When I was younger, I was purely a fan of the modern and the new. Old stuff was for old people. However, in recent years, I've gained an appreciation for antiques and vintage items and the eras from whence they came. Probably because I'm getting old. So instead of loitering around the convenience store bumming smokes and giving passing soccer moms snide glances I'm loitering around the weekend antique market petting milk glass and giving passing teenagers snide glances. And thinking they should get haircuts and stop dressing like fools. But I digress!
Today after work I went to the bank (see? I'm getting old) and on the way I stopped into a favourite vintage store of mine just to covet their latest stock. In the back room there was a huge stack of wood fruit crates, and there, teetering on the very top, a large metal box with an incredible rusty-gold patina. Next thing I know, I'm walking home with it for twelve blocks. This would have been the sixth installment of Transporting Large Heavy Objects On Public Transit, but I was out of bus fare.
Once home and under better light I discovered what I thought had been undecipherable lettering could be read: "ARBITRATION BETWEEN I.C.R. & G.T.R". The box itself measures 18 x 12 x 12", with a lockable lid (sans key) and two small side handles. Intrigued, I hit up Google and a few knowledgeable people on Etsy and Twitter. Turns out that I.C.R. and G.T.R. refer to the Intercolonial Railway and the Grand Trunk Railway, two historic Canadian rail lines that existed from 1872-1918 and 1852-1923 respectively. In 1879 the I.R.C. purchased a portion of the G.T.R. between Rivière-du-Loup and Levis, near Quebec City. So it's most likely that this box held legal documents for those negotiations, making it an amazing 131 years old.
That's almost a century older than me. Other important things that happened in 1879: saccharin is invented, Albert Einstein is born, the Pirates of Penzance is performed for the first time, the Angolo-Zulu war ends. A good year.
I had initially thought the box was made of aluminum, due to its relative light weight, but since the price of aluminum in the late 1800s was roughly the same price as silver, the material is almost certainly tin. It appears to have been painted a dark-reddish brown at some point, much of which has worn away. The inside is a beautiful blue-green. It's not in the best of shape, unsurprisingly, with a lot of scratches, dents and dings, but the lid still closes firmly and the handles turn effortlessly. I'm going to clean it gently with a damp cloth just to remove any dirt, as I want to preserve all of the rich patina. It will be the new home for my spinning fibres.
If anyone reading this has any more information on the legal negotiations between the I.C.R. and G.T.R., or the type of box this is and what it was used for, please let me know!