Urban Archeologist: A Stitch in Time

Greg shares another treasure hunting tip and has the goods to prove it.


This world would be a lot tidier if we were able to take all our possessions with us, but it would also be absent of everything that makes it interesting. There would be no old paper to show for all those felled trees. In this article I have a tip that may sound strange but the evidence reveals it worth trying.

So, we leave a lot behind, and if it isn’t tossed, it is tucked and tidied away. One of those great places to tuck items is a sewing basket. Often handed down through the generations, these are filled with a combination of the obvious and the odd. A true catch-all that should never be overlooked at a sale — sewing kits are something I refer to as, “a dig-in-a-box.”

I will typically buy an old sewing kit without needing or wanting to take a look inside. I know I am holding a time capsule and it’s more fun to get it home, grab the camera and see what’s there. Last weekend I found this sewing basket (pictured) and the people running the sale were more than anxious to move it and every other item out the door.

For $5 I was happy to have the chance to find something unique, and by the pictures you can see that I found several items collectors would love to have. The pill bottle from the 1920s or ‘30s though empty was a lesson in the practical uses for the herb Belladonna. It likely wasn’t the safest drug in this bottle but it is still used today in some forms for similar ailments.

The small oil can is neat, it looks brand new, but has a patent date of 1896! Stamped on the sides is the word “Computometer.” A simple web search will lead you to William George Cordingley’s calculator by the same name.

The sewing needle kits are fun and collectable as well as are the give-away needle packs. The Worcester salt package is unique enough to start me collecting, but not today. My wife has already shown an interest in the basket itself, so if I am stealthy I may be able to tuck these away and begin the cycle all over again.

I found a famous photographer’s photo last week tucked in a catalog from the ‘30s. Can you help me guess who the familiar figure in the fedora is? This could be big…

Greg Van Antwerp is a Brookfield resident and blogger, who can be found on the weekends in search of a good “dig” or a good story.  You can read more about his adventures by visiting his blog.


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