A Monumental Story of Real-Life Serendipity Told Over Many Parts: Chapter 3 – The Time Period

{Spoiler Alert: This is a series of blog posts detailing the real-life story of a 100-year-old item that was lost 13 years ago and how it found its way home in 2021. Follow along from the beginning of this story at Chapter 1: It Arrives and Chapter 2: Meet Angela}

Juice joints, flapjacks, Model T’s, Kelvinators and Radiolas. Mass culture, Sinclair Lewis, giggle water and Gloria Swanson. The Harlem Rennaisance, votes for women and the woman – Edith Bolling Galt. Jazzy foxtrots, upside-down cakes, and the Great Depression. This week we are back with another installment regarding the story of the lost one-hundred-year-old item and how it is finding its way back home after a 13-year quest for answers and owners.

Welcome to Chapter Three of a Monumental Story of Real-life Serendipity Told Over Many Parts. If you are a new reader to the blog, you’ll want to start at the beginning with chapters 1 and 2. If you have been following along since the mystery package arrived, let’s do a little recap to catch up.

It’s been just over a month since the second installment was shared. This is what we know so far…

  1. The lost item is 100 years old.
  2. It was found by a random stranger named Angela, in an office supply store in a suburb of Atlanta, GA thirteen years ago.
  3. Over the course of the following thirteen years, Angela searched for the original owner of the item, but to no avail.
  4. In 2021, a Facebook group helped Angela eventually uncover some clues about the item.
  5. In July 2021, Angela read an archived blog post that connected the item to the Vintage Kitchen.
  6. A few weeks later the item arrived in the Vintage Kitchen via UPS in a cardboard mailer of medium thickness.
  7. The lost item is valuable, important and definietly something that someone would miss.
  8. The lost item is now in the care of the Vintage Kitchen where it will be couriered on to its final destination in the coming months.

The time period connected to the mystery item is the 1920s, so today I thought it would be fun to take a look at what life was like in that decade of American history to help give this piece of the past some context. Perhaps it will help all the armchair sleuths out there figure out some more clues as to what the lost item could actually be.

Known as one of the most dramatically diverse decades, the 1920s saw carefree decadence and life-altering depression. It was a dry decade due to Prohibition which lasted from 1920-1933. And it was the dawning of a new age for women as they fought for their independence thanks to the right to vote amendment passed on August 18th, 1920.

Clockwise from top left: First Lady Edith Boling Galt Wilson; 1920s fashion; Votes for Women badge; hairstyles of the 1920s; the awakening of feminism; actress Gloria Swanson.

The 1920s was the first time that a woman carried influential political power in the White House as Edith Bolling Galt assisted her husband, the 28th President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson after he suffered a stroke during the last year and half of his presidency. Edith not only cared for him physically but also became his social secretary, his press liaison, and his political interpreter shuttling information to him about problems affecting the world. In short, Edith became a critical component in his decision-making process regarding matters of the country.

During the Roaring ’20s, hairstyles were bobbed, waistlines were dropped and the more fun and carefree your attitude, the closer you were to being called a flapper. On the big screen, Gloria Swanson was dazzling movie-goers in the silent movie Something to Think About. Released in 1920, it became the top-grossing film of the decade, earning $9.16 million dollars at the box office. Book worms were buried in the pages of anything and everything written by Sinclair Lewis – who authored not one, not two, but five bestselling books in the years between 1920-1930. Can you name which five those were? If you guessed Main Street, Dodsworth, Babbitt, Arrowsmith, and Elmer Gantry then you get a gold star for your vintage fiction knowledge!

Clockwise from top left: bestselling author Sinclair Lewis; top song of 1920 goes to Dardanella; Prohibition signs posted at all bars and restaurants; black culture blooms during the Harlem Rennaisance; and everybody’s favorite automobile, the Model T.

The foxtrot song Dardanella, written in 1919 became the runaway hit of the 1920s just as the first radio stations were forming, bringing music, news, and special programming into homes across the country. Black culture was celebrated in art, literature, and jazz music, giving African Americans their first real opportunity for creative expression and social prominence during the Harlem Rennaisance. For thirteen years from 1920-1933, prohibition made it illegal to get a drink at a bar or a restaurant, but creativity reigned supreme when it came to cocktails disguised in teacups in speakeasies, juice joints, and underground nightclubs.

On the kitchen front, food favorites of the 1920s came in the form of flapjacks, pineapple upside-down cake, cod cakes, and anything served with wiggly, jiggly Jell-O. In the absence of legitimate cocktails due to Prohibition, restaurants got creative and served diced fruit in cocktail glasses, instantly coining the term “fruit cocktail” and making it a popular mainstay on menus for the next forty years. The vacuum cleaner, the washing machine, and the in-home refrigerator were all introduced as modern necessities on the domestic front and the kitchen sink and all kitchen countertops were standardized to a height of 36″ inches (which is still the standard height today too!).

1926 ad for Kelvinator refrigerators that appeared in the Home Builders Catalog.

In the 1920s, urban lifestyles were on the rise as more people fled the countryside and rural sections of America to live in fast-growing cities. Urbanization offered more opportunities in the way of advancement, both financially and career-wise. 50% of the American population traded in rural life for a city setting during this decade. As a result, a sophisticated and stylized cosmopolitan life emerged giving birth to streamlined design favored in the elegant Art Deco movement that mirrored the glitz and glam of affluent city dwellers and their cityscapes.

Throughout the 1920s, westward expansion offered new travel opportunities via railroad to parts of the country that seemed not easily accessible. It also allowed for products, produce, and consumer goods to move about the country at breakneck speeds introducing regional items to a new broader audience. And car travel, thanks to the affordable Model T, and the burgeoning automobile industry that followed, cars made road trips a new possibility, giving birth to an entirely new tourism-based marketplace that included roadside motels, diners, gas stations and repair shops. For less than $300 in 1924, you could buy a brand-new Model T (exact price: $265.00, which is equivalent to about $4,000.00 today), enjoy a turkey dinner at a nice restaurant ($1.25) and stay in a hotel for as long as you liked at $2.00 a night.

Even though the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression would close out the 1920s, overall the decade was viewed on a whole as being optimistic, creative, and progressive. With a focus on innovation and development as well as the arts, feminism, expansion, and a newfound bohemian spirit, the essence of the mystery item is wrapped up in several layers of 1920s pop culture mentioned here, especially surrounding new opportunities and new ways of looking at life. Several clues directly leading to the mystery item are hidden in this post, so keep your eyes peeled!

As discussed in Chapters One and Two, this item involves many more people than just Angela and the Vintage Kitchen. While the story continues to unfold, we will keep revealing new details about the mystery item as we get closer to reuniting it with the people and place where it belongs. In the meantime, If you would like to take a guess as to what the mystery item might be, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Join us next time for Chapter 4 as we talk travel, and set the wheels in motion for transporting the item to its final destination.

A Monumental Story of Real-Life Serendipity Told Over Many Parts: Chapter 2 – Meet Angela

{Spoiler Alert: This is a series of blog posts detailing the real-life story of a 100-year-old item that was lost 13 years ago and how it found its way home in 2021. Follow along from the beginning of this story at Chapter 1: It Arrives.}

It takes a special person with a unique spirit to rescue something from the brink of obscurity and then commit to taking on the uneasy task of finding its home again. It is not lost on me that the word angel appears in the name of the random stranger, the delightful woman, who found the mystery item that began this story in our last blog post.

In Chapter One of this series with the impossibly long name (A Monumental Story of Real-life Serendipity Told Over Many Parts) we began with a few introductory details. There was a century-old item that was lost and then found over a decade ago and recently discovered to be connected with the Vintage Kitchen. It’s a curious case of luck, timing, and careful consideration that guides this whole story from start to finish. As it unfolds over many chapters, the mystery item will be revealed and the rightful owner declared. Each chapter of this series reveals new information, so if you like to solve mysteries, or guess at scenarios this story will be your cup of tea.

In case you need a little refresh, let’s recap all the info we have learned so far about the lost item and the mysterious set of circumstances that surround it…

  1. The lost item is 100 years old.
  2. It was found by a random stranger 13 years ago.
  3. Over the course of the following 13 years, the stranger searched for the original owner of the item, but to no avail.
  4. In July 2021, the stranger read a blog post that connected the item to the Vintage Kitchen.
  5. Last week the item arrived in the Vintage Kitchen via UPS.

In today’s post, we are continuing on with new information about the 100-year-old item and the story surrounding it. I’m pleased to introduce you to the random stranger, the delightful woman, the angel, who changed the course of fate for a misplaced piece of history. One that would have been lost forever had she not intercepted it. Meet Angela…

Angela! Photo credit: Angela E.

Angela lives in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, in the same Southern town where she’s spent her entire life. It’s also the same town where she found the item thirteen years ago. At the time, she was 23 years old and working full-time at an office supply store.

There’s Angela, at work thirteen years ago, at the time she found the item! Photo credit: Angela E.

She remembers the day she found the item well. She was cleaning up an area of the store that sees a fair amount of daily traffic and she noticed that something had been left behind near a workstation. She took a closer look, and immediately sensed that the item had been left accidentally. It was valuable, important, and definitely something that someone would miss.

Angela, realizing the history that encompassed it, looked the item over for any owner identification information. Right away she did find a name on it, so Angela looked in the store’s customer database to see if it matched any work orders that had come in that day or at some point previously. Nothing matched.  Next, she googled the name, just in case by random luck she’d find some contact details online. Again nothing matched.  At this point, thinking that the person who left it would certainly realize their absentmindedness and come right back for it, Angela tucked the item away on a shelf in the back room of the store for safe-keeping. The day went by. The week by. The month went by. No one came for it.

Initially drawn to the item because of its personal value and historical significance, Angela felt a certain protectiveness over it. There was a vulnerability about it,  not only in its physical appearance but also in what it symbolized. As it sat there on the shelf in the backroom of the store, the item spoke to her.  So much so that she found that she just couldn’t treat it casually. It was not an item meant for indifference or carelessness.  This item was special and unique, in ways that few found objects often are.

For a year, the item sat there on the shelf, unclaimed. Finally, Angela decided to take it home and see if she could locate the owner herself. Confident that it might not be that hard of a task in our digital age of information, she began searching and sleuthing around the internet.

Daydreaming about reasons why no one returned to the store for the left-behind item, Angela’s imagination was alight with possibility. The two scenarios that kept recurring most in her mind were that 1) the person who left the item behind was a traveler passing through town on their way to somewhere else.  2) That the person had died unexpectedly in the days or weeks after leaving it behind in the store.  Both scenarios sensibly explained why someone might not return for their belongings. One, confusion as to where it might have been left, and two, a tragedy that would make it impossible to return to the store.

Angela’s ultimate goal for the lost item was always to try and place it back in the hands of the original owner, but should that not be possible, then to try and find someone else who may be connected to the item in some way. If tragedy had indeed struck as she supposed, then there would at least hopefully be someone else to pass the item onto. Perhaps a family member or a friend who would have some association with the name she was trying to search.

Angela’s initial confident, kind-hearted quest turned into a journey that would last more than a decade and was plagued with dead-ends and unanswerable questions.  For thirteen years, the item lived with Angela, not only physically in her home among her things, but also in her mind. It moved around her life as life moved around her. In the time between when she first found the item and now, Angela fell in love, got married, had a baby. There were dogs and laughter and love and another baby. There were busy schedules and growing years and life unfolding. There was a third baby and homeschooling and travel adventures and full-time mom life caring for a family of five.

Thirteen years later… Angela with her beautiful family. Photo credit: Angela E.

During all that time that life and love were blooming, Angela never forgot about the item. It lived for a while in a storage box near her bed, and also for a time in a closet tucked out of harm’s way. Most recently it sat by her computer, a continuous reminder of her quest to find the original owner so that she could send it home where it belonged.

Finally, in early July 2021, a lead broke free thanks to a Facebook group that Angela had recently joined. It was yet another attempt to try and track down more information about the item and the owner. In this new group, Angela found a welcoming and knowledgeable community.  Within days, thanks to their expertise, Angela was armed with new information about the item and new paths to explore. Like a light switch suddenly flipping on, the information the group shared allowed Angela to quickly find her way to the Vintage Kitchen after finding an old blog post from our archives. The blog post mentioned two very specific pieces of information that the Facebook group helped her uncover. Two weeks later, after confirming that yes, indeed there was a connection between the lost item and the Vintage Kitchen, Angela mailed the item off to ITVK knowing that although we were not the original owner of the item, we would be able to further it on to its final destination. And just like that, thirteen years of seemingly endless searching came to a close. Angela’s caretaking position that began in 2008 had finally been fulfilled in 2021.

The item arrives in the Vintage Kitchen!

I asked Angela what she felt like in that moment when she mailed off the item to the Vintage Kitchen. She admitted to tearing up a little. “I felt appreciated and blessed. To be able to provide so many people connected to this item a sense of joy and happiness makes this such a special thing to be a part of.”

It’s impossible sometimes to figure out why certain people come into your life at certain times but I really do think Angela is wrapped in the stuff of angels.  Had she not cared so deeply about the left-behind item she found so long ago, it most probably would have been tossed in the trash. An unceremonious end to a wonderfully unique aspect of history. But thanks to her kind-hearted nature, her dogged determination, and her persistence, patience, and perseverance, she carried this item from the past gallantly into a new future.

As discussed in Chapter One’s post, this item involves many more people than just Angela and the Vintage Kitchen. As the story unfolds, we will keep revealing new details that will get us closer to understanding just how pivotal Angela’s role is in all of this. In the meantime, If you would like to guess what the mystery item is that Angela found, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Join us next time as we dive deeper into the history of the lost item in Chapter 3 of A Monumental Story of Real-life Serendipity Told Over Many Parts.

A Monumental Story of Real-Life Serendipity Told Over Many Parts: Chapter 1 – It Arrives

The mystery item arrives! Personal information has been covered to respect privacy:)

In a cardboard envelope of medium thickness, a surprise arrived yesterday via UPS. This was the end result of a two week conversation that started with an inquiry into the Vintage Kitchen from a brand-new visitor to the blog. The visitor, who turned out to be a delightful woman, submitted an inquiry about an item that she had found thirteen years ago, and had hung onto ever since in the hopes of one day being able to track down its original owner. Over the years, despite many attempts she didn’t have much luck in connecting this one found object to any one person. Until recently, when a discovery altered her decade’s worth of searching.

As they say, timing is everything, and so is the case here, when one day, as if by magic or perhaps a little nudge from fate, the woman stumbled upon an old Vintage Kitchen blog post that had been roaming around the internet for several years now. Inside that blog post, she found a clue that matched some specific information regarding the item she had found so long ago. In early July, it took less than two emails back and forth between the woman and I for thirteen years of searching to come to a close. Her inquiry was validated. The information was correct. The Vintage Kitchen was indeed, strangely and uniquely connected to the object that had captured time and attention for this woman for so long.

What now unfolds is a tale so serendipitous, I can hardly wait to share the whole entire story. The woman lives in a different state unconnected to the provenance of the item. The item itself is 100 years old. The blog post is the only thing that connected us to each other. Doesn’t this sound like the start to a good movie or an even better book?

Clockwise from top left: The Hunt for the Date Accordions recipe; Charles Lindbergh; the search for the doughnut shop at Pike Place Market; the 1967 take-out window; the rare Chinese mug; the White House letter.

For anyone who has been a regular reader of the blog, you’ll know that we do love solving mysteries from history around here. Our most recent one came last Christmas when it became a community effort to hunt down an obscure Christmas cookie recipe long ago lost to a home baker and her family. But there have been other intriguing stories over the years to figure out too. Curiosity and the search for true origin stories to share on the blog has led to many fascinating discoveries… the decoding of letters written on a rare chinese mug… a west coast search for a doughnut shop… thoughtful speculation regarding civil rights and a 1967 take-out restaurant portrait… expert confirmation that proved a candid 1927 aeronautical photograph was actually Charles Lindbergh flying over Texas in the Spirit of St Louis… and the one that still captures my imagination – the mystery government staffer behind a letter written on vintage White House stationary that was found tucked inside an art book. Not everyone of these mysteries was solved (we are still searching for more info on the restaurant, the doughnut shop and the White House) but as proven in this most recent conversation sometimes it can take years (or decades!) for questions to find their way to the appropriate answer.

Because this tale of events involves more people than just the stranger and the Vintage Kitchen, and because it represents a swatch of history that occured a century ago, this is a story that will evolve over many months as more people become connected to it, and the item eventually finds its way home where it belongs. Like a good book that keeps you reading until the very end, this story takes time to be told properly, so I hope you’ll stay tuned as each new chapter unfolds.

As for the contents of the envelope… what’s inside? You’ll just have to wait and see! But please feel free to submit some guesses in the comment section if you like. We welcome all possibilities!