I’ve been buying and selling iron beds for over 30 years. But when I started, iron beds weren’t chic or collectible. Fact is, when I started, the first couple dozen iron beds I had were given to me by farmers up in the hills of Pennsylvania. They were simply looking to have someone haul away something that had been moved from one side of the barn to the other for the past 100 years.
One of the funniest experiences I had, in the early days of collecting iron beds, was on a trip I took through Wheeling W.Va. I had spent some time in the Pittsburgh area following down some leads on iron beds and decided to drive south into W.Va. at the suggestion of an old “picker” who said he’d come across a “mountain” of old discarded iron beds in a junk yard in Wheeling. He was definite on what he’d seen, but neglected to tell me it had been a few years since he’d been to Wheeling. I tracked down the “junk yard” he’d told me about, and found out from the owner that he’d sold the “iron beds” to the city. He said they had been using them in construction. Despondent I left the junk yard and decided to salvage the drive to Wheeling by searching out a couple of local antique dealers I’d been told about. While driving down one of the more rural neighborhoods in Wheeling, looking for one of these antique dealers, I ran into a traffic jam. Slowly but surely the cars in front of me would swing out and around a city truck that was moving very slowly. As it came my turn, I pulled up behind the city truck and was waiting for the oncoming traffic to allow me to pass, when I realized what the truck in front of me was doing………….there was a crew of men placing new forms for a sidewalk. As the forms went down, a cement truck, that was in front of the truck I was behind, was pouring cement. I looked up at the back of the truck I was behind to see two workers throwing “old iron beds” into the fresh cement. Two other workers were on the side of the sidewalk forms pushing the iron beds down into the cement. By today’s standards, they were being very “green”. Instead of expensive “iron rebar rods” for support in the cement, the city had decided to use old iron beds they’d gotten from the junk yard. I blew my horn until the truck in front of me finally stopped. The driver got out expecting some kind of “road rage” confrontation from me. I guess my big smile disarmed him enough to listen to me. I told him I was interested in the iron beds I was throwing in the cement. “Sorry son……nothing I can do about it. The city tells me to throw them in for support………so I throw them in for support”. I asked him what kind of beer he and his men liked and if they’d taken their lunch yet. I ended up matching headboard to footboard on close to a dozen iron beds that day. I can’t say much for how straight the sidewalks in that neighborhood were after the city workers took their lunch that day. Those dozen beds cost me two cases of beer and five large pizzas. When lunch was over…….there were no more beers and not a slice of pizza……..but their truck was a bit lighter.
If you look real close and enlarge this photo, where the biggest gap of broken cement is , you can see the curved iron rod of one of those iron beds peeking through.