Readers’ Letters: We love our Favorite Finds issue!

The Antique Trader Favorite Finds contest is an annual competition open to readers who want to share their greatest antiques and collectibles discoveries with fellow collectors, dealers and treasure hunters. Last year’s entries to the Favorite Finds Contest range from an old marble purchased for 5 cents and later sold for $85 to the winning entry involving two cookie jar collectors on their quest at a crazy California estate sale. The response to this year’s contest was so impressive it warranted a seperate, special collector’s editon mailed to all who subscribe to the print edition of Antique Trader magazine.

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Reader’s favorite find has Hollywood ties

What a fun issue I just read! I really, really enjoyed it, and I thank you very much. (See Nov. 10 issue)  Reading those wonderful stories took me down memory lane, because I have a favorite find, too.

I found it over 10 years ago, on a trip “out East” with my husband and both our moms. We were on Route 6, I think, in Pennsylvania, in a little antique store. There in a small back room, on a magazine rack, tucked almost out of sight, I found a printed collection of letters, pages tied together with a strip of suede. The printed title caught my eye, “Letters from Mr. Wu, Toto and General Byng to Mr. and Mrs. Albert L. Grey.” Someone had written “To L” in ink on the cover.

The pages were folio sized, thick, with ragged edges. The title page was beautifully printed in black and red Gothic text. I saw the price, $4, and bought it without even opening it up, thinking that it might be fun to share with everybody as we drove along.

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When we were on the road again, I took out the collection of letters and began to read aloud, “Printed by J. Miles & Co., London, Printers to His Majesty the King.” That got everyone’s attention! Another page yielded this information: “This Edition is limited to 12 copies, of which this is No. 8.” The real excitement, though, was in the content of the letters: they came from an address in New York and were written to “Mummy” or “Daddy,” by Mr. Wu, Toto, and General Byng,” who — we determined many miles later, and to our utter delight — were the family’s three dogs, “writing” to their “parents” who were away on a trip in London.

Those letters still intrigue me: I wonder to this day who actually wrote them, who paid to have them printed, and who might have received those other editions, in addition to “L,”  whomever that is! Some of the pages had outlined boxes printed, and I am sure photos were meant to be attached within … Were they of Albert and Almah, or photos of the family dogs?

But after hours of research, I did finally discover who Mr. and Mrs. Albert L. Grey were. My research of the New York address (which is still in existence, by the way!) led me to an ocean liner that had traveled to New York from Cherbourg, France, in the 1920s … with Albert L. and his wife, Almah, on board, along with Albert’s brother, David Wark Griffith! That’s right, Albert was the brother of the famous American film director, D.W. Griffith!

All these years later, I am still researching that collection of letters, trying to find out more about the Greys and their connection to J. Miles in London. I have found, for instance, that J. Miles & Co. printed pantomimes, theatre bills, and some of the music used in D.W. Griffith’s films. I found out that Almah was from Australia and married the then-30-plus-year-old Albert when she was just 19. I found out that Albert was D.W.’s manager for a time, and even published his own (albeit short lived) film magazine. What ever happened to Albert and Almah I don’t know; they lived large but went bankrupt in the 1930s, and she later traveled to Italy as an opera singer. I have found Albert’s short obituary, but I have never found hers.

I value my collection of letters so much more now than when I bought them. Then, they were a novelty — something to read aloud on a long car ride — but now, I keep them with no small sense of reverence. It’s almost as if the more I learn about these people, the more I want to keep their memories alive. They lived and breathed, laughed and cried, had money and lost money, lived and died. Those letters make their lives real to me. Their stories aren’t yet complete.

And so, if your readers have any information about my collection of letters, or the Greys, or J. Miles & Co., I hope they will write in to Antique Trader.

And the search continues …
Karen Edwards

More Favorite Finds, please

“Which entry would you have selected to win?” My own, of course! But
seriously, Eric, no issue has delighted me as much — ever! — as this

It was delightful to get so many different angles on collecting,
with such diverse personalities and  such a huge range of items.    Some
people got a kick out of bargains; others just treasure their finds for
their own sake, or for their strong personal and family connections.

My husband, reading this, said, “We ought to tell them about …….”  And
maybe we will!  Are you going to have another contest???

Bindy Bitterman
Evanston, Ill.

P.S.  I forgot to thank you for sending it out free! What a gift! Happy
Holiday Season to everyone who thought of this!

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•  2009 Favorite Find Contest Winners and Runner Ups


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