One of my early collectable items were war ration books from WWII. During the war, the U.S. government set up roughly 8000 war ration boards to control the consumption of strategic materials like gasoline, rubber, sugar, meat, butter and so on. The ration boards issued every family ration books to ensure equality and control those crucial items. It is those types of civilian war time ephemera that has long been a source of interest and intrigue for me. In college I took a lot of classes centered around the second world war and the home front was frequently discussed. V-Mail was another favorite WWII collectable. I still have deadstock boxes of V-Mail forms that I own to this day. For my most recent birthday my grandmother (knowing of my interest in old WWII stuff) sent me an old leather war ration envelope that she found. The soft leather envelope is still embossed with the initials “J.B.S” in gold lettering and fits two ration books perfectly. Sort of a funny thing to use, a leather ration envelope. It makes you think that during those days the war was not a short term thing and government rationing was a real part of daily life.
Tucked at the end of Extra Place — an alley off of Bowery — sits New York’s coolest new shop Extra. If you don’t take care and pay special attention the shop can be difficult to find, but it is certainly worth it. To be honest, when I saw the address for the first time I didn’t even think it was in Manhattan. The shop’s proprietor is a very nice man named Koji Kusakabe who’s a long time (and much respected) vintage hunter. This fact becomes very obvious when you step foot in the modest space and see all of the treasures that are on offer. In addition to a whole host of vintage gems and collectibles, Koji stocks new goods from Engineered Garments and Post Overalls. The man has a knack for vintage and workwear, it’s a beautiful thing.
Last week during my visit to Terrapin / Stationers Engraving & Printing Co. I had a chance to watch the engraving process first hand — something truly amazing to see in person. It was equally amazing to take a trip back in time via the Terrapin archive. The company has 50+ years of old business cards, stationery and other printed goods sitting around. The good news is, they didn’t mind letting me look through it.
This was my prize acquisition from this year’s Brimfield show — a U.S. Army field desk. I have seen a few of these (and some of the larger versions) around on the internet, but never in real life and never at a reasonable price. The markings on the side seem to indicate that this mobile desk — which was most likely used for a clerk — was probably issued for the Korean War and not WWII. All of the drawers are intact and there is a perfect place for your typewriter, pen / pencils, paper and other supplies. All of the wood is original and worn-in nicely. The leather carry handles are even in pretty good shape. This desk is definitely something I have wanted forever and something I will own for a long time to come.
A few friends and I are up in Brimfield, Mass. this week for the massive antique / flea market and the potential purchases are everywhere. I was amazed at all of the industrial salvage everywhere. That sort of interior aesthetic is going at full speed. Below are some of the things I saw on our relatively short first day. Americana overload — great stuff.
To get up to New Milford, Connecticut early enough from NYC I have to get up around 5am. I actually think the Elephant’s Trunk Flea opens at 5 or 5:30am for the super hardcore folks. That’s some real flea market shit right there. By the time I get to Westchester to scoop up my sister, get coffee and drive out there it will be 8/8:30am. That’s pretty much the earliest we can make it. For a little perspective I think the Brooklyn flea opens at 10am — but the Brooklyn flea is a different beast than the Elephant’s Trunk. Go to both of them and you will see what I mean. The Trunk is more work if you live in NYC, but the prices are better and you find different stuff. I have been going for at least the last six years (I moved to NYC in 2001). I took some photos this past weekend and thought it would be fun to share them with you here. I hear rumors that the land where the Elephant’s Trunk is located has been sold and the flea’s days could be numbered. I hope those are just rumors. I suppose only time will tell.
A selection of photos from The Vintage Showroom in London. The company operates by appointment only, as it is mainly used by designers for “inspiration” and whatnot. If you live in NYC (and are a designer) or a vintage obsessive, The Vintage Showroom operates much like Melet Mercantile or Strong Arm Clothing Supply. Also, if you live in Boston you should know Bobby from Boston, which is more of a public store front than these others. Being that the The Vintage Showroom mainly serves industry people, the prices are not cheap. The prices are also what they are because the proprietors spend a lot of time and money sourcing the stuff. There is also a store front that is open to the public near Covent Garden if you want to check that out.