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Another Plantation Desk

I met a nice couple who are fellow lovers of primitives. I bought their plantation desk which was part of a general clean out. 


Someone in Arkansas had already bought their Larkin china cabinet or I might have gotten that also.


There are two table top victrolas at their house for $200 each and another with 100 records for $900.


 I have a Brunswick that my parents bought for me in the early 1970s for $50 so I really don't need another one.


Summer of 2011 update: My cousins in Richmond love this desk even more so it is moving to Richmond soon. 


I know where three more are, so if my need to hoard another one arises, I can drive to Tennessee and buy one.

Knoxville buying trip

I rode to Knoxville to see what was on the floor at a really good antique estate buying business. 


I normally don't travel that far ( almost four hours) but they had an 1840's tole painted two-drawer stand that was so outstanding I had to see it in person.


 Sitting next to it was an 1830's Tennessee cherry table with a dough board top. I bought them both, along with a Drexel 1920's mahogany low boy.


 On the way home I stopped in Sweetwater, an antiques town just off the interstate north of Chattanooga, and was able to cram a few smalls in. 


I took the low boy to the shop and kept the other two pieces for my house.

Today's Purchase: Schoolmaster's Desk

Having taught school for so long, I am hard pressed to express my happiness in finding this one and bringing it home. 


It's heavy, and is larger than it looks in the picture. 


Here's how I came to get it.


Nita and I rode to a storage room in McCalla where a guy was selling furniture he and his wife had collected for fifty years.


 The desk was right by the door, and it was the first thing I saw that I knew was good. Turned legs, original hinges, that pumpkin-orange color, no major repairs or replacement parts, and a brown interior that only age could create.


When I saw the prices, my heart sank a bit, but I remained calm as usual and showed no emotion. The man had everything priced sky high, and I knew we could buy little to nothing. I did a quick walk through while he and Nita talked about his terms and prices.


He had told her the night before that she could take anything she wanted on consignment, but now he had changed his mind and wanted only to sell for cash,telling her to buy w…

Curves and Color

I have a tendency to line up furniture like some sort of store, and I'm trying to do better, but old habits are hard to break. 


I get the "Your house looks like an antique shop " comment a lot ( which I secretly like to hear), so I'm already prepared to point out sarcastically that there are no price tags on anything, but they are "free to make an offer on anything you see."




I spent the day working outside and inside the place, as this is the first official day of my summer vacation from school.


 I already miss my ninth graders. Several are in summer school, but not because of me ( Thankfully, everybody passed in my room).


This corner of the old house shows, starting from the left, a federal chest under the window which I found at a mall on Hwy. 280.


By the chair is a Colonial New England 2 drawer blanket chest in original red paint with thumb moulding and flint glass pulls on turned Federal feet, a chest from Virginia in the corner which I paid too much f…

Mobile Alabama 1860s Portrait

I am all excited about an Alabama portrait that has finally come home. This painting is of Felix Taylor Taliaferro, a cotton merchant who lived in Mobile, Alabama, in the 1860s and 1870s.

I bought this portrait from a family member who lives in Pennsylvania. They were unsure if he was a grandfather on up their line or an uncle. 

In either case, they wanted to sell it, having no interest in family history. I was glad to buy it so that his portrait could come back South again.

The subject of the painting was a citizen of Orange County, Virginia.

 According to family, he moved to Mobile to make his fortune in the cotton trade. Some years later, before 1880,  he returned to Virginia.

Although the name is spelled "Taliaferro" it is apparently pronounced more like " Tolliver." Mr. Taliaferro's middle name Taylor is the maiden name of his grandmother, who was a second or third cousin to President Zachary Taylor.

Felix Taylor Taliaferro's parents were Edmund Pendl…

The Plantation Desk

I bought a plantation desk. It is signed by stencil on the back Mitchell and Rammelsberg, Cincinnati, Ohio. They were in business together from 1847 until 1871 and are the company who made the bed in the Lincoln Bedroom in the White House. This desk has no flaws and is complete and looks right at home in the front log room.













Quilts in the sun

On sunny spring Saturdays, it is the custom to air out the quilts. Here are three of my favorites as seen from the front yard. The front porch of the old cabin is the perfect place to give them all a breath of fresh air.

1910 cart wheels

When I discovered these two small wagon wheels, the sight of them reminded me of a project I had wanted to do last summer. A seller had posted an antique peanut cart for $999, really beautiful but much too expensive.

I thought that if I had two matching wheels I could build one myself and put it at the shop with Flowers 5 Cents printed on the side. The front of the cart should be built to resemble a baby buggy, only out of wood, and the back has the basic shape of a wheel barrow.

I bid on the wheels and came out the winner, so now they are in hand and ready for my attention. I will now file them under the top ten projects I really want to do.

The Tulip Tree

When Joe lived here he planted a tulip tree in the back yard. That was ten years ago. More than the arrival of spring, the tulip tree's blooming signals the end of the worst of winter. March really does come in like a lion and go out like a lamb.

I cut several limbs off of the mimosa tree in hopes that the tulip tree will take a growing spell. The entire back yard garden should do well. Mimosas tend to take over very quickly. This one provided so much shade that the plants suffered. It's too big to cut down all at once, so I'm trying the cut-back approach. I know my grandmother's oxalis will appreciate it.

Preparing for a new crop

Here is the photo of last year's gourd crop. These are bird house gourds and they did very well; I think there are about 150 in the barn. I took six to Jim at Remember When Antiques in Jemison and he cleaned them with a brillo pad and clorox. They are nice and tan now. I hope I can be that resourceful and clean the remainder myself.

I planted a row of the long neck kind called drinking gourds, but only six came up. When I transplanted them to the other row, they all died, so I guess gourds don't transplant very well. These are what I want to plant this year. Jim said they need a fence or wire to hang from so the necks will not grow crocked. I think I can manage that.

The Indian Corn didn't do well at all last year and I think I have learned from the mistakes we made. It was planted too early. It needs something put on it to kill the worms. It needs to dry in the barn. So the gourd crop and the Indian Corn crop will be my main focus for early summer planting, along …

A Very Yankee Thing

I've done a very unusual thing, something that is practically unheard of here in the South. I have bought a piece of redware. Pennsylvania redware. Antique old Northern redware. Yankee redware.

Southerners, even antiquer people, know little to nothing about it. It is a New England thing. We didn't have it down here. We don't have it now. We used Staffordshire and china and ironstone and our own spit-tobacco and kiln fired pottery. I've done antiques for over forty years, and have never seen a single piece of it in any shop.


But I began to notice the stuff in the magazine Early American Life. It seems that the primitive house people always had some of it tucked away nicely in a wall shelf next to the other Yankee item, the pewter plates. I thought it was ugly. The decorations looked like something a child would do with a magic marker.

But, slowly, it began to grow on me. Then Jill Peterson's book The Settlement came out, and there was more of it. Maybe just…

Mustard Rug

I bought an old mustard-centered rug from the boys in Marion, and I suspect there are not many more like it floating around the antique shops here. I wanted to unify the room now that I have painted the doors and windows and moulding in the mustard/yellows I love so much.

My favorite color is yellow, but I have never read any of the charts that attempt to analize a person's favorite color as some sort of indication of personality and behavior. I suspect those who like yellow would either be very chipper and happy, or cautious.

For whatever reason, the front room now has this monster rug that goes well with the primitive and high country furniture and I like it, so, having no one else to please, I am sure it will be quite happy here.

Zadock Shields a Cabinetmaker in Taylor County West Virginia

One of my never sell pieces is the Federal chest that sits in a corner of the front log room. I bought it several years ago at auction but did not have the opportunity to look it over very much until I got it home.

I have to be careful at auctions not to draw too much attention to any piece, as there are others there who are watching. An experienced antique trader must be able to show no emotion while on the hunt, either at a private sale, tag sale, public auction, or estate sale. At the small auctions around here, since I apparently have that dealer look, people think that whatever interests me should interest them. So when I saw the Federal chest, I gave it a quick look and moved on.

I bought it for $200, which was cheap enough, but would have been cheaper if the house bidder hadn't dropped two bids against mine. At home, I pulled out all the drawers and began a search for a maker's name. I found it, in brown ink, on the second large drawer in the back. Zaddock Shi…

Wanda's jacquard bed coverlet

My friend Wanda's bed coverlet has that mustard color that I use all over my house. I doubt I will ever find one as good as hers, but I am going to try. I bought a rug for the front log room yesterday from the boys in Marion, and although the central color looks more like lemon than mustard, it will do just fine.

The rug came from Carlisle Hall, an antebellum mansion that has a rather noisey spirit of a lady made famous in the Thirteen Alabama Ghosts book. I think I will add mustard to the front porch during spring break; the color is already in three rooms; why not add a fourth?

Maybe I could plant only yellow bloomers along the brick walkway. Get me some mustard colored shoes and a matching hat. Now I have the Eccentric Southerner theme going that might attract Garden and Gun magazine to send a photographer down from New York to do a feature.

Miniature Furniture for Primitive Houses

Every primitive collector needs at least one piece of primitive miniature furniture. This is not doll house furniture. Primitive furniture can be salemen samples or some small piece built in the workshop in the form of a cupboard, chest of drawers, or pie safe. They are much too large to go in a doll house.

I found this example of a chest and liked it immediately. It is made of at least three types of wood. Dovetail drawers would have been better but I can live with it as is, as it was less than a hundred dollars.

I'm looking for a miniature blanket chest now; one will turn up sooner or later on Ebay listed as a box. The trick will be finding four little feet to match.

William Rufus Devane King

Whenever my friend Joe visits from Denver, we always take a road trip to Selma, Alabama, to Live Oak Cemetery, to have a photograph taken at the grave of William Rufus Devane King. Mr. King was Vice President under Franklin Pierce, and is the highest ranking Alabamian ever in the Federal Government.

Mr. King was quite ill at the time of the election, and went to Cuba to try to get well. He was actually sworn in as Vice President there ( with special permission), then came home to Alabama and died suddenly on his plantation in Dallas County. I have a copy of his Last Will and Testament. He had quite an estate.

During his healthier years, Mr. King was the confident and housemate of fellow bachelor James Buchanan, who was elected President in 1856 and is best remembered as being powerless to stop the South from leaving the Union in 1860.

Mr. King's people were from North Carolina, and I have a Devane line from the same place ( my Devane grandmother having married into my Highsmit…

Esther Weston Towne born 1763

I have added more and better photographs plus the information on the back of the daguerreotype at the bottom of this post.

Here is Esther Weston Towne born 1763. She is my oldest identified Daguerreotype. My early Towne family is from Salem, Massachusetts. She is not my ancestor but she is a New England Towne.

My ancestor William Towne was born about the year 1600 in England. He married Joanna Blessing about 1620. They are the parents of my ancestor Joseph Towne of Salem, who was born about 1639 and married Phoebe Perkins. Joseph's sisters Mary Towne Easty and Rebecca Towne Nurse were hanged in the Salem Witchcraft trials of 1692/1693. Their sister Sarah escaped hanging when the trials were ended.

My line then proceeds to Johanna Towne who married Thomas Nichols. Their daughter Anna married William Vining in 1723 and comes all the way down to me.

Esther Weston Towne pictured here was born in 1763 or 1764 and would have been an eye witness to the American Revolutionary War. …

Oil Painting by Francis E. Jamieson

Francis E. Jamieson ( 1895-1950 )was an Englishman who fell in love with the Scots Highlands. He painted hundreds of scenes showing the mountains and villages of Scotland. He also painted the Highlands cattle.

His pictures were so popular that he was contracted to paint scenes on furniture. In order to sell more paintings and not be in violation of his contract, he came up with over ten other names used to sign his paintings which he sold on the side and on the sly.


I found this painting for sale on Ebay and realized that it was one of his when I saw the faces of the cattle. The sellers could not decipher the name of the artist in the bottom right hand corner; they thought it was some French name, which they read as W. Rieliard. I saw that it was W. Richards, one of Jamieson's many pseudo-artist names.

The seller had had the painting appraised for $1200, but I wonder now about the ability of an appraiser of art who couldn't read the name. The asking price was $400 to …

Silhouettes bring a surprise

My bid on this pair of silhouettes was the winner, and they arrived in today's mail. Silhouettes are selling well on Ebay..$200 up when framed, so when I found this pair unframed I thought I might have a chance.

First of all, I wanted something that was actually old. They appeared from their condition to be the real thing. The tears and silverfish spots were a plus in my opinion. Then the seller said that one was marked with some embossing by the Peale museum, so I liked that, too.

The surprise came when I opened them up. Each was in a protective slip, backed by paper. I was looking for the Peale museum mark, whatever that was supposed to be, but found instead, written on the back of the lady, a note in faded period brown ink that says "Robert and Mary Adams 1818."

I can't imagine why the seller didn't mention that in his Ebay description. Either he never took them out of their protective sleeve, or he missed seeing it entirely. It is rather faded, but c…

Primitive Oil Painting: Her Gentle Disposition

This lovely lady arrived on Saturday morning and helped to brighten up an otherwise cold and sunless day. She slipped through Ebay for less than $200 and will fit perfectly on the wall going up the stairs.

I like her mousey look from behind those glasses. She is a normal size, 20x24, so I won't have too difficult a time finding a primitive frame for her. I estimate she was painted about 1840. That should place her birth about 1780 to 1800.

I showed her to Nita at the antique shop and she was as excited as I was. This makes a total of three primitive women I have hanging on the wall at my old house. I was inspired to own a few after getting my copy of Jill Peterson's "The Homestead" plus all those years of Colonial Homes and Early American Life.

Early American Life is about it for primitives and old houses. Colonial Homes went out a few years ago. Jill Peterson is starting a new magazine about Primitives that is supposed to begin publication in February. I am…

Adding to the R S Prussia collection

I notice that Ebay prices for R S Prussia are almost reasonable again. The celery dishes and the odd sugars and creamers are less than $50. I found some bowls tonight in the same price range, especially the unmarked ones. I know many of the common decals used as well as the mold patterns , but I am lucky to have the gift of looking at a piece and being able to know if it is good or not.

All of the R S Prussia collectors can do that. The R S Germany pieces are no problem being on the page, but the fake pieces give me a headache just looking at them. They all need to be busted with a hammer.

I still see them in the shops here sometimes, but not as often as before. I would like to write FAKE on the price tag with a red Sharpie just like I saw it once written on a piece of fake Roseville.

Anyway, I need to add two or three pieces a month to what I have while it is cheap ( cheap for R S Prussia , that is ).

Part Two: Director's Opinion on the Admiralty House Photo

The next two blog entries are about a little cdv photograph of a building in Halifax called the Admiralty House. I bought it for less than a dollar and kept it over 30 years. I finally donated the photo to the Admiralty House Museum. It is the oldest known photograph of their building/museum. It was like finding a picture of the White House twenty years older than any other known picture. They were all excited about the whole thing. The earlier blog gives the background, and the blog below gives the results, so if you want to read them in order, skip to the next entry and come back to this one. The whole ordeal turned out to be lots of fun over such a little thing.


The email arrived from the Director of the Admiralty House and his historical savey is all over the place. Here is what he had to say:

Good afternoon

Your donation arrived this morning. I must say I was gob-smacked.

As you mentioned in your accompanying letter, it is the earliest known photograph of Admiralty House. It …

Part One: Admiralty House 1860 Photograph

That particular Saturday was the right Saturday of the month in June of 1978 and I was at the Fairfield, Alabama, flea market, once the glorious location of the Alabama State Fair. Fairfield is not hard to find; just follow US 11 through Bessemer and there you are. If you go too far you'll end up on 1st Avenue North in Birmingham.

This monthly flea market was not one of those pretty outdoor affairs like you see on the treasure hunt shows on BBC and HGTV; it was held in a large dirty building where dealers or anyone else who wanted pay the fee would bring their smalls to display on old tables covered mostly in sheets.

When I say that the dealers brought smalls, I say so with no exaggeration. The 1970's and 1980's were a time when people who liked antiques ( including myself) were doing what I call collecting collections. Some dealers sold nothing but depression glass; others were selling figurines; others sold old paper ephemerae.

Today's young antique en…

On Writing a Blog

This is a blog about my life in Central Alabama. I don't presume that anyone other than myself would want to read it, at least not on purpose, for it might prove to be dull reading indeed.

But, it's foolish to pretend that anyone who starts a blog doesn't have the idea that someone will click and read, someone who can say I understand what this person is saying. I know how this person thinks.

Sarah Palmer ( real teacher whom everyone loved ) told me in college that I had the potential to be a fairly tolerable writer, but that implied something of hard work and committment to the task, and, at that stage of my life, I didn't understand the concept of not doing anything to the extreme.

I also remember that she hated what was called stream of consciousness writing, which I was inclined to do, and, in the 70's, that was not good for an A in English Composition 101 unless you were assigned to mimic the style of Henry David Thoreau, whose essays she could not bear to read…