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A Williams Antiques Show, items can reveal rich histories
A hunt for the oldest items at the Williams Antique Show & Sale revealed rich stories of English courtship rituals and home goods made of re-purposed pirate booty.
Bill Shelton, owner of Stagecoach Antiques in Durham, said his 15th great-grandparents traveled to America on the Mayflower, giving birth to a son while aboard.
Shelton said he has a bonnet from the time period, but the oldest items he brought to the show were silver pieces.
A water pitcher and a cream pitcher made of pure coin silver were dated at 1780 and 1760, respectively.
Silver for these items came from melted down European coins, useless to colonial Americans. The silver coins may have come from pirate booty that had washed ashore, according to Shelton.
He has been in antiques for more than 40 years and could easily speak to the historical stories of items around the building.
However, he said what he does know is only part of the complete story.
"I don't claim to know a lot; what I know you could put in a tea cup," he said.
Further down the aisle, past the Springfield Trapdoor 1884 rifle and the mid-19th-century scale used for weighing buffalo, Allen Parks displayed a glass case full of trinkets.
On the bottom shelf of the glass case was a small collection of colorful enamel boxes, once used to store beauty patches between 1720 and 1760.
A beauty patch was a carefully shaped piece of velvet used by English women to cover blemishes on their faces, often hiding the scars of smallpox and syphilis. The placement or shape of the patch communicated messages of flirtation or status.
While the Old Gym was packed with antique collectibles, it was not packed with people.
Saturday morning was well-attended, with a crowd lined up at the door for opening. But afternoon visitors experienced a sparsely populated venue, as the room was almost empty.
"I've been to livelier wakes," said one vendor.
Some vendors said the show was worthwhile, but others didn't fair as well, declining dinner invitations in order to keep costs down.
That meant the economy generated by the show for other Williams businesses also was down.
The number of attendees for the weekend was down to 340 from around 400 last year, according to event coordinator Mari Cruz, who is an office assistant for the city.
She couldn't explain the low attendance, but expressed a strong commitment from the city to reinvest in the event.
"We can't just let it die. It's been here for 30-something years. It's a tradition," said Cruz.
Cruz said the city has big plans for next year.
The city is considering bringing in an appraiser for the show. People would be able to come to the show with their own antiques to learn the history of their items and have them appraised.
Most vendors said they would return next year, and many expressed a desire for the city to extend advertising across the state.
Cruz said the city is discussing hiring a publicist to promote the show in 2014.