When it comes to spinning tales no one does it quite like our friends in The East Coast of Canada. If you’re a lover of ghosts, goblins, disasters, triumphs, treasures and all things that go bump in the night I suggest that you lend an ear to some good old fashioned East Coast story telling that goes back centuries. One of our particular favorites concerns one of the most sought after relics of all time, The Ark of Covenant, the great ark mentioned in the both the Quran and Bible said to have been built by Moses to house the tablets with the inscribed Ten Commandments. At 2½ cubits in length (not sure what a cubit is but it sure sounds really big), 1½ in breadth and 1½ in height, this gold plated Ark (so the bible tells us) has been the subject of mystery, debate, speculation and fascination for more years than I can count on all of my fingers and toes (willing to throw my thumbs in as well). And what of this speculation you ask? Well, the big question amongst the treasure hunting, adventure seeking, Indian (wanna-be) Jones types out there is, where the heck is this coveted Ark? The answer, according to our East Coast friends (or at least some of ‘em) is right here in Canada on the tiny, 140-acre plot of land known as Oak Island (who said our baby country lacks exciting history?).

For centuries, amidst the swirl of rumors, thousands of people have spent absurd amounts of time and money seeking this holy grail of treasures on this unassuming Canadian island only to come away with catastrophic results – and why haven’t they found it you ask? Perhaps those East Coast friends of ours have hidden it really, really well.Oak Island

History has it that Nova Scotia has long been connected to pirate activities dating back to the 1600s. Over the years a number of historical treasures have been unearthed in this area, however in 1795 when word spread that a few local fellows found a circular depression roughly ten feet in diameter, it certainly caught the attention of treasure seekers from far and wide. As the local boys continued to dig they hit a layer of stone, passed a few layers of wooden planks, some coconut husks, some charcoal and then…..at a depth of 80 to 90 feet a stone tablet was discovered, which reportedly read, “Forty feet below – 2 million pounds are buried”. And with that they continued to dig and before long struck a solid block, which they believed to be a treasure chest. Returning the next day they discovered the pit to be filled with sixty feet of water! A booby trap? Perhaps. An act of God?  Maybe. A flood tunnel connected to the sea? Most likely! We’ll let you be the judge. Despite their efforts, little was found in the way of treasure; however years later an excavating team unearthed a series of stone boulders (arranged in a large cross formation) fueling further speculation that the Ark of Covenant could well be beneath their feet.

To this day Oak Island natives remain divided in their beliefs regarding the buried treasure. What is certain however is that since the initial discovery, 6 men have lost their lives. Despite the Oak Island pit – or “Money Pit” as the locals refer to it – having collapsed in on itself in 1860, modern day excavations continued well into the 20th century. Lack of evidence of the treasure, as well the absence of the original so called tablet (once presumed to be found) makes one wonder if there really is anything beneath the island, or is it simply just the makings of another great East Coast tale with a big hole in it – or should we say pit?

Not long ago, a group of American relic-hunters discovered “thousands of coins” and other artifacts from what’s believed to be the legendary British HMS Fantome – a War of 1812 gunboat carrying White House plunder. The ship, on its return to Canada after the ransacking of Washington, sank in Canadian waters off the coast of Nova Scotia in the early 1800s.

The discovery has set the stage for an international showdown between the three countries.

Having learned of the find, the British government has asked Canada to halt exploration at the Fantome site and insist that nothing should be taken from the area without permission from London.

Tom Freeman's painting of the August 24, 1814 burning of the White House by British troops during the War of 1812.

Tom Freeman’s painting of the August 24, 1814 burning of the White House by British troops during the War of 1812.

Canadian Heritage Officials have said little regarding their position on the matter other than they have received a letter, via federal officials in Ottawa, in which Britain argues that the, “Fantome remain the property of the British government and can’t be disturbed without their consent.” They have also described the British intervention as unprecedented and will need some time to study the “very complex” matter (lord knows how we like to study things to death); in the meantime, they’ve advised the U.S. salvager to seek British approval to continue its explorations.

And as you can imagine the Americans will have a whole different take on the way things should unfold – makes you wonder if they’re ready to assume the “finder’s keeper’s / loser’ weeper’s” approach and tell the Brits to butt out.

Given the fact that it’s a British wreck that lies in Canadian waters but is believed to hold gold and other treasures looted during a raid on the American White House in the early 1800s makes for some choppy and murky waters when it comes to determining jurisdictional rights.

I say to hell with both of them and just claim it as ours given the fact that it’s on our turf. I am sure you would agree!

Seeing that this naval operation (dating back to the 1812 War) provided the inspiration for the “bombs bursting in air” imagery of The Star-Spangled Banner I got a feeling the Americans might just have something to say about that!!!

Ah heck…if push comes to shove we can split in 90/10 with our friends south of the border and collectively tell the Brits to jolly well butt out!

Cheerio!

In as much as we’d love to sit around the shop cherry picking all day we’ve got stories to write and super cool antiques to sell. For an amusing look at the world of cherry pitting check out the fascinating story below!

We get it that there are those out there who think beauty contests are demoralizing, old school, out of fashion and dare we say antiquated!! And you know what? We couldn’t agree more. For a truly antiquated experience, we at Cabinet of Curiosities are pleased to announce, what we believe to be, the world’s first ever “Antique Doll” Beauty Contest – if there are others out there please let us know; but until then we’ll give ourselves credit for hosting this world’s first. So for all you doll lovers and collectors who believe that their antique doll is in a class of true beauties we challenge you to submit your photos and enter our world’s first Antique Doll Beauty Contest at Cabinet of Curiosities

When it comes to art forms that are deeply rooted in naturalism you can’t hold a candle to Inuit art. Be it an ornate sculpture made of bone, stone, ivory or antler, Inuit art has achieved an international reputation as a major contemporary art form, reflecting the uniqueness of the people who create it. As their fathers before them the Inuit continue to produce wonderful pieces of art entirely by hand. Have a look at the fine samples we have recently acquired in our shop.

Trying to date a brass candlestick can indeed be a challenge. Less opulent than its aristocratic cousins gold and silver, and a step above the more common iron and steel relatives, brass (an alloy of copper and zinc) was the ideal alloy of choice for crafting items for the middle class. While the poor in the 18th and early 19th adhered to the conventional adage “early to bed and early to rise” partly out of diligence, the cost of burning candles (a luxury they could not easily afford) may have also had something to do with it.(to learn more about dating candlesticks see below)