At cocktail hour, well-stocked liquor cabinets beckon

  • By Terry Kovel
  • Thursday, May 19, 2011 12:01am
  • Life

Drinks before or after dinner have been part of the ritual of dining in America since the 1800s. By then, the wealthy lived in houses that had a dining room, living room and perhaps a parlor or library.

Men and women enjoyed “4 o’clock tea” during Victorian times, but it was usually a ladies

‘ get-together. But after a dinner party, it was customary for the men to go to the library for brandy and cigars.

Drinking at home was either accepted or frowned upon at various times in past centuries. In the 1700s, alcoholic drinks were served to everyone. It was the safest thing to drink; clean water was not always available.

In the years since then, there have been times when drinking was an important part of social events and times when it was illegal. Through all of these years, furniture, decanters, glasses and other things were made to use when serving drinks.

Some dining-room sideboards in the early 1800s had a closed section deep enough to hold a bottle of wine or brandy to serve at dinner. In Victorian times, bottles and glasses often were kept on a tabletop or inside a closed cabinet.

Closed cabinets with hidden sections for bottles and glasses were popular after 1900. They often were made in a formal style from an earlier period. The end of Prohibition in 1933 brought whiskey out of hiding and back onto the table. By the 1950s, drinks often were served from a built-in bar in the recreation room.

Special-use furniture pieces, like the cabinet bar, have limited use today and are sometimes hard to sell. But exceptional examples by companies known for quality often sell at auction for higher than expected prices.

Q: I have an old “Flexy” sled made by the company that made Flexible Flyer sleds. It has wheels instead of runners. I paid only $2 for it when I was a kid because it was used, and I completely wore it out riding down a street in my neighborhood. Eventually, it wound up in my mother’s basement. Years later, I was cleaning our many old pieces and found it. It had only one wheel (badly worn), and I saw it as a challenge that I might reclaim through restoration. I found wheels at Sears that fit and successfully restored it, and now I have a gem. I would like to know if the company is still in business and if the old Flexy is valuable.

A: Samuel Leeds Allen invented a fertilizer drill and a seed drill in 1866. He later founded the S.L. Allen Co. in Philadelphia and manufactured small pieces of farm equipment. The company began making Flexible Flyers, the first steerable sleds, in 1889.

The Flexy, a wheeled sled designed for street use, was made from 1932 until the 1970s. Sleds were made in Medina, Ohio, from 1969 to 1973. Four different Flexy models were made: the Flexy Racer 100, 200, 300 and GTO. S.L. Allen Co. was sold to Leisure Group of Los Angeles in 1968.

Flexy sleds sold for $5.95 to $8.50 in 1935. The value today of a restored sled is $150 to $175.

Q: My old cookie jar is marked “JC, NAPCO, 1957.” It’s shaped like a blond princess wearing a yellow, green and white gown. Can you identify it for me?

A: You have a Cinderella cookie jar made by National Potteries Corp. (NAPCO) of Cleveland. The 1957 mark indicates the year the cookie jar was made. It would sell today for $100 to $200, depending on its condition.

Q: My maple drop-leaf extension table is 58 inches long and has seven 11-inch leaves. The only mark on it is a stamp that says “reliable extension table slide manuf. for Jno. Duer & Sons.”

A: John Duer & Sons was a hardware business in Baltimore from about the turn of the 20th century through the early decades of the 1900s.

The mark relates to the manufacturer of the extension device on your table, not to the cabinetmaker or company that made your table. Duer’s business may have made the extension device or purchased it for distribution to table manufacturers.

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.

American Airlines Stetson Flagship hatbox, oval, image of airliner flying through blue sky and white clouds, Stetson signature, AA logo, 15 x 13 x 7 inches, $30.

Ball Mason fruit jar, blue, zinc lid, patented Nov. 30, 1858, 1/2 gallon, $55.

Cissette ballerina doll, white tutu with felt flowers, ballet slippers, Madame Alexander, 1950s, 10 inches, $145.

Steiff donkey on wheels, stuffed, red and white leather bridle, blue blanket, metal frame with rubber wheels, Germany, 1940s, 33 x 39 inches, $460.

Blackamoor andirons, cast iron, red coat with black collar and pants, detachable fire dogs, c. 1900, 17 x 16 3/4 inches, $575.

Georg Jensen sterling-silver salad fork and spoon, Cactus pattern, marked “Denmark,” 6 1/2 inches, $630.

Trade sign, hanging canvas banner, “257 Hot Air Baths Skimmed,” pointed finger over name P.F. Cordell & Co., late 1800s, 53 x 36 inches, $645.

Corner cupboard, pine, one piece, two upper doors, shaped shelves, angel spandrels, one lower door, old blue paint, late 1700s, 90 x 42 x 22 inches, $1,145.

Tiffany Favrile bud vase, removable vase, enameled bronze base, circular foot, base marked, c. 1920, 11 1/2 inches, $1,840.

Teco vase, green trunklike body, shaped four-corner rim, circular base, stamped mark, 16 1/4 inches, $1,955.

Write to Terry Kovel, (The Herald), King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.
© 2011, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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