Unusual Uzbek Skullcaps

Unusual Uzbek Skullcaps

These two intriguing skullcaps made their way to an earlier QBO Beehive sale all the way from Uzbekistan. Similar caps have been worn by Turkic and Persian peoples across Central Asia for centuries. The name of this particular style of cap has been transliterated into English as Dupi, Duppy, Duppi, Tus Duppies, or Doppa… you get the idea.

In Uzbekistan skull caps are considered both a folk art and a part of their proud national identity. Designs vary both by region, (Tashkent, Ferghana, Samarkand, Bukhara, Kashkadarya Surkhandarya, or Khorezm-Karakalpak), and by the identity of the wearer. Traditionally you only wore ONE kind – the version being strictly dictated by your age, gender, social class, occupation, hometown, religion, and ethnicity. Anyone could tell who anyone else was by what they put on their head.

As Uzbekistan modernized in the 19th and 20th centuries, traditional skullcaps did not fall into disfavor as one might fear. Instead, the rigid divisions between styles relaxed as better transportation and communications enabled greater creative interaction between different groups of duppiduz (Dupi makers). Historically, men made the caps but today most duppiduz are young women who hand or machine sew the hats. In earlier centuries most caps were conical, but over time domed and flat-top versions came into favor. Today a skullcap’s top can be conical, circular, hexagonal, pentagonal or squared and they can be made of wool, cotton, leather or silk, and be embellished with beading, needle-point, sequins, embroidery, or even paint.

Today Dupi can be worn by men, children, infants, and young women. The only demographic who do not wear Dupi are older women, who prefer head scarves.

This black & white Dupi is a men’s skullcap from the town of Chust in the Ferghana Valley of the Namangan Region; it is a recognizable and widely available design distinguished by the squared top, black ground, white motifs and “tall” height – almost twice that of Dupis from neighboring Andijan.

The white, paisley-like motifs are called “bodom” (almond) or “kalampir” (pepper), while the double coils represent ram’s horns. The 16 embroidered arches circling the bottom rim represent the prongs of a crown, making every Uzbek man who wears one a king. Surprisingly, the squared-top hats have a practical side as they can be folded into a flat triangle for carrying in your pocket. And they are hand-washable.

On the other hand, this sumptuously beaded, sequined and metallic-embroidered cap is much rarer, but since it came from the same estate, it likely also originated in Uzbekistan. The embellishment is so dense you almost can’t see the gray base fabric and its flowered lining is meticulously hand-quilted.

Not only does this cap have more decoration than the everyday Dupi, but metallic thread is both more expensive and much harder to work with, so this cap would have originally cost quite a lot. Gold or silver embroidered caps are customarily worn by women for celebrations and weddings and some even have strings of beads dangling down from the upper rim of the crown for added excitement and glamor. Needless to say, this special skullcap is not foldable or washable!

So, whether you need a casual everyday skullcap or a spectacular silver wedding headdress, come check out QBO, you never know what you might find. See you soon.

Inside-Painted Chinese Snuff Bottle

Inside-Painted Chinese Snuff Bottle

This 4″ Chinese Snuff Bottle sold at a QBO Beehive. Today’s popular nicotine delivery systems include cigarettes, pipes, chewing tobacco, vape pens and prescription patches to help you quit the aforementioned habits but centuries ago there was another popular option: finely ground tobacco you sniffed, AKA snuff. Snuff made you sneeze while giving you a nicotine boost absorbed through the inside of your nose. You administered it in a pinch or with a tiny spoon attached to the underside of the bottle’s lid, as seen on these reproductions.

Tobacco was introduced to Europe from the Americas where it had been a sacred, ceremonial plant. In Europe it was both medicine and recreational drug, smoked in pipes or sniffed as snuff. From Europe tobacco made its way to Imperial China via Portuguese traders, where it became popular in the Beijing royal court during the 16th century. It was smoked medicinally, in pipes. When the last Chinese Dynasty, the Qing, came to power, smoking leaf tobacco was outlawed but powdered snuff stayed legal as a medicine for colds, headaches and stomach problems. Medicine was carried in bottles, so snuff ended up in bottles, too, rather than the snuff boxes used by Europeans.

Over the next centuries snuff grew popular with the upper, merchant and scholarly classes in China and snuff bottles became personal luxuries, gifts and even bribes since they were small, desirable and expensive. They could be made of almost anything: jade, porcelain, rhino horn, ivory, wood, coconut shell, lapis lazuli, cork, chalcedony, jasper, carnelian, malachite, quartz, metals, tortoiseshell, turquoise, agate, mother-of- pearl, ceramic, and glass, like this one here. Many bottles are plain, but others were carved, enameled or painted.

Decorative calligraphy is usually a well-known poem or saying wishing the bottle’s owner wealth, health, good luck and longevity. Popular symbolic and auspicious animal motifs include horses, hares, cranes, snakes, fish or mythological creatures such as dragons and three-legged “money toads”.

This bottle has calligraphy front and back, and a farmer carrying a lucky yellow gourd on a stick while leading an ox, all rendered in a technique called inside-painting. These tiny masterpieces are painted on the inside of the bottle by manipulating brushes through the 1/4″ wide neck opening, an excruciating task which some artists preferred to do lying on their backs. One bottle could take anywhere from a week’s work to half a year. Masters of inside bottle painting were well-enough regarded in their own time that we still know some of their names: Zhou Leyuan, Ma Shaoxuan, Ding Erzhong, Ye Zhongsan and Gan Xuanwen, also known as Gan Xuan.

Between the end Qing Dynasty in the 1920s and the rise of the communist People’s Republic of China in the 1940s, frivolities like snuff went out of fashion.

However, the craft of inside-bottle painting has enjoyed a resurgence as demand from collectors created a robust market. Todayantique snuff bottles can sell anywhere from $2,000 up to hundreds of thousands, while reproductions can be had for under $20: either one might be found at a QBO sale.

Although they are just the right size, DO NOT use inside-painted snuff bottles to store perfume or essential oils – liquids may damage the delicate paint. If you’d like to learn more about Chinese snuff bottles, check out the Snuff Bottle Society website: https://snuffbottlesociety.org

Irreverent Dutch Trivet

Irreverent Dutch Trivet

This blue and white Dutch trivet from a prior QBO sale is made of tiles framed in wood. It depicts two arguing men, a third, self- satisfied middle-man, and a disgruntled dairy cow. And yes, it is meant to be funny – it’s essentially an early political cartoon. So what exactly is the point being made by this trivet and is it still relevant 200-300 years later?

Well, the two men locked in the tug-of-war are probably farmers, but the gentleman seated in the middle, smugly milking the cow for himself while they tussle is definitely not a farmer. His long curly wig, glasses and the sheaf of legal papers tucked under his arm identify him as a lawyer or judge, as does the big stack of books he’s sitting on. The Dutch-language caption “Die pleit om een Koe, geeft er één toe” translates as “He who sues for a cow concedes one”. In other words, when you sue someone, no matter what the outcome, it is the judiciary that ultimately wins, not the accuser or the defendant. The fact that the battling farmers are not in the same economic class as the lawyer/judge just adds to the sting. And, although the building in the distance here resembles a farmhouse, on other, larger versions of this ‘cartoon’ it is clearly a church, throwing a distant and disinterested religious authority into the mix. So, the argument could be made that the witty dig is as relevant as ever (alas).

The cow tug-of-war was a popular comedic theme that was copied by different tile manufacturers; it was one of many popular designs from a 300 year-long run of Dutch ceramic making during which over 800 million tiles were produced by hundreds of manufacturers across the Netherlands. Most factories were concentrated in Delft or Harlingen, but this particular design may have originated in Utrecht.

There are some versions of this design in brown or magenta, but most are the classic blue and white associated with tin-glazed Delft ceramics. The majority of vintage “Delft tiles” measure a little over 5″ square. (“Delft tile” refers to all blue and white Dutch-made tiles). They are a standardized size because they were first used to tile fireplaces. This version of the tug-of-war is contained within two tiles, but there are larger versions where the same ‘cartoon’ is expanded onto 6 tiles. This trivet has no makers’ mark, and although some tile manufacturers did incise marks into the backs of their products, it’s much more common to find marks on 3- dimensional pottery. Once grouted into place, any marks on a tile would be invisible, so why bother?

Eventually fancy blue and white tiles became so popular that in wealthy European households entire rooms were tiled. Today almost every antique Dutch tile available would have once been installed in a fireplace or on a wall. Evidence of earlier grouting or soot-staining on the unglazed back is one way to tell antiques from reproductions.

The many iterations make dating this trivet difficult, but over centuries Dutch ceramic makers refined their techniques, allowing tiles to be made increasingly thinner. So, the heavier the tile, the older it is, with the thickest dating to the late 16th – early 17th century. Around 1750 the optimum thickness for wall tiles was achieved and so remained the same for the next 100 years.

If you’d like to learn more, the book “The Dutch Tile: Designs and Names 1570-1930” by Jan Pluis is reportedly the absolute best but at over $150, well, you better shop for it at Queen B! And don’t forget, “Die pleit om een Koe, geeft er één toe.” 😉 We’ll see you soon.

“Math Grenade” – The Curta Mechanical Calculator

“Math Grenade” – The Curta Mechanical Calculator

This elegant, palm-sized device that sold at a past Beehive has several cute nicknames, including “the pepper grinder” and “the math grenade”. It is properly called “the Curta”, after its Austrian inventor, Curt Herzstark. An early calculator, the Curta is completely mechanical – no batteries, no silicon chips! It is operated entirely by turning, cranking and sliding its various interlocking parts. And, it is accurate. Unlike the calculator app on your phone, there is a bit of a learning curve to using a Curta and they came with lengthy instruction pamphlets.

There were two versions made – the Type I and the Type II. You can tell a Curta was an expensive purchase since it came packed inside TWO protective cases, an inner metal canister and an outer leather carrying case.

Curt Herzstark filed his first patent for the Curta’s inner workings in 1938 and had prototypes manufactured in 1945. The Curta is not the first mechanical calculator, earlier versions by multiple inventors built on ideas going back hundreds, even thousands of years, and from disparate sources. Mariners’ navigational astrolabes, mechanical, pattern- weaving Jacquard textile looms, and a much simpler mechanical calculator, the slide rule, (which predates the Curta by around 300 years) all contributed crucial concepts.

But the Curta was considered one of the finest calculators of its time, both for its reliability and its compact design. Around 140,000 Curta calculators were made (80,000 Type I, 60,000 Type II). The Curta met its commercial demise in the 1970s, displaced by Hewlett Packard and the first hand-held electronic calculators that hit the market. The last Curta left the factory in 1972.

But that was not the end! The Curta continued to be used by rally racecar drivers well into the 1980s because they needed to do accurate TSD (time-speed-distance) computations while driving and early electronic calculators were too delicate to function in a hurtling, bouncing race car. And it is worth mentioning that there are still thousands of functional Curtas with us. Prized by collectors, they can sell for up to $2,000, which would probably be gratifying to their inventor, Curt Herzstark, who went through a lot for his elegant device.

The reason there are 7 years between patent application and first prototype is Herzstark was the son of a Catholic mother and Jewish father living in Vienna in 1938 under Nazi rule. At first they forced his small company to make other precision instruments for the German military, but compliance did not protect him and in 1943 he was sent to Buchenwald concentration camp, probably to die. In his own words “The head (…) said, ‘I understand you’ve been working on a new thing, a small calculating machine. (…) If it is really worth something, then we will give it to the Führer as a present after we win the war. Then, surely, you will be made an Aryan.’ For me, that was the first time I thought to myself, my God, if you do this, you can extend your life.” Liberated by U.S. troops in 1945, Herzstark found a factory in Sommertal that could produce working Curta prototypes but then had to flee to Austria as the Soviet army invaded. It took the interest of the Prince of Liechtenstein to finally get manufacturing of the Curta up and running.

But, before all that comes this adorable 1910 photo of young Curt at an office equipment exhibition in Vienna. Aww! We at QBO are glad this life-long love affair has a happy ending.

Laurel Burch

Laurel Burch

Laurel Burch’s playful, slightly odd, yet beautiful creations get snatched right up by people who come across them at Queen B sales. And why shouldn’t the lucky shopper pounce? New Laurel Burch products are currently sold (sometimes at premium prices) in local boutiques; the vivid colors, offbeat critters and distinct Burch style are instantly recognizable across many product lines; a fact made more remarkable by the 50+ years that the Laurel Burch aesthetic has remained consistent. There aren’t many design houses from the 70s that can say that! The company currently sells products through local U.S. retailers, online through their own and other vendor websites, and licenses sales overseas.

Laurel Burch’s products include cloisonné enamel jewelry, scarves, socks and clothing, stationary, journals and greeting cards, rainwear and umbrellas, and homewares such as towels, tea towels, coasters, pillows and table wares. This charming, oversized cat mug is a fine example.

There are also decades worth of wallets, backpacks, purses and bags, including the adorable dog and cat versions here, which were found at two different sale homes.

Today ‘Laurel Burch’ refers to the company that produces these products, but the company was founded by a real young woman, Laurel Anne Harte. Laurel was born in 1945 into a troubled family and hampered her whole life by a painful genetic bone disease, which she finally died of at the age of 61. When her parents split up (ultimately remarrying other people) Laurel lived first with her mother, then her father, and then her mother again. She tried to escape the conflict by exploring the nearby forests looking for cool bugs and critters, or singing and playing guitar, or drawing and painting.

On her own by 14, she did house-cleaning and childcare for room and board. By 19 she married jazz musician Robert Burch and gave birth to their daughter, Aarin. They moved to San Francisco where Laurel gave birth to their son Jay, but the marriage ended, leaving Laurel a single mom at 23.

In later interviews, she admits she sometimes stole to feed her children, but bit by bit she was able to make a living selling handmade earrings out of tackle boxes on the street. San Francisco, a port city with an international airport, has a population from all over the world and Laurel assimilated that wide array of artistic influences in her own unique way. She moved up to selling in local shops.

In 1971 local businessmen Shashi Singapuri, struck by her designs, offered to fly Laurel to China and introduce her to mass-producing cloisonné enamel jewelry, for which he thought her work was particularly well- suited. He was not wrong! They were business partners for 8 years after which she started Laurel Burch Inc., where she could be both president and chief designer, exercising the maximum creative control a mass- produced artist can have. The company branched out into a great variety of products, all bearing Laurel’s distinct aesthetic.

She also struggled to parent her kids while battling her own osteopetrosis, suffering more than 100 bone fractures. In the 1990s Burch licensed designs to foreign companies to make and distribute her work outside the U.S. but her children became estranged from their workaholic mom as they grew to adulthood. Laurel actively worked to reconcile with them before her death in 2007 and today the Laurel Burch Studio is proudly run by her daughter Aarin Burch, who champions her mother’s unique vision.


Dresden Figurines

Dresden Figurines

This company of lovely Dresden/Meissen ballerinas came from several QBO Estates. They range from small (3″), to ‘medium- large’ (6″) and are in good condition considering their age and extreme fragility. They are entirely porcelain, including the airy lace.

Also called Porcelaine de Saxe, German hard-paste, or ‘true’ porcelain, many of these figurines are over 100 years old. As their name implies, they were (and still are) made in and around the German city of Dresden by a number of different companies. The first was the Meissen factory, founded near Dresden in Saxony (Germany). They started production in 1710 and are still active today.

The process takes many steps: figurines are cast in molds, trimmed, then details such as voluminous lace and dainty hand-sculpted roses are applied. After that they are fired, then hand-painted with colored and clear glazes, fired again and lastly finishing accents of real gold or silver are brushed on over the glaze. The high percentage of hand work means that even though the figurines are mass-produced, there are always variations.

The most astonishing part of the process arethe great ruffled swathes of lace. If you look carefully you can see it is indeed REAL LACE – a decorative netting of knotted thread in intricate patterns of tiny holes. The lace details are produced by a process called Lace Draping. Real cotton lace is soaked in a porcelain slurry until the fine clay particles completely penetrate the fibers. The wet lace is then draped onto the raw, unfired porcelain figurine and allowed to harden. When fired at 2,381℉ to 2,455℉, the organic fiber incinerates, leaving behind a skeletal porcelain matrix. As you might imagine, when these figurines are damaged, the lace often takes the first hit – it is very fragile!

Dresden figurines appealed to the upper classes and depicted a luxurious life of dance, music, socializing and romance. Great attention was paid to the elegant clothing, which remained rooted in wealthy 1700 – 1800 styles. Larger figurines show courting couples: men playing harpsichord for their lady, or ladies playing the harp for their gentleman. Occasionally more down-to-earth occupations are depicted but strictly romanticized for an upper-class buyer pining after an imagined simpler life (not unlike French Queen Marie Antionette, who liked to cosplay at being a shepherdess.)

Most figurines are purely decorative, but these two fanciful dancers, with seashell and swan respectively, are actually containers while the all-pink little lady is posed on a tin dome which may be the lid to a powder jar.

Dresden and Meissen porcelains are not identical but there is considerable overlap. The Meissen factory originally contracted out the decoration of their pieces to Dresden hand-finishers, who later started their own factories, in all nearly 40 companies. Also confounding precise identification is the vast number of makers marks. Large makers varied theirs over time and small makers imitated them closely. And there is a sadder reason for so many marks – Dresden figurines were popular with English collectors. When Germany and England fought each other in both WWI and WWII, porcelain makers tried to obscure their products’ German origin. In WWII the city of Dresden was targeted with such ferocious Allied ariel bombing that some in the military later publicly questioned it. 25,000 people in Dresden were killed, and the Dresden-based knowledge of how to make porcelain lace was almost lost. But, you can still sometimes find these delicate, phoenix like dancers through QBO sales.

Ahoy there! Bosn’s Pipes & Deck Prisms

Ahoy there! Bosn’s Pipes & Deck Prisms

Ahoy there! From the days of tall ships sailing the open seas come these cool antiques that washed ashore at a recent QBO sale.

First is a Boatswain’s whistle, also known as a bosn’s call or bosn’s pipe. Occasionally used on today’s Navy ships by the Boatswain’s Mate (BM), the parts of the whistle have naval names: the tube you blow into is “the gun”, the pierced, hollow ball that actually sounds is “the buoy” and the bottom fin is “the keel”. By varying how your hand clasps the whistle as you blow, different tones are produced. A “shackle” clips the whistle to a chain to wear around the neck when in dress uniform.

‘Boatswain’ (sometimes spelled phonetically as Bosun or Bos’n) comes from Old Norse, the language of seafaring Vikings and means “boat retainer” or “boat servant”. It is the oldest rank in the British Royal Navy, dating to the year 1040 and the reign of English King Edward the Confessor. His warships started with 4 officers: Master (Captain), Bos’n, Cook and Carpenter. The Bos’n cared for the ship’s rigging, anchors, sails, lifeboats, and flags. His loud whistle broadcast commands when the roar of the sea drowned out shouted orders.

In today’s U.S. Navy, the BM supervises ship’s maintenance, stands watch, assists with search and rescue and communications, moves supplies between ships at sea, acts as flight deck crew for landing helicopters and teaches seamanship to other sailors – a real Jack of All Trades. The only time their whistle is used is during Navy ceremonies such as ‘Pipe Aboard/Pipe Ashore’; calls sounded when Flag-rank officers or important guests board or depart; or when a sailor leaves for retirement, or for funerals when the body of an important person is brought aboard for transport home or for their final burial at sea.

Like the whistle, these two cast glass pieces are antique maritime technology. Called deck prisms, or less commonly deck lights or deadlights, the larger is 4.25″ tall and weighs 2.75 lbs. While the first patent was filed in 1684; deck prisms first mention in print came in the 1840s. Most are faceted cones with a flat hexagonal top; there are also domed or long bar-shaped variants. These two look like pyramids pointing to the sky, but the point is actually the bottom of the prism.

Deck prisms offered an elegant solution to a dangerous problem. Before electricity, light below deck was provided by lanterns burning oil which made irritating smoke and could burn down the ship, killing everyone. During daylight hours a deck prism (dimly) lights below deck without flame. The prism is inset in a hole cut in the top deck and caulked watertight. Its flat top sits flush (no tripping hazard) and its faceted point scatters light below deck more effectively than flat glass. The size of the prism insures that the hole does not compromise deck strength. The prisms worked in reverse, too; on ships carrying flammable cargo like coal, crew on deck could spot fires that broke out below.

There are reproduction prisms, sometimes made in inappropriately deep colors, given their purpose. Antiques can be clear, coke bottle green or lavender because manganese dioxide was sometimes added as a clearing agent. When exposed to years of ultraviolet sunlight, the manganese turns purple. And, here on dry land there is still sidewalk in Corvallis that has its own deadlights (AKA pavement lights or vault lights) from the 1850s; a grid of thick, lavender 3″ blocks of glass set flush in the cement; skylights to a building’s basement under the sidewalk. Want to light up someone’s life? Why not give them a handsome deck prism from QBO.

Banking For Babies

Banking For Babies

It’s not very often you find Book Banks at QBO Sales but when you do, they are usually without keys (more on that later.) This brown Book Bank is 5″ tall x 3.5″ wide x 1″ deep, the yellow one is somewhat smaller. When slipped in amongst regular hardback books, a Book Bank can easily escape detection.

Book Banks are sturdy metal boxes with a top coin slot and a front cover/keyed door that swings open. The earliest were plain but most had embossed leather covers like antique books. A few had fancy all-metal covers. In spite of their adult-ish disguise, this genre of piggy bank was made for children; the yellow one with its adorable menagerie is even titled “Baby’s Bank”, while others were adorned with storks (the bird that brings us babies, get it?) Most, however, are officious-looking, like this brown one made by Bankers Utilities Company of San Francisco for the Monterey County Trust & Savings Bank.

Book Banks were made from 1900 through the 1980s, with the majority produced in the 1920s – 60s. The patent date(s) that many have on them is for the locking mechanism, not the year of manufacture. A clue to their age can be found on some in the form of the FDIC maximum deposit insurance – the amount an insured bank would guarantee.

In 1934 the first FDIC was set at $2,500 and then raised to $5,000. In 1950 the rate was $10,000. In 1966 it was $15,000. In 1969 it went to $20,000, in 1974 $40,000, and in 1980 $100,000. So, this brown bank dates to 1934 – 1950. As you’d guess, many of these mini banks were given out by institutions that dealt in money– banks, savings and loans, and insurance companies. Others were giveaways from companies like Singer Sewing Machines or sold as souvenirs of events like the 1939 San Francisco World’s Fair.

The Book Banks associated with financial institutions were designed to teach kids fiscal responsibility. One was titled “Book Of Thrift”. Another, “Time Flies, Prepare for Tomorrow”. Some had a built-in mechanical calendar that required inserting a coin to advance the days, urging, “Save A Coin Each Day, Keep the Calendar Up to Date.” This brown Book Bank’s spine reads “Save and Have; Benjamin Franklin” an advertising campaigned used by 19th and 20th century banks based on Benjamin Franklin’s advice in Poor Richard’s Almanack, which he published yearly from 1732 – 1758. The full saying is “A penny saved is two pence clear. A pin a-day is a groat a-year. Save and have.”

When a parent brought their child to the bank, the kid would be given a Book Bank BUT NO KEY. They then had fun saving their pennies and once their bank was full, the only way to open it was to return to the issuing institution where the child would then be heartily encouraged to open a real savings account. The practice of not issuing keys means that some Book Banks still have coins stuck inside… who knows, there could even be a 1916 Mercury head dime in there.

Collectors have been able to pick the lock with a binder clip. Or you can buy extra keys online, although there are so many different versions it’s hit or miss. Or, a locksmith might crack this tiny safe. Or how about the issuing financial institution? In the case of this brown bank, that means a road trip to California. The Monterey County Trust & Savings Bank no longer exists, but their Mission and Spanish Revival building does. It became the Carmel Museum of Art, then the China Art Center and is now prime retail space in the Downtown Historic District. Maybe there’s a spare key in the basement? Or, maybe find one at the next QBO Sale? See you soon!

Warp Drive Travel Mugs

Warp Drive Travel Mugs

As you drive to a QBO sale you’re probably not thinking about past commuter car accessories, but you may find one at the sale. Today’s cars carry features from every era in their evolution: the “glove compartment” really was used to store gloves in the earliest cars, which were open to the air and lacked heaters. That socket you plug your phone into was first added to American cars in 1925, becoming standard by the 1950s. Their original purpose was lighting cigarettes and if you have the original tubular plug, pushing it  in for a moment and then removing it will still heat it enough to ignite things. The built-in cup holder didn’t become common until the late 1980s/early 90s, when more Americans ended up stuck in long commutes.

BUT, before auto makers realized a cupholder could be a selling point, there was a period wherein tired commuters had no place safe to set a scalding hot mug o’ coffee.

Enter the weird-looking ceramic ‘commute mug’, precursor to today’s insulated stainless travel tumblers. They were your average breakable home coffee mug reimagined as a squat vessel with a low center of gravity. Equipped with non-skid rubber bottoms, they could be set on the only viable flat surface in the car, the dashboard, and would *kinda* stay put while you drove. Should you have to slam on the brakes, the plastic lids would hopefully contain much of the disaster.

Here we have two such mugs – one hand- thrown on a potter’s wheel in Taiwan, the other, a HOTJO Coffee Mug mass-produced in commercial molds. The HOTJO was also made for the subscription mail-order coffee company Gevalia Kaffe, (“By Appointment To His Majesty King Sweden”) maybe as one of their many premium giveaways.

Once automakers added cupholders, ceramic commute mugs were edged out by vacuum-insulated stainless travel mugs, a hybrid of the commute mug and thermoses, which have been made since 1904. But, since many cupholders are sized to hold disposable coffee cups, we still have the spectacle of funky-looking mugs with weird bottoms, this time skewed in the ‘too-skinny’ direction.

The awkward-looking HOTJO travel mug also has another claim to fame: multiple appearances on the 1990s science fiction TV show Deep Space Nine. Fourth in the Star Trek series, DS9 was set on a space station were humans and aliens hung out at “Quark’s Bar, Grill, Gaming House and Holosuite Arcade”. Sci-fi TV is often under-budgeted, so minor props are just unusual-looking but regular items bought retail rather than being custom-built. Patrons of Quark’s swilled their ‘Raktajino Klingon Coffee’ from funky maroon commute mugs that were judged by the show’s veteran Prop Master, Joe Longo, to be both odd enough to pass as ‘futuristic’ yet uncommon enough in real life that he figured he could get away with them.

And, because Star Trek has such a dedicated fan base, these ugly, 1990s no-slip maroon dashboard mugs have become a collectable that can sometimes sell for exorbitant prices. There is even a cottage industry of potters creating hand-made versions of ‘Raktajino mugs’ to sell to fans. Given the decades since the show’s first air date, there’s the distinct possibility that these ceramicists aren’t even aware of the prosaic, commuter-based origin of that sci-fi mug they’re carefully imitating.

Drive an old car lacking in cup holders, or a sleek spaceship ready to warp out of orbit? You’ll find that funky mug you need at QBO!

Hoosier Cabinets

Hoosier Cabinets

These two charming cabinets were sold at one of our fall Beehive sales. Called “Hoosier Cabinets” or just “Hoosiers”, they’re true antiques, dating from the late 19th – early 20th century. At that time, most American kitchens did not have built-in cabinets, making the Hoosier the kitchen equivalent of the free-standing wardrobes used to hang clothes in the average American bedroom, which did not come with built-in closets (the era of built-in storage in every room did not commence until the late 1920s – early 30s.)

The Hoosier is a tall, compact, all-in-one workstation built to store ingredients and equipment within a fairly small footprint, while also providing handy work surfaces on which to mix batters, chop vegetables, or knead bread. When comparing Hoosiers to other antique display/storage cabinets you’ll first notice the handy, easy-to-clean tin countertop, marking it as a practical as well as beautiful piece of furniture. Most Hoosiers also had an additional tin-covered pull-out work surface to really make use of the space.

Other fine features include ‘ant-proof’ casters for easy moving, tin gravity-fed hopper bins with built-in sifters for sugar and flour, and railed shelves inside the lower and upper swing-out doors for custom-made glass salt and spice canisters or plates, depending on the depth. Lower drawers held utensils, while the shallower upper half of the cabinet held bowls and pans. Some Hoosiers even came with drop-down ironing boards!

One of the most cleverly designed features are the doors located directly behind the tin counter work surface on some of the better models. The slatted wood tambours roll back into the inside edge of the cabinet as they are opened, leaving your busy, crowded work surface undisturbed.

Like Kleenex, Dumpster or Xeroxing, Hoosier was a branded manufacturer’s name for a product that became so successful the company’s name was adopted by consumers as the vernacular word for that product. The Hoosier Manufacturing Company of New Castle, Indiana, was one of the earliest and largest makers of these cabinets; by 1920, they had sold two million!

By the 1930s, around 10% of American homes had a Hoosier brand kitchen cabinet, with competing companies (also based in Indiana) providing even more. But at the height of their success these companies were on the brink of failure – new homes were starting to be made with built-in cabinets and countertops. Many of the manufacturers pivoted into providing pre-made cabinets for built-in installation, but many went out of business in the 1940s and 50s. The Hoosier Manufacturing Company went under in 1942.

However, the name Hoosier lives on as the official nickname for residents of Indiana, AKA ‘the Hoosier State’ and as the name of Indiana University’s sports teams.

While there’s debate as to where the term came from, one thing is sure – the furniture company named itself after the State rather than the other way around; the term first appeared in print in 1833 in the poem “The Hoosier’s Nest” by John Finley. One origin myth: Louisville contractor Sam Hoosier only hired workers from Indiana rather than Kentucky to build the Louisville and Portland Canal and they became known as “Hoosier’s men”. OR, some claim it was African American Methodist preacher Harry Hosier, called “the greatest orator in America”. OR, it was census workers calling out “Who’s here?” Whatever the origin, QBO can fix you up with a fine Hoosier for your kitchen.