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If an item speaks to you, grab it while you can

During a recent antiquing excursion, a friend of Antique Trader's came across a fascinating item, a old yardstick. The new 'find' is focus of historic research.

Note from the Editor: This story, from a friend of Antique Trader, discusses an adventure many of us can relate to. Not to mention the valuable lesson: Pick up whatever treasure catches your eye when it does, because as surely as it caught your eye it will catch the eye of another, and they'll make it theirs. ~Antoinette Rahn

Last week I had an old friend visiting, and we went antiquing for a few days, uncovering lots of treasures and reconnecting with several friends we hadn’t seen in years. The social aspect of antiquing really is special and right up there with the thrill of finding a never-before-seen item.

A few days after my friend headed home, I was traveling on my own and discovered an old antique mall in a nearly closed-down, old-time main street in a quiet town which seemed to be settling in for a long winter. As I worked my way through this quaint place, the owner was kindly checking in with me periodically to see what I had found. Nearing the end of the offerings I saw a most unusual yard stick.

Now I have collected yard sticks for many years, focusing on 48 inchers and early advertising 36 inchers that I find interesting and eclectic, but this particular model was unknown to me. It’s an advertising stick for Ridge Motor Parts, Inc., promoting Leak-proof Piston Rings from the McQuay-Norris company.


Vintage advertising yard stick for Ridge Motor Parts, Inc. (Photo by Kris Kandler)

McQuay-Norris has been producing aftermarket parts for cars since before the 1920s, and I know they created a lot of excitement with their streamlined car, produced to test the reliability of their aftermarket parts in 1934.

The yard stick is thick and solid, even though it has 16 manufactured and numbered holes running nearly its full length. The look and feel definitely fits that prewar time period, and in my experience with yard sticks, my first thought was that it was from the mid-to-late 1920s. The holes, I believe, are there to simulate or give the impression of piston cylinders.

It was kind of expensive, much more than the usual advertising yard sticks I see, but given the look, feel and subject matter, I decided to add it to my collection.

I carried the stick with me as I finished up, grabbing a few other items I had seen earlier, when the owner stopped to tell me something: After I had picked up the stick, another shopper, who had looked at it earlier had swung back to grab it and finding it gone, had told the shop owner, who sadly had to tell them that the yard stick was already in another buyer’s hands. In addition, it seems the former owner had only priced and put the yard stick up for sale a few days before after debating for some time over the value of the yard stick. So I guess I was in the right place, at the right time and am happy I didn’t put it back down once I had this nice item in hand!

In searching the Internet, I find a present day Ridge Motor Parts Inc. located in Waukesha, Wis., but the firm only seems to have been there for 20 years. I wonder if any of your readers with an automotive lean could shed any additional light on the origins of this yard stick or Ridge Motor Parts Inc.

Scandinavia, Wisconsin

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