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Kenrick A.Claflin & Son

14251. (“tramp art”) Life-Saving Service Surfman’s Hanging Necessities Holder Branded “U.S.L.S.S.” c.1900.

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14251. (“tramp art”) Life-Saving Service Surfman’s Hanging Necessities Holder Branded “U.S.L.S.S.” c.1900.

14251. (“tramp art”) Life-Saving Service Surfman’s Hanging Necessities Holder Branded “U.S.L.S.S.” c.1900. Rare hand carved holder was probably for a surfman’s razor and other hygiene necessities. This type of art is referred to as Tramp art, a true American folk art. Whittling was for men what quilting was for women during long winter evenings in the country back at the turn of the century. While the women painstakingly pieced together little fabric remnants to make comfy quilts, men might take apart and carve cigar boxes and fruit crates with penknives, creating one-of-a-kind, chipped or carved wood novelties. You name it, the men created it–picture frames, clock cases, birdhouses, furniture, etc. This craft became known as “tramp art” because early collectors mistakenly thought vagabonds or tramps had made the quirky wood objects during their travels. But nothing could be further from the truth, according to author Clifford Wallach, co-author of “Tramp Art: One Notch at a Time,” which profiles individual whittlers. Tramp or hobo culture evolved over the decades between the Civil War and the Second World War. These men traveled across the country, usually by rail, looking for work, but they were not without skills, and they were not bums. Wallach noted that “Tramp art became an important art movement in regard to the artistic legacy of the common man who produced art not in the schools or workshops that taught or produced art, but in their homes. Tramp art defines folk art in its purest sense. It was a way for individuals without any formal art training to express themselves in the simplest way, by chip carving a piece of wood. Tramp art is the art of textured simplicity as men, women and children took their pocketknives to wood and carved a legacy from the heart for all of us to enjoy and celebrate.” Surfmen too had much free time and such endeavors likely flourished in many stations, although few remain and fewer still were marked as this piece is. Piece measures 15” high by 9” wide and includes a box to hold the owners supplies and a small mirror in which to see while shaving, etc. The back is branded “US. L SS” in 5/8” letters. The side molding is grooved and likely the surfman’s favorite family photo was mounted below the mirror. This is a rare piece and valuable both to collectors of Life-Saving Service artifacts as well as collectors of American folk art. Well done, rare item. (VG). $425. Reduced $325.