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Rookwood Pottery Kindled Art, Hearts

May 29, 1999|RALPH KOVEL and TERRY KOVEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Rookwood Pottery Co. was one of the most famous in the United States. It was one of the first art potteries in America. They made what was then the most modern type of pottery. Maria Longworth Nichols started decorating china in 1873.

In 1876, she decided to make her own pottery, even though it was unusual for a woman to have her own business. By 1880, she employed artists to make art pottery that she called Rookwood. Many famous artists worked at the company until it closed in 1959.

Perhaps the artistic spirit and the close quarters of the pottery made romance possible, as many of the artists married each other. Albert Valentien, who joined the pottery as a decorator in 1887, married Anna Marie Bookprinter, who had been working there for several years. Matt Daly was a decorator at Rookwood in 1882. In 1928, he married Olga Reed Pinney, another decorator. Elisabeth Barret married Jens Jensen in 1931, and Irene Bishop married Edward Hurley in 1907. At least four other couples were married in the years before 1915.

Also, Artus Van Briggle married Anna while studying in Paris. They returned to work at Rookwood, and later moved to Colorado where they founded Van Briggle Pottery.

An office romance is not uncommon today, but in the past, many firms would never hire a husband and wife. If they met and married at work, one was required to resign. Maybe it was because the owner of the Rookwood Pottery was a woman, or perhaps because talented artists were hard to find, that the couples remained employees at the pottery.

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Question: I have a pair of 5-inch-high plaster-like figures, a redheaded boy and girl. If they are placed near each other, the heads turn and "kiss." It says "NY" on the front. Do you know anything about this type of toy?

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Answer: Kissing figures have been made at least since the 1920s. Small magnets are inside the mouths, and when they are placed close enough, they attract each other for a kiss. We have seen celluloid figures like this from the 1920s, 1940s, and even reproductions today. The composition figures probably date from the 1960s. If your redheads are wearing red-and-white-striped jackets, they may be Wendy and Peter, the twins who represented the New York World's Fair in 1964-65.

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Q My plates picture dogs holding dead game birds. On the back, they are marked "R. K. Beck, Clarice Cliff, Newport Pottery Co., England."

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A Clarice Cliff was a famous designer who worked for several English potteries. Your plates must have been made at the Newport Pottery in England after 1920. R.K. Beck was a wildlife artist. His designs were reproduced on decals that were applied to plates made in several potteries. We have seen Beck plates made by the Buffalo Pottery, Buffalo, N.Y., circa 1909-14; Sterling China, East Liverpool, Ohio, circa 1917; and Fasold & Stauch, Boch-Wallendorf, Germany, circa 1914. Your plate shape is part of a Cliff design, but the dog pictures are by Beck.

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Q I collect old soda bottles. I recently purchased an Anheuser-Busch Root Beer bottle for $50. The bottle is brown, and the paper label is red and white. I know Anheuser-Busch makes Budweiser and Michelob beers. When did the company make root beer?

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A Adolphus Busch became a partner in his father-in-law's small St. Louis brewery in 1869. The small brewery, E. Anheuser & Co., grew over the next decade and became Anheuser-Busch in 1879. The company has produced more than 50 different brands of beer. During Prohibition (1920-33) and for a few years before and after, Anheuser-Busch made 20 different brands of nonalcoholic beverages, including root beer, ginger ale, grape drink and a short-lived coffee-flavored soda called Kaffo.

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

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

* Political rain cap, Goldwater in '64, $12.

* Beaded purse, Venetian canal scene, Italian, 13 by 8 inches, $60.

* Staffordshire plate, Patrick Henry addressing Virginia Assembly and St. Johns Church, 10 inches, $75.

* General Electric fan, rotating, brass and iron, circa 1920, 16 1/2 by 15 inches, $90.

* "Addams Family" puzzle, Cleopatra's Plight, box, 1965, $125.

* Photograph, Civil War Camp, cavalry men, framed, circa 1870, 16 by 14 inches, $130.

* Advertising poster, Frank Fehr Brewing Co., "Try Our Bock Beer," circa 1880s, 34 by 23 1/2 inches, $440.

* Eastlake chest of drawers, walnut, three drawers, red mottled marble top, brass handles, circa 1890, 30 by 40 inches, $510.

* Sampler, view of Grand Suspension Bridge, Wales, Anne Jones, 1839, 16 by 24 inches, $920.

* KR doll No. 121, Dimpled Darling, original clothes, 17 inches, $1,480.

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