By Grant Hamilton. Publisher
One thing about the publishing business is that time moves at “deadline speed.” We’re always working ahead of the calendar, so it seems that the months and years go by very quickly. At the moment February 2021 is already on our minds in the Collector office and it is only December 1st 2020, as this message is being written.
Normally, February might not be in focus yet; however, we moved the annual “Show Focus” section from January to allow show organizers a little more time to gather information about the availability of venues, the ability of dealers to travel, and the mood of the antiquing public as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. With some luck the rapid advances in medicine, finding therapeutics and vaccines in record time, will have us on the road to normalcy soon.
It may be a strange way to see things, but I find that antiques are very comforting in stressful times, such as this pandemic. I can look across a room and see something as fragile as a 250-year-old blown glass wine glass sitting on a shelf. If that can survive a couple of centuries, in the care of various owners, through floods, fires, earthquakes, pandemics and wandering cats, it seems this, too, shall pass.
Antiques also remind us of the ongoing march of technology. Another shelf holds a spill plane. It is tool to create thin spirals of wood shavings that served as a way to carry a flame to start the fire or light a lamp. The “better mousetrap” was the match that came later and then the safety match. I admit to using a fireplace match to light the fire in our Rumford fireplace. But the fireplace design by “Count Rumford” was a technological advance based on Benjamin Thompson’s (Count Rumford) study of smoke and heat. Instead of smoking people, it sent the smoke up the chimney and radiated heat more efficiently.
The “new normal” that is often mentioned today is sometimes characterized as inferior to “normal.” Our bet is new normal is better. While we await the “restart,” it’s good to remember that progress is still moving right along, and innovation is more often good than not. And it frequently is created in times of stress.
Antiques that I see are reminders of the old normal of the time being replaced by improvements of a new normal. The soft redware replaced by harder stoneware. The whale oil lamp replaced by the kerosene lamp, replaced by the gas fixture, and so on.
Sometimes it’s easy to call on our antiques collections to imagine a simpler time. We don’t think much about the lack of indoor plumbing or the slow, cold travel in a sleigh when we conjure up that Courier and Ives lifestyle image. But that’s ok.
Antiques help soothe pandemic nerves. Their presence is a physical reminder of the continuity of our society and that the “new normal” is just change with progress and is just plain normal.