No matter how large a house is, there always seems to be a need for more space. During the 19th century, homes often had long, wide front halls that went from the front door to the back door. That allowed the air to circulate and helped cool the house. Clever furniture makers created a table that could be stored against the wall until it was needed. The table had deep drop leaves hinged to a narrow top. When opened, the leaves were supported by “swing” legs, and the extended table could open to 45 inches long and 32 inches wide. Sometimes the table was made with an under-the-top storage drawer that opened from the side. This type of drop-leaf table was made in the 16th century and has been made in a variety of styles, including modern versions made in the 21st century.
Q: I have been trying to get more information about a porcelain nut bowl that belonged to my grandmother. It has slightly curved sides and two gilt handles. It is painted with squirrels and grass on the outside and pine cones on the inside. The mark on the bottom is a shield with the words, “HC, Royal Bavaria, Patent Application.” How old is it? Is there is any value other than as a family treasure?
A: Your nut dish was made in Bavaria (Germany) sometime between 1890 and 1914 but decorated in the United States. The decorating of porcelain “blanks” by independent artists rather than factory-employed artists was popular in the United States from the 1870s to the 1930s. It began in Cincinnati in 1874, when Mary Louise McLaughlin saw a set of European china paints and urged her art instructor to organize a class in china painting. The class was so successful that the ladies in the class exhibited their work at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. By 1900 there were an estimated 20,000 china painters in America. For the most part, they used china blanks imported from Germany and France. Your nut dish is worth about $35 to $50. Rare forms, such as condensed milk containers and celery dishes, usually bring higher prices than ordinary plates, cups and bowls.
Q: I have a small metal toy chair that was a prize in a Cracker Jack box many years ago. We think it’s from about 1915. Can you give us some information about Cracker Jack toys and what they are worth?
A: A combination of popcorn, peanuts and molasses was introduced at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, but the name “Cracker Jack” wasn’t used until 1896. Prizes were put in every box beginning in 1912. Some early Cracker Jack toys sell at auctions or online for $10 or $15, but some that are rare or more desirable can sell for much more.