Steppes Hill Farm Antiques Newsletter #32 - April 2014

The postage stamp was first introduced in Britain in 1840 and its use spread rapidly throughout the globe as the postal service become cheaper, more efficient and accessible to a larger proportion of the population. One might have expected this introduction to be accompanied by a demand for containers to store these little pieces of paper in, but the Stamp Box was slow to become popular and decidedly modest in its early forms. For the first forty years their use was restricted to Britain and they were mostly made in wood or brass. This was because in 1840 letters would still have to be taken to a Post Office were a stamp would be affixed by staff. Street collection boxes did not become nation-wide in Britain until the 1870's and later in other countries. The silver Stamp Box really only became popular in the late 1880's and strong demand only lasted until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.

Although their production only spanned a relatively short period of time, silver stamp boxes and cases (for use on the person rather than on the desk) were produced in a staggering variety of forms and qualities and have become a sought after commodity for enthusiastic collectors.

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The collection of Stamp Boxes and Cases illustrated above include:-

1. A two compartment silver Stamp Box with tortoiseshell panels, by H&A Batson, London 1907. Retailed by Asprey.

2. A rare combined two compartment silver Stamp Box / Stamp Moistener, by Grey & Co. London 1902.

3. A two compartment silver trough shaped Stamp Box on four paw feet, by Grey & Co, London 1899.

4. A single coil silver Stamp Dispenser, by Charles & George Asprey, London 1901.

5. A novelty silver Stamp Box in the form of a Wheelbarrow, by Saunders & Shepherd, Birmingham 1908.

6. An American novelty silver Stamp Case in the form of a Mail Bag, by R.Wallace Manufacturing Co, c1890.

7. An exceptional Victorian silver travelling Inkwell combined with twin compartment Stamp Boxes, by G, GW, & J. Betjemann, London 1889.

8. A rare novelty silver Stamp Dispenser in the form of a Whistle, by the Goldsmiths & Silversmiths, London 1905.

9. A Victorian silver patented triple compartment Stamp Case, by Nathan & Hayes, London 1896.

10. A 19th century American silver and enamel novelty Stamp Case in the form of an envelope with enamel stamp and postmark, by Gorham Manufacturing Company, New York c1890.

11. A Victorian silver single sprung compartment Stamp Case, by Saunders & Shepherd, Birmingham 1900.

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An exceptional Victorian 18 carat gold and enamel Vesta Case, after the oil painting by Emile Bayard - "An Affair of Honor", depicting two topless Women fighting a duel. By William Thomas Wright & Frederick Davies, London 1888.

The most intriguing duel fought between women took place in August 1892 in Verduz, the capitol of Liechtenstein, between Princess Pauline Metternich and the Countess Kielmannsegg. It has gone down in history as the first "emancipated duel" because all parties involved, including the principals and their seconds were female. Also, the confrontation was organized and presided over by the Baroness Lubinska, who had a degree in medicine (a rarity for a woman in those days) and was prepared to minister to any wounds incurred. Before the proceedings began, the baroness pointed out that many insignificant injuries in duels often became septic due to strips of clothing being driven into the wound by the point of a sword. To counter this danger she prudently suggested that both parties should fight stripped of any garments above the waist. With the precautions Baroness Lubinska recommended, the topless women duelists were less likely to suffer from an infection; indeed, it was a smart idea to fight semiclad. Given the practicality of the baroness' suggestion and the "emancipated" nature of the duel, it was agreed that the women would disrobe-after all, there would be no men present to ogle them. For the women, the decision to unbutton the tops of their dresses was not sexual; it was simply a way of preventing a duel of first blood from becoming a duel to the death.

At the dueling ground on the fateful day, all formalities were carried out to the letter including an attempt at and refusal of reconciliation. The ladies engaged and, after a few trifling feints and thrusts, a wild slash from the princess brought about a light flow of blood from the countess' nose. Seeing the injury she caused, the shocked princess, in a stereotypical feminine gesture, threw both hands up to her cheeks. Just then, the countess lunged and pierced the princess through her right forearm. The sight of the ensuing blood caused the respective seconds to faint. The footmen and coachmen, who had been ordered to stand some distance away with their backs toward the action, heard the cries and ran toward the women to render aid. Baroness Lubinska, however, decided the male servants had more salacious motives and attacked them with her umbrella, shouting, "Avert your eyes, avert your eyes-you lustful wretches!"

The baroness was once again ahead of her time in sensing the necessary precautions. It was as if she already knew the gossip and speculation that would result from this premier example of what could have become a clothing-optional sport. The rumours started just as soon as the Princess Metternich and Countess Kielmannsegg cast aside their weapons. Artists and storytellers speculated about the duel, most of their tales centreing specifically on the scanty clothes the women wore. It is humorous that most recounts of this historic event fail to mention two important things: the winner of the duel (Princess Metternich) and the reason why the women came to arms in the first place-they disagreed over the floral arrangements for an upcoming musical exhibition. Bared breasts, apparently, overshadow such trivial details!

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The popularity of the picture was enormous. It travelled all over the world, and was so great that the artist followed it with a companion and sequel - "The Reconciliation." Here one of the cocottes has fallen wounded, and her late antagonist forgets her anger and kneels sympathisingly beside her, while one of the seconds calls up the coach, which at a distance has awaited the outcome

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Two specimens of stereoscopic views of photographs depicting Émile Bayard's oil paintings "An Affair of Honor" and "Reconciliation." Published by R.K. Bonine of Tyrone, Pennsylvania, USA.

Victorian Antique Silver Novelty Watering Can Inkwell & Penner Rare Set of Edwardian Solid Silver Postal Scales Victorian Silver Presentation 'Rowing Boat' Table Writing Set Bridgnorth Rowing Club Victorian Novelty Silver & Enamel Rowing Boat Propelling Pencil
Victorian Novelty Silver Gladstone Bag Table Vesta Case / Go To Bed A collection of gold Fob Seals Edwardian Novelty Silver Terrier Pin Cushion Victorian Silver Hunting Scene Snuff Box

I am very pleased to be able to offer over 50 new items of stock that have been uploaded to the web site this month. As well as the collection of Stamp Cases and the 18 carat gold Vesta Case illustrated above, I have managed to acquire a nice collection of Writing Equipment which includes some important pieces. I would like to highlight; a novelty silver Penner in the form of a Watering Can, a set of solid silver Postal Scales, a fine Victorian silver and enamel presentation Writing Set in the form of a Rowing Boat, a rare novelty silver pencil in the form of a Rowing Boat, a novelty silver Table Vesta Case in the form of a Gladstone Bag, a small collection of gold Fob Seals, an extremely rare silver Pin Cushion in the form of a Terrier Dog and a good Victorian silver Hunting Scene Snuff Box.

I do hope that you will find this Newsletter informative and helpful and will allow us send it to you on a regular basis. I would welcome any feedback you may have, both positive and negative.

David W.A. Buck.
Steppes Hill Farm Antiques