Tuesday, June 26, 2018

What's the Scoop?

QUESTION: I’ve loved ice cream ever since I was a kid. And today, I even make my own. I’ve been around for a while, so I’ve seen a variety of items related to ice cream changeover the years. I’d like to begin a collection of ice cream collectibles but have no idea what all there is out there besides ice cream makers and ice cream scoops. What sort of items related to ice cream would be good to collect?

ANSWER: Surprisingly, there are lots of items that would make a good ice cream memorabilia collection. But first, let’s take look at ice cream in the past.

Believe it or not, George Washington loved ice cream, too. He purchased a pewter “cream machine for ice in1784. Newspapers at the time occasionally advertised commercially made ice cream, but most people prepared it at home.

The first hand-cranked ice cream machine received a patent in May, 1848. Butby the end of the Civil War, ice cream makers could be found in most homes. These became popular with the extensive development and manufacture of ice boxes. This made it easier for Victorians to obtain and store ice to freeze the milk, eggs, fresh cream and eggs needed to make ice cream. Back then, it took lots of cranking, but the results were worth it.

By the 1880s and 1890s the ice cream freezer was a significant item in leading department stores and in catalogs. In 1884 one catalog featured selections from the American Machine Company which produced both single action and double action crank freezers, but also offered models which claimed to take less effort.

By the late 19th century, those making homemade ice cream also bought ice cream dipping spoons. They could purchase a variety of dipping spoons, including round ended spoons, pointed ended spoons, and square ended spoons—all 12 to 18 inches long.

Still another popular feature of the making delightful ice cream at home were the amazing array of molds. The ice cream could be pushed and shaped into all matter of images from cupid and Mother Goose to a rocking horse or George Washington himself. By the late 19th century even a battleship mold was available to for preparing ice cream in a big way, it held two quarts. Most of these molds were made of pewter.

Ice cream got a promotional boost at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 1904.

To help sell their products, commercial ice cream producers published and gave away booklets with ice cream recipes and instructions. The Snow Ice Cream Makers Guide in 1911 and the Ice Cream Maker's Formulary and Price List were just two of them. And commercial producers also sold their products at retail shops, serving it on store advertising trays.

The number of brands of commercially produced ice cream skyrocketed in the 1920s. While commercial producers like the Carnation Milk Company offered prepared ice cream, most of it came from local dairy farms. Most of the companies gave away premiums, such as calendars and buttons bearing the their names.

In 1927, the Sears Roebuck catalog began featuring not only ice cream makers, but scoops, and even pressed glass footed sherbet glasses for ice cream, sherbet, and sundaes.

Commercial manufacturers inaugurated National Ice Cream Week in the l930s. Hendler's Ice Cream handed out brass rests for ice cream scoops, Puritan Dairy Ice cream issued toy whistles. As the 1930s drew to close the Howard Johnson's restaurant began offering what would ultimately become 28 different flavors of ice cream Back then, Americans consumed nearly three gallons of ice cream per person per year.

In 1949, hoping to encourage in commercial ice cream, Sealtest published and distributed a vivid booklet of recipes entitled, New Ways With Ice Cream.

To promote their products even further, many commercial producers took out colorful advertisements in magazines.

Related to ice cream distribution was the ice cream parlor, with its myriad of equipment. One such device was the ceramic dispensers for Coca Cola, Hires Root Beer, and Dr. Pepper. These were usually large one or two-piece china urns. There were also straw holders. milk shakers, and assorted glassware. And don’t forget all the signs and advertising.

To read more articles on antiques, please visit the Antiques Article section of my site.  And to stay up to the minute on antiques and collectibles, please join the other 18,000 readers by following my free online magazine, #TheAntiquesAlmanac. Learn more about the Victorians in the Winter 2018 Edition, "All Things Victorian," online now.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Heraldic Mementos

QUESTION: On a recent trip to England, I came across some small ceramic objects with heraldic crests on them. At first I thought that they were family crests, but upon closer examination, I realized each piece, along with its crest, came from a different English town. I bought several of these “souvenirs” to take home as mementos of my trip. I’d really like to collect them but know nothing about them. Can you tell me how old these pieces might be and if it would be possible to collect them since I live in the U.S.?

ANSWER:  Heraldic souvenirs have become very popular with collectors in recent years, and not just those on the other side of the pond. While you may have to look a bit harder for them over here, you will find them, especially because you can purchase them directly from British sellers online.

These heraldic souvenirs became popular as a result of a tremendous expansion in travel during the second half of the 19th century. This occurred partly because of the rise in incomes which allowed more people to afford to travel and the greatly improved technology in rail and steamer transportation. The latter became so affordable that just about anyone could travel around the country. As more people traveled, the demand for attractive mementos skyrocketed.

William Henry Goss was the first manufacturer to produce heraldic souvenirs. In fact, many manufacturers made them over 70 years, much to the joy of traveling Victorians.

Goss met W.F. Copeland, one of the owners of the Copeland Spode China Factory. Copeland hired him as a clerk in his London warehouse in 1852, and the following year Goss moved to the factory headquarters at Stoke in Staffordshire. By 1857 he had become the chief modeler for the company.

It was the modelers who designed the originals or models of all of the various pottery and porcelain objects that Goss manufactured, ranging from simple utilitarian ware like plates to elaborate ornamental ware such as portrait busts. In 1858, Goss left Copeland and soon had established his own company which produced common ceramic objects for the next 20 years, including terra cotta ware and Parian portrait busts.

The innovation that was to make the firm famous came in the early 1880s. Goss produced small replicas of objects associated with particular places and placed on them the local coat of arms. Wealthy families had been ordering hand-decorated sets of china with the family arms on them for quite some time, so armorial ware wasn’t something new. What was so novel about Goss’ pieces was that he made them inexpensively for ordinary people.

Goss was always particular about the design standards of his wares, and he thoroughly researched both the original historical artifact of each model and the coat of arms it was to bear.  He used armorial reference books to insure that the crests were authenti. Goss also used his Parian porcelain formula for his crested ware, permitting very elaborate sculptural qualities and also making it possible to keep pieces eggshell thin.

To keep standards high, Goss wanted to have only one object sold as a souvenir for any particular place, and also to sell that object solely in the place whose crest it carried. To insure that there was no "cheating" by retailers, the firm had only one agent in each town and required that the agent sell Goss ware and nothing else. Soon Goss made a variety of objects available to local agents, although for a time the crest still had to be that of the place where they were to be sold. If a person wanted an object with the arms of, say, Chester, he or she had to travel there to purchase it.

The production process was rather straight forward. First, a modeler sculpted the model for each object in clay. Then another worker made a plaster-of-paris mold of it. This process often damaged the original model beyond repair. Yet another worker cast a duplicate of the original mold, and used this piece, called the block, to make the master mold which, in turn, he used to produce working models from which the working molds could be made.

Goss used plaster of paris for molds because it absorbed water fast. A worker would pour clay that had been mixed with water to the consistency of cream, called slip, into a mold. Soon, the slip in contact with the mold would dry, and then he would pour the remainder off, creating a very thin clay piece. Each mold lasted for several hundred castings, although toward the end of its life the detail wouldn’t have been as sharp.

Kiln workers fired the "green" ware at about 1200 degrees Celsius. Then, the piece moved to the glazers who would paint the piece and fire it again at a slightly lower temperature. After this second firing, another employee would apply the printed transfer of a particular coat of arms or other decoration and send the piece to be fired again.

Finally, decorators added the color by hand, and again the piece would be fired for the last time. If the piece were to be gilted, it would undergo one more round of hand-decoration and firing. Despite the complexity of the process, the cost to the purchaser was still modest—about several dollars in today's money).

The heraldic souvenir craze peaked World War I. By the 1920s, these common trinkets were beginning to seem old-fashioned. 

Goss’ firm made these souvenirs in a wide variety of shapes, eventually producing hundreds with a myriad of different coats of arms, making the number of possible variations run into the thousands. You could collect these souvenirs for years and still continue to find new and interesting pieces.

To read more articles on antiques, please visit the Antiques Article section of my site.  And to stay up to the minute on antiques and collectibles, please join the other 18,000 readers by following my free online magazine, #TheAntiquesAlmanac. Learn more about the Victorians in the Winter 2018 Edition, "All Things Victorian," online now.  

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Stringing Along

QUESTION: I like to browse thrift shops. There are several in my area in which I’ve found some unique antiques and collectibles. One of the most unusual has been the string holder. This kitchy item has an almost comic character. I’ve purchased several over the last few years but know practically nothing about them. Can you tell me how string holders originated and how long they were made?

ANSWER: String has been a common item in homes and businesses for a long time. But string can easily get tangled, so inventors came up with ways to keep string in line. During the 19th century, the traditional shape of cast-iron string holders was the beehive. Others were egg-shaped  with openings around their sides so storekeepers could see how much string was left.

People often associate string holders with general stores, when storekeepers wrapped purchases in brown paper dispensed from a roll mounted on a frame with a cutting bar. Then, the storekeeper secured the package with string or twine. The wrapping paper generally sat on its frame at the end of the counter, and the string holder was suspended from the ceiling right over the. counter. Some of these holders were elaborate, complete with a sign promoting some product, such as Heinz pickles. Others, were simply a cast iron hole tin frame that held a ball or cone of twine and fed the string through a hole in the bottom.

By the early 20th century string holders had come into the home. These were usually figural pieces that hung on the wall and had a compartment to hold a ball of string. A person could feed the string through a hole in the figure, typically through the mouth in  a face, where it could be pulled out for a given amount, then cut off for use. While some of the early examples date to the 19th century, these decorative figures became popular from the start of the Great Depression through the 1950s. Manufacturers produced string holders from a variety of materials, including cast-iron, wood, glass, and porcelain, but the predominant choice of material was chalkware, more commonly known as plaster of paris. Many string holder manufacturers used it because of its low cost and ease in which it could be cast.

Once it cured or hardened, workers removed the plaster holder from the mold and painted to give it strong eye appeal. It was a popular item sold in five and dime stores, and the designs seemed to be endless. More often than not, manufacturers produced a broad line of wall pockets, of which string holders were one of the line. Wall pockets were designed to hang on the wall and hold a variety of items, such as stamps, matches, flowers, letters, etc. Some of the better known manufacturers of`wall pockets and string holders include McCoy, Roseville, Weller, and other established firms.

One of the companies that produced unique string holders was Miller Studio of New Philadelphia, Ohio. Miller Studio made string holders from 1947 to 1958. Some of their early designs included Jo-Jo the Clown, a wormy apple that featured "Willie the Worm, Susie Sunfish, and a kitten on a red ball of yarn. In 1949 they dropped the clown and sunfish and added "Miss Strawberry" and "Little Chef." In 1952, Miller replaced “Little Chef” with "Prince Pineapple." Then a year later, Miller dropped “Prince Pineapple,” replacing him with "Posie Pig." Because of its short time on the market, “Posie Pig” is the most difficult to find today.

String holders came in a large variety of shapes and designs. Most collectors focus their collections on a single category. Fruits and vegetables have always been a popular design for producers. Collectors can find everything from apples and bananas to green peppers and pineapples to hang on the kitchen wall. Animals have always been a top selling category, from cats and dogs to birds of every description.

While the cartoon characters and animals have always been popular with collectors of string holders, some choose to focus their collections on people designs, which include black memorabilia,  girls and women, fairy tale figures, boys and men, chefs, clowns, and comic cartoon characters.

Another category popular with col tors are designs featuring cartoon characters or advertising icons, including Elsie the Borden Cow, the Coca Cola Kid, Aunt Jemima, Smokey the Bear, Popeye, Shirley Temple, Betty Boop, and a rare 1940s Mickey Mouse.

But beware of the many reproductions and fantasy string holders currently for sale online. This is especially true in the category of black memorabilia where many of the figures of chefs, mammys and other black character figures are being copied in off-shore facilities and are flooding the marketplace. Don't confuse these reproductions with the new limited editions crafted by various artists and sold as new.

To read more articles on antiques, please visit the Antiques Article section of my site.  And to stay up to the minute on antiques and collectibles, please join the other 18,000 readers by following my free online magazine, #TheAntiquesAlmanac. Learn more about the Victorians in the Winter 2018 Edition, "All Things Victorian," online now.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Elusive Rosenthal

QUESTION: My mother has a 12-place setting of Rosenthal china that she uses only on holidays and special occasions. I’ve always loved this pattern—her dishes say “Rosenthal Maria” on the bottom—but other than her set, I’ve never heard of this china company. I guess that’s because today we don’t entertain as formally as people used to. She told me that the set was given to her as a wedding gift. She and my father just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. I’d love to know more about this china since I’m sure one day it will be mine. What can you tell me about Rosenthal?

ANSWER: Rosenthal is and has been one of the finest European potteries since Abraham Rosenthal founded it in 1883 in Selb, Germany. Some experts compare it to some of the best German porcelain manufacturers. Even though they’ve been around for over 130 years, the firm’s products remain elusive to collectors because people who own pieces like them so much they tend to keep them.

Rosenthal originally started out founding a porcelain-painting business, but when he couldn’t get enough pieces to paint, he opened his own porcelain factory.

In 1881, there were four porcelain painters working for the company. By 1951 the number had grown to 6,000. Today, the Rosenthal firm owns two porcelain factories, the Selb and Rotbuhl both in Selb, and a ceramic factory in Kronach, plus several others not pottery related.

The Rosenthal family had a great interest in modern art. Philipp Rosenthal, son of Abraham, was a designer and his son together invited famous modern artists to collaborate in the development of both artistic porcelain and pieces for everyday use. In 1961, Rosenthal introduced the Studio Line, characterized by the simple lines modern design.

Rosenthal dining sets first appeared in 1900. Even though it was a new century, they were influenced by Victorian design and decoration. This dinnerware came in complete sets of 12, as was the custom of the time, including many pieces no longer included in today’s dinnerware sets. Back then sets included handled soup tureens, ragout bowls, fish dishes, fruit bowls on feet, salt and pepper cellars, blueberry bowls with saucers, chocolate plates, four sizes of coffeepots, three sizes of sugar bowls and cookie jars, as well as the usual dinner plates and cups and saucers. While the shapes of some pieces evolved over the years, some have remained unchanged, such as the pear-shaped coffeepot, the round teapot, and the oval  chocolate pot.

Early painted patterns included "Rococo/Louis XIV," 1892, made in Selb, "Gladstone" and "Moliere," both produced at Kronach factory in 1900. Art Nouveau style services included "Flora" in 1899, "Iris" in 1900 and "Botticelli" and "Donatello," both made at the Selb factory. The firm’s most successful dinnerware service, "Maria," appeared in 1914.

The challenge that collector’s face when identifying which Rosenthal pattern they have is that through the years Rosenthal placed hundreds of designs on the same shapes. While a collector may say he or she owns pieces of Donatello, for instance, what they actually have is Rosenthal’s Donatello shape. Artists rarely signed their decorations on Rosenthal china. The company mostly used a combination of transfers and hand painted details over top. Even the modern Studio Line with its incredibly bright colors is usually decorated with a transfer and then hand applied gold and other colors.

Rosenthal produced china using all the design innovations of the 20th century, including Art Deco, Bauhaus, and International Classicism in the 1920s and 1930s.

Today, collectors can purchase open stock of the exquisite "Suomi" pattern, designed by Timo Sarpaneva in 1976. Other artists who decorated "Suomi" included Salvador Dail and Victor Vasarely. Rosenthal has also developed a collector line of cups. The first was in the "Cupola" shape—each decorated by a different artist and boasting a diagonally mounted, grooved handle impossible to actually use. The second was a group of 10 espresso cups taken from the "Mythos" service, plus more than 30 artist cups. Rosenthal also produced limited edition Year Plates and Artist Plates designed by such artists as Roy Lichtenstein, Edna Hibel and LeRoy Neiman.

While Rosenthal produced some dinnerware sets in great quantity, putting them on the lower end of the value scale, there were special pieces painted by famous artists which sell for as high as $800 to $1,000.

To read more articles on antiques, please visit the Antiques Article section of my site.  And to stay up to the minute on antiques and collectibles, please join the other 18,000 readers by following my free online magazine, #TheAntiquesAlmanac. Learn more about the Victorians in the Winter 2018 Edition, "All Things Victorian," online now.