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A Good Story

Antiques, as objects, are enjoyable for their aesthetics but finding a piece with a story makes it come alive.  But most of the antiques we find don't come with a story so we spend considerable time researching the item.  This is not always fruitful but every once in a while our hard work pays off.

Recently we found a carnival bean bag toss game of a smiling black figure holding a wedge of watermelon.  The back was marked "Pinkerton Amusements" with the date "1907."  It also has the initials "WR" which we presume was the artist.  Believing this to be a piece local to the Philadelphia/Maryland/Delaware area we spent a lot of research time but came up with nothing.  We kept finding reference to the famous Pinkerton Security Agency which we initially disregarded.  

What began to come together was a story tied to an area outside of Pittsburg, PA, informally referred to as Pinkerton, a famous 19th Century labor dispute and a rich tradition of amusement parks in the Pittsburg area.  In 1892 Homestead, PA was the site of a bitter labor strike against the Carnegie Steel Company.  Carnegie brought in a large contingent of Pinkerton men to break the strike which culminated in a pitched battle between the strikers and the Pinkerton men.  The battle remains the second most deadly in U.S. labor history.

During that period the Pittsburg area was rich in amusement parks including Kennywood, first opened in 1898 and still operating today.  Kennywood is one of two amusement parks listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

We believe that as labor relations at Carnegie Steel normalized, the Pinkerton force was reduced, then eliminated, and many stayed in the area and settled what was originally referred to as Pinkerton, PA.  It is likely the Pinkerton Amusement Company came from this area and supplied arcade materials to the local amusement parks.

It is gratifying when we can tie an item to a particular historical time or event.  This elevates an antique from simply an object to a link to our past.  And we all love a good story.

   

 

 

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