Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Story to Tell

I've always heard the expression, "If these walls could talk," but what I have wondered recently is what if this furniture piece could talk? What stories would we hear? What knowledge would we glean? What secrets would we learn? 
How many times had that item been in the presence of an I love you or a lover's quarrel?  How many times had it heard the pitter patter of little feet or the wracking sobs of loss?

In a post I wrote last week, A Collected Home, I mused over the difference between a home bought straight from a showroom floor or a home filled with things that are unique.

"I want to surround myself with things that I love, things that have character and tell a story.  I don't want a "buy it right now and settle for what I find" home, I want a "collected" home."

Over on Alabama Women Bloggers,  Editor Kari Scott featured Cultivate Create as guest blogger and had a wonderful write about the stories our homes or collected pieces had to tell.

We do have pieces in our home that tell a story. Pieces that have a history. But, there is one in particular that I want to share with you today. I want to tell its story, to share some of its secrets with you.  

This pie safe is probably one of my most favorite items that my husband and I have. It's a unique piece that people tend to gravitate toward and comment on when they are at our home. It was given to us by my father-in-law, and boy does it have a story to tell! I checked with my father-in-law and my husband's grandmother to make sure I had all of my facts straight so that I could share the story with you. 

So, the story goes that in 1936, my husband's paternal great-grandparent's house burned down. They had to start over with all of their furnishings, and Pawpaw Henderson's (my husband's paternal grandfather,) uncle had an old pump organ that no longer worked. He then used it to build a pie safe for them, as they were starting over again. This piece was something that my husband's great-grandparents, then grandparents, had in their homes, his dad and step-mom had in their home, and now we have it in ours. It's one of those pieces that has been passed down for years, and will continue to be passed down in the future.

But here's the cool part.

On the back of the upright pump-organ-turned-pie-safe, there is a stamp or carving into the wood that says, "Warranted ten years. Geo. P. Bent, Chicago U.S.A."

I was curious what this meant, so I did a little research. It turns out that Geo. P. Bent was the manufacturer of the organ that this piece was made out of. 

Here is a little history about the company and time period these organs were made:

"The company was located at 81-83 Jackson in 1883; Washington Blvd. & Sangamon St., 281-289 Wabash Ave., 323-333 South Canal St., Chicago, IL; Crown organs;
George Payne Bent started in 1870 as a sewing machine retailer, added organs and in 1880 began manufacturing organs and later pianos. Early instruments are marked Geo. R. Bent. In 1902 the factory had a capacity of 12,000 organs per year.
He was active in trade associations and after retirement was author and editor of "Four Score and More" a book which he published containing reminiscences of old-timers in the music business of puns on his name, he gave out his personalized cigars saying, "Have a Bent cigar." The company was renamed Geo. P. Bent Co. in 1908; probably discontinued organ production in 1915. Later acquired by the Adler Mfg. Co.Serial numbers: 1888 - 18253, 1901 - 8514, 1906 - 89519." (Via)

There is no serial number on the back of our pie safe, but I can deduct the approximate time frame in which the organ was made from this bit of information. Our piece is marked "Geo. P. Bent." According to the above information, the company was renamed that in 1908 and discontinued production of the organs in 1915. So our organ/pie safe was made somewhere between 1908 and 1915. It stopped working properly by 1936, then it became what it is today. This makes it around one hundred years old.

Here is some additional information I found, as well as some original pictures of turn of the century pamphlets and ads from Geo. P. Bent Crown organs and pianos.

"George P. Bent was one of the most well known piano and organ makers of the late 19th Century in America. Established in 1870, George P. Bent built instruments under both his own name and also under the 'Crown' and "Concord" brand names. His most famous innovations were his 'Orchestral Attachment' and 'Practice Clavier', which were special features operated by extra foot pedals. George P. Bent stopped building pianos in about 1929 when the Great Depression hit, but the Crown brand name was produced up until the late 1940s. George P. Bent and 'Crown' brand organs were also sold and distributed by Sears Roebuck & Company on a limited basis at the turn-of-the-century."  (Via)







How awesome to learn not only of the family history tied to this piece, but also the history of the original item itself. While it was remade into something useful after it was no longer in use, it still holds the intrigue of the original organ. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it is one of a kind.

Obviously, I don't have use for a pie safe in its original context; storing pies and other perishables to keep them safe from insects and vermin. I now use it to hold dishes and serving pieces.  

You see here that it is well worn, and has a few imperfections, but I wouldn't want it any other way.  It has had to repaired a couple of times over the years, but still maintains its original character.

The items seen behind the mesh doors are my great-grandmother's dishes, plates and platters given to me by both of my grandmothers and my husband's grandmother, and an antique tea set given to me by my husband's step-mom. 

Not only is it great storage, but also gives me a way to add decor interest in this room. 

Do you have items in your home that have a story to tell? I would love to hear all about them!  Share in the comments below, or if you are a fellow blogger, write a post about it and link up your post here. The link-up will be open until July 30th. 

1 comment:

  1. My friend and I just picked up a working Crown pump organ from an ad on craigslist. The organ is marked that it was manufactured in 1902. It also has "warranted 10 years Geo P Bent, manufacturer, Chicago, Ill. So, they may have changed a name in 1908, but the Geo P Bent name and warranty is on my friends organ, and we know it was made in 1902. Your pie cabinet could have been made earlier originally.


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