Toy boats have been popular for hundreds of years.
There were carved wooden sail boats, tin models of paddle-wheel boats, ocean liners and military fleets made by the 19th century.
By the 20th century many were made with mechanisms that pushed them across the water.
Or there were simple floating “pond” boats.
The exploding boat wasn’t made until the early 1900s.
It was a toy made of blocks of wood and came with a submarine or cannon that could shoot a wooden “torpedo” at the side of the boat and blow the wooden blocks apart.
The first of these was a 12-inch battleship and cannon set made by Baker and Bennett of New York about 1905 called “Exploding Battleship Builder.”
Schoenhut made a similar toy in 1915 called the “Naval War Game.”
It was a boxed set with a ship, submarines and three torpedoes.
The mechanisms were simple. Each ship had a hollow spot in the lowest wooden section where a mousetrap was set.
When the torpedo hit the ship’s side, the trap was sprung and the boat came apart in a noisy “explosion.”
Homemade versions were made following printed instructions in a 1935 Popular Science magazine.
And in the 1950s, a similar plastic toy was made.
The early exploding B & B toy set, 16 pieces and the box, sold at a James Julia auction in Fairfield, Maine, in 2015 for $237.
Q. We bought an arts and crafts-style home, which was built in 1913 in a historic district of San Diego. There is a round circle of brass about two inches in diameter in the middle of the dining-room floor. There are three holes in the brass for prongs to be inserted. Could it have been a servant’s bell?
A. Servants’ bells were used to summon servants in homes built for the wealthy. By the early 20th century, bells were electric and were wired from various rooms in the house to the servants’ area. The bell in the middle of the dining-room floor would have been near the head of the dining-room table. Wires from the bell led to the kitchen. Someone sitting at the table could step on the bell to call a servant to bring the next course. The holes in the brass may be where the bell or the wires were attached to the plate in the floor.
Q. We have a dresser with a label that reads “Globe-Bosse World Furniture Co.” When was that company in business?
A. Globe-Bosse World Furniture Co. was founded in Evansville, Indiana, in 1910 when three furniture companies in Evansville joined together. The Globe Furniture Co. started in 1899, Bosse Furniture Co. in 1905 and World Furniture Co. in 1907. A fire destroyed much of the company in 1946. It was out of business by the early 1960s.
Q. Were round, colored-glass rose bowls really used for roses in Victorian times when many were made?
A. Yes. Roses are an old-fashioned flower and they were grown in Victorian gardens in many areas of the United States. New rose plants have been hybridized to have larger, more colorful flowers, be more disease-resistant and bloom earlier or later than the old ones. But old-fashioned climbing roses still are a favorite with gardeners. The rose bowl is shaped like a ball. The opening at the top turns in but does not turn out again, though it might have a small rim. The bowls are designed to hold bunches of short-stemmed heavy, large single rose blossoms. They were popular from the 1880s to the 1920s, the same time colored glass was in fashion.
Q. I moved and am trying to downsize. I have a bowl marked “Rosenthal, Germany” and “Studio Line,” and it’s signed by Bjorn Wiinblad. Is it valuable, or should I let it go?
A. Bjorn Wiinblad (1918-2006) was a Danish artist and designer. He designed most of the works for Nymolle, a Danish ceramic company, from 1946 to 1956. He began designing for Rosenthal in 1957. Wiinblad was one of many artists who designed pieces for Rosenthal’s Studio Line, which was introduced in 1961.
The Studio Line was a very expensive line. An important 10-inch plate sells for about $100.
Q. I’d like some information about an album of German photographs that my uncle brought back from World War II. He was in the U.S. Army and was part of a group that captured a guest house where Hitler had stayed. They took souvenirs from this property and I think this album is from that source. It’s like a yearbook but has no regular book covers. The preface page is dated 1941. The pictures show German war scenes and war-office sessions. There is one photo and one sentence in German on each page. A stack of photographs is tucked inside.
I’m not sure how much of this material exists in the United States. It may be important new material.
What is the best path to take with this?
A. The album may have been made as a propaganda tool to gain support for the war in Germany. It should be seen by an expert to determine rarity and value.
The loose photos may be the most valuable, since they weren’t mass-produced.
They could sell at auctions that specialize in historical or political items.
You also can contact the National World War II Museum in New Orleans to see if anyone there has information about the 1941 album.
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