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Wilder Pickard's Home Business Grew and Thrives

ALSO: Meat grinders; * Holgate toys; * Captain Kangaroo cup

March 14, 1998|RALPH KOVEL TERRY KOVEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The home office is not a new idea. Many important companies started from limited beginnings. Wilder Pickard started his own china decorating business in Edgerton, Wis., in 1894.

Pickard had been a salesman for a pottery firm and realized that his customers would want the hand-painted pieces his studio could make. A year later he moved his business to Chicago.

Pickard did none of the decorating. He purchased blank china, approved the designs and sent the pieces out to be painted by decorators working at home. The finished pieces were fired in Pickard's home studio.

Pickard traveled the country selling his ceramics and glass, paintings and artwork to department stores and shops.

By 1898, he decided to devote all his time to the Pickard China Studio. He brought the decorators to the studio and enlarged it. The company became Pickard Inc. and is still in business.

Collectors search for older hand-decorated pieces signed by the artists. Names such as Blaha, Challinor, Fischer and Gifford were signed on pieces along with the Pickard mark.

Pitchers and vases sell for $500 to $1,000. Cups and saucers range from $150 to $300.

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Question My husband started collecting meat grinders and sausage stuffers when he hunted deer. Now he has more than 100 in all sizes, including models by Universal, Keen Kutter and Griswold. Where can we find the history of these old kitchen tools?

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Answer There are several books on kitchen tools in general and also on Keen Kutter and Griswold tools. Ask at your library.

The oldest American grinders and stuffers date to the mid-1800s. Such tools are still being made.

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Q Please help me identify my toy tank. It measures 12 1/2 inches long and is made of wood. The turret moves; its top comes off, and there are four carved wooden people. The seal on top says "Holgate Toys, Sturdy Safe Educational, Made in U.S.A."

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A Cornelius Holgate founded the Holgate Co. in 1879. The company made wooden brush and broom handles in Philadelphia.

About 1930, the daughter of the company's treasurer married Lawrence Frank, a child psychologist who persuaded the company to start making educational wooden toys.

Holgate later hired Jerry Rockwell, the brother of artist Norman Rockwell, to help design toys. Rockwell invented simple, innovative toys such as pounding benches, nesting blocks, colored beads and ring stacks.

The Holgate Co. merged with Playskool in 1958. Rockwell worked for Playskool until his retirement in 1971.

There is new collector interest in many of the early educational toys.

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Q I have a plastic Captain Kangaroo cup that's more than 50 years old. The top of the cup says "Captain Kangaroo." The bottom says "c Robert Keeshan." What's it worth?

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A Bob Keeshan, the original Clarabell on the "Howdy Doody" TV show, later starred on the "Captain Kangaroo" show from 1955 to 1984.

Your cup, which is no more than 44 years old, is worth about $5.

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Q I bought a piece of scrimshaw at a flea market. I know there's fake scrimshaw around, but this piece, 7 inches long, seems authentic. It's not in very good condition, and the workmanship is quite primitive. There is a carving of a shield with a lion and unicorn on either side, and a sailing ship called the Brandenberg.

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A It's a fake. It's a piece of plastic formed to look like a whale's tooth. The decoration was done by machine. Your piece of fakeshaw was one of many made by Juratone Ltd. of London in the 1970s.

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Q When was wicker used to make baby carriages? I've seen old wicker carriages in pictures. I'd like to find one.

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A Fancy, hand-woven wicker baby carriages reached their height of popularity in the 1880s and '90s. Victorian women were encouraged to take their children on walks in the fresh air.

Wicker--whether rattan, cane, reed or paper-wrapped wire--is durable, lightweight and relatively easy to clean.

By the early 20th century, elaborate wicker designs were giving way to simple Arts and Crafts styles. Old wicker carriages were thrown out or languished in basements. Finding an old wicker perambulator, even if you are willing to spend a lot, is not easy.

Some companies make reproductions of the old designs.

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

Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary because of local economic conditions.

* Arcade No. 2 lemon squeezer, black, porcelain insert: $60.

* McCoy Keebler Elf cookie jar: $75.

* Murphy catalog, In-A-Door beds, 1920s, 48 pages: $90.

* Old Hogan's Goat game, Whitman, 1939: $110.

* Paddy and the Pig mechanical bank, cast iron, 1960s: $155.

* Magic Lantern photography projector, wooden base, brass and tin, circa 1870: $160.

* Heisey glass goblet, Sweet Ad O-Line pattern: $325.

* Jerry Mahoney ventriloquist dummy, original clothing and box, 1940s: $420.

* Heywood-Wakefield corner bookcase, two adjustable shelves, circa 1950, 40 inches: $525.

* Mexican silver salt-and-pepper shaker, concave triangular segments, by Antonio Pineda, 2 1/2 inches: $690.

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