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Ron & Donna Miller - Publishers

Competition Was Once Strong For Sales
Of Model Trains

The company that eventually evolved into the American Flyer model train company had its beginning in 1900, and its first venture into model trains was the Chicago Flyer. However, this line gave little serious competition to the two giants in the field, Lionel and Ives.

In 1937, financial problems finally got control over the then owners and they were forced to sell. The buyer was A. C. Gilbert, already highly successful in marketing his Mystic Magic chemistry and Erector sets.

Under Gilbert’s leadership, the product was renamed the American Flyer and became a competitor with which to be reckoned. Lionel had bought out Ives in 1928, and for the next two decades American Flyer and Lionel competed head to head for the model train market.

Production slowed and then stopped altogether during World War II. Lionel was the first to convert back to peacetime operations and got its trains on the market first. It took Gilbert almost a year before his were ready to roll again.

It was about this time that Gilbert also decided to go for a 2-rail system in S-gauge. He was sure this would have an edge over Lionel, being more realistic, but such did not prove to be the case.

The two companies both continued strong through the 1950s, and fought several patent right battles along the way. One of these was over a whistle unit, which Lionel won. American Flyer produced a “choo-choo” chugger instead, and also tried a whistling billboard, although these didn’t have the same appeal as Lionel’s whistle from the engine.

Both companies ran into trouble in the 1960s, as public demand for model trains slackened and space age toys gained in popularity. American Flyer finally succumbed in 1966. Lionel purchased what was left of the company and halted completely all production of American Flyer trains.

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Teapots Have Long History In America

Royal Doulton Teapot 1890s
This teapot by Royal Doulton was made at the company’s Lambeth pottery in the 1890s.

The following observations on teapots are taken from China Collecting in America. It was written over 100 years ago by Alice Morse Earle in 1893, and reprinted by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1982.

“It is small wonder that the craze for the gathering together and hoarding of teapots had assailed many a feminine china-hunter in many a land, and that many a noble collection has been made. Teapots are so friendly and appealing, one cannot resist them. No china-loving woman can pass them by, they are so domestic as well as beautiful.

“In America we have an extra incentive and provoker of interest in the extraordinary great age assigned to teapots. You can hardly find one of any pretension to antiquity in America that is asserted to be less then two hundred years old; and two centuries and a half are a naught to teapot owners.

“Sophisticated possessors are a little shy about assigning their old teapots to the Mayflower invoice, but country owners are troubled by no such fears of ridicule, and boldly assert the familiar tradition.

“...1630-1640-1650! It would seem, could we trust tradition, that teapots just swarmed in America in those years. There were none then in England or Holland or China, and no tea even in England; but it is proudly boasted that we had teapots and, of course, tea also in America.

“The first mention of English teapots is in the private memorandum book of John Dwight, of Fulham, potter. The date of the entry is previous to 1695. It is a receipt for ‘the fine white clay for Dishes or Teapots to endure boiling water.’ Under the date of November, 1695, he says: ‘The little furnace where the last Red Teapots was burnt, I take to be a convenient one.’

“We might write the history of the teapot in America, from the simple plebian undecorated earthenware pot in which was sparingly placed the precious pinch, through the gayly-colored and larger teapot, earthen still, through Wedg­wood’s varied wares in which our patriotic grandmothers drank their wretched ‘Liberty Tea,’ to the fine porcelain treasures of Worcester, Minton, Derby, Sevres, and Dresden of today - a story of the growth of our nation in luxury and elegance.”

And still today, over 120 years after Earle’s comments on teapots, they continue to be loved and collected. However, at least here on the West Coast, I don’t think we’re finding anyone who claims to have a teapot that arrived on the Mayflower.

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Why Not Willapa?


1800's map of Willapa Region of Washington Territory.
1800's map of Willapa Region of Washington Territory.

The town of Aurora almost didn't happen as the newest exhibit at the Old Aurora Colony Museum titled "Why Not Willapa?" reveals. Now open through June 7, this exhibit, richly illustrated with historic photography, personal letters, artifacts and even a miniature model of the Lot Whitcomb paddlewheel steam ship, explores how the expectations of a communal society leader clashed with the efforts and personal achievements of his trusted scouts in the wilderness around Willapa Bay in 1853-54 Washington Territory.

Aurora Colony Museum Display
Learn more about the adventurous and skilled scouts who ventured into Washington Territory.

The 160th anniversary (1855-2015) of Dr. Keil's trek across the Oregon Trail to Willapa Bay on the Washington coast and then eventually on to Aurora in Oregon’s Willamette Valley will be the featured topic of two exhibits during 2015. Aided by new English translations of Dr. Keil's letters by volunteer Edith Owen, Museum Curator Patrick Harris will be presenting new and exciting information about how the Colonists made their decision to come into the French Prairie south of Portland and found Aurora Mills.

In 1853, Dr. Wilhelm Keil sent ten scouts out from Bethel, Missouri to find a new site for his Christian communal society in the Western Territories. Who were these nine men and a woman selected to find the "New Eden"? How did their personal backgrounds indicate that they had the ability to complete their arduous task?

Get the answers to these questions and more into the fascinating past of the Old Aurora Colony-visit the Old Aurora Colony Museum!

The Old Aurora Colony Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 am to 4 pm and Sunday 12 noon to 4 pm. It is closed on Mondays and holidays. Admission is $5.00 for seniors (60+) and AAA members; $6.00 for adults; and $2.00 for students. Children 5 years of age and under are free. Tour groups are welcome. For more information please visit the Old Aurora Colony Museum website: or call the Museum office 503-678-5754.

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