Monday, January 2, 2012

The Barrels of Darlington

This Christmas Boy gave me the present of a miniature screw-top barrel, only an inch and a quarter tall,  carved from whalebone by a sailor in the mid-nineteenth century.  Boy bought it (as I learned) from Angus Wilkie at his elegant antiques shop, Cove Landing, on Lexington Avenue.  I suspect the vessel was originally made to hold snuff.

I was absolutely charmed when I opened the package and found the tiny barrel in it.  I love it.

And it got me thinking . . . I have always been drawn to barrel-shape objects, and I have collected a number of them over the years.  I'm not alone in having an affinity for barrels, either.  There was a mad nostalgic vogue for them in the first half of the twentieth century, when all sorts of barrel-shape objects were made out of glass, ceramic, silver, and other materials.

Here is an early twentieth century silvered glass barrel-shape ornament in our collection, hanging on this year's Christmas tree.  We found it in an antiques group shoppe a number of years ago.

Over the years we've collected vintage glass barrels in various sizes to hold Pompey's kibble, biscuits, and treats.  We've found them in group shoppes, at yard sales, and in junk shops.  Most of them were made by the Anchor Hocking Company in the 1930s and 1940s.

We use a vintage glass barrel in our laundry room to decant powder.  It is a much more attractive alternative to the powder's original and rather ugly packaging.

In the mid-twentieth century American glass manufacturers, such as Libby and Corning, produced drinking glasses in the form.  We have a set—a great favorite of mine—decorated with bands of sanded white and gold, that we use for summer cocktails on the screened porch.  We found them in a long-closed group shoppe in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, a dozen or so years ago.

Ratcheting it up a few notches, I leave you with an image of a smart old Sheffield silver wine cooler, dating from the first quarter of the nineteenth century, that we bought last spring from Spencer Marks, Ltd. at an antiques show at the Park Avenue Armory.

The cooler was a "must buy" purchase for me as soon as I laid my eyes on it.  I loved its simplicity and the fact that it was in the form of a barrel.  (Notice that it appropriately holds a decanter rather than a new bottle of wine.)

Photographs by Boy Fenwick


  1. I adore your charming Christmas barrel. I have not given much thought to barrels but they really are a simple and pleasing blend of form and function.

  2. Oh that wine cooler! And to have the design sensibility so attuned that one might even conceive of collecting the barrel shape:).

  3. All of these barrels are delightful. I can't decide whether my favorite is your new whale-bone barrel or the collection of glass pickle barrels.

    A related shape that I like is buckets, when they are made the same way with (real or figural) staves and iron bands. I also realized that I have a few Chinese barrels here in Taiwan, including a lithographed tin candy barrel that I keep in my dining room.
    --Road to Parnassus

  4. Love your barrels Have not given much thought to them But you do have a nice collection And i adore that wine barrel

  5. Such a refreshing burst of civilization and taste! Most packaging is hideous! (Except "Apple"! I just sold my old iPhone and made an extra $100.00 because I couldn't throw that beautiful box away!!)

    I'm going to start decanting all kinds of things! Brilliant!

  6. Reggie, I am coveting your wine cooler which would look splendid on my grog table with my 1 pint Tiffany barrel design water jug. I think it good with do not live in the same city as the competition for similiar items would be intensified :-) Great fine!

  7. Reggie the pieces you have shown are wonderful especially the Sheffield Wine Cooler.


    Art by Karena

  8. Love the little whale bone barrel, lucky you!

  9. How FAB dahhling to see so many examples of very chic "barrels".... quite a collection you have.

  10. "...roll out the barrel--we'll have a barrel of fun..."

    Happy happy to you both.

  11. This brings back a memory of something my mother kept in her sewing basket - a very small barrel (of ivory or bone)with a slit in the side through which one could pull out a scarlet fabric measuring tape. There was a small rod that extended slightly from the top of the barrel by which the tape could be wound back into the barrel. It was one of many wondrous things in the basket - gold thimbles, tiny scissors, pin cushions in the shape of strawberries, tiny cases for beeswax and chalk - the list goes on - of endless fascination for a small boy.

  12. Reggie,
    Such interesting pieces, especially since I have never known anyone who collected barrels!

    And of course, I just love that you decant your too :)

  13. Dear Mr. Darling,

    My friend and I were up in Maine, Warren Maine to be exact, and we spotted a number of antique shops on Rt. 17. After adoring the old telephone collections this one shop had, out of the corner of my eye I spotted a glass barrel jar that said "Peanuts" on it. We had a black lab at the time whose name was Peanut, so, I had to have it. The gent was asking 65.00. I retorted with $60-"sold".
    I got home and filled the jar with Peanut's favorite treats, which kept the treats very crisp. Peanut is long gone now, but I still have the jar and my two new pups enjoy the treats from it now. What a great idea to keep the detergent in a sealed jar. This would keep it from clumping, for sure.

  14. I don't think you've searched hard enough for the origins of this obsession.

    Because at least traditionally, when Yale and Vassar got together, the barrels looked quite different.

    Happy New Year.

  15. I love it, too...and the rest of your barrels...

  16. A barrel of laughs! - lucky Pompey with all those treats. Happy new year, I hope it is a very prosperous and fulfilling one. David.

  17. Wonderful post. There is something just marvelous about the barrel shape. Makes me think of rootbeer barrel candy that I loved as a kid.

  18. What an amazing collection of barrels you have! That ice bucket is beyond chic!! And what a perfect gift from Boy this Christmas.
    We need to have you two up to the house soon!
    xo E + J

  19. This is amazing. Not everyday you can get a sculpted whalebone. Very lovely!

  20. The scrimshaw barrel is quite beautiful.
    Ah and I covet the set of cocktail glasses, I just tried to order RL's Paulette glasses which are quite similar but they don't ship to the UK.


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