Personal Effects, March 18
By JERRY SAMPSON
Question: Back in the 1990s I dabbled in antiques and had a small booth at Shewmaker’s Antique Mall. I came across a unique souvenir of “High Bridge, Ky.” It was a handmade cedar bucket with High Bridge, Ky. made into it along with the height and length of the bridge.
Mr. Shewmaker gave me the history of the handmade cedar pieces for High Bridge, Shakertown, Camp Nelson, Brooklyn Bridge, Dix Dam and other Kentucky landmarks. He stated that returning home after World War II things were tough. His family found an opportunity with the unique handmade cedar souvenirs that were sold in gift shops. These consisted of replica kegs, wishing wells, windmills and even a biplane.
Mr. Shewmaker said the family would make the items during the week from cedar trees cut in Mercer County. On Friday he would get on a Greyhound bus and deliver them to gift shops around the state and return in a couple of days.
I have found a few of these in years past but have not seen but a very few in recent years. I’m just curious what they may be valued today? Thank you.
Answer: What a great question! I’ve seen many of these pieces that were made and distributed by Mr. Shewmaker. In fact, I have many in my own Harrodsburg collection.
How and where do I start on this one? Will you see these items at a large auction house? No, at least not in this century. But where you will see them are in the collections of lovers of local history.
Pricing can be tricky. A wishing well from Wyoming will bring little, if anything, in Kentucky, and likewise. But a local piece, in its home, and with the right collector, can be a top topic. I can tell you this type of local collector or “saver” is very passionate and prices can rise quickly.
For common things you might see prices of $8 – $12. However, what makes collectors swoon, are are small, hole in the wall, towns’, attractions that are long gone or odd or different shapes. That is when you can see prices escalate to $20 or more.
I know that I’ve paid that for several examples in my collection. I commend you for a great question and for collecting these pieces of the past. In a world full of blinking cell phones and other mindless distractions, we need more cedar wishing wells and moonshine jugs.