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Ruby Lane's Past Times Newsletter for January 2006
The monthly newsletter from Ruby Lane Antiques, Collectibles,
Fine Art, and Artisans
Welcome to Past Times!
IN THIS ISSUE:
o The Romance & History of McClelland Barclay by Liz Kepner
of Jewels by Liz
o Antique British Biscuit Tins by Judith McAllister of Judy's
o Embellishing Linen with Embroidery by Debora Cochrane of
Heirloom Linens By D
o January EDITOR'S PICK: Tempus Fugit
o Share Past Times with A Friend
THE ROMANCE & HISTORY OF MCCLELLAND BARCLAY BY
LIZ KEPNER OF JEWELS BY LIZ
Part of the love affair and fascination with vintage costume
jewelry is shrouded in the mystique of the history of an item.
Sometimes we have the luxury of knowing where a piece of jewelry
came from and can trace its history – sometimes ordinary and
sometimes extraordinary. In many instances there are "blanks"
that we allow our imagination to fill in for us. We may
cherish the romantic notion that a dashingly handsome man
presented a necklace to a beautiful, elegant woman and that they
lived happily ever after. Those with a more tragic leaning may
fill in the blanks with tales of lost love and betrayal. They
may envision the young man going off to war giving his
sweetheart a momentum of his affection. Depending on the way
your imagination leans, the young man may come home, reclaim his
sweetheart and live happily ever after or he may perish in the
war leaving a heart-broken sweetheart to cherish the piece of
jewelry from her beloved until her death.
A vintage jewelry find with a documented history is a treasure.
Several years ago I came across several large, flashy bracelets
I was able to purchase from a local estate. The original owner
of the pieces was deceased. Her Granddaughter told me she had
been the "black sheep" of the family since she was a lounge
singer in one of the downtown (now historical) hotels in
Jackson, Mississippi. She showed me an actual photograph of her
Grandmother wearing one of the bracelets. She looked so
beautiful and glamorous. I knew if these pieces could only
Another source of fascination is the history of the jewelry
designer himself or herself. Some of the most highly
collectible jewelry was made by McClelland Barclay. Part of the
allure of McClelland Barclay's jewelry comes from the fact that
he created his jewelry for only a short time. He was also
fascinating with his multi-talented artistry. Barclay was
successful with art, ad work, illustrations, portraits (of the
rich, famous and infamous), and sculpture and jewelry design.
The other factor lending mystery to this talented man was his
untimely death at the age of 52 at the height of his career.
McClelland Barclay was born in 1891 in St. Louis, Missouri and
studied under H. C. Ives, George Bridgeman and Thomas Fogarty.
In 1938 he enlisted in the the Naval Reserve and in 1940
reported for active duty. He was assigned to the Naval
Recruiting Office in New York and assumed duties which included
designing recruitment posters (very collectible today).
When the United States went to war in 1941, McClelland Barclay
volunteered to become a combat artist. Though his request was
turned down, he did fulfill a similar position as part of his
Recruiting Office assignment. McClelland Barclay died on July
18, 1943 at the age of 52. He went down when the LST-342 he was
on was torpedoed off the Solomon Islands. Many on board were
lost and McClelland Barclay's body was never found. He was
awarded the Purple Heart posthumously. In 1944 Barclay was also
awarded the Art Directors Club Medal posthumously.
The measure of this designer can be realized in the fact that in
spite of his fame and position he volunteered to be assigned to
war areas to paint true depictions of the war. During the time
prior to World War II he was one of the best known and
successful commercial artists. Part of his fame included (even
during his lifetime) his advertising art work which is
legendary. He is famous for his 10 year ad campaign for General
Motors featuring the well known "Fisher Body Girl". He designed
advertisements for such well know companies as Whitman's
Chocolates, Texaco, and both Camel and Chesterfield Cigarette
Companies. He designed a number of covers and illustrations for
such magazines as Good Housekeeping. His paintings and
sculptures were recognized and in high demand as well.
Unfortunately for the collectible world, he designed jewelry for
only a very short time – 1937 -1943. During this much too short
6 year period he designed some of the most highly collectible
jewelry. He founded the "McClelland Barclay Art Products Inc."
in New York in 1937 and began creating jewelry from his own
designs. During this time he also created designs for other
companies such as the Rice-Weiner Company. Much of his jewelry
can be identified at a glance – his style is so unique. His
jewelry demands high prices (when it can be found) and includes
the famous Art Deco style designs in both gold tone and silver
tone metals with rhinestones in a variety of jewel tones such as
emerald green, ruby red and sapphire blue. He also created
jewelry in a nautical design many times referred to as either
"sea shell" or "sea horse" pieces and the wonderful gold and
silver tone metal work and clear pave' rhinestones of the Maple
Leaf designs. His Sterling pieces were created during the last
couple years of his life and bring exceptionally high prices as
Although unsigned jewelry has been attributed to him, there is
no actual proof that he created unsigned pieces. The majority of
his work is signed with the "McClelland Barclay" signature. A
few rare pieces are signed with only "Mac". These pieces of
jewelry are reported to have been one of a kind commissioned
pieces and would be extremely rare and valuable if they could be
This truly renaissance man has a legacy which lives on today –
more than 60 years after his death. In 1995 the Society of
Illustrators inducted McClelland Barclay into their Hall of
Fame. The McClelland Barclay Fund for Art was founded to
provide assistance to struggling artists.
We invite you to visit Liz's shop: Jewels By Liz.
ANTIQUE BRITISH BISCUIT TINS BY JUDITH MCALLISTER
OF JUDY'S LOVELIES
Surprise! And what a nice surprise it was. As many of you, I
search the ads each week for estate sales. When one sounds
promising, I make the effort to arrive early to be the first to
search for the illusive bargain. Far too often, the sale does
not live up to its billing. But, occasionally the house will be
a treasure chest of fascinating items. This happened to me a
couple of months ago. I went to the sale because the
advertisement highlighted a collection of Blue Willow china.
Because I do carry Blue Willow, I thought I would surely find
Blue Willow that I could buy. When I first walked into the
house, I saw a huge collection of the most incredible tins. I
couldn't pass them for the colors, shapes, and designs were
wonderful. I picked up a few and looked at the prices. They
were not cheap, but they did not seem outrageous, either. But
what did I know? I came for Blue Willow. Nevertheless, I put 2
or 3 tins in my purchase lot and went on to the Blue Willow. I
found the Blue Willow to be ordinary and over-priced. I looked
through the house and picked up a few more things and found
myself drawn back to the tins. I began to talk to myself. I
concluded I would take a chance and buy a few which appealed to
me. This would give me a chance to research and learn about
something new. From that bit of news, you now realize that I
am not a long-time authority on Antique British Biscuit Tins. I
am a recent convert to the study and collection of tins.
The major biscuit manufacturers all began as small town bakers.
The largest, Huntley & Palmers, began in 1822 in Reading,
England. Joseph Huntley took advantage of the bustling business
at the Crown Inn, a regular coach stop across the street from
his bakery, by sending boys over with trays of biscuits for the
travelers to purchase. The golden age of British Biscuit Tins
was from 1868 to 1939. The first biscuit tin makers were
Huntley, Boorne & Stevens of Reading. Founder Joseph Huntley
was the son of the Huntley who started the biscuit company. The
close association of the two companies would be to their mutual
benefit. Printing directly onto the tin, transfer printing,
changed the direction of British Biscuit Tins-making. The
earliest known direct transfer British Biscuit Tin was done for
Huntley and Palmers in 1868 and is called the Ben George tin.
Many people think that transfer printed tins are toleware, but
in fact, they are lithographed - printed on the tin, not painted
like tole. In 1877 Huntley & Boorne obtained the exclusive
rights to the offset lithographic process. In 1889 all the
metal printing firms installed equipment so they could use this
method. William Crawford and Sons, Gray Dunn, Macfarlane Lang
and Co., Ltd., McVitie and Price, Peek Freans, Jacobs, and Carr
& Co., are other biscuit companies familiar to collectors.
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century the
competition was keen between these companies.
Biscuits packed in decorative tins continued to be big until
World War 1, when production of the fancy tins was halted.
Production picked up again after the war in 1920. Some very
fine tins (a great number of figural tins) were produced from
1920 through 1939, when World War II stopped it all. The need
for metal and workers brought about the gradual decline of the
fanciful biscuit tins. By the mid-twentieth century, the biscuit
British Biscuit Tins have some very clever designs. Some have
shapes that look like anything but canisters for holding
biscuits. There were tins for children (Juvenile Tins) and tins
with children as the subject matter. Famous persons were
featured on many tins. The Royal Family and Commemorative tins
for Royal events were, and are, very popular. Tins were made to
look like wooden objects - tea caddies, boxes, and furniture.
Some tins looked like baskets, leather purses, and steamer
trunks. Fine Art reproductions appeared on biscuit tins. Tins
were designed to imitate ceramic wares. The most sought after
tins are those made to be used as toys by children long after
the biscuits were gone. As you would guess, few survived in
Some collectors have a broad scope of purchasing any tin that
appeals to them. Others narrow their interest by era,
manufacturer, or type of tin. British tins attract cross-over
collectors because of the novel designs and subjects. For
instance toy collectors have great interest in the toy tins.
Animal lovers collect tins with horses, dogs, and cats.
Advertising collectors are attracted to the brand names used on
Tins can be cheap, or they can bring 5 figures. The enormous
cars and boats made as toys for children go for thousands. The
desirability and rarity determine the value. Age and condition
are added factors in determining the value. The original
catalogs published by the biscuit companies have provided
identification, naming, and dating information.
There are several sources of information on the internet. One of
the best sources that I found is Tracy Dolphin at
www.wickedlady.com/tins. Tracy has also authored a book,
BISCUIT TINS. http://www.collectorcafe.com has published two
very informative articles on biscuit tins.
Recommended Reference Books: British Biscuit Tins, 1868-1939; An
Aspect of Decorative Packaging by M. J. Franklin British Biscuit
Tins by M. J. Franklin Decorated Biscuit Tins by Peter R.G.
Hornsby The Sheer Collection of Tins, Catalog - Sotheby's 1995
Decorative Printed Tins by David Griffith
I have just touched on the subject. I hope I have created
enough interest so that you will look closer the next time you
see a tin. There are several Rubylane shops that carry tins.
Take a look!
We invite you to visit Judith's shop: Judy's Lovelies .
EMBELLISHING LINEN WITH EMBROIDERY BY DEBORA
COCHRANE OF HEIRLOOM LINENS BY D
Plain, unfinished linens off the loom are called greige or gray
goods. Before being sent off to the market, a number of
finishing processes are used to change the appearance, the feel
and the performance of linen. Many of these processes have been
used for centuries and include bleaching, calendering (a
flattening or ironing process), beetling (pounding the fabric to
add luster, smoothness and greater absorbency) and adding
calendar glaze polish to create lustrous and smooth surface
Beyond the basic finishing processes, there is a whole array of
possibilities for decorating fabrics. The urge to embellish
linen and make it more beautiful is universal. There are many
ways to decorate linen, but the simplest technique used is
embroidery. Embroidery consists of creating designs on fabric by
stitching patterns on the linen with a needle and thread. There
are only a few different ways of drawing a needle and thread
through a fabric. There are however, endless variations of each
technique and as many different names for a stitch as there are
countries and schools of needlework. This article will
concentrate on the most commonly used stitches in household
The running stitch is a basic disconnected embroidery stitch
that runs in and out of the fabric. The stitches can be made
into elaborate geometric designs called Swedish embroidery or
Swedish weaving. Swedish embroidery is usually done on huck
towels since the intricate designs can be quickly and easily
worked by running colorful threads through the threads floating
across the surface of the linen fabric.
The chain stitch consists of a loop of thread caught at the top
with another loop to form a chain. It can be found in any type
of embroidery as an outline or for filling. The chain is also
known as tambour work. The tambour stitch is worked with a
special needle resembling a crochet hook that draws thread in
and out of the fabric in a chain stitch. When floral designs are
stitched with tambour work on fine net, the effect of lace is
An important stitch in embroidery is the buttonhole stitch. The
name for this stitch comes from early common usage as a method
to prevent cut slit buttonholes from raveling and fraying.
Buttonhole stitches are one of the most common methods for
finishing off the edges of napkins, doilies, runners, towels and
other linens. The stitches should be extremely close together
and very precise. This finishes cut edges firmly and
Straight, side by side strands of thread floating across the
surface of fabric to form broad, silky areas are called satin
stitches. Precise detail is important when performing satin
stitching. Satin stitches can be padded (hence the name padded
satin stitching) to add texture and depth. Padding is usually
done with a layer of stitching underneath the top layer of
stitching. These qualities define style and quality in the
French knots and bullion stitches are both examples of knotted
stitches in embroidery. In French knots decorative raised knots
are formed by winding the thread around the needle, then taking
a stitch to fasten the loops to the embroidery. These little
knots are often seen inside the center of a flower. Bullion
stitches are sometimes called long French knots from the
similarity in working the two stitches. Bullion stitch is used
where an elongated French-knot effect is desired. Grouped, in
fact wrapped, closely round each other, several bullion stitches
make an effective small raised rosebud and are often used in
The above mentioned stitches were used in a variety of ways in
former times to embellish household linen. Monograms are made
with padded satin stitching. Whitework is white embroidery on a
white background fabric. This is also called white-on-white
work. Satin stitches and padded satin stitches are usually used
on Arts and Crafts linens. These pieces have their edges
finished with buttonhole stitches. Southern Belle embroidered
pieces often have French knots in the flower gardens surrounding
The name Turkey Red embroidery or Antique Redwork evolved from
the mid-1800's when the first true red aniline dyes were
introduced. Linen fabric (the ground) was embellished with
different scenes and designs in a distinctive bright red color.
They caused a sensation and were a huge fad. The dyes originated
in Turkey, hence the name Turkey Red. Every household that could
afford it had a damask tablecloth, a show towel, or pillow sham
that was embroidered with the wonderful new threads. These items
are highly sought after today.
Although there are many ways to decorate linen to make it
beautiful, embroidery is a common and popular way to accomplish
this goal. Many other manipulations on linen exist such as
cutwork, drawnwork, applique, knitting, crochet, knotting, and
lace making, but that is the material for another day.
We invite you to visit Debora's shop: Heirloom Linens By D.
JANUARY EDITOR'S PICK: TEMPUS FUGIT
This month's fabulous item can be found at: Gordon S. Converse &
Like most of the ancient world, early Mediterranean
civilizations utilized the changing of the seasons to help them
mark the passage of time. But the concept of time, itself, was
long associated with the corn god 'The Sower.' Saturn (Cronus
to the Greeks), as the Sower, ruled the pantheon of Roman Gods
prior to Jupiter. Aspects of the way Saturn was depicted in art
and statuary, with sickle or scythe and often accompanied by an
hourglass, were intended to be symbolic of the flow of time,
which leads inexorably to new beginnings. The old is eventually
harvested, cut down, and yields to new growth. The temple of
Saturn along the road to Rome once held a statue to represent
the god who controlled Time to his worshipers. It was the
figure of a bearded old man, holding a scythe.
A clock that has stopped can be re-wound and re-set and the mark
of hours begins again. But, Saturn's hourglass is the most
suggestive of modern scientific theories concerning the true
nature of time. Invert an hourglass and hours that seemed to
have passed could be regained. Because we tend to observe time
with a linear sense, no differently than did our ancestors, and
connect it to the changes we see in the world around us, and in
ourselves, time for us appears to move - to 'pass.' But, some
of today's scientists suggest it doesn't really travel anywhere.
If true, this could mean that everything that has ever happened
in the history of the world is still going on, continuing to
exist in perpetuity as threads caught in the many-layered fabric
of Time. This theory would imply that if you joined with
friends to celebrate the arrival of the New Year, the
celebration isn't now just another memory. That party may never
We wish everyone a prosperous and joyful 2006!
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