This past weekend the village of South Jacksonville, Illinois came alive to celebrate the 47th Annual Prairie Land Heritage Museum Steam Show and Fall Festival Days. Flea market and antique vendors from across the country set up to sell their wares. They were joined by food vendors, artisan craftsmen (and women), tractor enthusiasts and period re-enactors. All of these folks came together in the spirit of the past to bring a little of that past into the 21st century.
For most of my life, I have resisted the idea of collecting antiques or trinkets of any type. In all honesty, I have always accumulated items that are useful and have a purpose or function in the present day. (Sewing books and supplies, gardening and herb tools, plants and books, cookbooks, etc.) I have even found myself involved with accumulating items to add to family heirloom collections. But I was not one to collect items just for the fun of it. It seemed to me that the items always needed to be dusted and/or cared for. They also took up much needed space in our small house. My husband, on the other hand, loves collecting. Most notably his favorite collection category is Allis Chalmers. He collects almost every true orange item he can find. He also enjoys antique tools and household tools, farm tools, military items, roadrunner items, etc. We have gone ‘antiquing’ together several times a year for 27+ years but I just never understood the attraction…until recently that is.
Recently I have started to view antiques as a way to connect the lives of our ancestors (and others from the past) with our own. As a person who loves people and had a double major of Sociology and Social Work in college, I have always been interested in studying and learning from people. Now it seems I have fallen in love with how antiques can enhance and have enhanced everyday lives. Take the Victorian Era for example. During the Victorian Era (1837-1901), women did not work outside the home. They also did not have electricity and had to perform all household tasks without the aid of machines or power-generated light. This meant that their days were consumed with completing the basic chores needed to keep their family members fed, clothed, and cared for. All of this during daylight hours or by kerosene lantern. (Think about how you feel whenever a power outage occurs for a short time only!) Even so, they still knew the importance of pursuing creative handcrafts to add a touch of class to their homes. In fact today, the Victorian Era is well-known for the feminine touches that women contributed to their households. Things like fragrant flower and herbal nosegays, roses, lace, ribbons and parlors are now symbolic of this period. Whenever I look at an antique handcrafted item, I can now almost picture the lady of the house investing hours of time and love into it’s creation.
I am also highly interested in antique household ‘tools’. Things like wooden wash boards and wringer washers. Can you imagine hand-scrubbing all of your family’s clothing and linens on a wooden board in a large wash tub? Just cleaning a blanket or quilt had to take hours to complete. Then it still needed to be hung to dry in the sunshine as clothes dryers had yet to be invented! Needless-to-say, women were undoubtedly thrilled when the wringer washer became affordable for the average household. Yet even these machines were hand-cranked! Families were also much larger in the past and all of the clothing needed to be washed and dried.
Antiques to me now offer a glimpse into the lives of women and men of the past. Festivals like the Prairie Land Steam Show demonstrate how these items were actually used by everyday people. They also offer attendees a chance to hunt for (and possibly purchase) a piece of that history as a flea market find. A priceless trip back in time!
Are you looking for a place to find the perfect item from the past that is is open year round? Then check out The Peddlers’ Antique and Home Decor Shoppe, 1847 South Main, South Jacksonville, Ill. They are open 6 days a week for your convenience. While you are there, look for The Simple Heart of Life booth and travel back in time with us!