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Thursday, February 26, 2009

What Does the Half-moon on the Outhouse Door Mean?

“What does the half-moon on the outhouse door mean?” Since the Newton Falls Public Library catalog had no books specifically about outhouses, the staff began to look other places. Books on inventions, such as Eureka! An Illustrated History of Inventions from the Wheel to the Computer, The History of Invention: from stone axes to silicon chips by Trevor I. Williams, and Oh, Yuck: the encyclopedia of everything nasty by Joy Masoff, yielded a great deal of information about toilets. In the late 16th century, Sir John Harrington installed a water closet in his home which could be flushed from an overhead tank. Oh, Yuck [p.178] described how reading in the bathroom began, and takes the reader back to the 1700s when American colonists built outhouses over large buckets or pits. No information was given on the meaning of the half-moon. Even Foxfire 11, in its chapter The Old Homeplace, lists the hog scaler, the cornhouse, and the sorghum furnace, but not the outhouse.

The article The Outrageous Outhouse by Joe Curreri and Therese Nolan in
Antiques & Collecting Magazine, May 2005 addresses this question. The cut outs in the doors served as ventilators, let in light and often a much needed draft as there were usually no windows. As few people could read, the crescent moon was for the ladies and the masculine star was for the men.

An online search revealed the website, Outhouse Moon [] with answers to an earlier Yahoo search. The three answers included discussed the crescent moon for women and the star for men. In the third answer paraphrased from Nature Calls: The History, Lore and Charm of Outhouses by Dottie Booth, it says that “the moon symbol comes from the ancient symbol for femininity, Luna. . . Folklore tells us that women took better care of their outhouses, hence, more survived, and the moon became a lasting symbol associated with the outhouse. One reason women's outhouses outlasted men's involved porcupines chewing on the seats of men's outhouses (for the salt found in urine on the seat).” At this site there is also information about an Outhouse Preservation Society.

The Smoking Mountain News Archives/Mountain Voices, February 14, 2001 [] quotes the book, The Vanishing American Outhouse: a history of country plumbing by Ronald Barlow. Barlow agrees that the half-moon symbolized the ladies room, “while a sunburst pattern indicated male use. While some had circles, hearts, diamonds, triangles, and V-shaped notches mirroring those on early barns and outbuildings.”

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Made in America

“I’ve been wanting to purchase new dishes . . . new stainless steel pots and pans . . . new . . . and I want to buy ones made in America. It seems everything I look at was made by our friends in China . . . Malaysia . . . Pakistan . . . Mexico . . . Is there a list somewhere of products made in the United States?” This is a question even asked by members of the Newton Falls Public Library staff who wish to support local industries.

There are strict standards which must be met in order for a company to claim that their product was ‘made in the USA.’ According to the Federal Trade Commission’s Facts for Business [], “For a product to be called Made in USA, or claimed to be of domestic origin without qualifications or limits on the claim, the product must be ‘all or virtually all’ made in the U.S. The term ‘United States’ as referred to in the Enforcement Policy Statement, includes the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories and possessions.” It is very interesting to read this document in full, as it alerts consumers about the different ways manufacturers can imply domestic origins, including general terms such as “created in.”

As companies are bought and sold, and production locations are moved; it is often difficult for a consumer to find a product’s country of origin. Congress has attempted to deal with this on different occasions. During the 106th Congress (1999-2000), Rep. James Traficant co-sponsored a bi-partisan bill, H.R. 754: Made in America Information Act, to establish a toll-free phone number to assist consumers in determining if a product was made in the United States. He reintroduced it during the next session as H.R. 725. There was also a similar bill in 1994, H.R. 3342. All three bills were passed in the House of Representatives and were referred to Senate committees, but never became law.

There are many websites which offer listings of companies who manufacture products in the United States. This is only a sampling of all the sites and companies producing in the United States: Americans At Work [], lists by product types, includes links to the companies’ homepages, and says they check to confirm that the listings are valid; at Made In USA [], users also submit products to the website; Shop For America [] is an e-commerce site; Still Made in USA [] gives very detailed information including what accessories may be imported; and US Stuff [] suggests that the consumer should double check everything, as sometimes a company formerly manufacturing in America moves production.

The company websites are also useful tools including a description and history of the company. It is also good to closely check the actual product you are considering for purchase, reading all labels and packaging, as some companies have products both foreign and domestically made.

Back to the initial questions about dishes and stainless steel cookware. Some of the American companies which still manufacture dishes are Hartstone Pottery, The Homer Laughlin Company which is famous for its Fiesta dishware, Niagara China, and Pickard China which over the years has manufactured official china for U. S. embassies, Blair House, Camp David and Air Force One. All-Clad Cookware, Diamond Craft, Kitchen Craft Cookware, and Lifetime Cookware are some of the American stainless steel pan manufacturers.

There used to be a television show on the Travel Channel [], John Ratzenberger’s Made in America. Each week an American-made product was featured.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

How Do Pawn Shops Work?

“Can you tell me how pawn shops work?” Recently, several people asked this question of the Newton Falls Public Library staff. Not finding any books on the library shelves dealing with pawn shops, we went searching online.

Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 4727 [] deals with pawnbrokers. ORC 4727.01 states that “Pawnbroker means a person engaged in the business of lending money on deposit . . . of personal property . . . at a total charge, rate of interest . . .”

Before doing business with a pawn shop it is important to verify that they are licensed. The Ohio Department of Commerce Division of Financial Institutions [] has a great deal of information about the licensing and record keeping required of pawnbrokers. There is also important information for consumers to know if they are considering doing business with a pawn shop. All pawnbroker offices must be licensed and conspicuously display the license. Asking others who have dealt with the business, checking with the Better Business Bureau [] and reviewing the requirements of ORC 4727 is always wise.

Understand what you are agreeing to when you leave your item. You can sell it to the broker or you can leave it as a deposit on a loan. If you leave an item, make sure you know exactly what the interest rates and charges are. There are additional charges that can be placed by the broker pursuant to the law. If the loan amount, interest, and charges are not paid by the agreed time, the item will become the property of the broker.

Do not leave without checking all your paperwork. The pawnbroker must give a statement in ink with the name and address of the person making the loan or purchase, the amount, the rate of interest, the time and date, and the date when payable. A receipt is required for each transaction and must also contain a full and accurate description of the articles pledged or sold.

Each day pawnbrokers are required to give local law enforcement a description of all items pledged or purchased by them. Items pledged must be kept for at least seventy-two hours, and those purchased kept at least fifteen days, unless given written permission to dispose of sooner by the local police chief or county sheriff.

When selling, be aware that you will not be getting top dollar; the pawn shop owner is in business and is seeking to make a profit. If you are looking to make a purchase, as with any other store, it is good to have knowledge of the value of the item you are considering in order to know if the broker’s price is a fair one. He will be looking to make at least a small profit on his original investment.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Ceramic Nuns Playing Baseball

“We were going through some items that belonged to my aunt. She had figurines of nuns playing baseball. One was pitching, one was batting, and the third was catching. On the bottom of each was a number, ©NAPCO, 1956, National Potteries Co., Cleveland, and Made in Japan. Can you help me find information about them?” The Newton Falls Public Library staff was intrigued by these little figures and first began looking in some of our general books of collectibles such as The Kovels' Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide by Ralph and Terry Kovel. There being nothing about the National Potteries, we began to look more specifically in Antique Trader Pottery and Porcelain Ceramics Price Guide and Ohio Pottery and Glass: marks and manufacturers by Lois Lehner. Even though the latter listed fourteen manufacturers in Cuyahoga County, thirteen in Cleveland and one in Bedford, none were NAPCO.

The search continued online. The Antique Ceramic Restoration and Conservation Discussion Board at while discussing monks playing baseball does not make mention of nuns. Some of the online sales sites such as Ebay show NAPCO nuns who are doing various activities including ice skating, skiing and sledding. We were not able to locate any of the nuns playing baseball. One of our staff remembers their family having a set of these nuns many years ago, and thought that they might have been purchased at a convent in Bedford, Ohio. There was a convent of the Vincentian Sisters of Charity of Bedford which merged with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati in 2004, but we were not able to verify that items could be purchased from them in the 1950s.

PRLog Free Press Release [] and Hills Housewares [] both had information about the NAPCO Company or National Potteries Corporation. It was located in Bedford, Ohio and they began production in 1938. Besides producing collectibles such as head vases, salt and pepper shakers, and figurines they also produced glassware. Their green glassware is like the color of Anchor Hockings Forest Green. According to PRLog’s article the company was especially prolific in production during the 1950s and 1960s and collectors believed that their ceramic items were well-designed. The business moved to Jacksonville, Florida in 1980s after being purchased by the Japanese company, Napco. It would appear that the company has evolved into the Napco Marketing Corporation [], importing and distributing floral, gift, and home decor items.