Reviving Obsolete Items Into Timeless Americana Décor – WorthPoint

Reviving Obsolete Items Into Timeless Americana Décor – WorthPoint

Americana décor combines patriotic and primitive elements, like this cast iron star repurposed as a candleholder.

Often, items that once served a useful purpose become obsolete. Instead of discarding them, they can be repurposed as Americana décor. Incorporating items in your home from the past that represent the American flag, its colors, or American symbols evokes Americana style. It adds a patriotic spin to your home décor and brings new life to outdated items.

Cast Iron Stars

During the mid-19th century, cast iron stars were used as decoration. Typically hung on the façade of brick or fieldstone buildings, they helped stabilize the structures. A horizontal pole located on the interior wall of buildings was bolted to the exterior of the wall through the center of a cast iron star to prevent the wall from leaning. The star was also ornamental and served as an expression of patriotism and a hex sign believed to ward off evil. By the beginning of the 20th century, structural construction evolved, ending the need for cast iron stars.

As a symbol of patriotism, stars work well in Americana design. Stack them individually or as a set inside a bookcase for display. You could also use the hole in a larger star as a base for a taper candle. Cast iron stars are often found unpainted, although some authentic ones may be found with traces of original paint. Many historic preservation suppliers have recast originals, so it isn’t easy to distinguish an original from a reproduction. Depending on size and age, prepare to spend anywhere between $1 to $60 each.

Glass Insulators

During the mid-19th century, telegraph lines were strung across America as a vital source of communication. Small glass insulator cups were placed on the telegraph poles and attached to the wires to keep their electrical currents from losing strength during their transmissions. Glass insulators eventually became larger to accommodate telephone and electrical wires.

Five clear and aqua glass insulators by the Hemingray Glass Company
This lot of clear and aqua glass insulators would make a perfect collection for the Americana style. They were made by the Hemingray Glass Company, the largest manufacturer of glass insulators.

By the late 1950s, electrical companies began transitioning to porcelain insulators since they were cheaper than glass. At the close of the 1970s, glass insulators were rendered obsolete. Today, most electrical systems connect through a cable that doesn’t require porcelain insulators.

The most common colors of glass insulators are transparent and aqua blue, which are a subtle nod to patriotic hues. Intersperse clear and blue glass insulators inside a cabinet for a colorful arrangement. You can also place them on a window sill to allow the sunlight to reflect off the glass.

Hundreds of glass manufacturers produced insulators, so they’re easy to find today for a low price. Most insulators cost between $2 to $20 each. However, some manufacturers produced insulators in unique shapes and colors, which can sell for several hundred dollars apiece.

Foldable Roadmaps

A 1930s roadmap of New York, distributed by the Shell Oil Company
This 1930s roadmap of New York, distributed by the Shell Oil Company, would look great framed and hung on a wall.

During the early 20th century, companies such as Rand McNally, H.M. Gousha, and General Drafting began printing automobile navigational maps displaying roads, boundaries, and other route information about America’s roadways. When the U.S. Congress passed the Federal Highway Act of 1921, mapmakers began including the numbers assigned to principal highways and side roads on their maps. The maps provided travelers with enough information to navigate their road trips easily.

Roadmaps were given away for free as advertising by oil companies, auto clubs, banks, tourist agencies, and others. Most Americans carried a map in their cars’ glove compartments. Print map production began to decline in the 1970s due to the oil embargoes. During the 21st century, the advancement of GPS navigation and other electronic maps put an end to the need for paper maps which were cumbersome (have you ever tried to refold a map?) and out-of-date.

A vintage suitcase featuring a decoupaged roadmap
This vintage suitcase features a decoupaged roadmap and would work well in Americana design.

For many Americans, U.S. roadmaps represent a route taken to a favorite vacation spot or an ancestor’s birthplace. They are a tangible depiction of roads once traveled. Attach a roadmap to a vintage window frame and hang it on a wall for quirky wall art. Decoupage a roadmap to the outside of a mason jar and fill the jar with vintage parade flags for a fun patriotic look.

Since most roadmaps were initially given away for free, they usually sell at affordable prices. Expect to pay anywhere from $3 to $30 for a paper roadmap. The exception is early roadmaps in good condition, which typically sell for more than a hundred dollars apiece.

Celebrate Your Patriotism

Repurposing these vintage items as Americana décor in your home celebrates your patriotism. Things that once served a functional purpose are appreciated anew. All it takes is a little creativity.


Karen Weiss is a freelance writer and enjoys decorating her home with vintage finds from her many collections. She also has an Etsy shop called SimplePatinaFinds.

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