March 2005

  This month Mike McLeod takes a look at Dr. Seuss, Fire Fighters, Snuff Boxes, Toys and a "How To"  Antiques & Collectibles site  :Compiled by Mike McLeod... Readers who would like to share interesting websites with Mike may contact him via email at

Star-Belly Friends from the tale of the Sneeches, hand-pulled lithograph, $325. (Courtesy, Chase Group and Dr. Seuss Enterprises.)

The Art of Dr. Seuss

       Theodor Seuss Geisel began his artistic career as an editorial cartoonist. Today, he is beloved by kids and parents alike as Dr. Seuss, the author of Green Eggs and Ham, Horton Hears A Who, The Cat in the Hat, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and a bevy of other books.

Geisel credits his mother with kindling his rhyming ability. She worked in his father’s bakery and would chant to young Ted at bedtime the pies they sold – the same way she chanted them to the customers.

Even as an editorial cartoonist and later as a graphic artist for Standard Oil, fanciful creatures filled Geisel’s work, many resembling Horton the Elephant and Yertle the Turtle. During WWII, he served in the Signal Corps with Director Frank Capra (of “It’s A Wonderful Life”, “Arsenic and Old Lace”, and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” fame). There, he created an animated training film featuring Private Snafu, and the script was all in rhyme, of course. During his years in the Signal Corps, Geisel also met Chuck (Bugs Bunny) Jones. The two collaborated on “How The Grinch Stole Christmas,” for which Geisel later won a Peabody Award.

But it wasn’t always easy street for Dr. Seuss. He submitted his first children’s book, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, to 28 publishers before it was accepted and published. One of his most famous works did not enjoy professional acceptance immediately. The Cat in the Hat, which was written after a publisher challenged him to create a primer using just 220 different vocabulary words, was not appreciated by school administrators. But parents and children loved it – they still do – and it is probably in every school in America today.

Another of Geisel’s legendary books, Green Eggs and Ham, is the third largest selling book in the English language. He wrote it after accepting a challenge to write a book using just 50 different words.

Geisel’s work over the years was massive. From it, the Chase Group sells limited edition lithographs of artwork, sculpture of his imaginative creatures, and a group of work called the “Secret Art of Dr. Seuss” which has not been seen by the public until recently.

Bill Dreyer of Chase Art reports, “In some cases, the secondary market for sold out Seuss art has gone sky high and is trading among collectors and dealers for two, three and even ten times the opening price. The Blue Green Ablelard was the first Secret Art sculpture we released in 1999 at $1,695. One sold recently for $20,000…. Of the 29 Secret Art works we’ve released to date have sold out.”

Of the 24 lithographs released, four have sold out. It seems many of us are still Dr. Seuss fans.

If you are one – whether as an art collector or not – take a look at this website to see some familiar and some new images from the creative mind of Theodor (Dr.) Seuss Geisel.


1725 hand drawn 5th size manual fire engine. Used in England. Bedpost style pumper.

Fire Museum Network
Hall of Flame Museum Fire Museum

           Certainly, 9-11 created a reawakening in the collecting of fire fighting equipment and memorabilia. In addition to collectors, museums have been one of the main repositories of fire equipment. is sort of a clearinghouse for fire museum information and locations. It reports that “…there are close to 300 museums which preserve and celebrate the glorious heritage of fire fighting in North America.” The website lists the locations of the museums and those that have virtual museums on the web, too. Click on “Directory of Fire Museums,” and then on “Fire museums with sites on the World Wide Web” to find them. If you collect fire fighting memorabilia, this is a good website to bookmark.

To see an outstanding collection, including several fire engines dating back to the 1700s, visit The physical museum houses 130 wheeled vehicles and 10,000 fire items. In addition, it has more than 6,000 books, journals, magazines, manuals, and trade catalogs and 50,000 lithographs, prints, engravings, paintings and photographs.

The Hall of Flame Fire Museum is located in Phoenix, AZ, and has displays and items from America, England, France, Austria, Germany and Japan, some dating back to 1725. There are some great old – very old – fire engines to be seen online, including some from 1725. It’s amazing that a nearly 300-year-old fire engine isn’t much different from those in the 1800s. Just like in the old movies, they used pumpers manned by groups of firemen on each side.

It’s great to see that these great antiques are being properly preserved.


Scottish silver and horn snuff mull, circa 1840, inscription reads “Rev.d And.w Imrie,” 3 inches long, offered for $1,307.

Antique Snuff Boxes

Taking snuff was the primary method of ingesting nicotine until around 1900 after Columbus brought it back from the West Indies on his second voyage. Initially, it was an upper class addiction. In fact, the aristocracy looked down on the common man and his smoking of tobacco in pipes (which was another form of tobacco that Columbus brought back). Sniffing up snuff was first popular in France and Germany. It did not catch on in England until a Spanish convoy carrying a shipment of snuff was captured.

It has been reported that Napoleon snorted seven pounds of snuff a month.

Just like smoking tobacco, doctors recommended taking snuff for a variety of ailments: toothaches, coughs, insomnia, etc.

Being a habit of the rich, it was only natural that ornate snuff boxes were created for carrying and sharing their addiction. Snuff boxes were carved and created from almost every material imaginable – silver, gold, wood, shell, horn, etc. – and adorned with costly jewels and pearls.

The Bexfield website is hosted in England and has some beautiful ornate silver snuff boxes for sale. The owners were kind enough to leave photos of those they’ve sold on the website so you can still see them. has some choice snuff boxes with featuring Masonic symbols.

An interesting type of snuff box is the snuff mull. Usually carved out ram’s horns, mulls were used for serving large quantities of snuff to large groups of people. Mulls from horns are often mounted with silver. In some cases, an entire ram’s skull is used as a mull and mounted on wheels.

Sniffing tobacco often caused sneezing, but an interesting aside, aristocrats would sometimes fake a snuff sneeze after a comment by someone they disdained.

Some think tobacco snorting is gaining in popularity. If that is true, then so should the collecting of snuff boxes.


Hall of Famer, the Etch A Sketch®. (Courtesy, Strong Museum,  Rochester, New York.)

The National Toy Hall of Fame

Finally, honor is given where honor is due. The National Toy Hall of Fame® is located in the Strong Museum in Rochester, N.Y., and it is immortalizing the toys we’ve loved. The rocking horse, SCRABBLE® and G.I. Joe® recently joined the ranks of 28 classic toys that will now be honored and remembered for all time. The other 28 in the hall of fame are: Alphabet Blocks, Barbie®, Bicycle, Checkers, Crayola® Crayons, Duncan® Yo-Yo, Erector® Set, Etch A Sketch®, Frisbee®, Hula Hoop®, Jacks, Jigsaw Puzzle, Jump Rope, LEGO®, Lincoln Logs®, Marbles, Monopoly®, Mr. Potato Head®, Play-Doh®, Radio Flyer® Wagon, Raggedy Ann™, Roller Skates, Silly Putty®, Slinky®, Teddy Bear, Tinkertoy®, Tonka® Trucks, and View-Master®.

Nine other toys were in the running during the past election, but were beat out by Joe, the horse and the lettered tiles – Big Wheel, Cabbage Patch Kids®, Candy Land, Easy-Bake® Oven, Fisher-Price® Little People, Hot Wheels, Lionel Trains, Rubik’s® Cube, and Wiffle® Ball. If you disagree with the judges’ decision, you can visit the website and nominate a toy for the next induction ceremony. A panel from the museum (curators, educators, and historians) consider the nominations which meet their criteria for selection before voting. As the website reports, those criteria are:

• Icon-status: The toy is widely recognized, respected, and remembered.

• Longevity: The toy is more than a passing fad and has enjoyed popularity over multiple generations.

• Discovery: The toy fosters learning, creativity, or discovery through play.

• Innovation: The toy profoundly changed play or toy design.

From their recommendations, national committee members vote for the top toys.

The National Toy Hall of Fame was created in 1998 by A.C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village in Salem, OR. A.C. Gilbert, you remember, created the Erector Set. The Strong Museum, which holds the world’s largest collection of toys and dolls (about 70,000), acquired the museum in 2000.

In years past, toys were often overlooked or under appreciated for their significance in human development and creativity. It’s good to see credit is finally being given where it is due.



“How-To” re: Antiques and Collectibles

You probably won’t have to visit this website since you get all the information about antiques and collectibles you need here in The Journal of Antiques and Collectibles but has more than 100 articles for collectors. These include the topics of pharmacy bottles, Carnival Glass, American Girl dolls, Depression Glass, Snow Globes and Pez to name a few. Other titles reflect what you can learn: “Fix A Drawer That Sticks,” “Give Furniture an Antique Look,” “Find Antique Furniture,” “Evaluate Antique Furniture,” “Dicker With Dealers,” etc.

On the homepage, click on “Hobbies/Games” and then on “Collecting” to get to a list of all the articles.

Some of the advice in the antique furniture finding article recommends, “Curb your desire for perfection in a piece of furniture that might be more than 100 years old. It should show signs of wear in places where you’d expect it, like the bottoms of chair legs and underneath drawer runners.”

I also like the advice on how to get on the “Antiques Roadshow” and how to prepare yourself to get on camera:

•Send a postcard with your name and address to enter a random drawing for tickets. If your postcard is one of the 3,000 drawn (per city), you’ll receive two tickets to the event – for free.

•Choose your antique wisely. Unusual and older items tend to receive more attention.

•Wear an outfit that’s suitable for TV. (Good advice – we’ve all seen the old guys modeling the white-sox-and-sandals outfit.)

•You won’t receive any information until the cameras roll; the show is looking for a genuine reaction. If you’re chosen, don’t assume you’ll receive good news. Some treasure hunters learn the hard way that they spent too much.

The website also has a search function so you can find articles that mention the word in the article, but not in the title. You’ll get some random stuff here. When I searched for “cookie jar,” I was offered an article on how to tell your relatives that you are pregnant. Something about a “cookie” in the cookie jar.


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