Friday, January 21, 2011

There's No Hallmark Card for This!

I'm fascinated with history. In school, I majored in American history and Art history. I've found both to very useful in this line of work. What really lights my fire are the threads of stories within specific family histories.

Civil War Era Marriage License, given up by a family with no heirs

One of my favorite parts of dealing with clients is hearing these family-specific stories. Watching their eyes light up as they hold a treasured teddy bear, or the way their shoulders straighten when they show off their Dad's war medals is special. I feel privileged to share these moments.

Just as fascinating are the clients that hold other memories-the kind that Hallmark doesn't write about. I had a client recently who showed me his families vintage photographs. As I was commenting on them, he turned sour. Turns out his Grandfather was embarrassed by much of the family's actions, which he felt were less than honorable (a divorce, a business loss, nothing major by today's standards).

Victorian grandfather
So, when my client was 11, his Grandfather took all the family's 19th century photos (including hundreds of mining photos of the original California Gold Rush), locked them in a steamer trunk, and dragged it out to the dormant vegetable garden. There he proceeded to douse it in gasoline and light it on fire.

Victorian 1860's photo album

My client had seen those photos and was so fascinated by his family's rich Cornish Gold Rush history. He remembers being held back by his Mom as he watched the trunk burn. Now, this isn't just a tragic story. The Grandfather did manage to leave an entire barn (a huge barn) filled floor to 25' ceiling with steamer trunks packed with antique whale bone corsets, old rifles that were never used, and all manner of 19th century gadgets. (They owned the town hardware store for over 120 years.)

Glass orb door knob set, complete with hardware

Interesting what comes up in this line of work!! I do enjoy history. Even the juicy bits. You could say that this job is all about the good, bad and ugly of human nature.

1 comment:

  1. This really rings a bell with me. I love to know the stories behind the pieces I find. It always makes me sad when that connection between an item and a family is cut. We, as dealers, can tell part of the story about the object itself, but the memories are gone for good.