Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Celebrating a Happy Halloween with a Vestiesteam Treasury of Fabulous Halloween Items

Have a happy and safe Halloween everyone!  Off to cook steaks and have a "Kill"ian's Red! Cheers!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sparklets Seltzer Syphon Bottles - Early History

My love affair with Sparklets Syphon (seltzer) bottles began in the early 1990s when I first laid eyes on one in a little antique shop located in an area of Orlando, boarding Winter Park, called Antique Alley. It was a chance meeting, the scenario went like this: instantaneous attraction, best price negotiation followed by cash out of pocket! I now possessed the inanimate object of my affection! I had never seen a seltzer bottle so classically art deco in design, or so I thought at the time. Instantaneous fascination begets curiosity!

Of course, my Sparklets Syphon purchase (pictured upper left) was before you could just Google a search term and have a wealth of instantaneous internet information, there was no AOL or eBay and I’d never heard the word syphon. The shopkeeper didn't know much about the bottle, other than it made seltzer water and had all of the original parts. My limited personal knowledge coupled with the fact that my parents were martini drinkers, led to the mistaken notion that the bottle was of an art deco design and period. To me seltzer was purchased in little bottles and made by Canada Dry, stocked in the bar along with other often ignored little cans of pineapple, tomato and orange juice (eww) for those who didn't drink theirs neat.

Over the years my Sparklets research has opened a portal through which I became a virtual time traveler and has taken me across the globe, back through history, and across cultural oceans. The first stop, The Industrial Revolution, the beginnings of modern day consumerism and the obsession with Global market domination! How intriguing that a seltzer syphon bottle could so quintessentially represent and be so steeped in our global commerce history! The first siphons’ were credited to the French; my focus will remain with the Sparklets Syphon bottles, originally from Great Brittan; wherein my fixation lies.

Sparklets bottles were first exhibited at the Paris International Exhibition in 1900, called the Exposition Universelle. One the earliest references I found was an advertisement for Sparklets in the British Journal by the Sanitary Institute at Birmingham, England dated November 1898; wherein the properties of aeration were discussed as it applied to the treatment of waste water. When reading the one of the experiments, the bottle used to conduct the experiment was described in a was that it could have been a syphon bottle modification. During that time period, with the influx of a burgeoning population to the city and as a result of the industrial revolution, living conditions were beyond deplorable for most.

In an effort to properly frame the beginnings of Sparklets Bottles, a bit of history is in order and is sadly overlooked in most discussions. Reviewing this pivotal time in the development of man, his environment and economics is key to appreciating just how imbedded this single product is in our present day consumerism. While we continue to romanticize our understanding of the era through movies like Becoming Jane Austin and Jane Eyre, according to The UK and Future Statistics dot gov dot uk, the "population in England had doubled from 16.8 million in 1851 to 30.5 million in 1901", housing and sanitary concerns were at critical mass. There were no sewage lines or uniform waste water disposal methods, housing shortages meant severe over crowding; the mortality rate in industrialized areas was almost twice that of agricultural based communities. Not since the plagues were poverty, slums, disease, waste removal and water quality so negatively impacting human survival. The use and mistreatment of uneducated women and children as a form of cheap labor also kept wages low and contributed to the vicious cycle of poverty.  These conditions were mirrored, to some degree or another, across the globe in rapidly industrializing urban areas.

Advancements in the scientific community paralleled and intersected with industry; without going into too much detail, it is important to note studies on carbonic acid and its ability to kill bacteria were being discussed in high regard. I should also note that many of the French seltzer bottles contained lead and resulted in metal poisoning of the consumer had come to light.

The temperance movement had and continued to strive to combat the effects of alcohol abuse within depressed populaces. Water quality, waste water and sewage disposal were ambitiously being addressed despite being impeded by ignorance and clinging to old ways. The death of Queen Victoria in 1901 brought the Victorian era to a close and began a new period, the Edwardian era, and improved conditions. In the upper classes fashions rapidly changed, sports and travel were on the rise. Climbing disposable incomes and increased mechanization meant new products, communication systems, and an expansion of the new phenomenon called advertising.

Among the oldest American advertising I could find which referenced Sparklets, in the book “Public Opinion”, a compilation of  the publication "Public Opinion", authored by William A. Blade, shows a Sparklets classified style advertisement in the May 30, 1901 issue; stating “Soda Water in Your Own Home At One Cent a Glass” with an introductory $3.00 offer, a “trifling expense” ($5.00 regular price) for the first 100,000 orders. At that price shipping was included “east of the Rockies”, “west of these” meant an additional 50 cent shipping charge.

Dateline October 3, 2014 Edited to Add:


For collectors of Sparklets syphon bottles I'm including a link to a recent EBay auction where a very early (probably one of the first) syphons was auctioned and sold for $250.00 USD.  EBay seller was Norma Garcia, EBay seller name "mrventas", located and sold from Mexico and here's the description:


Here's the link to the EBay auction:

The images contained within this blog are either mine, used with permission or under the fair use doctrine.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Woodland Walk

Instead of finishing my first blog post on Sparklets Syphon Bottles or taking much needed pictures for new listings; the day took on a life of its own in a virtual vintage woodland walk treasury.  I spent the day promoting it in hopes of being chosen for the coveted position on the front page of the Etsy web site.  While it was not chosen to appear on the front page, it was viewed by over 600 people and created much excitement!  Here it is, with all the lovely items from talented artists and vintage shops on Etsy!

Some items have sold but many are still available, if you are interested in more information or would like to purchase an item, just click the box of the item you like, it will take you directly to the listing.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Little Brown Jugs

These two little brown jugs are from a farm in Indiana, brown crockery beehive style with Albany Slip glaze, which I have listed in my shop on Etsy.  With the cost of signed Red Wing Stoneware rising, unsigned jugs aren't far behind in price and are one area where values are not falling, or in a holding pattern, but rising in a depressed market.  These brown Albany Slip jugs date back to the 1800s.

Albany Slip refers to the brown glaze, created by mixing glacial clay from upstate New York with water, discovered in the early 1800s; it was used on the exterior and interior of crockery and is highly desirable due to its sealing properties necessary for ease of cleaning and storing liquids.  Glacial clay is now in short supply as sources have declined.  New crockery and pottery pieces utilizing Albany Slip are demanding high prices in the market; which is another reason vintage specimens represent an ideal value.

Including vintage in your decorating schemes help make it a home and in a way that cannot be duplicated.  Carefully selected and edited vintage lends a depth of character, a touch of history and a visual support for your design style and the mood you’re creating.

Stoneware can accentuate many design styles not just cabin or farmhouse chic.  While they are steeped in Americana, the use of jugs was universal to the human experience crossing all cultural boundaries.  When you look for vintage, think of props, and how a piece can help to visually communicate the story.  For example, if you like the combination of: leather seating, warm wood tones, and transitional furniture but want to bring in a little rustic influence; a grouping of jugs works nicely with deer or elk horns to achieve a refined rustic ambiance.  Pieces can be transitioned in and out giving your home a seasonal fresh look.  These jugs will also work very well with Southwestern, Mission, and Craftsman styles and artwork because of the clean lines.

Welcome to my Blog - An Introduction

From the bloggers desk, in this first article I’ll share a little about myself and my history.  Both my Father and Step-Father were in the Air Force, so I am “lovingly” called, an Air Force Brat.  I was born, planted, and transplanted from SAC Base to SAC Base in Europe, Germany and Italy, across the US from Massachusetts to California, and for a time in north eastern Canada.  In the late 1960s my father was expected to serve a tour of duty in Vietnam.  My Mother had friends in Florida and McCoy AFB was an operational base in Orlando, so we relocated here when I was in Junior High School.  As a young child we never lived in one place long enough to consider it home.  We never knew how long we would be stationed at any one location, it was always temporary, so “home” was always at my maternal Grandparents farm in Indiana.

My love of vintage sprouts from the seeds planted at their farm, my Grandparents were collectors and perhaps today they would be called “pickers”.  Attending farm sales, auctions and visiting antique stores; a trip to Shipshewana was heaven!  My Grandfather bought and restored old steam engines, horse drawn farm equipment and the everyday things that waxed familiar.  He so loved the old school house where he went to school, he bought it so he’d never have to see it torn down during his lifetime.  Plus, it gave him a place to store old sap buckets, wagon wheels, feed sacks, anything that couldn’t fit or didn’t belong in the basement.  My Grandmother collected what seemed like everything from Hummels, Depression glass, tramp art and crockery and such; but her love was old pump organs and music boxes.

She baked, canned, tatted, knitted, crocheted and sewed.  When she was in her 80’s went into a cottage business with another woman; they created and sold wonderful hand loomed rugs made from upcycled blue jeans, curtains and any other strong fabric they could find.  The beautiful sturdy rugs which had a signature flying goose pattern were sold to antique and craft shops in the area.  If she were alive, she’d have a shop on Etsy.  As I grew up, I learned to love each new antique shop and listen for the story, the excitement of a good auction or steam engine show.  Some of that just rubs off on a girl.  Like when you play in the dirt; it gets ground in and it won’t wash off; but in a good way.

In the heat the day, during my childhood summer visits, I would dance down the wooden stairs to the cool basement to investigate.   Ogling the dusty mason jars filled with old buttons of every color, shape and size, explore the boxes for newly acquired treasures and play dress up in the Victorian dresses she had “saved”.  It was at her house, I was introduced to American cut glass, Depression glass, salt glazed crockery and stoneware, tramp art and Victorian dresses and Valentines.  I learned to appreciate handmade and the value of living frugally and taking pleasure in the little things life had to offer.  She taught me to take pride in my work and the concept of imparting love through the mundane tasks of everyday living.

In between baking bread and making lunch for the men working the fields, she would share about the Victorian sense of humor or how they would pass the time before radio and television.  She would show me her Valentines ephemera collection and tell me stories of when she was a little girl.  How it was a privilege to have been the first woman in her family to graduate from High School; which was a luxury because you had to be sent to live in town during the winter months as the roads were often not passable.   The importance of being involved politically, when she was born women didn’t have the right to vote and she was proud to be active in the League of Women Voters and help “man” the polls on voting day.  She spoke in American old English, with words like tisn’t and tain’t and I relished her country sensibility, poems and stories.

In my everyday life, we lived a much different lifestyle.  Bread came from the market; we didn’t grow our own vegetables but appreciated the many road side stands for fresh produce when available.  We shopped at the Base Exchange and in the “big” city.  But frugal traditions lived on and my mother made many of my clothes.  My father was a history buff and there was a strong push toward educational vacations and road trips.  We listened to Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee; show tunes and talked politics more than farm reports.  It was the age of the Rat Pack and Camelot.

Although we honored our heritage in the kitchen, with a display of antique kitchen utensils artfully hung on a wall covered with old tobacco barn siding; we didn’t can.  Our dining room was French provincial and the living room had a white sectional sofa and Italian gold gilt Tole painted bombe chest and coffee table with touches of Hollywood Regency throughout.  It was designed and intended for grown-ups, entertaining, dinner and cocktail parties.  I was taught about Wedgwood, Royal Dalton, Waterford crystal, Emily Post’s rules for etiquette, and Julia Child’s French cooking.  The kids TV was in the rec-room, usually in the basement, decorated with an eclectic mix of styles which included a green mid-century modern sofa, some primitive antiques with clean lines and built-in shelves which housed our collections, rocks, artifacts and our library.  

It is from this menagerie of travels and influences I came to love design, architecture, antiques and vintage.  I’ll continue to share along the way as I create a voice for featured antique and vintage items and provide a showcase for the vintage lifestyle, history, vintage care and repair, shopping tips, beautiful frugal projects, a sprinkling of vintage entertaining inspirations, economical retro party ideas and ideas for creating traditions that enhance the vintage experience.  While I do not consider myself an expert, I am a lifelong learner and will share my memories and research with you.  If you have a topic or question or something you would like to share, please contact me at my email and I’ll do my best highlight it in an upcoming post.  If I can’t answer your question I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction with great links that will help guide you on your vintage journey.