Some old chairs have very strange added parts that can confuse today’s collectors.
A Windsor chair from the 18th century might be made with an added piece at the end of the arm because it is a “writing arm” Windsor. There can be a drawer beneath the seat of a Shaker sewing chair. Many types of chairs were made into rocking chairs with the addition of pieces of curved wood or a bouncy platform with springs.
A chair with paddlelike arms and a rectangular wooden piece attached to the back at an angle is known as a “cockfighting chair.” It was thought the user sat facing the back of the chair to see the fight, but now it is believed that the wooden piece was meant to hold a book and that the chair is a “reading chair” once used in libraries. A similar chair was made by the Roycroft Colony in East Aurora in about 1905. It had a narrow ledge at the top of the chair back. The user sat facing the back and straddling the chair, with arms leaning on the leather-covered wooden ledge. It is a meditation chair.
Q: My 1910 telephone is in excellent shape. A label on it reads, “Property of the American Bell Telephone Co.” What is it worth?
A: By 1910, telephones were being manufactured as both wall phones and upright “candlestick” phones – and you don’t tell us what yours looks like. Some antique phones sell for under $100 and some for thousands. American Bell Telephone Co. was formed in 1880 and acquired a controlling interest in Western Electric Co. in 1881. Western Electric then became the manufacturer of American Bell Telephone Co. phones. In 1899, American Bell was acquired by American Telephone & Telegraph Co., which had been an American Bell subsidiary. Telephones the age of yours sell for about $100 to $200, depending on style and condition.
Q: I have some Olin Russum Pottery and would like to know something about it. Is it collectible?
A: Olin Lansing Russum Jr. (1918-1998), known as “Russ,” was a potter and sculptor who lived and worked in Maryland. In 1951 he and his wife, Jean, built a studio in a converted barn near Gunpowder Falls. Russ made dishes, sculptures and watercolors, but is best known for his tile and bas-relief murals. His murals are in several buildings in the Baltimore area, and some of his work is in museum collections. He also taught a ceramics workshop at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Jean was a woodworker who made sculptures and furniture. They worked together on some projects until her death in 1986. Their work has been sold in several recent auctions and can be found in shops.