by Mary Emma Allen

Mary Emma Allen has been a columnist since 1964 and has written many columns for newspapers and magazines. These include cooking, history, book reviews, restaurant reviews, gardening, quiltmaking, consumer topics, children's stories and activities, homespun philosophy, travel, and marriage. Currently she writes "Country Kitchen" for newspapers in New Hampshire and Utah, "Refunder's Hotline" for a New Hampshire newspaper, and a marriage column for The Oasis, an online Christian publication. Mary Emma Allen also is a book author and newsletter editor/publisher.
(PLYMOUTH, NH) - Mary Emma Allen's book, WRITING IN MAINE, NEW HAMPSHIRE & VERMONT, was named on Carolyn Howard-Johnson's list of Top 10 Books for Writers. Howard-Johnson also placed a review of this resource book for writers, publishers, librarians, and educators at
This book, published by Writer's World Press, gives resources for writers, publishers, librarians and those interested in writing and publishing, whether they live in the Tri-States area or in other parts of the country.
"This little volume makes an excellent addendum to any book an author might presently be using as a resource," said Ms. Howard-Johnson, the award-winning author of "This Is the Place" and a familiar name among book reviewers.
Check out Mary Emma Allen's Web Site for more cooking information and recipes.
She also writes "Teacher to Teacher," a column for teachers, homeschooling parents, and parents who are encouraging young writers. This appears on the Rising Writers site:
Photo by Caron Gonthier



Lunch boxes come in all shapes and sizes nowadays and are made from a variety of materials, so different from the metal lunch boxes of my childhood. My grandchildren have plastic, cloth or canvas ones. My uncle carried the large black laborers’ type with rounded top. My grandfather took lunch in a small metal box (which I still have) when he worked in the woodlot in the early 1900s.

Lunch Box Collectibles

Many lunch boxes have become collectibles nowadays, especially the metal ones made before the 1980s when they were discontinued in favor of plastic. Numerous lunch boxes centered around Saturday morning TV themes so are the height of nostalgia.

Thermos bottles, too, are included as collectibles. The lunch box is considered more valuable if it comes with matching thermos. However, most collectors will accumulate them separately.

Bring Back Memories

As you look at lunch boxes, either in pictures, in collections and displays, or in flea markets, most people are captivated by those that bring back memories of their own childhood. The designs catching your attention will be those found on the lunch boxes you and your friends used.

Lunch Box Types

What are some of the memorable lunch boxes collectors seek or bring back memories?

Think of Superman, Howdy Doody, G.I. Joe, Batman, the Jetsons, Dick Tracy, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Trigger, Robin Hood, Flipper, Space Cadet, Snow White, Barbie, Twiggy, Peanuts, and many more.

Related Lunch Box Collectibles

Among the lunch box collectibles you'll encounter blueprints for boxes and thermoses, cardboard store displays, catalog pages, proof sheets, comic strips showing characters carrying lunch boxes, and pamphlets of recipes for lunch box menus.



Wooden dolls have captivated children since the early days of man, when such toys were no more than sticks wrapped with bits of skin and fur. Dolls were found in most every country around the world and midst the antiquities of the early Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans.

The Ellis Doll

Among the most well-known American wooden dolls were those made by Joel Ellis, a wagon maker of Springfield, Vermont, during the 1870s and 80s. Also known as the "Springfield Doll," it is a rare item today and is valued among collectors.

Ellis obtained his first patent for these dolls in 1873, but probably produced many before that. Made of hard rock maple, the doll was completely jointed and had metal hands and feet. These were the first wooden dolls with mortise and tendon joints. The parts, made under hydraulic pressure, were smooth, and of durable design.

The Springfield area became known as the birthplace of the American toy and doll industry. Soon variations of Ellis’ doll were patented, and the Taylor, Mason, Martin, Sanders, and Johnson dolls began to be produced.

Other American Wooden Dolls

Wooden dolls made to resemble, in design and dress, boys and girls were patented in America in 1911 by Albert Schoenhut, a German woodcarver. The unique feature of this doll was the metal spring joint, designed so the doll could assume nearly any position. This wood was molded under hydraulic pressure, as with the Ellis doll, and was advertised as unbreakable.

Other charming dolls were made throughout the ages with cloth bodies and wooden heads and arms and sometimes wooden legs. These were among the homemade variations turned out by pioneer women with the wooden part often carved by the menfolk or a traveling peddler. The bodies often have fallen apart, but the wooden pieces can be reused when found today.

Dolls throughout the ages have been favored playthings for children. Whether they are made of wood or some other material, dolls will continue to exist and be loved throughout the years to come.



Auctions possess a fascination for those seeking a bargain or a rare find. Attended by dealers, non-professionals looking for antiques, people simply needing an item for their home, or the person who finds this a pleasurable way to spend the day, auctions have been a part of the New England scene for decades. From out of attics and barns across the countryside, come items one person calls "junk" and sees as something he can dispense with to earn extra money. However, another person sees them as treasures of value. At auctions you may come across exactly what you're looking for to enhance your home or your collection, whether it’s glassware, china, woodenware, old dolls, tinware, quilts and coverlets, rugs, furniture, silver, barn tools, pewter, and much more.

Determining the Price

Many factors determine the price of an item. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind as you wander the countryside frequenting the auctions in search of items you desire. Demand and fads play a large part in the price of the item. When a particular collectible is in vogue, naturally the price will be higher. So if you temper your purchasing to your own needs and tastes, instead of collecting simply because an article has been publicized, your money will go further. On the other hand, be open minded. If you set out for one item, but see something else along the line you're collecting, don't pass it up if it’s within your budget. For when you do want that piece to complete your set or collection in the future, you may be unable to find it or afford it.

Purchase With Care

Don't purchase indiscriminately and buy everything you see that is older. You'll clutter your home with odds and ends, but have no real highlights to show for your efforts. Choose a few lines of collectibles and generally limit yourself to those.

Be Careful When Bidding

If a number of people are bidding at an auction, and the competition gets tight, the price is likely to go higher than necessary, simply because one hates to let the other one get the article. So don't be led into competitive buying and pay more than the item actually is worth. You'll wonder why you ever did it once you tote your purchase home.

Consult Reliable Dealers

Reliable dealers and auctioneers are good people to consult when you desire advice about collecting. Also find books and magazine articles about the particular items you're accumulating. Get to know maker’s marks on old china, glassware, pewter, silver, etc. Study collectibles and learn about the style, decoration, and feel of the articles you're collecting. Visit museums and seep yourself in antiques and collectibles lore.

Fascinating Heritage and History

You'll soon find yourself caught up in the fascination of your heritage and become fired with the desire to enhance your home with belongings of your ancestors’ eras. If historical significance of pieces has little appeal to you, you'll likely be struck by the artistic appeal of some items and collect them for their sheer loveliness or uniqueness.

Value Depends on Viewpoint

Also, what may be extremely valuable from one person’s viewpoint due to sentimental value or family association, may not be valued so highly by the dealer or auctioneer. But this need not diminish the heirloom in the owner’s estimation, for true worth (or satisfaction of ownership) need not be solely monetary.



Among the antique woodenware popular with collectors and nostalgia buffs you'll find the wooden bowls, like those used by early settlers. Some were brought over from England, but most were whittled by the pioneers as the need arose. Not many of those old bowls exist today. They were made to be used so wore out. However, those from one’s childhood are popular, such as the ones my mom used in the kitchen at our farm.

Bowls of Great Variety

The bowls of early America were of great variety, ranging from small salt dishes to round and oval bowls for serving the main dish at the meal. Large round and oblong ones, often 20 inches across, were used a chopping bowls. Wood also was a material for making washing bowls, similar to the earthenware and pottery ones of later years. The pioneers shaped the earliest bowls with simple tools, such as chisel, knife, and plane. Later, especially in the 18th century, as colonial tradesmen began to make woodenware, they used lathes for turning the inside of bowls, cups, and mortars. From this came the name of "turner’s ware" for such items.

New England Woodenware Industries

As a thriving woodenware industry developed in New England, bowls were made by both individual turners and manufacturers or woodenware mills. Sutton, Rindge, Berlin, Jaffrey, and Weare were centers in New Hampshire. Winchendon and Chicopee, Mass. also were active woodenware producing towns. The Shakers of New Hampshire and New York made wooden bowls, usually painted on the outside with yellow, blue, blue-green, or orange. Theirs were well-made and of excellent design and proportion. Most Shaker wares now are found only in museums or private collections.

Various Woods for Bowls

The native woods, such as pine, curly and bird’s -eye maple, poplar, yellow birch, cherry, ash, beech, and walnut were most commonly used for constructing these wares. Hard, heavy lignum vitae was imported from the West Indies, and sometimes was used for bowls. White ash bowls often were fashioned into nests of bowls. These were rare items, even in those days, and a household was unlikely to have more than one set. So today, they are greatly coveted by collectors. Among other rare pieces are bowls of curly and bird’s-eye maple. Also, salt bowls for table use are dated items.

Wooden Chopping Bowls

The large chopping bowls, like the one of my childhood, are in great demand nowadays. They can be restored with little work, but are more authentic-looking when chopping knife marks and chips are left visible. To obtain a nice finish, sand the inside and out with fine sandpaper, then rub the outside with oooo steel wool. The outside may be waxed until it has a high shine, while the inside is usually left as is. You might rub salad oil over the inside lightly to keep it from drying out.

Decorative Pieces

Wooden bowls make lovely decorative pieces if you don't want to use the old ones for chopping or serving salads. The oval wooden one we used during my childhood to make cole slaw and chop vegetables for corned beef hash occupies a prominent place in our home.



American tinware, an attractive item many collectors enjoy, often adorns their kitchens or family rooms. Some old tinware is highly decorated while other pieces may be subdued in color and design. However, it all has appeal to someone. Commonly associated with Yankee peddlers, American tinware often was distributed by them as they went from home to home around the countryside. Frequently they were hired by the makers of tinware and traversed the Atlantic seaboard on foot and with carts and horses. Later they carried their goods westward.

Tinware of Many Types

This hand-painted and stenciled tinware - pots, pans, coffee pots and urns, canisters, trays, candle sconces, cookie cutters, lamps, dippers, cake molds and boxes of various sizes for holding anything from food supplies to jewelry and important papers - was produced in the millions of pieces in the 18th and 19th centuries throughout New England. Articles of tin were made in England and on the continent in the 1600s and 1700s where the process of “japanning” (applying and kiln-firing lacquer imitative of Oriental work) was refined to a high degree. Elaborate designs of classic and rococo style ornamented many of these wares.

American Tinware

Until after the American Revolution, the colonies imported most of their tinware. However, some was made in America as early as 1712. In 1740, Edward and William Pattison began producing tinware that led to Berlin, Conn. becoming an tin center. Most early tinware was unpainted and thus often called, “poor man’s silver,” and considered inferior to articles of china, glass, and silver for the household. Piercing, punching, or crimping was the manner of ornamentation if elaboration was desired.

Signed Tinware

After 1800, the use of tinware became more widespread and hand painting and japanning were the usual methods of decorating. Often the tinsmiths’ families were the decorators, with wives and daughters frequently revealing much artistic ability in their designs. Occasionally old pieces still can be found with an artist’s name or initials worked into the design. Tinware made by Aaron Butler often was signed by his daughters who did most of the hand-painting. “Ann Butler” or “B” was found within a heart wreathed by flowers, fruit, stars, birds, etc. Another daughter, Minerva, also signed her full name or initials to many pieces she painted.


Stenciling, or the use of cutout paper patterns in shaping the parts of a design for hand painting, was begun in 1817. These designs usually were in bronze or gold against a dark or black background. Black and brown background colors were very common for both hand-painted and stenciled tinware. Rarer background colors were yellow, cream, blue green and red. As you begin your tinware collecting forays through antique shops, yard sales, and auctions, check out these wares to see if you can find something old and interesting.

Copyright © 2009, Mary Emma Allen


Mary Emma Allen's books, available by contacting the author/illustrator at or visiting her web site where you'll find further description and an order form: http//

1. Tales of Adventure & Discovery, a collection of children's stories previously appearing in magazines, written/illustrated by Mary Emma Allen; published by MEA Productions; $9.95 plus postage.

2. Tales of Adventure & Discovery Coloring Book, containing illustrations and excerpts from the anthology, by Mary Emma Allen, published by MEA Productions; $1.95 plus postage, or $1.00 when purchased with the anthology.

3. When We Become the Parent to Our Parents, the chronicle of her mother's journey through Alzheimer's, written/illustrated by Mary Emma Allen, MEA Productions; $9.95 plus postage.

4. Writing in Maine, New Hampshire & Vermont, a resource book for writers, publishers, librarians, and teachers, written by Mary Emma Allen, published by Writer's World Press. Regularly $16.95 plus postage, now $9.95 plus postage. (The publisher is celebrating their 10th anniversary and offering specials on their books.)

5. The Magic of Patchwork, the story of quiltmaking with directions for beginners' projects, written/illustrated by Mary Emma Allen, published by MEA Productions; $8.00 plus postage.

6. Manuals for Writers, written by Mary Emma Allen, $5.95 each plus postage:
Writing for Children
Travel Writing
Writing for Regional Markets
Writing for Publication
Nuts & Bolts for Beginners
Marketing Your Manuscript
Writing for the Weekly Newspaper
Writing Newspaper & Magazine Columns

7. Posters - autographed enlargements of the illustrations from Tales of Adventure & Discovery or the coloring book.
$1.00 for 8 1/2 x 11; $3.00 for 11 1/2 x 14, plus shipping.

Books in Progress:
Sarah Jane's Daring Deed, a picture/coloring book by Mary Emma Allen
Tips for Teaching Writing to Young Writers by Mary Emma Allen
Tales of Adventure & Discovery Writing Activity Book
Papa Goes to War, a middle reader Civil War novel based on Mary Emma Allen's ancestors' experiences.
Uncle Buffalo Bill (Mathewson, not Cody), the story of Mary Emma Allen's ancestor who operated trading posts on the Santa Fe Trail.

Workshops: Mary Emma teaches workshops for adult and young writers. She also presents children's programs in schools and libraries


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