Milk glass, an opaque white glass, was of course named for its color. The thick white glass was first popular from 1870 to 1880. It regained popularity in the 1920s and '30s, then in the 1950s to '80s. Glass factories made thousands of covered dishes, pitchers, small trays and even figurines. But the descriptive terms "blue milk glass" or "black milk glass" are now used for some colored glass. Milk glass was made in many colors in the United States and Europe, especially France. The pieces are similar enough to be confusing. Portieux and Vallerysthal are two French names that appear on some colored milk glass made in the 20th century. The two companies merged in the 1970s. One unusual covered bowl made of blue milk glass by Portieux has a cover shaped like a fat man's head. He is smoking a pipe. A strange design for a 1933 sugar bowl.
Q: I have an antique walnut burl dresser with a marble top that belonged to my great-grandmother. It is identical to one described as belonging to President Truman's mother in Missouri. It has stamped on the back, "Mitchell & Rammil (?), Cincinnati, O." Can you tell me its origin?
A: Your dresser was made by Mitchell & Rammelsberg. The company was founded by Richard Mitchell and Frederick Rammelsberg in 1847 and continued under that name until 1881. Mitchell & Rammelsberg was one of the largest furniture manufacturers in the country and one of the first to use steam-powered machinery to make furniture. It had branches in New Orleans, St. Louis and Memphis, Tenn.
Q: Please identify some English china for me. Each piece is marked on the back with a green wreath around the words "England" and "W.H. Grindley & Co." A few of the dinner plates are also marked "Monmouth." The dishes have a blue and gold design around the edge.
A: The mark on your plates was used between about 1914 and 1925 by W.H. Grindley & Co. of Tunstall, Staffordshire, England. The company was started by William Harry Grindley in 1880 and stayed in business until 1991. "Monmouth" is the pattern name, although Grindley's made two different blue and gold Monmouth patterns - one used on dishes with a smooth edge and the other on dishes with a scalloped edge. A dinner plate in excellent condition in either pattern sells for about $15 at a replacement service.
Q: I bought a small tole box that has remnants of Scotch tape on it in a few spots. The remnants have dried on the paint. How can I remove the sticky stuff without damaging the paint?
A: Tole is sometimes called japanned ware, pontypool or toleware. Whatever it's called, it's painted tin. Collectors want antique toleware, which dates from the 19th century. Whoever stuck cellophane tape on your box wasn't thinking. It might be impossible to remove the gluey residue without damaging the paint. Try a little Goo Gone, available at your local hardware store. But use only a tiny bit on a cotton swab to test it. If it damages the paint, leave the residue alone. It might eventually dry up and fall off.
Q: I have an unusual Indian nickel. The Indian head has been carved to look like a Civil War soldier. I was told it is a "hobo nickel."
A: The term "hobo nickel" is used to describe nickels that have been altered by carving. Originally they were hand-carved by hoboes and were traded for food, clothing or other necessities. Carvings were done on other coins, but most were made on the Indian head nickel, minted from 1913 to 1938. The nickel was thicker and softer than other denominations, making it easier to carve. Faces of famous people, presidents, soldiers and other people were carved from the Indian head. The buffalo on the reverse side was often carved into different animals or other designs. When the Indian head nickel was no longer being made, carvers used worn coins or the newly minted Jefferson nickels. Modern hobo nickels are being made. There is a club with a Web site and newsletter for collectors: The Original Hobo Nickel Society, 12000 Sunset Ridge Dr., Ozawkie, KS 66070, www.hobonickels.org.
Tip: Use a whisk broom, not a vacuum cleaner, to dust old upholstered furniture. The vacuum tends to pull the threads from the fabric.