When we are able to, we like trying to give back to our great town, El Segundo.   There are not many places in town where historical artifacts can be seen (other than our shop, Studio Antiques.)  The one place where townies can visit and/or make donations to is the Friends of the Library.  One of this organization’s objectives is to collect and maintain historical materials about our city.  You may have a similar organization where you reside.

A week ago, one of the members of the Friends of the Library brought an item that had been recently donated to them without any attribution.  It was simply left at the desk with no identification.  They couldn’t really display it without tying it back to “The Gundo”. I’m talking about a WWII WAC (WAAC) uniform.  It is entirely in tact and includes the jacket, skirt, shirt, gloves, scarf and tie.

I got really excited because any militaria, especially from World War II, is popular right now.  And this is a WOMAN’S uniform.  It must be worth a few hundred dollars (my guess).  We will list the item for sale on eBay, deduct the actual expenses, and donate 100% of the profit to the Friends of the Library.

gallery wac

If you are anything like me, I have (obviously) heard of the WAACs, but really don’t know much about the organization.  WAAC stands for Women’s Army Auxiliary Corp.

World War II began (according to most) on January 1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland.  It was at that time that Britain and France declared war on Hitler’s Nazi State.  The WAAC was established in May of 1942.  The first contingent of 800 women began their basic training at the Fort Des Moines Provisional Army Officer Training School.

wac-grades-pay-1944-daughter-wac-1

The WAAC were the first women other than nurses to serve with the U.S. Army.  Although originally an auxiliary to the Army, in 1943 the name was changed to WAC (Women’s Army Corp) and became an official part of the U.S. Armed Forces, Army.  WAVES were the women’s arm of the Navy.

220px-'Calling_WAAC...'_-_NARA_-_514016waac poster

The responsibility of the WAC was “Your Job: To Replace Men. Be Ready To Take Over.” While leadership in the Army was conservative, and public opinion in general was opposed to women in uniform, there was still a shortage of men that needed to be addressed with women fulfilling military roles.

Ineffective publicity and unattractive uniforms set back recruiting efforts.  In fact, there was a period of time where women were almost slandered for joining the WAC s.  Many were being called prostitutes and lesbians.   Men were threatened that if women were taking some of the less risky roles that they would be forced into more hazardous duty.

The uniform was also widely copied.  Women factory workers often wore utilitarian uniforms in khaki colors.  The WAC uniform was copied and sold to supporters like the Junior WAC.  Others would wear copies of the uniform in order to impersonate military personnel or to sneak onto the base in order to meet servicemen.

The total number of WAAC WAC recruits was 150,000.  That is minor in comparison to the number of men serving in WWII, 16 million.  So an original WAAC WAC uniform is fairly rare.  Our WAC was a Corporal as identified by the double chevron badge.  The round badge with the wings represents the U.S. Army Airforce insignia.  According to the image above, she made $66 a month.

wac badges 1

In today’s world there are many people not just interested in the historical value of a WAAC WAC uniform, there are many people who participate in reenactments as well as social groups interested in 20th century America.

This uniform will eventually sell to one of them.  Check it out here and know that your purchase price will go to help maintain the history of a small California town.

 

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How Do You Plan For and Run Your Own ESTATE SALE? Some Practical Tips.

This gallery contains 9 photos.

I try to write this blog every Sunday.  I have missed the past few Sundays as Laurence and I were running an estate sale in a local town.  Not only do we have our shop, Studio Antiques, we offer Estate … Continue reading

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Our RCA Loudspeaker 106: How the First Electronic Instrument, the Theremin, was Heard.

A couple of weeks ago, some folks came into our shop looking to consign this thing:

teremin1

Was this going to be another what the heck is it? Luckily for us, there was a label on the back:

theremin3

Hmm….an RCA Loudspeaker 106 Electro-Dynamic.  That’s what we had to work with.  So this is some sort of speaker for a radio then.  I mean, look at it.  Any speaker I’m familiar with wouldn’t have a tapestry image like the one on the front.  This speaker was actually manufactured to look pretty, and not be just functional.  Check it out. Lots of detail in the wood and in the cover so it was meant to be seen as a piece of furniture.

theremin2

So what is so special about this speaker? When was it made? How much should we sell it for (and more importantly to us, was it worth taking in on consignment?)

In the early days of radio, when you bought your radio you could only listen to it with headphones.  Early radios didn’t have the power to drive a loudspeaker, and early amplifiers used a horn.

AmplionTrio

Loudspeakers like these and ours were made for amplification and for use in multiple rooms. The radio remained in one particular room while loudspeakers could be placed in other rooms, allowing the radio to be heard remotely. It was common to have one particular brand of radio working with a completely different brand of speaker. More uncommon was the radio that required a particular type of speaker to work with it.

In this case, the RCA Radiola 106 speaker (ours) was RCA’s top-of-the-line accessory speaker.  It was sold alone as a loudspeaker and worked with any 1920’s radio; BUT it came supplied with the RCA Theremin.

Theremin? That’s a really familiar name but I can’t remember exactly why I know about it.  Was it a radio? Oh, no! Isn’t it that eery electronic music from the olden days?

Yes! The theremin was the first electronic musical instrument, pre-Moog Synthesizer, where the performer (the thereminist) played the instrument without touching it.  Huh? How do you do that?

The theremin was made with two antennae.  The thereminist would move their hands in the air between the antennae in order to control the pitch and the volume of the electric signals being emitted.  These electric signals were then transmitted to the loudspeaker.  OUR loudspeaker.

The theremin was invented by Russian, Leon Theremin, and patented in 1928. Here is a video where Leon Theremin plays his instrument:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=w5qf9O6c20o#t=13

It has an eerie, Sci-Fi sound, doesn’t it? It isn’t an everyday instrument but it has been used in many, many recordings as well as in certain movie soundtracks such as “The Day the Earth Stood Still”.  Even though the instrument may be foreign, the sound is familiar.  The soundtrack to “The Day the Earth Stood Still” can be heard here.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cPEchNTSE0

Awesome! The question now is what can we get for this loudspeaker?  I found a few loudspeakers similar to ours, by Googling them, with a few selling for as little as $25 to $60.  :/  Not so great for my purposes.  http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/1824096  Shouldn’t it be worth more?

With a little extra work, we saw mention of one that sold on eBay for $375.  Great! Our price? $399.99 plus shipping. Here is our listing:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/RCA-106-LOUDSPEAKER-Antique-c-1925-Radio-THEREMIN-TAPESTRY-RADIOLA-COIL-SPEAKER-/371247014168?rd=1

The item sold in auction, first pass through a ten-day auction cycle.  So where is it going? ……  CHINA.  I think there must be a thereminist somewhere in that big country.  Our advice? Keep your eyes peeled for the tapestry fronted speaker. I hope you find yours for less than $50 too.  You WILL make a profit.  It can be, apparently, guaranteed.

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