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Self-Image in the 19th Century

March 10, 2001|RALPH KOVEL and TERRY KOVEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The cheval glass was an important piece of bedroom furniture in past centuries. By the 1700s, large sheets of glass could be made and silvered. A cheval is a large mirror on a stand. The mirror can be swiveled to enable the viewer to see shoes and hat--a practical dressing mirror.

The word "cheval" comes from the French word for horse, but the only similarity between the mirror and a horse is that each has four legs.

Bedrooms in past centuries rarely had full-length mirrors. The only way to see how you looked was to swivel the small mirror attached to a dresser or to look into a small, hand-held mirror.

The large, swiveling mirror remained a popular piece of bedroom furniture into the 1900s. It was made in many styles, from Georgian to Empire to Art Nouveau. Most were framed with wood, but a few had wicker or bamboo stands.

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Question: About 40 years ago, a friend gave me a square plate she called "old" that pictures a street scene from "The Pickwick Papers" by Charles Dickens. At the bottom of the plate are the words "Mr. Pickwick and his Friends Arrive at the Blue Don Muggleton." The mark on the back includes a crown above the words "Crown Ducal Ware England."

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Answer: Your plate was made by A.G. Richardson & Co. Ltd., founded in 1915 in Tunstall, Staffordshire, England. "Crown Ducal" was the pottery's trademark. The best-known Crown Ducal wares are decorated with chintz patterns of allover flowers.

The mark on your Dickens plate was used for several years, beginning in 1925, so your plate is about 75 years old. A.G. Richardson was acquired by Enoch Wedgwood Ltd. in 1974.

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Q In 1961, a friend gave me a metal Fry's Cocoa Extract tin. The red, black and gold lithographed Egyptian design is on all four sides of the rectangular tin. It's 6 1/2 inches tall and 3 inches on each side. "Gold Medal, Paris, 1878--Bristol & London" is printed around the bottom edge.

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A Your English cocoa tin is well-known among collectors of advertising tins. The 1878 date refers to an award the brand won at the Paris World's Fair that year. Your tin dates from about 1900. Your tin, if it's in excellent condition, would sell for $50 to $75.

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Q I have a box filled with patriotic press-on transfers from World War II. Each is about 7 by 4 inches. Have they any value?

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A Some paper collectibles sell for good prices. The highest-priced ones have historic value or are attractive enough to display. But transfers are small, the writing would be backward if framed and displayed, and there is no organized group looking for them. We have never seen any offered for sale. Colorful, decorative transfers meant for the walls of kitchens and bathrooms of the 1950s sell for about $50 each.

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Q We recently went to an antiques show and bought an emerald-green cup and saucer. The dealer said it was Peking glass, made about 1850. What more can you tell us?

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A The antiques books list two kinds of Peking glass. One type was made in the 18th century for use at the Chinese Imperial Court. Small glass animals or vegetables of blue or yellow glass were favored. It is also called Mandarin glass.

The other type of glass was made at the Peking Imperial Palace workshops, established in 1680. The factory made many types of blown and cameo glass. Most collectors today think of cameo glass when they hear the term "Peking glass." It is usually white with carved, colored glass as the top layer. Your cup and saucer are the type made at the Palace.

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Q My wife and I are arguing about the definition of a butter knife. What is your understanding?

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A We think it's not worth arguing about. You don't explain your differing definitions, but we assume that one of you is using the term "butter knife" for the slightly bent-handled knife with a curved blade used to cut a slice of butter off a butter-serving plate.

Many people also call the similar flat-handled knife that's set on each bread plate a butter knife. Others call this knife a butter spreader. A third but less common type of butter knife, also used as a serving knife, has a reversed handle that is twisted sideways from the blade.

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Q My large vase was purchased at auction. It is marked "Williamsburg."

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A Williamsburg Pottery is a licensed manufacturer for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. The pottery, in Lightfoot, Va., has been working since 1938. It makes reproductions of 18th-century American pottery. The pieces, including stoneware and slipware vases, mugs and pitchers, are sold as souvenirs at the craft house in Williamsburg and at other shops in the town. Williamsburg Pottery pieces are all marked.

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.

Current Prices

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

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