Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Sit Back and Get Comfy

QUESTION: While out antiquing recently I discovered a beautiful sofa that would add a lot of class to my living room. It’s in great shape, although it may eventually need to be reupholstered. The dealer said it was in the American Empire style. Although I like older things, I’m not very familiar with all the styles of furniture, especially those from the 19th century. What can you tell me about the American Empire style? Do you think this sofa will be a good investment? It isn’t all that comfortable, but I have a overstuffed one in my family room, so this one would be for more formal visits.

ANSWER: The American Empire style is one that isn’t particularly familiar to even moderate antique enthusiasts. It was more of a transitional style, and its pieces come in a wide variety of designs and ornateness.

But before looking at the American Empire style, let’s take a look at how the sofa evolved. People didn’t even know what a sofa was before 1700. They reserved chairs for important guests. Less important ones sat on stools and benches.

By the 18th century, chair makers began to pad the seats of their chairs. Some even padded the backs, but chair backs of the time were still straight and stiff. When the Queen Anne style appeared around 1750, chairs became a bit more comfortable because their backs were curved.

The word sofa itself comes from the Arabic ‘soffah’, which refers to a raised part of the floor covered with rugs and cushions, while the word couch comes from the French word ‘coucher’ and literally means ‘to lay down’.

The first true sofa was the camel-back, so named for the padded hump in its back. The back, seat, and arms also had sufficient padding, making it the most comfortable seat in the room. Thomas Chippendale designed elegant camel-back sofas with simple, thick square legs that gave them stability.

By the dawn of the 19th century, the Federal style had come into vogue. Sofas became straighter, but the seats were narrower and harder. This was the age of good posture—no slouching was allowed. People had to sit up straight. Both the furniture and the clothing they wore dictated it. People back then couldn’t lean back and doze off like they can today.

By the 1830s, the Empire style had gotten a hold in Europe. It took a decade or so for it to travel across the Atlantic Ocean to America. Empire sofas went a step further and rounded the back cushion so people could not lean back.

By the 1850s, people wanted more comfort in their sofas. Sofa makers angled the backs gave their pieces thicker cushions. But even these sofas still had carved wooden pieces that poked and prodded if a person didn’t sit straight.

The Mission style of the early 20th century didn’t improve much on the comfort scale. Sofas in the first two decades featured heavy, square wooden frames with a padded seat and perhaps a few loose cushions for comfort.

It wasn’t until the 1920s that the overstuffed, deep-cushioned sofa appeared. This style has existed until today in one form or another. The large, L-shaped super overstuffed versions found in today’s home are a far cry from the camel-back sofas of the 18th century.

American Empire is a French-inspired Neoclassical style of American furniture and decoration that takes its name and originates from the Empire style introduced during the First French Empire period under Napoleon's rule.

It gained its greatest popularity in the U.S. after 1820. Many examples of American Empire cabinetmaking are characterized by antiquities-inspired carving—gilt-brass ormolu, and decorative inlays such as stamped-brass banding with egg-and-dart, diamond, or Greek-key patterns, or individual shapes such as stars or circles.

The most elaborate furniture in this style appeared between 1815 and 1825, often incorporating columns with rope-twist carving, animal-paw feet, anthemion, stars, and acanthus-leaf ornamentation, sometimes in combination with gilding and vert antique, an antique green simulating aged bronze. A simplified version of American Empire furniture, often referred to as the Grecian style, generally has plainer surfaces in curved forms, highly figured mahogany veneers, and sometimes gilt-stenciled decorations. Many examples of this style survive, exemplified by massive chests of drawers with scroll pillars and glass pulls, work tables with scroll feet and fiddleback chairs.

American Empire sofas are in high demand today. Fine examples can sell for anywhere between $10,000 and $30,000. Of course, that’s for those in excellent condition and fully restored. So yes, buying one would be a good investment, as long as it’s held for at least 10 years.

To read more articles on antiques, please visit the Antiques Article section of my Web 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 Colonial America in the Spring 2018 Edition, "Early Americana," online now.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Gone Fishin'

QUESTION: My grandad loved to fish. He took me along at a very young age. My job was to carry the bait. The thing I carried it in was green and shaped like a bullet and had holes all over it. I used to feel very important carrying it. Then he taught me how to bait my own line and from then on I became hooked. What he didn’t tell me was that he had a small collection of unique containers called minnow buckets. It wasn’t until later that I found out. When he died, I got his collection of minnow buckets. Being an avid fisherman myself, I’ve always wanted to add to his collection but didn’t know much about them. What can you tell me about minnow buckets? Would it be worth my while to add to his collection or aren’t they really worth much?

ANSWER: Collecting sports-related memorabilia has his the big time. Though the market is small compared to regular antiques, it, nevertheless, is a lively one. The pastime of fishing has long had a variety of interesting objects to collect. And one of the most interesting—and most obscure—is the minnow bucket.

Keeping bait alive is important for the fisherman. Early sporting goods companies produced a variety of buckets, floats and other ingenious devices for this purpose. While today's fishermen use state-of-the art aerated buckets to keep minnows alive, fisherman of the 1880s had to be more inventive.

One of the best minnow buckets made was the oval No. 1, made by the Hall Manufacturing Company of Cinncinnati, Ohio in the 1880s. The largest made, measuring 5½ inches tall by 16 inches wide by 10 inches deep, this innovative minnow bucket had a middle compartment for minnows and two hinged end compartments for other baits or ice to keep the water cool. It cleverly telescoped when two wing nuts were loosened and the inner pail was pulled upward.

Hall made five different styles of telescopic buckets. They came in a japanned green finish or in oxidized copper on tin. The green japanned No. 1 bucket originally sold for $3.90 and the copper version sold for $4.50, both expensive at the time. A Hall No. 1 tin-plate bucket today in very good condition sells for over $300 while the copper version would be more than double that.

Another unique early bait container is the Lucas No. 28L rectangular floating bucket with a 10-quart capacity, measuring 11 inches high by 10½  inches wide and 6 inches deep. Advertisements claimed that its shape was more convenient to carry and more compact, thus taking up less room, and a fisherman could carry it in a suitcase. The Lucas rectangular bucket in a dark green japanned finish, with room for ice above the insert liner, sells for over $400.

For those fisherman doing stream fishing, there were several styles of trolling minnow floats—the Novelty Live Minnow Float, which held 10 quarts and measured 24 inches long by 77 inches in diameter and weighed 3½  pounds, and the Hartford Minnow Float, made by Shinners-Russell Company of Hartford, Wisconsin, which was 28 inches long by 7½ inches diameter and weighed 4 pounds. Designed to be trolled behind a boat, they both had torpedo-shaped bodies with conical ends.

The Hartford Minnow Float had air chambers at each end and a bottom ballast to keep it right side up while being towed.  Perforated in the rear to aerate the minnows, it’s forward portion was not, which protected the minnows while the fisherman trolled the float. The Hartford float sold for $2.50 and was available from the late 1890s through 1920. In very good condition, it now sells for $100 to $300.

Deshler Mail Box Co. of Deshler, Ohio, made the Jones Aquarium Minnow Pails in B-and 12-quarts capacities from 1911 to 1937. These were "race track" oval minnow buckets that contained an air chamber that you pressurized with a bicycle pump. It forced a stream of air bubbles through the water for four to six hours aerating the minnows and keeping them alive and active. The air chamber also kept the Jones minnow bucket afloat if the angler wished to use it in a lake or stream. They came in a dark green japanned finish with striping and ornamental artwork. The value of a Jones Aquarium Minnow Pail in very good shape is over   $200.

A second example of a compressed air self-aerating model is the Air-Fed Minnow Bucket made by the Air-Fed Manufacturing and Stamping Company of Quincy, Illinois A brass air primp was attached to the outside of this bucket. Made of galvanized steel with a green finish and an attractive gold label, it came in two sizes, 8 and 10 quarts, from the 1920s through the early 1930s. Today, one in very good condition would cost $100 to $150. This Air-Fed Minnow Bucket has an interesting warning on the label—“The air chamber in this bucket has been tested to 25 lbs. Never pump it more than this amount of pressure. DO NOT FILL AT A FILLING STATION. Test pressure after eight strokes of the pump.”

Geuder, Pasachke and Frey Co. made Cream City buckets, some of the most attractive minnow buckets ever produced. Early Cream City minnow buckets are the most sought after. These were tin-plated and featured a japanned finish with classic trade names such as Victor, Good Luck, Security, Progress, Perfection, Favorite and Climax, and each model came with appealing Victorian designs and stenciling. Many of the buckets came with the Cream City name, but the company shipped some to customers who wanted only these special classic trade names on their private-label buckets. Again, depending upon condition, some of the rare early tinned Cream City buckets can sell for $200 to $300 and more.

Galvanized buckets started to gain popularity between 1910 and 1920. Galvanizing is the coating of iron or steel with rust-resistant zinc, generally by plunging the item into a bath of melted zinc. The rust proofing characteristics of galvanized buckets lasted longer than japanned tin-plated steel. Cream City eventually started making galvanized buckets as well, and these were available in round and oval shapes up to 20 quarts. Galvanized buckets generally came with single-color black stencils with simpler designs. Their values run from $50 to $100 depending upon condition and rarity of the model.

The Shakespeare Company of Kalamazoo, Michigan, also marketed minnow buckets starting in 1916. Their extensive line of nine different styles appears to have been made by Cream City. Six of the series were tin-plated steel and japanned finished in dark green with gold striping, and three series were painted galvanized steel. These early Shakespeare minnow buckets are rare and sell for $100 to $300 based on condition.

Individual blacksmiths and tinsmiths made copper minnow buckets for local orders only. They can sell for $200 to $1,000, depending on their condition.

So you see, minnow buckets have quite the history, and the values are going up all the time. But collecting them can get pricey, so make sure your budget can withstand the extra strain.

To read more articles on antiques, please visit the Antiques Article section of my Web 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 Colonial America in the Spring 2018 Edition, "Early Americana," online now.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Peace Was the Way

QUESTION: One of the craziest things I’ve ever done was go to the rock concert at Woodstock back in the summer of 1969. I’ll never forget that experience. Unlike many of the people that just showed up, I actually bought a three-day ticket. Back then, I really didn’t think about keeping anything from the event, but as as I got older, I looked back with fond memories and wish I had. That said, I’d like to collect some memorabilia from Woodstock but have no idea where to start or what to look for. Can you help me?

ANSWER: Younger people don’t often think far enough ahead to consider the future. And the majority of folks who attended that wild event at the dairy farm in upstate New York certainly didn’t. Before I discuss how to begin a Woodstock collection, it’s important to take a look at how it all started. After all, it’s been 49 years since it took place.

This rock concert began as an idea hatched late one night in an apartment in New York City in 1963. Artie Cornfield, then 24, president of Capital Records, sat around his apartment with his wife and their friend Michael Lang, a rock band manager and concert promoter, talking about how much fun it would be to have a big party where they could hear all their favorite bands. Later, after pairing with two backers, they decided to raise funds for a recording studio in Woodstock, New York, by holding a concert. And thus, Woodstock was born.

The promoters had a difficult time convincing the locals and the town denied permission for the concert. Dairy farmer Max Yasgur offered his 600-acre farm even though it was 12 miles from Woodstock. Up against a wall and determined to go forward, the promoters jumped at it.

As one of the most acclaimed events of the turbulent 1960s, Woodstock became a symbol of an era, and today represents more than just an event where the biggest rock bands came together to perform over three days for half a million people. In fact, it represented the first time that a generation came together to show that when a large group of people do get together, they can do so peacefully.

What started out to be a concert for 50,000 turned into a festival bombarded by half a million people in August 1969, and what happened there during the three-day weekend became legendary. For the baby boomer generation it represents their youth.

One person who attended the concert was smart enough to put away at huge batch of unused tickets in a safe sold them through an ad in Rolling Stone Magazine in 1992. Those tickets were not used because once the fence came down and the numbers of concert-goers overwhelmed the gates, tickets were no longer heeded. The couple that purchased them, Terry and Michael McBride, literally started the ball rolling on Woodstock memorabilia. They created a Web site in 1995 from which they began to sell memorabilia from the event, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The items from the concert have lasted and people like the McBride’s, who both attended it, have preserved its memory for hundreds of collectors. As baby boomers grew older and had more disposable income, they became the establishment of their generation.

As expected those unused tickets are the most common item for sale. The advanced sale three-day tickets are rare. These tickets, in mint condition, sell for $175 unframed by Maness. On-site three-day tickets sold at the gate now go for $125 unframed. Fewer of these tickets were printed, according to Maness. than the single-day tickets, which sell for $25. Maness and her husband had these tickets authenticated prior to their purchase by the Woodstock ticket manager for the Globe Ticket Company, who printed those tickets in 1969.

However, there are some pieces of ephemera that are more valuable because of their rarity. A brochure for the concert came with an order form for the tickets. Today these brochures sell for up to $200 at online auctions.

Magazines and newspaper articles from 1969 are also a hot item for collectors. Life magazine put out a Special Edition in September 1969. A copy of this magazine on the Woodstock festival, which contains the immediate history of the event less than a month after its occurrence. It also contains the best collection of color photographs of any book chronicling Woodstock.

Today more copies of this item have surfaced as people clean out their attics and closets. Online auction sites have copies in fair condition for around $50.

Another popular item among collectors is the actual program from the concert. Some folks took them home by the box load, and now they sell for $500 to $600, depending on their condition. Reprints have been made of this program with an insert indicating that it’s a reprint. It’s easy to tear out the "reprint" advisory so determining authenticity becomes nearly impossible since they’re printed on the exact same type of paper as the original.

Posters are also popular as well as costly. Original posters in mint condition go for $1.200, who offers a word of warning. There are a lot of knock-offs. Collectors need a high profile magnifier to tell the difference.

As with any collectibles, especially from such a momentous event, memorabilia can pop up just about anywhere—at garage and yard sales, flea markets, swap meets, even in antique stores. Though there are a lot of pieces appearing now that people who may have attended it are getting older and downsizing, an awful lot just got tossed in the mounds of trash left at the end of that weekend.

Collectors believe the value of items from the Woodstock concert will only increase over time. It allowed a generation to speak out and show the establishment back then that they could have a good time without violence. It gave hope to a lot of people.

To read more articles on antiques, please visit the Antiques Article section of my Web 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 Colonial America in the Spring 2018 Edition, "Early Americana," online now.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Sweets for the Sweet

QUESTION: My aunt collected small glass candy containers. Because I always admired them, she gave them to me when she moved to a retirement community. I really don’t know anything about them. What can you tell me about these containers? Are they still being made?

ANSWER: That was nice of your aunt to think of you. Because of your interest, she probably felt that you might not only care for her collection, but add to it.

Several manufacturers, mostly located around Jeannette, Pennsylvania, produced glass toy candy containers in America for 90 years. Although many of them originally sold for about a dime, they now range in price from $5 to $5,000. There are nearly 600 different containers known to exist. About 14 companies distributed them in America.

The use of glass candy containers began in Philadelphia at the Centennial Exposition of 1876 where confectioner Wilbur Croft and Company produced candies in Machinery Hall. Croft sold his candy in clear glass containers shaped like the Liberty Bell. With a pewter screw-on closure and a paper label on the bottom, collectors consider this bell to be the first American glass toy candy container, currently valued around $200.

One of the primary makers of glass candy containers was Westmoreland Specialty Company,  operated by brothers George and Charles West in Grapeville, Pennsylvania. They built their factory in 1889 and produced nearly 100 different candy containers through 1932, each made by hand in single molds, with some being hand-painted. The factory also made tin closures and other parts needed to produce complete containers.

Though candy containers started as souvenirs with simple designs, they evolved into great glass toys filled with candy. One of Westmoreland's early souvenirs, dated 1896, featured a painted milk glass Uncle Sam hat that doubled as a bank. It had paper portraits of Presidents McKinley and Roosevelt glued onto a slotted metal closure, and now brings about $125.

In 1913, as designs became more intricate, Westmoreland produced several glass candy container lamps that held a candle and a lithographed paper and cardboard shade. There were Christmas, Easter and Valentine lamps as well as three novelty lamps featuring a tree trunk base with an embossed rabbit, hatchet or cherries.

By producing candy containers such as Charlie Chaplin, the Spirit of St. Louis airplane, Jackie Coogan, the Carpet Sweeper and the Phonograph, Westmoreland took advantage of popular people or new inventions to increase sales of the glass toys.

Manufacturers produced most candy containers of clear glass so the colorful candy could be seen, but Westmoreland used some colored glass in 1927 to attract buyers. It made the Spirit of St. Louis in clear, amber, pink, green and blue, and its Pointed Nose Racer, which now sells for about $2,500, in several colors, also.

One of the most valuable Westmoreland containers is a functional tin kaleidoscope featuring a turning glass tube filled with candy, estimated to be worth $5,000 or more. Another unusual container is a 31-inch-long whip made of cloth-covered wire with a candy-filled glass handle.

Westmoreland also made some glass containers and tin parts for Turney H. Stough of Jeannette, another major player in the candy container industry.

Stough produced more than 100 different glass containers, which is more than any other company. Candy containers comprised more than 95 percent of  Stough's business. He hired outside firms to produce everything he needed while his company did the assembly, packaging and distribution.

Like Stough, George Borgfeldt & Co., a New York City toy wholesaler, hired Westmoreland and other companies to produce)le its candy containers. Some of Borgfeldt's most sought-after containers are pieces of Flossie Fisher's furniture, dating from around 1916. Based on a cartoon in Ladies' Home Journal, the yellow tin bed, table, chairs and other items featured black silhouettes of animals and children. The bed alone sells for over $2,500. From 1913 to 1916,  L.E. Smith of Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, produced only about 20 to 30 different candy containers, including a bureau, a mantel clock, a flat iron and a figural container of Charlie Chaplin, all hard to find today.

A former Westmoreland employee founded the Victory Glass Company, also of Jeannette, which produced nearly 100 different containers from 1919 to 1955. Not having an in-house tin shop like Westmoreland, Victory relied on intricate glass designs, like the Swan Boat and the Amos and Andy Taxi, to make its candy containers attractive and appealing.Two of Victory's hard to find containers are the Refrigerator with short legs, which sells for about $4,000, and Dolly's Bathtub, which sells for about $3,000.

In 1940 J.H. Millstein, a worker at Victory Glass, developed fully automatic machines to speed up production and lower costs. Millstein opened his factory in 1943 with machines that could handle 12 molds at a time. Though he only made 13 different containers from 1943 to 1956, he produced and sold millions of them.

Unfortunately, World War II brought rising production costs to the industry. Candy containers became basic again as companies cut costs with simpler designs, less hand-painting and fewer intricate metal parts switching from tin closures to paper or card-board. By 1956 only two companies were still making candy containers. Though Millstein and Stough produced some plastic containers around 1967, high production costs and declining sales closed the remaining factories making glass candy containers.

To read more articles on antiques, please visit the Antiques Article section of my Web 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 Colonial America in the Spring 2018 Edition, "EArly Americana," online now.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Like a Bowlful of Jelly

QUESTION: Recently, I’ve begun to collect jelly molds. The ones I’m finding are mostly newer, but I’d like to perhaps add some older ones to my collection. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about these molds, except that many were not made to mold jelly as many people know it today. What can you tell me about the old jelly molds? Why did they come to be?

ANSWER: If you say jelly, most people think of fruit jellies in jars. While some people still make their own, the majority of people buy theirs at their local supermarket. Brands like Smuckers and Welch’s have become synonymous with jelly. But early jelly molds contained mostly other types of foods.

White earthenware jelly molds, particularly those produced in England around the turn of the 20tº century, are some of the most widely collected of all food molds. Although jelly molds have been produced in a variety of materials, including copper, tin, redware, yellowware, graniteware, cast iron, aluminum and plastic, over the last several hundred years, it’s the white earthenware ones that collectors favor. Cooks used these molds to form aspics, sweet jellies, mousses, and steamed puddings.

Historians believe the use of jellies began in medieval England, when people prepared the earliest of puddings, called blancmange, literally "white food,” from boiled milk and ground almonds, sometimes flavored with fish or poultry. Flummery, an oatmeal believed to have been the first food actually set in wooden molds, appeared during the late 17`º or early 18'"century.

Cooks prepared the earliest jellies---technically, aspics, being savory rather than sweet --with gelatin they obtained from cows' feet and sheep's heads, which they flavored with meat extracts. They used shavings from deer antlers to make hartshorn jelly. They employed Isinglass — a natural substance obtained from the air bladders of certain fish, and containing about 90 percent gelatin—to help improve the setting qualities of jellied foods. When cooks created the first aspics in the 18th century, the scope and use of molds broadened considerably.

By the 18th century, sugar had become widely available, and sweet jellies became popular. Cooks used wines, fruit juices and nuts used as flavorings, and colored their jellies with boiled down plants and other natural sources, including insects. The most common colors were lemon yellow, orange, ,and violet. People used individual bowls  or glasses until about the mid-1700s, when molds became larger.

One of the main suppliers of earthenware jelly molds was Wedgwood. Although best known for decorative pieces, Wedgwood produced many jelly molds. The company’s two-part "core molds" from the 18th century were well suited to translucent jellies. These molds remained in place once a cook unmolded the jelly. The hand-painted enameled designs on the inner core were visible through, and magnified by, the jelly, making for a handsome display. Wedgwood intended these jellied creations only as table decorations, not for consumption. Other Wedgwood molds featured classical and Egyptian themes, animal and birds, Prince of Wales' feathers, and the emblems of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The firm designed molds with eagle and corn-on-the-cob motifs for the American market.

In the 19th century, middle-class housewives began to use jelly molds. Molds came in a wide variety of shapes, including geometric forms, with their designs of swirls, tiers, and/or spirals, and . "architectural" styles. Architectural molds incorporated 18th and 19th century neo-classical building elements such as grooved columns, acanthus leaves, pieces of egg-and-dart molding, and rounded ornamental knobs. Various fruit, flowers, wheat, corn and animal patterns were also abundant. Cooks used many molds from this period for all kinds of food, from rice to ice cream to pudding. They used some pudding molds to steam or bake in while they used others for chilling and setting pudding that they had cooked in a saucepan. Generally, pudding molds intended for baking or steaming had a tube or spout in the center, much like an angel food cake pan, to allow for more even cooking.

Minton produced pyramid jelly molds as early as 1824. Historians believe these molds to have been two-part core molds similar to those produced by Wedgwood. Minton's 1884 catalog illustrates 63 different molds, featuring recumbent lions, crowns, wheat sheaves, shells, grapes, pineapples, other fruits, fishes, and florals. They also made  architectural molds. Minton molds often have a foot rim, a bluish tinge and no mark.

Another notable manufacturer was W.T. Copeland, a company that produced a prolific number of molds well in the 20th century, including architecturally inspired designs,  various fruits, chickens, bears, dolphins, and conch shells.

By the late 1880s, when advances in printing made colored cookbook illustrations possible, aspiring hostesses could prepare luscious-looking molded dishes. Using exotic molds such as those in Copeland's catalog, cooks used differently colored gelatins, as well as bits of food placed in the mold to create an attractively patterned surface when they turned out the jelly.

The Victorian era was the heyday of the jelly mold. When World War I began, may firms went out of business. Instant gelatin desserts, such as "JELL-O", took much of the work out of making molded desserts and the status as well.

NOTE: The title of this blog comes from the poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore, published in 1823. Most people probably never would connect a “bowlful” of jelly with jelly molds, but prior to the poem’s creation, many people used bowls to molded their jellies.
To read more articles on antiques, please visit the Antiques Article section of my Web 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 Colonial America in the Spring 2018 Edition, "EArly Americana," online now.