Category Archives: North Carolina

Shopping with the Vintage Traveler: Hendersonville, NC

I recently had business in Hendersonville, but that suited me because there are lots of great vintage shops in that area.  I was on a tight schedule, and so I was only able to stop at two places, but there was a lot of great stuff to see and talk about.

One thing I can say for certain, in the first three decades of the twentieth century they really knew how to sell a book.  I’m talking about the fantastic covers.  Just look at Peg o’ My Heart above.  I’d have bought that book based on the little scruffy dog alone, not to mention Peg and her little bag.

Or what about Peacock Feathers, with that super Coles Phillips illustration?  I am always on the lookout for pictures of women wearing pants in the forest.  But it has been pretty much my experience that when it comes to mass market books of that era, you just can’t judge the book by its cover.  It leads to great disappointment.

Someone assembled a lovely scrapbook filled with illustrations like this farm girl.  Behind it you can see a wallpaper sample.  It was full of loveliness, but then when I turned to look at the cover I saw that the book was originally a 1910 tailoring book of wool fabric samples and drawings of the suggested suits.

My guess is that these are bicycling boots.  The heels are a bit high for hiking, though they could have served that purpose as well.

I don’t see a lot of these patio sets here in the East.  They were made to sell to tourists visiting the Southwest, but I have a feeling that the ones purchased didn’t get a lot of wear.   They border on costume, being based on the tightly pleated skirts of Navajo women.  They were even called squaw dresses during the time, though that term is not used much these days due to the idea that some consider the word to be offensive.

Here’s the label, with a great thunderbird motif.

Of course I had to photograph these Scottie twins.

Here’s a wooden handbag that was trying to cash in on the popularity of the Enid Collins bags.  This one is not signed in any way.  I love the 1960s version of nostalgia, with all its quaintness.  Make sure you note the doggie in the basket.

I do not need to take up another craft, but I’d almost learn to knit in order to have a pair of those beer socks.

There are quilt historians who claim that quilt makers invented modern art.  This quilt is an excellent argument in their favor.

Here’s proof that there are still bargains to be found in antique stores.  This silk teddy from the 1920s was unworn and perfect, and only twelve dollars.

I’m sorry about the quality of this photo, but look carefully to see how this velveteen handbag is shaped using folds.  And what about that clasp?  It almost looks like a pair of lips.

And finally, a 1940s photographer gets all artsy.


Filed under North Carolina, Shopping

Liberty Antiques Festival – Fall 2015

For ten years I’ve been going to the Liberty Antiques Festival.  I’ve always gone by myself, leaving my husband, Tim, at home with the dog.  But we are now dogless, our dear little terrier having left us after over eighteen years, and so Tim decided to see what it is that is so interesting that I have to go twice a year to a field that is literally in the middle of nowhere.

Unfortunately, the weather was dismal, with rain alternating with more rain, and so we spent a wet morning trying to visit all the vendors who were huddled under their tents in an effort to keep their treasures dry.  Still we had a really good time, and we both kept a sense of humor about the day, especially with so many great things to see.

The Ideal Velveteen illustration was a store counter ad that someone framed.  It was so pretty.

This booth is vintage handbag heaven.

One seller had several dozen feedsacks.  I love looking at them, trying to find unusual designs and novelty prints.  The one on the far right caught my eye.

How great is that?

I guess that this is proof that fashion has been used to sell almost anything!

I fell head over heels for this tea towel with Scotties.

There were few fashion magazines this time, but it seems like I always find something to stop and study.

Which is better, the hair tonic and head rub sign, or the doll hospital cut-out sign?

These adorable little children’s dresses were tempting.  I can’t help thinking that they were made for twins.

I suppose this is a Southwestern Native American souvenir piece, Navajo perhaps.

I could not help but imagine all the great stuff that had to have passed under that sporting goods sign.


Filed under North Carolina, Shopping

Greensboro Historical Museum

We spent a pleasant afternoon at the Greensboro Historical Museum, which is a lot more than just the holder of that fantastic Dolley Madison collection.  I’ve been to a lot of museums, big and small, and I’ve found that the measure of a good one is how it tells the story it sets out to tell.  In this case, it is easy; the story is the history of the City of Greensboro and the surrounding area.  And this little museum has a very good exhibition that tells that story with artifacts and interactive displays.

I always tend to focus in on the parts that tell women’s history and the history of textiles and clothing.  Above are pictured artifacts from the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina.  Founded as a normal school in 1891, WC is now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  At one time it was the largest college for women in the country.  Men were admitted starting in 1963.  My friend Carole who attended Women’s College before the name change still refers to UNC-G by the old name.

North Carolina is historically known for textiles, and Greensboro in particular is known for the production of denim.  There were interesting displays showing the large producers of the area – Blue Bell, the maker of Wrangler jeans, and Cone Mills, maker of denim fabric.

Considering the importance of textiles to the growth of Greensboro, I’d have expected a bit more about the industry.  But though the exhibit was small, there were lots of interesting things to see, and I learned a bit more about Cone.

There was a display on mill towns which included some photos and quotes about how children and education were valued.  Some mills provided kindergartens for the workers’ children.

On one floor the museum has set up a replica of some of the old town that has historical significance.  Writer O. Henry was a native of Greensboro, and he worked at a drugstore that was owned by an uncle.  He became a licensed pharmacist, a skill that helped him years later when he was imprisoned for embezzlement.  He was able to work in the prison hospital, away from the general prison population.

I can imagine that school groups really like this little town vignette, as it is a bit like going back in time.  There is also a hotel and a school with all sorts of things to explore.

There were a few exhibits that were a bit puzzling.  There was a room full of pottery from the Jugtown potters, which is not located in nor associated with Greensboro.  They also have a huge collection of Civil War guns that was exhibited in a very large area that prominently  displayed the names and portraits of the collectors.  Even my husband, who has a great interest in old firearms, admitted that it was gun overload.

I don’t know the circumstances of these items in the museum’s holdings, but one thing that many museums have to grapple with is the way their collections fit in with their mission statement.  I know that it must be difficult to say no to a donor, especially one who is also willing to donate money, but in this day and time when museums have moved beyond being mere cabinets of curiosities, it is important to stick to the purpose of the institution.  Personally, I’d have liked to see more of the Dolley Madison collection and less of the firearms.

As much as I love the great museums I’ve visited, I can’t say enough about the value of a museum like this one.  All places are unique, with interesting people and stories that need to be heard.  I urge you to seek out the small museums in your area and support them.



Filed under Museums, North Carolina

Dolley Madison’s Red Velvet Dress

This past week my husband and I traveled to Greensboro, North Carolina, for a bit of vintage shopping and to visit the Greensboro Historical Museum.  I’ll write more about the museum later because today I want to focus on one particular exhibit – that showing some personal items of First Lady Dolley Madison.  For those of you not in the USA, Dolley was the wife of our fourth president, James Madison.  She was a very popular figure during her time in the White House, and North Carolinians are proud to claim her as a native daughter.

Dolley was born in Guilford County, near Greensboro in 1768, though her family moved to Virginia when she was a child. In 1794 she married politician James Madison who became president in 1809.  During his presidency the US and Britain went to war in the War of 1812.  Things went badly for the United States, and in 1814 the British captured Washington, DC, and burned much of the city including Dolley’s home, the White House.

In August of 1814, President Madison had left Washington, leaving Dolley in the city with orders to leave if the British got close.  When it became apparent that the city was going to fall into enemy hands, Dolley had the staff tear down the red velvet draperies, newly made from silk velvet from France.  The presidential china and silver were wrapped in the velvet to cushion them, and then a portrait of President Washington was removed and sent to New York for safekeeping.  Dolley sent the wagon containing the silver and china on to safety, and then she fled the city.  Hours later the White House burned.

Eventually the United States did win the war, and Dolley was hailed as a national heroine.  Unfortunately she was left in poverty after her husband died in 1836.  She was forced to sell the Madison plantation, Montpelier, and later, her husband’s papers, in order to survive.  She died in Washington in 1849, leaving her possessions to her son and to her niece and companion,  Anna Payne.

Several years later Dolley’s son held an auction of many of her personal items.  Anna Payne bought as many of the items as she could, which then were passed down through her family.  The last of the line was her granddaughter-in-law, who died in 1956.  After her death, a trunk containing the Dolley Madison items were found in her attic of her house in Pennsylvania.  A group of women from Greensboro who called themselves the Dolley Madison Memorial Association traveled to the auction of the granddaughter-in-law’s estate and purchased the trunk.  It and the contents were donated to the Greensboro Historical Museum in 1963.

In the trunk was a red velvet dress that dates to the 1810s.  Instead of being made of thin dressmaking velvet, the fabric is a heavy-weight fabric of the type used for draperies.  I’m sure you have figured out by now that many historians and museum workers have speculated that the dress was made from the curtains that were saved that day in August, 1814.  And it makes sense, as surely many of Dolley’s dresses were destroyed in the fire.

The problem has been in trying to prove the theory.  The DAR thought they had a scrap of the fabric from the draperies, but examination under a high-powered microscope proved that the scrap was not very worn velvet, as they had assumed, but was a satin weave.  That eliminated the possibility of comparing the two fabrics as the DAR piece could not have come from the draperies.

There is quite a bit of documentation concerning the fabric of the draperies.  We know it was red velvet from France.  We know it was saved from the fire.  We also know that Dolley held onto the dress throughout her life.  But we do not know if the dress was indeed made from the famous fabric.

The original dress. Photo copyright Smithsonian Institution

Today, the Greensboro Historical Museum no longer displays the original dress as it is much too fragile.  A reproduction was made in 1988, and the original was put into storage.  It was loaned to the Smithsonian for a special show, and when it was returned to Greensboro, it was put on display for several months.  It now rests in its specially made storage box, away from view.

Some of the original items are on view, including a pair of white satin slippers, a card case, and two glass perfume bottles.

There is a fantastic video that was made for C-SPAN, narrated by the curator at the museum, Susan Joyce Webster.  It really is so great, and has Webster showing the original dress and pointing out the details.  It’s seventeen minutes well-spent.

This dress is also a reproduction.  It came to the museum through a great niece in 1950 and was not part of the Madison treasure trunk that was found in the attic.

If you watch the video you will see just how close this treasure came to being lost.  Considering all the twists and turns of the story, it is really quite amazing that the items were found and saved.


Filed under Curiosities, Museums, North Carolina

Pollock’s Shoes, Asheville, NC

In my ongoing search for all things concerning hiking clothing, I found this ad in a 1926 issue of Everygirl’s, the Campfire Girls magazine.  I can’t resist looking at the lists of stores whenever they are a part of an ad, and I’m always interested to see if there was a store in Western North Carolina that offered the product.

In 1926 Cantilever Shoes could be bought at Pollock’s Shoes in Asheville.  I had read about Pollock’s in the great booklet, The Family Store, which tells about all the Jewish-owned businesses that could be found in Asheville in the twentieth century.  Pollock’s was owned by Lou Pollack, who according to his obituary, started the business in 1910.  In the 1920s the store was located on Patton Avenue, one of the main streets in downtown Asheville.

There have been a lot of changes on Patton Avenue, including the loss of two entire blocks to parking lots, and much of another to a modern bank building.  Almost incredibly the old Pollock’s store has survived at 39 Patton Avenue, with some distinctive brickwork that can be seen in old photos still in place today.

I was a bit surprised when I looked up one day while walking on nearby Haywood Street, to see the Pollock’s name.

By studying old city directories, which can be found online, I found that for a period of time mainly during the 1940s, there was a second Pollock’s store.  Just by looking at the decoration on the exterior of the building, my guess is that it was a posher version of the old family oriented store.

The Haywood Street Pollock’s was sandwiched between the very nice Bon Marche department store, on the left, and Woolworth’s on the right.  The Bon Marche opened in 1937, and Woolworth’s in 1938, and my guess is that the Pollock’s space dates to the same time period.

Lou Pollock was famous for having a yearly Christmas party for children who needed shoes, and he must have given away thousands of pairs over the years.  Pollock retired from his store in 1939, but the Patton Avenue store was open at least until 1956, the last year I found it listed in the city directory.

I love this kind of urban exploration.  There are little bits of the past still to be found in brick and plaster, tile and signage.  It’s all a matter of keeping one’s eyes open.


Filed under North Carolina, Shoes

Liberty Antiques Festival – Spring, 2015

I’m back in the land of the internet, but with a new hard drive and new programs, so it is taking me a while to get up to speed. I know I don’t really have to say this because you readers are all very smart, but just as a reminder, ALWAYS back up your files.

As always, The Liberty NC Antiques Festival is always worth a trip.  I love it because many of the sellers there save their best for the twice-a-year show, and I always see new things and I always learn something.  This show was a bit light on clothing and textiles, which was a shame.  I think sellers are reluctant to bring them if rain is predicted as it is held outdoors.

And while there were not a lot of textiles, there were enough fashion related items to keep me happy.  For some reason there were quite a few vintage and antique dressmaker’s dummies, and even in the early hours of the show, most of them were labeled “sold.”

I took this photo, not because these spools are special, but because it occurred to me that those of you living in a place where textiles were not manufactured might not find them to be quite as ordinary as we do here in North Carolina.  I don’t think I’ve even been to a show in the piedmont of North Carolina where there were not piles and boxes of these old spools.

Old advertising pieces often have a lot to say about fashion.  They also remind us that a pretty girl (with shapely ankles) can sell anything, including ice cream.  I liked this paper fan not only because it was local, but also because I can imagine it was given out as a freebie at a 1915 baseball game in Winston-Salem.

And there is nothing like a pretty girl in her underwear to sell corn medication.

I’m wondering how they kept those Chesterfields lit, and how she kept that hat from flying away.

Look carefully at this 1930s display and you’ll notice that the bottle of ginger ale is not part of the print, but is an actual bottle.  There is a little recess with a shelf and it is made to look like an icebox.  So clever, and quite pricey!

I guess I should have bought this great summertime picnic in the backyard print.  It was an apron.

I found this interesting scarf in a box of linens.  Can you tell that the butterfly wings are applied plastic “jewels” like were used on Enid Collins bags?   I was sure this was a Collins piece, but further investigation proved me wrong.

Vera Neumann, and an early piece at that!

The Lilly Purse by Tommy Traveler.  These were vinyl and cheap, but how cute is that display of them!

A 1920s pearl restringing outfit.

Mermaids always insist on real mother of pearl buttons.

Click to enlarge


The Parisian Dressmakers Formula by Mrs. L.M. Livingston, copyright 1876.  Note that this cost ten dollars, a lot of money in 1876.  Also note that it appears that the owner got her money’s worth, as it shows signs of being used quite a bit.  Anyone here ever used such a system?


Filed under North Carolina, Shopping

Metrolina Antiques and Collectibles Show, November 2014

On Halloween I treated myself to a visit to the big flea/show at the Charlotte Metrolina grounds.  This show is always worth a visit, and this time around there was plenty to look at – and to buy.  Above is part of the booth of my favorite seller at Metrolina.  She is always finding great things for me.  It pays to let people know what you are collecting.

Not all treasures are so well organized.  The owners of this booth had cleaned out an old store that was closed in 1965.  There was a lot of stuff, and it was cheap.  Unfortunately much of it was also stained, but that’s why I have collected magic cleaning formulas.

Most of the inventory was from the early to mid 1960s.  I found some really nice things including a harlequin patterned blouse and a matching shorts set from Glen of Michigan.

There was a great deal of underwear and stockings, much of it still in the original boxes.  I could have spent the entire day going through it all, and they did not even have it all out to display.

Another seller had piles and piles of feedsacks.

Sometimes I do get home and wonder why I did not buy a certain thing.  This drink tray fits into that category.  I did love it, but I have one tray already, and having two is getting dangerously close to a collection.

There were some terrific vintage graphic items for sale.  I loved the golfing woman on this poster for Country Club Beverages.

Dee-Light was delightful, as was their poster showing happy picnickers.

This Bruner Woolens box almost came home with me.  The price was reasonable, and the graphics were terrific with the golfing theme.  I already had a similar one from Detmer Woolens, as I gave it a pass.

This print was quite an interesting piece, mainly because of the date it was published.  Entitled Sea Bathing at Ostend (Belgium), it was printed in 1888.

I would have guessed much later, due to the skimpy swimsuit of the lady and due to her bare legs.  I’ve read that bathers in Europe were more likely to bathe bare-legged due to the prevalence of bathing machines (the little changing booth on wheels).

Here’s a basket full of display feet.  I already have some, otherwise…

Not related to the theme here, but these big plastic decorations seem to be coming on strong as a collectible.  I see a problem with storage, though.

Those looking for cowboy boots were in luck.  Many of them were in the original boxes.

And what is a good flea market without cute doggies?  This little one was showing off her new coat.

And this big sweetie was celebrating her fifth birthday by letting everyone pet her.

I’ll show off my finds in the coming weeks.



Filed under North Carolina, Shopping