Dual-purpose furniture is not a new idea. Many unusual pieces were made in the 19th century. Ever see a desk that became a bed? Or a chair that turned into a bathtub? Both were made in the 1880s.
The best-known of the metamorphic pieces is probably a highchair that can become a child’s chair and sometimes even a stroller. This type of chair, popular in the late 1800s, was usually made of oak with heavy iron gears and wheels. The highchair had a tray and was supported by legs on wheels. The legs could be lowered and the tray removed, so the chair was the right height for a child to use. Sometimes the chair’s legs could be moved so the chair was on wheels and two of its “legs” became the handle of the stroller.
Fun and interesting today, but don’t use it for a child. The tray is positioned so a child could slip under it and the seat and back are hard. We learned long ago that a crying child will throw his or her head back and hit it on the hard wooden chair. Most furniture made for children in past centuries would not pass today’s safety standards.
Q: We have had a tall art deco pottery ewer in our family for years. It’s decorated in bright blue, yellow and red. The embossed mark on the bottom is “Czechoslovakia, Eichwald.” Can you tell us when the ewer was made?
A: Eichwald was a town in Czechoslovakia. It’s now called Dubi and is in the Czech Republic. From 1871 to 1940, pottery marked “Eichwald” was made by B. Bloch & Co. And anything marked “Czechoslovakia” was made between 1918, when the country was formed after World War I, and 1992, when the country broke into two parts, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
But there are more clues to help date your ewer. Any Eichwald piece with an embossed molded mark was more than likely made before 1937. And art deco did not become a widely popular style until the late 1920s. So your ewer was probably made between 1927 and 1937.
Q: I recently purchased a cruet set from an antique shop. The set has five bottles for oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and sugar. The metal looks like silver plate. There is a mark that reads “Columbia Silver Co., Quadruple.” The shop owner told me it was made in 1870. What is the set worth?
A: Your set is called a “castor set.” Castor sets holding just salt and pepper containers were used in the 17th century. Bottles for oil and vinegar, mustard pots and other spice holders had been added by the 18th century. Most of the holders are made of silver-plated metal. Silver-plated items marked “quadruple” are more heavily plated than items marked “standard” silver plate.
The bottles ranged from inexpensive engraved styles to the finest heavy cut glass. By the early 1900s, castor sets were out of style. Victorian castor sets of the 1880s and ’90s are the type most collected today. Best are sets with original colored bottles. A lot of them were reissued in the 1950s when Victorian-style antiques became popular again.
The Columbia Silver Co. operated in Brooklyn, N.Y., from 1957 to 1961, so your castor set is not very old. It’s worth less than $100.
Q: My wife and I have an S.S. Pierce Co. cheese crock. It’s blue and gray salt-glazed stoneware and is 5 inches high and 91/2 inches in diameter. On the front there’s an incised label that includes the company’s name and the Massachusetts cities of Boston and Brookline. There are two dates, “Est. 1831” and “1894 Inc.” Please tell us something about the crock and S.S. Pierce Co.
A: We have seen crocks like yours described as cheese crocks or butter crocks. One in excellent condition can sell for $350 or more.
Silas Stillman Pierce opened his first grocery store in Boston in 1831. The company expanded into a chain of stores and was acquired by M.S. Walker Inc. in 1991. Your crock was probably used by the store in the early 1900s.
Q: I have a pair of bookends with a figure of a seaman holding a ship’s wheel. They are green and heavy and appear to be copper or bronze. The back is marked “JB 2652” and “Leonard Craske.”
A: Your bookends were made by Jennings Brothers Manufacturing Co., a foundry in Bridgeport, Conn. The company made cast white metal or spelter animal figurines, bookends, candlesticks and other items, but the metalwork was finished to look like bronze or another metal. The figure on your bookends is called “Man at the Helm” and is based on a 1925 statue in Gloucester Harbor, Mass. The sculptor of the statue was Leonard F. Craske (1882-1950).
Jennings Brothers was in business from 1891 into the early 1950s, so your bookends were made between 1925 and c. 1950. The company’s molds were bought by Philadelphia Manufacturing Co. in the 1960s and pieces have been reproduced using the old molds. Some are marked “JB.” It takes an expert to tell the difference between the original bookends, worth about $125, and the newer ones.
Tip: If you store ephemera like trade cards or labels in notebooks or photo albums, be sure to open the albums several times a year to let the air circulate.
Terry Kovel’s column is syndicated by King Features. Write to: Kovels, (Las Vegas Review-Journal), King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.