Ants have been sneaking inside warm houses for centuries. Our ancestors did not use poison, but they had a way to keep the ants away from their food. They made ant traps of pottery or glass designed to keep ants from climbing up the legs of a kitchen or dining room table. The trap was shaped like a tube pan. The legs of the table were inserted in the center hole in the pan, and kerosene or turpentine was poured into the "canal." The ants could not safely travel across the liquid, but the kitchen probably smelled like a chemical plant.
One set of four pottery traps, one for each table leg, sold last year at the Southern Folk Pottery Collectors Society auction. It was attributed to the J.G. Baynham shop because of the glaze used on the traps. They were made in about 1900. Each trap is 7 inches wide, so it might trip unwary children reaching for food. But the idea of a dish of liquid around a table leg to discourage crawling bugs is still useful.
Q We live in Minnesota, where it's very cold in the winter and hot and humid in the summer. What's the best way to store cardboard boxes of collectibles to prevent mold and mildew?
A Store cardboard boxes in a dry place. Cardboard absorbs moisture. The basement may be too damp, unless a dehumidifier is used to keep the humidity between 45 percent and 65 percent. If the box has already begun to mildew, you may notice a white powdery substance on it. You can remove the mildew by wiping it off with a sponge dipped in a mixture of one part chlorine bleach to four parts water. Wring out the sponge until it's almost dry and then wipe the mildew off the box. Rinse with a sponge dipped in clean water and wrung out. Then put the box in the sun to dry.
Q I have an old Lassie metal ring. It has a portrait of the famous collie with an "L" on either side of her head. It's in very good condition. Is it possible for you to put a price on this? I have been unable to locate anything regarding price or past sales.
A Your ring was a premium distributed by the Campbell Soup Co., sponsor of the "Lassie" TV series. The original series ran from Sept. 12, 1954, to March 24, 1973. The ring was featured in an episode in January 1958. It has been estimated that more than 77,000 rings were given out as premiums. Occasionally the rings show up for sale online. You can find out more about Lassie collectibles on the website LassieWeb.org/lassfaq.htm.
Q My brother bought a porcelain traveling tea service for two at the Gloria Swanson estate sale in 1983. It is decorated with the Napoleonic emblem, gold bees and gold rims. The tray has an "N" in a wreath in the center. The tray and two saucers are marked in red with a crown over an "N" on the back. The traveling case is made of wood. The case fell apart, so I glued it back together. Inside the case, there's a gold pillow that lies over the top of the china to protect it when the case is closed. I'm interested in the history of this set. Was it made for Napoleon, or was it just a commemorative piece?
A Your traveling set was not made for Napoleon, but it is decorated with Napoleonic elements. Bees were part of Napoleon's heraldic emblem. One story says that he didn't want to spend the money to redecorate when he moved into the Royal Palace. He didn't like the draperies decorated with fleurs-de-lis, the French Royal emblem, so he hung them upside down, which made the fleurs-de-lis look like bees. A good story, but he may have chosen the bee because it's a symbol of industriousness, immortality and power. The "crown over N" mark was used on Capo-di-Monte porcelain. It was made in Naples, Italy, from 1743 to 1759 and in Madrid, Spain, from 1771 to 1821. The molds and mark were sold and the mark is being used today by Societa Ceramica Richard of Milan, Italy. The set's value is helped because it belonged to Gloria Swanson, but it's hurt because of the repairs.
Q I have a mantel clock made by the Wm. L. Gilbert Clock Co. It has a cranberry-colored glass case. It's engraved "Pat. Dec. 23, 1902" on the bottom, where there are also other numbers I can't make out. The back is engraved "Gilbert Clock Co., Winsted, Conn., USA." The clock has been in my family for many years. I'd like more information about it.
A William Lewis Gilbert and his brother-in-law, George Marsh, founded Marsh, Gilbert & Co. in 1828. The company changed owners and Connecticut locations several times during the years it was in business. The name was changed several times, too, but always included the name "Gilbert." The Dec. 23, 1902, patent was for a beat adjuster for pendulum clocks. In about 1910, Gilbert made a model called "Orleans" that had a glass case. Gilbert also made clocks with cases made of china, metal or wood. During World War II, when metal was scarce, papier-mache cases were made. The company was bought by General Computing Machines Co. in 1957 and was sold again in 1964. A Gilbert clock with a glass case is worth about $800.
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