Solar-system models also serve as art

Many of us know that a 3-D model of the earth, moon, sun and planets used to explain the way these bodies work is called a planetarium. But few are familiar with a tellurian (tellurium), a mechanical model that moves the sun, earth and moon to show how seasons change and why there are eclipses.

Scientists and schoolteachers can move a tellurian’s gears, chains and pulleys to explain how the earth spins once a day and revolves around the sun once a year, while the moon revolves around the earth once a month.

Antique planetariums and tellurians are rare and expensive. One very elaborate set of models, including a planetarium, tellurium and globe, was made by Holbrook & Co. of Berea, Ohio. The set’s globe has labeled continents, mountains, deserts and rivers. The out-of-date label that calls Alaska “Russian America” is a clue that the globe was made before 1867, when Alaska was purchased by the United States.

The solar-system models in the Holbrook set are decorative, but they’re also important examples of 19th-century science. And they’re so well-made that they’re almost works of art.

Q: My husband’s grandmother left us a mahogany chair with a cane seat and back. She always called it a “Centennial chair.” Is that a maker or a style?

A: It’s not a maker and it’s not a distinct style, either. Most furniture experts say the term “Centennial furniture” developed around the time of the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, when Americans became enthralled with Colonial history and furniture styles. It does not directly relate to furniture displayed at the exposition.

Because so many Americans wanted furniture in the Colonial style, furniture makers started turning out “Colonial Revival” furniture of all sorts, including Queen Anne, Chippendale, Sheraton, Hepplewhite and mixed styles. Some people have decided to call these late 19th-century Colonial Revival pieces — especially those that are well-made — Centennial furniture.

Q: Did McCoy ever make a Little Red Riding Hood cookie jar? I was told it did not.

A: McCoy pottery was made at the Nelson McCoy Pottery Co. in Roseville, Ohio. McCoy made cookie jars from the 1920s until 1990, when the factory closed, but it never made Little Red Riding Hood cookie jars.

Many McCoy reproductions and fakes are on the market, and some of them are marked “McCoy.” So if you have a Little Red Riding Hood cookie jar, it’s not “the real McCoy.”

Q: Should silver plate, sterling or linens be stored in plastic food-saver bags? Or will the bags damage the items? What about space-saver bags used to store clothing? Would it help to wrap the items first in a cotton sheet, then put them in the plastic?

A: Don’t use food bags to store any valuables. If it’s hot, the plastic can melt; if it’s damp, mold can form inside the bags.

Some good-quality space-saver bags can be used to store linens. Check the instructions on the bags’ packaging. They usually are straightforward about what should be stored in the bags and whether or not they protect fabric from mold and mildew.

For silver of any kind, use special boxes or bags to protect your investment. Some silver bags are also tarnish-retardant.

Tip: Never clean marble with vinegar or lemon juice. They will damage the marble. If someone spills lemonade on your marble-top table, wipe it up immediately and wash the area with ammonia and water to neutralize the acid.

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.

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