Archive for Thursday, January 13, 2005

Papier-mâche furniture difficult to repair

January 13, 2005


Advertisements in the 18th century didn't offer "chewed paper" furniture for sale.

Instead, the furniture was described by its French name, "papier-mâche." A mixture of paper, glue, chalk and other ingredients was molded and baked so it would become hard enough to paint. Small boxes and trays had been made of papier-mâche for centuries in China, Persia and India. Most of these pieces were covered with lacquer, then decorated.

By the 18th century, papier-mâche also was made in France, Germany, Russia and England. By 1830, improvements in manufacturing methods produced papier-mâche strong enough to be used for furniture. The best-known papier-mâche makers worked in the Birmingham area of England, manufacturing everything from snuffboxes and candlesticks to settees and tilt-top tables. Most pieces were elaborately decorated with paint, gilding and mother-of-pearl inlay.

Papier-mâche furniture can be found today at antiques sales, but be careful to check the condition. Papier-mâche is difficult to repair and cannot be refinished.

Q:I need help figuring out what to do with a box of posters I have had for a long time. The posters are all 2 feet by 3 feet and have late-1940s or early-1950s copyright dates. They were published by the Elliott Service Co. of New York City. I recognize two of the pictures. One is Norman Rockwell's print of a telephone lineman, and the other is a close-up of Emmett Kelly, the famous clown. The posters were apparently used at factories or businesses to encourage employees to work hard. The bottom third of each one is filled with advice, such as "Every job helps to move us forward." Across the very bottom are what appear to be wartime phrases, such as "Your company's prosperity is your best security."

A:Your posters, printed after World War II, probably used artwork originally made for other purposes. For example, Rockwell's painting of the telephone lineman was originally a 1947 AT&T; promotion. But after a while, other companies would have been able to use these images with permission -- and could add their own messages. Messages of war, peace and security continued through the early 1950s, while the Korean War was going on and the Cold War was under way. Elliott Services Co. was known for producing posters designed to discourage union membership. Your posters were made to be hung in company cafeterias or coffee rooms to help employees feel a sense of responsibility and cooperation. Posters like yours are not selling for high prices today.

Q: In 1970, I acquired a butter plate with a stylized hummingbird in the middle. The bottom is marked "Made expressly for Santa Fe dining car service." I'm assuming that this dish was originally made for the Santa Fe railroad. I know I've seen reissues of this pattern at a mall in Albuquerque, N.M.

A: Your individual butter plate is a piece of railroad china in the Mimbreno pattern. The pattern was designed by Mary Colter, an artist who worked for the Santa Fe Railway Co. and its food service, the Fred Harvey Co. Colter's designs were inspired by the pottery of the Mimbres Indians of the Southwest -- pottery originally made about A.D. 1100. Santa Fe's Mimbreno china was manufactured by the Onondaga Pottery Co. of Syracuse, N.Y., better known by its trade name, Syracuse China. The Mimbreno pattern was produced from 1936 to 1970 and was used starting in 1937 on Santa Fe's Chief and Super Chief trains, which ran between Chicago and California. Known reproductions are marked as reproductions. Your original butter dish would sell for about $30.

Q: I found a Walt Disney inflatable pool toy when I was cleaning out my parents' house. I think it's from the 1940s. It's white, with drawings in red, yellow and black. The four illustrations picture Mickey and Huey sailing, Pluto in a bucket with Dewey swimming, Donald Duck and Louie fishing from a boat, and Goofy rowing. It is marked "Ideal." Our grandchildren have been enjoying the toy in our pool, but I'm wondering if the ring is valuable.

A: Inflatable toys -- even Disney's -- sell for only a few dollars. Ideal made inflatable toys for Disney from 1968 until 1982, so your blowup ring was not made earlier than 1968. Let your grandkids play with the toy, unless you want to save it from further wear and tear.

Q: I inherited a sapphire ring from my grandmother. I love the ring, but I also love the sterling-silver ring box that came with it. How rare is this type of box? Does it have a value by itself?

A: Sterling-silver ring boxes were not widely distributed. Most date from between 1880 and 1960, and were sold to jewelry and department stores. The boxes were given to customers who purchased rings expensive enough to deserve a sterling box. Today the boxes are considered little treasures by some collectors. You'll find them for sale at prices ranging from $40 to $250.


If wooden nesting dolls stick, try putting a few drops of baby oil into the space between the dolls. Then try separating the dolls.

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.English silver toast rack, arched form, 5-slice, Sheffield hallmark, 1911-'12, 4 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches, $200.Sunrise Beer tray, Sunrise Brewing Co., Cleveland, round, tin, 1930s, 12 inches, $225.Van Briggle Pottery owl-shaped electrified candle sconce, cover, Persian Rose glaze, yellow glass eyes, 1920s, 9 inches, $345.Jacquard coverlet, navy blue and natural, floral medallion and bird border, corner block reads "Peter Uhl, Trumbull [Co., Ohio], Nancy Lowers, 1840," 2 pieces, 66 x 84 inches, $480.Fry cut-glass atomizer, opalescent with classical pattern on blue base, pump, 7 1/2 inches, $545.Writing-arm Windsor chair, black paint, mustard stenciling, half spindle, plank seat, bamboo-style legs, 36 inches, $805.Black Twist & Turn Francie doll, brunette hair, pink lips, rooted eyelashes, bendable legs, $950.George III banjo barometer, inlaid mahogany and ebony, pediment top, ivory rosettes, brass finial, marked "T. Coibetti," 42 inches, $1,150.Steiff teddy bear, pale-blond mohair, swivel head, amber glass eyes, black embroidered nose tip, mouth and paw pads, 1930, 13 inches, $1,600.

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