Archive for Sunday, May 23, 2004

Shaker rocking chair known as thoughtful gift

May 23, 2004

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Wedding anniversary celebrations and gifts were very different in Victorian times.

At an early anniversary, the bride and attendants tried to dress as they did on the day of the wedding, with the wedding clothes and similar bouquets. Special gifts were traditionally given for each anniversary, and the list has remained for today's celebrations.

The fifth year was the wooden anniversary, and an appropriate gift, according to the magazines of the day, was an inexpensive wooden bowl, pail or basket, possibly filled with flowers.

In the 19th century, a Shaker rocking chair was also considered a thoughtful, inexpensive gift. The 10th anniversary was tin, and amusing gifts were popular. Large tin pieces, like oversized hats or shoes, were made for the occasion. The 20th anniversary was ignored, because it was unlucky to celebrate it. Instead, the 21st was a celebration. Silver was the 25th, gold the 50th and diamond the 60th.

Today, one of the old tin gifts would be considered folk art worth hundreds of dollars. And a Shaker rocker could be an important gift for any anniversary, not just the wooden one. The Shakers, a religious sect in America since 1744, were known for their belief that their work should express simplicity and perfection. No extra embellishments were used. By the 1950s, the unique Shaker designs were admired by museums and collectors in many countries.

I have a bowl-shaped dish with a shallow, flat opening at the top. The body is smooth, except for a rough inch-wide band around the opening at the top. It is decorated with an incised Grecian figure sitting on a stool. The mark on the bottom is a Grecian soldier's head with the words "Athenian Art Ware" above it and "Frank Beardmore & Co., Fenton," below it.

Your dish is a match-holder. The opening at the top stores matches, and the rough edge around it is used as a striker. Frank Beardmore & Co. produced earthenware in the town of Fenton, Staffordshire, England, between 1903 and 1914.

I just read an article about compact discs being "collectibles of the future." Can this be true? They've only been around for 20 years or so.

If you define the word "collectible" as something that people collect, then CDs are collectible -- although most people collect CDs for the music. That's why stores that buy and sell used CDs have sprung up all across the country. These stores, however, sell nearly all used CDs for less than new ones. So if you expect your mountain of CDs to grow in value, you'll probably be disappointed. Nearly all CDs of any interest have been mass-produced in huge numbers. But there are exceptions. Independent-label CDs made for artists who later became famous can sell for high prices. Promotional CDs and CDs made by U.S. companies for foreign markets might also grow in value. And there are collectors who hunt for old CDs that have never been opened.

In the early 1970s, I purchased an all-white porcelain cat in an antiques shop in West Germany. The crouching cat is 16 inches long and 4 1/2 inches high. The name "Paul Zeiller" is stamped into the base. The mark on the underside is two crossed hammers with the initials "MO" and "I." Who made it?

The mark was used beginning about 1887 by Metzler & Ortloff Bros. (the "M" and "O" in the mark) of Ilmenau (the "I"), Germany. The firm was founded in 1875 and made household and decorative porcelain and doll heads. Paul Zeiller was a modeler for Metzler & Ortloff.

My grandmother, born in 1870, gave me her doll's bed. Her father owned a furniture store. The bed measures 25 inches by 15 inches. It is made of grained wood with carved decorations. Could this be a salesman's sample?

Miniature pieces of furniture, some the right size for large dolls, have been called "salesman's samples" and "apprentice pieces" for many years. In the 18th century, apprentices did make small versions of large pieces of furniture. In the 19th century, many pieces that are now called "salesman's samples" were well-made toys. A few pieces, like small lawn mowers or stoves, were real salesman's samples, made to be used for advertising or selling, and were identical to larger pieces, including the names and model numbers marked on the pieces.

How old are garden gnomes? I've collected a few, but they're plastic and didn't cost much.

Garden gnomes as lawn decorations date back to about 1900, when iron ones were manufactured in Germany. As their popularity spread, manufacturers started making them from concrete or composition. In the 1960s, plastic gnomes were introduced. All of these creatures are popular today, and new ones are being made.

Tip

Don't try to clean an oil painting with a cut potato. This old-wives'-tale method can damage the painting.




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