In the Edwardian Era—indeed throughout much of the last three centuries—England was driven by coal. It was coal that powered industry. Coal supplied mechanical transport. And coal kept people warm in their homes or flats. Even in tightly-inhabited places like London, most people (who had heat) enjoyed it by burning coal in small fireplaces. Some homes or flats had a coal-burning fireplace in numerous rooms. Next to such a fireplace, one might find a "coal scuttle," basically a bin or hopper to hold a stock of coal in readiness for burning. To handle the dirty carbon chunks, a pair of coal tongs would be kept in or near the scuttle.
Shown above, a pair of Art Nouveau brass coal tongs from the Edwardian Era. The tongs, themselves, are fairly workmanlike. It is in the stylish design of the handles that we see a wink of Art Nouveau. Click on the photo above to learn more about this useful and attractive tongs.
There is a fascinating episode, in Season One of the superb Netflix series The Crown, where a five day "inversion" of trapped coal smog (in 1954) kills as many as 12,000 Londoners. Prime Minister Winston Churchill, facing voter dissatisfaction, initially refused to admit that coal was causing the problem. The same type of event occurred in Donora, Pennsylvania—about 20 miles outside of Pittsburgh—in 1948. Noontime photos of Pittsburgh (as late as the 1970's) showed the lunchtime city as dark as night, due to the coal smog. In both places, London and Pittsburgh, lawmakers began to restrict coal pollution and the skies are much healthier today than they were half a century ago.
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