Life in Old South Central Alabama

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South of Birmingham, Alabama, United States
I am an antique trader in central Alabama....I love old houses... My log home was built in 1817 by my ancestors Benjamin and Hannah Harless Wilson .............. Outside the house are herb gardens and lots of pass-along plants................ No one in Alabama is in a hurry about anything......... Visitors think that the garden needs weeding and the furniture needs polishing....I am a direct descendant of Joseph Towne, whose two sisters Rebecca Towne Nurse and Mary Towne Easty were hanged in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692 as witches. I am also a direct descendant of Pocahontas and husband John Rolfe.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Primitives for sale in Alabama

  Several outstanding pieces are going on the block here in Alabama next Saturday at a local auction being held in a lovely old country town, and I hope that someone ( including me) will be there to give each of them an appreciative home. 

I can't buy them all, but I might be lucky enough to bring one home.

  I always keep the philosophy that if  I don't get anything at an auction, I can at least study what they have and learn something new.  

  Above is a cherry three door chest made by an early Southern cabinet maker sometime between 1830 and 1850. The pulls and the legs appear to be original.   

The drawers should have small elongated irregular dovetails with a shadow of the cabinet maker's pencil marks. 
 Here is the back of the chest showing its age and authentic wear.  If this one comes home with me, the first thing I'll do is take the drawers out and use a flashlight to search inside for the maker's signature. 


Sometimes they are signed on the drawer backs, bottoms, or sides. Sometimes there is evidence of a label or a stencil on the back.  If nothing is found, it's still good.
 Next is offered a pine pie safe. The tins appear to be aged and may not be original.  They are tacked to the outside of the piece, which I have never seen before.  It's still a beautiful piece.
 Here is the back, composed of only two massive boards.  Along the sides of the back, the square nails have caused the wood to turn almost black, which is exactly the way it should be and shows that the nails have not been added later.  So the back lets you know that the piece is real.
 A beautiful walnut open cupboard.  I think at one time it might have had bracket feet.  If this came home with me,  I would build a walnut base to set it on 


 It could also use a bonnet at the top. Wouldn't this be beautiful filled with crockery or Staffordshire?  


The top has no doors.  A closer look would reveal evidence of hinges taken off if doors had ever been present.
 Four large boards make up the entire back.  Since the back is solid and not in two pieces, that assures the buyer that the piece has not been married ( created from a top and bottom put together).
 This beauty is a walnut stepback cupboard that appears to have its attic finish. Notice how the bracket feet give the piece height ( imagine them on the other piece above and you'll see why adding them would be a great improvement).
 Here is the back view.  Once again,  the back shows that the piece started out as one and has not been married.  


Again,  the square nails have stained the wood in the last 150 years and will tell you where the shelves on the inside of the top part should be, in case any have been removed for a television.  


( Update: On sale at the June auction ) 

 WOW , a cherry corner cupboard.  Paneled, clean, and appearing to be  all original.  This should bring a fine price. Probably seven feet tall.  ( Update:  On sale at the June auction) 
 A small cherry 1850s four drawer chest.  It's bigger than it looks.  I am addicted to their beauty.  ( Update: On sale at the June auction)

That ends the Southern Primitives part of the auction.  


Below is something that I noticed in the auction listing which would be of particular interest to a Colonial lady whose blog I follow.

An English court cupboard.  I put this on here for Adam and Mary to see since I follow her blog and they just bought one straight from England. 


 Now in Alabama this will not get much attention.  There are no colonial homes here, no Cape Cod salt boxes,  and they don't fit well in the hallways of plantation houses.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Wild Flowers Blooming in Bama

 About four years ago some sort of purple thistle appeared on the farm. They are quite spectacular and grow six feet tall in the fields.  The blooms eventually turn white, producing whispy white seeds much like dandelions do.  On a windy day they will catch a breeze and float away for miles.
 Since my father is not living here now,  the front field has not been cut so the thistle is having a fine time being free to reach its full potential without any fear of mowing machines.
 Don't get too close.  Those little thorny things on the stems can stick you.
 This is a strange little blue wild flower that comes up in the same spot every year. I see them in many country gardens here but no one has ever told me their name. They only bloom for a couple of weeks but can put on a nice show while doing so.
 These aren't wild flowers; they are my grandmother's oxalis.  She had them in her yard as far back as I can remember and probably got them from her mother.  


They would spread out into the yard and Raymond her yard man would mow over them.  In a couple of days, little pink blooms would shoot right back up. 


They form bulbs and spread everywhere (some gardening books say they spread just like weeds and have a low opinion of them). But to me they remind me of my grandmother along with iris and canna lillies.   


Any of my loyal readers want some free bulbs just let me know and I"ll send you a box.
 Ah, buttercups.  " Want to smell my flower?" was the children's game with buttercups.   Then the unsuspecting victim gets a nose full of buttery pollen inside and out.   


You can also see in the upper left the purple vetch that can take over an entire field in one year if left unattended.
 This is an eighty gallon iron cook pot that was left on the place when my grandfather moved his family here in 1928. 


 On the bottom is  A J Sperry Batavia Illinois.   I wrote a letter to their historical society and received a nice reply saying that this particular piece was made about 1878.   


The green stuff floating on top is duck weed,  a water plant.  I was coming back from New Orleans about 20 years ago and saw it in a creek on the side of  the road so I stopped and  quickly scooped out a cup full ( I said quickly because the whole time I was thinking that  a gator might come out from under it and get me) .  


It has managed to stick around since then.  I don't know how it travels, but if you have some in the back yard and fill a bucket with water in the front yard, chances are it will be found growing there in a few days.
Well, all that walking around making pictures has made me tired, so I will just sit on the front porch a while and watch the weeds ( flowers)  grow.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

F. A. Whitney 1910 Child's Carriage

 I loaded a bird's eye maple library table and 4 Drexel ladder back chairs on my truck and headed to Clanton with the intention of returning home that afternoon with something primitive or something old and interesting.  


My first dealer friend couldn't use a table and chairs that were blond,  as his customers aren't the blond furniture type. 


 My second dealer friend thought they were just fine, and told me to look around to see if there was anything he had that I liked so we could make a swap. I spotted the children's buggy in two pieces on the floor behind a large brown break-down pie safe.


 I love anything old on wheels, so my estimation of the value of the buggy was higher than the value of the table and chairs and I really was looking for a flat out swap without any money being involved. 




 " What about this? "  I cautiously asked.  My friend advised that I had made an excellent choice, as he had no time to restore anything like that.  


Plus, he felt that he could kick in fifty dollars more to me to make the swap even. I declined the cash offer and we loaded the buggy on the truck and I came home quite satisfied.


One of the axels had been bent, so needed to take off the front wheel.



Taking off a buggy wheel from 1910 means you need a  buggy wrench from 1910, so I located a selection of candidates and lined them up for the show.  


Surely one of them would work, as the day had gone pretty good so far, so why stop now.


                                                     We have a winner.




 Now the wheels will need sanding and two coats of primer applied. Then I need to decide if the wheels should be black or red or some other color.  


Since the main part of the buggy is a very light sky blue,   I really shouldn't  use my usual hunter green or my favorite color,  mustard, not with a blue top. Dark blue might be great with the light blue on top.




 Here the wooden part of the buggy can be seen with its original blue with pin stripes. 


 It's what prim people call  "attic surface" and I can't bring myself  just yet to sand it off although like the big buggies pulled by horses it is not considered a bad thing to sand, prime, and paint all new.  




Inside the buggy with a place for the children's feet. 

 Full restoration would have all of this replaced with new leather dyed blue.


I need to find what would have held the top and bottom together at the ends of these spring supports. 


They are tied with little ropes now.  The originals would have been some sort of metal clip.






 I found the maker's metal plate still secured to the wood:   F. A. Whitney Carriage Company.    


A quick Google search reveals that Francis Austin Whitney and his cousin started making buggies and carriages in 1858 in Leominster, Massachusetts.



Here is a Whitney carriage for children fully restored .  Now I can see that the bonnet of mine is missing but not impossible to have made.  Isn't this a beautiful piece of Americana?





Here is a 1908 post card that shows my carriage style on the left.  You can see that the company made smaller versions for dolls.




So, now I have to decide whether to leave it alone, or do a partial fix,  or commit to a total restoration.