Monday, April 17, 2017

An Artist's Tool Box Mystery, the final chapter.

Only a few more items remain to be shown. The first is likely the most valuable single item, a book of gold leaf. (And another mention of Hartford, CT)

Some of the leaves have been used but only in small pieces.


There are several unused pages.

I have been looking up information about gilding and finding out that I did not know a lot about it. There are so many different types and applications for gold leaf. When I was thinking that this was Madge's paint box I thought that maybe she was trying something like Klimt did with his use of gold leaf in his oil paintings but it sure did not seem like her style. When I looked up the tole painting I thought that that type of decorative painting would probably have suited Bertha better. I also found reference to sign painter's using gilding for lettering. That would tie in the sign painter's paint. I have been assuming that this was a woman's collection of items, in part because of the reused cosmetic bottles I think. 
The final item was another box. It was a box that held Gold leaf but that is not what was in there. I love the graphic design on this box, too bad it got written on.

Here is what was in that box.

A small flat head screw driver, a bit of white chalk, and a few more paper clips....

Two boxes of razor blades....

(Note that Marlin seems to be most proud of their gun line)

A box of crayons from Milton Bradley (another company not far from my home)....

And this box of Mongol water soluble colored pencils. And I had thought that watercolor pencils were a new invention in the last 20 years or so. 

A big part of the mystery was solved for me as I pushed the pencils back into their box after inspecting them. I guess there is not doubt now who the artist was.

And under a paper towel lining the bottom of the box I found this ruler and calendar card.

So, we now know that my great aunt Bertha Caswell was the artist and that she was doing some sort of gilding and painting with oils and metal powders. The other day when I was researching a bit more about gilding I found reference to gilders quill brushes. These are made with long hairs and have a natural quill ferrule. They look very similar to the brushes I showed in chapter 2, so the transparent part of the brushes must be quills. They are used for lettering. Maybe even for making letters like these... 

...which I noticed on the outside of the box after putting all the contents back. I felt stupid that I did not see them sooner but then there would not have been so much of a mystery. And I would have missed out on a lot of fun trying to piece together the clues and I probably would not have looked at all the items so carefully. So because I was not careful enough in looking at the outside of the box when I found it I was given the opportunity to look deeper at the contents. I think there might be a lesson here.
I still would like to know more about how these things were used so I will do more research and also hope that someone out in internet land might be able to help.
The end.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

An Artist's Tool Box Mystery, Chapter 3

The bottom of the box contained two more separate boxes that held their own treasures. But first there was a pile of rags such as every artist needs. As a textile artist I also saw some beauty in the rags themselves. Subtle colors and interesting patterns in the stains. Note that the artist was using old embroidered bed linens for rags. Old cotton has such a distinctive feel to it.

There were several different jars containing various mysterious liquids and powders.

Many of the jars were re-purposed cosmetic and medicine jars.
I love the one with the flowered top.

Some of the bottles and jars have hand written labels but the labels mean nothing to me.

Well, I know that Turp is short for Turpentine but I have no knowledge of what Hour Varnish is or what Cabots could be.

The small bottle of Higgins Ink looks very familiar as does the jar of  Vaseline though with a notable difference; there is no 'Ponds' after Cheesebrough so it is from before those companies merged.

 "White Petroleum Jelly"; you mean there were other colors?

There was also an unopened box of an oil paint medium

Another mention of Boston

The Cigar box was a treasure on its own. The outside looked really good.

And the inside cover was beautiful.

Besides being wonderful containers for all sorts of things cigar boxes mean something to me since my hometown here in Connecticut has a long history in the tobacco and cigar industry. In fact the first cigar factory in the U. S. was located here. I grew up with a tobacco curing shed right in my back yard and spent quite a bit of time working to raise tobacco. In fact this particular box came from a factory in Connecticut.

The labels on the box are all clearly legible. There might be some information here that could solve our mystery but will take more research. When did cigars last cost between 8 and 15 cents?

One side of the box looked great but the other....not so much.

Apparently something that was stored in the box at leaked at some point.


This is what I saw when I opened the cigar box.

Another small bit of that black velvet and many bottles. The bottles hold metal powders.

There were many colors and various makers.

And the artist had apparently also made a mix that was put in an old salt shaker.

I am guessing that the silver powder from the pill vial in my first post was one of these metal powders. I did some research and found that these are used for tole painting;often with a stencil, and other types of decorative painting.
Remember the metal box from the first post? I am guessing that that was painted with these powders for practice using them.

And in the bottom of the cigar box there were a few more of the sharp pointed styluses (or styli), a large paper clip, something that looked like foil, and a few tongue depressors.

The small bottle is another old pill bottle that now holds silver powder. It originally held Alophen a mix of Aloin extract, Belladonna, Powdered Ipecac and Phenolphthalein. It was another medication for constipation. I have no idea who in the family had that type of problem so that is no help.

And now since I am tired and we will be having a family get together tomorrow I find I have to end this post without finishing the story. More tomorrow or the next day.



Thursday, April 13, 2017

An Artist's Tool Box Mystery chapter 2

Continuing with the examination of the contents of the box begun in my post from yesterday. Here are the rest of the items that were in the top compartment.  These old bottle caps.

I am assuming that these were probably used to mix small amounts of paint or hold small amounts of solvent. I had never heard of the Clark-Lurton Corp. and thought that might be a lead. I found the company history on-line and Bingo! a clue as to a possible time frame. From the Savogran Website:

"The Savogran Company purchased Sterling-Clark-Lurton in 2004 to capitalize on the synergies of these two historic companies. SCL was incorporated in 1922 as the Plymouth Rock Paint Company. In 1924, the name was changed to the Sterling Paint & Varnish Company. The product line consisted of a full line of exterior, interior and marine paints, as well as putty for wood and steel sash windows. Over time the product line expanded to include artist oil colors, caulking and glazing compounds and paint removers.
In the 1950's, with paint sundry products outselling paint, the company name was changed to Sterling Quality Products to reflect the success of their trade name “Sterling Quality.” In 1961, Sterling bought out the Clark Lurton Corporation. Both companies sold solvents and served the same customer base. SCL serves the paint and hardware trade, glass industry, marine trade and automotive aftermarket."

So maybe all this stuff is only as old as I am.

Also in the top tray were these items.

The green thing on the left is one of those things they used to stick in food like a sandwich to hold it together or as in this case probably to mark which steak is cooked medium-well, etc. It reads New Yorker Steak House Boston. Not sure what those were used for.
The brushes are odd. 

All are rather small with long fine bristles that have stiffened so they are unusable in their present condition. Even the shapes are different than the brushes I am used to. They do not seem suitable for oil painting like Madge did.

 Looking closer for brand names I found something strange. Most of the brushes were repaired with sticks or other old paint brush stems and taped together. The original stems on these brushes were hollow transparent tubes.  In the photo below you can see the light shining through the hollow transparent part. I have no idea what that means or why they would be made like that. I am now thinking that these are for some unknown to me art form. What could it be?

A couple of the other items had me stumped too. 

The palette knife is not much different from those found in stores today.  Next to that is one of the unknown items. It is just a wooden stick with a sharp metal point, what I would call a stylus but for what craft? Next to that is a peel-able eraser and a blending stump just like the ones I use. The yellow handled tool is I think another stylus. The end is angled and rounded slightly, not as sharp as the other one. I really want to know how this was used.

And finally there were these two writing implements with some good clues written on them. 

The wood pencil reads "Armco Drainage Products New England Metal Culvert Co. Palmer Mass, Boston, Mass, Portland, ME."  So this is the second reference to Boston. The mechanical pencil says "Overhead Door Sales Company of New Hampshire, Complete Sales, Service & Installation, Milford N. H. Phone 707. We had family in New Hampshire. And in fact my Great Uncle Maurice worked with the DOT of New Hampshire. He might be a likely candidate to receive a promotional pencil from a metal culvert company. I remembered learning that his wife, Bertha had done some sort of crafty thing. So I went to ask Dad if he could remember what type of work she had done. He said he did not know but that it involved paper because there was a lot of that in Maurice's house when they cleaned it out. So at this point I am leaning toward this being Bertha's paint box and not Madge's. Next up the treasure in the bottom of the box.