Sunday, January 11, 2015

321. Nurse, I Need To Go!: PORCELAIN BEDPAN

One of the oddest things I found in my scrounging expeditions was this porcelain bedpan, in pristine condition. It is clearly an old piece, and a quick online search yielded a bit of info about this vintage hospital collectible that has the potential to become a "conversation piece". 
The slipper bed pan is passed under the patient in front, between the legs, and comes with a handle for easy retrieval. 
The British maker, S. Maw Son & Sons, was active from 1860s-75 as a medical instrument manufacturer in London England. The firm was renamed S. Maw, Son and Sons after 1918, which dates this bedpan from 1918-1920s. By 1940, the company evolved into Maws Pharmacy Supplies Ltd., based in Barnet, England. Hospital collectibles are not exactly hot items purused by private collectors--but I'll make an exception this case--as I may someday make use of it!!

Monday, January 5, 2015

320. Cheap but Charming: CELLULOID DOLLS

The invention of "celluloid" -- a kind of plastic created from wood prpducts in 1863--put an end to breakable dolls of china, bisque and porcelain.It was a popular material for a wide range of manufactured items---such as jewelry, fashion accessories, and of course, dolls. Beginning in the 1930s cheap dolls were moulded from this new plastic, and these small examples--no more than 3 inches in height--attest to the versatility of the material. These souvenir dolls representing natives of countries around teh world, date from the 50s/60s, and they were all old store stock. They are strung with elastic, and many come complete with moving, googlie eyes.
Dolls such as these were also given away as party favors, or as prizes in fiesta events. Some made great cake toppers. They made great collectibles for kids who aimed to complete their "nations of the world costume collection" with every purchase. Some of these dolls that you see here, are dressed also as harlequins and carnival waifs.  Celluloid, however, was not the perfect plastic, since it is flammable and deteriorates easily if exposed to moisture, also prone to cracking and yellowing. Nevertheless, toymakers capitalized on the new material, by mass-producing charming items that never fail to delight kids--just like these mid-century dollies, who ontinue to find favor among toy collectors!

Thursday, December 25, 2014


Now here's a tiny trinket box--with dimensions of just  4 in. x 6 in. x 2.5 in.--made of narra, decorated with a relief carving of a farmer taking rest under a mango tree from his day's toil. Across the dirst road stands his nipa hut, shaded by a coconut tree, and flanked by a haystack. Looming in the horizon is a mountain. Souvenir carvings bearing Filipiniana motifs such as this were much in demand by tourists--and this box was especially made to cater to such market. Handicraft centers in Manila, as well as in Pampanga (for the U.S. market ) thrived till the 70s--offering similar items as monkeypod carvings, wall plaques (featuring farmers, dancers), ethnic busts, carved Filipinana chests (our versions of camphor chests) as well as lazy Susans. Today, a few shops exists, selling cottage industry products along the streets of Ermita, and in Angeles City, Pampanga--but the quality has really matched those made in the 50s, when even small items such as this trinket box, were handcarved with fine details, and finished so handsomely.

Sunday, December 14, 2014


In the U.S. one hot collectible field is Railroadiana--which refers to artifacts or items of current as well as defunct railways no longer in operation.This very rare specimen-- a small milk pitcher from the Manila Railroad Company is one such example. Passengers were served hot meals and drinks by uniformed railway staff, using tableware--plates, coffee cups, saucers-- bearing the MR logo. This surviving piece from the 30s, was offered by by a Manila collectible shop and it took little convincing for me to acquire it, as it's not only unique, but is also full of history.

The Manila Railroad Company was one of the largest domestic corporations in the Philippines from 1917 -1940's which the Philippine Government acquired in 8 Jan. 1917. Its railway lines totaled 1,140.5 in 1941, located in Luzon.  The lines extended from San Fernando, La Union, in the north, to Legaspi, Albay, in the south. The more important branches are the Paniqui-San Quintin, Tarlac-San Jose, Bigaa-Cabanatuan, San Fernando-Carmen, Calamba-Batangas, and College-Pagsanjan. The company was taken over by the U.S. military during World War II, to be used for the defense of the Philippines. The Manila Railroad Co., suffered irreparable losses from which it has never recovered, thus ending its operations.

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Time was when the Philippines was the largest exporter of Manila rope, made of abaca hemp. The country became world-famous for this prized product and one of the first companies to establish a rope business was the Manila Cordage Company which started as a subsidiary of Tubbs Cordage Company of San Francisco on February 20, 1924, Manila Cordage Company, a subsidiary of Tubbs Cordage Company of San Francisco, began operations at the junction of Cristobal and Otis streets in Paco, which had easy access to the Pasig. Its basic raw material was abaca, also known as Manila hemp, which by then was a much sought after commodity in North America.
It  began operations at the junction of Cristobal and Otis streets in Paco, which had an easy access to the Pasig River. Manila Cordage made ropes of all sorts from abaca, which was to be known worldwide as Manila hemp, a much sought after commodity in North America in the 20s-50s decades.
As the company grew, Manila Cordage marketing became more sophisticated, and by the early 50s, it produced merchandising materials and selling aids such as this tin sign that featured a range of products with their special specifications and dimensions. Signs such as this were given to hardware shops and provincial distributors (in this case, J. Rodriguez of Cagayan) to facilite the ordering of the products. It measures 10 in. x 22 in, and is backed by a thick cardboard. 
The invention of synthetic ropes put a dent on the Manila rope business, but the products remained important as they are eco-friendly, and they are specially required by certain businesses like oil drilling and construction. To this day, the Manila Cordage Co. is still a flourishing business with its facilities located in a world-class industrial hub ensuring a future for the rope that made Manila famous!

Thursday, November 13, 2014


A pair of Filipiniana paintings depicting Lapu-Lapu, the hero of Mactan and his wife, Bulakna--or so that's how the dealer described them to me. These mid-century 18 x 22" paintings, painted by artist Rodolfo Pasno, dates from 1957--and they were obtained online--in a facebook group, of all places. Pasno was a noted Mabini painter, active from the 50s thru the 70s, in a shop at the famed Pistang Pilipino.
They were sold in stretchers, with few chips and scratches. At some point, someone painted over the background, but that doesn't detract from the portraits that express so much of the character of the country's first hero and his voluptuous wife. I had them re-stretched, re-framed and cleaned, so now they're ready to hang happy I could sing! "In March 16, fifteen hundred and  hundred twenty one, when Philippines was discovered by Magellan..."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

315. The Russian From U.N.C.L.E.: ILYA KURYAKIN SPY DOLL

One of my fave TV programs from the 60s boomer years was The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) , broadcast on NBC from 1964-1968. It follows secret agents Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn)  and Russian Ilya Kuryakin) fighting its chief adversary, the agents of THRUSH  (Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity). Solo and Kuryakin's popularity resulted in the creation of  11.5 in. vinyl "spy dolls" made in 1965 by Gilbert of Japan. In its perfect condition, Ilya would have come with a pistol, pocket insignia and a mechanical arm. Conceived originally conceived as a minor character, Kuryakin, became an indispensable part of the show, achieving co-star status with the show’s lead. McCallum’s blond good looks and the enigmatic persona he created for the character garnered him a huge following of female fans, leaving them weak-kneed and crying--Uncle!