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Archive for Sunday, September 16, 2001

Kewpie figurines filled a variety of roles

Novelty dolls featured in advertising, books and newspaper comics

September 16, 2001

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Kewpies were the idea of Rose O'Neill, an artist and poet who wrote and illustrated articles in home magazines in the early 1900s.

The Kewpies were used to advertise Jell-O, Edison phonographs, Kellogg's Corn Flakes, Kodak cameras, Colgate Talc Powder and other products. They were featured in books and newspaper comics, and they were made into countless dolls and figurines.

A mandolin-playing Kewpie figurine like this one sold recently for
$475. The 4-inch-high figure is made of bisque.

A mandolin-playing Kewpie figurine like this one sold recently for $475. The 4-inch-high figure is made of bisque.

The chubby, cherublike creatures have remained popular through the years. Kewpies were almost always nude. They had a topknot hairdo, and a red heart was often printed on their chests.

Kewpie figures made of papier-mrubber, plastic, vinyl, cloth and porcelain can be found. Novelties like soap dispensers, toothpick holders, inkwells, vases, tea sets, jewelry and paper dolls were produced.

The Kewpies had numerous "jobs": They were firemen, policemen, bellhops, dancers and musicians. All are collectible today.

I bought a Tiffany-style electric table lamp in 1988 at an antiques shop in Arlington, Va. The shade appears to be leaded glass. The design was made from yellow, red and green glass pieces that look like flowers and flower petals. The base is brass. The lamp is very heavy. The only mark is on the base of the shade. It reads "American Glass Co."

More than one U.S. glass company has used the name American Glass Co. One company that operated in the 1930s and '40s had a partnership with a distributor in Greensburg, Pa.

Many glass companies of this period and later made lamps with leaded-glass shades, similar to Tiffany lamps. A table lamp with an attractive leaded shade, even by an unknown company, is worth at least $400.

Please define the term "Mary Gregory" glass. I have started collecting painted glassware, and I keep running into the phrase. The many people who call glass by that name seem to have different meanings for it.

Mary Gregory worked at the famous Boston and Sandwich, Mass., Glass Works from about 1880 to 1883. She and her sister, Emma, painted white winter scenes on fancy vases and other glassware. New research suggests that they never painted children in the scenes.

Collectors have called similar glassware with painted human figures "Mary Gregory" glass. There was also the belief that any pieces decorated with pink-faced children were made in Europe.

Experts now believe high-quality glass of Mary's era that was painted with figures was imported from Europe. Collectors compromise and call the glass "Mary Gregory-type glass." It is impossible to know who actually made or painted an unmarked piece of glass.

I have a decorative old cast-iron fence and gate. The scroll at the top of the gate is embossed "Rogers Fence Co. Springfield, O" and "Patented Nov. 22 1881." Does it have value?

The patent date led us to the patent number 250046. It is a patent for an improvement to the way the uprights on a fence were clamped to the connecting bars. Old iron fences are in demand today, as are all kinds of garden antiques.

Fencing sells depending on the size and the beauty of the design. An 8-foot piece of fence selling at a flea market would cost at least $100.

I have a very old typewriter that's unlike any I have ever seen. It has a circle of letters in the middle, above the piece that holds paper. "Lambert #6341" is printed in gold leaf on the front. The patent dates on it range from 1884 to 1900.

Frank Lambert of New York City developed his exotic typewriter over a 17-year period. The machine was marketed beginning about 1896 by the Lambert Typewriter Co. It sold well all over the world for close to a decade.

I like crackle glass, but I wonder how the crackles are formed.

Crackle glass was made by many U.S. companies from the 1930s to the '70s. The term refers to the finish of the glass, which makes it appear cracked all over. The crackles are formed by immersing a piece of hot glass in cold water. The change in temperature cause it to crack. The glass is then reheated to smooth the surface.

Is it true that Barbie dolls will discolor with age?

Barbie dolls have a variety of problems with aging.

Some of the first Barbies have lost their natural skin tones and have turned chalk-white with age. Some Barbies that had earrings now have green ears from the vinyl ear reacting with the metal earring.

Collectors should check to be sure the hair has not faded or been combed or cut.

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. Names and addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of any photograph, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The volume of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, Lawrence Journal-World, King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, N.Y. 10019.

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