This is the time to run out to the grocery store and get a turkey for Thanksgiving. In the early 19th century, the turkey was a wild one, probably killed by a member of the community.
If a time machine could bring someone from that era to our Thanksgiving dinner today, there would be very little inside or outside the house that has not changed. Food, communication, transportation, their contents and even toys might now be too complicated and look unfamiliar.
Even dolls have been “modernized.” Dolls today walk, talk, dance, answer questions, have washable hair and realistic “skin,” and seem almost alive thanks to batteries or electronics. But sometimes our ancestors created amazing dolls with limited tools but clever ideas. A doll made in the 19th century could walk by a very unusual method. The doll’s body was carved of wood with movable jointed arms and a swivel head mounted on a dowel. Eight legs with feet wearing shoes were arranged like spokes on a wheel. The doll dress of the day was long enough to cover most of the doll’s legs. Only two of the feet would show as a child “walked” the doll across the floor by making the wheel of legs turn. A rare doll like this sells for thousands of dollars today.
Q: I have a set of four modern fully upholstered tulip chairs that are about 25 years old. I would like your help in establishing their value and maker. The only mark other than some numbers is a “Made in France” label.
A: The famous “tulip chair” was designed in 1955-56 by Eero Saarinen, a Finnish-American designer and architect. The chair has been in production ever since it was introduced, and its only licensed manufacturer has been Knoll Inc., now based in East Greenville, Pa. Knockoffs have been made all over the world, and your chairs are probably among those unauthorized copies. They would not sell for as much as Knoll’s authentic chairs.
Q: My family has owned an interesting tape measure for at least 75 years, since when I was a child. It’s a porcelain man’s head with a little porcelain fly on his forehead. The man’s face is bright white. One of his eyes is closed and the other one is open and blue. Pulling on the fly extends the narrow cloth tape measure from the man’s head. Can you tell me anything about it?
A: Spring-return tape measures were introduced in about 1875, and figural measures have been made ever since. The tape was fabric on early models and metal on later ones. Most figural measures like yours date from the late 1800s into the 1930s. They are popular, especially among people who hunt for antique and vintage sewing implements. Your measure could sell for more than $50.