THE KOVELS | Antiques and collecting In 18th, 19th centuries, 'knife boxes' kept silver safe



Where do you keep your best silverware? Probably in a drawer in the dining room. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, silver could represent a significant portion of the owner's wealth.
A well-equipped dining room after 1780 had a dining-room table and chairs, and a sideboard that held bottles of wine, serving dishes and sometimes glass and china. Silverware was usually kept in a pair of boxes on the top of the sideboard.
The box could be rectangular with a sloping top and perhaps a curved front, or it could be shaped like an urn on a pedestal. Many were made of mahogany, with trim of other woods and ivory. The box could be locked to keep the silver safe. The inside of the box was made with shaped slots. A knife or spoon was inserted into the slot so only the handle could be seen.
Although these boxes and urns were called "knife boxes," they often held knives, forks, teaspoons and even soup spoons.
Q. A 13-inch stuffed cloth Minnie Mouse doll has been in our family for about 75 years. We would like to know more about her. She is wearing red shoes and a red skirt with white polka-dots. Her body, her eyes and the back of her head are black. Her nose and the top of her face are brown. The middle of her face and her hands are flesh-colored. The stitching around the skirt and on her back appears to have been done by an amateur. She's in very good shape.
A.. Mickey and Minnie celebrated their 75th birthday in 2003. They made their first appearance in the 1928 Disney cartoon "Steamboat Willie." Stuffed Mickey and Minnie dolls were introduced two years later, when Disney issued a license to California dollmaker Charlotte Clark. The nose and facial outline on Clark dolls are black. We suspect your doll was handmade by someone who purchased the McCall Co. pattern based on Clark's doll. The pattern sold between 1931 and 1939.
Q. I have a large collection of Louis L'Amour novels, both hardcover and paperback. A friend told me that L'Amour also wrote the Hopalong Cassidy books. I thought they were published before L'Amour was born.
A. You're right, but so is your friend. Hoppy made his first appearance in a 1907 novel by New Yorker Clarence E. Mulford (1883-1956). Mulford's Cassidy was a hard-drinking 23-year-old nicknamed Hopalong because a bullet wound forced him to limp. Mulford wrote several more stories featuring Hoppy. Then in the 1930s, the cowboy was transformed into a clean-living hero by Hollywood. Louis L'Amour (1908-88) started writing Western tales for magazines in the late 1940s. At the same time, William Boyd was making the first of his Hopalong Cassidy TV shows. The character's popularity led to the hiring of L'Amour to write more Hopalong Cassidy stories under a pseudonym, Tex Burns. It wasn't until 1991 that L'Amour's Hoppy books were published under his own name. All Hoppy books and memorabilia are popular with collectors. Cloth-covered first editions of Hoppy books with Tex Burns as the author sell for as much as $400.
Q. I inherited a 12-inch-high Weller vase from my grandmother. It's covered in a blotchy green glaze highlighted with coppery brown or yellow. The top is slightly flared and the base spreads out at the bottom. Extending from the surface of the base are four lifelike frogs' heads.
A. Your vase is in Weller Pottery's Coppertone line, which included frog figures as well as vases, ashtrays and pitchers decorated with frogs. Weller operated in Zanesville, Ohio, from 1872 to 1948. Coppertone was manufactured during the 1920s. The coppery-looking finish was created by brushing the piece with brown glaze, then sponging it with green. Your vase, if it's in excellent condition, could sell for more than $600.
Q. My large, nickel-plated electric coffee percolator has been in our family for more than 80 years. It still works. I'm 88 and remember coffee being served from it when I was a small boy. The name "Manning Bowman & amp; Co., Meriden, Conn." is on the base. I wouldn't part with it, but I'm curious about its maker and value.
A. Manning Bowman & amp; Co. was incorporated in Cromwell, Conn., in 1864. The company made Britannia and tin wares. When Manning Bowman needed working capital in 1872, Meriden Britannia Co. came to its rescue and moved the firm to Meriden. By then, Manning Bowman was making mostly silver-plated wares and enamel wares, including bowls, pitchers, coffeepots and teapots. By the second decade of the 20th century, Manning Bowman was a leader in the manufacture of small electrical appliances, including coffee urns like yours. Many were sold to hotels and restaurants. A working Manning Bowman urn-type percolator sells for about $100.
Tip
Milk glass will yellow with repeated washings in a dishwasher.
XThe Kovels answer as many questions as possible through the column. By sending a question, you give full permission for its use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names and addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of any photograph, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The volume of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, The Vindicator, King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, N.Y. 10019.
& copy; 2004 by Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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