History Through Food

Eighteen months and a dozen estate sales later, here I am. There’s a backlog of material to share, including my first beaded 1920s purse, an accidental eelskin and a rolling wooden bar cart. However, today I’m going to introduce a new series of posts inspired by my husband’s desire to learn everything there is to know about regional American cuisine for R&D. A consistent effort has been made while perusing estate sales & flea markets to take a second look at books. Our collection of regional American cookbooks welcomed 3 new additions this weekend. Well, they’re not precisely “new”, but they are new to us and we are excited about the snapshot in time that they’ll provide. That brings me to the official introduction to this exploration of local palates, regional food systems and the historical context of the creation and propagation of certain recipes. Welcome to History Through Food.

In this series I’ll be looking beyond the copyright date to explore the content at face value while examining the historical climate surrounding that regional publishing. For instance, take a look at this cover-less copy of the American Women’s Voluntary Services Cookbook (c. 1942). A book for wartime living is as applicable today as it was 74 years ago.

A book for wartime living . . .

A book for wartime living . . .

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Made to Last: Hartmann Gibraltarized Wardrobe Trunk

An impromptu visit to Mom turned into a treasure hunt around local vintage haunts. My keen eye and interest for well-constructed and interesting pieces was cultivated from a young age by parents who took no care in dragging their offspring to auctions, boot sales, and bazaars. Perhaps this is why I feel perfectly comfortable navigating arcades, aisles, and rooms filled with dusty artifacts. But it was on one unseasonably warm February afternoon in Southern California that I happened to walk into one of the largest and most exciting finds I’ve had yet.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that I have found a prime example of a Hartmann Gibraltarized Panama Wardrobe Trunk from the 1920s like the one pictured in this trade book from 1922. Thanks to Google Books and their grand digitization efforts, I’ve been able to track down a handful of advertisements featured in periodicals. Such gems include:

The trunk I happened to stumble upon is a great example of a personalized trunk that could have been a gift for a graduation, birthday, or wedding. The exterior has the initials E.R. stamped in red. Though the original Yale lock is still intact, the keyhole was busted open some time ago.

Hartmann Gibraltarized Panama Trunk

Hartmann Gibraltarized Panama Trunk

 

The Yale lock bar for the interior drawers, pant hangers, shirt hangers, laundry bag, and shoe box are all in accompaniment.

Hartmann Gibraltarized Panama Wardrobe Trunk  interior

Hartmann Gibraltarized Panama Wardrobe Trunk interior

The trunk has seen some light wear in its 95 years. The rusting bolts, hinges, and corner brackets only add to its overall charm. Though the trunk is in overall decent repair, it is missing one drawer; and the H and A in the Hartmann cross logo on the side of the trunk have since flaked off due to handling. The rest of the label is cracked and barely adhered. I bet a kitten’s sneeze could dislodge it.

I’m in the process of rearranging my home office/bar (because, priorities) and eager to transform this well-maintained wardrobe trunk into an office supply organizer. Perhaps one day it’ll serve its duty during a move, but for now I’ll be perfectly content displaying this unique find while also having a non-traditional spot to stash stationary and stuff.

Have you found an interesting piece of luggage or a trunk and repurposed it in your home? I’d love to find out what other creative, vintage enthusiasts are doing with their wardrobe trunks. Please comment below or Tweet!

Suburban Treasures of the Post WWII Boom

On a sunny Saturday one winter afternoon, I found myself in the garden of a well-loved home in West Covina. Sitting on the end of a cul-de-sac and with the back of the property line facing the wash, this home was part of the post WWII building boom in Southern California. From 1950 to 1960 West Covina was one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Not bad for a city that split off from Covina because it didn’t want a sewage farm built in the area.

The items from today’s estate sale haul speak precisely to the middle class sensibilities of that era. A set of red cloth bound books with gold lettering caught my eye as I made my way through the living room. There on a bookshelf sat a nine volume set of the Scribner Radio Music Library from 1946. The amazing gold microphone on the cover sealed the deal for me, but when I started to thumb through one of the volumes I realized that this was a wonderful way to take the pulse of a nation’s culture. Volume 6, Standard & Modern Dance Music, and volume 8, Favorite Songs of Every Character, are the most intriguing books to study at the moment. Though I lack a piano at home, I’m hoping that my brother, the pianist, will indulge me by playing a slice of the library’s repertoire.

As good timing would have it, I passed by a table of costume jewelry & watches on my way to set the Music Library aside for purchase. A gold case with bells shimmered and I couldn’t say no to the scallop design so I picked it up. I turned the case over to reveal the name Coty on the other side. Upon opening the case carefully to investigate I confirmed that I had indeed just found a compact. The exterior of the case is in fairly good condition, with minor wear to the gold tone and some light scratches. The top lid mirror is perfectly intact & in marvelous shape. There is some blush in the compact, as well as the remnants of some air-spun powder, but no sign of the applicators. The sleigh bells on the handle are securely fastened and ring delightfully. Clearly something so cute just had to come home with me.

A quick search online revealed this darling ad from Vogue’s November 1942 issue.

Coty compacts ad from Vogue.

Coty compacts ad from Vogue.

Finding a vintage Coty Sleigh Bells powder compact was a nice surprise. I think this will make a fantastic Mother’s Day gift as my Mom has been collecting compacts for ages. Most of her goodies were found while living in Ireland, but I have been known to find a treasure or two in the time since. 

The set of books and the lovely compact point to signs of a prosperous middle class that could afford a taste of the arts & leisure in their own home. That neighborhood maintains the same sensibility in present day, and I hope that whomever buys that house appreciates it’s young yet valuable history.

 

Vintage Vanity Flair: Painted Glass Bottles with Stoppers Dresser Set

There are those occasions where the mister will gladly come along on an estate sale run and surprise me with a good find. On Black Friday, we had an inordinate amount of luck.

Maybe its because we started the day with a sunrise drop off at LAX; or perhaps it was the brisk & invigorating walk around downtown’s historic core a quarter past 7. No, no . . . it was due to the incredible breakfast we had at Nickel Diner. But that review is just going to have to wait for another time to shine.

The real winner at the estate sale would have been the person that scored this gem of a breakfast set. The chairs had a great weight to them, and the details on the table were well maintained. Pay close attention to the circle under the table. Look at those painted details!

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Mid-century modern breakfast set. Blue chairs and legs with cream seat covers. Golden accents throughout.

My breakfast nook situation at home is already pretty stellar, and without the room to spare, I had to pass on the gorgeous breakfast set. My consolation prize was finding an easy way for the mister to fulfill his Christmas stocking obligation.

I came across a bathroom set. Well, at first I thought it belonged on a vanity because the bottles were placed on a mirrored tray. After reading the bottle labels it became apparent that this grooming set may have found a home on a counter in a bathroom.

There are five painted clear glass bottles with stoppers. Four of them are labeled and they are:
1. Mouth Wash
2. Toilet Water
3. Boracic Acid
4. Peroxide

Vintage glass bottles with stoppers atop a mirrored tray make a lovely dresser or vanity set.

Vintage glass bottles with stoppers atop a mirrored tray make a lovely dresser or vanity set.

One of the bottles is unlabeled. The blue paint on the stopper and on the bottle itself is a different shade than that of the rest of the set. I wonder if it’s a replacement bottle?

The painted glass bottle with stopper bathroom set is a welcome addition to my art deco vanity. I may readapt the use of the bottles as single-stem vases. That would give my little feminine corner of our room a dose of color and a graceful air.

While I don’t want to speculate as to my husband’s holiday shopping status, I will certainly acknowledge that he’s off to a very good start.

Summer Traditions: Soda Fountain Stops

In case you live in SoCal & haven’t felt your face melt while running errands or going to work in the last 2 days, here’s another reminder. Its hot out. Excessive heat warning and flex alert hot.

Though I’ve got a window-unit blasting, I’m yearning for some good ol’ fashioned refreshment. No, not beer. I’m talking about soda fountain standards prepared by soda jerks. There are few American traditions in hospitality as intact as soda fountains. Lucky for me, the Pasadena institution known as Fair Oaks Pharmacy isn’t too far off the beaten path.

For the last few years I’ve made a habit out of making a pilgrimage to Fair Oaks Pharmacy during the dog days of summer. Ordering a giant sundae to share somehow seems more reasonable when the mercury is hovering around triple digits. Extending the invitation is also a treat. I mean, who doesn’t perk up when invited out to our own little slice of Americana in the heart of Pasadena?

Fair Oaks Pharmacy first opened in 1915, but it wasn’t until a couple restored it back to it’s soda fountain glory that it was re-introduced to a whole new generation. I’m so glad it’s still around to share sundaes & chats in! Do you have any summer traditions and tricks to staying cool? Share in the comments below!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a sundae to make. (photo courtesy of Sarah Wise)

A classic sundae.

A classic sundae at Fair Oaks Pharmacy, Pasadena, CA.

 

Hidden Treasures in the Attic: the Vintage Metal Cabinet

Tucked away in the corner of a far flung A-framed room, walls donning seafaring paper, sat an unassuming cabinet. Lets be honest though, it was the blue velvet jacket and red tartan pants on the wardrobe rack that completely distracted me. Either way, after making our way through a storybook home for the ages, the mister spotted a green metal cabinet with art deco details that speaks to modern sensibilities. The wheels on the bottom are made out of wood. There are no tags or stamps to speak of on the cabinet, but from a very basic search I gather that this is a piece of mid century office furniture. Though the rounded top and art deco design on the front speak to another time, the mass-fabrication & distribution of such an item lands in a more modern time frame.

Here is a similar cabinet to the one we found recently:

acorn cabinet

The cabinet that we found doesn’t have a top handle though, and it looks most closely akin to this cabinet that is part of a TOTALLY RAD fold out desk that’s for sale on ebay right now. I’m seriously considering the idea of putting together a pop-up office consisting of this desk, my Seminole camping chair, and my Chromebook. Come to think of it, this is exactly why I bought a new car with a hatchback. Oh the possibilities! But, I digress . . .

Once I gather more info on it’s background, I’ll share a photo of a dusted off cabinet we found. Well, that’s if I haven’t taken it to the office & turned it into a bar on wheels.

What would you do with a versatile piece of mid century office furniture on wheels? Share your thoughts in the comments!

 

Gold & Intrigue Off South Carolina Coast

During the cool-off period after today’s lunch time walk, I found myself reading a story on NY Times about a sunken ship revisited after laying around, presumably in dispute, since its discovery more than 20 years ago. Around 60 ambrotypes lay still awaiting a preservation plan months after a recovery mission in April brought up bars of gold fetching upwards of $1.2 million (metal value only). The coinage found in the safe may fetch millions. Apparently the original finder of the wreckage became a fugitive in 2012 so clearly this vessel has a story that stretches beyond it’s sinking during a hurricane in 1857. Oh, if wood planks could talk.