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From the Editor

Sometimes when I'm researching information for items in the magazine I come across something very, well, different. There's one such item in the Bits and Pieces editorial, where a very unusual use has been found for discarded teeth.

Another gem of information was uncovered when I started researching the cover story on the Belsnickel, which I have to admit I love, because he just looks so incredibly grumpy. The Europeans really knew how to add fear and anxiety at Christmas, and that's not including the traditional family dinner. Anyway... besides the Belsnickel, the Germans also came up with the feather tree, a beautifully delicate alternative to the pine tree unless you happened to be a goose, turkey or swan whose feathers were used.

The problem was one we still have today: deforestation. In the late 1800s the German government decided there weren't enough fir trees for everyone at Christmas, so it enacted a law that allowed only one tree per family. But people wanted more than one, and someone, somewhere noticed a lot of feathers were left over at that time of year, and the feather tree was born. The feathers were dyed green and wired to wooden sticks, then drilled into a dowel to make the shape of a typical German pine tree. Artificial berries were attached to some branches, which were placed well apart so the candles that were also used as decorations wouldn't send the tree up in smoke. These early feather trees were all table-top size; it wasn't until they were exported to the United States that anyone thought about putting them on the floor. They were mostly made with green branches, but sometimes a white one would appear and later trees were made in gold, silver and blue.

I also discovered something quite interesting when I was looking up information on Hudson's Soap, for a piece in Snippets.

I learned that in 1712, England introduced a tax on soap. It tripled the price of basic coarse soap and is clearly the reason behind the perception that the Brits don't wash regularly... they couldn't afford to! The tax made soap a luxury item, but it provided a significant source of income for the government. Revenue officials closely supervised soap manufacture and soap making equipment was kept under lock and key when it was not in use. Soap makers were required by law to manufacture a minimum quantity of one imperial ton at each boiling. As a result of the restrictions many soap makers moved across the water to Ireland, where there was no tax on soap (but oddly the people appeared to be no cleaner). There was even a flourishing business in soap smuggling until the tax was repealed in 1853. This could be very handy information for you this Christmas if you plan to give someone the gift of soap.

Lastly, if you're a subscriber I hope you love our 2019 Calendar, which is included with this magazine. It has the dates of more than 150 antique fairs and events across Australia, which makes it perfect for planning your collecting forays once the Christmas rush is over. Enjoy!

Julie Carter
Editor, Antiques and Collectables for Pleasure & Profit