Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Meaning of O. N. T.

As my readers know by now, I have a great love for 19th century advertising items. And as I mentioned in my blog about Huyler's, it's especially satisfying to be able to match items that were once a set. That's one of the prime motivations in all collecting, isn't it? Above is a trade card for Clark's O.N.T. Spool Cotton. It advertised a bonus for buying Clark's thread, a charming little box that might have been used for any number of things.

And here's a later find, the actual box, and in nearly mint condition. Even the delicate ribbon has survived.

The top of the box
The label inside the box
You might be wondering, what does O.N.T. stands for?

In 1806, Napoleon blockaded Great Britain, which meant that silk thread was not available to British weavers. The Clark family had a loom supply company and they were also big suppliers of silk thread.

At the time of the blockade, Peter Clark developed a method of combining cotton threads so that they were strong and smooth enough to be used in place of silk, and he advertised this important advancement as "Our New Thread."

Throughout the 1800s, Clark's was one of the biggest distributors of trade cards, always with their trademark initials, O. N. T.


  1. Funny thing was, yesterday I was thinking of wooden cotton reels(spools) we used to have as children. You could hammer 4 nails in the top and do what we called French Knitting. We would always have competions to see who could do the longest piece.

  2. David, I remember that, too! It was something my grandmother encouraged, and I still remember the large green spool I used. I'm sure they make some plastic equivalent today, but it just wouldn't be the same. Thanks for the happy mmory!

  3. And I had a tall wooden "man" with some sort of prongs on top that we made these long woven almost tubes with - is that the same? I remember getting one as a gift after my tonsillectomy when I was 5 or so. Fascinating post as always!

  4. Hello Mark,
    Wonderful how this little box protected it's content from sunlight damage, the thread and the paper colours are still very bright. I particularly love the top image! Your blog is a treasure.

  5. Hi, quintessence. Yes, your tall wooden "man" is what David and I are talking about. I made a woven yarn cord that was about twenty feet long and never did anything with it, but I guess it could have become one heck of a potholder!

  6. Hi, Anyes - thanks for visiting! I just looked at your latest posting with the marvelous Victorian wallpaper. I can't be sure, but I think that the company that supplied your those wallpapers is Bradbury & Bradbury, in Benicia, California. I contacted them years ago, and for a modest fee, they sent me a package of wallpaper samples.

  7. Memories!!! I made one and my grandmother covered the chandelier chain in the guest bedroom we stayed in when visiting. It was my first decorating project, and she was so sweet to go to all the trouble. M...I always learn something when I visit...thanks for that...have a great weekend...k

  8. Thanks, Kathy! Your grandmother sounds like a great lady. Mark

  9. Mark - Thank you so much for posting this. I have had my husband's grandmother's little ONT box for a decade or so and finally decided to research it. What a treat to find the exact box (depicted with the as sold spools). Thanks for adding to my education - most informative post!