Old-time country store fixtures and furnishings recreate the look of long ago and are useful, too. Some of these items are snapped up as soon as they're offered at antiques shows and shops, and dedicated collectors even buy old stores to get the furnishings inside.
Among the most desireable pieces are whip racks and holders. Some made of cast iron are circular and resemble a ring-shaped chandelier without candle sockets. Such holders have little loops and slots around the edges of the ring-shaped part, holding as many as 200 whips. The holders measure 12" to 14" in diameter and were made with both single and double rows of openings around the ring. Although these holders once sold for $1.50 each, today they can bring a hundred times that. Some of them were patented in the 1880s and 1890s and are pictured in the book Primitives, Our American Heritage, by Kathryn M. McNerney ($8.95 plus 60 cents postage from Collectors Books, P.O. Box 3009, Paducah, Kentucky 42001).
Large cast-iron whip holders were made to stand on the floor. Some are marked "best."
Another whip rack was mounted on a wall and had a straight bar with a row of openings. Such types were made of cast iron, were 15" long and designed to hold 20 whips. Still another variety measured 6" in length, was made of japanned sheet iron, with six slots made to hold a dozen whips and marked "Hall's Pat. Whip Rack." Such types, however, were used mainly in barns and harness shops.
Fly fans and fly traps were also useful little items. Some fly fans had cloth-covered, paddle-shaped "wings" that revolved on a base slowly, shooing flies from food and cheese on store counters. Such devices were key-wound. Mechanical fly fans are extremely hard to find, and examples (many are patented) can cost as much as $200 or $300, depending on condition. Some were patented in 1882, others in 1885.
Fly traps caught the little buzzers by attracting them to sweet stuff inside. Some made of tin and wire screen are embossed "The Baby Superior Fly Trap Pat. Applied For" on the top. There were variations in size and style, but the weirdest trap was the brick-shaped "Allan's Fly Brick, the Little Giant Fly Killer." The trap was manufactured by J.C. Allan & Co. of Buffalo, New York, but it is not clear how it worked. Old-fashioned flyswatters are collectible too, and of course many were used in country stores.
Other sought-after pieces used in country stores were sugar augers of fruit looseners that ranged from one to two feet in lenght. Such devices were important and served a dual purpose: breaking up hardened sugar in kegs (before sugar was granulated) and loosening dried fruit in barrels and tubs. Such augers can be recognized by their T-shaped wooden handle and two sinister-looking prongs. Such devices were also called "sugar devils" because of the wicked appearance. Patents for such devices were issued in the 1870s to three inventors, all from Waterloo, Iowa. Such pieces can sell for $100 and up if they're dated and look devilish enough. A wrought-iron example is pictured in the hardcover book Primitives & Folk Art, Our Handmade Heritage by Catherine Thuro (available with a separate price guide for $17.95 plus 60 cents postage, also from Collector Books).
Broomholders are another goody collectors look for. One wooden type stood on the floor on an X-shaped base. It had a sticklike standard and a horizontal attachment with holes to hold a dozen brooms. Such broom racks were painted red with black stencil decorations. Another was made of thick wire in an open unbrella shape, with an attached rod at the top for hanging the piece. The racks were made to hold two dozen brooms and measured 15" in diameter and 18" tall over all. Because they are rare, they can sell for as much as $220 or more.
Stringholders were a necessity in country stores, and a really rare one, which resembles anything but a stringholder, was made of thick wire shaped like an opoen square and made to hang from the ceiling.
Cookie box covers were another old store fixture. One was made from a square piece of glass measuring 10" x 9 1/2", set into a deep, gold-painted, tin square frame made to fit over an opened box, carton or bin of cookies. The see-through glass cover opened like a book so cookies could be taken out and weighed by the pound. Such covers are marked Johnston in huge letters across the bottom and were patented by the Russakov Can Company of Chicago. a