Archive for Sunday, October 17, 1999

KOVELS ANTIQUES AND COLLECTING

October 17, 1999

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Bent-wood furniture has been around for a while, but it took a laminating process to make it stronger.

King Features Syndicate

Bent-wood furniture dates back thousands of years. The ancient Greeks made some chairs using bent wood.

Centuries later, cabinetmakers used bent wood in their Windsor chairs. About 1810, Samuel Gragg of Boston used the bent wood from the Windsor chairs to make a "classical style" chair. It was so different that he was able to patent it.

Later in the century, the Thonet firm of Vienna made many pieces of bent-wood furniture. Another famous maker was John Henry Belter of Germany. He developed his pieces in New York City during the 1850s. Bent wood was soaked, steamed, molded and dried into the desired shape. All bent wood furniture has a problem: It is structurally weak where it is bent. Thonet first used laminated strips of wood that were glued and molded together, but later he used solid strips of beechwood. Belter solved the problem by laminating the wood in layers with the grain running in opposite directions.

Bent wood is no longer needed for curved furniture (plastic has replaced it ), but collectors still like the old bent wood pieces.

  • 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, The Lawrence Journal-World, King Features Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York, NY 10017.

  • We recently moved to Connecticut and bought a house that is almost 150 years old. When we tore out the old brickwork around the fireplace, we found one very old and well-worn man's shoe. It was carefully placed in the chimney. Why would someone deliberately leave a shoe inside a chimney?

New Englanders inherited the English superstition that a shoe built into a wall near an opening in a house or building would ward off evil spirits. A shoe like the one you found is referred to as a "concealment" because it was deliberately hidden in the brickwork around the fireplace. This practice was known in England as early as the 13th century.

Tell me about my set of toy tin dishes that picture Little Red Riding Hood. The set includes plates, a serving tray, cups and saucers. The set was given to me new in the 1960s.

Your dishes were made by Ohio Art Co. of Bryan, Ohio. The company, founded in 1908, has made lithographed tin toys since 1918. It is best known for its Etch A Sketch drawing toy. Little Red Riding Hood first appeared on Ohio Art tin dishes in the 1920s, and several different Little Red Riding Hood designs were used over the years. Your set from the '60s had 14 pieces and was sold in a display box. If you have all the pieces and the original box, the set is worth $50 to $75.

I have a 19-inch bronze statue of a barefoot woman in a draped dress. She is standing on what looks like a tree stump, and at her feet is a dragonfly. The base of the sculpture has a nameplate that reads, "Libellule, Par Aug. Moreau."

Your bronze statue was designed by Auguste Moreau, a sculptor who worked in Paris from about 1861 to 1910. "Libellule," the French title of the sculpture, means "dragonfly." It is worth more than $1,000.

We just bought a house, built in the 1930s, that needs a lot of work. In the back yard there is a fieldstone barbecue that has also fallen into disrepair. The fireplace stone matches the stone on the house, so we think it is the same age as the house. Is it worth restoring, or should we tear it down?

Even if you do not plan to use the outdoor barbecue, you may regret demolishing it. Outdoor stone or brick barbecues were popular from the 1930s through the 1950s. The early '50s invention of the portable metal charcoal grill and the late-1960s introduction of the portable gas grill led to the demise of permanent outdoor barbecues. Many people have neglected their outdoor grills, but there is now a resurgence of historical and architectural interest in them.

Tip

When moving a heavy chest of drawers, take all the drawers out first. The cabinet frame will be easier to move, and you are less likely to loosen the parts.

  • Depression glass and the dinnerware of the 1930s to '50s are important collectibles today. Learn more about prices, makers and patterns in the Kovels' Depression Glass and Dinner-ware Price List, sixth edition. Send $16 plus $3 postage to Depression Glass, Box 22900, Beachwood, Ohio, 44122 or call (800) 571-1555.

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