Collecting "Firsts"

If I told you I paid twenty dollars for old canned tomatoes, you'd assume I was a nut. Suppose, however, the label on the can I purchased pictured tomatoes against a blue background and read "Messrs Reckhow & Larne of New York?"   Such a can would be identical to the oldest advertising labeled canned good found to date - an 1860 example discovered in an old house in Indiana. That might cause your opinion of me to change; providing I didn't eat the tomatoes.

Concerning antiques, pioneer examples of just about everything that has ever been made, will fetch a good price to the right collector. For instance, to the executives at Scott Paper an 1871 roll of toilet paper would be akin to King Arthur's discovery of the Holy Grail. Knowing this, I've had my eyes open for a reference that cataloged when things were invented. It was marked three dollars when I came upon it a tag sale last week. I bought it for two. Here's a few "Firsts" that caught my eye in "Book of Firsts" by Patrick Robertson .

1.   Blue Jeans - Invented by Bavarian immigrant Levi Strauss in 1850. Strauss's  sturdy riveted trousers were snapped up by hard-on-their-pants' miners at $13.50 a dozen during San Francisco's Gold Rush years.

2.   Lion Tamer - "Manchester Jack" performed in Europe in 1835 with Wombwell's Menagerie traveling show. Jack would sit on the back of an aged Lion named Nero.

3.   Motor Cycle - Patented 1885 in Germany.

4.   The first Ocean Liner - operating on a fixed schedule was the  "James Monroe." It first sailed out of New York harbor in 1818 carrying 8 passengers, luxurious furnishings, and small farm of cows, pigs, sheep and hens to provide the voyagers with fresh meat, milk and eggs.

5.   Commercially Successful Photographic Process - Introduced in 1839 by Louis J. M. Daguerre. The first marketed camera was manufactured that same year by Alphonse Giroux in Paris.

6.   Radio Broadcast Receiving Sets - Produced in kit form by the Radio Telephone Co of New York in 1910. The first widely marked house-ready radios were manufactured by Chelmsford, England's Marconi Company in 1922.

7.   Four Wheeled Roller Skates - patented by James Plimpton, NY, 1863. A roller skating craze would sweep America and Europe a few years later.

8.   Safety Razor with Disposable Blades - Patented 1901 by King Camp Gillette.

9.   Television - advertised as a $75 kit in July 1928 issue of "Television" magazine by the Daven Corporation of Newark, NJ.  The following year W.C. Rawls & Co of Norfolk, VA marketed a $295 large screen low resolution set. High definition television programming began in 1935.

10.   Typewriter - The first typewriter commercially produced was the Danish "Skrivekugle" (Writing Ball) invented by Pastor Malling Hansen in 1870. The Hansen machine weighed 165 lbs.,, had 52 keys, and sold for $100. The first successful electric typewriter was the Blickensderfer Electric of 1902. Its success was limited by the fact that few offices were wired for electricity.

11.   The first African American author to publish a book in English - Phillis Wheatley (a slave) "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, 1773.

12.   Barbed Wire - patented by Lucien B. Smith, Kent Ohio, 1867.

13.   Breakfast Cereal - packed as ready to eat was "Shredded Wheat" produced by Henry D. Perky, Denver, Colorado, 1893.

14.   The First publication of the "Waterbury American" newspaper, which would become the "Waterbury Republican-American" in 1881, December 14, 1844.

Keep your eyes open for old Levis's and other pioneer products.

Wayne Mattox Antiques | 82 Main Street North | Woodbury, CT 06798 | 203-263-2899 |
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