Here's were I rant about the arts. Take it with a grain of salt, I'm a scientist.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

So I collect oil cans now...

It started with the Wizard of Oz.  No, actually it started with Gregory Maguire's Wicked.  I really liked that book.  I read it in graduate school when I was living out in the sticks in the panhandle of Florida for my PhD research.  I was drawn to the fact that the story flipped a classic, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, on its head and gave it realism.  It took the antagonist, the wicked witch, and made her the likable antiheroine.  It then inspired me to pick up the soundtrack to Wicked, the Broadway show, which was based on the book, starring the voice, Idina Menzel (she got a Tony for this) and the chipper, Kristin Chenoweth.  Then I read the sequels and I even went out a purchased the 100th anniversary edition of  L. Frank Baum's original.  Since I have been intrigued by all things Oz.

I'm a collector, but I've for the most part stayed away from Oz related things.  Trying to collect everything that interests you is a bad idea for two reasons: 1) you end up with a house full of junk and 2) it's costly.  It's best to stick to particulars.  I've had my collecting phases.  When I was a kid it was rocks and small bottles, then in high school it was baseball cards, then in grad school it was comic books, then after it was back to baseball cards and autographs.  I've retained most of this stuff, but it's time I give some of it up.  I'm getting married, looking to buy a home, so I need some money.  I may keep my favorites and sell the rest.  Even if the money doesn't go towards the wedding and home, at least I can use some of it support my newer collecting habits, with out spending the money I should save for the grown up stuff.  Once a collector, always a collector.

I'm now collecting art, old stuff or old stuff that now qualifies as art and records.  I got into this stuff last fall.  Every Monday night, I was on my couch preparing for class and I would have the History channel on.  It was American Pickers, American Restoration and Pawn Stars that got me fascinated by the story behind things.  My new fascination with the old things has resulted in me dragging Bethany to antique stores, flea markets, and estate sales.  Most of the time, I never buy anything.  Either nothing appeals to me or I don't know what things are worth, so I don't take the financial risks.

Last May, at the Red Bank community yard sale, I did buy something and it cost me a whopping 25 cents.  It was the oil can below.  Some people call them oilers.  I think they should be called oiling cans so that they don't get confused with cans of oil.  What inspired me to shell out all that money?  Two things: 1) The Wizard of Oz.  It reminded me of the tin man and his constant need for oil and 2) an oil can my friend Mark bought at a clay festival we went to in Texas.  His oil can was made of clay, but it looked so freakin' real!  The craftsmanship of it was ridiculous.  I've always been jealous of that oil can.

So here's what I know about my 25 cent oil can.  It was manufactured in Pittsburgh by GEM manufacturing company.  I know that because it has GEM MFG CO stamped on it and that's pretty much all I can tell you about it!  haha.  I tried finding info about it, but there really isn't any.  There are several oil cans like mine online and several of the ads say they're old (the 70s), but there's no other details I could find.

A few months later, I bought another oil can.  This time it cost me a dollar.  Two makes a collection, right?  This one (below) is a tiny version of the first one I bought.  It's an oil can that was used to grease up a sewing machine.  Singer sewing machine company made oil cans like this, but my little oil can doesn't say Singer Sewing Company on it.  It doesn't say anything at all, so I guess it's some generic version and there really isn't any other information I can get about it. 

Two weeks ago I bought my third oil can at an antique show in Ocean grove.  The woman had several for sale, but I was strong and only bought one.  I paid 5 bucks for this one.  She wanted seven.  Either way, who knows if I got a deal.

Here's what I know about this one.  It was manufactured by the Plews company in Minneapolis.  It has PLEWS GEM written on it.  There's that name again, GEM.  I was able to find info about Plews.  The Plews company was founded in 1927 by R.G. Plews.  At first the company focused on oil cans for the railroad industry, but when cars and trucks became more popular for transportation, the company switched to manufacturing stuff for cars.  In the 1970's, the company merged with the Edelmann Company, which was an automotive company that started by making power steering hoses.  This detail would lead me to believe that the can I bought is pre-1970s because it doesn't have Edelmann on it, which appears on their more current products.  I bought it because of the funky goose neck it has and the paint on it made me think it might be military related.  No confirmation of that yet. 

That's my collection so far.  Feel free to contribute to it!  I've done a bunch of reading about oil cans and the history of them.  I've learned and seen pictures about the different varieties.  Oil cans are subset of collectibles called Petroliana, which incudes items related gas stations and oil companies.   I'll update you on any additions.