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Bird-Shaped Whistles

by Terry and Kim Kovel

People have been captivated by bird songs for centuries. At some point, clever art-isans realized that whistles could not only imitate birds, but they could also be made to look like birds.
Ceramic bird-shaped whistles have been made for hundreds of years all over the world. Examples dating to about 1000 A.D. have been found in Central America. Were they made as bird calls? Musical instruments? Toys?

This whistle, which sold for $2,006 at Conestoga Auction Co., was made in 19th-century Pennsylvania of redware clay. Today, inexpensive mass-produced bird-shaped whistles are made of ceramics, metal, or plastic. The 20th century Italian company Alessi put a red whistling bird on the spout of a stainless steel tea kettle, creating an icon of modern design.

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Q: My father was a writer, and I just was tempted to buy a light blue Sears Tutor typewriter in its original case for $35 that reminded me of his typewriter. Are typewriters collectible?

A: Yes, they are very popular collectibles right now. People love the retro way of writing and maybe seeing a typewriter reminds them of their parents or grandparents. Christopher Sholes, an American mechanical engineer born in 1819, is credited with inventing the first practical modern typewriter in 1866. Five years later, after dozens of experiments, Sholes and his associates produced a model like today’s typewriters. The Sholes’ typewriter keys jammed easily. To solve the problem, he and an associate split up keys for letters commonly used together to slow down typing. This became today’s standard QWERTY keyboard. I hope you bought that Sears typewriter. I have seen exact same ones being sold for $180 and higher.