Folk art backscratcher (photo courtesy of Garth’s Auctioneers & Appraisers)
Ohio Life

Ohio Finds: Folk Art Backscratcher

This item was carved from a single piece of wood and is believed to have been created in Ohio during the early 20th century. 

Folk art remains one of the strongest segments of the antiques market, and the diverse field ranges from artwork to furniture. Sometimes the object is a matter of a creative mind meeting a personal need. That is the case with this backscratcher made from a single piece of pine and carved in the form of a hand on one end with two ball-in-cage whimseys and a ring through a loop on the other.

The work of a skilled craftsman, the carved hand clearly had a purpose: taking care of a hard-to-reach itch. The ring and caged balls, however, are considered “whimseys” because of their whimsical nature. They served no practical use other than to demonstrate the expertise of the carver and to fascinate those who view the work.

While the ball-in-cage design is reminiscent of sailor art — types produced aboard whaling ships and other seagoing vessels more than a hundred years ago — it is not limited to open waters. This backscratcher is said to have been made in Ohio in the early 20th century. Regardless of where it originated, this work is a perfect example of the abundance of great Americana that can be found on the antiques market in Ohio. 

Sold at Auction:

Richard Jeffers is the owner of Garth’s Auctioneers & Appraisers in Columbus.