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The Best Seat in the House

George Hunzinger's Innovations in 1800s Helped Further the Chair's Evolution

January 03, 1998|RALPH and TERRY KOVEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Chair design has evolved slowly through the centuries, but an innovative designer can make furniture that looks radically different because of the ability to use new materials or engineer new structural shapes.

George Hunzinger was a German cabinetmaker who moved to New York in 1855.

Hunzinger patented furniture designs using new materials and new technology. Many of his chairs looked as if they were made from machine parts such as pipes, screws or bolts. Some were folding chairs and some were rigid chairs that just looked as if they could fold.

The upholstery on the chairs also was unusual. One patent was issued for a material made by weaving flat wire covered with a woven textile. The wires made a comfortable open work seat that needed no cushion.

Most of the chairs were upholstered with luxurious, tufted fabrics, embroidered trim, tassels and other embellishments.

Hunzinger was a successful furniture maker. He died in 1898. His family continued the business until 1925.

The current exhibition of his furniture at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York City is sure to add to collector interest.

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Question: I recently saw a new "Little Lulu" cartoon on HBO with Tracey Ullman doing Lulu's voice. I remember watching Little Lulu cartoons on television in the '50s, and I still have a drinking glass with her picture on it. When did Little Lulu first appear?

Answer: Little Lulu, a mischievous girl who refused to be excluded by the boys, debuted in a 1935 Saturday Evening Post panel drawn by Marjorie "Marge" Henderson Buell.

Four years later, the Knickerbocker Toy Co. began making Little Lulu dolls. Some were offered as premiums to Post subscribers.

From 1943 to 1948, Lulu starred in animated cartoons that later ran on television. New cartoons were made in the '70s and the mid-'90s.

Lulu appeared in comic books from 1945 to the 1980s, in a daily newspaper comic strip from 1950 to 1969 and in Kleenex advertisements from 1944 to 1960.

Your glass dates from the '40s, when the milkman delivered it filled with cottage cheese. It's worth more than $50.

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Q: When I was a kid in the early '50s, my mom gave me a metal Dinky Toy garbage truck. I still have it. I didn't think it was odd at the time, but now I'm wondering if many toy companies made garbage trucks.

A: Toy companies have made a lot more dump trucks than garbage trucks, but several manufactured toy garbage trucks in the '50s.

Dinky Toys made two of the very first, a Bedford refuse wagon in 1948 and a Ford model 1950. Each is about 4 1/2 inches long and worth about $100.

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Q: My doctor has a plaster sculpture of a human head on his desk. There are lines drawn all over the head, and words written in each lined section. My doctor said the sculpture is part of his phrenology collection. What is he talking about?

A: Phrenology is the study of the relationship between the surface of the head and mental and character traits. It originated in Austria in the late 18th century and was popular in Europe and the United States throughout the 19th century.

The lined sections on your doctor's sculpture outline the areas of the brain supposedly responsible for personality traits such as destructiveness, wit and hope.

Phrenology has been discredited as a science.

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Q: Our small covered jar has a mark with a crown and the words "Doulton Burslem." My family has had the jar for more than 60 years.

It's 7 1/2 inches tall and creamy white with dark blue and gold floral decorations. Can you give me any information?

A: The mark on your jar dates it to the mid-1880s. The jar is one of the traditional-style earthenware pieces made at Doulton's factory in Burslem, England. It is decorated in the Spray pattern.

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Q: I have a small, leather-covered chest, 13 by 7 by 6 inches. It has a brass handle and brass tacks around the edges. Inside the cover there's an oval that reads, "Saddles, harnesses, trunks & horsemen's caps, made and sold by Curtis & Coolidge, Main Street, Windsor, Vt., Carriages of almost every description made in the best manner." How old is my chest?

A: Your small chest dates from the middle to late 1800s, and was probably given to the children of Curtis & Coolidge customers to use as a toy trunk or storage chest.

If you'd like a listing of helpful books and publications on antiques, send a self-addressed, stamped (55 cents) envelope to the Kovels, Los Angeles Times, King Features Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York, NY 10017.

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Current Prices

Figures are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.

* Borden's mayonnaise glass mixing jar, 1957: $25.

* Gilchrist No. 31 ice-cream scoop: $35.

* Little Debbie Eve doll, pink lace outfit, white socks and shoes, baby bottle, open/shut eyes, 1950s, Skippy Doll Corp., 20 inches: $100.

* Waterford glass, Colleen pattern, set of four liqueur glasses: $120.

* 1918 Sears Roebuck catalog, No. 137, fall/winter, general merchandise, 1,640 pages: $175.

* Sampler by Eleanor Tyson, "Watch & Play," 1897, red, greens, pinks, fancy borders and stitching, 12 by 14 inches: $295.

* Yellowware mug, "A Trifle for Ralph," leaf-decorated handle, 2 1/4 inches: $325.

* Carlton ware tea set, foxglove on green, nine pieces: $400.

* Tom Corbett lunch box with metal thermos, blue decal: $525.

* Windsor fan-back side chair, serpentine chest rail, six spindles, saddle seat, New England, circa 1780, 39 inches: $2,070.

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