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    Auction Finds

    A wooden cart that was used for what?

    I was roaming the grounds of the auction house, at the perimeter of the area where tons of antique and all kinds of other furniture had been stacked and placed under a large long shed.

    I wasn’t so much interested in the furniture as I was in the metal outdoor furniture parked nearby. Much of it was very familiar, the ironwork chairs and tables you see at most home stores – all waiting for new owners and new cushions.

    Then I stumbled onto a cart that stumped me. It had two small but heavy-looking iron wheels for pushing and two wide arms with thick bolts for guiding. Two scoops or half-moons had been carved out at the tops of both arms straight across from each other. They reminded me of the bottom half of a guillotine.

    cart1

    A hand-made industrial or factory cart with fireplace screen waiting to be sold at auction.

    Glued to the top was a beautiful black wrought-iron fireplace screen, its design a pot with leaves curving out of it into curlicues at the ends. It was a stark contrast to the crude wooden foundation.

    What was this contraption?

    I circled it and it was in perfect symmetry, a match of itself on both sides. The cart was well-worn and obviously had been put to good use for something and by somebody. My mind was a complete blank about what it was, so I walked away.

    As soon as I did I watched as a woman strode directly to it, a man – perhaps her husband – trailing her. She apparently had spotted the cart before and wanted to show it to him. I asked them for their thoughts.

    cart2

    The block-shaped body of the crude factory or industrial cart.

    She was a little coy and vague. Perhaps she was afraid that I was interested in the piece, and she wasn’t about to give me any leverage. He was more responsive, but neither had any idea of what it was or what it was used for.

    Then I walked away from them but lingered as she stood quietly talking to him. She seemed to be more interested in how the cart could be used.

    It’d look good in a man cave, she said to him. He suggested putting a table on it, but she no-no’ed that idea.

    cart3

    A close-up of the wrought iron fireplace screen.

    I moved on to walk among the furniture, and they left the cart alone. Later, though, they – or moreso she – were back and found a man nearby labeling the items he’d consigned to the auction house to sell. She asked if the cart had belonged to him; she was now very open and chatty. It was not his but he offered his own suggestion for how it could be used.

    It’d make a great bench, I overheard the consigner say. He was right, it would make a good bench.

    Later, I found the man near the cart. And me, still curious about what the heck it was, I asked if he knew.

    cart4

    An industrial or factory cart offered as a coffee table. From restorationhardware.com.

    It was used to haul industrial pipes, he said with the air of a man who knew what he was talking about. That’s what the scoops/half moons were for. I’m not sure if he was right but his answer certainly made sense. But this one look too heavy to be hauling anything with a lot of weight.

    Googling, I found one retail site that said factory or industrial carts were used in the early 1900s to ferry furniture, fabric and supplies across factory floors. A Vermont company that re-purposes industrial carts said the carts found their footing during the Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century when manufacturers used cast-iron and steel carts to move products in factories.

    Then wooden frames and planks were added that made them lighter, followed by wheels that swiveled and cast-iron corner pieces. Interlocking corner braces were also attached, which made for better control, according to the website.

    cart5

    An industrial or factory cart redesigned as a work bench or kitchen island. Photo from elementalrestorations.com.

    My web search turned up tons of the carts repurposed mostly into coffee tables, but also consoles, kitchen islands and more. One had been painted red and made into a wagon for hauling plants and supplies for gardening. I also found a different take on a factory cart: It was a two-seat modified golf cart that was used by McDonnell Aircraft in St. Louis, MO, to transport President Kennedy when he visited in 1962 to view construction of the Gemini and Mercury space crafts.

    All of the wooden carts on the web seemed to be flat-bed and mass-produced. One site was offering them custom-made from industrial materials (selling from $350 to $1,500).

    The cart at auction was obviously hand-made – how else to explain that lovely fireplace screen. I can only assume that the maker added it to give so pedestrian a piece a touch of class.

    Was the consigner right about how the cart was used? What do you think? How would you re-use it?

     

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