What Do We Mean When We Say Well-Rounded?
A woman’s body expands at the mid-section during middle age and not in a way that is charming like a pregnancy. I’ve tried for years to accept this thickening philospohically. The fact of the matter is that no matter how much I wax poetic about accumulated wisdom, a broadened perspective or even the subtle layering of my thinking; I miss bending over to put on my shoes without the feeling of leaning over a basketball. While I have nothing new to say on this particular topic, what I have to offer here today is some beauty from a by-gone era that is, to my eye anyway, a perfect embodiment of well-roundedness.
I have been doing some post recently featuring my vintage coffee pot collection. This seems like a win-win on a couple of levels, especially since I am about to begin selling some of my pots on ebay to bolster our finances. Doing stories about them will create a sort of archive for me to preserve their memory.
So it is and here I am today with 3 more gleaming examples of a perfect marriage between form and function. Actually, the small one in the middle is sort of a repeat. It is the same model as one featured in a previous post, except that it is non-functioning. I include it because this is the one that got me started. This is the one that I found at a garage sale in Albuquerque, NM in the late 1970’s. I mean, have you ever seen a round globe coffee pot before with a round glass bubble at top? I hadn’t and the perfect symmetry coupled with that charming wooden handle just had me at “hello.” And once I got it home, I found that it still worked and it made fabulous coffee for several years until its vintage circuitry could carry on no longer. Now if you want to read how damn good the coffee is from one of these, I covered that previously here.
Once the pot stopped working, I could find no one who had any idea how to fix it and everybody was pretty much using Mr. Coffee’s by then (I won’t even get started on that, but believe me, I will have to have my say sometime). So my sweet percolator was relegated to decorator shelf and novelty item discussion. For decades, I kept my eyes out for another such coffee pot at garage sales, antique malls, used goods shops and along the way, I picked up other old model percolators which eventually evolved into a collecting hobby of sorts, but none of them – none of them that I could find – were spherically shaped, and sadly, none could replicate the taste that I remembered and craved.
It was not until the fall of 1996 when my husband and I were visiting my in-laws in New York and we spent a day along the Hudson taking in the fall colors of the palisades and stopping in some small town shop of the aforementioned ilk, that I spotted the medium sized one that you see pictured above. You cannot imagine my thrill – a larger orb, with a spigot instead of a spout, same gleaming chromium, same round glass globe at the top – oh my, oh my! Did I swath this in yards of bubble wrap and every other soft packing material and hand carry it on the plane like it was a newborn – you bet!
The really fun part about this acquisition was that at the time, I was a co-proprietor of a small shop in downtown Waukesha called “By the Light of the Moon”, dedicated to honoring and acknowledging the cyclical nature of female embodiment with an inventory of books, music and nurture items focused on feminine spirituality and wisdom. We had a cozy sitting area in which we served complimentary coffee and tea to all who entered. How perfect could this coffee pot be in such a setting? (We were a little ahead of the curve as far as providing cozy seating and beverages – Barnes and Noble was just building its first store in the area and it never occurred to us – no I shouldn’t say that – we weren’t entrepreneurial enough to charge for the coffee and tea.) But still, the coffee pot was perfect! Sadly, our little enterprise only lasted 2 more years.
Now it may seem really obvious to you that these two pots would be related by manufacturer. For some reason, I never made that connection. My vintage coffee pot collecting continued in the same hap hazard manner as it had been, with no further luck spotting or acquiring any other globe shaped coffee pots. From time to time, I would describe in detail, my first little treasure to someone I thought might have a clue, to no avail. It wasn’t until the early spring of 2007, that an empathetic antique store owner thought to ask if I had ever googled the name of the manufacturer. Well I had never even thought to look for a name of a manufacturer – some collector am I! Back home, I scoured the surface of my first coffee pot love and etched on the bottom, legible with a magnifying glass was the name Manning Bowman. Well I wondered whom might be the manufacturer of my other globe pot and I went to look … there is Manning Bowman etched right there on the spigot! I’ll be damned. Googling led me to the Pandora’s box of ebay and there lo and behold did I find an image of my first little round coffee pot, as well as, many other gleaming models by Manning Bowman.
I now have a total of four the smallest round pots with wooden handles in my home – only one functioning (I have been sipping a steaming black brew from it all during this writing). I have acquired and gifted two others to friends, trading parts between the several that I have to get them functioning. One of the recipients, my dear friend and former neighbor David, refers to his as “the diving bell” pot and he has featured it in posts on his own blog (Waukesha Sewer Raccoon News) several times. On another forum where I post, a fellow blogger has given me hope of eventually restoring all to functioning state by virtue of the potential know-how of her electrical engineer husband. I personally have non-existent mechanical aptitude, but it does just seem to me that there must be some technology available to keep heat going to the metal of those early electrical appliances. I’ll keep you posted on that.
The third pot of this featured trio, another globe, and of even larger capacity than the first two came into my possession via ebay. I couldn’t resist the orange Bakelite. I have, at least for the time being, bypassed the acquisition of matching creamer and sugar set with same round orange Bakelite handles that appear on the spigot, but I wouldn’t mind to own a pair some day. I have a book on Art Deco Chrome which pictures this pot and values it from $175-250 – pretty sure that I paid between $40 – 60. I know that I purchased a second one in that price range and gifted to one of my brothers for his 50th birthday. I have seen them go for well over $100. Many auctions refer to these pots as being part of Manning Bowman’s “Atomic Pot” line, but I have yet to confirm that as an actual reference from the manufacturer. Other manufacturers made round urns , but the most common I’ve seen are the MB ones. An elderly friend once explained to me that the smallest of these used to be called “breakfast pots” because they only make enough for 2-4 cups of coffee depending on the size of the cups – in other words – just enough for breakfast. The three pots I’ve featured here have three different years of manufacture. The original small “breakfast pot” has a year of 1946, the one I have currently in use is engraved with 1948. The large urn with the orange Bakelite was made in 1951 and the middle size one, the only one with an automatic shut-off and red light, has a manufacture date of 1955.
A vintage ad site proffers this 1949 Manning Bowman Christmas ad. The smallest and the largest of these three pots are featured, retailing for $14.95 and $37.00 respectively. The ad says that the smaller pot makes up to 8 cups, but in my experience they would be very dainty cups, similarly the description for the large pot boasts a production of 32 cups. When I have used my own for parties, it yields about 18 mugs full.
Lastly, I do not intend to sell any of these three pots on ebay – they will be the last to go, if ever!