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Archive for Sunday, May 20, 2001

Dolls catch collectors’ eyes

Childlike ‘cuteness’ puts Googlies in demand

May 20, 2001

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Googly eye, or goo-goo-eye, dolls nicknamed Googlies were popular in the early years of the 20th century.

Rose O'Neill, the creator of Kewpie dolls, and Grace Drayton, the artist who created the Campbell's Kids and Dolly Drake, were the best-known designers of Googlies. There were many other illustrators and doll makers who imitated their style.

This bisque Googly figurine was made about 1915. The 3-1/2-inch
figurine was created in Germany by Hertwig & Co. It sold with
another smaller figurine for $250 at a recent Maryland auction.

This bisque Googly figurine was made about 1915. The 3-1/2-inch figurine was created in Germany by Hertwig & Co. It sold with another smaller figurine for $250 at a recent Maryland auction.

A googly eye is almost a circle, with a dark circle of color inside for the pupil. The large eyes added a "cuteness" factor to the childlike figures with large, round heads and tiny mouths and noses. Collectors today like the wide-eyed children and pay high prices for all types.

I have a short-legged chair labeled "Ypsilanti Furniture, Ionia, Mich." The seat bottom has long springs that hook together. Can you tell me when the chair was made?

Your chair was made by the Ypsilanti Reed Furniture Co. It was founded in Detroit in 1900 and moved to Ypsilanti, Mich., the following year.

In 1903 the company moved again. This time it went to Ionia, Mich., where it was able to take advantage of prison labor from the Michigan State House of Correction and Reformatory. Later, it opened nonprison plants in several Michigan cities and in Singapore.

The firm specialized in reed furniture, but during the late 1920s and the 1930s, Ypsilanti made chairs like the one you describe. The company stopped making furniture in 1948.

In the 1930s, my parents were in New York and bought a metal table lamp that looks like a Tiffany lamp. The shade is made of pierced metal and painted glass. The bottom is marked "Bradley-Hubbard, patent applied for." Is the lamp as valuable as a Tiffany?

The Tiffany lamps you are thinking of have stained-glass shades. The glass shade on your lamp is "reverse painted," which means it was painted on the inside of the shade so the picture could be seen from the outside.

Bradley & Hubbard worked in Meriden, Conn., from about 1895 to 1920. The firm made metal clocks, tables, frames and andirons, as well as lamps.

While Bradley & Hubbard lamps are not, in general, as valuable as Tiffany lamps, your lamp could be worth hundreds to thousands of dollars.

My preteen daughter has plastered yellow smiley faces all over her bedroom. Do you know when the smiley face was first used? Is it a trademark?

The bright-yellow smiley face with two solid-black eyes and a wide, upturned mouth was the brainchild not of an ad agency, but of an insurance company.

The face was first used on 7/8-inch celluloid and metal buttons distributed in the mid-1960s to employees and customers of the Worcester Guarantee Insurance Co. of Worcester, Mass.

Company employees had been asked to create an upbeat logo, and they decided on bright yellow. A supervisor came up with the upturned mouth, and a commercial artist hired by the company completed the design.

The buttons were wildly popular within a few years, but the design was never copyrighted. By the early 1970s, entrepreneurs all over the country were making cookie jars, T-shirts, lunch boxes, banks, clocks and pitchers using the smiley face.

What is chalkware?

Chalkware has two meanings to today's collectors. In the late-18th and 19th centuries, painted figurines made of plaster of Paris were imported from England, and later from other countries, and were sold in the New England area. Their popularity grew and soon they were made locally.

The figures of dogs, sheep, parrots and bunches of flowers were similar to English Staffordshire ornaments. Most of the figures found today date from 1850 to 1900.

In the 1930s, plaster of Paris figures of a very different type were made as carnival prizes. These were larger, upright figures of cartoonlike figures with large heads. Familiar figures, like Betty Boop, sailors, hula dancers and military figures, were made.

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