A 1919 Charles C. Curran oil painting, donated to the Economy Shop, is on display at the OP-RF Museum and will be auctioned by Toomey Gallery on June 9. | Photo provided by The Economy Shop

One hundred years, embodied through objects donated to the Economy Shop is the theme of the new exhibit “Donations Through the Decades, Shopping Through the Century” at the Historical Society’s Oak Park River Forest Museum. The objects, representing each decade from pre-1910 onward, are all donations that came into the charity resale shop since August. And, like all Economy Shop items, nearly all will be up for sale, but these will be auctioned off in June.

The Economy Shop is celebrating its 100th Anniversary this shopping season. It opened in April 1919 and was started by a group of women as a way to support five Oak Park charities. They saw a need to sell items no longer needed at a discount to others.

The same concept is in place today. Donations are organized by room in a house on Grove at South Boulevard, where the resale shop has resided for 95 years. Three to four sale dates are held each month, September to June. Today, six nonprofits benefit — OP-RF Day Nursery, Infant Welfare Society, Thrive Counseling Center, Animal Care League, Senior Citizens Center, and OP-RF Food Pantry.

To collect items for the exhibit, Economy Shop President Nancy Hines said she “reached out to our staff and room chairs and asked them to be eyes for me because so much comes in.” She also looked for items and researched dates.

Call it serendipity — a 100-year-old oil painting by Charles C. Curran is perhaps the most valuable donation to date and currently part of the exhibit. It is up for sale at the June 9 Toomey Gallery Fine Art Auction. An estimate of $10,000 to $15,000 has been set by the Oak Park auction house.

The 30-inch x 30-inch American Impressionist work shows three women on a cliff, painted in 1919, likely at the Cragsmoor Art Colony, located in the Hudson River Valley, New York. Curran’s works are in the Art Institute, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian and other significant art museums.

Among the 50 items on display in the exhibit are a 1920s globe showing bygone country names such as “Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes,” a 1930s hand-sewn yoyo quilt, a 1966 Beatles concert program, Hello Kitty and Swatch watches from the 1970s and 2000s respectively, and a 1990s Waterford vase. A 1950 Singer sewing machine is the personal favorite of Hines, who regular sews on one three years older. “The Featherweights are a real collectable among quilters,” she said. “I took a little piece of felt; I stitched it and it sews beautifully just out of the box.” These objects will be available at a silent auction at the Economy Shop on June 8.

The exhibit items represent the 16 departmental rooms of the Economy Shop, which range from toys to housewares, furniture and books, to things made from Economy Shop finds, such as a rag-wool rug made from donated wool clothing and scarves knit from yarns from the Craft Room. Clothing through the decades is featured and accompanied by two outfits, from the OP RF Museum collection, that women would have worn in the era of the shop’s opening.

To kick off the exhibit opening, apparel played a key role with a fashion show of outfits primarily from the Women’s Better Clothes Room. Fifteen models showed off vintage wear, designer labels, formal gowns, work-appropriate finds and outer wear to an oohing and aahing crowd earlier this month. Historical Society Board Member Jan Dressel organized the fashion show and emceed.

Several fashion show items did not make it out of the museum as they were sold on the spot. Other apparel was returned to the Economy Shop, where it, along with 10,000 other finds, can be purchased on sale days.

See “Donations Through the Decades, Shopping Through the Century” at the OP RF Museum, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays, through June 1. $5, OP and RF residents with ID; $7, non-residents; $3, students through college with ID; free, members and children under 7. More: oprfmuseum.org. 129 Lake St., Oak Park. Upcoming Economy Shop sales are Saturday, March 16, 23 and 30, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Donations accepted Mondays through Saturdays, 8 a.m. to noon. More: economyshop.org. 103 S. Grove, Oak Park.  

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