Dear Lee, 
 
We are celebrating Fourth of July and the history of America with this special Americana newsletter. Yes, all of the collectibles are “Made in America,” many that reflect the politics, wars, national events, and life of the times. Madame Alexander dolls are still being made almost 100 years after she started the project in New York. Folk art by little known American artists of the 19th century is bringing high prices. Bandannas that served as ads for Presidential elections over 100 years ago are inexpensive collectibles today. Everyday pottery storage jars bring surprisingly high prices. And American originality is obvious in the furniture made by late-20th-century furniture makers. But my favorite are the jigsaw puzzles of the past and how they differ from the online puzzler of today.  
 
Looking at our article on historical campaign pieces made me think about two houses that are America’s most tangible links to our beginning history: George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, and the White House. Both these historic homes were ignored for years. Both were rescued by women who understood their value. In the case of Mount Vernon, by 1853 the last Washington descendant was gone and the stately white house on the Potomac River was in a sad state. What later became known as the Mount Vernon Ladies Association raised $200,000, and the house, now filled with much of Washington’s original furniture (fine examples of 18th-century craftmanship), was saved for posterity.   
  
You’ll be surprised to hear that the White House also was neglected. In the 1950s, the very structural integrity of the home was in doubt, as President Harry Truman’s piano famously almost crashed through a weakened floor. That was fixed, but as far as the White House’s décor and treasure of historical items, the real hero was First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. In 1962, after two years of work, she opened up “America’s house” to the public through the magic of TV. She searched through sale documents, basement storage rooms, attics and everywhere she could to restore historical furnishings and décor back into the historic home. Furniture, light fixtures, clocks, bronzes paintings, vases and other items were donated by collectors of museum quality American furniture to help bring historical dignity to the house. 
 
Finally, if you are interested in presidential collectibles, be wary of buying presidential china (nearly each president selects a new pattern). Some stores were allowed to sell presidential-pattern dishes, but with a backstamp that says they were not part of the White House set. Luckily for collectors, there are some pieces that were out of the White House and sold to collectors. We went to a fundraiser dinner once where the first course had a collector’s real White House plate as a service plate at each place. The plates were so special that police guards accompanied each plate until it was washed, packed and shipped back to the lenders. 
 
Enjoy our “Americana” issue, Lee! Happy 4th of July! 
 

 

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