When Abraham Lincoln was president, his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, bought a new set of dishes for the White House. Although there was the threat of a civil war, Mrs. Lincoln realized a state dinner would require more dishes than were in the set bought during President Pierce’s administration. Many of the set’s white dishes with gold-and-blue trim had been used and broken. Mrs. Lincoln went to New York City and ordered a set from E.V. Haughwout & Co., the same company that had furnished the Pierce set. The center of the dishes is decorated with an eagle holding a red, white and blue shield and a banner saying “E Pluribus Unum.” The edge is gold-and-white twisted ropes surrounding a border of purplish-red called “Soliferno,” a fashionable new shade at the time. The same pattern was ordered several times in later years as new dishes were needed. This explains why some of the dishes are unmarked, some are marked “Fabrique par Haviland & Co. pour J.W. Boteler & Bro., Washington” and some are marked “Theo Haviland, Limoges, France, J.W. Boteler & Son, Washington, D.C.” All of these dishes were used in the White House. But later, some souvenir plates were made with a border in a different shade of purple. These are marked “Administration Abraham Lincoln.” The souvenir plates sell for about $300 each. The authentic White House plates usually bring $4,000 to $6,000. At a Cowan Historical Americana Auction in December, a chipped 9 1/2-inch plate sold for $14,100.
Q: I recently purchased a buffet made by the Imperial Furniture Co. of Grand Rapids, Mich. It’s 5 feet wide by 4 feet high by 2 feet deep, and has five drawers with a door on each side. Any information would be great.
A: F. Stuart Foote founded the Imperial Furniture Co. in 1903. Foote was president of Imperial from 1904 to 1954, the year he died. Imperial primarily made tables. In fact, Foote claimed his company invented the coffee table. Buffets that matched Imperial’s dining-room tables are believed to have been made by the Grand Rapids Chair Co., a firm owned by Foote’s father.
Q: My “Gone-With-the-Wind” oil lamp is marked “B & H.” It has a metal bottom and a glass shade. When was this type of lamp made?
A: “B & H” is the trademark of the Bradley and Hubbard Co. of Meriden, Conn. It made cast-iron clocks, tables, frames, andirons, lamps, chandeliers, sconces, sewing birds, bookends, banks and other pieces. The company was founded in 1854 and became Bradley and Hubbard Manufacturing Co. in 1875. It was bought by Charles Parker Co. in 1940. “Gone-With-the-Wind” is used to describe lamps like yours because they were used as props in the famous 1939 movie. The correct name is “vase lamp.” If the shade is decorated, the lamp sells for about $500 today. A plain shade lowers the value to $300.
Q: I collect doorknockers. How long have the decorative center-of-the-door knockers been used?
A: Door knockers have been used for more than 2,000 years. The ring knocker was one of the first and was often found on churches. By the 18th century, elaborate knockers were made of iron, bronze or brass. They have been used ever since on front doors, even bedroom doors. There seems no end to the variety of shapes. Faces, animals, bouquets of flowers, pineapples, birds and geometric designs seem to be the most popular.
Q: I am looking for information on Speas Apple Cider Vinegar U-Savit jars.
A: John W. Speas and two partners founded what became the Speas Vinegar Co. in 1888 in Kansas City, Mo. The jars marked “U-Savit” (a company trademark) were made by the Owens-Illinois Glass Co. from 1928 until World War II. Speas Vinegar Co. was sold to Pillsbury in 1978. There’s a Web site devoted to information about Speas vinegar jars and bottles. Visit www.SpeasVinegar.com.
Q: Is my bottle of Elvis Presley wine valuable?
A: “Always Elvis” is an Italian white wine that was sold in 1977 by Box Car Enterprises. A full-length picture of Elvis is on the label. Elvis Presley’s picture is hidden on a 1993 bottle of premium cabernet sauvignon sold as Graceland First Vintage. The face can be seen if the bottle is turned on its side. There is also a 1978 Blanco D’oro Elvis wine bottle, a musical 1978 McCormick Elvis bottle, a McCormick bottle shaped like a bust of Elvis, an Always Elvis 1978 Collector Series bottle and Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola Elvis bottles. Celebrity names or faces have appeared on many wine labels. There was a 1977 Marilyn Merlot bottle with a picture of Marilyn Monroe. Drink the wine. Most of these bottles sell for under $20. The musical Elvis bottle sometimes gets $100.
Tip: When packing teapots to move, do not tape the lid to the pot. The tape may leave a stain, and the lid may chip if it’s handled roughly or just bumps around while being moved in a car.
Terry Kovel answers as many questions as possible through the column. By sending a letter with a question, you give full permission for use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names, addresses or e-mail 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, Auction Central News, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.
Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.
- Madame Alexander Sonja Henie doll, plastic, sleep eyes, blond mohair, original skating outfit, 14 inches, $225.
- Motion Picture Magazine with 3-D pin-ups, includes Marilyn Monroe, Mitzi Gaynor and Mamie Van Doren, “Macyscope” glasses, 16 pages, 1953, $305.
- Silk needlework of eagle, silk and metallic threads, embroidered eagle over American shield and flag, stitched “E Pluribus Unum,” red ground, 20 x 23 inches, $315.
- Cherokee River cane basket, faded brown-and-orange weave, notched oak handle, 12 x 12 x 10 inches, $400.
- Avon Pottery pitcher and tankards set, image of early Yale football players, 1886, seven pieces, $515.
- Whig Rose appliqued quilt, nine wreaths of flowers on white ground, floral vine border, diamond pattern, 1875, 81 x 76 inches, $805.
- Picasso ceramic plate, Toros, two bulls on green-and-blue ground, Vallauris, France, 1952, 7 3/4 inches, $1,030.
- Beer tap, three spigots, marble and brass, from the Driskill Hotel, Austin, Texas, 1900s, $1,795.
- French Provincial fruitwood daybed, silk upholstered down cushion, two bolsters, Continental, 19th century, 37 x 81 inches, $1,955.
- Mickey Mouse Merchandise Catalog, 1934, 76 pages, black-and-white, published by Kay Kamen Inc., 9 x 12 inches, $3,795.
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