Umbrellas were invented over 4,000 years ago in China. They were used for protection from sun, not rain. Umbrellas became fashionable in the 16th century, when women made use of umbrellas for sun and sometimes for rain. There were few waterproof coverings, and the hoodie wasn’t created until the 20th century.
Umbrellas were hard to store, but they were useful and needed. Large Victorian houses had an entrance hall and a new piece of furniture, the hall tree, was created. It was a tall mirror with a decorative frame with hooks to hold coats, hats, boots and wet or dry umbrellas.
Designers made vases, wire cages and other imaginative holders, shaped like people, animals, tree stumps and more, to store umbrellas. Most were made of iron or ceramics.
The most elaborate wooden stands included carved bears, while those made of cast iron were often statues of famous royalty, military men or representations of nature.
Eldred’s Auctions recently sold an unusual umbrella stand. It was cast iron, a platform topped by two griffins holding a higher platform with anchors and a 4-foot-high statue of a man in military uniform. He had a folded jacket sleeve in place of his right arm, shoulder epaulets, medals and a tricorne hat suggesting a high-ranking naval hero.
Horatio Lord Nelson, a famous British admiral, lost his right arm as well as an eye from combat injuries, but still led the English navy to defeat Napoleon’s navy and change history. Nelson died in 1805. Although he was married, he had a scandalous affair with Lady Hamilton, who was also married. It was well-known and is mentioned in many history books as one of the great romances.
This Victorian painted iron umbrella holder depicting Admiral Nelson sold for $600. The white bar in front of the admiral keeps the umbrella upright.
What is a firkin? I keep seeing them listed in antiques auctions.
A firkin is a cask for ale or beer. It held a quarter of an imperial barrel of beer, a little more than a quarter of a U.S. barrel. Firkins were originally made of wooden staves held together by iron hoops.
Modern breweries use stainless steel or aluminum containers. The firkins in antiques sales are probably made of wood and more than 100 years old.
Jewelry, necklace, pendant, rhinestones, shades of blue, oval center stone, smaller stones surround, silver link chain, Schreiner, c. 1960, pendant, 2 inches, $280.
Advertising clock, Ringling Bros. Circus, Next Free Show, paint on board, stylized sun, rainbow band, white arrow hands, 1960s, 24 x 24 inches, $500.
Cut glass punch bowl, Champion pattern by J. Hoare, notched & scalloped rim, full cut skirted base, American Brilliant Period, 12 x 12 inches, $805.
Tip: Is it cut or pressed glass? Feel the edges of the design on the glass. Cut glass has sharp edges; pressed-glass designs are molded into the glass.