The Most Expensive Lamp Ever Sold

If you are ever looking for a lamp to light up your front porch, read a book by, or to simply look pretty on that antique table, you should come into the Midtown Mercantile Merchants Mall at 4443 E. Speedway. We have a wide variety of lamps from antique to art deco to kitschy to mid century modern to funky!  Pictured here are some lamp examples … there just might be something similar in the mall right now.

The most expensive lamp in the world is the Pink Lotus sold at Christie’s Auction House in New York, on December 12, 1997 for $2.8 million. It is believed to be the only known example in existence.The Tiffany lotus lamp is made of bronze with a mosaic pattern of leaded stained glass. The shade is formed of eight lotus flowers which overlap to form this beautiful lamp. It is believed to have been made somewhere around 1905.  
Did you know that a small town in southern Arizona is home to an extremely rare example of Tiffany art glass? Keep following this Midtown blog as I’ll be telling this story soon!

The most expensive lamp in the world

Carol Fenn 3-2017

Baby, It’s COOL Inside The Mall!

Yep, it’s gettin’ hot out there, but thanks to our air conditioning it’s nice and COLD inside the Midtown Mercantile Merchants Mall at 4443 E. Speedway. The onset of our annual heatwave here in Tucson got me to thinking about how Tucson’s residents used to stay cool back in the day.

You might not need mittens in the mall but, trust me, it’s cool inside!

Sleeping porches, cooking outside, light cotton clothing, wide brimmed hats, water soaked sheets, thick adobe walls, a fan blowing over an ice filled bowl, and getting the heck out of town! These are some of the ways folks used to survive the hot desert heat.  

Sleeping porch

Wide brimmed hat

Fan blowing over ice

Nowadays this is known as a “redneck air conditioner” LOL

Some time in the early mid twentieth century some enterprising guys started tinkering with Rube Goldberg machines in an attempt to invent an evaporative cooler. They experimented with chicken wire, charcoal, excelsior, wallboard and electric fans. These contraptions were known as “swamp boxes” or “swamp coolers.”

They even had swamp coolers for cars

The first successful swamp coolers were homemade wooden boxes installed in windows. Charcoal, packed with chicken wire was placed on one side and a hole one-foot in diameter on the other. The box was placed in the window with the hole facing inside the room. Outside, a garden hose slowly dripped water onto the charcoal. An electric fan was placed inside the box to draw air through the charcoal.

Early cooler ad

By 1935, Phoenix had about 1,500 of these window coolers and a year later the number was up to 5,000. Evaporative coolers soon were seen on roof tops and windows of homes and buildings across the state like wildflowers sprouting after a heavy spring rain.  

There’s always ice cold lemonade!

Nowadays some of us still have swamp coolers, cool drinks, wide brimmed hats and cotton clothing to help us stay cool. Of course with the advent of air conditioning in our cars, homes, and businesses we can stay nice and cool no matter how hot it gets. So pour yourself a lemonade made from our local Tucson citrus then maybe come on in to the antique mall cuz baby it’s *cool* inside.

Sitting on a block of ice – yep, that would keep you cool!

Carol Fenn 3-2017

Collecting Milk Bottles ~ Tucson and Beyond

The image of the milkman delivering bottles of milk to the front door is forever etched on the mind of most people. But such deliveries are a thing of the past almost everywhere. Perhaps this is why so many have a fondness for milk bottles. These nostalgic bottles vary greatly in style, size, etc. This makes for a fun treasure hunt and if you come into the Midtown Mercantile Merchants Mall at 4443 E. Speedway you just might find a bottle or two. 

Before there were milk bottles. San Fernando, CA, circa 1910. This is a truly amazing photo!

Those who have been bitten by the milk bottle collecting bug will find many examples to add to their collection. There is a vast array of different sizes, shapes, and colors. There are related bottles as well, such as those produced to hold cream or cottage cheese. 

Some nice examples

The number of different dairies is too many to count. Most collectors specialize. Many focus on a particular dairy, or dairies within a particular geographical area. Such as Tucson, or Arizona. Rumors are that at one time Tucson had over forty active dairies so there are lots of bottles out there waiting to be found! Other than location, some collectors search out only cream-top bottles or bottles with a particular design – such as cows, clover leafs, human faces, or dairy barns.

Rare “A Mountain” bottle

Some rare Arizona bottles. Part of the collection of one of Arizona’s most important collectors.

Cream top

More Tucson examples

 Common milk bottles can be found for anywhere from $5 to $25. The prices go up from there. It’s not unusual to see milk bottles with price tags of $50, $100, and a whole lot more.

Rare Flowing Wells bottle

So put on your treasure-huntin’ shoes and get out there and grab some of these fantastic little pieces of history.

A pretty little Sunset Dairy bottle

Carol Fenn 3-2017

Tucson’s Irish Influence – A Wee Bit of History

It’s St. Patrick’s Day! Are you envisioning Ireland? Not easy as Tucson is pretty different from the Emerald Isle. You won’t find rolling hills of lush green grass or fairies under a four leaf clover!  And it’s not a place that you would think has a huge Irish influence, either. But hold onto your leprechaun darlin’ for I’m about to tell you a tale of an Irishman who was amazingly important to Tucson.

No, this is not Tucson LOL

The founding father of Tucson, the red-haired, Hugh O’Connor, was born in 1732 in Dublin, Ireland, into the Gaelic-Irish aristocratic O’Conor family. When he was 18 years old—like many other Irish aristocrats—O’Conor left his homeland and moved to Spain where his cousins were serving as officers in the Spanish Royal Army. 
After marching across the northern expanse of New Spain (the Americas) evaluating the presidios (forts) for King Charles III of Spain, O’Conor arrived at the presidio of Tubac in the summer of 1775.
Silver had been discovered 60 miles southwest of Nogales in 1736. The resulting rush of prospectors led to the establishment of Tubac Presidio for protection in 1752. O’Conor felt the location of the Tubac presidio was not acceptable and he set off to find a better site. He traveled north to the mission of San Xavier del Bac where he contacted Franciscan priest Francisco Garces, asking for his assistance in choosing a new site.

Tucson Presidio

The location chosen was known by the Pima Indians as “shook-shon” or “chukeson,” meaning “spring at the foot of the black mountain,” referring to the volcanic peak to the west of the site. On Aug. 20, 1775, O’Conor issued a proclamation declaring the establishment of “San Augustin del Toixon as the new site of the Presidio.” The proclamation was drawn up and signed at San Xavier del Bac and contains the signatures of O’Conor, Father Francisco Garces and Lieut. Juan de Carmona. After several different spellings, the site became known as Tucson. In 1776, the Spanish forces moved from Tubac to Tucson. 

The presidio gate in downtown Tucson

 The order that founded the fort at what is now Tucson read:
San Xavier del Bac.

August 20, 1775

“I, Hugo O’Conor, knight of the order of Calatrava, colonel of infantry in His Majesty’s armies and commandant inspector of the frontier posts of New Spain

Certify that having conducted the exploration prescribed in Article three of the New Royal Regulation of Presidios issued by His Majesty on the tenth of September 1772 for the moving of the company of San Ignacio de Tubac in the Province of Sonora, I selected and marked out in the presence of Father Francisco Garces and Lieutenant Juan de Carmona a place known as San Agustin del Tucson as the new site of the Presidio. It is situated at a distance of eighteen leagues from Tubac, fulfills the requirements of water, pasture, and wood and effectively closes the Apache frontier. The designation of the New Presidio becomes official with the signatures of myself, Father Francisco Garces, and Lieutenant Juan de Carmona, at this mission of San Xavier del Bac, on this twentieth day of August of the year 1775.”

This little bit of local history makes St. Patrick’s Day all the more special! So, enjoy your corned beef and cabbage and toast a green beer to Hugh O’Conor.

Statue of Hugh O’Conor – note his red hair

Carol Fenn 3-2017

~ Collecting Breyer Horses ~

If you come into the Midtown Mercantile Merchants Antique Mall looking to add to your herd of Breyer horses you just might find some. I found a foal grazing on a shelf just the other day. Cute, huh?

This cute Breyer foal is in space #830

The Breyer Molding Company of Chicago made their first model horse, the # 57 Western Horse, in 1950. It was a special order for the F.W. Woolworth Company, made to adorn a mantelpiece clock. The company was flooded with requests from people who saw it and wanted to know if they could purchase just the horse. By filling those orders the Breyer Molding Company changed their focus and changed the play time of children, especially girls, everywhere! Today they are collected by mostly adults. And while most are very affordable there are some rare models that can sell for thousands of dollars.

Recent online completed sales

In the mid twentieth century most little girls read the books, “Misty of Chincoteague” and “Brighty of the Grand Canyon” both by Marguerite Henry.  Breyer delighted many children when they made models of the scrappy pony and the funny little burro from these books.



Today, some are made especially for high end collectors. They start out expensive and tend to go up in value. Sometimes, in the past, a variation in the paint job might have occurred. For example, there is a common mold typically called the Proud Arabian Stallion. For many years it was produced with a dappled gray coat and a gray mane, tail and hooves. However, a few of these models came from the factory with black manes, tails, and hooves, and black socks or stockings. These special, rare models, are considered variations of the Dapple Grey Proud Arabian Stallion and are very valuable compared to the regular model.

Dapple Gray Stallion with black points

Unlike some collectible toys, Breyer horse packaging does not usually add to the model’s value. Unfortunately, there have been some issues with pre-2000s packaging, in which if a model is left in the box for an extended period of time, the box can actually cause harm to the horse’s finish due to rubbing of the paint on the sides of the box or on the plastic ties binding it to the packaging, therefore diminishing the model’s value. So if you have an older model get it out of that box and let it run loose!  

It’s good that they don’t have to feed all these horses!

Address: Midtown Mercantile Merchants Mall

                 4443 E. Speedway, Tucson AZ

The very first Breyer horse

Carol Fenn 3-2017

Why You Should Buy ~And Use~ A Copper Pot

In the Midtown Mercantile Mall gazebo we have a French country kitchen with all manner of lovely items. Possibly the most useful are the heavy copper pots that populate this nook.  

A country kitchen in Normandy, France

A zillion years ago, back in the 1970’s, I was part of an interesting foursome on the golf course. We were two entertainment attorneys, Herb and Bert; a probation officer, John; and me, the horse trainer. I distinctly remember the first time I walked into Herb’s kitchen in Beverly Hills. There, in all their glory, about a dozen copper pots hung above the center island stove. He took down one of the smaller pots and whipped up a bearnaise sauce to go with our steaks. Delicious.  

Bearnaise sauce – yep, it looked like this!

Why use a good heavy copper pot like Herb did? Of all the metals, copper is the most effective for cooking. The temperature spreads evenly on all sides of the cookware. As you change the temperature on your stove top, the temperature of the pot changes almost immediately allowing you to braise and brown foods to perfection. Hot spots are pretty much unheard of.Your sauces will no longer burn or separate. Melting chocolate will become child’s play.

You can find this double boiler in the mall

Plus, there is no denying the beauty of a shining, or well patinated, copper pan. We’ve all seen photos of kitchens in home decorating magazines where invariably the featured cookware is made of copper. Just like that 1970’s kitchen in Beverly Hills. 

Pots over a kitchen island

So, come on into the mall. Get one of our pots. (Some of them are pictured here) And get going on that sauce!

Currently in the gazebo in our French Country Kitchen

In our gazebo? Look up! You’ll see these pots hanging overhead.

ADDRESS: Midtown Mercantile Merchants Mall, 4443 E. Speedway, Tucson AZ

More pots in France

Carol Fenn 3-2017