The shape of a lamp once was determined by its power source. A candle required a holder that kept the candle upright, caught drippings and was not damaged if the candle burned too low. Most early candlesticks were made of metal, and many had drip pans and handles so the lit candle could be moved. Whale oil and kerosene needed a lamp that had a way to adjust the wick and burned oil in the font, a special ball-shaped container. In the late 1890s, when electricity was available in many homes, some lamps were designed for a light bulb that could be positioned to direct light down toward the top of a table. But manufacturers also created electric lamps that looked like old-style "kerosene" lamps. They had new parts that included an on-off switch, a light cord and a plug. Even today some modern electric lamps look as if they were made before 1900. The Fenton Art Glass Co. started making glass in 1907. It made dishes, bowls, lamps and other molded glass pieces. The L.G. Wright Co. of New Martinsville, W.Va., opened in 1937 and soon ordered and sold lamps made by Fenton and other glasshouses. L.G. Wright also bought old glass molds from several companies. Today there often is confusion about who made a particular piece, about whether the piece is a copy made from an old mold and about the piece's age. Collectors search for Fenton pieces sold by Fenton, and for Fenton pieces made for and sold by L.G. Wright. The Fenton Art Glass Collectors of America is an active club still researching and collecting the glass. A peachblow L.G. Wright Fenton lamp decorated with painted roses sold a few years ago for $106.
Q A friend gave me a Burleigh Ware wash set about 20 years ago. It included a basin, chamber pot, covered soap dish and toothbrush holder. I recently found a matching pitcher and second basin at an antique show. All of the pieces are stamped with a beehive mark surrounded by thistles and the words "Burleigh Ware, Estd 1851, B & L Ltd., Made in England, Reg. Trade Mark." Can you tell me when the set was made?
A The mark on your pieces was used in the 1930s by Burgess & Leigh, a British pottery company. The pottery started using the trade name "Burleigh Ware" in the 1930s, and it continues to use the same trade name today. Burgess & Leigh was founded in 1862 in Burslem, a town in England's famous Staffordshire district. We have seen sets of Burleigh Ware pitchers and matching wash bowls selling online for more than $200.
Q I inherited a small, antique wall clock a few years ago. The case is wood, and the clock works well as long as I wind it every five or six days. The pendulum swings inside a small extension of the case, which is covered with plain curved glass. The only mark I can find, "Heiss," is on the clock face. Can you tell me something about the maker and the clock's value?
A A clockmaker named James Heiss was working in Philadelphia in the 1860s and may have made your clock. If it's that old and in good condition, your clock could sell for several hundred dollars.
Q My grandfather was a photographer for Esquire magazine back in the 1940s and '50s. We have a couple dozen black-and-white photographs of celebrities, and are trying to determine their value. They include photos of the Andrews sisters, Irving Berlin, Bing Crosby rehearsing in a studio, Emmett Kelly performing, Clark Gable smoking as he's walking down a New York City street, Jimmy Stewart sitting in a lounge chair and David Niven in his dressing room after a Broadway performance. We also have the negatives of most of these, but none of the photos are autographed.
A Your photos have value even without autographs. Plenty of collectors want original vintage photos of movie stars and other famous people. You should contact an auction house that specializes in photographs to ask about selling the photos. The auction probably will want to discuss the history of the photographs with your family and its own legal counsel just to be sure the photos are clearly owned by your family and not Esquire.
Q Almost 50 years ago, I bought a federal-style secretary-desk from a Salvation Army store in Milwaukee. On the back there's a note that reads: "From Rockford Chair and Furniture Co., furniture manufacturer, Rockford, Ill." Each of the two glass doors on the top has 13 sections, which I have been told represents the original 13 states. Is that true? And can you tell me something about the manufacturer?
A It is true that early-American cabinetmakers often designed glass doors with 13 sections in honor of the 13 original states. So companies that copied early federal styles copied early door styles, too. Rockford Chair & Furniture Co. was founded in about 1882 by Pehr A. Peterson (c. 1846-1927). He had opened the Union Furniture Co. in the same city in 1875-'76. The Rockford Chair & Furniture Co. continued to make furniture in revival styles until 1950.
Tip: If you have old laces and ribbons, iron them by pulling them over a warm electric light bulb. Limp lace can be washed, then sprayed with starch or sizing. Lace can be colored by a quick dip in tea.
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