then I can return to The City of My Dreams (New York) to meet my accountant and dump everything on him. Why not organize in style?  Shown above, metal paperclips from Italy—curled like little snails, "chiocciola" in Italian.  Approximately 125 clips come in a little round, aluminum box.  Certainly your accountant will be impressed...

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Six Months 'til LEO!

Six months from today—on 23 July—the sun in the heavens will enter the zodiac constellation of LEO, which is, naturally, my favorite sun sign.  This also means that we've recently entered the zodiac sign of Aquarius—which is the "polarity" (or polar opposite) of the LEO birth sign on the annual "wheel of zodiac signs." In Greek mythology, Aquarius provides a remarkable story.  Tros, the King of Troy, had a beautiful son.  He was so beautiful, in fact, that Zeus (the King of the Gods) wanted him for himself.  One day, while the youth was tending his father's flocks upon Mount Ida (in Phrygia, modern day Turkey) Zeus took the form of a giant eagle and swooped-down to carry-off the young...

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The Great Clean-Up

Most years, during the first couple of weeks of January, we've always tried to squeeze-in as many friends as possible for small dinner gatherings.  Mostly we wish to see them after the busy holiday season.  But we also want to make the most of our Christmas decorations before we put them away for the year.  What good becomes of hours of work decorating when only a small handful of people get to see them?  Alas, this year, the coronavirus has quelled our plans to open our house too widely.  And the time has come to take-down, box-up and stash. 120 years ago, the English Arts & Crafts "crumber," shown above, would have been a customary sight at the dining table.  The two...

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