In This Issue:

  • Going Crackers: Making Christmas go off with a bang
  • Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections
  • Holiday Magic: Legendary Toy Trains
  • Christmas at Oatlands: A Virginia Treasure

And much more…


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In My Opinion

Millennial Musings

John Fiske 

John Fiske

John Fiske

I’ve read a couple of pieces recently about how Millennials think about furniture. They both contain bad news for those of us who want to sell antique furniture to younger people. Basically, they are telling us “Fruitless enterprise!”

Millennials, apparently, have little interest in owning anything; indeed market researchers call them “NOwners.” A start up called Furlenco (Furniture Lending Co., get it?) has just raised $30 million to rent furniture to them. Furlenco recites the now familiar refrain that Millennials prefer experience to things. Millennials travel a lot and change jobs, so ownership’s impractical.


Going Crackers: Making Christmas go off with a bang

Judith Dunn
Images courtesy of the Antique Collectors’ Club, unless otherwise noted.

cc07Did Tom Smith really hit on a cracking idea when startled by a spitting log? Or was it, more prosaically, one Hovell of Holborn, London, who arrived at it scientifically? Or even an Italian chemist? Whatever the truth of the matter, it was Tom Smith who first exploited the invention with dramatic success. And crackers still make Christmas fizz with excitement a century and a half later. OK, let’s abandon the explosive puns (as corny as those inside some of the crackers) and take a look at the history.


Beyond Words: Illuminated manuscripts in Boston collections

Brian Roche

ill-6If you have preconceived notions of about art from the Middle Ages being a little stiff, overly stylized, super religious and lacking in perspective…. well, you just may need to change your perspective. Prepare to be blown away by a multi-venue exhibition featuring a millennium of illuminated manuscripts. Yes, many of these works are somewhat stilted, stylized, symbolic and lacking in perspective; but those turn out to be all positive attributes when viewing these masterworks in person. Medieval art is not just a primitive precursor to the Renaissance, but a highly refined art and craft of its own (like Egyptian or Greek art at its prime), perfectly suited to its time and beliefs. Many of the pages on display are perfect blends of writing, drawing, decoration, color and content.


Holiday Magic: Legendary toy trains

Jan Fiore
All images courtesy of Bertoia Auctions

trains-1Toy trains have been around since the beginning of the railroads, but it wasn’t until department store owners used them in Christmas window displays in the 1920s that their popularity exploded, and generations of Americans became entranced by their possibilities. Thousands of children dreamed of finding a train set waiting under the Christmas tree, providing them with a miniature universe they could operate by themselves, or with a little help from dad.


Christmas at Oatlands: A Virginian treasure

o-8Barbara Miller Beem

In some places, the air is balmy, the sun shines brightly, and orange and palm trees sway, even at Christmastime. Up north, the “treetops glisten and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow.” But somewhere in the middle is a place where elegance and tradition combine in a genteel Southern setting, where it is possible to enjoy a picture-perfect winter holiday without the inconvenience of snowdrifts and blocked roads.


Yours Sincerely

John Fiske


Two days ago, the Massachusetts Turnpike changed to electronic tolling only – a fact that will interest almost nobody except me, because I drive the Pike regularly between my home in Ipswich and the NEAJ offices in Palmer. But it did get me thinking about roads.




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