Antiques shed light on World's Fairs
By Ralph and Terry Kovel, Special to the Times
Published December 8, 2007
World's Fairs are the source of many types of souvenirs: bandannas, dolls, vases, clocks, key chains, compacts, figurines, books, posters, teapots and lamps, to name just a few. The most collectible have the name and date of the fair as part of the design. But, unfortunately, a few years after a fair is over, many people throw out their kitschy souvenirs - exactly the things collectors want years later.
The Trylon and Perisphere buildings have become the unforgettable symbols of the 1939 New York Fair; the Space Needle, the symbol of the 1962 Seattle Fair. Lamps have been featured at many fairs since 1900 because lighting has been one of the world's fast-changing technologies. We have advanced from kerosene lamps with flames to electric light bulbs to halogen and LED lights. Each requires a special style of lamp, which was featured at the fairs.
At the 1933 Chicago fair, a popular lamp was made by Chase Brass & Copper Co. The company was known for its modern metal accessories, including lamps, bookends, serving pieces and trays created by famous designers. But its World's Fair lamp was designed to appeal to an average buyer. It was made to resemble a binnacle, the case that supports a ship's compass. Inside a glass cylinder was decorated on the outside with an Art Deco-inspired picture of the fair's skyline. The lamp was an unusual night light, too weak to be used for reading, but bright enough to bring back memories of the fair.
Q: I have a coffee table marked with a metal medallion that reads "Baker Furniture" in fancy script. What can you tell me about it?
A: Baker Furniture dates back to 1890, when Cook, Baker & Co. was founded in Allegan, Mich., to make wood architectural products. Within a few years, the company was manufacturing bookcases, buffets, desks and cabinets. The name changed to Baker & Co. in 1903 and then later to Baker Furniture Inc. The mark with fancy letters has been used since 1937. Baker Furniture, still in business today, has been owned since 1986 by Kohler Co. of Kohler, Wis. The Kohler Web site has a Baker link that says you can mail in a photo of a vintage Baker piece to learn when it was made.
Q: Can you tell me anything about Ferroline black glass?
A: Ferroline is an opaque black glass patented in 1881 by Enrico Rosenzi and Benjamin Lupton, founder of the West Side Glass Co. of Bridgeton, N.J. The name "Ferroline" is a combination of the Latin word "ferrum" (iron) and "opaline." The glass was advertised as indestructible and was used for tiles, tabletops, lamp feet, vases, plates, bowls, cups and saucers and other items. At least three Ferroline plates were made by the West Side Glass Co., one with a rose center and ivy-wreath border, one with a bird in a nest and ivy border and one with no decoration. The factory burned down in 1885 and another company took over the production of Ferroline, but the glass did not sell well and the company stopped producing it a year later. Ferroline is rarely found today.
Send questions to Antiques, Ralph and Terry Kovel, c/o the St. Petersburg Times, King Features Syndicate, 300 W 57th St., 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019. Visit www.kovels.com to sign up and see more than 750,000 free antiques and collectibles prices and to receive free weekly e-mail updates with the latest information on the world of collecting.
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.
- Kerosene-fueled camp stove, clear mica window, marked "Game Junior No. 1, Taylor & Boggis Co., Cleveland, Ohio," $65.
- Baby crib quilt, 48 squares of pre-1950 textiles, silk, cotton, wool, rayon and boucle, green pinwale corduroy backing, 23 by 29 inches, $150.
- Magnifying glass, brass, mounted on Civil War militia sword guard with stag-butt handle, 31/2 inches, $195.
- Telephone stand, teak, black Formica top, two sliding trays, one drawer, 1958, 22 inches, $710.
- Sheet-metal weathervane, locomotive, black paint with gold lettering, 1920s, 24 by 27 by 19 inches, $1,275.
- Furstenberg porcelain figure, "There Are No Fleas on Me," woman peering down the front of nightdress looking for fleas, c. 1775, $3,600.