When did brushes become obsolete? When I was a boy, I remember the monthly visit of the Fuller Brush Man. My mother would often place a small order with him—kitchen brushes, vegetable brushes, hair brushes, even brush-cleaning brushes. And, not so long ago in Edinburgh, I remember a shop on a twisty road, just off "The Golden Mile," which was entirely devoted to the stocking and selling of brushes. Every manner and style of brush could be found—hung from every rafter, covering every wall, sprouting from crates on every horizontal surface, even pulled-out (like fresh flowers in buckets) onto the sidewalk.
Perhaps our culture of disposability is to blame. People are more likely to use a disposable paper towel or antibiotic wet-wipe to clean-up. Perhaps it's our new-found germaphobia; modern people don't like reusing cleaning items: brushes, sponges or bar soap. Even painters try to spray-their-way through a house painting (though not in our house). And, since general cleanliness has improved greatly over the last century, the need to brush truly may have been reduced.
One hundred years ago, a person might have encountered several brushes just before walking out the door in the morning. First a toothbrush, naturally. Then a scrub brush in the shower. Next a hair brush; maybe a beard brush (or comb). A shoe brush would be de rigueur. Lastly, a clothes brush to sweep away the dust from one's shoulders.
A handsome, well-made brush can be a thing of beauty. A long-lasting thing of beauty. Take the clothes brush shown above. It was made in the Thirties or Forties, of bi-color horsehair bristles set-into a sculpted hardwood handle. This brush would have been left near the door, ready to brush off dander from the shoulders of a garment, just before leaving the house. It could also have been kept near the closet, for giving a quick brush-down to one's suit jacket or coat before hanging it up. 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 where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248