The storage unit available to most people in the 1700s was a rectangular boxlike chest with small feet, narrow drawers at the bottom and a lift-top lid.
It must have been difficult for many matrons to bend down to find the linens in the bottom drawers. Consequently, a new design appeared. The chest was placed on a stand that had longer legs and a decorative front. A plain chest often had an elaborately carved and gilded stand.
The chest-on-stand soon metamorphosed into the chest-on-chest, and the storage unit had two parts with long drawers that were easy to use.
When builders started putting closets into homes in the late 1800s, the need for storage in furniture lessened. The large chest-on-chest lost favor, and the simple chest of drawers became fashionable. A mirror was often hung above the chest.
The addition or subtraction of carvings, hardware and elaborate feet, and the color of the wood and other details have taken the 20th-century chest of drawers through Arts and Crafts, Art Deco and the Fifties look, plus other periods of design.
The idea still remains. The box for storage has gradually changed to more easily used stacks of drawers at a convenient height.
I have two round, cream-colored, plastic powder boxes with gold-colored trim. They are more than 55 years old. On the bottom of each are the words "Ivorytone, Pyralin, DuBarry." Can you tell me why the cover of one has a small hole in the center? Are these boxes just junk?
You have a celluloid dresser set. The two jars are not junk and are probably a few decades older than you think they are. The box with the closed cover is for powder. The box with the hole is a "hair receiver." A woman removed the hair from her hairbrush or comb and placed it in the receiver. The saved hair was either used as a "rat" for fancy hairdos or woven for hair jewelry. Some women sold their hair to wig makers. The word Pyralin was DuPont's trade name for celluloid, which was the first semi-synthetic plastic. DuBarry was a brand name used by Richard Hudnut, whose Hudnut Salon was a Manhattan cosmetic house.
My two Eskimo dolls are wearing boots marked "Ko" and "Klee." They have composition faces, cloth bodies and furry Eskimo clothes. What can you tell me about them?
You have some advertising dolls made by Effanbee in the 1920s for the Cliquot Club company. The dolls were named Klee and Ko for the company. Each doll is worth about $100 today.
I have a strange picture. The background is a painted scene. Pasted on top are buildings carved from cork and trees with green-painted cork leaves. I'm told it was made by a prisoner who was serving a life sentence in Germany in 1863. Do you know anything about cork pictures?
We have seen several types of cork pictures. The Chinese made them in the 19th century, usually on a piece of blue silk that looked like sky. Modern cork pieces are still available in Hong Kong. The English also made pictures with carved cork buildings in the 19th century. All of them were commercial pieces made to sell to tourists. Your picture with a date is most unusual. It was probably made by a company, and not a prisoner. A 19th-century cork picture about 12 inches by 24 inches, in good condition, is worth about $300.
I have a Mickey Mouse cartoon book that my wife saved from her childhood. She died two years ago, and the book will one day go to my daughters. Can you cast some light on its history? It's about 10 inches square and printed in black, white and red. The copyright date is 1931. The cover pictures Mickey handing a bouquet of flowers to Minnie. The title is "Mickey Mouse Series No. 1," and the publisher is David McKay Co.
Collectors consider your book a Disney "story book," not a comic book. David McKay Co. of Philadelphia was the major Disney publisher from 1931 to 1937. Your book is one of four published by McKay in 1931.
My husband has an electric Babe Ruth mantel clock that his father gave him years ago. There's a bronze bust of Babe Ruth in the center and a bronze baseball mounted on each side. One baseball is inscribed with a 60, representing Ruth's single-season home-run record. The number 714, Ruth's home-run total, is on the other baseball. The clock's base is wooden, with a digital clock in the center. My husband has no intention of selling the clock, but he would like to know what it's worth.
Your husband's clock commemorates Ruth's career. It was made shortly after Babe died in 1948. A clock just like it sold for $3,650 at a 1995 auction. Another identical clock sold for $2,200 at an auction last December.
Avoid salt water and chlorine when wearing good jewelry. They can erode the metal and dim the shine on the stones. Hair spray and perfume also make many gemstones dull.
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