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Archive for Thursday, December 13, 2012

Kovel’s Antiques: Collectors solve mysterious origin story of animal-shaped pitchers

December 13, 2012

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In the 1980s, collectors tried to solve the mystery of who made a series of red, black and cream-colored pitchers shaped like animals and birds. They were all marked “hand painted Erphila” in a round cartouche. Some were also marked “est. 1926,” some “Germany” and some “Czechoslovakia.”

Years of research has finally solved the riddle. The pitchers come in two sizes, 9 inches or 6 inches high. The set includes a toucan, rooster, parrot, cat, dog, ram, goat, elephant, duck and perhaps others.

They were made in Czechoslovakia at the Ditmer Urbach Factory. The history of the factory is uncertain, but separate Ditmer and Urbach factories merged sometime before 1913 into the Ditmer-Urbach Factory. The Nazis took it over in 1938, and it was still working in 1945.

The marks provide some clues. The word “Czechoslovakia” indicates a date in the 1920s. “Germany” was used later. Ebeling and Reuss, a Philadelphia importing company, ordered the set of pitchers for its customers and had them marked “E” for “Ebeling,” “R” for “Reuss” and “Phila” for “Philadelphia” (Erphila). That mark was used on many types of imported decorative wares.

Ebeling & Reuss is still in business in Allentown, Pa., and still uses the same mark on pieces it imports.

The vintage cat pitcher is the most expensive, selling for as much as $1,000. Other prices: rooster, $235; ram, $440; toucan, $485; and goat, $775. It sometimes pays to buy an unidentified piece that you like. The pitchers were about $25 each in the 1980s.

Years ago, we bought a grandfather clock from a friend whose ceiling was not high enough for the clock. The clock is marked “Royal Furniture, Grand Rapids.” Can you tell us something about the maker and age of our clock?

Royal Furniture Co. was in business in Grand Rapids, Mich., from 1892 to 1931. But the company’s ownership changed in 1919, and the new owner’s name, Robert W. Irwin, was added to Royal’s marks that year. So your clock was made between 1892 and 1919.

Royal made high-quality furniture, including grandfather clock cases, but the internal clock mechanism was made by another company, probably the Charles Jacques Clock Co. of New York City. Charles Jacques was known to supply some grandfather clockworks to Royal.

Tip: Switch dishwasher detergent brands periodically. This helps to keep the inside of the dishwasher and your dishes free of any chemical buildup. Glass will have more sparkle.

Kovels.com lists publications, clubs, appraisers, auction houses, people who sell parts or repair antiques and more.

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