collectibles | Terry Kovel Mirrors magnified lamp light

  • Wednesday, October 6, 2010 2:21pm
  • Life

Before electricity, most people went to bed at sundown because their homes were dark. Candles, the glow of a fireplace and, by the 19th century, lamps using whale oil, lard, kerosene or gas added a little more light.

The rich decorated their rooms with mirrors and polished brass, luster-decorated ceramics and other items that reflected light.

It is said that when Thomas Edison was a child, his mother was sick but the doctor couldn’t help her because it was getting dark. Edison carried all the household’s mirrors and candles into his mother’s room so the candlelight was reflected in the mirrors, increasing the amount of light. The doctor was able to continue his work, and Edison’s mother recovered.

Decorative mirrors used in homes usually do not serve such a noble purpose, but even today when your electricity fails, it is wise to put candles in front of a mirror to reflect the light.

Our ancestors also knew that a convex mirror, one that has a surface that curves out, creates even more reflected light. From about 1800 to 1820, the “girandole” was a popular mirror to hang on a wall. It has a convex mirror, gilded frame and candleholders attached so that candlelight is reflected in the mirror.

These furnished light for evening gatherings. Copies of antique girandoles are being made today, but the candles are now electrified.

Elaborate antique girandoles sell for $2,000 to $20,000; recent copies sell for under $1,000.

Q: I bought an antique “Ideal Steinway” treadle sewing machine and can’t find any information about it. I would like to know where it was made and how old it is.

A: Homer Young Co. of Toledo, Ohio, advertised “Steinway” sewing machines in Good Housekeeping magazine in 1902. The company sold the machines only through mail-order catalogs. Thirty-five different styles were offered.

The maker of the machines was not mentioned, but the company claimed they were made by the world’s largest sewing-machine factory.

Sewing machines sold under a brand name that is not the maker’s name are referred to as “badged” machines. Many major manufacturers’ sewing machines were “badged” with the name of the company that offered them for sale.

Q: I have a glass juicer with the name “Sunkist” embossed in the glass. When was it made?

A: The Southern California Fruit Exchange, founded in 1893, changed its name to the California Fruit Growers Exchange in 1905 and adopted the Sunkist trademark in 1908.

In 1916 it began to promote drinking orange juice. Juice was made by hand-squeezing fresh oranges at home using a reamer (the collectors’ name for a juicer). A glass Sunkist reamer cost 10 cents back then.

Drinking orange or lemon juice has remained popular, but reamers lost some favor when electric juicers were introduced in the 1930s. Frozen juice concentrates, first sold in the 1940s, and bottled fresh orange juice have made reamers much less necessary.

But you can buy new glass, plastic or metal reamers or collect old ones, including ceramic examples. Look for combination reamers: a figural pitcher with a reamer cover or an old wooden two-piece hinged reamer you press to make juice.

The first patented reamer, dated 1889, was made in ceramic and metal versions. The Sunkist glass reamer is easy to find at prices from $10 to $50 online, but you would pay much less for it at a garage sale.

Q: I have an oval pendant given to me by my great-grandmother. I think she wore it in the 1920s. It’s a piece of glass carved from the back and held in a sterling-silver mount. A silver filigree tree branch and a tiny enameled blue bird are on the front of the glass. It’s about 2 inches long and is very delicate. What is this type of jewelry called? Value?

A: You probably have a pendant made from rock crystal, not glass. This type of jewelry, usually a pendant, is sometimes called “camphor glass” jewelry. It was very popular in the 1920s and ‘30s but has been out of style the past 25 years.

Large modern pieces or very ornate jewelry with colored stones and glitter has been popular instead. Rock-crystal pendants are subtle and feminine, but fragile. It is not used in rings because it could be easily hit and broken.

The pendants usually are on a delicate white-gold chain about 16 inches long. Look for a “14K” mark somewhere on the pendant or chain. A chain and pendant sell for about $300.

Q: I have an old bottle that’s embossed “U.S.A. Hosp. Dept.” Can you tell me who made it and how old it is?

A: Your bottle was made for the U.S. Army Hospital Department between 1863 and 1865, during the Civil War. The War Department had trouble getting enough medicine from pharmaceutical companies, so labs were set up to make the drugs they needed.

Most of the bottles were made in Pittsburgh, but some were made in Baltimore and St. Louis.

The bottles were crudely made and contained bubbles and flaws. Bottles were made in different colors and sizes and with several different styles of lettering. Some had paper labels.

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

&Copy; 2010, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

On the block

Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Price s vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.

Steeplechase Park admission ticket, Coney Island, N.Y., cardboard, image of George C. Tilyou on front, “10 rides $1.00” on back, blue on white, 1950s, 3 3/4 inches, $140.

“Remember Pearl Harbor” World War II bandanna, sailor, soldier, airman and Marine at each corner, red, white and blue, 21 x 22 inches, $150.

Sterling-silver dresser set, hand mirror, brush, boot hook, Art Nouveau maiden in relief, marked “Unger Brothers,” c. 1914, 10 inch mirror, $175.

Pabst Blue Ribbon countertop display, “What’ll You Have?” woman in large bonnet with blue trim and ribbon, painted plaster, 1950s, 11 inches, $180.

Regency-style armchair, fruitwood, needlepoint back and seat, scrolled arms and feet, scalloped seat rail, 1880s, 44 inches, $350.

Herend dolphin figurines, tails in air, brown-and-orange matte glaze, marked, 1940s, 4 inches, pair, $410.

Daredevil Motor Cop toy, policeman on motorcycle, tin windup, moves, tips over, rights itself, continues, Unique Art, 8 1/2 inches, $450.

Jacquard coverlet, two parts, red, blue, green and beige floral and star design, floral and vine border, c. 1837, 82 x 97 inches, $480.

Art glass vase, King Tut pattern, green and gold iridescent swirls, lavender highlights, mounted on flaring silver-plated base, 1920s, 13 inches, $585.

Marx Brothers doll set, Harpo, Chico and Groucho, pliable rubber heads, stuffed cloth bodies, movable legs and arms, National Mask &Puppet Co., 1950s, 17 inches, $2,150.

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