Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Perils of Radio

I've finally started going through the Harmon Family archives, sorting and organizing all of the documents, photographs, postcards, and other ephemera, and getting everything placed in archival storage containers. It's a task that will likely take a few years to complete.

Among today's discoveries was a letter written in 1931 to Mollie Harmon by George M. Skinner, who taught Sunday School to Mollie's son James. Skinner apologizes for introducing young James to radio, attributing his low grades to his new hobby. The letter reads:

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Vintage Tattoo Designs

Way back when, my grandfather, Jim Harmon, was a tattoo artist. I'm not entirely certain of the time period, but I think it must have been during the 1930s, when he was in his 20s and living on his own in D.C. The first tattoo he ever created was on his thigh--an easy spot to work on, but he did it right-side-up when he was looking at it--which meant it was upside down for everyone else. He was so embarrassed, he never wore a swimsuit at the beach; instead, he always wore long pants so no one could see his mistake. I never saw the upside down tattoo on his leg, but it's one of the many stories I heard over the years.

One of the coolest things we found in my grandparents' things last year was a small three-ring notebook with 31 pages of tattoo designs drawn my by grandfather. My grandmother had kept it in a trunk full of family memorabilia. Some of the designs are classic naval tattoos, while others hint at my grandfather's interest in Surrealism.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

James Harmon Artwork, part one

The best part of dealing with the estate last year was finding hidden family gems. I knew there was some family material stored on the trailers, and I knew that included some paintings done by my grandfather, James Harmon. I had never seen his artwork, so it was a real treat when we found it.

This is the first of several blog posts featuring my grandfather's artwork. This batch of paintings on canvas were found removed from their stretchers and rolled up together.

Self-portrait, 1941.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Benrus '50s Bling

This is one of my favorite wristwatches, not because it's of any particular importance, but because it embodies both local history and a snazzy design that is best described as '50s bling. (Or maybe late '40s bling.) I love the retro irony--today we would consider this to be a woman's watch, but when it was new, it was decidedly masculine.

Take a look at this watch. It's got a gold-plated case (plain steel on the back), encrusted with 14 fake diamonds; the dial boasts 8 fake diamonds (two are missing) and 5 fake rubies, arranged in an unabashedly tacky design. It's so camp, you have to love it.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dietrich and Fred Gruen

One final update regarding the estate sale: everything that was left over has been consigned to auction with Cabin Fever in Pennsylvania. It will be sold a little at a time at their monthly auctions.

My life is slowly beginning to return to "normal."

Two years ago, after completing a biography of Boston silversmith George Christian Gebelein for the German Historical Institute's online encyclopedia of German-American Immigrant Entrepreneurs, I agreed to write a similar biography of Dietrich and Frederick Gruen, founders of the Gruen Watch Company.

Being the daughter of a horologist, I felt that I was well suited to the task. I started my research with a visit to my dad's shop, where he pulled out all of his Gruen books, parts, and one lovely pentagon pocket watch that had been hidden away in a parts drawer for decades.

Gruen Pentagon Verithin pocket watch.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Stay Tuned!

The estate sale is over, but there's still a lot of great stuff left. I'll be updating this website with information about where it is being consigned as that progresses.

A few people asked what happened with the "leftovers" from the earlier sale at my dad's shop. That was all consigned to auction with Cabin Fever in Pennsylvania. They'll be selling it a little at a time every month.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Electronics and More!

A few fun gadgets:

Multi-Speed Pentron Tape Recorder

Here's a recording device that would fit in perfectly with the first season of Mad Men. It's a Pentron reel-to-reel tape recorder, produced during the 1950s.

Pentron marketed their tape recorders for family use (because what could be more entertaining than letting the kids record their voices on an expensive new gadget?), but probably proved more useful for business meetings.

The Pentron Corporation was based in Chicago. Their slogans included "In Electronics... It's Pentron" and "There's more fun at home when you have a Pentron."


You can never have too many voltmeters. What, you haven't got even one? Well, now's your chance to load up!

Most of these voltmeters were produced by Weston Electrical Instrument Corporation of Newark, N.J., probably during the 1920s or '30s. One exception is the red voltmeter, which might have been made during the 1890s.

Slide Projector

Some of you may be too young to know what this is. Before the dawn of computers and PowerPoint, people used actual physical slides that were projected through machines like this Argus 200 slide projector.

Magic Lantern

Before electricity, slides were projected using kerosene lamps inside of magic lanterns. This "Lanterne Magique" was produced by Ernst Plank, and is unfortunately missing a few parts (but is still super-cool!).