Item tied to former Kansas mayor, his family

Item tied to former Kansas mayor, his family

Wallet Photo by Jonathan Duran on Unsplash

October 2023

Everything Old

Item tied to former Kansas mayor, his family

by Corbin Crable

Last weekend I enjoyed my first visit to Merchant Square in Independence, MO, where I had the pleasure of interviewing Jace Sanders, the antique mall’s owner.

Before approaching the front counter to meet him, I browsed the aisles (each one named after a street, attraction or famous person associated with the area). In a booth within the ‘Harry Truman’ aisle, I came across a small item, which I have found myself researching ever since.

It was a brown leather wallet, stamped with an art deco pattern on its exterior. The inside of one of the wallet’s folds was simply stamped ‘B.F. McLean’ in gold letters. And inside one of the pockets, I found the following note, written in neat, capital letters:

Benjamin Franklin McLean, grandson of Wichita founding father Benjamin Franklin McLean. Ben was killed in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.

For the past year, I had been telling myself that I needed a new wallet – mine was looking pretty ratty and in poor condition. Maybe this newfound treasure would prove to be a conversation piece.

Maybe this newfound treasure would prove to be a conversation piece. Only my friend Google would make that determination. At just $20, I snatched up the wallet and took it to the front counter, anxious to begin learning its story – or at least the story of the person who owned it.

When I got home, I Googled the name in the wallet and found that Benjamin Franklin McLean was born in 1858 (in Canada, no less), worked as a banker, and served twice as the mayor of Wichita (once in 1901-04 and again for a year, from 1923-24. McLean’s son, Benjamin Drew McLean, himself a Harvard graduate, bank officer and World War I veteran, married Elizabeth Anna Mabry, a fellow Canadian, in 1919; he took the helm of his father’s bank in 1930, when McLean Sr. died. The younger McLean and his wife would eventually have five children, one of whom, Ben (their only son and the owner of the wallet), was born in 1921. Not much else is documented about Ben other than he enlisted in the service toward the end of World War II and died during the Battle of the Bulge in early 1945. He was survived by his wife and a young daughter.

Tragedy almost struck the family again in 1956 when Drew and Elizabeth’s daughter, Julianne, a rising concert pianist, was rescued from the doomed Italian luxury liner the Andrea Doria before it sank off the coast of Nantucket in the Atlantic Ocean.

A testament to the McLean family’s influence in Kansas’ most populous city stands there today – a fountain, built in McLean Sr.’s honor in 1934, four years after his death, when his grandson would have been just 13. The Ben F. McLean Fountain can be found in Wichita’s Delano Park.

I tell this story only to share my excitement at finding an item at an antique store that carries with it evidence of its history, told in the form of a short letter, which I plan to keep. If only more items we find at such stores, markets and estate sales could tell us their stories, too. This one felt like pure luck.

I hope you learn as much about your next find as I did about mine. Such discoveries aren’t just delightful. They’re invaluable.
If anyone from the McLean family can share more about our fallen hero Ben McLean, or if any of the information listed in this column is incorrect or requires clarification, please don’t hesitate to contact me. It will be a pleasure to connect with you.

Contact Corbin Crable at​

Items crafted in Occupied Japan were designed to kick-start postwar economy

Items crafted in Occupied Japan were designed to kick-start postwar economy

Photo by Tianshu Liu on Unsplash

September 2023

Everything Old

​Items crafted in Occupied Japan were designed to kick-start postwar economy

by Corbin Crable

Made in Japan

If you’re a collector of ceramics and porcelain, it’s likely that you’ve checked on the bottom of that item you browsed in your local antique store, searching for information on the company or artist that made it. Sometimes, you might have been greeted by a stamp that simply read, “Made in Occupied Japan,” (often abbreviated as ‘OJ’), “Made in Japan,” or “Japan.”

Items bearing that stamp come from a very brief but interesting time in the history of both our country and Japan itself. According to the U.S. State Department, Japan surrendered to Allied forces on Sept. 2, 1945, just a few weeks after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The war left Japan’s economy devastated, and the U.S. led the Allies in occupying and rehabilitating the country. That occupation lasted for nearly seven years, from the fall of 1945 to the spring of 1952. In order to make money during those years, many artists and crafters made small collectibles like porcelain figurines, which then were sold abroad. Just like today’s items made in Japan, these collectibles, which weren’t just limited to ceramics like planters and ashtrays, or porcelain figurines, were cheaply made, and chipped or broke easily.

made in Occupied Japan

Reproductions have been made of these items, too, flooding the market since roughly the 1980s.

OJ collectible

Thankfully, both in-person and social media groups of collectors of these items have popped up, too, giving collectors a place to discuss, buy, sell, and trade. If in doubt about the authenticity of an OJ collectible, always take your item(s) to have it evaluated and appraised by a professional. You also can test these items yourself – one way to test a porcelain OJ item, for instance, is to look at the OJ marking, which should have been put on under the porcelain’s glaze. If you rub nail polish remover over the mark and it comes off, you know it’s a reproduction.


The bad news is what you likely have already suspected – these items, due both to their quality and their widespread availability, are largely worthless, the steep decline in worth having taken place over the last 30 years or so. A cursory search of OJ items for sale online proves this, showing many OJ porcelain items and pottery worth only a few dollars. Still, I’m a sucker for the power of nostalgia, which has led me to hang on to items that likely have low monetary worth but are strong in sentimental value. If you’re reading this publication, I have to assume you understand how this feels.

If you’re a collector of OJ items or would merely like to know more about them than I can provide in this space, a welcome resource is the Facebook group “Occupied Japan Buy Sell Trade,” where you can socialize with like-minded folks. If you’re not on social media and would instead prefer a book recommendation, your most up-to-date resource would be “Occupied Japan for the Home” by Florence Archambault. This slim tome, packed with color photos and a price guide, is available through Schiffer Publishing’s website at

Happy collecting!


Contact Corbin Crable at​

Happy 50th anniversary, Discover Vintage America

Happy 50th anniversary, Discover Vintage America

As the years rolled on, the cost of color printing became more affordable, and four-color printing became the standard. The printing process has become more streamlined as well, with digital files now being sent to our printers in Breese, IL, where the magic happens. The papers are printed, trimmed, bundled, and delivered to us by truck within two days.

August 2023

Everything Old

​Happy 50th anniversary, Discover Vintage America

by Corbin Crable

Timeline 1978-1996

The timeline below with a sample of “Discovers” over the years, shows the evolution of the publication, including changes in the name, logo, and quality of the printing. In the early days, color printing was very expensive, so only one color was used (and very sparingly) to keep the cost down and retain the “free” price tag for readers.

Fifty years ago

Fifty years ago, a former journalist with The Kansas City Star traded the hustle and bustle of a daily newsroom for the relative calm of a smaller publication with a niche audience.

Well, it wasn’t all calm. There were still deadlines to meet – new advertising clients to meet, too.

Today, we can see that Ken Weyand, the founder of Discover North, (now Discover Vintage America) made the right decision all those years ago. But in 1973, when printed local, regional, and national news was still a lucrative business, and one very much in demand, the prospect of abandoning that industry to start a publication dedicated to antiques and events focused on history and the collection of vintage items had to be daunting, as change always is. Publication behemoths like Antique Trader have proven that on a national scale, collectors still flock to niche publications in droves to get their fingers on the proverbial pulse of the antique industry, but would the same hold true for a local publication?

Weyand’s gamble paid off, with his fledgling publication continuing to add to its roster of advertising clients in the months and years since.

Antique stores both old and new claimed their spots within our pages, and with them, a small team of talented, passionate writers who penned monthly columns on their individual areas of expertise. And the advent of digital media and social media has only helped our mission of covering this ever-changing industry, instead of harming our print distribution rate, like daily and weekly newspapers.

In my days as a college professor, I taught my reporting students that those media consumers who continue to read printed stories in newspapers and magazines do so because they assume the information contained therein to be credible, crafted by a professional journalist who possesses the training and skills necessary to dig a little deeper into stories than those writing for fly-by-night blogs or other websites without the credibility of legacy publications behind their byline.

Ken Weyand already had his experience with The Star helping him to craft, guide, and maintain his publication, so advertisers and subscribers could rest easy in the knowledge that Discover Vintage North would be a publication in which they could trust. In the years since Ken retired, and as our publishers, editors, and writers have changed (along with trends in the antiques industry itself), our dedication to quality, accurate coverage has remained. Our passion for the subject matter remains as strong as ever, too.

Celebrating our 50th Anniversary

In this issue celebrating our 50th anniversary, you’ll become reacquainted with some of the familiar faces who have been at the forefront of our publication over the years, including Weyand, former publisher Bruce Rodgers, and former editor Leigh Elmore, who will share their memories of years (and issues) gone by. We’re extremely fortunate to still have these wellsprings of knowledge upon which to draw. My humble thanks to our publisher Patti Klinge, a former student, and dear friend who gifted me with the opportunity to contribute to these pages, and to our team of writers and advertising executives for their talents and enthusiasm.

Of course, we wouldn’t be here without all of you, our readers, and our advertisers. Your belief in us has given blessed life to Discover Vintage America throughout these decades, and for that, mere thanks seem wholly insufficient. All we can do to convey our gratitude is to continue to cover this industry with professionalism and adherence to the high quality you’ve come to expect from us. Now and throughout the rest of the time we’re given, we’re honored to meet your needs.

Editor’s note: Weyand’s name was misspelled in last month’s issue. We regret the error.

Contact Corbin Crable at​

Goodbye to a longtime colleague

Goodbye to a longtime colleague

July 2023

Everything Old

​Goodbye to a longtime colleague

by Corbin Crable

Honor to dedicate this issue to …

Just because we know that death is a part of life, that acknowledgment never makes that loss any easier when it happens.

It is my great honor to dedicate this issue of Discover Vintage America to longtime contributor Anne Gilbert, who died peacefully in her sleep on June 7. She was 96 years old.

If you’ve ever read Anne’s column, “The Antique Detective,” you know she was a wellspring of antique trivia, lending her decades of knowledge to readers over the years. She was an expert in her field, having written multiple books. A syndicated columnist, Anne’s writing was enjoyed by antique enthusiasts across the country and around the world.

A graduate of Northwestern University in Illinois, Anne’s lifelong interest in antiques led her to research and write multiple books throughout the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, including “Investing in the Antiques Market” (1975), “American Illustrator Art” (1980) and “Collecting Quilts” (1994). Her self-syndicated column, “The Antique Detective,” began as “Antiques & Stuff” in 1970. Her column would go on to appear in The New York Daily News, The Chicago Sun-Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Miami Herald, among other daily newspapers and antiques trade publications.

Anne Gilbert

Anne Gilbert

Anne’s column focused on identifying fakes, in just about every category you can imagine.

Anne’s heart for animals was as big as her love for antiques. Specifically, she was a longtime advocate for abused dogs and even wrote a novel about an animal abuser receiving his comeuppance. Animals had a great friend in Anne Gilbert.

Although her physical life has come to an end, Anne’s legacy lies in the fruits of her expert knowledge of antiques — the many, many pieces of writing she left behind, from which all of us may benefit.

Just like a beloved family heirloom is part of the fabric of one’s family and their story, Anne has been part of our family here at Discover Vintage America for many years.

Not only will it be difficult to fill her proverbial shoes (and the space she occupies within these pages); so, too, will it be a challenge to find anyone who matches her passion for the industry.

The best way we may honor Anne’s memory is in bringing you, our readers, continued coverage of the industry in which Anne crafted her career. It was important to her, and it’s our mission, too. We thank you for joining us on that important journey and will strive to make her proud.


Coming up next: Discover Vintage America turns 50

Our next issue will mark a significant milestone in our publication’s history – Discover Vintage America’s 50th anniversary. We will be welcoming back our founder Ken Wyand, who began the publication as Discover North all of those years ago, to reminisce about those early days. If you, as a reader or advertiser, have any fond memories or congratulatory messages you’d like to share in this next issue, please feel free to e-mail them to me at the address below by the end of the first week in July. We’ll see you soon.

Contact Corbin Crable at​

Anniversary is a time to remember days, people past

Anniversary is a time to remember days, people past

Photo by Lucas Law on Unsplash

June 2023

Everything Old

​Anniversary is a time to remember days, people past

by Corbin Crable

50th anniversary

This year includes a couple of very special occasions that are near and dear to my heart. The first, we’ll celebrate with all of you in just a couple of months, as 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of our humble publication, Discover Vintage America. Look for our anniversary issue hitting antique stores near you this August. But more on that later.

Another 50th-anniversary celebration will take place this month – that of my parents’ wedding, which our entire family will mark with an outdoor party.

My parents were married on June 15, 1973, on a hot summer day that was made even hotter in the church where they stood and recited their vows. The building was not air-conditioned, and one of the groomsmen fainted due to the heat. It’s a story my parents have told me many times over the years.

In their wedding photos, my dad sports a head of shaggy, dark hair, with a mustache to match. Mom looks radiant in her dress, with her long, blonde hair cascading down past her shoulders. They are a picture of youthful energy and optimism in their long future together.

When many people reflect on their parents’ marriage, it usually is accompanied by a statement like, “Marriages just don’t last like theirs anymore.” It’s a sentiment that’s difficult not to repeat as I look at so many of my friends whose parents’ marriage dissolved long ago.

Youthful sparkle

I’m incredibly blessed to say that mine, however, have managed to retain that youthful sparkle in their eyes, which grew even brighter as we sat a few months ago and talked about what they would like for their anniversary.

My mom told my brother and I that all she wants is a gathering with her closest family members – one where they can enjoy one another’s company in the sunshine of summer. How convenient, as my mother’s side of the family already gathers every Father’s Day at Wyandotte County Park for an annual cookout.

Such a simple request shouldn’t be surprising, should it? The older we become, the less emphasis we place on material possessions such as gifts (my folks are at the age where they’ve already acquired nearly everything they could need or want, anyway), and added emphasis is placed on making memories with loved ones.

Loved Ones

After all, Mom reminded me, her circle of close family members shrinks by the year as people age and die. Making more memories with their remaining loved ones, memories in which my parents can comfortably wrap themselves in the coming years, will be much more meaningful than any tangible item that might be enjoyed in the moment and then unceremoniously put away somewhere.

So, a party it will be, one in which our family can revel in the power of a life of shared challenges and victories, where they can celebrate decades of love and devotion. The family members we have lost over the years will be present in their own way on this special day, too, living on the lips of those of us who share memories and tales of them. What better way to pay tribute to a marriage and, by extension, a life?


Contact Corbin Crable at​