A dinner plate decorated with a picture of the Boston Massacre would not be the work of a current designer. Modern dinnerware includes solid-color pieces with no decoration; white or cream-colored plates decorated with a single flower or abstract pattern; colorful wild animals or fruit; bands or blocks of color; or informal peasant designs.
The dishes themselves are often in unusual shapes, very unlike the dinnerware of past centuries. But some old patterns, like the transfer wares first made in the late 1700s, remain popular.
It is easy to assemble a set of vintage blue-and-white transfer dishes, but other colors are scarce. In the 1800s, the same designs were made with brown, red, green or purple transfers. Some pieces were made with two- or even three-color decorations. Others were made from a single-transfer design that was hand-colored with several colors. Celebrate patriotic holidays throughout the year with transfer wares showing American historic events.
Q: I have a small political pinback button with a sepia-tone photograph of Ulysses S. Grant. What is it worth?
A: Grant was U.S. president from 1869 to 1877, but celluloid or tin political buttons with pinbacks were not made until 1896. So your button is a "fantasy," one that doesn't even copy an original; it would be worth about $5. Many reproductions of political buttons have been made in the past 30 or 40 years. Many are marked on the back with the word "reproduction" or a recent date.
Q: I inherited a trestle table that's 60 inches long and 24 inches wide. It has a low stretcher and a second, higher, shelf stretcher. The mark on the underside is stamped into the wood and says "Kiel Furniture Co., Milwaukee, Wis."
A: Kiel Manufacturing Co. was founded in Kiel, Wis., 65 miles north of Milwaukee, in 1892. Its name was changed to Kiel Furniture Co. in 1907, and three years later it acquired a plant in Milwaukee. Side and occasional tables were made at the Kiel plant, while dining-room sets were manufactured in Milwaukee. The company became most famous for its patented Kiel Radio Table, introduced in the late 1920s. It looked just like an occasional table, but hidden inside was an Atwater-Kent radio. It was a great seller until the Depression, when sales virtually stopped and Kiel had to close its Milwaukee plant.
In 1935, one of Kiel's managers bought the company and changed its name to his own, A.A. Laun Furniture Co. It's still in business. Your table, made in Milwaukee, was manufactured between 1910 and 1935, but it most likely dates from the 1920s.
Q: In one of your recent columns, you answered a question about Fairy brand soap and mentioned that early ads featured a little girl sitting on an oval cake of soap. My grandfather, Olof Lofberg, did the original painting for that ad about 1906. The model was my Aunt Inez. I am hoping you can tell me where I can find a Tetley's Tea advertising poster that my grandfather did about the same time. In it, my father, about 4 years old, is dressed in a turban as a swami and is reading Inez's fortune in a teacup. The tag line is "I can read in the cup that Tetley's Teas please."
A: We often receive wonderful letters like yours, explaining the origin of an antique piece of advertising or telling a family story about the creation of a new doll or toy. Joseph Tetley & Co. was founded in England in 1837, and its products were first sold in the United States in 1888. A New York City plant - the first Tetley plant in the United States - opened in 1913. To find a copy of the ad your father was in will be difficult. Hunt on the Internet, and contact auctions that specialize in antique advertising.
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.
¢ Stevengraph silk picture, "Signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4th 1776," 2 1/2 x 7 inches, $125.
¢ World War I "Victory Liberty Loan" poster, Lady Liberty with flag, 1919, Howard Chandler Christy, 38 x 26 inches, $205.
¢ Freundlich soldier doll, tag reads "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition," painted features, molded khaki cap, uniform, 15 inches, $275.
¢ Uncle Sam candy container, glass, Uncle Sam standing by barrel, tin screw cap, coin slot, c. 1918, 4 inches, $310.
¢ Sampler, green, gold, ivory, red and tan silk on linen, woman seated, Adam and Eve by her side, flower, crowns, row of deer, "Anna Smallman, August 1789," 14 x 18 inches, $895.
¢ Cameo-glass perfume, lay-down teardrop form, Prussian blue design of leafy stemmed flowers and ferns, silver lid, c. 1880, 4 inches, $940.