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Monday, November 14, 2011

Texas Antiques

The old plantation bell on the Moore Farm, an important "antique" with intrinsic value.

If you watch The Antique Roadshow which we watch every week, you probably know that Texas Antiques are barely on the radar, unless you are in Texas. Texans are so wrapped up in their own world, and humorously compete, quite aggressively for things totally unknown to the rest of the world. One time I stood in line at the Roadshow with a couple of items, both belonging in a Texas museum somewhere, (one had been on exhibit at WashoBrazos)only to get fairly flat responses from the appraisers. In fact I had to get a reference book they had on a table and point out the maker of the rocking chair I was dragging along, only to be told I should contact Bayou Bend, a house museum in Houston, as they might have an interest in it. But they knew nothing about it and did not seem interested to learn.

I KNEW WHAT IT WAS! I just wanted to show off and be on television. But the Keno brothers would probably not know a Steinhagen rocking chair if one rocked on their toe. (That's right, they not only share a show they share a toe;) As in politics and wealth and jobs and growth and many other areas where Texas shines, the rest of the Country is... jealous and kind of indignant. We were a Country once, we have a distinct character and attitude and pride in our State, and we have our own antiques. And by and large, we don't care about the rest of the Country either.

So this series is gojng to be about the material culture that sets Texas apart. Whether it is reasonable or not, when I go to bid on early Texas blues records, or handmade spurs, or primitive furniture, or soda water trays, or stoneware, they cost more than others. There is nothing made in Texas that is inferior in price in the antique market. Texans care more and pay more, and because they do, others do as well. We call it Texas chauvenism.

So I want the next generation to know what the names McChesney, Steinhagen, Dunkin, Onderdonk, and Dance and many others mean to our state, our Texas culture, that make us so special and the envy of everybody else. Even if the Antique Roadshow has no clue.

Texas, like California, has a very diverse mix of peoples and topography and thus an exciting tradition of material culture. But you cannot name an Indian tribe from California. Texas had Comanches, Apaches, Kiowas, Cherokees and all those Hollywood words. You can't name a famous real cowboy from California... but Texas had Charlie Goodnight, John Chism, Bill Pickett, and tons more, and a healthy dose of the Hollywood cowboys, like Tex Ritter, Ben Johnson and Audie Murphy. When it comes to collecting Western Americana, Texas born items are at the top of "the most coveted list." But that is also true about many other things. The world loves Texas.

And they should.

So where to start? I want you to really appreciate the things made by Texans; things made by hand, hand carved, hand forged, hand thrown, hand woven, and hand painted. These are the rare, evocative cultural items that will never be made again, never be needed again, and yet symbolize this great State. So I made a list of names you can look forward to, for starters... in no particular order.

Texas Stoneware: Kirbee, Meyer, Stoker, Saenger, Suttles, Leopard, McDade, Prothro.

Native American Pottery & Basketry: Coushatta, Tigua, Caddo

Hand Wrought Spurs & Bits: Boone, Crockett, McChesney, Kelly

Handmade Furniture: Steinhagen, Bedemeier

Texas Originated Brands: Dr. Pepper, Borden's, Lone Star, Pearl, Shiner, Bright & Early

Highly Collectible Music: Scott Joplin, Texas Alexander, Blind Willie Johnson, Robert Johnson, Leadbelly, Bob Wills, Buddy Holly

Texas Landscape Painters: Onderdonk, Wood, Salinas

Texas Firearms: Dance Bros, Tyler

Starting soon... on the Navasota Current.

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