100 Years Ago in History
“There is still another benefit to be derived from the collecting of antiques and that is the mental pleasure and satisfaction of discovery and ownership.” – Israel Sack
It is common practice to define “antique” as applying to objects at least 100 years old. While beyond the personal recall of most readers and dealers, these items represent our tangible and cultural history as illustrated through photos, advertisements, catalogues, written receipts, personal correspondence, and other forms of documentation. While this evidence helps to trace and authenticate antiques’ provenance, age, and value, it is often the stories that emerge from these written records that interest buyers and collectors the most. The history behind, and span of time represented by an “antique” is what makes collecting and antiquing an enduring passion, whether you’re a connoisseur or enthusiast.
One Hundred years ago – 1916 – was certainly a different time than the one we live in today. Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States, and we were a country standing neutral “in thought and deed,” watching nervously as our allies and enemies moved towards World War. In Brushaber v. Union Pacific Railroad the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the national income tax, and Washington State and Brown kicked off the first of what has gone on to become an annual Rose Bowl football Game. Although nobody at the time attributed it to Climate Change, Browning, Montana experienced the greatest change in temperature ever on record for a 24-hour period (+6.7°C to −48.8°C/44°F to −56°F), and San Diego County experienced such torrential rain and severe flooding that it was cut off for weeks from the rest of the state. Jeannette Rankin from the state of Montana was elected the first woman to serve in the U.S. Congress, Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the country in Brooklyn, New York, and Albert Einstein completed his mathematical formulation of a general theory of relativity, which includes gravity. Today’s antiques were either born in or passed through this year in history. These recorded events are part of their DNA.
The early decades of the 20th century were also an important period in the history of antiques and collecting. Nouveau Riche Industrialists and second generation immigrants making their way into the Middle Class were looking for ways to showcase their wealth, nationalism, and refinement. The mixing of Antiques and fine Colonial Revival reproductions was a design aesthetic that swept the upper classes, with antique dealers such as Israel Sack and Wallace Nutting leading their way. A movement towards collecting and valuing Made in America items reflected the country’s pride at that time in its cultural heritage, history, design aesthetic and craftsmanship.
American craftsmanship was also the driving force behind the Arts & Crafts Movement. Although waning by 1916, the movement, a reaction to machine-made Decorative Arts, was inspiring collectors, dealers, and designers to value and appreciate the importance of home, and the beauty, form, and function behind simple, hand-crafted quality.
For collectors of antiques and collectibles, it is a love of history that fuels their passion. The opportunity to learn about something new and own a piece of history is what drives many to auctions, antique shows, and flea markets. We look for inspiration inside a trunk hauled out from an Estate Sale, haunt antique shops for a forgotten hidden gem on the back of a dusty shelf, and bid and buy to reclaim items from our youth at auctions and collectibles events. We revel in the history we recreate with our collections, and the way a new acquisition makes us feel.
In the spirit of our mutual love of history, we are proud to introduce a new monthly column in our magazine, “This Month in Collecting History,” written by Mike McLeod. Through his column we are reminded of the historic events and items that define us as a country, and provide our hobby of collecting with the documentation and historical context that keeps us looking forward to our next ‘antique’ acquisition.
100 Years Ago in History