Christmas Mistletoe – Naughty or Nice?

 Is mistletoe naughty or nice? In 1952 the lyrics to a popular Christmas tune were “I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus underneath the mistletoe last night.” It may very well have been daddy in costume, but, if not, that would make mistletoe very naughty indeed.

1952 album cover

Norman Rockwell’s take on mommy (getting kissed) by Santa Claus!

Kissing under mistletoe is a long holiday tradition. But, the plant’s history as a symbolic herb dates back thousands of years. Many ancient cultures prized mistletoe for its healing properties. The Greeks and Romans were known to use it as a cure for many ailments.  

Antique card- mistletoe girl, holly boy

A happy tradition

Mistletoe’s romantic overtones most likely started with the Celtic Druids of the 1st century A.D. Because it could blossom even during the frozen winter, the Druids came to view it as a sacred symbol of vitality. They gave it to humans and animals alike in the hope of restoring fertility. 

Mistletoe’s associations with fertility and vitality continued through the Middle Ages. In the 18th century it had become widely incorporated into Christmas celebrations. Just how it made the jump from sacred herb to holiday decoration remains up for debate, but the kissing tradition appears to have first caught on among servants in England before spreading to the middle classes. As part of the early custom, men were allowed to steal a kiss from any woman caught standing under the mistletoe. Refusing a kiss was viewed as bad luck. Another tradition instructed folks to pluck a single berry from the mistletoe with each kiss, and to stop smooching once they were all gone.

Another Norman Rockwell with a mistletoe theme

“Plenty of berries left on this one, my dear”

As Frank Sinatra sang, “Oh by gosh by jolly, it’s time for mistletoe and holly, tasty pheasants, Christmas presents, countrysides covered with snow.” So, mistletoe. Naughty or nice? Who knows? What I do know is, it’s a fun tradition, full of history and a bit of mystery! Happy Holidays from The Mercantile!

Carol Fenn 12 – 2017

Celebrating Labor Day Art!

Labor Day – the perfect day to celebrate antique and vintage labor posters and other labor related art.

Some honor home front workers supporting the war effort. Many support and celebrate the union labor movement, which brought so many important rights to American workers.

Woman Labor – 1912

Some are 1930’s WPA posters – the Works Progress Administration which, thanks to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, employed the unemployed and helped bring us out of the Great Depression.

The “Free Labor Will Win” poster represents fighting the Axis dictators in World War II (which had “unfree” labor) combined with President Roosevelt’s positive policies toward organized labor unions.

There are Women’s labor posters, anti child-labor posters, etc. I’ve also included a labor related US stamp and the movie poster from the great movie, Metropolis, about a shining Art Deco city which is powered by thousands of poor abused workers living underground.

Come on in to the Midtown Mercantile Mall at 4443 E. Speedway in Tucson, Arizona. We have many merchants who sell vintage art. There just might be some of these old labor posters in the mall right now. If you hang a few of these on your wall you will have a wonderful historic collection, and they are beautiful as well!

Carol Fenn 9-2017

MAYNARD DIXON ~ Much More Than A Winter Visitor

I recently found this little old painting of indian ponies.

My little Indian Ponies painting

It immediately made me think of the famous American artist and long-ago Tucson resident, Maynard Dixon.  He spent his winters here.  And he died here.  But he was much more than a winter visitor.  I think whoever painted these ponies might have been inspired by his work. Now I didn’t pay much for my modest little work of art, but a 1941 Arizona painting by Dixon, shown below, and titled, The Coming Storm, sold for $520,000 in 2011.

Maynard Dixon The Coming Storm 1941, Tucson, AZ

Maynard Dixon was born in 1875 in Fresno, California. He grew up in the midst of some interesting characters – his aristocratic Confederate family, mountain men, and vaqueros. He started sketching at the age of seven and at a very young age he sent Frederic Remington two of his sketchbooks. Receiving encouragement from Remington, he decided to become a professional artist. Early on he accepted numerous illustration jobs. He got work from several San Francisco newspapers, etc.

Dixon went to work for the San Francisco Examiner in 1899. His reputation as an illustrator grew and soon he was working as a free lance artist for many publications including Harper’s Weekly, Sunset Magazine, etc.

Soon Dixon decided to find “the real west.” He traveled to New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. Here he worked as a wrangler, studied the daily doings of a cowboy, inhaled the stark beauty of the desert southwest, and became sympathetic and wonderfully observant of the lives of native Americans.

This sojourn to the West in 1912 was prompted by a desire to portray the realistic West he knew was there, rather than the mythic West the New York illustrators wanted him to portray. At this point he gave up illustration.

From 1912 on, Dixon was recognized as a painter. Meeting and marrying Dorothea Lange, the famous American photographer, had a great influence on his art. They married in 1920 and by 1925 his style had changed dramatically to even more powerful compositions, with the emphasis on shape and color. A true modernist was born. His low horizons and cloud formations, mysteriously simplified, became his trademark.

Known not only for his composition, his use of our desert colors is unparalleled, as in this New Mexico painting.

Dixon’s second wife was the San Francisco muralist, Edith Hamlin. In 1939, the couple built a summer home in Mount Carmel, Utah near a stand of cottonwood trees. They spent the colder months here in Tucson, where they also had a home and studio. It was here in Tucson that he created some of his most stunning landscapes.
In 1946, Maynard died at his winter home in Tucson. In the spring of 1947, his widow Edith brought his ashes to Mount Carmel where she buried them on a high bluff.


If you are a dealer keep an eye out for works by Dixon. After all, he lived here. He painted here. He died here. Certainly his art is here.

#maynarddixon, #tucsonarizona

CJ Fenn, 2016

Tucson’s Josias Joesler and That Joesler Blue

“Joesler Village” “That estate sale was in a Joesler house.” “Joesler blue” … These are some of the things you will hear if you live in Tucson. But what does it all mean?

Josias Joesler was born in 1895 in Zurich. His architectural legacy would eventually come to articulate the romantic revival Tucson style of the first half of the 20th century.

Josias and Natividad Joesler

He was educated in Germany and France, he lived in Spain, Cuba, Los Angeles. He married his wife Natividad and the two moved to Tucson in 1927.  Soon he became very busy designing commercial and residential buildings with his signature style.

Broadway Village

A very prolific architect, his buildings, commercial and residential, feature traditional southwestern hand crafted decorative motifs. Some of these include hand applied plaster, open brick work, hand hewn beams, colored concrete floors and decorative iron and tin work. Often the instant you walk into a Joesler house you will recognize it as such. If you walk in and instead of seeing a living room wall in front of you, you see a big plate glass window looking into the back yard, a good guess would be, “Joesler.” He embraced the idea of open spaces and being able to see out into nature.  And the accent color on many of the doors, woodwork around windows, etc. is in a beautiful soft blue.

His major surviving commercial architectural buildings are spread throughout Tucson. There are a few on Fourth Avenue.  A good example is the Broadway Village Shopping center on the corner of Country Club and Broadway. Other major commercial buildings include Saint Philips Church at Campbell and River Road, St. Michaels Episcopal Church at 5th and Wilmot, the Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch, and the original old Ghost Ranch Lodge on Miracle Mile.

Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch

Many of his residential buildings are in the Catalina Foothills Estates and in the Historic Blennman-Elm Neighborhood and there is a string of his homes on Country Club just south of Broadway.

And that “Joesler blue?” … some might call it cornflower blue, but since Josias Joesler used it as an accent on so many of his projects, if you live in Tucson you call it Joesler blue!

Carol Fenn

Tucson’s Own Howard Terpning 

Lawrence of Arabia, Cleopatra, The Sound of Music. Do you know what these three movies have in common? …… Times up! … the art for all three of their movie posters, along with over seventy others, was done by Tucson’s own Howard Terpning.   

Original artwork for Cleopatra poster

Terpning was born in 1927 in Oak Park, Illinois. As a boy he liked to draw and knew by the age of seven that he wanted to be an artist. At fifteen, he became fascinated with the Western US and Native American history when he spent the summer camping with a cousin in Colorado. At the age of 17 he enlisted in the Marine Corps and served from 1945 through 1946. 

Terpning’s Lawrence of Arabia poster

After leaving the Marines he enrolled at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts in their 2 year commercial art program using the G.I. Bill to pay his tuition. 

The Sound of Music poster by Howard Terpning

After art school he started work at a Chicago illustration studio as an apprentice. Eventually he began to work on his own commissions. By 1962, he was working as a freelance artist. During his 25 years as an illustrator he created magazine covers, story illustrations, advertising art and 80 movie posters starting with The Guns of Navarone in 1961. Other examples include Cleopatra, Doctor Zhivago, The Sound of Music, The Sand Pebbles and Lawrence of Arabia.

In the early 1970’s Terpning grew tired of commercial work and decided to pursue his interest in the American West and Plains Indians. Still living in the eastern US, he began to create fine art paintings, selling them in Western galleries. After a few years, he moved to Arizona to devote himself to painting the American West. 

Terpning’s art is revered for his attention to even the tiniest detail. But in capturing the details he also invokes … the mood. The history. The life force. The surrealistic beauty of that particular moment in time.  

Terpning’s paintings have sold very well at auction. At least two of them have sold for over 1 million.  But you don’t have to be a millionaire to own his work.  Fine art prints of some of his works can be found.

Some of the museums Terpning’s work can be found in are the Phoenix Art Museum, The National Portrait Gallery, The Smithsonian Institution, The Gene Autry National Center of the American West and The Gilcrease Museum.

Howard Terpning. Tucson is proud that you call her your home.

Carol Fenn 2-2017

Tucson’s Folk Artist ~ Salvador Corona

For a few years there was a venue in downtown Tucson called The Maker House inside of the Bates Mansion. The Maker House venue is long gone, but I was fortunate enough to attend an event there and got a chance to enjoy the many architectural elements of the building. For example, the ceilings are spectacular with mounding like I’ve never seen. And then there is the mural by Salvador Corona.

Mural – Bates Mansion – downtown Tucson

Salvador Corona, in his early years in Mexico, was a bullfighter. After being gored by a bull, and with encouragement from a colleague, he turning to painting.

He depicted 17th and 18th century colonial Mexico based on stories he heard while growing up in the Mexican state of Chihuahua; stylized landscapes; scenes of Tucson; etc.

In 1939, at the request of the Mexican government, he traveled to New York City’s World’s Fair to represent Mexico.

Bed detail

His painted furniture attracted the attention of many wealthy American patrons, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Commissions followed.

After getting a commission to paint the rotunda in The Manning house in downtown Tucson he came to live in Tucson, wife and daughters in tow, in about 1950. He died in 1990. His studio and residence was located at 1701 East Speedway Boulevard, and then 902 North 4th Avenue.

He was, for many years, one of Tucson’s leading artists. His folk art paintings of Colonial Mexico can still be found in some Tucson homes and businesses. He is also well known for his smaller-than-a-mural objects. Boxes, trays, frames, beds, screens, etc.

While in Tucson his work was sold exclusively through Frank Patania Thunderbird shops located next to the Fox Theatre and in the Josias Joesler designed Broadway Village.

There have been two major exhibitions of his work: in 1989 at the Arizona Historical Society and in 2010 at the Arizona State Museum.

Today, his works can sell for a pretty penny, so keep an eye out for his distinctive style.

Carol Fenn, 1-2017

“A Spot of Beauty” – Rose Cabat

A couple of years ago when the Tucson Museum of art had a major exhibition of her work, I was lucky enough to meet Rose Cabat. I’ve always thought it was so interesting that this famous 4th. Avenue ceramicist was so well known by collectors all over the world, but here in Tucson I meet people all the time who do not know of her, or her work.  

Rose working in her studio

Rose Cabat (June 27, 1914 – January 25, 2015) was an American studio ceramicist who was best known for her innovative glazes on small porcelain pots that she called “feelies.” These are often in the shape of onions and figs.   Rose continued making pottery even at the age of 100.  She was the oldest living, actively working, ceramicist in America. She lived in Tucson.

After WWII Rose made crafty ceramics such as wind bells, animal figurines, etc. to help support the family. Meanwhile, her husband Erni worked in Tucson as a graphic artist and in advertising. They became friends with local artists, and helped to start the Art Center, the forerunner of the Tucson Museum of Art. 

Rose and Erni Cabat, mid twentieth century



In 1956, Rose and Erni took a pottery glazing class at the University of Hawaii. Thus began the development of glaze formulas which were later applied to those “feelie” forms that become Rose Cabat’s most famous works. In about 1960, she hit upon the basic form of the vessel which would become the foundation of the “feelies.” She created a pot with a delicate closed neck, which could not even hold a single slender flower stem. She said,

 “A vase can hold weeds or flowers, but can’t it just be a spot of beauty?”

By 1966, Rose Cabat was beginning to be recognized as a craft artist, with an exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The Tucson Art Museum loaned one of Rose Cabat’s blue-green feelies to the mansion of the Vice President, Walter Mondale, to be displayed in his living room along with other works of art.

 Now about those “feelies.” Yes, they do have a different “feel” than any other pottery. They have been described as sensual with an unforgettable texture. The silky satiny glaze has even been called almost spiritual. If you ever get the opportunity to hold one you will see what I mean.  

As the Antiques Roadshow appraiser, David Rago has said, “While some modern studio pottery is intellectual or even angst-ridden, the work of Rose Cabat … expresses pure joy in its design and decoration.”

Cabat pieces on display at an American Art pottery show and sale

I have been lucky enough to own a piece by Rose Cabat. It came from the estate of Berta Wright, another mid to late twentieth century Tucson resident who also made many contributions to the mid century modern movement. It’s also hard to find people who know who she was. Ah, Tucson. So many interesting people have called you home. 

Carol Fenn 1-2017

Arizona’s Mana Pottery 

I was recently given two pieces of old Mana pottery, made in Arizona. Even though I’ve been scouring Arizona for 27 years for all manner of antiques and collectibles, this was my first introduction to this pottery. I found it to be intriguing so I decided to look into it’s origins. 

The marks can vary

For the last 60 plus years Mana Pottery, which is based in the beautiful Aravaipa valley, has been producing American Southwestern art pottery unlike any other. They are still active. Their hand painted, hand made, earthenware is unusual, unique, and quite glorious. Grouped together it would make a stunning collection.  

The beautiful Aravaipa Valley. Home to Mana Pottery

Hummingbird vase front and back

Rare Mana pottery pendant

Immanuel “Mana” Trujillo was the heart of Mana Pottery. A World War II veteran who suffered a bomb blast that caused traumatic brain injury, Trujillo led a very interesting life, getting to know both Timothy Leary and Salvador Dali, among others. 

Horses are a recurring theme

 At some point Trujillo came to Arizona and in 1948 he started Mana Pottery. Senator Barry Goldwater, for one, was an early collector. It was sold at Goldwater’s Department Stores, Red Feather Lodge in Grand Canyon National Park, and other small gift shops across Arizona and New Mexico. Mana Pottery ceremonial earthenware was also sold at Ortega’s in Scottsdale, Arizona. The “Peyote Way” line of Mana pottery is featured in the Smithsonian’s “Museum of the American Indian Collection.”

A nice little collection

The Peyote Way line

The pottery is relatively rare but with 100 plus unique booths in the Mercantile I’ll bet a piece of Mana pottery could eventually be found. Come on in and take a look!

Carol Fenn 1-2018

“Bear Down” Arizona! – A Bit of History

Football began at The University of Arizona in 1899 under the nickname “Varsity.” This name lasted until the 1914 season when the team was re-named the “Wildcats.” For several years, from 1915 into the 1950s, the team had real live bobcats (!) as their mascot. In 1959 the real bobcats were out and in came humans in Wildcat costumes.

First U of A football team, 1899

Vintage “Wildcat”

Now, the Wildcats is a great name for a sports team, and the wildcat mascot is certainly appropriate. But a wildcat is not a bear and a bear is not a wildcat so why the U of A slogan, “Bear Down?”

Early U of A football practice

In 1926, John “Button” Salmon was the student body president as well as the starting quarterback for the wildcat football team. An all-around athlete, Salmon was also the catcher for the university baseball team.   The day after the first game of the 1926 football season, Salmon and two of his friends were in a car which ran off the highway and flipped over in a ravine near Florence, Arizona. Salmon’s friends escaped without injury, but Salmon suffered a severe spinal cord injury. After the accident, U of A football coach Pop McKale visited him in the hospital every day. During McKale’s last visit, Salmon’s last message to his teammates was, “Tell them.. tell the team to bear down.” John Salmon soon died on October 18, 1926. Before the next football game against the Aggies of New Mexico State, McKale told the team what their quarterback had said. The U of A won that game in a hard-fought victory, 7-0.

Bear Down Arizona!

The following year, in 1927, the University of Arizona student body adopted the slogan for use with all Wildcat athletic teams. That year, the Chain Gang, a junior honorary organization at the UA, held a dance in the newly constructed university gymnasium to raise funds to paint the slogan on the roof of the gymnasium. The words are still featured on the roof, now known as Bear Down Gym.  On the U of A Lowell-Stevens football facility a bust of Salmon was erected.  It is said that Arizona football players pass and touch the bust as a show of tribute before every home game.

COME TO OUR ONE DAY “POP UP” that lasts ALL YEAR!  Saturday, September 16th.  Time: 10 am to 6 pm.  U of A Students, Faculty and Employees Only Receive 15% OFF your entire purchase this day! 10% off the entire year!   Midtown Mercantile Antique Mall 4443 E Speedway, Tucson AZ.

John Salmon bust on the University campus

Carol Fenn 9-2017




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