Today’s featured oddity on Vintage Treasure Tuesday is a bee smoker. Now personally I have never tried smoking, bee or otherwise, but even at Expert Level Zero I can tell you that smoking bees sounds like a very bad idea. I mean, how would you even light one?
But seriously folks, beekeepers have apparently been smoking bees for thousands of years so that the bees don’t attack when the beekeeper disturbs the hive. The reason smoke calms the bees is (insert authoritative-sounding sciencey stuff here).
While bee smokers in various forms have therefore been used for a few millennia (can you imagine the trial and error involved in figuring out what calms a hive of stinging insects?), the design of the one Greg purchased at the Sparks, KS flea market has been used – and largely unchanged – since its development in the late 1800’s by Moses Quinby. As the first commercial beekeeper in the U.S., Quinby (affectionately known to family and friends as “The Other Moses”) operated more than 1,500 hives in New York and designed the modern bee smoker with a bellows to force the smoke out of the container.
Fuels used in the bee smoker would be natural materials such as pine needles or rotten wood. (Remember: modern chemicals do not calm bees – they poison them. And a poisoned bee, is a pissed off bee. Do not use charcoal briquettes in your bee smoker unless you want Moses Quinby to rise from the dead and release pissed off bees in your bedroom!)
I do love finding these old vintage tools, and this was one of several great “picks” we found down in Sparks.
Up next in our “Vintage Treasure Tuesday” series is this interesting piece I acquired at the What Cheer Flea Market in early August. It’s a chunk of wood with a handle on one side and a design carved on the bottom, and it was used to print the design onto fabric or possibly wallpaper.
I’ve personally never seen anything like this (unless you count the potato printing block I saw in an issue of Pack O’Fun and always wanted to make but my mother would never approve because she didn’t need paint-covered potatoes or something).
This primitive printing technique goes back thousands of years, although it’s certainly more likely this block is from the 1800’s. I love finding items like this because it helps me understand that so many things we take for granted – tasks that are automated today – were once done painstakingly by hand… in some cases with a potato.
I’m starting a new series here on the blog to highlight some of the interesting things we find in our treasure hunting ventures… auctions, thrift stores, flea markets large and small… all are great sources for the items we acquire and re-sell. Some of them intrigue me to the point where I feel compelled to research them and learn a little more about them. Such is the piece I’m featuring on this very first Vintage Treasure Tuesday.
I bought this pretty little vessel at a rural auction last year. Because of its size – the opening is about 11 inches across – I assumed it was a chamber pot. Because we as a nation haven’t really used chamber pots for many decades, I knew this piece had the potential to be a true antique – meaning, 100 years old or more.
A bit of internet research based on the backstamp shown on the bottom of the piece tells me that my pee pot was made by the West End Pottery Co. of Wellsville, Ohio. The word “Cuban” refers to the shape of the piece – the low, wide stance and beautifully curved bowl. I imagine it came with a lid, long since broken and discarded.
This company manufactured dinner-, toilet- and hotel-ware from 1893-1938. Specifically, the mark on my piece indicates that it is ironstone toilet-ware made sometime between 1893-1910. That means the piece is anywhere from 106 – 123 years old!
That it has survived all these decades simply astounds me. I have put it in what I think is a safe place, hopeful it will survive a few more decades before I manage to drop it or otherwise smash it into a zillion pieces.
Completely as an aside… can you imagine what it would be like to actually have to use one of these on a regular basis? Simple enough for a man… but for women… I assume you just sort of… squat over it? I just… I can’t… let’s just say I’m glad I was born after the advent of indoor plumbing.