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When rattles are more than child's play

Published May 19, 2007


What better gift for a new baby than a rattle? Babies have played with rattles since ancient times. At first the toys were meant for adults, who rattled them to keep evil spirits away from children. By the Middle Ages, the rattle, often attached to a handle made of coral to chew when teething, was a popular toy among aristocrats.

In the United States, hollow clay figures shaped like birds or dogs were made with small balls inside that would rattle. These, too, were often meant for adults to shake.

But clay is too easily broken and unsafe for a baby. By the 1800s, the famous silversmith Paul Revere and others were making silver rattles that also could be chewed. In the early 20th century, Tiffany's, the famous New York company, made sterling silver rattles as baby gifts. Silver baby gifts such as feeding spoons and special dishes are still being made. Collectors like all kinds of baby-related items.

Name that furniture

Q: I have a piece of furniture that looks like a footstool with a post in the center, which makes it about 5 feet tall. A metal tag on the bottom reads: "Cushman Colonial Creation." Can you tell me what it might be?

A: We were as baffled as you by your strange piece of furniture until we discovered the history of Cushman Colonial Creations. The very inventive members of the Cushman family opened a business in 1867 when Henry Theodore Cushman began making corks. He used the waste from the corks to stuff mattresses he sold.

By the 1870s, he had a factory and invented novelties to sell through a mail-order company. His inventions included the first ink eraser, the first pencil and ink eraser combination, the first children's pencil box and the first ink eradicator. He even made pocket-sized roller skates he rolled into a tube.

By 1886, he was making coat and hat hangers and racks, his first furniture. Next came umbrella racks, easels, book racks, stools and fireplace screens.

The H.T. Cushman Manufacturing Co. of Bennington, Vt., was founded in 1889. At first it made Mission furniture, then some more original inventions. One was the Betumal ("beat 'em all"), a telephone stand with a hinged stool that swung into the stand for storage. The 1920s saw more Cushman innovative furniture, including smoker's furniture like standing ashtrays. And this is what we think you own - the stand for an ashtray. The pole must have held a large ashtray and sections for pipes, matches and other accessories.

The Colonial Creations line of furniture was introduced in 1933. Early pieces were designed by Herman DeVries, a famous Dutch designer. The inventive firm adapted ideas from blacksmiths' mailboxes or cobblers' benches for an Early American look. The scuffed maple finish made the furniture look old and the line remained popular for more than 30 years. The company was sold in 1964, then sold again and renamed. It went out of business in 1980

'Aroma No. 9' grinder

Q: I have a coffee grinder with the label "Aroma No. 9, Made in Cleveland, Ohio, by The Bronson-Walton Co." Can you tell me more?

A: The Bronson and Walton Co. operated in Cleveland from 1901 until 1916. The company made metal kitchen goods, including baking pans, roasters, pails and buckets, as well as coffee grinders. The Aroma No. 9 mill had a steel canister. The label was lithographed dark green on white or red on black. Bronson-Walton coffee grinders sell for more than $100.

Questions of general interest will be answered in the column. Send questions to Antiques, Ralph and Terry Kovel, c/o the St. Petersburg Times, King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019.

Current prices

- Menu, Grand Canyon Lodge, Utah Park, Union Pacific, 1929, 4 by 5 inches, $45.

- Working Wives (Salaried or Otherwise) Cookbook, Crown Publishers, 1963, $70.

- Carnival glass sandwich server, Brocaded Summer Gardens pattern, center handle, white, $75.

- Mansion of Happiness board game, Parker Brothers, c. 1894, 21 by 14 inches, $310.

- Madame Alexander Shari Lewis doll, hard plastic, five-piece body, red dress, 1959, 14 inches, $600.

- Movie poster, The Mummy's Curse, Lon Chaney Jr., linen back, 1944, 27 by 41 inches, $2, 900.


[Last modified May 18, 2007, 11:45:21]

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