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Archive for Sunday, August 26, 2001

Figurines depict animal battles

Bull, bear baiting popular in Middle Ages Europe

August 26, 2001

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Bullfights, cock fights, even pit-bull matches are acceptable entertainment to some, cruelty to animals to others. There are other activities that have been accepted in past years that would be outlawed today.

In the early Middle Ages, bull or bear baiting was a popular spectator sport in Europe. A bull was chained to a post in the center of the city, often the marketplace, where crowds would gather.

Bulldogs that had been bred to fight were then released to attack the bull. If a dog was killed, another dog was sent as a replacement until the bull was finally killed. The bull was not wasted; the meat was distributed to the poor. The sport was considered so cruel that it was outlawed in England in 1835.

In the 1830s, some potters in Staffordshire, England, made figures showing the bull, the dogs and often an excited spectator. The figures were about a foot long and were displayed on a mantel or table.

We bought an unusual daybed about 40 years ago. The frame is wood that's shaped to look almost like plumbing pipes. The seat and back are made of woven fabric-covered wire. The impressed mark on the bottom reads "Pat. April 18, 1876, Hunzinger."

George J. Hunzinger (1835-1898) immigrated to Brooklyn, N.Y., from Switzerland in 1855. By 1861 he had established a furniture business in lower Manhattan. He specialized in patent furniture that is, new designs and construction processes that could be patented.

The 1876 patent on your daybed refers to U.S. Patent No. 176,314, filed for an "Improvement in Chair Seats and Backs." The patent involved the gridlike woven-wire seat.

The Brooklyn Museum of Art sponsored an exhibit of Hunzinger furniture in 1997-'98. The exhibit catalog states that your daybed "is one of Hunzinger's rarest designs and is known in only three surviving examples."

The three daybeds known, the catalog says, are owned by the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Milwaukee Art Museum and a private collector in New York City. You might have a fourth example. If you want to sell the daybed, contact an auction house. It would probably sell best in a New York City auction house, because New York is where he worked.

I own a Campbell's electric soup warmer. It holds two large, stainless-steel soup pitchers. Each pitcher has a built-in electrical plug in the back. Two red dials on the top of the back are mechanical timers. The bottom of the warmer is marked "Campbell Counter Kitchen, manufactured by Geuder, Paeschke & Frey Co., Milwaukee, Wis., 1949, Model A." Is it worth anything?

Warmers for heating canned soups were popular in the late 1940s. Campbell's made at least four models.

Soup warmers like yours were found in restaurants, diners and even soda fountains during the 1950s and '60s. Your 1949 Model A is worth about $200 if it's in excellent condition.

At a house sale, I paid $30 for a round game board made of layered cardboard with movable wooden letters. The letters can be stored around the outer perimeter, and across the middle are two lines on which words can be formed. The board is decorated with pictures of children in school. Have you ever seen anything like it?

You own a spelling and counting board that probably dates from the 1940s. The boards were made to help teach spelling and arithmetic to children. They were first made about a century ago. Early ones were wooden. Boards made in the 1950s and '60s were plastic. The Swedish company Brio still makes a wooden spelling board.

I would like to learn something about my dinner plates. They are white with a decorated border that includes a queen, a horseshoe, two wishbones, two gold swastikas, four-leaf clovers and flowers. The mark on the back includes a helmet and the words "Gold Medal, St. Louis, Owen China, Minerva, 12 25 A." Can you help?

The Owen China Co. worked in Minerva, Ohio, from about 1902 to 1932. The Gold Medal mentioned in the mark was given to the company at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904. Owen made semiporcelain and hotel china in various patterns.

The decorations on your plates, including the swastikas, are symbols for luck. (Remember, your plates were made before the Nazi era.) Your plates might have been part of a set of hotel china. The numbers in the mark might be a production date, December 1925.

What are pie birds?

A pie bird is a ceramic funnel that's placed in the center of a pie before it is baked. It has a vent hole in the top so steam can escape.

Pie birds are also called pie vents or pie funnels. Purely utilitarian versions were first made in England in the 1800s. It wasn't until the late 1920s that clever designers started making pie birds in the shape of birds.

l The Kovels answer as many questions as possible through the column. By sending a letter with a question, you give full permission for its use in the column or any other Kovel forum. The volume of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, Lawrence Journal-World, King Features Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York, N.Y. 10017.

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