I haven’t done a book quotes in a while, and I’m not sure this particular book qualifies, but I’ll say it does. A while back, I found a catalog published by the Jackson company Southern Mantel and Tile around 1908. I grabbed it off of abebooks quick as a wink, and have been flipping through it and smiling ever since. It’s a beautiful book, each page an image of a different mantel and tilework, and at the back grates and other accessories for the well-accessorized house of the time. It’s also quite long–over 80 pages–so this week, the “quotes” will consist of my choice of the mantels, etc. I like the best. Then hopefully if I can ever get through scanning all of them, I’ll have the full booklet on Scribd like I’ve been doing with the Mississippi Architect series.
I don’t know much about the Southern Mantel and Tile Company except that it was in Jackson around 1908, that they apparently designed and produced their own mantels on site (or at least claimed to), and that by the time of the 1916 City Directory, they were no longer in business. This is typical of construction and trade firms–here today gone tomorrow, and it’s one reason why it’s so hard to get solid information about the construction industry in history. I’d love to know how many of these mantels were sold, where they ended up, etc. One design that I’ll show later in the week looks like a perfect match for the mantels in the second floor of George Street Grocery here in Jackson. Maybe you’ll recognize others as we go through the week. Maybe you’ve got one in your house–if so, chime in and let us know where you’ve seen a design and help us figure out how much impact the company had on Mississippi buildings.
There’s a lot of talk about “mail order” architecture as if it’s something new and of lesser quality. Hopefully you’ll see this week that mail order is as old as cheap transportation and the quality of design and (I assume) production shown here gives the lie to the second statement.
The catalog starts with a 2-page introduction, which I’ll break up over the course of the week to go with the photos. I’m not going to use the slideshow feature, so you can click on any image and blow it up to see details if you need to.
In Presenting this Catalogue
WE TAKE a pardonable pride in claiming for it the highest excellence. We have endeavored to make each illustration as exact and clear as the art of photography and engraving can produce, without considering the expense. Absolute reliance may be placed on the representations and descriptions. Almost every design appearing in it is new and entirely different from those of any other factory, being exclusive designs of our own.
In ordering from us you are assured of getting from first hands, which means the lowest possible price for the goods offered, prompt shipments, and qualities equalled by no other factory not prepared with such perfect facilities for the production of the very best at our low prices.
A man builds about one good house in his lifetime, and he wants to make it right. No matter how perfect it may be in its plan or in its decoration, it can be marred by a poor mantel. These mantels are correct in every way and are triumphs of artistic conception and masterful workmanship. Our whole aim in the mantel business is to make mantels that are in harmony with the tone of beauty and architecture in every modern house, whether it be a modest artistic dwelling or a palatial residence, rich in its elaborate detail.