Tables can be useful in many ways, and they often have special names.
A work table was used to hold sewing supplies. Sometimes it even had a bag that held the sewing.
An antique writing table had drawers and cubbyholes for paper, pens and sealing wax.
A rent table was usually round, with 26 drawers - one for each letter of the alphabet. It evolved into a table with a filing cabinet to keep track of rent payments and bills.
A coffee table was low enough to be used in front of a sofa. It held food as well as beverages, including coffee, in many 1950s homes.
New Orleans Auction Galleries offered a "silver table" made of mahogany. None of the usual American books listed that name. The English call the rectangular wooden tables designed to hold a silver tea service on a tray by the name "silver table." They were often made in the 18th century in the Chinese Chippendale style. They had a pierced ledge at the top and pierced supports for the legs.
Q. My grandmother married in 1905, and I inherited one of her wedding presents. It is a celluloid dresser set in a silk-lined case. The case has two doors and a bottom drawer. A woman's portrait is inside each door. The center section holds a celluloid hairbrush and mirror. What can you tell me?
A. Celluloid, the first semi-synthetic plastic, was invented in the 1860s. The material was used by manufacturers of vanity and novelty items, including dresser sets. If yours is in excellent condition with all of its pieces, it could be worth $400 or more.
Q. Our local historical society recently restored the outside and inside of an old one-room schoolhouse. We were able to find and install an old cast-iron heating stove, but the stove is missing its original finial. The front of the stove is embossed "Florence Hot Blast No. 77, C. Emrick, Columbus, Ohio, Patented." We wondered if you could tell us how old the stove is and where we might find a replacement finial.
A. Florence Stove Manufacturers was founded in Columbus by Christopher Emrick, a German immigrant, about 1861. The company made many different models of wood- or coal-burning heating stoves at least until 1920. Florence's Model No. 75 was patented in 1899, so it is likely that your Model No. 77 was patented around the same time or a little later. Replacement parts for antique stoves can be found by searching online or checking a resource book.
Q. While cleaning some closets, I found one of my kids' old jigsaw puzzles. But it's not the usual type. Each puzzle piece is a cardboard cutout of an animal. The pieces are packed in a small, clear-plastic box. The puzzle is called "Animal Jumble-Fits," and a sticker on the front of the box says it's a "Cluster Puzzle." What's a cluster puzzle? And can you tell me anything about mine?
A. In 1964, a Chicago man named Alex Palmer designed jigsaw puzzles that he marketed under the name Tek Method Co. He called his invention Cluster Puzzles because each piece is a complete picture, but all the pieces fit together to form a larger scene. Cadaco, a large Chicago toy company, took over production of Palmer's puzzles in 1966 and sold them into the 1980s. Eventually, seven different puzzles were produced. Today an original Animal Jumble-Fits puzzle sells for about $20.
Q. I have a collection of Reddi-wip dolls from the 1960s. Each doll is dressed in an ethnic costume and is one in a series called "Dolls of the World." I have every doll except one, and they're all in their original boxes. I also have the original pamphlet that shows all the dolls in the collection. We have contacted the company, but no one there seems to be able to give us more information.
A. Reddi-wip dessert topping was created in 1948 by a St. Louis inventor named Aaron "Bunny" Lapin. Lapin also invented the aerosol valve required to serve his canned whipped cream. From 1965 through at least 1976, Reddi-wip ran ads in national magazines offering an 8-inch plastic doll in exchange for the pull tab from a Reddi-wip can plus $1.50 or $2. There were different series of premium dolls, including your "Dolls of the World" and "Bicentennial Dolls." Today any one of these dolls sells for about $10. A complete set, however, could bring a premium.
Q. My neighbor gave me 12 dinner plates. They are marked with a black-on-gold silhouette of a knight on horseback above the words "Black Knight." In black ink, it says "Registered USA, Selb, Bavaria."
A. The Black Knight mark was used between about 1925 and 1941 on dishes imported from Germany by Graham & amp; Zenger, a New York City importer and wholesaler. The dishes were manufactured by Hutschenreuther Porcelain Factory, which is still in business.
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