Turkey stuffed with game parts
This 16-inch-high turkey made in 1907 is not a toy, but a “package” that held game parts. It is made of a composition material and has glass eyes and metal wheels. Stored inside the turkey are parts for a skittles game, a variety of bowling. Skittles is popular in many European countries and is played out or indoors and in England and in Ireland, indoors in a pub. The game uses 9 or 10 pins and, of course, a ball. The painted wooden pins often were made in fancy shapes. Soldiers, sailors, spelling blocks, clowns, penguins, vegetables, frogs, ducks and other figures were made. The figural “packages” online this year include a large frog, parrot, rabbit, vegetables, pumpkin, clown and many hens with chicks. There is even an airplane that held pilots. Modern skittles games often are made of plastic instead of wood. This turkey sold for $2,124 at a Bertoia auction in New Jersey.
Q: Is it true that Benjamin Franklin invented the rocking chair? I know he invented bifocal glasses, but some say the rocking chair story is a myth.
A: The rocking chair story, like the one that claims Washington chopped down a cherry tree, is the result of an early book by an author who never gave a source for the information. Legendary figures, like the Founding Fathers, often were glorified in paintings and books created more than 100 years after they died. The earliest recorded rocking chairs date from the 17th century in New England and England. The rockers were added to chairs with thick legs. A 1928 book credited the idea of the rocking chair to America and Franklin, not an unknown Englishman. Ads show that chair makers were selling Windsor rocking chairs after 1776 or adding rockers to existing chairs. The famous Boston rocker with the large wooden seat and shaped back crest was first made about 1825. Although still popular, antique and vintage rockers that were made by unknown makers or companies are selling for $100 to $500, much less than they did 10 years ago.
Q: My mother bought a used vacuum cleaner in 1950, and we just discovered it in the attic. It’s an “Electrolux” that is a long, horizontal cylinder of chrome and black metal. It had runners like a sled, not wheels. She held a long rubber hose with a brush to sweep the carpet. Someone told us that old vacuum cleaners are collected. How can I sell it?
A: The Electrolux vacuum cleaner was first made in 1924 and redesigned in 1937 by industrial designer Lurelle Guild. His vacuum was a revolutionary modern design that delighted housewives who made it a best seller. Minor changes were made in later years and the tank type has remained in production. The 1937 machine already is part of museum design collections. The other early versions with runners are of limited interest as examples of design. Later machines with wheels are bought to use for very low prices.
Q: My copper teakettle got overheated on the stove, the water boiled away, and the spout came off. Is this something that can be repaired?
A: Yes, the spout can be soldered back on. It can be difficult, since copper spreads the heat and the spout must be held firmly in place until the solder sets. Don’t use lead-based solder, since the lead will leach into the boiling water when you use the kettle. A metalsmith will be able to repair the teakettle and can tell you how much it will cost in advance. If it is not a valuable antique, you may decide to just buy a new kettle.
Q: I have some china with a beehive mark. There is another mark with two faint intertwined letters that look like “PK” between “Karlsbad” and “Made in Czechoslovakia.” The plates have a painted classical scene with a gilt band, a cobalt blue border, gilt rim and handles. I have about 70 pieces in excellent condition. Someone told me they were made in the 1790s. Could this be true?
A: First, the “beehive” mark really is an upside-down shield. It was first used in 1744 by the Royal Porcelain Manufactory of Vienna, the firm that made Royal Vienna porcelains. The firm closed in 1864, and many companies have reproduced Royal Vienna wares and the beehive mark. Your dishes were made in Karlsbad, Czechoslovakia, in the Royal Vienna style. Karlsbad was part of Bohemia until 1918 when it became part of Czechoslovakia. (Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic.) Karlsbad was a center for china decorating and exported many products to the U.S. The initials “PK” imply they were made by Paul Kuchler, a small porcelain decorating studio. It was one of many operated in Karlsbad during the 1920s and 1930s. It’s hard to price 70 pieces as a “set,” but your two-handled cake plate could be worth about $150, and a set of eight cups and saucers about $225.
Tip: Get a big mailbox so when you are away, your mail will not be seen from the street.
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