Tag Archives: american pickers

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Paul d’Orléans and Susan McLaughlin travel on Two Lanes, using a Sprinter van as a mobile darkroom, as they capture wet plate-style photos of motorcycles and their owners.

Wet plate photography is an art that’s as old as the state of California. That’s where Susan McLaughlin, a tintype photographer, met Paul d’Orléans, a motorcycle culture expert, author, and rider, in the 1990s, not knowing that one day their two specialties would unite, and discover new ways of picturing biker culture.

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Paul d’Orléans and Susan McLaughlin

“Susan and I have known each other for over 20 years, but I didn’t know she was a wet plate photographer,” explains Paul. “In fact I didn’t know anything about wet plate before 2010, when I saw an exhibit of original 1800s photographic portraits by ‘Nadar’ in Paris, and was deeply moved. These were original 8″x10″ glass plates, and the detail was incredible! It was as if these amazing people were still in the room, even though they were long gone. I mentioned the show to Susan, who explained the wet plate process, as she’d been using it for a few years already.”

Inspired by the remarkable preserved images of those long-ago French faces,  Paul began thinking about his community of bikers back in the States. As a veteran rider, bike blog contributor, author of three books, and founder of The Vintagent (a media company dedicated to vintage motorcycles and biker culture), he knew he could portray motorcyclists through photography in a way that had not been seen before. He had storytelling skills from his career as a motorcycle writer but needed a partner with expertise in the tintype style that had so captured his imagination. His vision would only work if his Susan agreed to join him in this new venture. She said “Yes!” and MotoTintype was established in 2012.

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LEFT: Paul and Susan’s Sprinter van RIGHT: Cannonball riders

For the past six years, Paul, Susan, and their Sprinter van have been attending vintage motorcycle events nationwide – at Bonneville, El Mirage, and the Motorcycle Cannonball – capturing portraits of bikers and their rides using the antique wet plate method. The thing is, it’s called wet plate because you must develop the photos immediately, while the chemistry on the glass or metal plates is still wet. To accommodate that, they transformed the back of their van into a mobile darkroom, allowing them to process their photos on site, and share the prints with their subjects right away. Paul converted the Sprinter just before participating in the 2012 Motorcycle Cannonball, the most difficult antique motorcycle endurance run in the world.

Having been a member of the vintage motorcycle scene since the 1980s, Paul is close to most of the riders they shoot at these events. Being part of the culture and creating the close bonds with riders that allowed them to document the unique details of their individual styles made it possible for Susan and him to build their portfolio. Photographs of these riders and their machines preserve their personal footprints – or tire prints – capturing distinct moments for all time.

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“These riders and I have been on the same journey together for years, but the community was new to Susan,” explains Paul. “She has an incredible presence that makes our subjects feel comfortable, which is important because Cannonball riders come in all types — from rough riders who sleep on the ground to riders with elaborate semi-trailers with machine tools and professional mechanics servicing one or two bikes. Everyone is riding the same 4,000-mile race and I make no judgments, I only want to capture their unique character.”

MotoTintype prefers the wet plate process because of its magical qualities. It’s a true chemistry experiment with silver nitrate, requiring precise execution to develop the perfect photo. (Remember Lindsey Ross and the abandoned gold mines of Telluride?) The process can create unusual light, swirls, and spots that add to the effect, and which are totally unpredictable. Paul jokingly calls them “Victorian Polaroids”.

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“The instant gratification is amazing,” he says. “One of our favorite parts of what we do is bringing the biker into the van to watch the development process. You never know what you’ll get, as the ‘wet plate’ process is sensitive only to ultraviolet light. While it can be unpredictable, the detail is remarkable. Not only are we able to capture surface features like scars and wrinkles, we’re also able to see what’s below the skin, like defects and pigmentation, all which appear darker once developed. There’s nowhere to hide on a tintype, which is what drew me to the style all those years ago. It’s so personal. To look at a portrait of a rider and see every distinct detail representing years of exposure to the elements, allows Susan and I to help tell their story without words.”

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There are many faces, ages, and tastes in biker culture. When motorcycle lovers come together the crowd spans generations and includes all walks of life. Many appreciate the classic design of antique bikes and how with some maintenance, they’re still able to function just like they did in their glory days. They love a bike built with ancient iron that squirts oil and growls. Others may be more interested in a reliable brand new custom bike created just for them. The one thing they can all agree on is that to feed your soul, there is nothing like miles passing under two wheels.

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When he’s not in the darkroom or behind the lens, Pauls likes to reunite with his brotherhood of bikers for a back road cruise on his own vintage ride: a 1933 Brough Superior v-twin. Ask him why he has lived and documented the biker culture for the past 30 years and he’ll say it’s all about the people.

“Motorcycle culture is like a hologram,” explains Paul. “If you break it down, and look at any individual part, you can see the whole picture – politics, industry, finance, design, art, passion, competition, and even the darker human tendencies. It’s all there. I invented a job for myself that allows me to do what I’m most passionate about…. telling the stories of these men and women who love the freedom of the road, and roaming the landscape on two wheels.”

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Purchase MotoTintype photos

Follow MotoTintype’s adventures on Instagram

 

Check out Two Lanes by Mike Wolfe. American-Made adventure brand for this double-sided off-white graphic tee inspired by a vintage shirt Mike found. 

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This tiny pottery business in Neenah, Wisconsin creates half a million custom handmade stoneware pieces a year!

There once was a time when everything in America was handmade. So in these days of cheap, mass production, it’s important to find small businesses still creating handcrafted goods. By supporting these artists, you’re giving yourself the gift of an original piece AND ensuring the survival of the small business that provides a way for craftspeople to pass down their talents and techniques to the next generation of makers. While we love introducing you to American makers, we love it even more when we collaborate with them to create new items exclusively for YOU!

We’ve enjoyed working with one small business in particular where no one is afraid to get a little dirty in the creation process. They’re making our new Antique Archaeology mugs. Let’s peak in as they cut some clay at Sunset Hill Stoneware!

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Tom Dunsirn started Sunset Hill when he was just 21. The business was born in a rented space next to a tavern with a lease handwritten by the barkeep on a paper placemat. Tom had no particular pottery skills but he did have the brains to run a business. What originally began as him and a college friend has since grown into a team of about 60 who have created a local legacy over the last 20 years. And we aren’t the only fans of their stoneware! Other happy customers include the National Parks, Yuengling, L.L. Bean, Pink Floyd and many others!

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Fast Facts About Sunset Hill:

  • Every Sunset Hill Stoneware potter can pump out 150 mugs per day per person
  • The average potter throws more than 45,000 mugs each year
  • Each mug has the potter’s unique thumbprint pressed onto the base of the handle
  • One ton of USA-sourced clay is used daily
  • Sunset Hill products are 100% American-made from the clay to the glaze
  • They operate on a paperless management system, recycle shipping materials, and installed a water separation system to remove manufacturing by-products. Go green!
  • The pottery wheels they use were custom created by Tom’s engineer/inventor father and co-owner Duane

“We couldn’t buy the equipment necessary to withstand the high quantities we were cranking out so dad reinvented the wheel. Well… our pottery wheel,” explains Tom. “Imagine if NASCAR made a pottery wheel, that’s what our equipment is built like. While it Iooks familiar on the outside, on the inside are all sorts of special tricks and features that have helped us move fast and efficiently. In fact, our first pottery wheel was installed in 2009 and hasn’t had maintenance yet! ”

Duane even engineered the machinery and processes they use for the medallions on every single product!

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Their master potter Jason has spent the last two decades perfecting the coloring chemistry for every piece of pottery. (Try to pick a favorite, we dare you!)

“There’s a delicate dance that takes place between the glaze and the firing temperature,” he explains. “When heated or cooled to a certain degree you can get different hues and speckles which can result in discovering new techniques for our customers.”

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The most commonly asked question the company receives: “Are they really handmade one-by-one?”

Yes! Each piece of pottery is thrown to absolute perfection. Below, watch Duane’s engineered wheel in action as our new mugs take shape!

We’re honored to work with a shop that uses old world technique to transform a raw piece of clay into a beautiful functional work of art. Follow Sunset Hill on Instagram and Facebook to see what they’re creating next!

 

Order your EXCLUSIVE Antique Archaeology mug by Sunset Hill Stoneware HERE!

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W7thCo
W7thCo Gallery Columbia, TN

Small town gallery transforming film into fully developed local history at W7thCo Gallery, Columbia TN

For the first time in eight decades, Lee Burt, 87, is seeing photos, long thought to be lost, taken by her husband Ray and other talented photographers of the late Orman Studio, but now beautifully framed and hung on a gallery wall in the Two Lane town of Columbia, Tennesee. Sauntering slowly about the room, she pauses to tilt her head in reflection. She walks over and gently places her hand upon the very same 1945 L.F Deardorff 8X10 camera Ray would cart around to weddings, local events and schools, as he documented the lives in this small American town.  A smile lights her face as she sees his lifetime of work on the walls in front of her. Ray would have loved to have seen this.

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Her husband had been the apprentice of W. A. Orman, a well-known photographer in Columbia, who began documenting the history of the community in the 1920s. Seeing potential in the 17-year-old, Orman took Ray under his wing in 1947, training, collaborating with and finally handing over his legacy to the younger man. Ray shouldered the responsibility and carried the legacy until his own death in 2011. His passing left Lee with the task of packing up the studio and it was during that difficult process that she uncovered boxes filled with hundreds of thousands of sheets of dark glossy film and stacks of glass slides.

In her grief over her husband’s death, she thought about selling the negatives to a company that would melt them down for silver, but after David White, a local photographer, showed her the history captured on those sheets and slides, she decided otherwise. For the first time in decades, these images were held up to the light, revealing the weddings, the families, the presidential visits and the unique look and feel of this small southern town.   White purchased the photos from her and took them to a Columbia couple who he hoped would be able to attach stories to the images.

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LEFT: Post office advertisement RIGHT: President Lyndon Johnson visiting Columbia ( Ray Burt can be seen holding his camera on the left!)

Marketing executives Joel Friddell and his wife Kim Hayes had been looking for a new project. Both had ties to the community and wanted to give something back, so as a gesture of their love for Columbia, they collaborated with White, carefully developing the vintage negatives and finally, in 2017, opening The W7thCo Gallery, where the legacy of the town and the faces of those who contributed to its history would be preserved and honored.

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David White, Joel Friddell and Kim Hayes

And quite a history it has.  Before the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Columbia marked the western frontier of the young United States.  As one of the country’s last outposts, the town grew influential and wealthy from trade, a beginning hinted at by the beautiful architecture still found in the small town.  It was also for a time the home of James K. Polk, the 11th president of the United States.  And it had its unique community traditions like Mule Day, all documented over nearly a century by Orman, and then Ray and the other photographers who worked for the studio.

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A view of Mule Day in downtown Columbia from the courthouse window in 1947

Located in a building dating back to the 1880s, the space had been everything from a jewelry store to a grocery store, but for the last 20 years, it was David White’s camera shop. While Joel and Kim got to work renovating the space, including their apartment above the gallery, David got started sorting and developing the negatives.

David carefully transferred the boxes of negatives to his darkroom studio in his great-great grandfather’s cabin. He spends hours cleaning and separating the film and slides and then hand-printing the photos onto archival cotton fiber paper.

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LEFT: Ray Burt and his camera RIGHT: David White

“What David does requires an expert skill set and an artistic eye, and comes only with years of working with film,” explains Joel. ” He has a true understanding of light and timing. These images he’s developing are so crisp you can read the buttons on a gentleman’s overalls!”

While David develops the prints, Joel and Kim put their digital and marketing background to work scanning and uploading the images into an online database. It’s their goal to not only offer you physical prints in their gallery but to eventually allow you to type in your family name on their website and find images of your ancestors.

Right now there are more than 700 photos available for viewing online, more than 10,000 photos researched, and still thousands to go!

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A preservation project this big has captured broad community interest in Columbia’s history and culture.

“This is something we can’t do without the participation of the Columbia community,” says Joel. “We have a large book just inside the gallery door where we invite all visitors to write down any information they may have about the photos.  At times we have folks come in with their own stories from being at the parades or shopping in the square. Some even point out their ancestors from their own personal family photos! Their testimonies allow us to connect the dots in this ever-developing matching game.”

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Joel Friddell and Kim Hayes explaining the stories behind photos in the collection

Even if you don’t have ties to the Columbia community, these prints are simply works of art that anyone can appreciate. They are tangible pieces of American history, evocative no matter where your roots are.

“It’s upturning what I thought I knew about this town,” continues Joel. “Talking to locals and hearing their stories fuels my curiosity to go a little deeper. Leaning on them and my own research efforts have made me a prouder Columbian and better preservationist.”

What’s being done in Columbia is a great act of preservation, but it’s also a wake-up call. As we trek further into the future, we run the risk of becoming one of the least documented generations in history. Yes, we revel in shooting images of everything from our grandparents to our avocado toast, but when was the last time you valued one of those images enough to print it?   Everything we capture lives on our phones, in the cloud, or on a storage device that will soon be outdated.  Those pixels are temporary technology, unreliable as history and insufficient to pass on to future generations.

Everything we capture lives on our phones, in the cloud, or on a storage device that will be outdated shortly. Because of that, we run the risk of not passing down our own history and losing precious memories.

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W7THCo. Gallery

“I married Kim in the town square just across the street next to courthouse fountains,” recalls Joel. “Each time we walk past them, we kiss and reflect on another day together. We aren’t the only ones with memories like that in this town. In the same way, we hope our mission to publish and preserve the cherished moments of Columbia’s history allows others in the community to hold on to their own memories.”

It’s the small town gems like Columbia, Tennessee that call out to our longing for a connection to the past.   They ignite a desire to turn down those Two Lane roads and find our stories.

The W7thCo Gallery is FREE and open to the public Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. If you’re unable to visit, you can visit their website and even purchase prints online.

Joel Friddell and Kim Hayes outside W7THCo. Gallery in the historic district of Columbia, Tennessee.

After your gallery visit, we encourage you to go explore a little more! Good resources would be @muletowner or muletowner.com to find events, restaurants, and more for Columbia. See y’all there!

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Joel Friddell and Kim Hayes outside W7THCo. Gallery in the historic district of Columbia, TN

Photos By Meghan Aileen

 

Take this Antique Archaeology green enamel camp mug to your backyard fire, weekend camping trip!

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Entertainment Weekly recently shared the news about Mike’s guest starring role as himself for an upcoming episode of NCIS. We’re excited to share it with you! See the original piece HERE

NCIS just cast an “American” treasure.

EW has learned exclusively that Mike Wolfe of History’s American Pickers will play himself in a March episode. He’ll come to the rescue of Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and Ducky (David McCallum), both of whom are busy watching Wolfe on TV when they see him handling a 200-year-old war stick that could be a match from a decade-old cold case.

Gibbs tracks down Wolfe, who (natch!) bought the stick from some seller. And voila! The case is re-opened.

The episode will air March 13.

For those who aren’t familiar with American Pickers (and could you not be?), the History show follows antique collector or “picker” Wolfe and Frank Fritz as they comb the countryside for precious items to keep or re-sell. The show’s been on since 2010 and was created by Wolfe. It airs on Mondays at 9 p.m. ET.

NCIS, by the way, airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

Written: LYNETTE RICE

 

Featuring the famous Nash car parked in front of Antique Archaeology Iowa shop at the opening of American Pickers.

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LeClaire Iowa Mike Wolfe
Downtown LeClaire via www.leclairechamber.com

Traveling to the Iowa shop this weekend? There’s a lot going on when you get here! Here’s a rundown of some fun happenings in our little LeClaire that we don’t want you to miss.

First up: There are eagles here, and we have the best spot in the country to view them!

The bald eagle was chosen as our national bird in 1782 as a symbol of strength and longevity. Seeing one for the first time is unforgettable, not just because of what it represents but also because of its size. (We’re talking about a 3-foot tall bird, y’all!) Right now, eagles, with their incredible eight-foot wingspans, are flying above LeClaire at speeds of 75 miles an hour. They are looking for places to build new nests and to return to their existing ones along the Mississippi River, nests that can measure anywhere from five to nine feet wide and tip the scales at two tons! They’re easy to spot – just look for trees bowed from the top by all the weight. Eagles prefer to remain close to water–that’s what makes nests high above the Mississippi so ideal.

When they aren’t nesting, they can be seen near LeClaire’s Lock and Dam No. 14, where water flow is interrupted and allows wintering eagles to scoop fish right out of the river. Mike has even reported picking up fish heads in his backyard, dinner leftovers dropped by eagles from flying overhead!

LeClaire has such a reputation for eagle-watching that photographers from all over the country head to the river town for the opportunity to snap the perfect photo, and now you have the chance to join them!

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Here’s some advice for safely observing these magnificent creatures. 

  • Lock and Dam No. 14 Preserve is the best spot for viewing and is open 24/7
  • If you’d like to get the best photo, we recommend viewing them after 12 pm.
  • To beat the larger crowds, get out during the weekdays vs the weekends.
  • Layer it up! Iowa has been experiencing negative temperatures this season. Pick up a pack of those handy activated hand warmers!
  • You don’t need fancy equipment for bird watching! Binoculars or the naked eye will serve you well.
  • Can’t believe we have to say this one, but DO NOT try to chase the eagles! No close up photo for Instagram is worth the consequences.

If you’d prefer to observe with a pro, come to the LeClaire Civic Center at 2 pm on January 14th for Bald Eagle Day where local wildlife photographer Burt Gearhart will take you to Lock & Dam No. 14 to view and photograph the eagles!

All that bird watching is going work up your appetite for something hot. Swap out those binoculars for a fork and follow us to a party on downtown Main Steet for “Taste of LeClaire.”

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Downtown LeClaire via www.leclairechamber.com

To help combat cabin fever that sets in during this season, select businesses all around the Quad City area are offering coupons and specials–inviting locals to come out and stretch their legs and “Be a Tourist in Your Own Backyard.” LeClaire is set to host its own FREE event on January 14th from 1-4pm called “Taste of LeClaire”. There will be food and beverage samples from various shops and specials at several restaurants and bars! Grab details for the Bald Eagle Day and Taste of LeClaire HERE.

We’ll have the heat on for ya! Safe travels and we’ll see y’all when you get here!

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Eagle photography provided by Burt Gearhart

 

Order your EXCLUSIVE Antique Archaeology mug by Sunset Hill Stoneware HERE!

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pancreatic cancer nonprofit

It’s no secret that Mike has a thing for motorcycles — especially the antique ones. That same shared appreciation brought him and musician/producer Butch Walker together six years ago, taking rides down the historic highways and no-name back roads of America.

Butch inherited his love of vintage from his dad, Butch Walker Sr., an antique collector who matched Mike’s passion for history.

“Knowing his dad and I had a lot in common,” says Mike “Butch arranged us to have dinner together. We spent the evening swapping stories of our favorite finds and the ones we still hoped to discover. Right away, I felt connected to him.”

If it was that easy to connect with Butch Sr. over one dinner, you can imagine the unbreakable bond developed over the years between him and his son. Especially after all those miles logged together on a tour bus with fast food, stinky socks, and zero personal space.

Back when Butch just started playing shows, Butch Sr. would travel with the band to their gigs and even run their merch table. He was very popular with the fans — a real working groupie.

“Those late nights spent together sitting on a hotel floor counting merch money and talking about the show that night over cheap whiskey, are some of my favorite memories with him.”

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Butch Walker and his dad, Butch Sr.

As Butch’s career grew to nationwide tours playing sold-out shows for rock-loving fans, his favorite part of every show was busting out his flip phone and calling his dad from stage.

“No matter where in the country we were playing, I would call and wake him up so he could talk to the crowd. I’d say ‘Dad, whatcha doing, you awake?’ then hold the microphone up the speaker and he’d always answer with, ‘I’m mowing the grass! What do you think I’m doing?’ Every crowd I played for got to have that moment with he and I. It was so special every time.”

It’s really something special to see a man pause in the middle of a high energy rock show amongst leather, tattoos, and string-breaking guitar solos, to make a sentimental call to his dad. Here’s what that looks like.

It was a complete shock in 2013 when Butch’s dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was immediately hospitalized. After only being diagnosed 24 hours prior, 71-year-old Butch Sr. lost his battle without even a chance to fight.

“I held his hand, closed my eyes, he closed his, and he was gone,” says Butch. “That’s the thing about pancreatic cancer. It doesn’t give you a chance to reconcile with it, it doesn’t let you make plans, or let you prepare for the ending. It sneaks up on you and gives you no warning until it’s too late. It’s the most reclusive and elusive killer in this inhuman family of diseases.”

After the sudden passing of his dad, Butch decided he wanted to help others battling pancreatic cancer. Named after his dad’s favorite season in the north Georgia mountains, he founded The Autumn Leaves Project. A free resource for families and individuals living with this illness to help alleviate the financial stress of the day-to-day fight with cancer. They believe it’s the little things like gas cards, nutritional meals, and personal care that make a world of difference during that difficult time.

“It can be financially crippling when a two-person income home becomes one after a diagnosis,” says Butch. “No one should have to make a decision whether to feed their families or put gas in the car to go to an appointment. We exist to eliminate that barrier.”

BENEFIT CONCERTS

Earlier this year,  Johnny Depp, Alice Cooper, Brad Whitford, Joe Perry and more came together thanks to Nathan Fawley of Duesenberg Guitars for the Annual Imperial Ball Charity Concert where Autumn Leaves was chosen to be one of the beneficiaries to receive a portion of the ticket sales. Most recently, Butch played a sold out benefit show for the Autumn Leaves Project in Topanga Canyon, CA inside a Shakespeare theater in the middle of the woods.

Butch Walker Autumn Leaves Concert

“Friends came out to perform late into the night and kept the energy up by snacking on dad’s cherished pickled green tomatoes,” shares Butch. “We had a beautiful experience out there. It was incredible to see people gravitate towards something so negative in such a positive light. I could feel dad there making sure everything went off without a hitch.”

Thanks to the passion of all involved, Autumn Leaves raised double what they expected that night.

GIVING BACK

Not only did Butch Sr. support his own family, he perpetually gave back and looked out for all those around him. Now, Autumn Leaves partners with like-minded organizations, some with personal experiences driving them, to amplify their outreach for aid as another way to honor his generous heart.

The biker and music communities have given an outpour of support through fundraisers and donations. The founders of Rock and Rides for the Cure based out of Yardley, Pennsylvania ride to help raise awareness about pancreatic cancer. After losing a brother to the disease and seeing how it can affect a family financially, they pick a patient to receive all their proceeds for the year.

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Pants Off Racing is another organization Autumn Leaves partners with. These high energy, sports enthusiasts connect patients with resources to meet various needs and really form personal relationships with patients. They’ve even been known to deliver Christmas trees!

Autumn Leaves has also teamed up with Hattie Jane’s Creamery in downtown Columbia, Tennessee on a custom ice cream flavor–it’s vegan, black charcoal and topped with 23-carat gold flecks as a nod to Butch’s latest Stay Gold album title. During December 2017, a portion of every scoop goes to Autumn Leaves so don’t be afraid to make it a double!

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HOW TO DONATE

Donating to Autumn Leaves means directly providing relief to those fighting against this dreadful disease. All proceeds go right into the pockets of patients and their families who need help getting through the daily struggle.

“It feels good to make a difference on an independent level,” says Butch. “When you focus on the humanity of it and its immediate impact, instead of strictly financial, you feel good about contributing.”

Because Mike and Butch have been friends for a long time, this holiday season Mike wants to help give back to the cause inspired by a man he greatly respected.

In his honor, to help raise funding for this incredible organization, Mike wanted to give you all the opportunity to win a piece of American Pickers history from the very first season of the show: The Piggly Wiggly head. The winner was announced on January 4th, 2018 on Mike’s Facebook page.

 

Watch Mike find the Piggly Wiggly head in Season One in the clip below!

 

Pop a top off of your favorite beverage with Antique Archaeology’s branded wall mount bottle opener featuring one of Mike’s sayings from the show!

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Catie Curtis’s most unforgettable childhood memory was exploring the Saco, Maine dump with her father, Phil Curtis, during the 1970s. To anyone else, this sounds more like punishment than paradise, but from her perspective, it was the greatest treasure hunt ever.

Show of hands: How many other picker-raised children are out there?

“We’d take regular trips to the town dump not because we were poor, but because dad appreciated the value of things and encouraged us to do the same,” says Catie. “He created the most magical childhood for our family, using discarded junk and its unique history as his props. Dad hated seeing things that have a certain charm, personality, or history thrown away.” (Reminds us of the story of how Mike used to dig in the trash as a kid.) 

Nothing about that remembrance has changed for Phil, now 79. Seven days a week you can find him in his flannel and jeans, cruising around town, headed to an auction or a sale, looking for something that captures his attention. It could be anything from a piece of art to a gym floor (and we’ll get that in just a minute). His salvage reputation put him on the fast track to being the local catch-all of the town, and it became common knowledge in Saco that whatever you needed, you could find it in Phil’s place.

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Phil would never have guessed that Catie would grow up to be a musician and that her best-known and most-loved song, Dad’s Yard, would be inspired by those childhood adventures in the town dump and her treasure hunting days sifting through piles in her father’s backyard.

The first time she ever performed Dad’s Yard was at Phil’s retirement party after more than 30 years as a high school math teacher. Needless to say, the entire room connected to the song because they too knew the humor and truth behind its lyrics.

“I remember so clearly singing it at the party,” says Catie, “and the way I felt looking at him after all those years spent spelunking through history with him. That song was the beginning of my career. I’ve toured for 35 years and Dad’s Yard is still the most requested song. I know people connect with it so strongly because they’ll come up to me and say how the song reminds them of their father, husband, even themselves. It hits a chord with people.”

“I remember sitting there with tears of humor and honor,” says Phil. “I guess I do have more apple ladders and antique hardware than the average guy.”

Ask Phil how he became a picker and he’ll tell you that while he was always a curious child, his appreciation for “junk” came shortly after marrying his college sweetheart, Catharine.

“When we bought our first apartment, the only thing we could afford to decorate it with was antique furniture,” he recounts. “During that time, I met a few collectors who taught me to appreciate the dovetailing and the marks under the drawers. I began thinking about all the other ways we could furnish a home for ourselves through salvaged and unique pieces and from then on, I was hooked for life. Bless my wife– she never fought me on it during the 56 years we had together.”

Over the years Phil built a reputation in the community for being able to match the person with the pick. His collection is well stocked with pieces that have a story.  All you gotta do is take a walk through his backyard and his barn and then take a few minutes to tell him yours.

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And speaking of barns, even his barn was a pick!  Found in Woodstock, Maine, it belonged to a casket manufacturer who was about to level it. Phil rescued the barn and transferred it piece by piece 70 miles south to Saco where it now lives in his backyard, filled to the gills with treasures.

Inside are two floors of just about anything you can think up. During Phil’s early days as a high school baseball coach, the switch from wood to metal bats began.  Drawn to the old equipment by their nostalgic value, Phil collected and held on to a lot of those wooden ones made locally by the R.G. Johnson Company. You can also find a selection of chairs suspended from the ceiling, dusty books, vintage tools, oil cans, salvaged architectural material and much more.

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Speaking of salvaged material…let’s talk about that gym floor we mentioned earlier.

Phil had pulled out an old section of the gym floor from the Thornton Academy High School (where he taught and later retired from). He stored it for years thinking it would have a purpose someday, and it definitely did.

“It’s now our bathroom floor,” boasts Phil. “Pretty proud of the free throw line placement in front of the toilet if I may say so.”

The Academy provided that pick but was also the recipient of Phil’s largesse. Once while on a pick, he found two dump trucks’ worth of beveled glass from a business that went under.  He donated the glass to the school where it was used to build trophy case shelves.

“There’s a certain serendipity that occurs with picking,” explains Phil. “You don’t ask to find anything in particular, things just have a divine way of finding you.”

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“The main connection I think people have with the song, is the way Dad doesn’t want give up on an object finding a home or helping his community,” says Catie. “There isn’t a single piece on the property that he couldn’t tell you the story of, and he lives to educate others on where everything came from, its use, and how you can use it today.”

Such goes the true mission of the American picker. Who else grew up with a picker parent? Tell us about them in the comments below.

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“And that’s the fun of it, it’s that mystery
In all these things bearing other people’s history
You can look at this stuff, wonder where it’s been
You can pick it up and you can use it again”
— Catie Curtis lyrics from Dad’s Yard

 

Photos by Ted Hess-Mahan

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Remember how much fun we had playing in treehouses as kids? In our minds, a treehouse was more than just a clubhouse or an escape from a room shared with an annoying sibling. It was our own little hideout where we could create our own world and play how we wanted.

As grown-ups, it’s tough to live without those magical places we had as children. That stops today!

We’ve put together a group of treehouses that will transport you back to that feeling of wonder, and, like us, these treehouses have grown up. Some are rustic escapes to an off-the-grid experience, while others offer luxuries like running water, a spiral staircase, a master suite and a sauna!

Get an eye-level view of the beautiful colors of fall from a whole new perspective, or at least one you haven’t had in a while… here are six of our favorite treehouses, located all around the country, and all available to rent at as little as $95 a night!

 

Treehouse in the Shire — $95 per night

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Location: Conway, New Hampshire

The Tree: There’s no better place to observe the colors of fall than in New England, or, more specifically, from this treehouse in New Hampshire. The Shire is a cozy escape resting on 200+ acres and should only be reserved by folks looking to truly disconnect. (We’re talking zero wifi, electric, or running water.) Never taken a bucket bath before? You won’t be able to say that after your stay! Town is only 20 minutes away in case you need extra batteries or another bag of mallows. Don’t forget to bring your bike because the Kangamaguas Highway, the quietest stretch of road in New England, is right down the road!

Pet Friendly: Yes.

Make a Reservation

 

 

The Stump House —  $100 per night

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Location:  Seder- Woolley, Washington

The Tree: This yurt-style treehouse looks like it grew out of the old stump it lives on! Overlooking a peaceful pond in the Washington woods, The Stump House is a quiet retreat with your basic amenities: running water, electricity, and — we’re not making this up — a sauna. Cook your meals in the seasonal outdoor kitchen and enjoy a nice outdoor shower after exploring the 9-acre property.Fill up a cooler and get out here!

Pet Friendly: No.

Make a Reservation

 

 

Whispering Wind Treehouse — $179 per night

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Location: Argyle, New York

The Tree: The most appealing part of this treehouse is that while you rest your head on a full-sized mattress in the loft, you can look up through the clear roof and feel totally connected with the nature around you. The treehouse is full of salvaged windows which perfectly frame the changing leaves outside. You’re sure to feel like you’re in a nest! Now that we’ve hooked you, you should know that this treehouse is totally off-the-grid, no electricity, and no wifi. Completely worth it.

Pet Friendly: No.

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Trillium Treehouse —  $195 per night  

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Location: Linden, Virginia

The Tree: Can’t you see yourself reading a book or enjoying coffee on that balcony? Perch in this tree, and you’ll have more than 200 acres of wilderness to explore as well as access to the Appalachian Trail, Shenandoah Park, and a few wineries. After a long day of exploring, enjoy a spring-fed shower out back. There are battery-operated lights throughout and a gas stove for cooking your favorite camping meal. This treehouse also comes with its own four-legged welcome committee: three Anatolian Shepherd dogs! Sign us up!

Pet Friendly: No.

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Montana Treehouse Retreat— $250 per night

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Location: Columbia Falls, Montana

The Tree: You will by no means being “roughing it” here. Nestled on seven acres of private woods, this double-decker, 500 sq feet treehouse includes two custom Douglas fir spiral staircases, a full kitchen, and a master suite. This treetop canopy castle rests at the gateway of Glacier National Park, is minutes from the slopes of Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort, and close to the no-power town of Polebridge. Utopia in the trees…

Pet Friendly: Yes.

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Treehouse Retreat Bolt Farm— $265 per night

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Location: Walhalla, South Carolina

The Tree: What’s better than one treehouse? TWO. Decked out with a fireplace, chandeliers and antique furnishings, it also has access to a 40-acre farm. This luxury treehouse has romantic accents throughout and was designed by Seth Bolt of the band Needtobreathe, who grew up on the farm. They grow seasonal vegetables that are 100% organic. For $50 a person they’ll even deliver dinner to your tree! The ultimate honeymoon in a tree.

Pet Friendly: No.

Make a Reservation

Who else is ready to retreat to the trees? If you have treehouse experience, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

 

Classic Antique Archaeology Target Logo hat in olive green

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