In the days before sweeteners like Equal, Splenda and Sweet’N Low, cooks used sugar chipped from a block. Sugar was an expensive delicacy in past centuries, and rural cooks used honey, molasses and grape juice as sweeteners. The well-to-do in areas where sugar beets or sugar cane grew or those near seaports could get refined sugar in large blocks. The sugar pieces were large and irregular in shape, so they were served in large bowls. A cover was needed to keep the moisture out and the sugar from hardening.
Sugar bowls were made of glass or pottery. Some now very collectible glass sugar bowls were made of colored blown glass by the Pittsburgh Glass Works in the mid-1800s. One very important sugar bowl made of opaque white, red and clear glass recently received a final bid of $5,040. The covered bowl, 13 inches high, was made in a shape seen in several other sugar bowls of the same age.
Q: My stacking bookcase is labeled Macey, although it looks a lot like a Globe-Wernicke bookcase I own. Is it as valuable?
A: The stacking bookcase is back in style, with copies offered by many modern furniture makers. Rectangular wooden boxes about 48 inches long by 12 inches high were made as units. Most had lift-up glass doors. Lawyers and others with papers and books to store bought three units or more to stack. They are sometimes called barrister bookcases because they were so often seen in lawyers’ offices.
The Macey Furniture Co. of Grand Rapids, Mich., opened in 1892. At first it was a mail-order company that sold desks made by others. But by 1900, Macey made its own furniture. In 1905, Macey merged with Wernicke Furniture Co. of Cincinnati, and in 1907 the company became Globe-Wernicke.
Bookcases made before 1908 are marked with the name “Fred Macey Furniture Company” in script with a long tail on the “y.” Later pieces were marked “Macey” in a black or colored oval.
Q: I have a ceramic parrot figurine marked “Will-George.” I’ve been told it was made in California. Tell me more.
A: Will and George Climes founded the Will-George pottery in Los Angeles in 1934. For a time, Edgar Bergen, the ventriloquist who worked with Charlie McCarthy, was a partner. The company moved from Los Angeles to Pasadena in 1940. By 1948 the business had moved to San Gabriel, and its name had changed to Claysmiths. But pieces were still marked Will-George.
The company was best known for its bird and animal figures. It also produced vases, lamps and a series of oriental figures. It closed in 1956.
Q: Are my Ivorex plaques valuable? They look like they are carved from ivory and then colored. My plaque shows a cathedral.
A: Osborne Ivorex was made by Arthur Osborne in England. He was a designer for the J. and J.G. Low Art Tile company in the United States but returned to England in 1898 to start his own business. He carved a master plaque, then made a mold and used it to make plaster-of-Paris plaques. These were air-dried, then hand-painted, then dipped in wax. A brass ring was added so the plaque could be hung with a cord. After 1914 he used steel rings.
Each plaque has his name and the copyright symbol as part of the molded design. Other companies copied him. The plaques sold in many countries and in the best year, 45,000 were made. Arthur Osborne died in 1943 and his daughter Blanche kept the company going. It closed in 1965, but was bought in 1971 by W.H. Bossons, who made the identical plaques but removed the AO (Arthur Osborne) mark. The company closed for good in 1997.
Tip: Wicker furniture should not be waxed and polished like wooden furniture. It needs to be vacuumed, then sprayed with a hose.
Ralph and Terry Kovel’s column is syndicated by King Features. Write to: Kovels, (Las Vegas Review-Journal), King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019.