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Upholstered Furniture Suited Less-Stuffy Age

June 13, 1998|RALPH KOVEL and TERRY KOVEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Comfortable, well-padded upholstered furniture was not considered proper until the middle of the 1800s. Earlier generations had been taught that it was important to sit up straight.

You were not to slouch or bend into positions that would be considered ungraceful. Your back was not supposed to touch the chair. Women were not to lean forward or cross their legs. Men were not to put their feet on the chair rungs.

Stiff postures were helped by the women's rigid undergarments and men's tight waistcoats.

Then soft upholstery with stuffing and springs was invented. Tufting and buttoning and other upholstery techniques helped make chairs more comfortable. Still, chairs with soft cushions did not become popular until the 1920s.

Victorian upholstery was usually stuffed with horsehair. Less expensive pieces might have been stuffed with flax, dried Spanish moss, wood shavings or cotton batting.

By the 1870s, Spanish-moss gathering was a commercial venture in some Southern states. The moss remained a popular fiber for upholstery until the 1940s, when foam rubber became the stuffing of choice.

Question I have a Thumper cookie jar marked "Walt Disney Productions" above the tail. It is cream-colored with black eyes and nose, red tongue and pink ears. Can you tell me what it's worth?

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Answer Disney character cookie jars are popular with collectors. Several manufacturers and importers, including Borgfeldt, California Originals and the American Pottery Co., have been licensed to make Disney cookie jars. Many of the manufacturers do not include their name in the mark.

Thumper jar, named for the bunny in the 1942 Disney cartoon feature "Bambi," sells for about $100.

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Q Throughout the 1970s and '80s, my children collected cartoon and superhero figures made of hard plastic. I have cleaned up the figures and put them on shelves. A friend just told me that I have a good collection of "PVC figures." What is PVC?

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A "PVC" is an acronym for polyvinyl chloride, a synthetic resin first produced in 1912. It is used to make flexible articles such as raincoats and shower curtains and rigid products such as toys and water pipes.

Some collectors specialize in PVC figures. They hunt for sets of Smurfs, Muppets, superheroes, Sesame Street characters and Disney creations. Prices are not high, ranging from $1 to $10 per figure.

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Q I bought a "fireless cooker" at an antiques shop. It is a small, metal-lined wooden box with two heating wells, two small pots and two soapstone heater discs. It's marked "Termos Fireless Cooker, Alfred Stahel & Son, San Diego, Cal." How old is it? How was it used?

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A Fireless cookers were made by several manufacturers early in this century. They were discontinued by about 1925, when electric roasters became popular.

The soapstone discs in your cooker were heated in an oven or on a stove, then placed in the heating wells. Food that was partly cooked on a kitchen stove was placed in the fireless cooker's pots for further cooking and continuous warming.

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Q A few years ago we started collecting Forbes silver. Our pieces are marked in various ways. Some say "Forbes Silver Company." Others are marked "Forbes S.P. Co." in a circle or oval with an eagle head in the center, or "F S Co." in three small shields with an eagle head at the end. When did the company work, and why the different marks?

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A Your Forbes pieces date from 1894 to 1898.

The Forbes Silver Co. was organized in 1894 as a division of the Meriden Britannia Co. of Meriden, Conn. Forbes added silver-plating to the Britannia-metal holloware made by Meriden. The two companies merged with others to form the International Silver Co. in 1898.

Silver companies often change their marks, depending on the size, shape or date of the piece being marked.

For a copy of the Kovels' 1998 leaflet listing 153 books and pamphlets that are price guides for all kinds of collectibles and antiques, send $2 and a self-addressed, stamped (55 cents) No. 10 envelope to Price Guides for Antiques and Collectibles, Kovels, P.O. Box 22900, Beachwood, Ohio 44122.

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