For over thirty years people have been asking me how it is that I had come by the name, Cathouse Antique Iron Beds for my business. Although you wouldn’t think it would take much of an imagination, the true origin is actually pretty funny. While living in Georgetown, Washington D.C., and attending George Washington University, I had occasion to visit my grandparents in central Pennsylvania every few months. On one of these visit’s I invited my girlfriend to come along and meet my relatives. They lived in a very small rural coal mining town. On the drive up we passed through many farming communities and noticed a number of the barns that had small inconspicuous “Antiques” sign’s hanging above the door. I noticed a couple of old advertising signs on one of the barns that I thought would look good in my apartment. My girlfriend fell in love with an old iron bed and said if I was searching for an upcoming birthday gift for her, that she’d love one.
On a subsequent trip, without her, I stopped by the same barn , with intentions of buying the iron bed we had seen. Since my last trip the owner of the farm had now accumulated four more iron beds, every one a little different than the next. After agonizing over which one it was that she had originally liked, I decided it would be easier, since all of his iron beds were only $10. a piece, to buy all five and let her chose which one she liked. Being that I lived in a one-bedroom apartment and had no room to store four antique iron beds, I put a classified ad in the Sunday Washington Post. By noon, the Sunday my ad ran, they were all gone.
Needless to say, I didn’t sell them for $10. each. While proofing my ad in the classified section, under antique iron beds, and feeling very pleased with myself with the profit I had made, I noticed another ad listing iron beds as one of the many antiques being sold by the owner of an old Victorian estate. I was anxious to see what someone else was selling their iron beds for. So I gave the number a call. The gentleman that answered said he had just inherited the old house and needed to sell off the contents. For reasons that will become readily apparent I’m not at liberty to tell you where the house was located. Lets just say it was in the deep south. He had advertised in the Washington Post because his business was located in Washington D.C., and he spent most of his time there.
On the East coast the most popular destination for students at semester break is Fort Lauderdale Fla. Just so happens my friends and I were scheduled, in the next week, to drive down and spend our break there……passing right through the state and town the newly inherited owner’s estate was located. So I made an appointment to stop by and see, not only his iron beds, but also the long list of antiques that were in his ad.
Having developed an appreciation for Victorian Architecture and antique iron beds, since my first iron bed purchase, I was overwhelmed when I pulled up in front of the address I had been given. To this day it’s the most elaborately designed example of Victorian architecture I’ve ever seen. My host answered the door and showed me into a very large foyer with a beautiful round burgundy velvet settee. He told me there were eight bedrooms, all adorned with fancy antique iron beds. After seeing all of them and agonizing over which one I wanted I told him I had made a decision. He said he was only interested in selling them as a group. I explained I was a student on a tight budget and couldn’t afford eight fancy antique iron beds. He said if I were willing to take them that day, he’d give them all to me for $100. It was a deal I couldn’t pass up. But I couldn’t understand why he was in such a hurry to get rid of not only the most beautiful iron beds I’d ever seen, but also all the magnificent furnishings throughout the house. I learned later from the caretaker of the house why.
It seems my host, who had inherited the house, was a congressman. Hence his business and ad in the Washington Post, that I had seen. He had inherited the house from his aunt……. who happened to be the leading Madame in the town in the early 1800’s. This inheritance couldn’t have come at a more awkward time, in that he was in the throws of a re-election campaign and feared the negative publicity from his recent windfall may effect his popularity. Thus selling the house and liquidating all of its contents before the press got wind of it, seemed a prudent thing to do. It wasn’t long after that I decided if I ever were to start a business selling iron beds , what better name for that business than “Cathouse Antique Iron Beds”.
By the way……he won his re-election and to the best of my knowledge……his inheritance never became public. Good thing, because he ran on an ultra conservative, right wing, Christian platform that I don’t believe would have been very accepting of the glitch in the family tree. I have yet to come across a better, more elaborate grouping of iron beds in my life…. Thank you Congressman. Little did you know, your unexpected inheritance would help launch a business that would become one of the most successful in it’s field.
I hope you’ve found this blog informative. I invite you to revisit my website
to answer any and all questions you might have about antique iron beds.
I also invite you to take a look at the multiple “Before & After” photo’s on our