June 1, 2012

Bride's Boxes

Popular in Germany for more than a century but never on this side of the Atlantic, colorful painted boxes were given to brides on their wedding day. A group of talented American folk artists today recreate these beautiful boxes for today's brides. In this colorful article I also explore the legend surrounding bride's boxes.

To read the article, click here.


April 1, 2012

The Valente House

Southern New Jersey is rich in farmland and history, and this early home is a fine example of the area's pristine historic dwellings. Doug and Karen Valente have furnished it with a very pleasing combination of period furniture as well as Karen's wonderful folk paintings.

To read the article, click here.




February 1, 2012

Folk Art Animal Portraits

Early American folk artists painted animals with a distinctive respect and charm, quite different from the  often brutal animal worlds European artists depicted. This article explores the origins of animal painting in America and the leading artists of those early days. Then we move ahead to the present for discussions with some highly talented artists who share their artistic ancestors' love of animals.

To read the article, click here.



January 1, 2012

New Year's Superstitions

American colonists brought with them dozens of age-old European superstitions regarding New Year's Day. Commonplace events such as the home's first visitor of the year, whether the fire in the hearth had gone out, and even the direction of the wind could bring good or bad tidings for the coming year. I did extensive research on this fun article and learned a lot about superstitions in the process.

To read the article, click here.

December 1, 2011

Woolly-sheep Farm

It took years of collecting and saving, but Harry and Hazel Harman eventually got their dream home in the Blue Ridge region of western Virginia. Their Woolly-sheep Farm is a showcase for their extraordinary American country antiques, plus serves as home base for Hazel's rug-hooking business. Harry and Hazel are a fun-loving and spirited couple and their little farm reflects it.

To read the article, click here.

October 1, 2011

Engraved Powder Horns

Engraved powder horns were a rifleman's fashion accessory during the days of the muzzle loader, and today can bring $50,000 or more at auction. Here's a fascinating history of the engraved horn, along with tips on collecting them and spotting the reproductions so popular with today's re-enactors.

To read the article, click here.


September 1, 2011

Stars and Stripes


The history of the American flag is one of the most fascinating historical topics I've ever researched. The flag's origins are murky and filled with half-truths such as the Betsy Ross legend. We don't even know what our nation's earliest flags looked like, and our museums often unknowingly display fakes. No wonder flags are one area where collectors need to be especially wary.

To read the article, click here.


August 1, 2011

Scenic Murals

Some of America's most charming wall decorations of the 1800s were murals wandering artists painted in homes of people who could afford them. This article examines the history of America's 19th century murals, the artists who painted them, and discusses the work of some excellent contemporary artists who faithfully reproduce these uniquely American scenes.

To read the article, click here.



July 1, 2011

Bathing in Early America


Bathing was not a priority in early America, and it would be 200 years before we began to understand the connection between filth and disease. And if any country was dirtier during the colonial period, it was England. This article was fun to research because of its strange revelations. (Written under a pseudonym.)

To read the article, click here.


March 1, 2011

Primitive Rug Hooking

Rug hooking continues to grow in popularity, with colorful patterns being recreated from antique rugs, as well as new rugs using traditional themes. This article discusses the history of rug hooking in America, the varying styles, plus includes interviews with some of the leading rug hookers in the country today. I was honored to co-author this article with well-known rug-hooking authority Edyth O'Neill.

Click here for the article.


February 1, 2011

Bundling

Early America's distances between homesteads complicated courtship, so our ancestors developed a practice called "bundling," where the young man shared a bed with his sweetheart. Propriety called for no physical contact, yet a number of brides in rural areas were pregnant. Here's a look at this unusual custom that we don't usually associate with the 18th and 19th centuries.

Click here to read the article.

December 1, 2010

Game Boards

Games such as checkers and backgammon provided endless hours of recreation for early Americans, both at home and in taverns. Today their artistic, brightly colored boards still grace many walls as decorations, thanks to the efforts of traditional craftspeople. This article includes a history of game boards, the reasons for their popularity with our ancestors, and interviews with some of the leading creators of reproduction boards.

Click here to read the article.




November 1, 2010

Antique Christmas

Beth Karp and her husband Jay literally fill their Cincinnati home each Christmas with an astounding collection of seasonal ornaments and decorations, many of them rare. Beth has alternated between collecting Christmas and collecting antique dolls, and each year features arrangements where they all complement each other in a joyous manner.

Click here to read the article.

August 1, 2010

Walking Sticks

No personal accessory in human history has a more diverse heritage than the walking stick, and it was great fun for me to trace the evolution of the cane and especially its varied presence in early America. An astounding array of folk-art canes ~ as well as their more formal counterparts ~ from that era are highly collectible and today can fetch several thousands of dollars.

Click here to read the article.

June 1, 2010

Early Personal Lighting

America's colonists carried a variety of personal light fixtures, such as lanterns, chambersticks, and even pocket-size candleholders, sometimes regarded today as "colonial flashlights." A select few of today's most skilled tinsmiths and blacksmiths continue to reproduce these items, mostly to satisfy demand from the growing numbers of Revolutionary-era and Civil War re-enactors. This article explains the history of these lighting devices, plus I talked with several of the leading artisans who are still making them in the traditional ways.

Click here for the article.

May 1, 2010

Milliner's Models

It turns out this charming, early-1800s German doll so popular in Europe and America was not at all a model for displaying milliners' offerings, but always was as originally intended ~ a true doll for play. This article dispels the myths surrounding the "varnished head" doll that remains so popular today with doll collectors around the world.

Click here for the article.

April 1, 2010

Windsor Settees

Settees were a natural extension of the popular American Windsor chair in the early 1800s, but furniture makers quickly found that the settee presented a number of major challenges to build. This article explores the evolution of the Windsor settee and explains how several of today's finest Windsor artisans are producing settees of exceptional quality and durability.

Click here for the article.

The Chopping Bee

Clearing the land was the most daunting task early Americans confronted. A single man could clear less than a hundred acres in a lifetime, so people frequently banded together for "chopping bees." In this short article I tell about these events, including their dangers and some of the spectacular ways our ancestors met the challenge.

Click here to read the article.

Spring Cleaning

Each spring, people in early America scrubbed themselves and their households clean of months of filth that had accumulated to a degree shocking to our modern sensibilities. Not only did I describe the winter and spring household habits of the era to explain the importance of the annual cleansing ritual, but also accumulated some fascinating demographics for the article regarding living conditions in the first two centuries of European settlement in the New World.

Click here to read the article.

February 1, 2010

Burl Treen

America's earliest European settlers were astounded at the exquisite beauty of Native American woodware carved from burl and quickly set out to replicate it. Since the 17th Century, burl treen has remained a highly prized form of American woodware. This article traces the origins of burl treen, featuring the research of New York antiques dealer Stephen Powers as well as the work of a modern master of burl treen, Michael Combs of Indiana.

Click here the article.

Colonial Reading

Despite the hardships of living in the wilderness, America's earliest colonists were avid readers, eventually achieving a literacy rate that surpassed that of England. In this article I explore the growth of reading in the colonies, what types of books the colonists read, and the impact on early American society. (This article first appeared under one of my pseudonyms.)

Click here to read the article.

December 1, 2009

Theorem Painting

Stencil painting is an ancient art, but it became the rage in America in the early 1800s as artists created extraordinarily beautiful stenciled paintings on velvet, silk and paper. In this article I trace the history of stencil painting and explain why it became so popular in early America and why it declined. I also interview four of the country's leading theorem painters who are keeping this wonderful decorative artwork alive.

Click here for the article.

November 1, 2009

The Malmberg House

John and Randee Malmberg have spent decades amassing an extraordinary collection of early American furnishings as well as prized Christmas ornaments. This article takes you through their beautiful saltbox in Rockford, Illinois, where the Malmbergs proudly display their treasures in the spirit of the Christmas holiday.

Click here for the article.

October 1, 2009

Colonial Cooking Hearths

Hearth cooking has sustained people for millennia and was prevalent in early America from the 1600s until popularity of the cookstove in the 1830s. This article discusses the American evolution of hearth cooking, colonial fireplaces and hearth utensils, plus explains some of the common historical errors people make in equipping their hearths. It also has a useful guide on who makes cooking-hearth equipment today and where it can be obtained.

Click here for the article.

August 1, 2009

Colonial Punishments

America's earliest European settlers brought a fair share of Old World religious and punitive practices with them, relying on shame and humiliation to keep their fellow citizens in line. This article examines colonial punishment from the 1600s to mid 1800s, explaining the rationale behind these often harsh practices.

Click here to read the article.


June 1, 2009

Silhouettes

Silhouette cutting reached its pinnacle in early 19th century Europe and America, when itinerant artists faithfully captured their subject's appearances and even personalities with only the use of paper and scissors. This fascinating article traces the history of silhouette cutting from ancient times and explains the reason for its popularity ~ and eventual decline ~ in early America. It also features interviews with four of the country's leading silhouette artists still practicing the art in a traditional fashion.

Click here for the article.

February 1, 2009

Chip Carving

Chip carving is an ancient skill that found great favor in early America as skilled artisans applied it to all sorts of domestic items and furniture. This article traces chip carving's history and explores its cultural implications in America. It also features interviews with three of the country's most highly skilled chip carvers still practicing this traditional art form.

Click here to read the article.

December 1, 2008

The Geer House

An amazing account of one family's dedication to the Connecticut soil they've owned since the 1680s. It's a dramatic tale of deceit, struggling orphans, hard work and love, culminating in the story of a remarkable woman, Charlotte Geer, and the house she built on land held by her family for ten generations.

Click here to read the article.


Early Tin Cookie Cutters

This article sheds fascinating light on the evolution of shaped cookies from ancient times to the 1850s, from pagan ceremonies to the heyday of the American tinsmith. It also features interviews with four of today's leading creators of tin cookie cutters, using the traditional methods.

Click here to read the article.

October 1, 2008

Windsor Writing Chairs

Windsor chairs are a hallmark of American furniture making, and the Windsor writing chair is the pinnacle of the line. Throughout the 19th Century it was favored by statesmen, doctors and clergymen for its elegant lines and utilitarian appeal. This article presents the fascinating history of the Windsor writing chair and features a half-dozen of the country's most notable furniture makers who still create by hand this distinctive chair.

Click here to read the article.


The Reeves House

Visiting collector Vernon Reeves in his unique eastern Missouri home that integrates an 1840 log cabin into a new structure designed to showcase his extensive array of antique furnishings. An antique collector since he was 10, Vernon's pieces span the 18th and 19th centuries, with emphasis on primitive pioneer pieces of the early 1800s.

Click here to read the article.

June 1, 2008

Early Nails

A deeply researched article tracing the development and use of the common nail from the Stone Age to the mid 19th Century. A number of fascinating facts are included, as well as interviews with a handful of blacksmiths who still maintain the long legacy of creating nails by hand for historic homes and museums. The article also has a look at the one steel-cut nail factory still operating in the US.

Click here to read the article.



April 1, 2008

Simplicity in Storage

The Shakers demonstrated an incredibly clean and ingenious approach to everything they created. One of the most lasting examples has been the simple Shaker box. This article presents a history of the Shaker box and features interviews with five of today's finest creators of things Shaker, plus a man who has taught more than 5,000 people to build the boxes.

Click here to read the article.


Early Pistols

Early pistols were a sign of social prestige. Military officers carried them and duels were fought with them. Yet they were were difficult to handle and amazingly inaccurate. This article traces the history of the pistol through several centuries, culminating with the famed American flintlock pistol. Noted antique gun dealer Paul Ambrose was a great source of information of interest to today's collector.

Click here to read the article.


February 1, 2008

Lighting the Night

We see quaint colonial lights on porches, lightposts and doorways of countless early American buildings. The fact is, these lights never existed during the period. This article was great fun to research, with comments from leading curators and from several of today's leading creators of early exterior lighting fixtures.

Click here to read the article.


December 1, 2007

Pewter Tableware

Like many other common goods in pre-Revolutionary days, British law prohibited the colonists from creating pewter tableware. This lead to some fascinating developments for pewterers, as I discovered during my research. The article also features four of the country's best modern makers of traditional pewter tableware.

Click here to read the article.


Men's Embroidered Pocketbooks

Few people today realize the social prestige a man's pocketbook created for him in 18th century America. These brightly colored, embroidered accessories still can be found and are highly collectible. This article explains the history and includes insights from leading historical clothing authorities.

Click here to read the article.


October 1, 2007

Early Tea Tables

Tea tables were often the social center of the colonial American home and over time came to be created in a number of beautiful yet functional styles. This article traces the history of the tea table and presents photos of numerous examples, from the 17th century to now. It also features interviews with seven cabinetmakers who make outstanding tables.

Click here to read the article.


April 1, 2007

A Tryal of Glasse

Commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement, this article delves into the ill-fated first attempt to create glass in the New World. My research unearthed stories of murder, massacre, and even contemporary archeological disputes regarding the glassmaking site. It includes profiles of today's leading creators of what is known as Jamestown Glass.

Click here to read the article.



February 1, 2007

Early Candlemaking

This article recounts the importance of candles in American history, plus provides some tips on achieving an early ambience. Also included are interviews with two purist candlemakers and a leading manufacturer of candles in traditional styles.

Click here to read the article.



December 1, 2006

Painted Country Tinware

Painted tinware was big business in early America, including some of the nation's first factories. It was sold in city shops and by itinerant peddlers alike. This article explains this fascinating history plus features interviews with some of the most skilled artists painting country tin today.

Click here to read the article.


Early Wooden Toys

This article discusses the role of wooden toys in American childhood since the earliest settlers, plus provides details on the changing nature of childhood itself since colonial times.

Click here to read the article.


August 1, 2006

Tall Clocks

Tall clocks are among the most stately furnishings in American homes. I shared writing credit on this article with noted early clock expert Gordon Converse (Antiques Road Show), and interviewed a half-dozen of today's most skilled makers of early style tall clocks.

Click here to read the article.


April 1, 2006

Floorcloths

Painted canvas floorcloths were both durable and attractive additions to the early American home. This article relates the history of floorcloths and features three of today's leading makers of floorcloths whose creations can brighten any room.

Click here to read the article.


February 1, 2006

Finding Your Home's History

This article gives pointers on how to research the history of your home. It includes interviews with foremost researchers and authors of house genealogy and explains current trends in dating such as dendrochronology.

Click here to read the article.


December 1, 2005

The Rhodus House

Betty and Jack Rhodus have spent a lifetime collecting and selling superb antiques, and today their prized reproduction 1715 home is like stepping back 300 years in time. Their house near Cincinnati is one of the best colonial reproductions I've had the pleasure to visit.

Click here to read the article.


Period Interior Lighting

Another article useful for decorating colonial-style homes, with tips on creating a period ambience. This one presents a history of authentic vintage lighting and includes interviews with four leading producers of reproduction early lighting fixtures.

Click here to read the article.


The Curry House

Ginny and Bill Curry have created a primitive wonderland amid the rolling hills of southern Ohio, with several log cabins and a thriving antiques business.

Click here to read the article.


April 1, 2005

The Fascinating Art of Fraktur

Here is an examination of an early and colorful Pennsylvania Dutch art form, with several photos of period Fraktur, plus interviews with three of the country’s most talented Fraktur artists whose work stands alongside any of the vintage best.

Click here to read the article.

February 1, 2005

The Newkirk House

This is an unusually touching article. It features Wes Newkirk and his late wife Elizabeth and their long search for a house to restore and then the years of painstaking work to achieve what is now one of Kentucky’s most remarkable residential landmarks.

Click here to read the article.