Back from the Dead: The Rise of the Indian Star!

The Indian Star! It sounds so regal. Like some great diamond hacked out of the dusty earth of the Subcontinent, back in the days of the Imperial Raj, which became the object of desire sought after by thieves and bandits and which played a key role in some dastardly Sherlock Holmes adventure!


THIS is the Indian Star:

It comes from this rather battered-looking Singer 15 sewing machine. My latest sewing-machine purchase:

At just $30 at the local flea-market, this thing was in a SORRY state when I got it. This is what the machine looked like after several hours of hard scrubbing and scouring to remove 70 years’ worth of grime!

That’s right. This machine dates all the way back to 1945! And for a machine that was missing its whole front panel, it was in pretty decent shape, apart from needing a damn good clean and a bit of rebuilding work. It came with its lid as well. Once I get the time I’ll rebuild the front panel and put in a new base for it (the base is absolutely dead), to keep this thing in one piece. It’s barely holding on as it is.

I replaced one hinge, the slide-plate and fixed a few other things, mostly by sanding or scrubbing off rust and grime.

This Singer is a ‘full-size’ machine. That means that it could fit into a treadle-base if I wanted it to. It’s an absolute beast and weighs a ton! It’s hard to believe that something like this (which weighs about 35lbs!) was ever considered “portable” back in the 1940s!!

Will be posting updates as this progresses…


Two-in-One is Much More Fun! Sterling Silver Slide-Action Pencil-Pen Combo.

Sometimes you find the most unassuming things when you go into antiques shops.

While out recently I discovered a new place, and I just had to go in and have a look around. Inside a cabinet of odds and ends – chains and pens and knives and nick-nacks, I found this:

I was umming-and-aahhing over it, checking it out, admiring the beautiful engraving, when I noticed a panel on it which read: “S. Mordan & Co”.

Be still, my beating heart.

As you may recall from my last post on a similar find, the name S. Mordan (that’s Sampson Mordan) is pretty big in the history of both silver, and writing instruments!

I was so thunderstruck to find another item made by such a famous company, and within a year of finding the last one! And it was half the price of the previous purchase. The shopkeeper was generous and chipped the price down a bit more, and I trotted out the door with an 1874 sterling silver slide-action pen-pencil combination!

Granted, not in perfect condition (hey it’s 140 years old, give it a break!), but all the major components functioned, and that’s all I cared about!

It is hallmarked [SM] (Sampson Mordan), sterling silver (Lion Passant) for London (Leopard’s Head), in 1874 (t) and had the duty mark stamped on it of Queen Victoria (Monarch’s Head).

So what is this thing?

Well, it’s got two slides on it, with two slide-knobs sticking out the side of the barrel. Pushing one slide-knob draws out the pencil:

And pushing the other slide-knob draws out the pen:

This being 1874, what we have here is a dip-pen, not a fountain pen. The pen-point could be removed if it wore out or was damaged, and a new nib would replace it.

Of course, you could draw out the pen and pencil together…

Although you wouldn’t be able to do much writing with it!

It’s a mark of the quality of Mordan silver that this piece was purchased as a Christmas present, which I think is incredibly sweet. I know this because it’s been engraved on the cartouche:

It says: “F.E. EASTEN. Christmas, 1874”

I haven’t managed to find out who Mr. or Mrs. or Miss Easten was (although I assume this was bought for a guy), but obviously, someone thought enough of them to buy what was surely not a cheap present back in the 1870s!

Once I got it home, I ran it through the ultrasonic cleaner with hot water and soap, and just watched all the gunk and grease and grime inside this thing come oozing out like oil! You wouldn’t think something so tiny (about 3.5in. long, closed up) would expel so much gunk when it was washed, but the water was the colour of weak tea by the time I’d finished! But, it’s polished and clean now, and it’s in my writing instrument collection, safe and sound!