Antique Safes/Edward, Fernald & Co Antique Safe
QUESTION: Aloha Andy,
I am writing to you from the island of Oahu, Hawai'i, I'm an employee at the Hawaiian Mission Houses in Honolulu. We are in the process of deaccessioning an antique "cast iron" safe manufactured by Edwards, Fernald & Co., the accession record reads that it was made in Boston in 1851. The safe has been located one of the historic houses since 1916 (100 years) and we need to have it moved. According to policy, we offer deaccessions back to the descendants of the original donors first, but in the event they do not want it we need to find it another home, ASAP.
My questions are:
Do you know how to find an estimated weight for this object?
Do you have any suggestions on how to move the safe out of a delicate historic building? What should I be asking the moving companies?
Do you know of any organizations that might be interested in having an antique safe? (Given that we live on an island...We thought perhaps our larger, older, local banks.)
Thank you in advance.
ANSWER: Hi Elizabeth,
Many of the questions that you are posing, are questions that should have been asked MONTHS ago. As the museum has chosen to wait until "ASAP" has become important - many of the questions are basically MOOT, such as knowing any organizations that might be interested. Unless the container or historical object has specific historical significance to THAT institution it is simply an old safe. The historical value that it currently has ONLY has meaning to your organization. While any history may be interesting to the new owner, it is simply an old safe to them.
Finding an organization that is interested in THAT containers specific history, takes months of knocking on doors and offering it to locations. By indicating that it needs to be moved ASAP, you are long past having that kind of interest in the safe.
As far as your records indicating that the safe was made in 1851 - unless you actually have purchase documents or records showing it, then the date is suspect, regardless of what your records show. Probably about 2/3's of the museums that I visit on a regular basis that have antique safes have them listed incorrectly, either by manufacturer, dates of manufacturer and even ownership. Unfortunately many museums have "agenda's" that they are trying to show, either through history or through story telling. While I know that these comments may not be received well, it is what it is! I am always happy to help a museum indicate correctly what they actually have, but bottom line with out the actual documentation it is simply a story.
The Union Safe & Lock Factory was established by a Mr. Fernald, Charles Kershaw and Oliver Edwards around 1838. While the factory was a "consolidated concern" they also ran several sales agencies under various names as: Edwards, Fernald & Company, Edwards and Kershaw Manufacturers of bank locks and safes, Edwards, Holman & Fernald Fireproof Safes, Edwards, Fernald & Kershaw safes & locks. These various companies were in business for various periods of time, though the latest dates appear to be around 1885.
The sales agency known as Edwards, Fernald & Company appears to have been in operation from the mid 1840's until as late as 1885, so your safe would have been made or at least acquired during this time period.
As for estimating the weight of the safe, I will need exact dimensions of the safe body, inside and out Height, depth and width. Thickness of the walls and door, and height above the floor to the bottom of the safe. I will also need photos of the safe (see list below).
Moving companies DO NOT have the necessary equipment to move heavy safes. You need an actual safe company or possibly a rigging company if your local safe companies don't have the equipment or tools. When you mention "DELICATE" historic buildings, the safe movers will need to lay down plywood and steel and possibly even shore up floors to handle the weight of the safe and any equipment. Again, this is something you should have been working on months ago - NOT waiting until ASAP was important.
While I know that you may not be happy with what appears to be chastisement, hopefully you will understand that these kind of movements do NOT happen ASAP without potential damage or devastating affects. It also means that if the safe company or rigging company has to reschedule jobs to accommodate your ASAP requests, you had better be prepared for some BIG $$$$$'s.
My recommendation if you don't have the time to look for a buyer or someone interested in the safe, then having it sold at an auction house may be your next best bet. Generally the auction houses have storage facilities that can house the safe, until after they have had a chance to adequately advertise it to get the best or most motivated buyers available, hopefully one with a serious historical perspective.
If you would like me to look at the safe to answer questions like an estimated weight, I would be more happy to. If you don't have listings of any local safe companies I'll need your zip code, so that I can see who I might know and/or recommend in your area.
In order to answer specific questions, identify, evaluate or appraise your safe, I'm going to need photos. They should include full exterior and interior. Detail photos should include pictures of the dial, handles, hinges, artwork, locks, bolt work, castors, cabinetry and any special details or damage. Note: You may have to remove the back panel on the door to gain access to the lock & bolt work – I will need these pics.
If you have a particular detail that you have a question about, I will need a photo of it along with your question.
I will also need to see any documentation that you have in regards to your safe. If your safe has a unique historical perspective, you should be able to document this with letters, newspaper articles or photos, if not it is simply a story and will have no bearing on the value of your safe.
Please use as high a resolution as possible so that I can examine details of your safe. Pictures which are low resolution, out of focus, or from a distance don’t help when we try to evaluate the container. Note: with higher resolution, you may only be able to send 2-4 pictures per email, depending on the size of the file, I have a 12mb limit per email. If photos are larger than 2mb each, you may only be able to send 2 or 3 photos per email, requiring several emails.
Please don’t send me “cell phone” photos, unless they are very clear and of sufficient resolution. Also, please don’t use online, internet photo drops as most of these also don’t allow me to easily access the photos for examination. Send the pics directly to me, while this may be more work for you, it will make my job easier.
Please send all of the requested photos to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: As I am in the field several days each week, covering a huge service area, I may not get back to your photos immediately, but I will respond as soon as I get an opportunity. Due to field work, emails may tend to get backed up which means I may not answer them immediately.
Our informal evaluation is at no charge, however if you feel you need a formal evaluation or appraisal for insurance, estate sales, donations for tax write offs, or to establish it as an antique, there is an administrative fee for this service.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Aloha e Andy,
I wholeheartedly agree that due diligence must be served to this historic antique; a main reason why the safe is currently a candidate for an alternative location. The deaccession process is a lengthy, thoughtful one, with many balances, and perhaps my "ASAP" is calibrated to the preservationist's timeline of "as soon as prepared". Hastily placing objects in risk or doing away with anything of historic value is the opposite of any artifact-holding organization's mission. I apologize if my quickly written question implied a rush...an unfamiliar concept here in the islands! :)
As a repository for family heirlooms, our organization's code of ethics prohibits my sharing much more information than I originally stated. The safe is indeed intrinsically valuable and was the possession of a historical figure, whose descendants now include many individuals and institutions. The contact process is a thorough one. Thus, auctioning the object into to private ownership is extremely unlikely. My intention in asking about alternative organizations is the interest in a safe-expert's network of reputable museums that specialize in acquiring historical safes (as back up). In other words, another organization that will offer it back to the original owner, before it was ever sold or destroyed.
I do appreciate the knowledge that a regular moving company will not be equipped to help us and that extensive photos would be needed to estimate a weight. I cannot provide the photos at this time, so I'll end that line of inquiry. I am interested in a safe-moving company referral though, you may use the zip code 96813.
Mahalo for your kokua
I've actually got a good friend that I would recommend. Though he is "semi-retired" he still does work for his shop. His name is Max Salz
Salz Safe & Lock
2560 Ipulei Way
Honolulu, HI 96816
Max is at least a second generation safeman, so he should be able to answer any questions and/or assist you with local moving arrangements. I believe his company may only be a few miles away, so it is local.
As for your looking for organizations that may be interested - while there are collectors of safes there are no organizations for this purpose - it is simply to limited. There was a group of us during the 1980s that had more or less banded together for this purpose, unfortunately it didn't last much past the early 90's.
As I mentioned before unless you find an organization and/or museum that has a specific interest in the previous owners of the safe, then you simply have an old, collectible safe. As your organization has a vested interested in that particular "family line", you would have a much better idea of who might be interested. Again, once you get outside of THAT line of interest, the acquisition of the safe is based solely on the safe itself, and your "accession" line is of little relevance to anyone. It may be a great story to tell people by the new owners, however the story or accession relevance would be secondary to the safe.
Sorry I know it isn't the answer you would like, but the bottom line is that when you leave the museum and step out into the real world, most people don't care about the history. I'm sorry this is the case, and I wish that more people were interested in preserving the history of their family and the family heirlooms. I literally get contacted every single day by family members selling off what should be some of their most precious family items and ties to their past.
There are a lot of people who want and collect antique and collectible items and many want the histories and stories that go along with them, however this is secondary to collecting the actual item.
My recommendation is to start off by contacting Max Salz to discuss it with him. He may have some inside references to safe collecting and/or someone that may be interested in the safe on the islands, that I don't have access to.
Good luck with it, and I do hope you find a good home for it.