Two Witch’s Kettles and a Teakettle Too
It has been three years since the four posts on old cast iron witch kettles (post label: witch) purveyed my practical antiques dealer experience about them… and my romantic attraction to them. Since then I have… “not had one”; a common dealer expression for “yes I’ve seen a few around in dealer’s stock for either “too much money” or being… “not good enough” as a specimen”. (Please review the earliest witch kettle post for a “good enough” definition). Against our norm, we have found no witch kettles … in estate after estate. Suddenly this summer, from an “old bath house” has come two beautiful specimens AND a colonial era cast iron fireplace kitchen teakettle too!
Stepping back to the recent “Tote Bag Courtesans Two” post I refer to the there reported James Hutton shop sitting and conversing with two highly regarded rare book dealers and… I mentally filing that away as meaning there is a rare book about. This file away I acted on promptly by going down to The Gallery when Hutton was NOT there, speaking with the owners about the book dealers Cronkhite and MacKellar and… did they know where they were staying? Yes they did know where Cronkhite was renting. I then went directly to that old cottage planning to beat around the bush for a chatter’s minute and then lunge after that rare book or books “What’s up?”. I’ve known Ferris Cronkhite for a long time so such aggression on my part would be expected by him.
Cronkhite answered his cottage door, received me and “I haven’t been up your way yet this season”. We then lapsed into current conversation of local “who in rare books is around this summer” moving to “what rare books are being found” on to more evasive conversation about current rare book action details as… one converser blocked the other while pestering that blockage by pretending there …was no blockage at all. Cronkhite and I compete directly for we are both “Americana” specialists meaning we relish and hunt for rare American history. Enhancing the conversation is both of us having decades “at it” and a sixth sense feel-in-the-dark of a “great rare book” BEFORE we “find it”. Cronkhite spends his wholeness finding absurdly unfound …tiny pieces of the puzzle of American history… and selling them. I am more “by good chance I found” in my gathering but we both end up at the same doorstep for the buyer’s dollars. To compete with each other… we do not… either of us… “wish to”.
Because the rumored rare book through Hutton “is supposed to be a sixteenth century (!) English gardening book” “quite rare” “I haven’t seen it”… Cronkhite was fairly forthcoming for he “is not really interested” and the book “has to be sold in London” making it all “too much bother” for man used to slipping American rare book treasure into a briefcase. That unnoticed briefcase is one of the finest rare bookstores in the nation.
As I had found out what I wanted to and… would only lunge after the gardening book should it appear in the local open market, my business was concluded. That settled us into a conversation of what HE’D been finding countered by what I’D been finding “recently” with both managing to NOT mention “anything good”. Within the iota of this conversation came Cronkhite’s startling notice that he “just bought some old iron kettles from his cottage rental landlady “she had out in the bath house”.
“Kettles in the bath house?”
“I’ll show you.”
We walked from his cottage up toward the landlady’s home but turned before it and walked down between the first cottage and the home to a… “looks like an old garage”.
“But it used to be the bath house before the cottages had plumbing”
“Oh. But it has a garage door too.”
“An OLD garage door. The bathrooms and showers are along the side.”
“They don’t use them anymore. They’re filled with stuff. She’s having a yard sale. I found the kettles in here”. By this time we were before the old garage door. Ferris opened one half of it. There, sitting on the wooden floor were the three old 18th century cast iron sweethearts. I loved them immediately. It was hard to believe they were actually there AND Cronkhite’s but they were. Although there were other “old things” destined for the yard sale stored in the garage too, the three “old iron” were the only “anything good” there.
“How much?” I said.
“For sale?” he said. “Well I just bought them. I mean: I didn’t think of buying them to SELL. I was going to take them home. But… I suppose I COULD sell them”.
I was quickly inspecting the three. The charming little “double fist size” kettle has traces of red paint on it and showed no “used outdoors” exposure. It was probably used as home decoration “inside”. The larger kettle has old black paint on it and rust on its inside so WAS “used outdoors” as decoration. The kitchen fireplace teakettle has a fine old surface and shows no decorative usage abuse so… who knows where that was hidden and how they found it. With the scarce chain-attached lid too, it is a wonderful find.
“I guess it would be easier just to sell them.” continued Cronkhite. “Do you really want them?”
“Yes. How much?”