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Fancy boxes served the rich's sewing needs



Published: Sat, January 1, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Sewing used to be an important job for every woman.

The 18th-century woman had to spin and weave to make cloth, then cut and stitch it into clothing, bed linens, towels and even rugs.

Although the lock-stitch sewing machine was invented in 1846, hand sewing was still important, and until the early 1900s a housewife had a sewing kit filled with the tools of the trade: scissors, thimble, bobbin to wind thread, needle case, awl to make holes, and compartments to hold pins, buttons and other small objects.

There were many types of sewing kits.

A plain wooden box with a padded top that served as a pincushion was one simple kind.

A table with the box built into the top was another.

The wealthy had boxes made of ivory, shagreen or fancy wood trimmed with silver or even gold.

Today, elaborate sewing boxes made before 1900 are difficult to find, but all types of sewing utensils attract collectors.

Q. My family has owned a bronze wall clock for many years. It is 61/2 inches in diameter. The bronze case is in the form of a rose vine and, at the bottom, a cherub face and wings. The name on the clock face is Sterling Bronze Co., New York. Can you estimate age and value?

A. The Sterling Bronze Co. was in business in New York City from the mid-1800s until at least the 1930s. The company manufactured high-quality bronze chandeliers, wall brackets, sculptures and both wall and mantel clock cases. It purchased clock movements from either Chelsea Clock Co. of Chelsea, Mass., or Waltham Clock Co. of Waltham, Mass. Sterling Bronze Co. clocks sell today for prices ranging from about $400 to $1,200, depending on condition and style.

Q. Please tell me something about my plate. It's marked "Warwick" on the bottom.

A. Warwick China Co. was founded in Wheeling, W.Va., in 1884. Until 1951, it manufactured an enormous amount of dinnerware, both porcelain and semi-porcelain. The heavier dinnerware was made for hotels and railroads. Most Warwick dishes were handpainted or decorated with decals. Warwick also made some brown-glazed portrait tankards that sell for high prices today.

Q. I have an old, electric wringer washing machine that belonged to my grandmother. She used it until she died in 1989, at the age of 96. A label on the all-metal washer reads "1900 Washer Co., Inc., Binghamton, N.Y., 1900 Whirlpool Washer." I'd hate to sell it for scrap. Can you tell me how old it is, and if a collector might want it?

A. The 1900 Washer Co. was founded in Binghamton in 1889 and started making electric washing machines in the early 1900s. The company did not own rights to the Whirlpool brand name until 1922, and changed its corporate name to Whirlpool in 1950. So, your machine was made between 1922 and 1950. Its style suggests a date in the 1930s. You might be able to donate it to a local historical society or museum. If you want to sell it, try advertising in a local antiques publication or listing it in an online auction, and include information on your location. Shipping costs for a heavy machine might be too hefty to attract bidders from across the country. In general, washing machines of the vintage of yours sell for about $100.

Q. My father has acquired a genuine amusement-park-ride steeplechase horse. It looks like a carousel horse. He has a sales brochure promoting the ride, too. The ride was manufactured by Arrow Development Co. of Mountain View, Calif. According to the brochure, the "family ride" could be set up with two to four tracks, and each track could carry eight horses. Would a collector be interested in buying this horse?

A. Arrow Development Co. was founded in 1946 by two World War II veterans, Ed Morgan and Karl Bacon. Arrow built merry-go-rounds and other rides for amusement parks near San Francisco. Then, in 1953, Walt Disney called. Disney hired Arrow to design and build many of Disneyland's original rides, including the Tea Cups and Dumbo the Flying Elephant. In the 1960s, Arrow invented flume rides for parks all over the country.

Arrow's Steeplechase dates from the late 1960s, and the version with single horses wasn't produced for long.

Antique hand-carved carousel horses can sell for a lot of money. Your father's horse is not of that vintage or quality, but it would interest some collectors.

XThe Kovels answer as many questions as possible through the column. By sending a letter with 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, NY 10019.

& copy; 2005 by Cowles Syndicate Inc.




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