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Blowtorch & Fire Grenade

This intriguing object (embossed “model no. 27”) was offered at our last Beehive sale. It is a BLOW TORCH, made on the cusp of the 19th and 20th centuries by Turner Brass Works in Sycamore Illinois, or possibly somewhat later in Chicago when their factory relocated. 

Turner Brass Works produced thousands of blow torches with multiple improvements over the years. Their 1905 catalog touts one as “A pint torch for general light work, constructed with our improved automatic brass pump in the tank. The burner is of heavy bronze, strong and durable. For electricians, painters, etc., we guarantee it to give perfect satisfaction.”

The torches used the same kerosene as household lamps from the 1800s. Since a kerosene flame is not hot enough to melt metal, the torches use a manual pump to pressurize the fuel chamber, forcing the flame into a much hotter jet that shoots straight from the nozzle. The brass button on the vertical stem is the pump, and the black knob on the horizontal stem off the back of the apparatus adjusts the volume and focus of the jet. Later models have a pressure relief cap and a gauge to warn if the tank is approaching a dangerous blow-out.

Turner Brass Works operated for almost 100 years and according to a 1925 issue of The True Republican it was “the world’s largest exclusive manufacturer of blow torches, fire pots and braziers.” The company was founded in 1871 by Edward S. Turner, who was bought out 18 years later by Harrison Rountree. An ardent capitalist and industrialist, the young Mr. Rountree was nevertheless also an enthusiastic member of the more artistic circles of high society and socialized with architect Frank Lloyd Wright, feminist author Kate Chopin, and L. Frank Baum, author of many children’s fantasy books. 

In fact, Roundtree financed of some of Baum’s early work, so the original sale of this little blowtorch helped bring the vast Wizard of Oz fantasy franchise to fruition. Another of Roundtree’s friends, Chicago artist Orlando Giannini, created the hand-standing gymnast that served as the Turner Brass Works’ logo, just barely visible here on the torch’s pressure pump.

It must be said that pressure alone is not enough to get these torches lit, the operator must also pre-heat the outside area around the nozzle with a splash of flaming fuel, so unlike many of the vintage tools we offer, we recommend leaving vintage blow torch use to the experts!

And what did people do back then when a house or shop fire broke out? The answer from another QBO sale: Harden’s brand Star Glass FIRE GRENADE, a liquid-filled bottle sealed with cork and cement. Although the earliest only held saltwater (which didn’t freeze in cold weather) more effective caustic chemicals were soon introduced. The first American patent was granted in 1863 with many following, so there are a wide variety of fire grenades, from 4″ to 8″ tall, in aqua, amber or clear, or rarely green or cobalt blue, with names like “Red Comet” and “Shur-Stop”. If a fire broke out in your home, you were meant to hurl the grenade at the flame’s base and flee before the fumes smothering the fire’s oxygen overcame you, too. So, they were not the greatest and it’s easy to see why they only lasted from 1870 to 1910, when the invention of brass & copper fire extinguishers rendered them obsolete.


If you collect fire grenades, remember: caustic, noxious, gaseous chemicals in fragile glass! Stay safe. We’ll see you soon.

Incredible Drawings for Long-gone Authors

His Don Quixote is still influential today, and his collaboration with journalist Blanchard Jerrold documenting London, poverty and all, impressed Vincent van Gogh. Doré never married. He lived with his mother until his death in 1883 and was working on new illustrations for Shakespeare until the end.

John Milton was born in England in 1608, a poet and civil servant who lived through civil war and religious upheavals. He married three times, outlived two of his wives, and outlived two of his five children. Described by biographer Samuel Johnson as “acrimonious and surly”, Milton was not shy with his opinions, even though his first works were published anonymously. Areopagitica, which does have his name on it, is a condemnation of censorship and is recognized as one of the most historically influential defenses of both freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

But his magnum opus is the passionate and cerebral Paradise Lost, an epic poem written in blank verse (with regular metrical but unrhymed lines). The first version, published in 1667, consists of ten books with over ten thousand lines of verse. The second edition, with minor revisions, is done in twelve books.

The poem tells of the Fall of Man, with Satan being cast out of Heaven, his subsequent temptation of Adam and Eve, and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Its morally ambiguous interpretation of the fallen angel, and its depiction Adam as a knowing participant in his own downfall, (choosing to eat the apple of knowledge so he can remain with his already condemned love, Eve) made Paradise Lost controversial. And, recognized as one of the greatest works of English literature of all time.

Need a vintage Epic of your own? Visit QBO.

The Bane of Every Parents Existence– LEGOs

The bane of every parents existence — LEGOs

Of all the toys Queen B sells, the brightly-colored, hard plastic blocks known as Legos are among the most popular. The name ‘LEGO’ is an abbreviation of two Danish words “leg godt”, meaning “play well”. LEGO was founded out of desperation by Danish woodworker Ole Kirk Kristiansen when people stopped buying his furniture during the Great Depression. He managed to sell his mini wood furniture and ladder ‘salesmen’s samples’ as toys, so in 1932 his workshop switched over to just making wooden toys.

In 1947 the LEGO Group came across samples of “Kiddicraft Self-Locking Building Bricks” designed by Hilary Fisher Page. In what today looks like an act of industrial espionage (or at the least, copyright violation) the Kiddicraft blocks became the prototype for Lego blocks. In 1949 Lego purchased a plastic injection molding machine to make “Automatic Binding Bricks” and in 1953 renamed their toy Lego Mursten, or “Lego Bricks.”

The plastic bricks were not as popular as the wooden toy line was at first, but in 1960 a warehouse fire destroyed most of the company’s inventory of wooden toys and it was decided to focus on plastic. By then the time was right and by the end of that year, the Lego Group was employing more than 450 people. In 1961, Lego licensed Samsonite (maker of plastic luggage) to produce and sell Lego products in the U.S. and Canada.

Lego passed from father to son and is now owned by a grandchild. The company marches into the 21st century with a popular line of construction toys, as well as products and services including board games, retail stores, Lego video games, Lego films, Legoland theme parks, and Lego Serious Play consultant services. They are everywhere!

But Legos vast popularity among kids who don’t always pick up after themselves has also given them an unintended claim to fame; an endless supply of jokes re: the agony of stepping on one. There are so many Lego jokes you’d think that before their invention, a parent bringing their kid a glass of water in the middle of the night would be completely safe, right?

Not so. From another QBO sale we have a popular kid’s toy from the 1900s still made today, Jacks. AKA jackstones, knuckle-bones, snobs, astragalus, tali, dibs, or five-stones, Jacks is a contest among several players in which the ball is bounced once and then a successively larger number of Jacks is scooped up in one palm at each turn. Different throws have imaginative names like “riding the elephant”, “peas in the pod”, “horses in the stable”, and “frogs in the well”.

Versions of the game are found worldwide. The earliest dates to around 5000 B.C. and was played with real knucklebones of hooved animals, which are irregular, knobby shapes. Which leaves one to wonder, ‘why the spiky Jacks sold today?’ Current Jacks resemblance to caltrops cannot be ignored when your foot finds one in the dark! For those unfamiliar, caltrops are ancient spiked military devices scattered around a perimeter or across a road to stop incoming soldiers, chariots, or in modern times, tanks. The name “caltrop” is derived from the Old English calcatrippe (heel-trap), and the French chausse-trape (shoe-trap). The WWII caltrops pictured were called ‘Czech Hedgehogs’. There’s a reason those Jacks have real stopping power!

Fortunately, Queen B also sells plenty of the best defense against both Jacks and Legos, which would be – slippers! Maybe a pair like these fuzzy pink pigs here. See you soon.

Busy As a….Queen B!

While the pandemic, the wildfires, and other life circumstances have, unfortunately, slowed or closed some businesses down, Queen B Organizing has continued to thrive by being responsive not only to our market needs, but also to the needs of the community.

Leadership Matters

Much of this success can be attributed to the leadership of our own Queen B, Kristin Bertilson. Kristin started her organizing business in 2010, and in just 10 years, now employs nearly 20 workers and has expanded services into areas where our clients showed need: decluttering, packing and unpacking, coordinating events, moves, or office processes, and our most visible service, estate sales.

How has this growth happened? Two words: listening and acting.

When the state first enforced a shutdown last spring, people in transition still needed services such as clearing out a loved one’s home in a timely manner. With the strictures in place, Queen B Organizing could not host estate sales, so Kristin came up with a brilliant idea! The team would continue to safely clean out properties, and she would find a space to store items until sales could be held again. The Beehive was born! Many of you may have shopped our multi-family estate sales there over the last two weeks and seen the amount of attention and care that was taken in preparing items for sale.

Bringing Smiles and Tears

This kind of attention and care happens with intention. During the wildfires, when hundreds of families evacuated to the Linn County Expo Center, Kristin responded to a need there by moving the team to action in organizing the donation center and its operations so it could work to its full efficiency. The outpouring of support from individuals and businesses in the Linn Benton community gave Queen B an outlet to shine in what we do best, bringing tears and smiles to the many evacuees who benefited, right along with our team.

Busy B

Listening to the needs of clients and the community enables one to act. As Peter Drucker notes, “whenever you see a successful business, someone made a courageous decision”.  Kristin has also taken the time to share her expertise and knowledge with the wider community.

Two examples from the last few months include an interview she completed for a podcast hosted by the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and a chapter contribution in a book 1 Habit For A Thriving Home Office. In both, she talks about the importance of making decisions, even when you don’t know what the outcome will be. Her decisions to grow her business have not always been easy, but they have propelled her forward into doing what she loves with a great team of “B’s”.

Let Our Hive Help

Bees, as you probably know, are incredibly efficient and organized creatures.  Imagine having a whole hive of bees available to help you find the best ways to shape your space to meet your needs for work, self-care, or play. Well, that’ s exactly what Kristin B and the rest of the team at Queen B Organizing can provide for you! Let us listen to you and act on your behalf to restore peace to your home or office. Contact us and sign up for our mailing list to learn more!