Thursday, May 21, 2009

It's All Over Except For the Shouting, or A Post Script

Tomorrow marks the end of the '09 spring plant growning and selling season for the business. This week, the cleanup began, the 1st summer crop-perennial Hibiscus was planted, and we sold the last of our herb, vegetable, Hosta and other perennials that were grown for the spring. A miracle! We sold out.

After a year and two months of anxiety, deep and careful thinking and a lot of hard work, the spring was a great success. Thank you to the Obama's for planting a vegetable garden at the White House, which caused the media to spur the people on to planting their personal Victory, or Recession Garden.

Trying to figure out how to commit to the '09 season 10 months in advance had my mind working constantly. The numerous conversations with my Father, who was a boy during the Depression, helped a lot. He told me, "During the Depression everyone had at least one tomato plant," "Tom, grow those herbs and vegetables."."You will sell all you can grow.""Land was given to people to squat and farm on during those years, so that the unemployed could at least grow their own food."

During the time between the end of Per's expedition, and now, I have wanted badly to get back to writing. I've been hoping that the readers would continue to check the blog out, and would find that I was writing again.

For the return post I want to start by showing one of the floats that Per found, and that is now in the collection.

On Per's very first day of float hunting, he found the floats. I emailed Per, wanting to know just how the find occurred, in order to preserve whatever history there was. Per wrote back, and said...

I asked many citizens from the city of Alesund, about where I could find a store or someone who was familiar with old antiques and the maritime history of the city. The first person I met didn't know. I was walking around and asked another guy the same questions. His answer was: "Hmm. Maybe down by the docks?" The next person remembered an old store that sold antiques and maritime gear up on the hills. "Just go ahead about 100 meters, turn left then right, and follow the street up the hill," he told me. I said, "Thank you so much," and followed his directions.

There it was, the old antique store. All of the windows were filled with antiques, but I didn't see anything interesting as I looked into them. An older fellow, not that old, maybe in his late 60's or so, was helping customers in the store. So, I entered the antique store, and looked around with my eyes wide open. Nothing. Suddenly, just between some old hip flasks, and hunting bottles which looked to be from the early 1800's, two very old and super rare glass floats were hanging in front of a side window.

After introducing myself, and inquiring about the floats with the owner, I learned that the floats were from the gear of his father and grandfather, and that the owner believed that they dated from the late 1700's or early 1800's. The fishermen from his family's past lived and fished in Alesund. The owner had other fishing gear to show me, much of it old wooden gear, and also a couple of bags of floats from another room. As I searched through the floats, we talked about fishing history. Before I left we struck a deal for the floats. I left there with a racing heart and a broad smile on my face.

The photos above show a truly wonderful and rare float. When compared to a Knobbed Egg float, one can see that they are both small floats. The Knobbed Egg is 4.25 inches long, the Alesund Flat Ended float is 5.125 inches long. Both floats were shaped by first blowing the molten glass into a ball shape, attaching the glass to a pontil rod, stretching the glass using pincers to shape the body and the ends, then snapping the floats off the pontil rod. There is no seal button, just the pontil mark on the end of the float.

The Alesund floats show some unique hand work. They appear to have been flattened on both sides by squeezing the float between two pieces of wood. The float has what appear to be wood grain marks on the sides. The ends were also flattened after being pinched and pulled. Perhaps they too were flattened using a piece of wood? The overall shape of the float appears to me to be fish-shaped.

I am uncertain of their origin. The color of glass is quite rare in a Norwegian-made float. As you can see, there were no chemicals added to the mix to color the glass. The skyblue color is due to the amount of iron oxides present in the sand used. I only know of one other Norwegian float in this color, the very early and rare 3 inch diameter HV with the ring of dots surrounding the letters. This float's color is also present in floats used on the Danish Island-Aeroe.

Floats made using a pontil rod are uncommon-to-rare; and they also appear most often on Swedish-made floats. It is possible that these floats were made in Norway by a Swedish glass blower who came to Norway to work, and perhaps train others in the craft. I have been fortunate to have a few examples of floats with pontil marks, all were Swedish-made. The specialized handwork that is exhibited on pontil marked floats required two people, one with tools and experience, to shape a float, or apply special features to the ball while on a pontil rod. That type of glassworking was time consuming and costly. It is generally accepted that floats were made as cheaply and as quickly as possible. To make a float with hand applied features was far from the norm.

How old is it? Was it from the late 1700's or early 1800's as the seller told Per? I have such a hard time believing that the first floats were made in the 1840's, and feel that the first glass floats were made many years before then. The Knobbed Egg, the tiny Dog Floats, and now this wonderful Flat Ended Alesund float, appear to me to have been made earlier then the first netted and round commercial glass balls. The three float types named above, are very difficult to find, and exist in very few European float collections. This float style is very rare, and other than Alesund, perhaps has appeared nowhere else?

All three of these float types could have been tied to the line from a fishing pole, or a handline by a subsistence fisherman. The piece of string left on the end of this Alesund float is old, and may have been tied to the float in the 1800's.

Thank you to Per for sharing this wonderful piece of history with float collectors, and to anyone else who finds this post interesting. What a great find!


  1. Anonymous4:40 AM

    Very interesting reading Tom, you have done a great job by writing this journey and I love that old HV float too!
    Two very old diamonds from Norway and two great finds!

    Again you have done a great job by writing from my journey and expedition from West to far north norway. A very interesting journey with valuable finds and new contacts. Especially a few new contacts at mid if a new expedition will be arranged, will it be into that area! Got in contact with a bunch of teachers on a seminar at the same vessel north on this expedition and plenty interesting stories from mid-norway, I even got an email with name and phone number concerning rare floats, so I will make contact next week or next month. Can't let those interesting floats slip away!

    Take care, Per