The first U.S. Surgeon General warning on tobacco products was required in 1964. Tobacco was labeled as bad for your health. Americans were soon using fewer tobacco products, like cigarettes, pipe tobacco, snuff, chewing tobacco and cigars.
In the late Victorian era, use of snuff lost favor, and tobacco was used mainly for pipes. Tobacco is a dried leaf, and it crumbles easily, so it's kept in a container that could used as a humidor. By the mid-19th century, many pottery jars were being made in Germany in amusing shapes. Few were made in the United States. Animals, human heads, historic figures and obvious shapes like barrels were popular.
By the 1930s, most potteries were making more-formal and less-colorful jars. Collectors search for ornamental examples, especially those made of majolica or another colorful ceramic or by well-known factories. Tobacco jars range from 6 to 13 inches tall. They sometimes are confused with cookie jars. But a jar-humidor has a section with a hole inside the lid that held a moist sponge. And a tobacco jar lid opens at half the height of the jar. A cookie jar has a lid that opens near the top. Tobacco jars, especially the full figures of a person or animal, sell for $500 to more than $1,000. Beware. There are many fakes.
Q: We recently bought a French provincial-style sideboard and would like to learn something about the maker. A plastic label inside one of the drawers reads "Made by John-Widdicomb Co., Designed by Ralph H. Widdicomb, Grand Rapids."
A: There were two furniture companies in Grand Rapids, Mich., with the name Widdicomb.
George Widdicomb emigrated from England in 1858 and opened a cabinet shop. His four sons joined the business, which became Widdicomb Furniture Co., in 1873. George's son John left the company in 1893 and established a business making fireplace mantels and woodwork. John's company became John Widdicomb Co. in 1897. John Widdicomb Co. gradually acquired several other furniture companies. In 1970, it bought the name Widdicomb Furniture Co., which had been inactive for several years.
John's nephew, Ralph H. Widdicombe (who used the original spelling of the family's last name), was the chief designer for the John Widdicomb Co. until 1951.
His French provincial designs were introduced in 1924. L. & J.G. Stickley of Manlius bought the brand name and assets of John Widdicomb Co. in 2002.
Stickley now manufactures a line of very expensive John Widdicomb furniture.
Almost all Grueby pottery is expensive today, but some pieces have rare features that add to the price. Applied handles or added tendrils increase value. So does extra color added to the floral design on a vase.