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Colored glass adds splash of color to late 1700s decor

Aug 17, 2023Aug 17, 2023

American homes in the 1700s seem very colorless today when compared with log cabins and many restored homes and buildings. Ceramics during that time usually were made of clay ranging from pale beige to red from nearby sources. Fabrics were homemade from sheep's wool, cotton or flax, almost all white to beige. Some weaving included wool from black sheep that could make a black line.

By the end of the 1700s, fabrics were dyed many colors, and ceramics were available in blue, occasionally black and a few other colors for decoration. Furniture was made of wood, but it wasn't painted, just waxed or oiled. Only glass and ceramics from overseas had color. (Research from the past 30 years has shown that the rich had colorful wallpaper, rugs, dishes, bed hangings and more, but much had faded over time.) The popular color "Williamsburg blue" actually is a faded bright blue. The mid-1800s was the start of color in home decoration. Clear or single-color glass was made, then multicolored glass was perfected.

Items like lamps with glass shades could be made with a heat-sensitive glass called Burmese, which became opaque and shaded peach to yellow when reheated. Other glass in color combinations with unusual names was made about the same time. The popularity of the colored glass lasted until the somber Mission style arrived in the 1900s.

Today, there is colorful antique and reproduction glass that usually is made in Victorian shapes for those who prefer a Victorian look. A Mt. Washington student lamp made of Burmese glass sold at an Early auction in Ohio for $3,335. It was decorated with Japanese dragons and an imaginary flower.


Q: I have a Weller vase and cannot find any Weller that looks like it. It stands about 9 inches tall and is 4 1/2 inches wide at the base. The bottom is reddish brown and fades to a creamy tan at the top. I have no idea what the flower is. The bottom is marked "Weller Pottery, Since 1872." It does have some crazing on the sides, but is in otherwise perfect condition. Can you tell me when it was made and a rough value?

A: Your vase probably is from Weller's Roba line. Roba was produced from the mid to late 1930s. Pieces have a textured background that shades from blue or green to white or reddish brown to beige. Bodies are curved and are decorated with molded gladiolas, wild roses, oak leaves or apple blossoms. The Roba line includes console sets, vases, hanging planters, wall pockets, pitchers and cornucopia vases, and many have branch handles. Roba vases sell from $30 to about $75 in good condition, less if there is crazing.


Q: I have a dinette set and I'd like to find out its value. The table has a glass top on an iron base and there are four chairs. The chairs are marked "Daystrom No. 470820." It's a beauty!

A: Daystrom was founded in Olean, N.Y., in 1934. At first, the company made metal ashtrays. By 1938, the company was making chrome and Formica kitchen furniture, and upholstered stools and chairs. In 1962, Daystrom moved to South Boston, Virginia and used the name Daystrom Furniture. Daystrom's low-end dinette sets sold well during the 1960s, but foreign competition began affecting the furniture market by the 1970s. The company was sold several times and closed in 1996. Vintage mid-century design is increasingly popular, and prices for original pieces are going up. Many Daystrom dinette sets are great examples of mid-century modern. Prices start at about $100 to $150, and they can go higher if the set has clean, modern lines, can blend well with other furnishings, and, of course, is in great condition. A dinette set featuring a table and six stylish chairs with chrome barrel-form bases and tufted vinyl seats and backrests sells for about $700 to $900.


Q: At a recent auction of textiles, a number of "show towels" were sold. How were they used?

A: Show towels were popular with Pennsylvania German girls. They are long, rectangular pieces of fabric that were used to demonstrate sewing skill. The finished towel was hung on a door as proof of their work and as an added decoration in the kitchen. The towel, not made to be used, often was made of linen and cotton. They usually included the name of the maker, location and date. Sometimes a finished towel was a gift for a new bride. The towels were most popular from 1820 to 1870. A 19th-century show towel in good condition with names and other designs cross-stitched in a pleasing pattern sells for about $1,000 today.


Q: How can I get an appraisal for an upright piano made by Bush & Lane of Chicago? It's mahogany, in good condition and is at least 150 years old. I would like to find a buyer in the Philadelphia area.

A: Bush & Lane made upright, grand and player pianos under several brand names. The company started in Chicago in 1891 under the name Victor Piano & Organ Co. The name was changed to Bush & Lane Piano Co. in 1904. The factory moved to Holland, Michigan, by 1905. It went out of business in 1930. If your piano is marked Chicago, it probably was made in about 1904. You can contact stores in your area that sell used pianos to get an appraisal. They also may want to buy your piano, but don't expect to get a big price for an old upright unless the case is very ornate. Similar pianos have sold in recent years for under a few hundred dollars.


Tip: Snowdomes are liquid-filled paperweights. They should not be stored in the dark. Exposure to the light is necessary to keep the liquid clear. However, do not keep the snowdomes in direct sunlight. They can magnify the rays and it may start a fire.


Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer questions sent to the column. By sending a letter with a question and a picture, you give full permission for use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The amount of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, (Name of this newspaper), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.

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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.

Advertising button, Apple Valley Pow-Wow, Labor Day Weekend, Indian chief profile, yellow & red, pinback, 1955, 1 3/4-inch diameter, $10.

Pizza paddle, hand forged iron with barley twist handle and shepherd crook terminal, France, early 1900s, 8 x 21 inches, $85.

Theatre broadside poster, "Next Neighbors, Musical Pantomimic Eccentricity," Chas. H. Thayer, Norombega Hall, 1879, 30 x 14 inches, $130.

Breakfast tray, genuine bamboo and wood, weave design with cutout handles and front drawer, scalloped base, 1940s, 11 x 17 inches, $165.

Nutcracker, carved wood, old village woman with fishtail handle, mouth opens and closes to crack nuts, Black Forest, c. 1880, 8 inches, $250.

Mailbox, door shaped with slant lid roof and latching front door, newspaper loops, cast iron, Griswold No 1, c. 1895, 13 1/2 x 6 inches, $350.

Telegraph switchboard, five lines, wooden with brass switches, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, Western Electric, c. 1880, 12 x 15 inches, $600.

Sun dial, iron with brass dial, embossed "Count only sunny hours," Virginia Metal Works, 1940s, 10 1/4-inch diameter, $875.

Coconut grater, carved wood rabbit, sticking out tongue forming iron spoon with sawtooth grating edge, Thailand, 1960s, $1,250.

Work table, walnut, serpentine top with pull out sewing box, knife pleated silk basket and ceramic castors, 1800s, 28 x 22 inches, $1,400.


The 50th Anniversary edition of "Kovels' Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide 2018" is now on sale. The book includes a special new section containing Terry Kovels' reflections on 50 years of collecting, with prices, trends, special events and surprises. Purchase the Kovels' 50th Price Guide directly from the Kovels if you want the free eBook Companion, and be sure to include your email address. Visit, call 800-303-1996, or write to Price Book, P.O. Box 22900, Beachwood, OH 44122.

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