Monday, August 15, 2016

Dei Gratia


Among some Chucky Cheese prize tokens (seriously!) we found this beautiful coin at the flea market-a British Farthing full penny.  I dug a little deeper to find some additional information on this coin.  In circulation during Queen Victoria’s reign from 1838-1901 the British Farthing pennies and half pennies showed an image of the Queen at various stages of her life depending on the year of issue. The other side of the coin showed an image of Brittania the female icon representing Great Britain. 

Regardless of the image of Victoria present on the coin it was always marked “Victoria D.G.” with the “D.G.” standing for “Dei Gratia” or “by the grace of God.” That’s such a lovely phrase for a coin! It’s also very timely as we were just talking about finding random coins and the idea of “pennies from Heaven.”  Hmmm…..coincidence? This coin is dated 1897 which by coin collecting standards was not a “special” year so the coin itself isn’t necessarily very valuable. Historically, however, Queen Victoria’s long reign- the second longest reign of any female monarch in history (from, link here)- was pretty significant. During her reign Great Britain saw advances in science, technology and transportation. When we hear a reference to “Victorian England” it is that Victoria we are referring to. I love to think of the person who may have carried this coin in 1897 who was a witness to some of those changes and advances, like a character on a BBC period movie or, even better, a Hallmark period movie. Side note: I am a sucker for Hallmark movies and have been known to binge on them during certain holidays, namely Christmas. Embarrassing confessions aside, I am always amazed at how simple little objects can connect us so quickly to the past.

Monday, August 8, 2016

B&ORR Fire Bucket

Here’s an interesting find we picked up at a local yard sale.  We live in an area of Maryland that is steeped with railroad history, specifically that of the Baltimore and Ohio- or B&O- Railroad. I consulted the CSX website for a little information about this historic railroad system. Chartered in 1827, the B&O Railroad was created as direct competition to the proposed Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.  The first lines were made of wood with iron straps and were horse drawn.  The first lines carried produce and mail, and later, as the railway expanded to incorporate new cities like Cincinnati and St. Louis, carried Union troops and supplies during the Civil War. By the end of the 19th century the B&O had nearly 5,800 miles of track. In the 1960s the B&O merged with the C&O who already held 61% of its tracks.  In 1972 the Chessie System was born, and in 1986 all of the Western Maryland railroads including the B&O, the Chessie, the Seaboard, and the C&O merged to become CSX Transportation, officially ending the existence of the B&O Railroad system.  Because of this, train enthusiasts are enthralled with items bearing specific railway names like the B&O. 

What we picked up is not a dunce cap (hey- I thought it was, too- no shame!)  but an early 20th century conical shaped fire bucket.  The gentleman we purchased it from had other B&O memorabilia for sale but having never seen something like this we only bought this piece.  This type of bucket would have had a ring through the top to hang it from the wall inside the train and in the case of a fire emergency would be filled with dirt or sand to put out the fire. You could also find these hanging from bridges along railway routes.  Its different shape was to deter users from using it for other purposes- like a stool or a handy seat. I can see where this shape would deter one from using it as a seat. Just saying! They are typically red but this one has been repainted.  You can still see the B&ORR marking on the side identifying its source. It’s a neat little piece that made me learn a little bit more about the history of the railroad.  I can see why there are so many B&O Railroad enthusiasts out there it has such an interesting history and was a part of so much of the development of the United States. 

If you want to learn more about the B&O Railroad and are near Baltimore, Maryland, make sure to stop in the B&O Railroad Museum. This family-friendly gem in the heart of Baltimore is loaded with artifacts of this bygone system. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Anniversary Gift of Steel

My husband has been helping a friend of my Mom’s clean out her house and garage to sell.  Her house is a 1870s colonial that used to be home to her family’s cattle hauling business and it has been a treasure trove of wonderful and unique vintage items. For our anniversary in June my husband surprised me with this beautiful double galvanized tub wash stand.

I wanted to know a little bit about the “Wheeling” printed on the side so I, of course, consulted the internet. I found a little information on the WV encyclopedia website (who knew there was such a thing? Link here.) Turns out the Wheeling Steel Corporation was a mix of three separate steel companies- La Belle Iron Works, the Whitaker-Glessner Company, and the Wheeling Steel & Iron Works that combined on June 21, 1920.  Wheeling was close to resources that made it very profitable for iron mills and metal works.  Wheeling Steel became known for producing the industry’s first “black plate” for tinning in the 1920s (any thoughts on what “tinning” is? No? I’ll find out. Don’t worry.) as well as tin cans, lard pails, stoves, lunch pails steel plates and sheets. In 1968 Wheeling Steel merged with Pittsburgh Steel to form the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corporation.  I’m guessing my double basin is from the 1940s-1950s era when that type of “everyday use” product would have been what Wheeling Steel was creating.

I love my wash stand and think it’s a wonderful anniversary gift for someone who so cherishes items from the past. Someday, it will sit in the bathroom of my old farmhouse that we will own and hopefully look something like this.

Source: via Pinterest

Chip and Joanna….are you reading? ;) (Bonus points to all y’all who just caught that Fixer Upper reference.)

P.S. “Tinning” is the “process of thinly coating sheets of wrought iron or steel with tin, and the resulting product is known as tinplate.”  Thanks Wikipedia!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

$5 Twine and Clothespin Picture Holder

It’s hard to believe all of the rainy weekends we have had lately! While we’ve managed to visit a few indoor flea markets, we were finally able to get the full effect of a nice sunny Saturday morning visit to the outdoor flea market just this past weekend after weeks of rain. Nevertheless, rainy weekends do lend themselves to quick and easy projects you can do indoors, so here’s a DIY for you.  I hope the weather where you are has been much better recently!

I had seen several items like the one I created at various home décor stores, but they often came with a price tag that was a little bit larger than what I wanted to pay. (I always say I’m “cheap” until someone reminds me a better way to say that is “thrifty.” Ha!)  When I found this gorgeous vintage frame in my Mom’s basement I knew exactly what I wanted to make- a DIY clothespin and twine picture holder.

I could write you a step-by-step tutorial, but it was so simple to create that I’d be doing you an injustice.  Really, all you need is a picture frame of your choice (without the glass), some twine, and some teeny-tiny clothespins.  I bought these little clothespins at Hobby Lobby. First, decide which orientation you would like to hang your frame- I did mine landscape because I thought I could get at least three pictures on a row of twine that way. I got lucky because my frame already had some old nails still in the back.  If yours doesn’t, simply put two nails on each side of the back of the frame in the inner rim for each row of twine you would like to create.  These nails worked great because they were already at an angle- so if you have to insert nails into your frame I would suggest the angle idea.  Tie the ends of your twine around each nail and double knot it. Add your clothespins and voila!  Now all you have to do is hang your new picture holder, sit back, and enjoy the DIY you just created.  My total cost for this project: frame- free (found in Mom's basement), twine- already had in my craft collection, tiny clothespins- $3.99 but 40% off with coupon so $2.39 plus tax- everything for under $5.

Original materials: vintage frame, twine, teeny-tiny clothespins.

Double tie a knot around nail.

Finished DIY.


There are so many variations you could do to personalize this project so look for a few old frames next time you visit a flea market or thrift store.   You could paint the frame or paint the clothespins to match any décor.  You could hang one in the kitchen to hold your recipe cards, by the door to hang your “to-do” or “honey-do” lists, or anywhere in your home where you’d like to change the photos frequently.  You could staple cork or chicken wire to the back of your frame to create even more ways to hang your items. I might do that with my next frame I find, so stay tuned if you’d like some tips on that. One tip I will add- if you do find a really old frame and you have little ones at home be sure you either a) test it for lead paint (you can buy cheap test kits one at a hardware store) or b) strip it and repaint it.  If you find a beautiful old frame and make your own DIY be sure to share your finished product with us!

Monday, May 9, 2016

A Flea Market Family Find: Silver Spoons

The weather here has not been flea market friendly- colder than usual temperatures accompanied by days and days of rain. During one recent weekend where there was enough of a break in the weather pattern to get some flea market shopping in we had a pretty nice find: a full set of six monogrammed sterling silver 1847 Rogers Bros. spoons and their matching monogrammed ladle.  The 1847 Rogers Bros. mark doesn’t necessarily mean they are from 1847 exactly, but the mark is not followed by “IS” meaning “International Silver” so they are more than likely real silver and not silver plated and were made prior to 1898 when Rogers Bros. started to manufacture silver plated flatware.  Side note: does anyone remember the Ricky Schroder show from the 80’s “Silver Spoons?” I was singing the show’s theme song all day after we purchased these spoons. But I digress.

I first stumbled on the ladle when I noticed the monogrammed “W” since that’s the initial of our last name (and also of my maiden name!).  I love anything monogrammed so it immediately caught my eye.  When we asked the seller about the price he gave us a little history of the silverware and helped us find all of the remaining pieces he had left to sell. As it turned out he had purchased them from an estate sale from a family in southern Virginia with the last name of Winston.  If that name doesn’t ring a bell to you, well… on!
The Winston family of Virginia is almost as old the Virginia colony itself. A little research in the 1977 book Old New Kent County: Some Account of the Planters, Plantations, and Places in New Kent County by Malcolm H. Harris told us the family’s patriarch William Winston had settled in St. Peter’s Parish, Virginia, possibly as early as 1687 and became owner to large tracts of land all over the region in the early 1700s.  He had four sons: Isaac, Essex, John, and James whose descendants are spread all over the southern Virginia counties of Hanover and Louisa. Perhaps it was one of these descendants who were able to part with the family’s silverware in the estate sale our friendly gentleman seller had attended.
Of course we can’t be sure that these silver spoons were indeed owned by any of that Winston family, but it’s a neat story nonetheless.  The best part is that through a simple flea market purchase on a lovely spring day the Winston family lived on and we were- for a moment- connected to them and to the past. 

Friday, May 6, 2016


Welcome to The Flea Market Family! 
This blog is about our journeys to flea markets, thrift shops, yard sales, auctions, and vintage stores and the amazing items and people we find there.  Equal parts history, antiques, junk, and fun we hope there is something for everyone. Some items we repurpose or restore so others can enjoy them in their own homes, and some items we keep for our own (ever-growing) collection.  Follow along as we share our finds with you!