Interest in antique horn furniture arises anew

Furniture made from recycled workbenches and school lockers, or huge metal parts from factory machines is not a new idea. Our ancestors recycled clothing into quilts, tin advertising signs into patches for leaky roofs and cattle horns into Victorian chairs.

The earliest horn furniture was made in Germany in the 1830s, and by the late 1870s, it was being made in the United States. Slaughterhouses in Chicago had a huge supply of horns left over from meat processing.

It is said that the Tobey Furniture Co. of Chicago exhibited a sofa and chair made with horn arms at the Chicago Exposition of 1876. Later, the company also used horns for the legs and backs with upholstered seats, forming furniture with the curving lines popular at the time.

Horns from buffalo, elk and longhorn cattle, as well as antlers, were used for tables, hall trees, rocking chairs and footstools. This novel furniture lost favor, and by the 1890s was bought for hunting lodges and cabins. By 1900, horn chairs were considered old-fashioned and not often seen.

But interest revived in the 1980s, and old pieces brought good prices at auctions. Today an antique piece of horn furniture made and signed by a famous maker, or one that shows exceptional skill with clever design and inlays, retails for more than $10,000. Average pieces bring $1,000 to $2,000 or less.

Q: My grandma left me a cobalt-blue glass pitcher and 12 tall matching drinking glasses. The pitcher has an ice lip. Each piece is decorated with a white silhouette of a sailboat and flying birds. I think the set is more than 100 years old. My aunt once told me they were stored in my grandma’s closet and rarely used. They’re in perfect condition. Who made the set and what is it worth?

A: Your set of Depression Glass dishes is about 75 years old, not 100. They were made in the late 1930s by the Hazel-Atlas Glass Co. of Wheeling, W.Va. The pattern usually is called “Ships” or “Sailboat.” The pattern was made by adding the ship decoration to Hazel-Atlas’ undecorated Moderntone dishes. Pitchers and tumblers in the Ships pattern are not in great demand these days, but if yours are in perfect condition they would sell — the pitcher for about $50 and the glasses for $10 to $20 each, depending on their size.

Q: We have a set of children’s furniture that includes a crib, dresser, chifferobe with drawers and a door, and a toy box. A tag on the back reads “Little Edison Furniture.” We bought it in 1948, and it has served 17 children through the years. It’s been professionally refinished and the lid to the toy box has been replaced. Any idea what the set is worth?

A: Thomas Alva Edison, the famous inventor, bought the Wisconsin Chair Co. of New London, Wis., in 1917 and changed the name to Wisconsin Panel and Cabinet Co. The factory made cabinets for Edison phonographs. Later, the name of the company became Edison Wood Products.

A line of children’s furniture was introduced in 1927. It was sold under the name “Edison Little Folks Furniture” beginning in 1937.

The parent company merged with McGraw Electric Co. in 1957 and became McGraw-Edison. Edison Wood Products continued operating under that name until 1969 when the Simmons Co. bought McGraw-Edison and Edison Little Folks furniture became Simmons Juvenile Furniture. Value of your set that has been refinished and has replacement parts, $600.

Q: I have a piece of Satuma pottery that’s marked “Satsuma” and “Made in China.” What is it worth?

A: Not much. Satsuma is a Japanese ware. It’s crackle-glazed and cream-colored with multicolor decorations. It was first made in the 1600s in the Satsuma area of Japan. Today it’s also made in potteries near Kyoto.

Any piece of pottery marked “Satsuma” in English probably dates from the 1970s or later. And anything also marked “Made in China” is not real Satsuma. Perhaps your Chinese vase used the pattern name Satsuma to mislead collectors. Marks on genuine Satsuma, most of them in Japanese, can be found online.

Q: When I was 10 years old (I’m 92 now), an elderly family friend gave me his violin. It has a label inside that reads “Anno 17 -, Carlo Bergonzi, Fece in Cremona.” I have been told that it might have been made by an understudy of Stradivari. Could you tell me if that might be true?

A: Carlo Bergonzi (1683-1747) was indeed a pupil of Antonio Stradivari, and he made violins on his own, too. We receive a lot of questions about violins and can tell you that copies of Bergonzi and other high-quality 17th- and 18th-century violins have been made since the 19th century.

It is very unlikely that your violin is a real Bergonzi. That doesn’t mean it’s junk, though. Have an expert look at it. Even a professional violinist can give you an educated opinion.

Tip: Mix and match dishes when you host a party. If color-coordinated, the dinner plate can be from a different set than the cup and saucer or salad plate. Use old and new sets. It’s the “in” look today.

Terry &Kim 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.

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