Mission style pieces a prized slice of Americanna

  • By Terry Kovel
January 11, 2013
This 1910 telephone was given a special copper cover by the Roycroft community. It sold for $10,625 at a Rago Arts auction in Lambertville, N.J., and probably will have to be rewired to be used.

Mission style, often called “Arts and Crafts,” was first popular in the early 1900s. Heavy wooden Mission furniture made of dark finished oak was introduced by Gustav Stickley. It was soon copied by many other firms.

The style, displayed in furniture as well as other decorative arts, is somber. Instead of bright colors, textiles and pottery were made in a gray-green or dull dark blue. Silver was considered too bright, so many metal ashtrays, bowls and even cabinet hinges were made of oxidized copper. And a few well-to-do people living with this very modern 1910 style even covered their telephone with hammered copper so it would match their other pieces.

The Roycroft community in East Aurora, N.Y., made many useful and attractive crafts. They did book binding and printing, and produced copper work, leatherwork and, of course, furniture.

A copper-coated Bakelite telephone was made in the candlestick shape used at the time. It was manufactured by American Bell Telephone Co. but was enhanced by Roycroft with a handmade “skin” of copper. Both Roycroft and American Bell marked the phone. One sold this year for $10,625.

Q. Several years ago, my aunt gave me a sofa she said came from the Hollenden Hotel in downtown Cleveland. Her husband was doing some plaster and remodeling work at the hotel in the 1940s and brought the furniture home because they were throwing it out. The sofa looks like it dates from the 1930s. There is a metal plate on it that reads “Jamestown Lounge Company.” Can you tell me the history and value of this furniture?

A. Jamestown Lounge Co. was founded in Jamestown, N.Y., by Lynn Cornell, Theodore Hanchett and Hurlburt Phillips in 1888. The company made upholstered furniture and was known for its line of “Feudal Oak,” introduced in 1928. Pieces were made from oak trees that grew near Jamestown. The furniture was machine-carved and early pieces were heavily distressed. The factory closed in 1983. The Hollenden Hotel was built in 1885 and demolished in 1962. Value of your 1930s sofa: about $250.

Q. I own a Puss ‘n Boots cookie jar, creamer and salt and pepper shaker set that belonged to my mother. What is the value of the set?

A. Your Puss ‘n Boots pieces were made by Shawnee Pottery, which was in business in Zanesville, Ohio, from 1937 to 1961. It made cookie jars, dinnerware, flowerpots, lamps, planters, vases and novelty ware. Puss ‘n Boots pieces were made beginning in 1945. A set like yours sold at auction in 2011 for $115.

Q. I have three pairs of men’s underwear with a neck label that reads “Babe Ruth” in red. They are in a box printed with the word “Sealpax” on the top and also “Step Thru-Button Two” and “A new one free - if this one rips.” The boxed underwear came from my dad’s family’s general store a long time ago. Are they of any value?

A. Sealpax was a trade name registered by the Rubin-Meltzer Corp. of New York in 1915. The company made underwear, robes and pajamas. We found 1926-1930 newspaper ads for Sealpax’s Babe Ruth underwear. Babe Ruth set a record for the most home runs in a season in 1927 and was one of the first five players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936. He was one of the era’s most popular sports figures and his name was used to promote many different products. Sealpax’s slogan, “Step Thru-Button Two,” was used on union suits, a type of one-piece long underwear. Ruth’s name also was used to advertise other underwear brands. A box of Babe Ruth underwear sold for more than $500 a couple of years ago.

Tip: If there are two handles on a drawer, open the drawer using both handles. It lessens the strain on the joints.

Current prices

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.

• Office chair, oak, swivel, slat back, open arms, c. 1910, 33 x 23 inches, $30.

• Fenton glass Bluebird of Happiness figurine, violets in the snow, 5 x 4 inches, $40.

• Cigar tin, Idols brand, handmade cigars, multicolor, 3 x 4 7/8 inches, $55.

• Cigar box label, Cosmopolitan Saloon, black, white, J.C. Harrison & Sons, Telluride, Colo., 9 x 7 1/2 inches, $83.

• Cut glass decanter, Gothic panel, hand-blown, faceted steeple-top stopper, c.1810, 14 in., pair, $418.

• Arts & Crafts bowl, roses, bird in flight, mixed metals, hammered, Gorham & Co., c. 1880, 1 3/4 x 5 inches, $875.

• Fox-head inkwell, bronze, copper, painted, early 1900s, 4 inches, $1,007.

• Barometer, banjo, walnut, burl, Gothic designs, busts, griffins, engraved dial, Aitchison & Co., New York, c. 1850, 41 inches, $2,270.

• Chinese Export punch bowl, famille rose, four women, butterflies, flowers, vines, turquoise, 1800s, 15 1/2 inches, $3,050.

Write to Kovels, Observer-Reporter, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.



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