Spices were an important part of cooking in the days before refrigeration was available in most homes. Meat and fish were smoked, pickled, peppered, salted or treated with combinations of spices that kept the food from rotting.
"Kitsch” is a term that refers to something that’s overly sentimental or vulgar or in just plain poor taste. Paintings on velvet of Elvis Presley, plastic pink flamingos and hula girl statues were all once considered kitsch – and laughable.
Opinions change with time. Throughout the past 40 years, it has become popular to “think green.” But our ancestors had to hunt for food and killed buffalo, deer and passenger pigeons, making some species endangered and others extinct.
Before the 1850s, few chairs were made for comfort. Seventeenth and early 18th-century American chairs were designed with hard seats and straight backs, and few had arms. No slouching allowed. People were expected to sit up straight.
Santa Claus hasn’t always been a fat, jolly man with a beard and a red coat. He hasn’t even always lived at the North Pole. The Santa of today often is called the “Coca-Cola Santa” because he was first drawn in the 1930s for a series of Coke ads.
A “censer” sometimes can be found at an antique shop, but the word can be confusing. It has nothing to do with a “censor,” the person who decides what is acceptable to be published in books or shown on television. A vintage censer is an old container used for burning incense.
"Topsy-turvy” designs, sometimes called “upside-down” or “two-faced portraits,” were a clever idea that found favor in the 1870s and later.
Plates, cups, pitchers, advertising mirrors, advertising cards, vases, comic strips and even books could be made that way.
The last half of the 19th century was a time of creative energy in the United States. Thousands of patents were granted for improvements to household goods, from eggbeaters and apple peelers to vacuum cleaners.
Country-store collectibles still are selling well if they’re large, colorful and have unusual graphics or wording. Huge signs made of paper, tin or enamel and giant floor-size coffee grinders are wanted by collectors and decorators.
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