I have always liked candlesticks. Not the shiny sterling silver variety although I do appreciate their beauty. The candlesticks I have always admired best are the simple ones especially Depression Glass era clear or etched candlesticks, simple crystal sticks, and those bulk-classified as “primitives”.
Maybe thirty years ago I started picking up a form of primitive – cool chamber sticks at church sales, garage sales, and flea markets. Chamber sticks are the candlesticks that look like they are in a little saucer and have a circular hook (for lack of a better description) for your finger.
These chamber sticks I found were mostly pewter, and occasionally pottery. The porcelain ones are also pretty but somehow too fussy for my taste. They never cost a fortune. They were inexpensive accents I picked up for anywhere in the range of $5.00 to $15.00 and they added a touch of home to wherever I lived. (My love of candlesticks and oil lamps is all my mother’s fault.)
I never considered myself a true primitives or country person as far as decorating styles went. Some people just take it too far and too dark for me. Too much plaid and gingham ribbons, wooden carved-out hearts. But when I started exploring Chester County I began to appreciate elements of country and primitive in decorating.
I have fallen in love with primitive candle holders. Punched tin lanterns and especially primitive candle sticks known as hog scrapers. When I first developed this candlestick crush, I wrote about it.
My crush is now a full-blown love affair. Made of iron, tin, and even pewter the simplicity of them is so beautiful.
Some people consider them rustic and too beat up. I see the lighting of our forefathers.
Hog scrapers were the go to lighting of average families in Colonial America. My research indicates these candlesticks have not only British roots but Dutch, French, and German as well. Which of course makes perfect sense given a lot of our country’s early settlers.
The name “hog scraper” comes from the similarity in shape and appearance to a tool made for scraping the bristles off of a newly butchered hog (yes a reality of farm life, but yuck…and yes I like pork roasts.) I have read while researching that people actually used hog scraper candle holders for this purpose but none I have stumbled across this far have had any hog bristles snarled up in them. Which is probably for the best, that might gross me out. (I have a thing for chickens, cows and goats but less so for live pigs. They just smell.)
My first primitive candle holders came from The Smithfield Barn. They turned up when someone brought them contents of an old farmhouse. From there I have hunted them in various locations but rarely buy them from traditional antiques dealers because they mark them up too much. Also, I am a practical person and I know I like these candlesticks, but know my knowledge base of age and dating them is somewhat limited. So I would rather not break the bank.
These candle holders seem to date from Colonial times through a good part of the 19th century as America moved west with the pioneers. Stylistically it is my opinion that some candlesticks described as “mission” have their roots in these primitives. I am no expert, but that is my opinion.
I have seen them on Etsy and Ebay. The prices range from inexpensive to ridiculous in price. I recently came across some new reproductions that came into Reseller’s Consignment in Frazer but they were brand new reproductions and felt too light weight-wise in my hand. I think part of why I like these candle holders is the comfortable, solid feel of them. The new reproductions feel like a Xerox copy to me they are so light. Kind of like the difference between truly old oil lamps and the newer reproductions.
I know I seem to preach a lot about decorating on a budget, but that is just the way I am made. I am not the one who wants a decorator, I want my own stamp on my home. And I love the thrill of the hunt for pieces. I hate to say I use high end antique store and antiques shows to educate myself and my eye, but I do. They provide me with an invaluable resource.
That being said, if you live in Chester County or close enough to it, be sure to add the Chester County Antiques Show to your schedule. It is a lovely show and the dealers for the most part are happy to talk to you about their pieces and antiques and collectibles. There was only one dealer last year that I did not find particularly convivial and unfortunately that was Stevens Antiques in Frazer. The attitude of whomever was running their booth the day I was there wasn’t what I would describe as warm or welcoming.
This year the Chester County Antiques Show is April 4, 5, and 6 at the Phelps School in Malvern. This show benefits the Chester County Historical Society which is an amazing resource and they are always doing cool stuff.
If you want to learn about hog scraper candlesticks check out this old post from Blue Dog Antiques.