Antique Christening or Birth Announcement Pillows

“‘Welcome Little Stranger’ was an apt greeting to the newborn babe, heralding his entry into this worldly domain. Handwrought pins spelling out these words on satin cushions were a popular baby present in the eighteenth century. Poor Robin, an English almanac, advised: ‘Pincushions and such other knacks. A childbed woman always lacks.’ Hung on the front door, these pincushions announced the new arrival to friends and neighbors. . . . .

“In addressing the newborn as ‘little stranger,’ our Colonial fathers, revealed their deep-rooted attitude toward childbirth. Pregnancy was never spoken of in polite society; it was not even acknowledged within the family. When delivery was imminent, children were foisted on relatives and friends, and to everyone’s surprise, a ‘little stranger’ suddenly appeared. A baby was not given birth to; according to Anna Green Winslow’s diary, ‘About 8 in the evening, Dr. Lloyd, brought little master to town.'”
These pillows or cushions are commonly referred to as christening pillows or cushions. Steel pins form the sentiments such as:

He whose Cradle
Was a Manger
Bless and protect
The little Stranger

An 18th or 19th century pillow should be completely hand sewn and is usually an ivory colored silk or satin. 18th century pillows usually have no lace but a hanging ribbon from which they were hung from the front door. By the early 19th century, these baby gifts were cherished indoors and instead of having hanging ribbons, they often have ruffles and/or lace around the edges. Early ones are stuffed with straw. Because many mothers used the cherished pins that decorated pillows, these pillows are rare, especially if made before 1800.

The above article is copied from my own website.  Citations can be found within the website article at

Ethical Appraisals — Antique Dealers Are Not Appraisers

Everyday I get requests for information and appraisals. I give information that does not require more than a few minutes of research time free of charge. I do not give monetary appraisals because, as an attorney, I see an ethical conflict of interest for an antique dealer to give a monetary appraisal for an item that the dealer might be in the market to purchase. I refer people to a certified appraiser or, if they don’t want to pay, I suggest that they do an internet search to see what their type of item is selling for. Mind you, I’ve already given them information about the piece–including my opinion of authenticity. An internet search is not difficult once you have information about the piece. What are your thoughts about an antique dealer giving valuation appraisals of items that dealer might want to purchase?

Patricia comments “It is unethical for a dealer to render an opinion of value for which the dealer may have financial intrests in. However, USPAP allows an appraiser to render a written appraisal and then broker the item or items of an an estate for a percentage of the value subsequent of the appraisal. I have issues with assistants or those understudies who know how to use a computor and have no idea between a photograph and the Real Thing. Thus Declare themselves Valuers and Appraisers without any ACCREDIDATION , USPAP COMPLIANCE OR MEMBERSHIPS IN APPRAISAL ORGANIZATIONS. I have recently had this experience with an assistant and I can assure you that it is not a pleasant experience to learn they are declaring them Assistant Appraisers in my firm when they are An Assistant to The Appraiser. There Is A First Tiime and A Last Time For Everything.”

Charles comments,  “It is NOT unethical for a dealer to render an opinion of value for which the dealer may have financial interests in if the potential conflict of interest is disclosed to the client prior to giving the opinion. The client can choose to accept or reject the opinion with full disclosure in this case.
It is also possible for an attorny to represent both parties in the execution of a contract when full disclosure of the conflict of interest is disclosed to each party and is accepted by both parties.
Auction and estate sale companies regularly render such opinions before getting the rights to sell the property and usually the opinions are only verbal, prior to contract. The accuracy of those opinions is regularly incorrect and created without any accredidation.
As to accredidation, USPAP compliance does not require it and only requires the complete conforming with their written standards to be able to claim such compliance. There is currently no state or federal statutory requirement  mandating the membership in any organization to perform personal property appraisals that I am aware of. Being USPAP compliant also has no membership requirement.”

Peggy responds, I disagree with Charles.  In my opinion, it is morally unethical for an antique dealer to give an opinion of value for any item in which the dealer may have a financial interest.  I practiced law far to long to view this as anything other than a conflict of interest, even with disclosure.  Lawyers are allowed by law to represent two different parties in a law suit if the parties interest are not in conflict and there is full disclosure.  However, every lawyer knows that it is not only morally unethical to do so, but any future problems can easily result in legal problems for the lawyer.  Valuation appraisals are not appropriate for antique dealers.  I’m not an accredited appraiser although I consult with appraisers on the authentication of items.  My opinion is that there is a place for appraisers and a place for antique dealers and those two groups should help each other but not cross the line between the two areas of expertise.

California Law Prohibits Sale of Antique Ivory, Bone & Just About Everything Else Associated With Wild Animals

California has enacted laws which prohibit the sale of any animal parts of any animal currently protected by the endangered species laws and pretty much any other wild animal, no matter whether the items is antique or not.  See Maine Antique Digest’s stories on the law from April and May 2012 at and  This law affects antique dealers who are considering traveling to California to do a show or selling and shipping an item to California from out of state.  The law affects the sale of nautical antiques such as sailor whimseys and scrimshaw.  It may also affect the sale of antique pianos with ivory keys.  It also affects the sale of portrait miniatures on ivory.  What are your thoughts on this law and whether similar laws are enacted in other states?

Bill writes “Let me get this straight. I am able to possess but unable to legally sell my Steinway piano with ivory keys?”

Peggy responds, Yes Bill, if you are in the state of California, a strict reading of the law means that you cannot legally sell your piano with ivory keys.  I have not read about anyone actually having been stopped from selling pianos or having pianos confiscated because it is offered for sale, but that is how the law reads.  Quite a dilemma!

ItsMe writes  “California is an example of what happens when the inmates take over the asylum.”

Peggy responds,Well, I don’t know that I’d be that general, but it certainly is an example of legislators who don’t really understand a subject, passing poorly written legislation for which they don’t understand the consequences.  Obviously, the wildlife protection folks in California have a stronger lobby power on the legislature than do antique dealers!

Patrick writes Pianos with ivory keys are considered illegal to sell in the state of California. Make no mistake about it. If you have doubts about what is illegal call the California Department of Fish and Game for answers but remember that they are swamped because they are short handed due to cutbacks because of the California economy.

Nellis attributed silhouette?

David from Alabama sent me this photo of a silhouette owned by the Marengo County Historical Society in Demopolis, Alabama, at Bluff Hall. The historical society has attributed the silhouette to Nellis. Master Saunders Nellis was described as “a dwarf man without arms [who] perform[ed] some wonder feats with his toes, the same as with his fingers-such as loading and firing a pistol, playing the violin, shooting with a bow and arrow, cutting fancy papers with a pair of scissors.” Diary of Alexander Muir, Aberdeen University Press, 1990. 53.  Nellis is known to have cut silhouettes circa 1829 – 1862. Groce, George C. & Wallace, David H., The New York Historical Society’s Dictionary of Artists in America 1564-1860, Yale University Press, 1957. 468.  Records show that Nellis worked in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Ottawa, Canada.  Despite his seeming prevalence in touring and working, signed works by Nellis are extremely rare.  I asked David what silhouette the historical society had used to attribute this silhouette, which looks nothing like the rare signed works by Nellis.  David wrote, “Evidently the descendant who gave it to the society in the 1970s had written an inscription on the reverse indicating that the silhouette was cut by Nellis in front of the Battle Hotel in Mobile, Ala.”  David also wrote, “Descendant also dated the sitting on the reverse as circa 1825 which would be a little early for Nellis according to his bio.”  I can find no reference to Nellis having worked in the South at all.  The frock coat’s rolled collar, nipped waist and full skirt hemmed to the middle of the thigh as well as the William Tell style of hat dates the silhouette to the mid-1830s, not 1825 as the 20th century inscription on the back of the silhouette indicates.  I have asked David to seek a better photo of the silhouette from the historical society.  For now, this mysterious attributed Nellis must remain seen without much detail.  The question for readers is–does anyone have any evidence that Nellis worked in the South?  If so, please let us know.  We are dieing to solve this puzzle!  And thanks to David for this contribution to the blog!

Quick update, David did a bit of research on the Battle House Hotel, which was not constructed until the 1850s.