November 15, 1999
WOODINVILLE--When Maudie Eastwood began collecting architectural hardware, she had no idea she would ever write books or lecture on the subject, let alone become the focal point for founding the Antique Doorknob Collectors of America.
Earlier this year, she was invited to join the year 2000 edition of Who's Who, for people who "have made a measurable contribution to their profession and community." Her expertise as a research consultant is sought by antique collectors, restoration architects, and longtime experts in the hardware field.
Eastwood began collecting antique doorknobs in 1945, but said she didn't know she was starting a collection at first.
"My brother was a bachelor and our three kids loved him. He used to look for different ways to entertain them. One day, he brought some old doorknobs up to our house that he had taken out of our childhood home, on the same property we had our house on. It was our family's home since the mid-1800s, in Chitwood, Oregon, near Newport. I wondered why there were iridescent, pink flecks in the brownish, ceramic doorknobs. A man I took them to said that was from a lack of oxygen during the kiln firing. Then I wanted to know the difference between the stamp designs and cast designs."
That's when her research quest took off, she said. Living in Oregon gave her access to many relatively out-of-the-way salvage outlets.
"Since we lived on the coast, I got a lot of hardware from old ships. They were all fine brass and bronze, because ships have to use rust-proof hardware. I also got a lot of hardware when the urban renewal movement started in the 1970s. A lot of old buildings and formerly high-priced residential areas were torn down in Oregon, especially Portland. Salvage crews would deliver the hardware to outlets, where I would buy them. I also got a lot from places that melted metal down. But I wouldn't accept any hardware if I knew it was stolen from old buildings on private property, and a lot of people were doing that."
In 1975, a friend told her she should write a book about all the research she'd done on the fancy doorknobs in her collection. The friend said she would talk to an agent she knew. Eastwood didn't think any more about it until the agent called her and convinced her he could help her get published. Six months later, her first book, The Antique Doorknob, was in print. That book was the first in the field accepted for review by the American Library Association, and considered the definitive work on the subject.
"About 12 other collectors started contacting me," said Eastwood. "Until they read my book, they didn't know anyone else was doing it and the book became the focal point for organizing an association. It helped them feel they were legitimate collectors of valuable things, not just nuts collecting junk. We formed in 1981 and had our 19th annual national convention in Portland this summer."
In 1982, she published her second book, Antique Builders Hardware, Knobs, and Accessories. Eastwood moved to Woodinville 11 years ago from Tillamook, Oregon, because two sons lived here. She met Walter H. McAninch of Ballard, a hardware industry executive and former President of the American Society of Architectural Hardware consultants.
"Walt wanted me to do research for another book. So I compiled the research that became The Builders Hardware Industry: A U.S. History, 1830 to 1990. But I asked him to publish it so it would be regarded by the hardware industry, since he's a DAHC (Distinguished American Hardware Consultant) and well-known in that industry. I knew if I published it, without formal credentials, it wouldn't go anywhere."
Eastwood is also an acknowledged contributor in the 1999 catalog of The Crown City Collection, a company regarded as the premier reproducer of antique hardware patterns from the 1870-90 period.
In typical research fashion, Eastwood did not accept the invitation from Who's Who at face value. She found out that there are more than one Who's Who publications in the country, and didn't know which ones were legitimate and which were just out to make a buck by flattering the unsuspecting. (You would probably be suspicious too, if you saw a return address of "Patchogue, NY").
She wasn't comforted when she read the part that said she would have to pay $95 each for a picture or company logo in the book next to her bio, which she thought they had boiled down (from her version) past the trite point. Her suspicions rose when she saw the note that said she could pay one amount for the regular edition of the publication or quite a bit more for the more attractive version. So she went to the Woodinville library to see if the publication was indeed registered at the Library of Congress as their invitation claimed.
"The Woodinville librarian told me Who's Who in America has copies in virtually every library in America," said Eastwood. "Then she checked the Washington library data bank for the other Who's Who. She was sympathetic when she said, 'I'm sorry, but only one library in the state has a copy of the otherWho's Who. That one appears to be an opportunistic takeoff on the original. The real Who's Who doesn't charge their members. I suppose that company gets all the money they need from library sales."
Eastwood said she only has one regret about her career. "My brother offered to send me to any school I wanted. If I had gone to college, I could have learned better research methods, and a lot sooner than I did." But she agreed she has done pretty well, for a beautician and amateur researcher.
"It was something I did because of inner desire. I don't really like how the antique architectural hardware field has become so commercial. A lot of people now collect hardware as nothing more than an investment, but I collect it because I enjoy the historical research."
Maudie Eastwood has spent a lot of time learning to distinguish phonies from the real thing.