NewslettersRuby Lane's newsletters are designed to celebrate the antiques and art, vintage collectibles and jewelry communities around the world. Our Past Times newsletter focuses on antiques and collectibles. Our Creative Hands newsletter celebrates fine art and handcrafted jewelry on Ruby Lane. Our shop owners are frequent article contributors, sharing their expertise and their passions for the items they collect and create. Enjoy!
Subscribe Now to our Newsletters
Past Times Newsletter - June 2001
The monthly newsletter from Ruby Lane Antiques, Collectibles,
and Fine Art ... and now Arts & Crafts
Welcome to Past Times!
IN THIS ISSUE:
o COLLECTING YOUR HOMETOWN HISTORY By Kenneth Gloss of The
Journal of Antiques and Collectibles
o The Ruby Lane SOLD shop is now open
o The Ruby Lane Logo Store is now open too!
COLLECTING YOUR HOMETOWN HISTORY BY KENNETH GLOSS
OF THE JOURNAL OF ANTIQUES AND COLLECTIBLES
People who collect books are often the same ones who have a love
of history. Often it is this appreciation for the past, either
of countries, events or of themselves, that compels them to
begin their collection. The country's bicentennial celebration
in 1976, followed by the mini-series Roots, based on Alex
Haley's novel of the same name, inspired a great many people to
discover their own personal history. As people realized their
family's story was intertwined with that of the place they
called home, historical associations received unprecedented
donations, which allowed them to publish updated histories of
local towns and regions. This fascination with the history of
place is still strong today, and for the most part, you can
collect a lot of town history without spending a lot of money.
Town histories first began to appear around the turn of the
century. Most books from this time period fall within the $50 -
$100 range, although it may be higher depending on who wrote it
and which town it is about. Most of the places that had
histories compiled about them were suburban towns with
relatively small populations, so the number of books printed was
also small. Today's urban sprawl has greatly increased the
population calling these towns home, making the number of people
interested in these histories much greater than the number of
In the 1870s, big town and country atlases were produced,
usually for insurance and real estate purposes. These atlases
were very detailed, literally showing every street and the names
of every property owner in each town. You can pinpoint where a
person lived and get a good idea of what the neighborhood was
like. If you collect a series of atlases from consecutive years,
it's possible to watch how one tract of land that began as a
farm is methodically subdivided into single home plots and
streets. These maps also make great housewarming presents. You
can give a homeowner an idea of what their property looked like
100 years ago or how their town has progressed through the
Town histories are often a compilation of a broad range of data
which all work together to fill in a picture of what it was like
to live in that place during a particular time. Diaries can be
of great value in this area. While some diaries contain little
more than notations of what the weather was like on a particular
day, others can add vivid details to a local history. Most towns
have some famous or prominent resident who kept a diary, but
sometimes locating the diary of an ordinary person is really
more helpful in getting a picture of daily life in that town.
Average people live the common experiences of day-to-day life,
while famous people are often caught up in bigger events, which
don't represent the reality of the general populace at the time.
Financial records can also prove quite illuminating. Account
books and tax records of different merchants, hotels and
businesses can hold a lot of interesting information, from what
the prices of different items were at that time, to who was
extended credit and who wasn't. Account books from professionals
like the cobbler, blacksmith or doctor are the most interesting,
because they are less common than account books from the general
store. When you start putting written histories and diaries and
other records together you are getting a more complete history
of a town than if you just rely on a single history book.
What can really set your collection apart and add value to it is
photographs of the town. The most valuable photographs show the
streets, houses, and town gatherings. They show what buildings
were there, how people dressed, and what model cars were
popular. Many times the real subject of a photograph is a
person, but the town scene in the background is more interesting
than what the photographer originally intended to capture.
Family portraits are valuable in a historical sense only if the
subjects are identified, for then they can provide a face to go
with the names you find in diaries or letters. Photographs will
run anywhere from $10 or $20 to a few hundred dollars. Old
postcards, which often were of scenic areas of town, cost
anywhere from $1 to $5.
Many collectors discover that collecting the history of one town
leads them right into collecting the history of towns that are
nearby. Others begin collecting books related to historical
figures from their town. Still others will become collectors of
documents related to a particular industry that was important to
the town, such as coal mines or oil refineries or steel mills.
There is so much that contributes to the development of any
given place that town histories can really lead into a lot of
other interesting and collectible areas.
The number of books available to a town history collector and
the prices they bring will vary greatly depending on the town in
question. Collectors focusing on Boston, for example, will find
thousands of books to choose from, some of which cost a great
deal of money. Collecting histories of smaller towns will
probably not be as expensive, but it may require more
persistence to locate the resources you need. As you search for
books and other documents in large or small towns, you'll often
develop a relationship with the local historical society and
librarian. These friendships are a nice bonus on top of anything
you might find to add to your collection. Collecting town
histories, diaries and photographs is a wonderful way to
discover the history of your family, your house, or your town.
Whether your love of history leads you into book collecting or
vice versa, town histories are interesting, fun, and reasonably
Ken Gloss is the owner of the Brattle Book Shop in Boston,
Massachusetts, the oldest antiquarian bookstore in the United
For the complete article with many full color photos please
visit The Journal of Antiques.
Ever wonder what's selling on Ruby Lane? Well now you can view
what the hundreds of Ruby Lane shop owners have been selling
Browse around the Ruby Lane Sold Shop today!
Want some cool Ruby Lane memorabilia? The new Ruby Lane Logo
Store has great products to use and wear yourself, or give them
as gifts. Take a look in The Ruby Lane Logo Store today!
We are one of the largest and hottest Internet-only web sites
for collectors. We have a community of hundreds of shops from
all over the world offering antiques, fine art, arts & crafts,
and collectibles. Our site indexes only quality inventory in
over 2,000 categories. We feature a Global Search Engine, which
searches all inventories in a particular category from Ruby Lane
shops and various online auctions and malls. Visit us at
If you have a suggestion on how Ruby Lane can better serve you,
or if you have an article you would like to submit or a subject
you would like us to cover in an upcoming issue, contact us at
Past Times is an opt-in email newsletter with over 57,000
subscribers and growing. Advertising inquiries are welcome!
For previous newsletters, view the Past Times Archives.
Subscribe Now to our Newsletters
© 1998-2013 Ruby Lane Inc. ® All Rights Reserved.
Press the Back button on your browser to return to the previous screen.