Kovel’s Antiques: Spiders were once considered lucky, not scary

Halloween decorations today include jack-o’-lanterns, black cats, spiders, bats, ghosts, vampires, witches and other spooky, scary things. But in past years, many of these creatures were not threatening.

In the early days of Rookwood Pottery, an art pottery in Cincinnati (1880-1960), several decorators included bats, spiders and spider webs in the hand-painted scenes on vases and bowls.

Maria Longworth Nichols, Albert Robert Valentien, Laura Fry, Matthew Daly and Josephine Zettel were decorators who made similar pieces featuring bats and spiders in the late 1800s. They marked pieces with their initials as well as the word “Rookwood.”

Their designs were influenced by the Japanese pottery shown at the 1876 World’s Fair in Philadelphia. Spider designs continued to be popular until as late as 1946, when Kay Ley created a vase covered in spiders and spider webs.

Bats and spiders were not part of Halloween decorations until the 1920s and did not become popular features of collectibles until the 1970s.

Today, we might not choose a flower vase for the dinner table that included “bugs,” but in Victorian times the little creatures were considered lucky, not frightening.

Q: I found a 1950s election item of unopened cigarettes with a picture of Eisenhower and the words “I Like Ike” on the front. On the back it says “Eisenhower for President.” Is it worth anything?

A: Cigarette packs for Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Republican candidate, and Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic candidate, were made by the Tobacco Blending Corp. of Louisville, Ky., during the 1952 presidential campaign.

The packs were displayed on store counters, and the number of packs sold for each candidate was thought to predict the outcome of the election. It was an early “straw poll.”

The sales of these two packages matched the actual presidential vote count better than political commentators’ predictions.

The Smithsonian Institution includes the two packs in its collection of political memorabilia.

Full packs can bring $30 to $45 today.

Tip: Clean dirty postcards with a piece of white bread. Be sure to cut the crust off first.