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Old thermometers tell temperature, history

Old thermometers tell temperature, history

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In the early 1900s, thermometers were a popular advertising give-away.

There were no newscasts reporting on the weather, so it was handy for people to check the temperature on a thermometer before going outside. Coat and hat, or will a jacket do? And, in checking, the person would be reminded of the sponsoring business.

Merle Vastine, a collector specializing in all things made in Davenport, has numerous thermometers hanging on a wall in his Davenport basement. For him, they're all about history. Most reflect companies that have long since disappeared, but whose memory is kept alive by the object.

You can see some of Vastine's collectibles on Sunday, Aug. 28, when they will be among the items for show and sale at the Mississippi Valley Antique Bottle and Advertising Show and Sale in Davenport.

The event at the Knights of Columbus Hall, Davenport, also will feature antique bottles, fruit jars, table top antiques, brewery and advertising items, stoneware and Quad-Cities collectibles.

Vastine has many favorites among his thermometers. The former Hansen Lumber Corp. had a thermometer mounted to an actual piece of tongue-and-groove flooring to advertise its Dierks Superior Pine.

And a cigar-maker named Ferdinand Haak, whose home still stands in Davenport's historic Gold Coast neighborhood, gave out a thermometer that advertised his Grace Darling, Speckled Game and  "genuine" Speckled Trout cigars.

While flooring and cigars are still made, some of Vastine's thermometers are from businesses whose whole reason for existing has disappeared. There's no need, for example, for companies that sell "stoker coal" because homes aren't heated with coal anymore.

But at least two of Vastine's thermometers are from companies still thriving today.

A porcelain-covered thermometer bears the words "Joe Kimmel - Kelvinator." Kimmel's company is today's Republic Electric Co., Davenport.

And the Lagomarcino Confectionary with its "'Ideal' ice cream, home made candy, fancy fruits and fountain lunch" hardly needs an introduction.


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