Research on Antiques & Collectibles


ANTIQUE SCIENTIFIC INSTRUMENTS:  A fine mix of fantasy, ingenuity and art that produced the most useful 18th & 19thC devices that paved the way for a better life

While there is a difference between scientific instruments and other works of art and craftsmanship, antique scientific instruments are often products of genius with a direct appeal to our aesthetic sensibility. Fine furniture, silver, paintings, and sculpture may be more traditional antique subjects of cultural appreciation, but contemporary interest in the history of science has given a new impetus to the appreciation of those instruments associated with scientific progress. They have an extra fascination for the collector. Today the majority of antique scientific instruments may be viewed in ....   Read Full Story


THE GRAMOPHONE:  A story of pioneering marketing, a dog and the famous 'His Master's Voice' logo

The history of this make is most interesting and deserves to be told in detail. Invention played a relatively minor role in the evolution of the Gramophone. It was mostly a series of painstaking refinements of existing processes and of fantastic publicity through prestigious recordings that helped propel the Gramophone to its widest audience. Good sales organization and a rapidly growing network of factories in all the major countries quickly established the GRAMOPHONE COMPANY as a world leader. Invariably, at the bottom of every late nineteenth century industrial undertaking there is one man. In this case, that man was born in Hanover in 1851 and his name was Emile Berliner. Reaching the United States very young, he tried many ....   Read Full Story



Time and man had a very early encounter back in 2000 B.C., the age of sundials; on to the clepsydra, or water clock, also known in antiquity; and to the sand glass which has lasted to our own time. From very recent shipwreck studies and other excavations, we now know that the very first people who had the idea of measuring time by a mechanism composed of wheels and weights was the Greeks. The “Antikythera Mechanism” (see is believed to be the first complex Time-Keeping device known to man that used extensive combinations of wheels, 30+ gears, plates....   Read Full Story



Legend has grown around Simon Willard and his prowess as a clockmaker which has some improbable aspects. He has been pictured as a mechanical genius who spent sixty-odd years in doggedly demonstrating his skill at cutting the teeth on his clock wheels by hand and by eye, with the aid only of crude and primitive tools. While this concept of him has never been taken seriously by students of clockmaking, it has been widely publicized and should be corrected. On the face of it, this picture of Willard is rather ridiculous. It has been estimated that he made 1200 tall-case clocks ....   Read Full Story





In Connecticut, between 1810 and 1812, Seth Thomas and Silas Hoadley produced 8-day wood clocks designed for a long case, and also 8-day wood shelf clocks which are supposed to have appeared soon after 1820. Undoubtedly these long-case clock movements, few of which have been found, represent Connecticut's attempt to enter the 8-day wood clock field. The basic Connecticut wood-clock movement is the cumbersome 30-hour "Cheney movement" which was being made in Hartford County as early as 1745. Although the method of placing the weight cords differed, both movements were "pull-ups,"....   Read Full Story




MARITIME FOLK ART:  Scrimshaws, Walrus Tasks, Sperm Whale Teeth and other marine body parts as Art

The North Pacific and the South Seas were the principal source of scrimshaw for more than a hundred years after 1800. These miniature carvings and engravings on ivory, bone, or wood were made by whalers as an escape from the monotony of a prolonged cruise which might keep the men away from home ports for four or five years. When whales failed to show up and the ship was becalmed, existence in narrow and filthy quarters became an ordeal for crew and officers alike. Nerves were frayed, tempers grew short, and quarrels....   Read Full Story



The age-old feeling that a ship has life was expressed for centuries in the practice of decorating ship's bows with carvings representing living things. Although some ships had gracefully carved fiddle-scroll decorations, called billet heads, mounted on their bows, carvings of animate creatures were much more commonly used for this purpose. Two stories illustrate how vividly, in the minds of the crew, the figurehead took on the personality of its model. In 1800 H.M.S. Royal George whose figurehead was in the likeness of the King, was forced to decline engagement with some French warships; and the bosun, to spare his sovereign the disgraceful sight of a British ship fleeing the enemy, lashed a hammock around the....   Read Full Story