Weber BBQ Buoy

Buoy Barbecue

Hooray! It’s barbecue season and Queen B is here to help you char those burgers, grill those hot dogs and roast that corn on the cob with one of our more frequent finds: a Weber Kettle Grill! Here are three versions we’ve sold in the past couple months and we are sure to have more in the future.

These bubble-shaped sheet metal BBQ grills are the first covered grill made commercially in the United States, and we have the U.S. Coast Guard and one determined barbecuing Dad to thank for it.

In the early 1950s, George Stephen was a salesman at Weber Brothers Metal Works in Michigan, working to support a large family which eventually grew to 14. His father ran the metalworks which constructed, among other things, round metal buoys for the U.S. Coast Guard and the Chicago Yacht Club. The buoys looked something like these old rusty, beached mooring buoys.

With WWII meat-rationing recently repealed, George was enjoying the new hobby of backyard barbecuing but was frustrated by the standard open charcoal braziers which were smokey, easily blown out and vulnerable to rain. One day at work, looking at those big, hollow metal balls, inspiration struck. He Frankensteined his first covered grill together out of 2 metal buoy halves. His beta version didn’t work very well (no ventilation to oxygenate the fire) but George kept tinkering until he arrived at a classic. George was so enamored of his grill that he then struck out on his own to make BBQ grills his sole business. His original grill was called “George’s Barbecue Kettle” but “Sputnik” became a popular nickname for them after 1957, when the spherical Soviet satellite Sputnik became the first man-made object to ever orbit the earth.

George Stephen returned to Weber Brothers Metal Works in 1958 after scraping up enough capital to buy out the business and convert it over to exclusively making grills. He renamed the company Weber-Stephen, adding his last name but keeping “Weber” in case the venture failed and they had to return to general metalworking. Spoiler alert: they did not fail.

Today Weber makes many grills beyond the round charcoal-burning originals, including natural and propane-fueled gas grills, wood pellet and electric grills, and stand-alone griddles. And of course they make many versions of George’s kettle grill, including a 70th anniversary line in cool 1950’s colors. The rounded kettle grill is still a particularly challenging shape to make because it takes exceptionally big presses to draw steel. All Weber products are assembled in the U.S. of local and foreign-made parts.

Sometimes QBO customers have concerns about buying used items because there might be missing parts, or they have unanswered questions on how to operate the thing, but with Weber Grills have no fear! The Weber company maintains one of the absolute best customer-support websites in the history of retail, offering replacement parts for every product line, free pdfs of User Manuals, a full line of BBQ accessories such as grill tools, lighters, starters and charcoal covers, plus Weber t-shirts, aprons, hot mitts and free recipes. And they have live online chat customer service, just in case.

George Stephen passed away in 1993, a happy man, and was immortalized in 2013 when he was inducted into the American Royal Associations Barbecue Hall of Fame.

Captain C.W. Fothergill Sample Folio

Historical Art

At first glance, this album from a past QBO sale appears to be a small book about some obscure ‘watercolour’ painter, probably containing OK prints and a dry biography listing a bunch of dates and names. (yawn)

Not so! This is a sample book that the artist himself carried with him in the late 1800s, containing around 45 ORIGINAL watercolors and pencil sketches. They are British landmarks, architecture or vessels. Each is notated with title and date, sometimes twice (once on the original, with more information added to the page the painting was glued onto.) Each was done separately, then the rippled edges were trimmed away and it was ‘tipped in’ to the book, that is, they weren’t painted directly in the folio, they were glued in upon completion. So it is interesting to note that both finished paintings and quick sketches are meticulously preserved here.

This is because the artist, one Charles W. Fothergill, was demonstrating just what he could produce under varying circumstances and time constraints with a high degree of accuracy, something crucial to his profession.

Fothergill does not have the career trajectory that we now expect of an artist. AT ALL. Today we think of painting as an impractical, if not impossible way to make a living and the cliché artistic temperament as driven by emotion, insecurity and ego, like Picasso, Dali or Van Gough. Not so with Captain C.W. Fothergill. Fothergill received his training as a painter in the British Royal Military Academy and went on to serve at the RMA, Sandhurst, teaching young officers how to accurately render landmarks, architecture and crucial transport such as ships. His notes on laying down contours and instructions for military sketching and surveying are included in 1880s military documents.

So important was this skill to 1800s British military operations that both the British Army and the British Navy trained and fielded their own painters who were given officer rank. Although photography was invented in 1839, it was many decades before it was practical to carry cameras on operations. Neither caustic, hard-to-get chemicals nor portable darkrooms were needed to produce a militarily useful rendering, just a well-trained painter with paper, a paintbox, a steady hand and a good eye. That was Captain Fothergill.

None of Fothergill’s works were created from imagination; all are subjects he observed in front of him and are carefully noted as such in their titles. Although he made no big splash as a fine artist, historians appreciate Fothergill’s visual records and thus today some of his paintings are found in local museums in English towns, not as ART with a capital A, but showcasing important local landmarks like historic bridges or churches. You can compare his works to photos taken today of the same view and see both how dead-on accurate they are, and make note of changes that have taken place over time.

And, although Fothergill left behind no publicly available letters or diaries, we can trace his journey through works sold at auction: paintings of England, Scotland, France, India and Canada. The Captain’s discerning eye took him interesting places. He later lived in Cranbrook, Kent and exhibited work at the Suffolk Street Galleries and the Royal Academy in 1900. Today his modest but eminently pleasing art is sold in the U.K., Canada, France and the U.S.

So how did his beautiful folio book make it all the way to Oregon? No idea. All we know is that he passed through our Beehive and then went back out into the world again.

384 Blenko Water Bottle

Collectable and Practical

If you come across an elegant carafe like this at a Queen B sale you might think from its styling that it is Scandinavian or  Century Modern. And, it would look right at home in a dining room featuring Eames furniture, George Briard serving pieces and Tammis Keefe linens. However, it is Appalachian and predates Mid-Century by about a decade. It was actually inspired by a new-fangled appliance just starting to invade American homes, the ‘electric icebox’, or refrigerator.

William John Blenko, an English glass-blower, came to Minton, West Virginia in 1921, attracted by the cheap natural gas. By 1923 he had set up gas-powered furnaces and trained locals to staff his small glass factory but he had trouble selling his specialized window glass products. He had to innovate or go under.

He hit on enduring success with the ‘384 Blenko Water Bottle’, so-called after the year of its invention (1938), 4th design of the year. The bottle has been in nearly continuous production since. So, what makes this singular bottle such an enduring hit for this small Appalachian glass-blowing company?

The original bottles are 8″ tall and hold 36 oz (4 &1/2 cups). The squared, hand-blown carafes have a narrow enough side profile that they can sit safely down into the skinny shelves of a refrigerator door. The double spout means the user doesn’t need to orient the bottle when picking it up, and the broad, bullseye indents on both sides help the hand securely grasp the cold, slippery bottle. And it doesn’t hurt that Blenko Water Bottles are infinitely more pleasing to look at than your average boring refrigerator jug and can go straight from the fridge to serving guests at your fanciest celebratory event. People have never stopped buying them.

In keeping with the business practice of ‘line expansion’, the original bottle has remained constant while the company created many variants. In the late 1940s and 50s came attached handles, and in 1999 frosted and satin-finish bottles were made. In 2010 ribbed and optic ripple versions, and ‘frit’ color variants with flecks of contrasting colors in the glass were offered. Ten years ago a 6″ tall, 10 oz mini was introduced. There are even a few bottles out there with four pouring spouts but these were created by individual glass-blowers goofing off on the job. Known as ‘factory whimsies’, the four-spouters are extra-desirable for collectors.

Blenko also makes many other glass products such as serving bowls, centerpieces, drinking glasses, barware, vases, pressed-glass sun catchers, cast-glass figurines, votives, fused- glass nightlights, blown-glass garden art and even glass jewelry. And they offer the first registered Glass Worker Apprenticeship in West Virginia and have active relationships with local scout troops and colleges, producing custom glassware for fundraisers.

With all that glass work going on, it’s become impossible to accurately list all the colors the Blenko Water Bottle has come in, since each time a new shade of glass is developed at the factory, for ANY product, at least a few classic water bottles are blown in that color to test it out. One serious collector has even amassed over 600 unique Blenko Water Bottles! The newest color is ‘Spring Crocus’, a clear, true purple easily distinguishable from the earlier brownish-purple Amethyst. Today a new Blenko Water Bottle retails for between $60 – $80 depending on size and color but of course with Queen B vintage you can do better. Feeling stylish yet thirsty? Visit a QBO sale – with all those Blenko Bottles out there, you’ll find one sooner or later!

Take a look at Blenko’s website HERE!

1957 Ford Thunderbird

Ain’t She A Beaut?

Did you know we busy bees like to run with a fast crowd and hang out with gorgeous cover models? Well, we do and if you’d like to join us, this exact sexy ‘Baby Bird’ that was featured on the cover of the August 2017 edition of Classic Thunderbird Club International Magazine will be the main attraction at our very next estate sale. Here’s the aforementioned cover photo – isn’t she pretty? And she won the People’s Choice Award at the Philomath Car Show!

Her specs: Rare fully loaded Inca Gold 1957 T-Bird Thunderbird – Body 40, Color YE, Trim XA, Inca Gold Exterior, Black and White Interior, Port Hole Hard Top, Soft Top, Tonneau Cover, 312 V-8 Engine, Automatic Transmission, Power Steering, Power Brakes, Power Seat, Power Windows, Engine Dress Up Kit, Skirts, Dayton Wire Wheels, Radial Tires, electronic ignition, front disk brakes, retrofitted original radio for Bluetooth & new speakers, engine rebuild with electric fan, rebuilt transmission, and a lot more. Whew!

The 2-seat Thunderbird was Ford’s answer to Chevrolet’s 2-seat sporty Corvette, which created a sensation when it made its debut in 1953. The competing ‘Baby Bird’ convertible followed close on its heels in 1955 and was produced through 1957. Ford promoted their Thunderbird as a “personal luxury” versus Corvette’s “sporty” image and they were offered in either ragtop or hardtop, had V-8 engines and came with either manual or automatic transmissions. But, in 1955 their V-8 engines were available in either 193 horsepower or 198 hp. The following year that was bumped to 202 hp, 215 hp or 225 hp. And, in 1957 it went up again to 245 hp, 270 hp, 285 hp or even the supercharged 312 hp! Since these improvements were based on feedback it seems that “personal luxury” was not the customer’s only priority!

Only 53,166 of the original 2-seat convertible Thunderbirds were ever made: 16,155 in 1955, 15,631 in 1956, and 21,380 in 1957. Over the three-year production run there were 26 body colors: Azure Blue, Buckskin Tan, Colonial White, Coral Sand, Cumberland Green, Dresden Blue, Dusk Rose, Fiesta Red, Flame Red, Goldenglow Yellow, Goldenrod Yellow, Gunmetal Gray, Peacock Blue, Raven Black, Seaspray Green, Snowshoe White, Starmist Blue, Sun Gold, Sunset Coral, Torch Red, Willow Green, and Thunderbird Blue, Bronze, Green or Grey. The wonderfully Mid Century Inca Gold color was only an option in 1957 and seems fitting for a car named after a powerful mythological bird found in the lore of many Native American tribes, including those in the PNW. This one is Haida.

After 1957 the Thunderbird line was reinvented as a coupe, a roadster, and a sedan. The last incarnation of Thunderbird sports car rolled out of the factory in 2005.

If you’re the lucky person who takes the Thunderbird home, you might enjoy joining the Rose City Thunderbird Club of Portland, Chapter 51 of the Classic Thunderbird Club International (same organization that puts out the magazine.) Rose City Thunderbird Club is dedicated to preserving the 1955, ’56 and ’57 Ford Thunderbirds and offers both tech sessions and social events as well as hosting conventions. They also have helpful maintenance and tech tips on their website. Thunderbird replacement parts can be found online through National Parts Depot, Larry’s Thunderbird and Mustang Parts, Thunderbird Headquarters, Inc., and Concours Parts & Accessories.

Want more details on the car? We have a spreadsheet! (Click HERE) Want to admire the car in person? We’ll see you at the sale!