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Remember when: Art in industry

On a recent vacation trip to Washington, D. C., a large display in the National Museum of American History caught my eye. Walking by, I glanced over my shoulder at the title of the exhibit then halted and backed up to view it all again. It was a topic that had never crossed my mind before, “ART IN INDUSTRY.” So as I pondered all of the artifacts on display, products which had been manufactured in the United States with an artistic endeavor that might be visible in our everyday lives, I brought that thought back with me to Alabama. Let me share these items which I photographed back home that certainly fall under the heading, “ART IN INDUSTRY.”

1SINGER CORP. is an American manufacturer of sewing machines established in 1851 by Issac Merritt Singer. Its first large factory for mass production was built in Elizabeth, New Jersey in 1863. It is now based near Nashville, Tennessee. The early sewing machines operated by a foot motion pedal were of a quite artistic design. This old sewing machine of my grandmothers sewed a lot of doll clothes for me and my sisters.

2The King James Version of the Family Bible has always made the ideal family heirloom. The volumes often contain a wealth of genealogy information since marriages, births, and deaths were recorded in the center section. Locks of hair and pressed flowers can sometimes be found in the keepsake editions that were once sold to pioneer families by traveling salesmen. Brown padded leather covers were decorated fancy with gold lettering.

3 BALL BROTHERS GLASS MANUFACTURING COMPANY mason jars were made in Buffalo, New York between 1885 and 1886. Vintage canning jars designed to put up fruits and vegetables in the days before refrigeration were colorful in shades of cobalt blue, amber, purple violet, and green. A jar can be dated by its logo. This one dates to around 1900-1910.

4 Drug store chairs or wire ice cream parlor chairs enjoyed by soda fountain customers of the 1930s and 1940s featured twisted heart-shaped backs, round seats, and slender foot rests. This chair once stood in the Jackson Hospital Apothecary in Montgomery. A senior citizen and historical society friend of mine, Miss Margaret May, once told me, “Honey, don’t let Eugene Peterson paint that chair white. It should be black wrought iron with its oak bottom!” I should have listened to her!

5 & 6Depression-Era Style Glass is clear or colored translucent glass that was inexpensively mass-produced and very popular in American households in the late 1920s and throughout the 1930s and 40s. At the time of the Great Depression, companies such as the Quaker Oats Co. put a piece of glassware in boxes of food as an incentive to purchase their product. Some pieces were given away at carnivals or fairs as prizes. Colors were primarily clear, pink, green, and amber.

7 BRASS MUSIC STANDS such as this were popular parlor items when vocal and instrumental soloists entertained in the American living rooms. Can’t you just picture someone singing a Stephen Foster song such as “I Dream of Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair?”

8COAL SCUTTLE BOXES were standard fixtures beside the hearths of American homes when shallow fireplaces burned coal. Remember when the coal yard in Andalusia was located on Sanford Road right before one crosses the railroad track? I think they bagged and sold the coal from the ice and coal plant downtown on Troy Street.

9 ROGERS BROS. SILVER dates back to 1847 when the company became a household name. The company perfected a process for electroplating silver. In 1862 Rogers Bros. out of Hartford, Connecticut became the International Silver Co. This design, “First Love,” was a popular pattern. Couples who married around the time of World War I often used this pattern.

10 Silver shoe horns and button hooks were useful items years ago. Artistic designers styled them to please the purchasers and to make them a decorative dresser item.

11 & 12SOUTHERN CRAFTSMAN FURNITURE owned by the Banks family headquartered on Through Street in Andalusia. They employed craftsmen who designed hand-carved reproduction Victorian furniture such as these two pieces. This furniture was sold all over the country even to Hollywood whose set designers used the furniture on the cowboy movie sets!

13 STAINED GLASS lamp shades were manufactured in the U. S. Tiffany Co. in New York was considered the top name in stained glass design as we learn by watching Antiques Road Show.  

14 & 15AUTOMOBILE GRILLS such as the ones shown in this 1931 Ford Victoria and this 1938 Chevrolet were designed by talented artists in the industry. This tradition continues today in automobile manufacturing where competition is still king! Donald Barton, antique car collector, furnished this picture of his cars.

16 MASTER CLOCK AND WATCH MAKERS were challenged to make unique designs of the day. We are reminded of this artistic beauty and one local masterpiece when we ride around the Andalusia Court Square and look toward the old First National Bank building on South Cotton Street.

Many other articles manufactured in America through the years symbolize “Art in Industry.” I think of fancy door knobs, lighting fixtures, telephones, jewelry, building materials, and the list goes on even today. We can take pride in American manufacturing when we think back and REMEMBER WHEN.

 

Note: For those who inquired last week about the identities of the doors of Andalusia’s past, they were: John Peek’s office, formerly the home of Covington County Bank; City Hall, formerly East Three Notch Elementary; St. Mary’s Episcopal Church; Andalusia High School; Mr. and Mrs. John Evers’ home on Three Notch Court; Mark and Meryanne Murphy’s home on East Three Notch; Springdale; the Three Notch Museum; First Methodist Church; Central Church of Christ; the home of Mr. and Mrs. Trip Jones on Three Notch Court; First Presbyterian Church; and the home of Sandy Burkhardt on East Three Notch.

 

Sue Bass Wilson, AHS Class of ’65, is a local real estate broker and long-time member of the Covington Historical Society. She can be reached at suebwilson47@gmail.com.