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Centuries old, aquariums have always been a way to keep fish

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By Terry Kovel
  • This unusual fish bowl was made by an unknown factory, but it appealed to bidders and sold for $2,540 at a Cincinnati auction.

    Cowles Syndicate Inc.

    This unusual fish bowl was made by an unknown factory, but it appealed to bidders and sold for $2,540 at a Cincinnati auction.

Did you have a bowl filled with pet fish when you were young? The idea dates back to the Roman Empire, when carp were kept in marble tanks.
Once panes of glass were made, a pane could be used on one side of the tank so people could more easily watch the activities of the fish. The Chinese were making large porcelain tubs for goldfish by the 1400s.
Copies of these tubs are still being made and sold, although they are usually used for plants, not fish. By the 19th century, there were aquariums and fish bowls that look like those found today.
Raising fish became an important hobby, and the first public aquarium opened in 1853. By 1900 there were aquariums and fish bowls made in fanciful shapes, and some were even part of a planter or lamp. It is said that keeping fish is one of America's most popular hobbies.
So when a fishbowl topped by three ceramic polar bears was auctioned at Humler & Nolan in Cincinnati, it's not surprising that it sold for $2,540. The fish bowl is cleverly designed. A porcelain "basket" holds an ice cave (the bowl). It's topped by the bears, and openings show the bowl and active fish.
It's about 24 inches high and 15 inches in diameter, big enough to hold a few fish and plants. The bowl is lit from below. The maker is unknown, but it's signed "Makonicka." The bears and ice are designed in a style popular after 1890.
Q: A few years ago, I bought a round 60-inch dining-room table with a pedestal base at a Los Angeles antique shop. The dealer told me the table was made in Germany, but there's no label or mark on it. The interesting thing about it is that there's a thick base under the tabletop that hides eight leaves. You can lift the top of the table and rotate the leaves out so they form a ring around the table, making the tabletop 80 inches in diameter. Have you ever seen a table like this?
A: Your table is called a "perimeter table," and the leaves are referred to as "perimeter leaves." The style has been around for decades and some cabinetmakers are building them today. A U.S. patent for this sort of table was granted in 1911. That was during an era when all sorts of different table extension designs were being invented.
Q: I'm trying to find information about my 5-foot Col. Sanders metal weathervane. I was among the crew who remodeled a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Miami in 1980. The weathervane was going to be trashed, and I was the only worker who wanted it. So I took it home and stored it in my garage for 32 years. The weathervane is a full figure of Col. Sanders holding his cane up in the air. The weathervane must have stood on top of the restaurant for about 20 years. What is it worth? How should I sell it?
A: Harland Sanders (1890-1980) opened his first restaurant in Corbin, Ky., in 1930. The first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise opened in 1952, and there were 600 by 1964. We have seen Col. Sanders weathervanes for sale at antique shows for about $500. But a few have sold at auction for $1,000 or more. Price depends not only on where and how you sell it, but also on condition. If your weathervane is not rusty and the colors aren't faded, contact an auction that specializes in advertising. You will have to pay a commission.
Q: We're moving and have a collection of old pictures in frames that my great-grandfather bought for $10 at a barn sale in the 1950s. One is a print of cattle and ducks that's signed by James M. Hart. Under his signature are the words "copyrighted 1899 by James M. Hart." There are some brown stains in the corner. Is it worth anything?
A: James McDougal Hart was born in Scotland in 1828. His family immigrated to Albany, N.Y., in 1830. Hart started out as a sign painter's apprentice, then studied art in Germany. In 1854 he opened a studio in Albany.
Later, he opened studios in Brooklyn and Keene Valley, N.Y. Hart died in 1901. Several of his works are in museums today. The brown stains on your print are called "foxing" and can be caused by deterioration due to age or by exposure to heat, cold or humidity.
If your pictures were stored in a barn, conditions were not ideal. Some oil paintings by James M. Hart sell for several thousand dollars. But his prints, in perfect condition, sell for just a few hundred dollars. Your print would be difficult to sell since it is in poor condition.
Q: In the late 1800s, my great-grandfather owned a tinware company in Cleveland called Mannen & Esterly Co. For the past 45 years, I have been trying to gather information about the company. As for its products, so far I have only found a few of the company's painted tea boxes, and they're in collections.
A: John E. Mannen is listed in the 1886 Cleveland city directory as a tinsmith. In 1894-95, his business is listed as "stoves." By then he had moved to the address that would later become that of Mannen & Esterly.
Mannen and Willis M. Esterly were granted a patent for a "clothes dryer for laundries" in 1903 and another for a "heating apparatus" in 1904. By 1909 the company advertised that it made sheet-metal goods, plain and decorated cans, japanning, "Manest" laundry dryers,
"Manest" natural gas furnaces, dust separators, and exhaust and blow pipework. By 1919 the name of the business became "John E. Mannen Co., successor to Mannen & Esterly." That company made Dri-Rite laundry dryers and Age-Gar garage heaters.
It was still in business in the 1920s, but by 1936 John Mannen is listed as president of the Metal Fabricating Corp. That company was founded in 1932 and is still in business in Cleveland, making metal boxes, cabinets, bins and specialty products. Since most Mannen & Esterly products were large appliances, you won't find much to collect other than the tin containers you have already found.
Write to Terry Kovel, (The Herald), King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.
2012, Cowles Syndicate Inc.
On the block
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.
• Ideal doll, Tiny Kissy, vinyl head, brown rooted saran hair, pixie cut, green eyes, plastic arms and legs, hands jointed at wrists, push hands together she puckers up, 1960s, 16 inches, $45.
• Evel Knievel lunch box, metal, image of Evel smiling and jumping canyon in rocket vehicle, 1974, Aladdin, $55.
• Pierre the Chef wall clock, white hat and uniform, holding clock, electric, Sessions, 1950s, 10 x 7 inches, $60.
• Gumball coin bank, Huckleberry Hound, tin lithograph, Hound, Jinks, Pixie, Dixie and Yogi Bear, 1960 Hanna Barbera copyright, Knickerbocker, 11 inches, $90.
• Sterling-silver cheese slicer, acorn pattern, Georg Jensen, 3 x 81/4 inches, $165.
• Duncan & Miller pressed-glass pitcher, Button Arches pattern, ruby stain, clear base and handle, c. 1900, 12 inches, $235.
• Moorcroft bowl, orchid pattern, smoke color fades to cobalt, 12 x 51/2 inches, $325.
• Windsor chair, brace-back, comb-back, continuous arm, shaped plank seat, turned legs, paper label, Wallace Nutting, early 1900s, 441/2 inches, $415.
• Indian Motorcycles 1913 catalog, illustrated, black-and-white embossed cover with red image of cycle, 24 pages, 93/4 x 61/2 inches, $600.
• Amish quilt, cotton, diamonds, stars and feathers, navy, red and pink, brown border, Lancaster, Pa., 1925-1940, 75 x 89 inches, $1,280.
Story tags » Antiques

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