Archive for Sunday, May 23, 1999


May 23, 1999


The evolution of the fish slice reflected changes in dining patterns.

King Features Syndicate

One's fingers were possibly the earliest serving spoons and forks. Later, shells or carved horns were used. By the Middle Ages, the serving pieces included a carving knife with a broad blade, a skewer and perhaps a fork. These pieces gradually became the ornate serving sets of the 18th century.

Fish was often boiled, and the fish server most favored was a flat "spatula" that was perforated so the water would drip away from the meat of the fish. The blade of the fish server, often called a fish slice, was patterned after the Oriental scimitar. It gradually changed shape, becoming more rounded and less like a knife. The fork was paired with a fish slice about 1830.

By the 1850s, the fish serving set and the cake serving set were similar. Those sets decorated with cut-out fish were used for a single purpose.

My house is filled with blond wood furniture that we bought in 1954 at a store in Oakland, Calif. We have a desk, two dressers, two end tables and a coffee table with wrought-iron legs. The furniture was out of style for a long time, but I understand it's becoming popular again. What is my furniture worth?

Collectors of 1950s furniture and decorative accessories look for pieces by famous designers, including Americans George Nelson and Isamu Noguchi. It is important to check the marks or labels on your furniture. Many manufacturers made chairs, tables, desks and dressers that were similar to famous designs. If your pieces are not labeled with the name of a well-known manufacturer or designer, but are sturdy, well constructed and in good condition, they will sell. Only the best designs by the best makers bring top dollar.

The saying,

"There's a saying old and musty

Yet it is ever new

'Tis never trouble, trouble

Till trouble troubles you"

is printed on the side of my 8-inch blue-and-white pitcher. The marks on the bottom include a lion holding a globe and the words, "Jones, McDuffee & Stratton, Boston." What can you tell me about it?

Your blue-and-white transfer-printed pitcher was made in England between 1898 and 1919. The motto about trouble was used on many English pitchers. Jones, McDuffee & Stratton was a Boston retailer that sold American and European pottery and porcelain from the early 1800s until about 1953. The "Lion & Globe" trademark on the bottom of your pitcher was registered in 1898 by Hawley Bros. Ltd., an English pottery company located in Rotherham, Yorkshire, England. The mark was used by Hawley Bros. until 1903, and by their successor, the Northfield Hawley Pottery Co., until about 1919.

I have owned a tall, clear glass Coca-Cola bottle for at least 23 years. The bottle has straight sides and an unusual, wide lip about two inches below the mouth. On the front of the bottle are the words, "Drink Coca-Cola." The brand name is in script and is acid-etched in white inside a scrolled circle. How old is the bottle, and what is it worth?

You have a Coca-Cola syrup bottle that dates from the 1920s. Coca-Cola syrup bottles were sold to soda fountains around the country. Soda "jerks" mixed a little of the syrup with carbonated water to serve a 5-cent glass of Coke. Your syrup bottle would be worth $500 if you had its original cap. Without the cap, it is worth $250.

My grandfather left me an old portable wire recorder marked "Webster Chicago." It still works. I understand that this type of machine was used before the invention of tape recorders. Can you help me with the history?

The wire recorder, which used magnetic steel wire to record sounds, was invented in 1898 by a Danish scientist, Valdemar Poulsen. Poulsen called his invention the Telegraphone. It was not commercially successful because it only had a limited range and it lacked a good method of amplification. However, the invention did lead to research in the areas of electricity, magnetism and acoustics, and also to the development of magnetic tape by the 1920s. Scientists continued to experiment with magnetic wire recording. Machines like yours were being made by the 1940s. Widespread production and sales never happened because the American GIs returning from Europe reported that the Germans had made great strides in developing methods of tape recording. American engineers realized the advantages of the German methods and poured their energy into developing magnetic tape technology for recording and broadcasting. The name "Webster" on your recorder may be connected with one of the early 20th-century American researchers in acoustics, Arthur Gordon Webster.


Clean pewter with a mixture of 2 tablespoons of ammonia and a quart of hot, soapy water. Silver or brass polish also works.

  • The Kovels welcome letters and answer as many as possible through the column. By sending a letter, you give full permission for its use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names and addresses will be kept confidential. The volume of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. The Kovels cannot guarantee return of any photograph. If you wish other information about antiques, include a self-addressed, stamped (55 cents) envelope, and the Kovels will send you a listing of helpful books and publications. Write to Kovels, Lawrence Journal-World, King Features Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York, NY 10017.

  • Kovels' 1999 leaflet listing this year's books and pamphlets that are price guides for all kinds of collectibles and antiques is now available. Send $5.00 to cover postage and handling to: Price Guides for Antiques and Collectibles, Kovels, P.O. Box 22900, Beachwood, Ohio 44122.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.