Why we collect

I think most Americans have a need to collect things. What we collect depends on our life experiences, knowledge, and our interests. The photo with this article is of two hand-blown glass eggs in my collection. In the old days, these eggs were common.

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Hand-blown glass eggs. Photo by Ron Patch

Over the years, I have collected things I found interesting. The other day I was sorting some stuff in boxes when I found the two hand-blown glass eggs you see. Glass eggs you say? I stopped to see Mike at Erskine’s Feed Store here in Chester to see what was available in this line today and to ask Mike the purpose of these eggs.

Mike showed me some new ceramic eggs that are brown in color. I picked one up and was impressed with the quality, the feel, and color.

Mike explained to me how hens need to be trained as to where to lay their eggs. If you had a dozen chickens, you would have three or four nesting boxes for the chickens to lay their eggs in.

Hens left to wander free in your yard could lay an egg anywhere. I remember back in the 1970s when I owned the brick house on Route 103, I kept a few laying hens. I fixed up one end of the barn for the hens.

They had a place to roost at night but could wander around the yard during the day. I had bought chicks in the spring from Erskine’s and by fall these pullets should start laying. Well, I wasn’t getting any eggs.

A neighbor, Carroll Fontaine, in lower Bartsonsville told me I needed to place one or two of these glass eggs in the nesting boxes so the hens would catch on. Boy it didn’t take long for me to get eggs. It was later when I was walking through tall grass that I discovered where the hens had been laying their eggs. I found clusters of three to five eggs hidden in the tall grass everywhere.

It was my parents’ generation who collected antiques in the 1950s and1960s. Their generation appreciated antiques and the history they held. They became very knowledgeable about antiques. Most of these collectors are now gone. With them went a lot of knowledge.

These eggs are hand-blown and are milk glass. You can see in the end of the eggs where they were broken off the glassmaker’s blowpipe creating a “pontil.” Each egg is one of a kind whether it be the pontil or the size and shape of the egg that differs. Being hand-blown, size and shape will vary.

My parents’ generation would have six or more of these glass eggs in a small basket or bowl on the table as a centerpiece. Visitors to their home for dinner would sit in antique chairs at the harvest table surrounded by antiques. Someone would always ask about the eggs. The collector knew the history of these glass eggs and was happy to share with the guest.

As these eggs were being explained, the guest fondled the egg, finding it difficult to put down. A glass egg looks and feels remarkably like a real egg. Closer examination reveals swirls in the glass caused by the glassblower turning his blowpipe.

As to how it feels to hold a glass egg: There is an obvious weight. The glass is cool to touch, silky smooth, and feels very much like a real eggshell. It was in the 19th century when these eggs came into wide use. They were used well into the 20th century.

I’m going to buy one or two of the brown ceramic eggs Erskine’s have for sale. Then I’ll put them in a small bowl with my glass eggs to replicate how the old collectors used to display them. They are very modern in design so they would fit in any home.

Today, young people have no interest in this old stuff so prices have plummeted. It’s my opinion that if young people were properly introduced to our history and these artifacts, some would come around to collecting. Collecting is in the DNA of us as Americans.

  This week’s old saying. One night 40 years ago, I was downstairs of Penelope’s in Springfield when I got into a conversation with a salesman from Fellows. We got to discussing ways we could use “egg” in a word. Eggsample: Eggzillarating, eggzeptional, eggsasperating, and so on. It was entertaining for a few minutes. I think his name was Dave.

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