Your great-grandmother may have used this antique box in her kitchen, but not many of us use it today since there are newer, faster ways to get the same result.
The pine box is 27 inches high by 36 inches wide and 21 inches deep. It has dovetailed sides and tapered legs. The removable top is made of two boards. Give up? It is a dough box used for proofing bread dough.
The box was filled with flour, then water was added and the mixture was kneaded. More ingredients were added, including yeast, and more kneading. Then a rest, letting the dough rise, punching it down, kneading it again, reshaping and letting it rest. This was done several times.
When the dough felt right, the box was covered and moved to a warm place where the dough could “proof.” That is what the final rise is called. It was shaped again, put in the oven and baked. Families ate a lot of bread, and most housewives made bread at least once a week.
The finished bread was taken from the oven to rest on the lid of the dough box, then cut and served. And the lid had another use. It kept the mice and bugs away from the bread.
The antique box sold for just $219. Today they make electric proofing boxes to do this work.
Q: A very old silver cup that has been passed down in the family has not one, but two handles. Why? It has an English silver mark for 1671.
A: The two-handle cup was used to drink caudle or posset. Most of the cups were made and used between 1650 and 1690. The body of the cup was covered with chased flowers and animals. Each cup had a lid. The cups were popular with the wealthy and were sometimes given as trophies. They are not often added to large silver collections today because so few old ones are offered for sale. An antique cup would sell for over $2,000. The full-sized cup held caudle and other hot drinks at parties. White caudle was made from oatmeal, spices and white wine. Brown caudle used ale, brandy or dark wine. There was also a non-alcoholic tea caudle made with tea, eggs and spices. Posset was made of eggs, milk, cream, sugar, almond extract, lemon rind and scotch whiskey, topped with meringue. All these drinks were served hot. It must have been great on a cold night. Small cups were made to be used by invalids who needed both handles but probably drank different mixtures.
Q: I have an old rug labeled “Grenfell Industries, Newfoundland, Labrador” that I was told is valuable. The rug pictures Eskimos in dogsleds racing on snow. What can you tell me about it?
A: Sir Wilfred Grenfell was a medical missionary who founded hospitals, schools and orphanages for Eskimos in Labrador, Canada, in about 1900. He also started a rug making industry to make money for the area. The rugs were hooked from material that was pulled through openings in a burlap backing. The designs featured local scenes with polar bears, Canadian Geese and puffins, local birds. They stopped making the rugs about 1930. A few collectors were buying them in the 1950s, but they became important examples of folk art around 1980. Average-sized rugs made to put in front of a door sell for a few hundred dollars. Exceptional rugs, either very large or those decorated with a detailed scene, can bring over a thousand dollars at auction.
Q: We have quite a lot of pieces of Meissen china that my in-laws brought from Germany after the war. It’s just boxed up and put away. Is there a market for these items?
A: Porcelain has been made in Meissen, a town in Germany, since 1710. Any china made in the town can be called Meissen. The most famous Meissen factory is the one that used a crossed swords mark. Its porcelain was the finest quality. Pieces sell well, and can be sold at an auction, to an antiques shop or at an antique show. Authentic Meissen by the original company (the Royal Porcelain Factory in Meissen) sells for hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on style, age, fame of artist and size.
Q: My husband was an avid Avon bottle collector. He just died and I have thousands of different bottles in my basement — trains, old-time pipes, a full wall of cars, guns and more. Avon is not sold in our area like it used to be, so can you tell me what I might do with all his treasures?
A: Avon started in 1886 as the California Perfume Co. The name Avon wasn’t used until 1929. The company became Avon Products Inc. in 1939. It made many limited-edition ceramic, glass and plastic figural bottles filled with cosmetic products from 1965 to 1980. Collecting them was a huge fad for about 20 years. That is no longer true. There are still dedicated Avon collectors out there, but prices are very low. If you want to get rid of your husband’s whole collection at once, contact charitable resale shops in your area to ask if they would be interested in the collection as a donation. If you want to do more work and sell one or a few bottles at a time, use eBay or another online site, or look for Avon collectors’ websites. There is an Avon collectors Facebook group, but it appears most group members are selling, not buying. The Kovels.com online price guide lists close to 1,000 prices of Avon bottles.