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Roller Skating Once Was a Family Affair

November 01, 1986|RALPH and TERRY KOVEL

Roller skates were a children's toy that was known in the United States by the 1840s, if not earlier.

The first skates had wooden wheels; later ones had hard rubber wheels. The frame was iron with leather straps that held the skate on the shoe. Roller skating was introduced in New York City in 1863 and became the fashionable sport. By the 1870s, large rinks with maple floors could be found in most large towns. Men, women and children could race, dance or do fancy skating at the rinks. Special dresses that allowed more movement were popular.

The sport lost favor by the 1890s, although children still liked to skate outdoors. The best-known 19th-Century roller skates were made by Plimpton of Brooklyn or Crown Royal Skate Co. Antique ice skates can be found at some antique shows but it is very unusual to be offered old roller skates.

Question: I have an old clock, a Kroeber wall clock, that means quite a lot to me. It measures 12 inches wide, 3 1/2 feet high. The case is walnut. The face is white with Roman numerals. It has a brass pendulum. My grandparents bought it new when they arrived from Sweden about 1890.

Answer: Florence Kroeber was working in New York City from 1865 to 1912. He was born in Germany in 1840 and emigrated to the United States with his family in 1850. He originally imported clocks from Europe and later started inventing and patenting his own.

The F. Kroeber Clock Co. also worked in New York City from 1889. The Frederick J. Kroeber Clock Co. was at the same address.

Q: I have a rectangular glass dish with a silver bail handle and lid. A fish forms the nob on the lid. It seems to be old. What was it used for?

A: The sardine was one of the first canned foods used in the United States. Perhaps because of their novelty or expense, they were considered exotic and were served in a special way. Sardine boxes were made of pottery, silver or glass and fish were often part of the design. Many can be are found in catalogues dating after 1865. Glass was easier to clean and keep odor-free. Sardines were served with the soup course as a side dish. Silver makers also offered sardine forks, tongs, and other serving utensils. They were a much more common food by the 1900s.

Q: Who is Bessie Pease Gutmann? I have a picture of a sleeping baby holding a teddy bear signed with her name.

A: Bessie Collins Pease was an illustrator who did more than 300 postcards, 130 prints, and covers for magazines and book illustrations. Her postcards were published by Reinthal and Newman about 1905. After her marriage, she signed her name Bessie Pease Gutmann and the cards were copyrighted by Gutmann and Gutmann. Her husband's company also published the prints.

Her most popular subjects were children. In the late 1970s, a dealer found a warehouse stock of old Gutmann prints dating from 1926 to 1935. The publicity from this led to some reproductions of her prints on cards and plates. We have been told that she lived in South Orange, N.J., and had two daughters.

Q: I have a figurine, about 30 years old, marked "Handpainted, Wedgwood & Co. Ltd., England." There is a unicorn head pictured with the words. Is this really Wedgwood?

A: Your figurine was made by a company named Wedgwood but not the famous Josiah Wedgwood company. The Josiah Wedgwood company now is a member of the Wedgwood group as is the Enoch Wedgwood company, which was the maker of your figurine.

The 18th-Century bookcase had shelves that were placed symmetrically. If the bottom shelf is 8 inches from the bottom, the top shelf should be 8 inches from the top. If the permanent grooves for the shelves are not spaced this way, look carefully to be sure you have an antique piece.

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