Category Archives: Features

Collecting Ophthalmic Antiques

Iron frame double-hinged spectacles with tear drop loops, ca. mid-18th century

Photos and information by Ron Harmic at, and   The 19th-century customer had a wide choice of corrective visual devices of which spectacles were only one. Notice in this famous print, Les Lunettes, by Louis-Léopold Boilly (1823), five French men and women using different types of optical aids, including a quizzing glass, folding […]

Prepared to Record History: Inkwells

By Melody Amsel-Arieli   Writing systems have existed since ancient times. Sumerians, for example, used a stylus to create meaningful wedge-like impressions in soft-clay. Highly trained Egyptian scribes penned spells and bills by dipping thick, pointed river-reeds in ink prepared and kept in natural hollows found in small “inkstones.” Over time, these simple containers evolved […]

The Writing Desks and Habits of Famous Authors

Twain working at his messy desk at his home.

by Maxine Carter-Lome, publisher   It is said that Kurt Vonnegut used his hardwood floor as his desk. He worked from his lap with everything—papers, notes, drafts—spread out around him. Virginia Woolf often wrote in a low armchair with a plywood board across her knee. Henry David Thoreau wrote Walden on a simple Hepplewhite-style desk […]

Worldly Possessions: The Material World of a Black Farmer in New England

Thomas Dugan’s Probate Inventory. Massachusetts Archives

By Erica Lome, Ph.D.   In 1827, an obituary posted in the Concord, Massachusetts, newspaper Yeoman’s Gazette noted the passing of Thomas Dugan, a yeoman, or land-owning farmer. The obituary did not mention Dugan’s accomplishments or family, nor did they describe his character – which a later source called “industrious and a peacemaker.” Instead, whoever […]

The Almanac: A Guide to the Future

These 14 various almanacs with wear and tear throughout recently sold at auction for $20.

By Kaitlin Servant Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” This well-known piece of advice was attributed to Ben Franklin and appeared in Poor Richard’s Almanack (sic) in 1735. The American farmer’s almanacs that readers have come to know and love have included anecdotes, poetry, pleasantries, stories, and […]

Canning the Harvest

1915 Kerr Self Sealing 1 Qt Mason Jar

by Jessica Kosinski Fall in New England is a beautiful time of year. It brings to mind images of crisp, cool air, hot apple cider, and leaves changing colors. Historically, it signaled the hard work of harvest time – when family members, friends, and neighbors gathered together to bring in the crops and celebrate their bounty. […]

Cyrus McCormick: The Father of Modern Agriculture

An early illustration of the McCormick Reaper, 1847

by Maxine Carter-Lome, publisher At the age of 22, Cyrus McCormick created the first grain-harvesting machine in the United States: the horse-drawn mechanical reaper, which made it possible to harvest large fields faster and therefore increase crop yields. He had done what his father, an inventor, could not after almost two decades of trying and […]

Tokens of Service: Collecting Military Memorabilia

by Judy Gonyeau, managing editor Remembering and honoring the many who have served our country fills numerous museums, is written on monuments, and is in the hearts of all who have served and their families. Militaria is the field of collecting that helps everyone learn about and keep a promise to members of our military. […]