Attempts to build a better mousetrap have created some unusual, amusing and sometimes inefficient traps.
In the 19th century, traps were made to snap shut on the mouse's neck, to shoot it with an arrow, to toss it in the water where it would drown, to hit it on the head or to catch it alive. More recent traps have used electricity to kill the mouse, or glue to keep the mouse in one place until it is removed. The "deadfall" trap is one of the most unlikely ever invented. These traps were handmade in many shapes and sizes. A stand held a block of wood by a cord. When the mouse went for the bait under the wood, it released a lever that let the heavy wood fall and crush it. The block of wood that fell was round, square, rectangular or even just a piece of a log.
These clunky traps must work. Bob Kwalwasser, who owns the largest collection of mousetraps in the world, has a deadfall that is dated 1760. Modern ones are made in the Philippines, India, Africa and other countries.
My mother-in-law left us a mahogany extension table with three leaves. The only mark on it is "Watertown Slide Inc., Watertown, Wis." Can you provide any information?
The Watertown Table-Slide Co. was founded in Watertown, Wis., in 1889. The company patented and manufactured wooden slides for extension tables. It did not manufacture the tables. Furniture manufacturers from all over the country bought extension slides from the Watertown Table-Slide Co. The firm was sold to Reiss Industries in 1985.
My grandmother saved all the postcards she ever received. They have been in storage in my attic for 25 years. The oldest date back to about 1907. Many of them are picture postcards that double as greeting cards. Some are embossed and some are flocked. My favorites are the postcards that send good wishes for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. How do I make sure these cards stay in good condition? Are they valuable? Can I safely photograph them with a digital camera and flash?
Old postcards with photographs or printed designs are collectible. And those with a religious or ethnic theme have their particular niche markets. The cards could be sold online or through a dealer who specializes in postcards or Jewish memorabilia. You can safely photograph your postcards -- the light of a flash does not last long enough to harm the cards. But store them away from sunlight and use high-quality archival storage boxes or books. Don't touch the photographic images with your fingertips, and don't mount the postcards using tape or glue.
What is a mule chest? I have seen the term in books, but it hasn't been explained.
A mule chest is wider than it is high and deep. It has a hinged top that opens to a storage area. Beneath the storage area, there's either one long drawer or two short drawers side by side. This furniture form was introduced in England in the mid-1600s and was popular for about 100 years in both England and its American colonies. Mule chests evolved into chests of drawers.
A friend left me a large, oddly shaped, dark-green piece of pottery. She had always put flowers in it, but it is actually a pitcher. It has a tall, straight spout and a small handle. The artist was going for some kind of "organic" look. I have been unable to identify the incised mark on the bottom, "Beachcomber, Saint John NB Canada."
NB is the abbreviation for the eastern Canadian province of New Brunswick. St. John is a city on the southern coast. Your pitcher is a piece of Beachcomber Ware, a line produced by the Canuck Pottery of St. John in the late 1950s. A '50s ad for Beachcomber Ware says it was "handcrafted by descendants of the original Acadian settlers." Acadians are descended from settlers of the former French colony of Acadia, which was centered in Nova Scotia but also included New Brunswick. Canuck's building in St. John was destroyed by fire in the mid-1960s, and the pottery moved to Labelle, Quebec. Canuck closed in the 1970s.
When I was 4 or 5 years old (around 1965), my dad acquired a battery-driven 1955-'56 pink Thunderbird kiddy car from our local Ford dealership. It has a fiberglass body on a heavy steel frame. There's a battery charger under the trunk. The car runs, and the headlights and horn work. A metal plate on the dashboard reads "Thunderbird, PowerCar Co., Mystic, Conn., U.S.A." Can you give me any information?
The PowerCar Co. made power-driven kiddy cars from 1954 through 1967. The company's first car was the "Thunderbird Jr.," a 1/3-scale, battery-powered copy of Ford's 1955 Thunderbird. The car could travel at a speed of 5 mph. About 5,000 Thunderbird Juniors were produced before the company was sold in 1967. Until 1966, PowerCar updated its models every year. The cars were expensive. In 1957, a T-bird Jr. retailed for $465 -- which is about $2,700 in today's dollars. Look for a serial number on your car. The serial number on PowerCar's first car is No. 1. The cars were sold through the FAO Schwarz catalog, but many of them were used as promotions by Ford dealers around the country.
It is safe to use spray or paste wax on your furniture, but be careful about changing brands. It is OK to put paste wax over spray wax. It is not safe to put spray wax over paste wax, because it might soften the paste wax and spoil the finish.
- 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, (name of your newspaper), King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, N.Y. 10019.
Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.
¢ Moxie soda bottle, photo of Ted Williams, unopened, Moxie Bottling Co. of Boston, 7 oz., $65.
¢ Mattel talking Charmin' Chatty doll, blond, red, white and blue sailor's outfit, black-rimmed glasses, 24 inches, $110.
¢ Lalique amber-frosted figure, Caroline Turtle, inscribed, 6 inches, $375.
¢ Spatterware sugar bowl, cover, green, peafowl pattern, purple, green and red peafowl, 4 1/4 inches, $385.
¢ Mettlach stein No. 1403, cavalier drinking in cellar, etched, 1/2 liter, $410.
¢ Akron Brewing Co. advertising sign, tobacco and breweries, veneer over plywood, pictures working plant, 1905, 36 x 24 inches, $460.
¢ Lockwood tin muffin mold, 24 hearts, 17 x 25 inches, $605.
¢ Hooked rug, 2 shades of brown on tan ground, green border, female dog holding a leash in mouth, attached to her puppy, 25 x 40 inches, $635.
¢ Mickey Mouse Chums membership card, issued in 1930s by the English Weekly Club, 3 1/2 x 4 2/4 inches, $1,725.