Eagles take wing on 19th century antiques

  • Wednesday, June 2, 2004 9:00pm
  • Life

The bald eagle has been a symbol of our country since June 20, 1782, when it finally became part of the Great Seal of the United States. Congress had appointed three committees and rejected seal designs for six years. The eagle immediately became popular, and it was soon pictured on dishes, drapery fabric, kitchen crocks, wallpaper, rugs, stoves, quilts and furniture.

The eagle was posed with wings outstretched for over-the-door carvings, and flying eagles were carved for ship mastheads. The eagle remained a popular design in the 19th century and was used on dishes, furniture and other household objects.

Today it is less fashionable, but it is still seen in political cartoons, drawings and posters. Old eagle-decorated pieces, especially inlaid furniture, sell well today. So do large carvings of eagles.

I inherited a small, walnut gateleg table. Can you tell me when gateleg tables were first made?

Gateleg tables have been made since the late 1700s. It’s called a “gateleg” because the double-legged support that swings out to hold up each leaf looks like a gate. An expert has to look carefully at your table to judge its age. The style of the legs and leaves on your table and its construction details are clues. Most early tables have a drawer at one end. The fact that your table is walnut is a good sign that it is old. Most reproductions are mahogany.

A friend gave me a decorative ceramic ewer about 12 inches high, whose mark I was able to identify using “Kovels’ Dictionary of Marks.” The mark, a crown over an elaborate cipher, also includes the letters “P” and “LW.” In the book, the mark is identified as “Poppelsdorf, Germany, faience, porcelain, 1825.” Can you tell me what the ewer is worth?

The letter “P” in the mark stands for “Poppelsdorf,” another name for the German city of Bonn. The “LW” stands for “Ludwig Wessel,” who in 1825 bought the factory where your ewer was made. But the mark on your item was used later, from about 1892 to 1902. The Ludwig Wessel factory made faience (tin-glazed earthenware) and porcelain decorative and household items. A Ludwig Wessel large decorative ewer, whether faience or porcelain, could sell for several hundred dollars.

As a child during the 1950s, I exchanged cups and saucers as birthday gifts with my friends. One of my saucers is marked “Hand Painted China, Made in Occupied Japan.” The bottom of the matching cup, when held to the light, shows a Japanese woman’s head. What can you tell me about this?

Anything marked “Made in Occupied Japan” was produced between 1947 and 1952, when Japan was occupied by American forces after World War II. These items, many of them ceramic, were manufactured for export to the United States. The bottom of your teacup is a type of lithophane, a porcelain image created by casting clay in several thicknesses. You can see the image only if you hold the porcelain up to a light.

Are my grandmother’s old suitcases worth saving? They are worn but sturdy.

Just about anything old is worth saving. But old suitcases and trunks are growing in popularity. Some people are even using stacks of them as coffee or end tables. You don’t say how old the suitcases are or who made them. If they were made by Louis Vuitton, they are particularly valuable. Louis Vuitton started making luggage in France in the 1850s. A Vuitton case from the 1930s can sell for more than $500. Don’t attempt any homemade repairs or cleanings. Find a professional in your area.

Can you give me information about a 4-inch, off-white, plastic figurine of a pregnant girl on a base printed with the words “Kilroy was here”?

The figurine is a gag item that pokes fun at a phrase used as graffiti by American GIs. The origin of the phrase is unknown, but it seems to have made its first appearance on military docks and ships in late 1939, the year World War II started in Europe. The New York Times, in a 1946 article, credited a shipyard welding inspector named James J. Kilroy with introducing the phrase as a way to mark what he had inspected on a ship. The phrase took on a life of its own and began appearing in out-of-the-way spots all over the world. It was generally meant to prove that members of the U.S. armed forces had been there first. During the war, supposedly, some pregnant women showed up in delivery rooms with the phrase scrawled on their bellies. Your figurine is based on those tales. Hartland Plastics, best known for its figurines of major league baseball players, is believed to have made some of the pregnant Kilroy figurines. They sell for about $10.

The Kovels answer as many questions as possible through the column. Write to Kovels, the Herald, King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019.

2004 by 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.

Salt and pepper shakers, Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol, gold trim, Ceramic Arts Studio, 4 inches, $20.

Political button, “Minnesota Women for Humphrey,” black, pink and white, celluloid, 1954, 21/4 inches, $185.

Roseville hanging planter, Gardenia pattern, ocher, embossed white flowers, green petals, 6 inches, $210.

Holland Butter banner, graphic of two Dutch children standing on pound of butter, gold ground, 30 x 37 inches, $250.

Celluloid dresser set, pearl-ized yellow, butterscotch, black trim, 1930s, 11 pieces, $310.

Royal Doulton plate, “Mary Arden’s Cottage,” Shakespeare Series, 1922, 101/4 inches, $370.

Amoeba-style cocktail table, free-form inset glass top, bleached ash and birch veneer, 1950s, 52 x 30 x 15 inches, $515.

Boston &Sandwich glass candlestick, apple green, petal-form socket on columnar square-step base, 1850-65, 9 inches, $560.

Steiff Red Riding Hood doll, pressed felt swivel head, black shoe-button eyes, red cape, 101/2 inches, $910.

Appliqued quilt, Sunbonnet Sue, red and white, picket finch border, 1800s, 84 x 88 inches, $1,200.

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.

Political button, “Phooey on Dewey,” celluloid, 1948, 11/4 inches, $50.

Hawkeye laundry basket, Burlington Basket Co., Iowa, patented 1938, 23 x 18 inches, $85.

Fishing catalog, “Old Town Canoe Co.,” color, 37 pages, 1930, $135.

Cambridge glass asparagus platter, Cleo pattern, green, 141/2 inches, $140.

Brush “Cow with Cat” cookie jar, marked, 10 inches, $195.

A&P Coffee clock, white metal, black numbers and hands, red writing, “Time to Change to A&P Coffee,” 1950s, 101/4 x 61/4 inches, $275.

Ken doll, Arabian Nights theme, red velvet coat, turban, Mattel, No. 0774, 1964, $310.

Cast-iron mechanical bank, Cabin, black man wearing red shirt and blue pants, by J.&E. Stevens, patented June 2, 1885, $575.

“The Thin Man” movie poster, William Powell and Myrna Loy, 1934, window card, $990.

French daybed, walnut, curved head and foot, carved rosettes, bud finials, tapering standards, top-shaped feet, velvet upholstery, c. 1900, 37 x 36 x 77 inches, $1,150.

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