October 2004

  Compiled by Mike McLeod...This month Mike McLeod takes a look at cranberry glass, writing boxes, NIMH collecibles, and the Cold War Museum. Mike, who lives with his family near Atlanta, has written about a broad range of antiques and collectibles – from Sumida pottery to Gutenburg Bible pages.   Readers who would like to share interesting websites with Mike may contact him via email at mikemcl@mindspring.com.

Click Images for large Vu

Ribbed cranberry preserve dish with clear crystal frill and crystal coronet top, probably made by a Stourbridge Factory, circa 1910, 5-inch diameter 9-inch, facet-cut neck cranberry glass decanter with faceted stopper, probably English, ca. 1895.

Cranberry Glass


           One of the most delicious of all glass collectibles is cranberry glass. Its rich color of subtle shades of pink and red easily catch the eye and allure collectors.

            Cranberry glass is made by adding gold chloride in the glass-making process. It is variously reported that the Romans made red glass, the Venetians tried and failed, and an Italian added some gold to his glass mixture in the 17th century to create a ruby color. Other reports have the recipe for cranberry glass discovered in the 18th century in Bohemia.

            Today, much of this beautiful red glass is actually just a layer of the cranberry glass over a base layer of clear glass. Some glassmakers buy rods of cranberry glass to melt down for the overlay.

            To feast your eyes, visit www.cranberryglass.co.uk . There are many superb examples there. You can also learn there that the “…heyday of cranberry glass making was from 1870-1930 by which time it was produced in England, France, Belgium, Bavaria, Bohemia, as well as the U.S.A. The glassworks of America were mainly in New England; this just happens to be where cranberries are grown, so … never short of a good idea when it comes to marketing, the term “Cranberry Glass” was coined. It does describe its beautiful colour so very well.”

            Indulge yourself in cranberry glass.


U-2 wreckage
The Cold War Museum

            On May 1, 1960, pilot Gary Powers’ U-2 spy plane was shot down in the Soviet Union, probably the international incident that epitomizes the Cold War. His son, Gary Powers, Jr., and John C. Welch have founded this museum, “…to preserve Cold War history and honor Cold War Veterans.”

            The website is remarkable from the sheer amount of information it holds. You can choose your decade – starting in the 1940s and going through the 1990s – to access articles about everything from historically hazy to landmark events, such as the sinking of the USS Scorpion submarine.

            The articles and information are encyclopedic, and there are also photos and exhibits (Cold War art, the CIA, a collection of U-2 and SR-71 patches, Soviet military hardware, and on and on).

            You wouldn’t expect to find anything humorous on this site, but then I do leave it to me …. Under the 1940s button, the list of articles includes, “UFO Crash in Roswell, NM.” In addition to describing what happened on a farmer’s land on July 3, 1947, it also documents the famous press release: “The Army Air Forces here today announced a flying disk had been found.”  This was retracted a few hours later and replaced with a crashed weather balloon story.

            The plot thickens with an account from a mortician who reportedly received a call from the Army’s mortuary officer requesting a “…certain type of coffin, and also how to stop the decomposition of corpses that had been laying outside for a period of time.”

            Almost as spooky as the Cold War itself.


A NIMH pressbook.

The NIMH-phomaniac Collection

           Not what you would initially think, the NIMH-phomaniac Collection is, “The most comprehensive list of NIMH collectibles available anywhere.”

            If you are curious, it is quite an in-depth website with: a collector’s page (featuring photos of the NIMH collections of nine other collectors); an extensive collection of movie posters, buttons, a press book, lobby cards, postcards, the film in 16mm form, film trailers, etc.; all the products associated with the movie; and the top 10 most obscure NIMH items. What’s #1? McDonald’s NIMH toys.

            Sorry to say, after visiting this site, I am still not a NIMH-phomaniac.

Cubby holes in
ca.1800 Captain’s  box.
Writing Boxes


           Joseph O’Kelly and Antigone Clarke are the authors of Antique Boxes, Tea Caddies and Society, 1700-1880 (Schiffer Books). Their hygra.com website encompasses many types of antique boxes. Click on “Online History of Boxes” to see a list (which includes sewing boxes, tortoise shell boxes, Chinese lacquer boxes, snuff boxes, patch boxes, etc.) and choose “Writing Boxes”.

            What the laptop computer is to us today, is what portable writing boxes (or “lap desks”) were to our ancestors.  Few people today understand what great letter writers the learned people of ages past were. The Roman upper classes wrote regularly to relatives around the known world and to fathers, brothers and husbands in the Roman Legions. The officer cadre was almost exclusively made up of nobles, and writing equipment was almost always part of an officer’s gear.

            During the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, officers and crewmen of all navies and commercial ships exchanged mail with passing ships or left mail at drop points for delivery home.

            Correspondence required all sorts of utensils: quills, ink pots, inkstands, paper, wax, seals, sand and so on. In the 1700s, it became apparent to travelers, business people and others that their writing sets needed protective cases, and carpenters and furniture makers were ready to oblige.

            As the website points out, writing boxes were usually very sturdy, to withstand the bumps and travails of travel. For this reason, mahogany was often the wood of choice. You will also often see boxes with brass corners and handles.

            But this is just the beginning to this collectible. To many collectors, the real excitement is inside a writing box – with secret compartments, cubbies, drawers and more. Visit the website to see some great examples and to get excited.


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