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Grinnell Collectibles PDF Print E-mail
Written by Larry Grinnell   
Monday, 30 May 2011 23:36

There are many collectible objects that relate to the Grinnell family that can be obtained very inexpensively. These include a ton of items from the Grinnell Corporation (now a division of Tyco International) such as sprinkler heads, bookends, ashtrays, and such. The Grinnell Brothers Music Store of Detroit and its environs produced numerous musical instruments of their own manufacture and others that were "private labeled" (manufactured by others but bore the Grinnell name), that are quite collectible. The Grinnell College Bookstore offers a number of Grinnell imprinted items. Grinnell, Iowa and Grinnell, Kansas also have many collectible items related to them including postcards, advertising items from local businesses, and so on.

These items can be easily obtained from places like eBay, which is where I have obtained nearly all of my Grinnell collectibles. Regional antique stores (Midwest for Grinnell Brothers items, New England for Grinnell Corp. items, etc.) are another great source. One of my cousins very generously gave me several Grinnell Corp. items that he had discovered in antique stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.

There are also many souvenirs and such that can be obtained at Glacier National Park related to Grinnell Glacier.

As I said, the best place to start is eBay. Do a search for Grinnell. You'll be amazed at how many items you will find.

These are but a few examples.

Grinnell Corporation of Providence, Rhode Island:

The Ashtray:

These ashtrays were produced on a regular basis for some of their best customers, as well as top-performing employees. We had such an ashtray proudly displayed with other family treasures in our Fort Lauderdale house. It was apparently a gift to my father, a Grinnell Corp. employee until his early death in 1958. My sister has it now, but I was easily able to find one quite similar on eBay for around $25.00.

My cousin, GFA member Gardner Sherman found another more unusual Grinnell ashtray--a smallish one designed for cigars, screwed to a 4-foot pole with a weighted base, which he gave to me on one of my visits there.

Commemorative Items from Foundries:

The Grinnell Corp. owned a number of foundries in Ohio and Pennsylvania, where the sprinkler heads and other objects were cast from iron, brass, steel, and other metals. Whenever a new foundry went online, or other major events occurred at a foundry, commemorative items were created for that event. Case in point are the bookends. I have three--one my cousin Gardner found for me, and two more that I purchased on eBay. These were cast iron or steel, painted with something that simulated the green patina of brass or copper. The ones I have were made in an Ohio foundry in 1923. Identifying marks were engraved on the bases of the bookends. Let me tell you, they are heavy!

The anvil is small--about 3 inches wide by an inch-and-a-half high. It's heavy enough to be cast iron, but there is no sign of rusting. It might be coated with something to prevent rust.

Other Grinnell Corp. Collectibles

I was surprised to find a WWII-era employee badge. It had the employee's photograph, along with coded entries of some kind. It appears to be made of tin with baked enamel. There is a small flap on the rear that is used to insert the employee photo and the other coded paper, after which it was soldered shut. I don't know who the gentleman is in the picture.

Of course, one of the key reasons for the Grinnell Corp. to exist is the heat-sensitive fire suppression sprinkler. There are two basic designs--one uses temperature sensitive solder. When a fire occurs, the solder on the sprinkler melts at a specific temperature, opening the valve to saturate the area with water. The other design uses a glass bulb filled with alcohol or other material. As the heat of a fire permeates a room, the alcohol in the glass bulb expands rapidly and shatters the glass enclosure, again opening the valve to enable water to flow through the sprinkler.

Grinnell Brothers Music Store of Detroit, Michigan

The Grinnell Brothers Music Store was a Detroit fixture for many decades. They manufactured a number of their own instruments, mainly pianos. Other band instruments were made by contract manufacturers. Epiphone, a division of Kalamazoo-based Gibson Guitar Co., made a Grinnell-branded student grade electric guitar in the 1960s, for example. Nearly every week, pianos, accordions, electronic organs, saxophones, clarinets, trumpets and any number of other Grinnell-branded musical instruments show up on eBay. All command very respectable prices.

Grinnell Brothers Music Store collectibles

I've found several of these interesting pieces over the years. These brass or copper plaques were affixed to Grinnell pianos and to some instrument cases. The graphic is the French Grenelle family coat of arms (which has in more recent years been found to be invalid for use for descendants of Matthew and Rose Greenell, as those descendants, to the best of our knowledge, do not descend from the French Grenelle family). Some years ago when I was GFA president, I obtained one on eBay as a centerpiece for a commemorative plaque given to one of our distinguished GFA members to note his great service to the organization (he descended from the Detroit Grinnell family).

Of course, there were plenty of musical instruments, such as this piano.

Last Updated on Sunday, 11 September 2011 11:27