Oil Cans, From Tin to Sterling
(Page 2 of 2)
"I learn something every time I go to a show," he says. "Like my Eagle Oil Can, it had this ugly cotton cloth bag with a drawstring. I was going to throw the bag away. Then one day, these three ladies came up, looked at it, and started laughing. 'That's one of our bags!' one said. They had worked at a sewing machine company, and the cans they used on their machines left oil marks on their work area, so they made bags to protect the surface. Women like the collection," Guy says. "They get tired of looking at hit-and-miss engines."
The pieces in his collection show the passage of time, as well as hard use.
"A lot of times they're not in as good a condition as you'd like," he says.
But he leaves them as he finds them.
"I don't do any restoration," he says, "other than maybe try to straighten out the spout."
Guy's antique oil cans are made of tin, copper or brass, sometimes even cast iron with a brass bottom.
"The brass cans are hard to come by," he says. "I've got one, and everybody who sees it will say, 'Oh, we've got one of those at home, all polished and up on the mantel.'"
The heavier metal cans, he says, came with the early textile machinery shipped from England. Other pieces in his collection come from as far away as Germany and Canada.
He even has a sterling silver oil can made by Tiffany. "I can't believe it was ever actually used," he says. "I think it was just something that sat around." The best place to find oil cans, he says, is at a flea market.
"But it's getting tough," he adds. "Until the last couple of years, I always called this the poor man's hobby. I used to give a quarter, 50 cents, for these cans when I started. Now, there's some over $200. When they get to that high a price, it becomes a business. But I don't buy near as many as I used to, and I'm not trying to buy them all."
Guy has spent much of his life on the working end of an oil can. He worked for years in a machine shop, and he was raised on a farm. "My dad was kind of tough about maintenance," he says. "He always said, 'If it moves, you oil it.'" It's an admonition Guy's taken to heart.
"I get a kick out of going to shows," he says. "It's been real interesting to show the cans. People come up and want you to have the one they remember. They'll see me coming and say, 'Here comes the Oil Can Man.'" FC For more information: Guy Gerberich, RD #3, Jonestown, PA 17038.
Page: << Previous 1
| 2 |