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.