Kovels – Antiques & Collecting: Week of Nov. 21, 2011

This unusual Chinese export dish was made in the 18th century to keep food warm. The dish's Fitzhugh pattern was used for full sets of dishes. The warming dish is 10 inches in diameter and sold for $211 at a recent DuMouchelles auction in Detroit.

This unusual Chinese export dish was made in the 18th century to keep food warm. The dish’s Fitzhugh pattern was used for full sets of dishes. The warming dish is 10 inches in diameter and sold for $211 at a recent DuMouchelles auction in Detroit.

Thanksgiving dinner in America during the 18th and early 19th centuries was far different than it is today. The traditional menu today includes turkey, cranberry sauce, potatoes, corn, fruit and pumpkin pie. But at the first Thanksgiving, potatoes were unavailable. Cranberries were nearby but there was no sugar, so probably the berries were not eaten.

Think about the problems the Pilgrims faced. They had to find and kill meat or fish for dinner. There were no ovens, and records suggest there were about 150 people at the first Thanksgiving dinner and only four women to do the cooking.

Cooking was done over an open fire. Roasting took a long time, so the turkey was probably boiled. The Pilgrims ate lobster, goose, codfish, venison, rabbit, cheese and a pudding made from hominy. Throughout the next century, indoor kitchens and special equipment made cooking easier. But it was still difficult to keep food hot. One solution was the warming dish. It was made of silver or porcelain. The top looked like a normal plate, but it was made in two parts. The bottom section was deep enough to hold hot water that was poured in through a hole near the top. The water warmed the dish and the food. Today we have microwave ovens and electric heating trays, but every Thanksgiving dinner still takes a lot of work done by a few cooks.

Q: We own a beautiful mirror that hung in my parents’ home for many years. The decoration is cut into the glass. On the back side is a label that says “Decorative Art Mirrors, Your Home Should Come First, Torstenson Glass Co., Chicago.” Can you tell us something about this?

A: The Torstenson Glass Co. was established in 1889 and is still in business in Chicago. The company makes and distributes flat glass and mirrors. The design on your mirror suggests that it was made in the 1920s or ’30s.

Q: I have an 11-inch fluted white Vitrock mixing bowl that was given to me at least 35 years ago by my husband’s grandmother. It has a square 3 1/4-inch bottom. Can you tell me something about its age and value?

A: Vitrock is a Depression glass pattern that was made by Hocking Glass Co. from 1934 to 1937. It has a raised flowered rim and often is called “Floral Rim” or “Flower Rim.” Vitrock was made in plain white and sometimes in white with fired-on colors. It also was made in solid red, solid green or with decal decorations. Hocking Glass Co. was founded in Lancaster, Ohio, in 1905. Its name was changed to Anchor Hocking Glass Corp. in 1937. The company is still in business, now operating as Anchor Hocking Co. Your mixing bowl would sell for $15 to $25.

Q: Years ago my dad gave me a bread knife with a wooden handle. The word “bread” is carved on the handle and the blade is marked “George Butler & Co., Sheffield, England.” Can you tell me if it has value?

A: George Butler’s silver company dates back to 1681, but the original company went out of business in 1952. Rights to its name and marks were bought by other companies, so your knife may have been made after 1952. In the 1970s, many wooden boards with the word “bread” carved in the border were imported and sold at U.S. flea markets. You also could find knives with carved wooden handles like yours. A few were old, but most were later copies. The knives were selling for $75 to $100 then, and would sell for about the same now.

Q: We inherited a pair of matching Victorian ewers and wonder where they were made. There are no marks on either one, and they can’t actually hold any liquid because there’s no opening in the top. The central porcelain section of each ewer is painted light green with pink roses. The gold-painted metal base and top are bolted onto the porcelain section. The top is an elaborately designed spout opposite a handle.

A: Your ewers were designed simply to decorate a mantelpiece. They probably were made in Europe at the end of the 19th century or the beginning of the 20th. If they’re in good condition, they would sell as a pair for $100 to $300.

Q: My mother-in-law has a set of Depression glass dishes that includes plates, cups and saucers, bowls, tumblers, candlesticks and sugar and creamer. The pattern is called Iris Iridescent. The dishes were bought at Woolworth’s. She wants to know if they have any value.

A: Iris, also called Iris and Herringbone, was made by Jeannette Glass Co. of Jeannette, Pa., from 1928 through the 1970s. Crystal, green and pink pieces were made between 1928 and 1932. Some pieces with hand-painted flowers were made in the 1940s. Marigold or iridescent pieces were made in the 1950s. Color-flashed pieces were made as florist ware in the 1960s and ’70s, and milk glass vases with color sprayed on were made in the 1970s. Reproductions of some Iris pieces have been made. Thousands of pieces of Iris were sold by Woolworth’s and other stores. They are offered for sale by several shops online, but be aware that some are reproductions. The price for a single genuine Iris iridescent dinner plate is about $20, so a complete set should be treasured.

Tip: If you can’t hang your vintage quilt or coverlet, display it on a guest room bed. The best way to make textiles last is not to fold them. Large textiles should be rolled for storage.

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 email 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.

  • Thanksgiving postcard, embossed, “First Thanksgiving Day in Alaska, 1868,” Eskimos walking in snowstorm, John O. Winsch copyright, Stapleton, N.Y., 1912, $15.
  • Palmer Cox Brownies napkin ring, silver-tone white metal, incised full figures of six brownies, 1890s, 1 1/2 inches, $75.
  • Indian Motorcycle matchbook holder, copper luster with Indian logo on front, hinged lid, striker pad, circa 1920, 2 1/8 x 1 5/8 inches, $95.
  • Graniteware teapot, dark and light blues, silver-tone lid, early 1900s, 1 cup, 5 1/2 inches, $115.
  • Pennsbury Pottery Harvest cake stand, Pennsylvania Dutch couple carrying a tray with turkey, pumpkins, fruits and vegetables, pedestal foot, marked, 11 1/2 x 4 1/2 inches, $225.
  • Black Bellhop ashtray caddy, Art Deco, painted wood, full-figure, white uniform and hat, brass buttons down front of jacket, half-moon shelf holds ashtray, 1920s, 35 3/4 inches, $230.
  • Steuben console set, Pomona Green, optic ribbed bowl on yellow aventurine cone-shaped foot with applied fleur-de-lis, matching candlesticks, bowl diameter 12 1/2 inches, candlesticks 12 inches high, $805.
  • Simon & Halbig flapper doll, bisque socket head, blue glass sleep eyes, open mouth, composition and wood ball-jointed body, crepe dress with silk fringe, headband, heels, circa 1915, 13 inches, $1,000.
  • Gobblers “The Latest Smoke” cigar tin, lithograph image of trademark turkey on both sides, white ground, red letters, 50 count, 5 x 5 inches, $1,075.
  • Black Forest carved hall tree, linden wood, bear cub climbing to top of tree, mother bear below, thermometer in center, zinc drip pan, early 1900s, 85 x 32 x 36 inches, $4,180.

Spot great costume jewelry faster than anyone and get the buys of a lifetime. “Kovels’ Buyers’ Guide to Costume Jewelry, Part One” explains how to recognize mid-century costume jewelry, Mexican silver jewelry, modernist jewelry and other European and American pieces. Learn all the names you need to know, from Hobe and Sigi to Ed Wiener and Art Smith, from Coro and Trifari to Los Castillo and Spratling. And we explain how to recognize a good piece of genuine Bakelite. Our exclusive report, 8 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches, is filled with color photos, bios, background and more than 100 marks. It’s accurate and comprehensive and includes all of the information in our 2008 report on 20th-century costume jewelry. But it’s in a new, smaller and more convenient format. Available only from Kovels. Order by phone at 800-303-1996; online at Kovels.com; or send $25 plus $4.95 postage and handling to Kovels, Box 22900, Beachwood, OH 44122.

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