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Just the Chair to Tuck in the Corner

May 15, 1999|RALPH KOVEL and TERRY KOVEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It has always been a problem finding attractive furniture to fill the corner of a room, but in the 18th century, the problem was solved with the corner chair. The chair had one leg in front and one in back, two on the sides and a rounded back for comfort.

It was called by many names, including roundabout, corner half-moon, desk chair or smoking chair. It was probably used primarily by men because the position of the leg required an unladylike straddle.

Some of the chairs were known as "comfort chairs." They were kept in the bedroom. The front apron on the chair was long enough to cover a potty hidden under the upholstered slip seat.

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Question: We recently bought an old farmhouse. Inside a closet we found a jigsaw puzzle in its original envelope. The puzzle is titled "The Five Star Theater Presents' Foiled by Essolube,' A Jig-Saw Melodrama, 150-piece MotoMonster Puzzle."

I assembled the puzzle. It is 11 1/4 by 17 1/4 inches and shows a man driving a car while his passengers, his wife and son, fight off monsters chasing the car. There's a can labeled "Essolube" in the top right corner. Most interesting of all is the artist's signature, "Dr. Seuss." Why would his name be on a puzzle?

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Answer: Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-1991) studied English literature at Dartmouth and Oxford. He was a self-taught artist who later became a famous author and illustrator of children's books under the name Dr. Seuss. Before his first children's book, "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street," was published in 1937, he was a magazine illustrator and did some advertising work.

Your puzzle is an advertising jigsaw puzzle used to promote Essolube motor oil, introduced in 1935 by the Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey. Advertising puzzles were very popular during the early years of the Depression. Yours is worth $50 to $60.

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Q I recently found an old, empty, clear glass bottle with a paper label on the front. The label reads, "Watkins Face Cream, The J.R. Watkins Company, Winona, Minn." There is also a picture of a woman's face. The bottle is about 7 inches tall. Can you tell me anything about the company?

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A In 1867, Joseph Ray Watkins of Plainview, Minn., bought the "rights" to manufacture and sell a liniment formula created by Dr. Richard Ward. Ward had already sold the formula once and would sell it again several years later. This was in the days of patent medicines.

Salesmen peddled alcoholic "remedies" for all sorts of ailments. The bottled liniment Watkins sold under Dr. Ward's name or his own was labeled, "For internal and external use, for man or beast, alcohol 47%."

Watkins soon began selling pain relievers and cough syrup as well.

He moved to Winona, Minn., in 1885. By the 1890s, the company was known as the J.R. Watkins Medical Co. When it expanded into cosmetics products about 1920, the name was changed to J.R. Watkins Co. Your bottle, with a label using the newer company name, dates from after 1920.

The company survived Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in 1977. Its current headquarters are in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

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Q What is flow blue and when was it made?

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A The meaning of the term "flow blue" has changed over the past 30 years. Flow blue dishes were decorated with transfer designs that used a blue pigment. A compound of chlorine was placed in the kiln when the dishes were heated. This process caused the blue to spread or "flow."

The finished dish had a design that appeared blurred, and the blue often ran onto the white china, making it a pale blue.

Most flow or flown blue dishes were made by the Staffordshire potters of England from 1825 to 1900. Some of the later pieces had added decoration of red or gold. A few collectors incorrectly call many blue-and-white wares "flow blue" because the transfer decoration is a bit unclear.

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Q I have two original, unsigned color drawings of the Campbell Kids. Each measures 10 by 14 inches. One pictures the Campbell's boy using a lawn roller. There's a note on the back saying it was approved Dec. 17, 1928, for the July 1929 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine. The other pictures the girl tossing a ball in the air. It is marked Oct. 21, 1929. Who was the artist?

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A Grace Drayton (1877-1936) started working as a professional artist and illustrator when she was 17. (Her full name was Viola Grace Gebbie Wiederseim Drayton, and her drawings are signed in various ways.)

From 1904 to about 1924, Drayton did work for the Joseph Campbell Co., which later became the Campbell Soup Co. She produced ads picturing the wide-eyed, round-faced children known as the Campbell Kids. Your drawings may have been done by Drayton a few years before they were published. They also could be the work of another artist Campbell's hired to continue drawing the trademark Kids.

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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