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'50s Aprons: Inexpensive Tie to Nostalgia

April 03, 1999|RALPH KOVEL and TERRY KOVEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The mother in a typical 1950s TV sitcom was usually shown cooking dinner while wearing a perky, starched apron. Sometimes she even wore a dressy organdy apron to serve guests at a dinner party. But aprons eventually went out of style and into boxes in the attic.

Today, collectors are again buying these aprons, but to display, not to wear. They are still inexpensive and can be found at flea markets, garage sales and church bazaars.

The 1990s apron is usually made for serious cooking or for the barbecue and lacks the froufrou of the '50s-era versions. Look for '50s aprons in unused condition with makers' tags, or search for glazed chintz, bark cloth, organdy or other fabrics rarely seen today.

You might even find the ultimate example of the '50s, an apron featuring an embroidered or appliqued poodle. Expect to pay pennies to about $10.

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Question: When my cousin's estate was settled, I was given an old rocking chair that belonged to my favorite aunt. On the bottom of the chair is an original label that reads "Cochran Chair Company, Cochran, Indiana."

On all the maps, atlases and almanacs I have checked, I cannot find a place in Indiana called Cochran. Can you help?

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Answer: We found the Cochran Chair Co. listed in a catalog of 1920s American furniture manufacturers. The company was in Aurora, Ind., a small town on the Ohio River west of Cincinnati. Many American companies were once able to form their own municipalities, at least partly for postal purposes. The Cochran Chair Co. probably did that.

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Q What is Rose Medallion porcelain? When was it made?

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A Rose Medallion was named for the decoration on the dishes. The pattern has been made in China since the 1820s. The pieces have four or more panels of decoration around a central medallion that includes a bird or a peony. The panels depict birds and people. The background is a multicolored design of rose tree peonies and green leaves.

If the panels picture only people and no birds, the pattern is called Rose Mandarin. If the pink-and-rose design of the background is used but there are neither people nor birds in the design, it is called Rose Canton. All three of these patterns are still made.

Dishes made after 1890 usually are marked "China" or "Made in China."

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Q Were cut-glass candelabra in houses before 1850? Our local museum wants to set an elaborate holiday table using candelabra with prisms. Some of us believe this style would have been used much later in the century.

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A Glass candelabra were used before 1850. The candle produced a weak light, and mirrors, shining metal and reflecting glass were incorporated into the candleholders to increase the light. Prisms multiplied the light, which helped illuminate the interior of a room. They were first added to candlesticks in the 18th century. It was not until the 19th century that the art of glass cutting was at its height.

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Q I just inherited a large set of silver with four or five sizes of knives, forks and spoons. It would be fun to give a Victorian party and use them, but I don't know where to put them when I set the table.

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A The rule is to put the silver in the order they will be used. The first piece used, such as the soup spoon or cocktail fork, would be on the outside of the setting. Often, either the dessert fork or the butter knife is placed horizontally above the dinner plate. Your choice of silver is determined by the food you serve. You could have cocktail, salad, fish, cold meat, oyster, fruit, luncheon or dinner forks, and steak, fish, butter, luncheon or dinner knives. Spoons can be even more puzzling because there are so many types that are no longer used. You could have grapefruit, cream soup, soup, bouillon, strawberry, chocolate, dessert, ice cream, iced tea or lemonade spoons and more.

For a listing of helpful books and publications, include a self-addressed, stamped (55 cents) envelope to 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 antique shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary because of local economic conditions.

* Nestle Rabbit mug, plastic, two-handled, 1970, $15.

* Jigsaw puzzle, Bugs Bunny licking lollipop, 65 pieces, original box, 1960, 7 by 9 inches, $20.

* Buttocks basket, ash splint, with 28 ribs, 1950s, 12 by 15 inches, $70.

* Hawaiian shirt, rayon, purple with Japanese drums, coconut buttons, 1950s, size medium, $135.

* Dedham Pottery porridge bowl and spoon, rabbit, signed, 5 3/8 inches, $195.

* Hawkes martini shaker, checkerboard design, sterling silver lid, 12 inches, $285.

* Tiffany bronze stamp box, Venetian pattern, ca. 1899, stamped Tiffany Studios, New York, 2 1/4 by 5 1/2 inches, $485.

* Buffalo Pottery Deldare egg cup, village scene, emerald, 3 3/4 by 2 inches, $1,230.

* Lalique bookends, gray, full relief depicting three cherubs, inscribed mark, 7 3/4 inches, $2,185.

* Edward Wormley daybed, mahogany, model 3497, turn-up arm supports, upholstered, aluminum legs, Dunbar Mfg., 29 inches, $2,875.

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