Hester Bateman left her mark as a silversmith

  • By Ralph and Terry Kovel / Antiques & Collectibles
  • Wednesday, June 7, 2006 9:00pm
  • Life

One of the most famous 18th-century English silversmiths was a woman. Hester Bateman, the illiterate mother of three sons, was widowed in 1760 when her husband John, a silversmith, died. She took over the business and, with her sons, John, Peter and Jonathan, made silver and increased the importance of the shop.

Later, her daughter-in-law Ann, her grandson William, and her great-grandson William II joined the family business. All have recorded marks. Hester used the script letters HB; other family members used block-letter initials.

Bateman silver is known for its graceful design and quality of workmanship. Hester used beaded edges and bright-cut engraving on many pieces. The Batemans made silver flatware and serving dishes, inkwells and even horse-racing trophies.

Any silver by Hester Bateman and her family is very collectible today. Both the history of a successful businesswoman of the 18th century and the quality of the silver make it popular with collectors. Prices range from about $500 for sugar tongs to thousands of dollars for large pieces.

Do not confuse old Bateman silver with a new pattern of silverware named Hester Bateman. The new design, made by Wallace Silversmiths, was inspired by original Bateman work.

Tell me the value of my 31/4-inch bisque boy doll. He’s wearing a blue shirt and blue striped shorts. The word “Nippon” is printed on the bottom of his left foot and the word “Dolly” in a gold-colored diamond across his chest. Only his arms move. I know the doll is more than 90 years old.

Anything marked Nippon, the English transliteration of the Japanese word for Japan, was made between 1891 and 1921. Most Nippon dolls exported to the United States were made during World War I, when German dolls could not be imported. Your “Dolly” doll was designed and patented in 1917 by Frederick Langfelder, a New Yorker. He assigned his rights to Morimura Bros., best known for Noritake dinnerware. Today a genuine Nippon Dolly doll can sell for more than $100.

I found a metal letter opener when I was cleaning out my father’s old desk. One side of the handle is embossed “The North American, Philadelphia’s Newspaper.” The other side is embossed with the picture of a tall building and the words “The North American Building, the most remarkable newspaper building in the world.” My 79-year-old mother was raised near Philadelphia and doesn’t recall the newspaper or the building.

The 21-story building, completed in 1900, is still standing at the corner of Broad and Sansom streets in Center City, Philadelphia. The North American newspaper was founded in Philadelphia in 1839 and stayed in business until 1925. Your father’s letter opener dates from the early 1900s, when the building was new and the newspaper had wide circulation.

Please help me date my unpainted pot-metal mechanical bank. A Southern rebel soldier kneels on one knee at one end of the bank. If you put a coin in the barrel of his rifle, he shoots it into the coin slot on the front of a bottle of Southern Comfort whiskey. The bottle, with a label picturing a southern mansion, stands at the other end of the base. The front of the base is printed with the words “Southern Comfort.”

We have seen both painted and unpainted versions of your bank. The Southern Comfort brand of whiskey dates back to 1874, when it was first blended by a New Orleans bar owner named M.W. Heron. He bottled the blend in 1889, and it won a ribbon at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. The brand adopted its famous label – a copy of a Currier and Ives lithograph of a Southern plantation – in 1934. Your bank and others like it were probably made after World War II, perhaps as late as the 1950s. An unpainted version auctioned a couple of years ago for $288.

I own a piece of cast-iron machinery that I’m hoping you can identify. It is slightly larger than a countertop meat grinder and has a crank on one side. The crank turns a series of bars and spikes in the machine’s visible works. The side of the machine is embossed “Biscuit Breaker for Dog Cakes and Large Crackers, Mfd. for Spratts Patent Limited, New York.”

James Spratt of Cincinnati was in London on business in the mid-1800s when he saw sailors throwing scraps of food to stray dogs. He created the first food specially made for dogs – nutritional dog biscuits he introduced in 1860 as Spratt’s Patent Meat Fibrine Dog Cakes. In 1890 his company went public and production began in the United States. Your machine dates from around the turn of the 20th century. Dough was fed through the machine, which cut it into individual dog biscuits. Spratt’s was bought by Purina in 1960.

My mother bought a rhinestone brooch-clip in the late 1930s, and I would like to know what it’s worth. It is made up of two identical clips, each in the shape of a leafy branch with a flower in the center covered in tiny clear rhinestones. Both clips can be attached to a separate plain pin to form a two-flower brooch. The mark on the back is “Coro Duette.”

Emanuel Cohn (CO) and Carl Rosenberger (RO) started their jewelry-making partnership in 1906. Coro’s innovative Duettes were first offered for sale in the mid-1930s. They remained popular through the 1940s and into the ’50s – and they’re popular with collectors today. Duettes in excellent condition sell for prices ranging from $50 to $100 or more.

Write to Kovels, The Herald, King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019.

2006 by Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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