Category Archives: Exploring Antique Technologies

Exploring Antique Technologies: Acing the Autopen – Helping Collectors Feel More Confident with Mechanical Writing

This 2011 photo depicts Bob Olding of Damilic Corp, a leading present-day manufacturer of signature machines, demonstrating the vintage Autopen Model 80. The machine uses levers and your favorite pen to duplicate programmed signatures, and while this can be a lifesaver for public officials, many in the government still use it sparingly. Though President Bush received a Justice Department Ruling in 2005 to sign a bill via autopen, he opted not to, and went out of his way to sign in person. Photo: via USA Today and Damilic Corp, Associated Press, 2011

by Kary Pardy   Footage from a 1950s 9-second video shows a grey, boxy machine using mechanical levers to exactly mimic the slopes and angles of a person’s handwriting. Since the invention and popularized use of the power autopen in the mid-1900s, it’s been making the lives of celebrities and politicians easier while at the […]

Exploring Antique Technologies: Leather Fire Buckets – Painted Americana at its Most Helpful 

1. Club fire buckets were decorated with their chosen logo, and few examples are as impressive as this Adroit Fire Club example from Salem, MA, ca. 1820. Emblazoned with the club’s name, the owner’s name, and the motto “Delay Not,” this striking example depicts men fighting to save a Federal-style house from burning. According to Sotheby’s, which sold the bucket for $40,000 in 2020, other examples from the Adroit Fire Club carry on the theme of the burning house surviving. photo: Sotheby’s, Triumphant Grace: Important Americana from the Collection of Barbara and Arun Singh, 2020

by Kary Pardy Imagine you lived in the 17th or 18th century. Chances are good that you would be surrounded by wooden buildings and that you would be very wary of fire. Firefighting technology at that time involved crews of people banding together to help their town or their neighbors, and while they did have some creative […]

Exploring Antique Technologies: Science and Sparkles – Demystifying your Jewelry Collection

Archeologists have discovered what they claim is the world’s oldest natural pearl on Marawah Island, off the coast of Abu Dhabi. The pearl dates back 8,000 years to the Neolithic period – the last stage of the Stone Age. It was found in a layer at a Neolithic site that dates to 5800 B.C. to 5600 B.C. “The presence of pearls at archeological sites is evidence that the pearl trade existed from at least as far back as the Neolithic period,” said Abdulla Khalfan Al-Kaabi, the director of the archeological survey.

by Kary Pardy   How many times have you looked through a jewelry display at your favorite antique shop and was just a bit unsure about the quality or elements of a piece you wanted to get as a gift? When you’re considering buying antique jewelry or are curious about something you already own, it […]

Exploring Antique Technologies: Shaped in Steel – Dissecting the Technology Behind your Edged Weapons

The Roman gladius was a short (two feet), sharply-pointed, double-edged sword and its design had evolved over the centuries to be the ideal weapon for the legions of the Roman Empire. It was forged from high-grade steel and was primarily suited for the Roman fighting style, where shield usage was heavy and swords were called upon to thrust and stab through the shield wall. In their book From Sumer to Rome: the Military Capabilities of Ancient Armies, historians Richard Gabriel and Karen Metz wrote that in the hands of a highly trained legionnaire, the gladius “was the most deadly of all weapons produced by ancient armies, and it killed more soldiers than any other weapon in history until the invention of the gun.” photo: Wikipedia

by Kary Pardy There are lots of reasons to be drawn to edged weapons, and their beauty and history are chief amongst them. Each piece carries with it a complicated past that is directly connected to our most violent and sometimes, most noble, heroic stories. Whether you’ve got a parade sword or your ancestor’s Bowie […]

Exploring Antique Technologies – Saving Scrimshaw: How it’s Made and How to Take Care of It

Sea captains’ wives and children sometimes accompanied them on voyages and produced a fair amount of scrimshaw. Notably, Sallie Smith, the wife of Captain Frederick Howland Smith, created pieces that are just as highly regarded, if not more so, then those of her male counterparts. Scrimshaw by an unknown artist, ca. 1830-1860 courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum

by Kary Pardy If you’re a nautical fanatic, a coast dweller, or a fan of early American arts, you probably know and appreciate scrimshaw. But what is it really, and how do you know you’re looking at the real deal? If you find it, how do you keep it shipshape for years to come? We’re […]

Exploring Antique Technologies – When Antique Technology Still Works: Finding our Way with a Sextant

How to use a sextant? offers a step by step guide with visuals, Davis instruments has a downloadable manual on their website, and there are several other online resources Photo:

by Kary Pardy   Do You Know Where You’re Going To? In 1714, the British Parliament established the Longitude Act, and with it, the Longitude Rewards. Equivalent to just over a million dollars today, these prizes offered rewards to any who could come up with a reliable way to measure longitude at sea. Latitude was […]

Exploring Antique Technologies: Ancient Art – Unraveling the Art of Knitting

Knitwear was the primary fabric for sporting activities in the 1920s, but with cheaper alternatives such as factory-produced sweatshirts and tracksuits gained traction, knitwear transitioned to the realm of low impact, high-end sports whose users could afford ‘fancier’ knit garments. Knitwear also transitioned to smart casual clothing, which is where we most commonly see it today. Courtesy of HoneyCombPatterns, Etsy.

by Kary Pardy Knitting is everywhere recently. Creating warm hats, scarves, wraps, sweaters, and mittens is currently a fashionable pastime for people of all ages, and skilled knitters can create art with their complex stitches and colors. When you ask people in 2020 what knitting is to them, you’re likely to get answers like “it’s […]

Looking into the Colorful Past of Stained Glass Art

Medieval window series, Troyes Cathedral, France, 14th century.

Looking into the Colorful Past of Stained Glass Art by Kary Pardy   Stirring scenes, epiphanies of light, color and symbolism, glowing recreations of nature – you may connect all these ideas with the artistry of stained glass, but what about urine? Wine? Terms like “cames,” “grozing,” or “armatures?” We know stained glass today as […]

Exploring Antique Technologies: March 2020


Using Technology to Keep your Antiques Safe By Kary Pardy In 2014, Harvard University unveiled newly “restored” Mark Rothko murals. The paintings had been locked away after previously hanging on the sunny wall of the dining hall from 1962-1979 and had been considerably faded. Many thought they would remain so because Rothko’s special paint formulations […]

Exploring Antique Technologies: February 2020


No Matter Which Direction the Wind Blows, We Still Love American Weathervanes By Kary Pardy If you are an Americana collector, you are likely familiar with the gold (or copper) standard for American folk art. Handmade American weathervanes are the celebrities of Americana auctions, racking in significantly higher amounts than their wooden and iron contemporaries. […]