Archive for Sunday, August 29, 2010

Kovel’s Antiques: Kitchen pantry items created in 19th century

August 29, 2010


The foods we favor have changed as technology has changed. A method of preserving food in glass containers was developed in the late 17th century. Canned food became available by 1813. Fresh salads were not a winter food until the early 1900s, when refrigerated train cars could carry lettuce from California to the East Coast. Peas, beans, corn and more were brought to snowy states during winter months after Clarence Birdseye developed frozen food in 1923.

Sardines kept in brine or oil were popular rarities by the 15th century. Canned sardines were exotic, expensive delicacies served as a soup course at dinner parties as late as the 1860s. Maine sardines were canned by the 1870s. Collectors can find special rectangular covered dishes that were made to hold sardines in the can at a Victorian dinner party. Majolica, glass, silver and porcelain sardine dishes were made. There were also special sardine forks and tongs. By the 1900s, sardines were commonplace and were served as snacks or portable lunches at saloons. Today it is hard to imagine that sardines were once eaten only by the wealthy.

I have a countertop painted tin pantry that includes a clock, several towers with lids, several drawers and a few bins. It is marked “Portable Pantry Company, Cincinnati, Ohio.” Do you know how it was used?

You have a kitchen storage unit that was popular in the 1890s but lost favor when kitchens became larger and storage was offered in wall cabinets or large worktables with storage above. The Portable Pantry Co. of Cincinnati had a manufacturing plant in Salinas, Ohio. The towers held and dispensed flour and perhaps rice. The small drawers held spices, and the bins held bread products. By the early 1900s, the “Hoosier cabinet” was the popular choice for kitchen storage and workspace. An early version was a wooden table with an enameled top used as a work surface. It also had an arrangement of bins, towers and drawers to keep cooking materials organized. Painted tin pantries like yours were made by several companies. They sell for $200 to $500, depending on condition and decoration.

Q: An old friend gave me a porcelain bowl that belonged to her parents. She always called it a “berry bowl.” The bottom is marked with a stylized bird and “MZ Austria” and also with “H & C” inside a crown between the words “Imperial” and “Carlsbad.” Please tell me what a berry bowl is, who made my bowl and when it was made.

A: Berry bowls are small bowls, 3 to 4 inches in diameter, that came in a set with a “master” berry bowl. Most antique sets were made with four or six small bowls. Berries or mixed fruits were served from the big bowl into the smaller bowls. Your bowl was made at a factory owned by Moritz Zdekauer in Altrohlau, Bohemia (now Stara Role, Czech Republic), in about 1909-10. The second mark was used by Hamburger & Co., a New York City importing company in business during the first decade of the 20th century. Many American importers bought porcelain from Europe and then added their own mark to each piece.

Q: We have a small nickel-plated cast-iron stove that’s just 17 1/2 inches high, 23 inches wide and 9 inches deep. The oven door is embossed with the word “Globe,” the shelf on the lower left side is labeled “Globe Range,” and the back is embossed “Kenton Brand.” Except for the six-burner cooking surface and the back, the stove is covered with a vine-like interwoven pattern. We have four cooking utensils and the lid handle that can be used for shaking the grate. The stove was owned by my aunt, born in 1915, who said that her father bought it for her when she was a little girl. Was it manufactured about that time? Is it considered a salesman’s sample or a child’s toy? And what do you think it would sell for?

A: You have a great toy, made by a toy company and meant to be used by a child. Kenton Hardware Co. of Kenton, Ohio, was founded in 1890 and started manufacturing cast-iron toys in 1894. Its toy stoves were introduced in about 1900 and continued to be produced into the 1920s. Your aunt may have received it new as a 5-year-old. Kenton made toy stoves in both a child size, like yours, and in a smaller doll size. They could burn coal, too, so a child could bake a biscuit while her mother made a batch alongside her. That wouldn’t be considered safe today. A stove identical to yours, but without the set of pots and pans, auctioned for just under $2,000 in 2003.

Q: In 1940 my father bought an electric table lamp at a secondhand store. The base is metal and heavy. The shade is made of heavy paper decorated with a ship scene. The lamp has three candle bulbs with separate pull chains. The underside of the base is marked “Pat. App. For, Rembrandt, R8136” I am going to get the lamp rewired and wonder how old it is and what it’s worth.

A: Rembrandt Lamp Corp. was in business in Chicago from at least the 1920s into the 1970s. It later became a division of the Harris Marcus Group. Your lamp probably dates from the 1940s or ‘50s. If the shade is in perfect condition, the lamp could sell for more than $100.

Tip: Don’t leave the door of an empty cabinet or bookcase open. The weight may be enough to tip it over.

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