Victorian Fitness Buffs Kept These Around the House

Victorian Fitness Buffs Kept These Around the House

Our appraiser friends tackle a new batch of Maine-sourced artifacts in our recurring tribute to a certain PBS series.

antique exercise baton

I found this item, about 15 inches tall, in the walls of a shed in Wells that my wife and I were doing over. It looks like an old bowling pin, but it seems too thin and not tall enough. — Ed Dziewietin, Worcester, Massachusetts

In fact, it’s a late-19th-century exercise baton, Gamage says. “Can you picture the guys in the one-piece suits who look like they’re going swimming?” he asks. “They’d have used a pair of these while doing jumping jacks and all that.” Sometimes sold as “Indian clubs,” they were big with Victorian fitness buffs, who swung them around as strength training. Gamage sees them plenty — even has a few around his office.

Gamage’s appraisal: $25–$30


Portland Stove Foundry Co. "station agent" stove
Photographed by Kevin Bennett

My grandmother bought this stove in the early ’70s, and it’s been at our camp in North Belgrade since, unused the whole time. — Debbie Elias, Chicago, Illinois

A big parlor stove like this is sometimes called a “station agent,” says Bruce Gamage, of Rockland’s Gamage Antiques, as hefty models like it were often used to heat railroad stations. This particular stove was made by the Portland Stove Foundry Co., likely in the late 19th or early 20th century. “It’s beautiful and would make a nice museum piece,” Gamage says. Unfortunately, he doesn’t imagine it’s worth much at auction, in part because the belly isn’t cast iron.

Gamage’s appraisal: $250–$350

Maine state seal needlepoint

This needlepoint once belonged to my husband’s great-aunt and -uncle. The writing on the back says it was made by his great-uncle’s first wife in “about 1940.” — Cathy Leach, Durham, New Hampshire

“This is an interesting piece of Maine history, and knowing the genealogy of the maker is a nice touch,” says Andrew Davis, of Freeport’s Casco Bay Auctions. The condition of vintage needlepoint samplers is important — the quality of the stitching, say, or the presence or absence of tears or stains — but for 20th-century pieces especially, value is largely subjective, much dependent on a buyer’s fondness for the design.

Davis’s appraisal: $40–$50


silver-plated antique carrack ship

This ship was my father’s, handed down from ancestors who include a 19th-century ship merchant from Saco and Portland. It may be pewter and weighs three or four pounds, although I’ve been told this isn’t heavy enough to be pewter. — Anita Tiffany Dunford, Jacksonville, Florida

The design of the ship is a carrack, which were most notably used by the Portuguese in the 14th and 15th century, Davis says — Columbus’s ship the Santa Maria was one. To his eye, the ship looks to be silver plated, rather than pewter, and it likely dates to the mid-19th century. If the plating turned out to be sterling silver, it’d be worth several hundred dollars more.

Davis’s appraisal: $300–$500

SUBMIT YOUR ITEM! Have a Maine-y curiosity you’d like to know more about? Send a photo and description to and we may feature it in an upcoming column.