My Winterberry Farm Primitives Shop Blog

Monday, July 14, 2014

Antique Ink Stands

Ink stands were once an indispensable part of everyday life as far back in history as ancient Egypt and ancient China where ink was invented. Over time ink wells became more than just a place to store ink and writing instruments, they became highly prized object d'art pieces. In France, the most expensive ink stands were made of porcelain or highly decorated ormolu (a gold-mercury amalgam applied to a bronze base) and were sometimes more important works of art than just places to store ink. Inkstands were there when Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence.
This is the actual inkwell used by both Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin during that hot July in 1776. It was made by Phillip Syng in 1782 and is housed at the Independence National Park in Philadelphia, PA. It consists of the ink pot, quill holder, and a pounce pot that was used to sprinkle 'pounce', a powder to help dry the ink and stop it from spreading. As Thomas Jefferson dipped his quill into that silver inkwell on his desk, I wonder what he was thinking. Were the words coming to his mind so quickly that he had to stop several times to sharpen his quill and sprinkle the pounce from the pounce pot? Many of the 18th century inkwells were made of porcelain, pewter, maper mache, bronze, ivory, glass, wood, and brass with many of these inkwells so rare that they can only be found in museums.
As can be seen in this painting 'Still Life with Books' by Edwart Collier in 1702, the inkstand was a necessary object in everyday life more than 300 years ago. In early America, inkstands were could be found in many taverns or inns for use by the patrons while they were on their travels. Some even had drawers for the storage of paper, sealing wax, or other necessary items for writing letters in the 18th and early 19th centuries. As can be seen in this picture of a circa 1800-1830 walnut inkstand with drawer, there are two wells on either side of the glass inkwells for the storage of quill pens and a drawer below for paper and other items necessary for writing a letter.
A walnut wood inkstand like this one would have been owned by a tavern or inn and may have sat on a table in the tavern's dining room or in an small alcove off to the side of the main room so letters could be written in a quiet area to allow for concentration. The writer would request paper - for a price - or may have even had paper that was carried with them. It is also possible that inkstands like this one may have been found in the more expensive rooms in inns that would also count women as their patrons on the few times of the year that women would travel to see family or friends. A walnut inkstand like this one may have had a home in the room where a woman and her family would stay and she would have been able to write and send letters using this type of inkstand.
This inkstand is a wonderful piece of history with its felt bases for its original glass inkwells intact, single drawer with it original hardware and those fabulous dovetails on that single drawer. Found on my website at under the 'Early Antiques' button, it would look fantastic sitting in your tavern room or great room on a small tavern table that may also have some twists of tobacco and an early pipe or two...

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Early Military Ephemera

I have always loved early ephemera from our country's history and I have been lucky enough to collect several pieces for my own collection including an early document from 1747 with the signatures of John and Josiah Cotton from the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
I also use early letters and documents as 'props' in and on some of my antique furniture like this early 19th century desk from northeastern Pennsylvania.
My favorite forms of early ephemera are the ones associated with our Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. I have one for sale in my shop that is a Revolutionary War era Promissory Note from the Connecticut Committee of Four that includes the vertical signature of Colonel Samuel Wyllys, the namesake of Ft. Wyllys found at West Point, NY. It was built in 1778, was an infantry fortification for the protection of West Point, and is still a well-preserved redoubt. Colonel Wyllys came from an important Connecticut family and was promoted from Lieutenant Colonel to Colonel in 1776. He was in command of the 2nd Connecticut Regiment during the Siege of Boston and then marched with General Washington to New York. After the war, he became a representative to the Connecticut General Assembly and then became the Secretary of State for Connecticut from 1796-1809. During the war, he also served as a revolving member of the Committee of Four in Connecticut which was the body that provided the monies necessary to further the battle against the British.
Samuel Wyllys was only one of the signers of this 1781 Promissory Note. You can see two other signatures underneath the strong vertical signature of Colonel Wyllys. They are the signatures of William Moseley (noted as a 'patriot of the war') and Eleazer Wales, who is listed as a minister in Connecticut. The address on the back of this pay voucher and is the address of Ralph Pomeroy, the Military Paymaster for the colony of Connecticut during the war. A wonderful piece of history from 1781 that is in fabulous shape to be 233 years old.
The last one that I have listed in the shop is of an 1823 Militia Certificate that commands the appearance of L. Page at Richard's Tavern in Charlestown, MA for inspection and review. It is signed by the clerk of that particular militia and is a call to be 'armed and equipped' as the law directs. This was only 8 years after end of the War of 1812 that lasted until 1815 and I am sure that our country was still reeling from that war that had its beginnings back in 103 when the British began to impress American sailors and forced them to work on British ships. This soon became an international incident when the American ship 'Chesapeake' was fired upon by British forces. The War of 1812 has always been overshadowed by the Revolutionary War but is a very interesting part of our early history. Check these two pieces out under my Ephemera button in the shop! We are headed out on another buying trips to New England in the morning and maybe I will find more military ephemera!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Snipe Hinges: What Are They?

Hello and welcome to the first Winterberry Farm Primitives Store Blog. I decided to start this blog to answer some of the questions that I get concerning primitive antiques, what they are and how to decorate with them. What is a snipe hinge and why were they used in early America? The snipe hinge is probably the earliest type of hinge used on American furniture and document boxes. Two 'cotter' pins are used to make the snipe hinge and here is a picture of how they are added to the piece of furniture or document box from the website
Each cotter pin was drilled through one part of the furniture or document box and then the ends of the pin are bent back to secure it in the wood.
Here is a picture of the snipe hing on the interior of my circa 1790-1800 William and Mary chest over drawers that illustrates that bending back of the pin. Using snipe hinges to help you date your antique is a helpful guide but beware of the new reproduction furniture that has the same style of hinge. When you look at the hinges (and the piece of furniture or document box) several things will pop out at you including the perfection of the new hinges.
They will usually look too 'perfect' unlike this picture of the same snipe hinge that in on the outside of my William and Mary chest. Snipe hinges can also help you figure out where your piece of furniture or box originated. Snipe hinges were used in early New England and can help you figure out the origin of your antique. Below are a couple of my favorite boxes from my collection that have snipe hinges. One is a tobacco stained document box that is circa 1800-1820 and the other is a dome top document box that is early 19th century. Both are from the New England area and are wonderful early boxes. and here are pictures of their hinges There is a small document box in my May 2014 update that has snipe hinges on it and it is an early box. Here is a picture of one of the snipe hinges on the little box.
Not all early document boxes were painted and this little box never had paint on it but sometime in its history, a vibrant and colorful wallpaper was added to the interior.
Check it out on my website at It is under the Primitive Antiques button and is #1708. That's all until next time! Have a great weekend and don't forget to check out my May 2014 Update today, May 16, 2014! UPDATE to this blog! The early little document box with the snipe hinges that was in the month's update has sold! Thank you!