Flatware: Sterling Silver + Silver Plate

Mr. MM and I have been searching high and low for new flatware.  We finally settled on the Lucca from Crate and Barrel but have yet to buy any.


Lucca – Crate and Barrel

I like that it’s made in Italy … not China.  We like the simple design and that its finish is pewter which has a really nice ‘vintage’ look.  It does give me pause that 3 out of the 5 reviews are incredibly negative.

What I really want is a sterling silver flatware set. But who has +/-$950 to spend on each 5 piece place setting?  I like the finish of worn sterling silver flatware … the patina of use.  So what I really want is a vintage set of sterling silver flatware.  This does not make it any less expensive.

During our visit to the Saturday flea market in Vienna, I found two beautiful sterling silver forks.

Russian Sterling Silver

Russian Sterling Silver

The front right of the fork is stamped with 84 (followed by a smaller G).  It is my understanding that this is a Russian mark common from the 19th century through the early 20th century.  84 zolotnik Russian silver contains 87.5% pure silver and 12.5% copper or other metals.

The front left of the fork is stamped with what I believe to be the city mark for St. Petersburg.  The city used the double headed imperial eagle as its mark until 1741.  In 1741, the imperial eagle was replaced by an anchor and grapnel crossing a scepter.  Variations of this theme were used until 1896.

Based on my research, I suspect these forks are from the 19th century.  Every time I use them I wonder about all the people who have used them before me.

I bought them for 5 Euro.  He didn’t have any other matching pieces.  Bummer.  What I love about them is the long tines and the ribbon pattern around the perimeter ending in a bow on the back side.  They’re just so lovely.

The forks started me thinking.  Why don’t I just buy our flatware piecemeal?  As I find either sterling silver or silver plate pieces that I like, I’ll add them to the collection.  I do love having various items to hunt for.

Last Saturday at Junk Box, I found 7 oval soup spoons.

Wm. Rogers

Wm. Rogers

I’m VERY particular about my soup spoons.  The shape, weight, and size are a big deal for me.  Crazy?  Maybe.  I have one (and only one) mid-century modern soup spoon that I use every time we have soup.  Only one though.  So imagine my glee when I came upon 7 silver soup spoons that matched the shape and size of my beloved mid-century modern soup spoon.

I had to dig around in a box of mismatched silver flatware.  I bought all 7 of them in various states of tarnish for $7.  They have a monogrammed ‘C’ on the handle but since that’s my sister’s first name initial, I’m cool with it.

Turns out they are from Wm. Rogers.  The pattern is ‘Devonshire’ also known as ‘Mary Lou’.  They were made in 1938.  They are silver plate.

At the time, I didn’t know how to tell if they were sterling.  Now I know to look for 925  or ‘sterling’ mark on the pieces indicating they are sterling.

One of my ‘Google’ searches turned up Anthropologie’s ‘Rediscovered Flatware’.  $36 will buy a 5 piece place setting of mis-matched vintage silver plate flatware.  I don’t know about you but I enjoy the hunt so I’ll create my own mis-matched place settings.


Repurpose: Christmas Tree Skirt Alternative

Whenever I need something for a utilitarian (or not so utilitarian) purpose, I first think ‘repurpose’.  What have I bought at a flea market that I can use or what can I buy at a flea market and use?  I like objects that come with baggage … history’s patina … a story.

Our 1910 twin is a cluster of smallish rooms.  The first Christmas season posed a question … real tree or fake?  I do love a real tree but our living room is pretty tight.  During a trip to Target I spotted the perfect tree for our living room:  a 7′ tall pre-lit slim balsam fir tree.  Slim being the key word.  Nature is not familiar with slim when it comes to Christmas trees.

After a few years of covering the hideous metal base with a traditional tree skirt, I was in the market for an alternative.  Where do I go to look for inspiration?  Pinterest, of course.

I settled on the idea of using a galvanized tub as an alternative tree skirt.  But a vintage tub would feel better than a new one. I found the perfect one on Craigslist for $25.  A Nesco galvanized tub that was used by the owner’s parents for apple bobbing when she was a kid.  Baggage … patina … story.

Vintage Nesco.

Vintage Nesco.

Although the tub is 24″ in diameter, the tree base was too big.  Issue resolved:



Bricks placed in the bottom of the tub to raise the tree base to an elevation that works.

Tree assembled in the tub, canvas drop cloth added to the tub, ornaments placed, and we’re ready for Christmas.

A Manayunk Mod Christmas.

A Manayunk Mod Christmas.

We’re adding to the baggage / patina / story.

Junk Box

That’s what Mr. MM calls the indoor flea market I drag him to during the winter months.  I refer to this bi-monthly flea market as methadone to my flea market addiction.  Held in a warehouse building at 9th and Spring Garden, it hosts about 50 vendors.  Decent assortment of vintage goods.  Nothing to go out of your way for but desperate winter months call for desperate measures.

Yesterday a vendor was selling printing blocks three for $5.  That’s a good deal.  He had a nice collection and I brought these three home with us.

Three printing blocks.

Three printing blocks.

The bottom left block is 1″ x 1″ — for scale.  I particularly like the text on that one:  Loyalty Mercy Humanity.  A quick Google search of that ‘motto’:

Volunteer Medical Service Corps (VMSC).  In 1944 the VMSC moved from a paramilitary organization to one devoted to emergency medical care.

According to their website:  The insignia of the Corps was designed by Dr. Boston, assisted by Mr. Herbert Ruthrauff, Sr. an artist. The VMSC crest is a white shield superimposed on a caduceus, the wings and heads of the serpents extending above the top of the shield and the bottom of the staff the tails of the serpents below the shield. The shield is edged with blue and gold, the colors of the state of PA. It is divided into three fields by a green chevron with its point upward, green being the color for marking medical installations, for instance, the broad green stripe around hospital ships. In the upper left field is a gold Maltese Cross, in the upper right a Fleur-de-Lis, the insignia of scouting and placed as a tribute to the Boy Scouts of America. In the lower field is the Geneva Red Cross. This was changed in 2001 due to “Copyright” laws with the American Red Cross. The crest now bears a Gold cross in the bottom field. Across the bottom of the crest is a scroll with the motto of the VMSC in gold letters, “Loyalty, Mercy, and Humanity”.

The Sound of Music


… the hills are alive with the sound of music.

My favorite ‘holiday’ movie is The Sound of Music.

Unfortunately, Netflix does not stream this movie.  This year, I was hoping that someone would be putting the dvd on sale during ‘ Black Friday’.  I have not found one retailer making such an offer!  I’ve only found the multi-disc 40th anniversary dvd option for $25.  I don’t want the 40th anniversary addition.  I just want a dvd containing the movie … no sing-a-long version … no ‘extras’ … no reunion of the cast 40 years later.  Just the original full length 1965 version of the movie on dvd.  And definitely not the Carrie Underwood remake.  I even looked for it on ebay … and I made a vow never to participate in ebay nonsense again.  No luck on ebay.

As I head out today to be engulfed in ‘Black Friday’ madness, I will keep my eyes open for the Von Trapp family.  Wish me luck!


I’ve tried my ‘luck’ with Ebay and have never been satisfied with my purchases.  The sellers were not misrepresenting their wares, it’s just that the descriptions and the pictures didn’t match the images in my head.  So I’ve given up on Ebay.  I need to see the items in person prior to purchase.  I need to spend a little bit of time with the item before handing over payment.  This is why I prefer flea markets over auctions and this is why I stopped browsing Ebay and started browsing Craiglist.

I’m always amazed when I read about fellow Craigslist browsers who make magazine worthy finds at astonishingly low prices.  Seems like every ‘design’ magazine has a home renovation / decoration project where the owner has scored an amazing find on Craigslist.

Well, I’ll tell you my tale.  I have been browsing Craiglist for about four years now using the same search words:  Russel Wright; danish modern; Heywood Wakefield; mid century modern; etc.  Four years and three scores:

My first score was a set of six dining chairs from the 1950’s Drexel Declaration line:

1950's Declaration by Drexel ad.

1950’s Declaration by Drexel ad.

Declaration by Drexel catalogue page.

Declaration by Drexel catalogue page.

6 Drexel Declaration chairs for sale.

6 Drexel Declaration chairs for sale.

The original picture in the posting showed hideous floral fabric on the chairs.  I asked about the fabric when I contacted the seller.  Told him I was interested and wanted to come take a look.  While working out the details via email he took a look at the fabric and discovered that if he too the seats off the fabric came right off to reveal the original black pleather.  When he sent me the above picture, I knew I had to have them.   On a chilly winter evening I drove out to his house in the back of beyond to check them out.  $350 for six solid walnut with rosewood inlay dining chairs that are in very good condition.  The seller bought them at an auction, cleaned them up, wiped them down with beeswax, and put them up for sale.  That’s $58 a piece!

The next score was the foundation for my collection of Russel Wright dinnerware.  (I’m working on a post devoted to Russel Wright.) I decided that I wanted this to be our nice dinnerware and saw a posting on Craigslist which included six place settings (dinner plates, cups/saucers, and bowls), cream and sugar servers, and a couple of serving pieces (platter and side dish).

Russel Wright in Oyster.

Russel Wright in Oyster.

I already owned the pitcher and have added to the collection since the Craigslist purchase.  This time I made Mr. MM go with me to the seller’s house.  We walked into my dream house.  A sprawling ranch completely renovated in a cool mid century modern style.  The seller was moving and thus selling several sets of Russel Wright dinnerware.  I chose his Oyster set for $125.  I think I did pretty good on this one too.

The most recent purchase was spawned by an unfortunate ceiling light purchase … twice.  After we renovated the living room we installed a new ceiling mount light fixture.  After we turned the light on, we realized that you do not want a fixture that shines light on your ceiling when your ceiling is a 100 + year old plaster ceiling.  Sigh.  Fixture one was removed.  Next I bought a very cool Louis Poulsen fixture that proved impossible to install.  I won’t go into the details but I do love this fixture and will find a home for it … our bedroom?

Louis Poulsen PH6.

Louis Poulsen PH6.

Plus we already have one hanging in our dining room.

Given the size of our living room and the furniture / art already in place, we really needed a smallish fixture.  I started searching Craigslist for chandeliers.  This was one of my more odd Craigslist experiences.  I had to email the seller several times before they returned my email.  The seller was then hesitant to tell me where she lived.  After all sorts of back and forth, we met in a parking lot in Manayunk.  Weird.  But I did shell out $80 for this little cutie:



It was imprinted with 1973 so I’m wondering if that’s the model number or the date of fabrication.  I love the ‘bubble’ glass and the pineapple crown.  We put it on a dimmer and it provides such a lovely glow and pattern of light.  I think it works perfectly in our living room:

The living room is getting there.

The living room is getting there.

One Craigslist post for a Heywood Wakefield dining table  got me all excited but proved to be a huge disappointment.  What the seller didn’t tell me via email but I saw in person was that they let there kids carve their names into the table.  And this was not something to be sanded out.  Are you kidding me?

All in all, I’ve been very pleased with my Craigslist experiences / purchases.  I’ll definitely keep browsing but the ‘hits’ are few and far between in my opinion … or am I just missing them?  Well, it is a way to survive the winter months without proper flea markets!

Oyster Plates

I’ve become interested in oyster plates.  Do I need another ‘item’ to collect?  No, but they are so cool.  Mr. MM (aka 10 Ounce) and I recently went to the Oyster House and loved the interior design, especially the oyster plates hanging on the wall.

Oyster House interior.

Oyster House interior.


Oyster House collection.

During the 19th and into the 20th century oysters very abundant therefore inexpensive.  Every socio-economic group ate them.  They were prepared every which way from raw to pickled.  Oysters were at their height of consumption from 1810 to 1870 and through World War I.  Like all good things, we over harvested them and destroyed their natural habitat.

oyster pile

oyster pile

Although we’re used to having oysters served on the half shell resting on a bed of crushed ice, Victorians did not like the mess melting ice created.  They preferred to serve oysters on a plate, either in the shell or just on the plate.   And given that Victorian hostesses loved all the accouterments associated with entertaining, the oyster plate was born.

oyster plates in action.

oyster plates in action.

See the turquoise and orange plate to the left?  For ages I thought that style was for clams.  I was wrong.  I saw a set of six of these in excellent condition for $300 at a flea market in upstate New York this summer.  Well worth the price, now that I know more about oyster plates.

oyster plates!

oyster plates!

I just love the variety of shapes, sizes, configurations, and design!  I would love to hang a few of these in our kitchen.

Oyster plates styles:

1.  Geometric:  a circular plate with six oyster molds around the perimeter with a space in the middle for sauce. (See the two outer plates in the middle row.)

2.  Kidney-shaped plate with an asymmetrical configuration of oyster molds that are shaped like real oysters.  These were produced most often by Union Porcelain Works.

3.  ‘Turkey’ plates by Haviland & Company (Limoges, France) contain five oyster molds configured in a pattern that resembles a turkey.  I’ve read that Rutherford Hayes (19th president) commissioned Haviland & Co to produce this style of plate.  (See the first plate in the top row.)

Majolica oyster plates can be identified by the use of intense color.  George Jones and Joseph Holdcroft first made the style popular in 1851 and Wedgwood followed in 1860.

If an oyster plate has a hole in the back for hanging or some other integrated hanger, it is most likely a reproduction as these plates were created as serving pieces.

Most oyster plate dealers strongly discourage hanging the plates on the wall as the hangers can stress the plates leading to damage. As with most of the items I collect, it’s not about resale value as it is about personal value.  I love the look of the Oyster House and would display my collection in a similar fashion.

oyster plates!

oyster plates!

Cram’s Superior Map of Pennsylvania

There’s a little antique store in our neighborhood called Blackbird House Antiques & Stuff (they don’t have a website).  It’s located in a cute little stone house on ‘the Ridge’.  They have a nice collection of items and they host flea markets during the summer in their parking lot.  Last summer we stopped by during one of the flea markets.  There was a gentleman selling a few vintage school wall maps.  I immediately fell in love with the Cram’s Superior Map of Pennsylvania.

Cram's Superior Map of Pennsylvania

Cram’s Superior Map of Pennsylvania

This vintage school wall map is still its spring roller so Mr. MM found two curtain rod hooks that he attached to the living room wall and we hung the map (the spring roller still functions).  It’s approximately 59″ wide by 51″ high.  The perfect proportion for our living room above our couch.  The colors demarcating the counties are of a palette that fits perfectly within our living room.  We were looking for a large piece of art for above the couch … we definitely found it with this map!

We had to add some foam core to the back attached by butterfly clips as we didn’t want to glue anything to the back.  This map’s backing is heavy linen.

The next step was to date this 1534 edition of Cram’s Superior Map of Pennsylvania.  The map lists the population of Pennsylvania at 10,498,012 people.  This was the population counted during the 1950 census.  Another clue is that Mauch Chunk is still a town in Carbon County.

Carbon County, Pennsylvania

Carbon County, Pennsylvania

Following Jim Thorpe’s (Olympic medalist / renowned athlete) death in 1953, his widow made a deal with civic leaders to change Mauch Chunk’s name.  The town thought this would help draw business to the town.  Weird.

After many ‘Google’ search attempts, I finally found a catalog entry from the January – June 1954 ‘Maps and Atlases’ Catalog of Copyright Entries (Volume 8, Part 6, Number 1):

Copyright Office - Library of Congress Washington: 1954

Copyright Office – Library of Congress
Washington: 1954

This Cram’s Superior Map of Pennsylvania was copyrighted in March 1954!

Vintage school wall maps are usually too pricey for me at flea markets.  This one sold for $225 at Three Potato Four.  Yes, it’s older than ours but it’s pretty worn whereas ours is in great shape.  Around $200 is pretty typical for these types of maps.

How much did I pay?  $10!  What would Mike say?