Movies from 1930s featured furniture known as Hollywood Deco

This unusual round cabinet was made to hold a collection of curios or china. It was sold at a Garth's in Ohio auction for $450. Cowles Syndicate photo

Kovels’ Antiques and Collecting

Fifties furniture is very popular with vintage collectors today, but some earlier Art Deco designs from the 1930s are not in demand. Look at old movies on television to study some of the stranger pieces. The look is sometimes called “Hollywood Deco” because the extravagant rooms with huge round mirrors and sofas were exaggerations of the modern furniture used in average homes. An unfamiliar cabinet was sold recently at a Garth’s auction. It was a flat, round cabinet on a base. When placed against a wall, it showed all of the 51-inch diameter of the cabinet and the glass doors and shelves waiting to display a collection. The plain solid base stretched beyond the rounded sides to give safe support for the top-heavy design. This type of cabinet was made in the 1930s, but most for sale today were made in England, not the U.S. Most have no maker’s name and the wood choice suggests it was not expensive when new. Some were oak or even mahogany, but many were made of laminate with grain painting. A cabinet like this sold at a Midwestern auction in 2016 for $450. A selection of similar round modernist curio cabinets found online had asking prices as high as $2,000, but most of these are in English shops and prices were cut to less than $500.

Q I bought an “Ascot on Oak” pattern dinner set three years ago from an antiques shop. It’s marked “Mason’s Patent Ironstone, Made in England, Ascot on Oak, Permanent Detergent Proof Decoration.” I was using this dinner set for meals, and recently it came to my attention that it could be leaking toxins from the material used to make the dishes. The set has quite a bit of crazing and I don’t use the coffeepot for fear of it breaking when hot coffee is in it. Is it safe to use for food and if so, is it wise for me to use the coffeepot?

A We have never heard of toxins leaking out of ironstone. The words “detergent proof” were first used on dinnerware in about 1944, so your set meets 20-century standards. If the glaze is so severely crazed or cracked it could break off, or could not be properly cleaned, it would be best not to use the dish for food. There might be some bits of glassy glaze with sharp edges or imperfections that make adequate washing impossible. You can use the coffeepot if it has no internal crazing.

Q I have a print titled “An Enemy in Camp” that shows a pair of barnyard ducks defending their brood of ducklings from the farmyard dog. It’s marked “James Lee Co. Chicago, Illinois” and dated 1906. I understand it’s a chromolithograph. It’s in excellent condition. What is it worth?

A James Lee was born in England and emigrated to Canada before moving to the United States in 1892. The James Lee Co. was in business in the early 1900s. It published postcards as well as prints in the early 1900s. Chromolithography, a process of making colored prints, was developed in the early 1800s. It made inexpensive color art available and was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, chromolithograph prints sell for about $40 to $70.

Q I have an old manual L.C. Smith typewriter. Can you tell me what it’s worth?

A Most old typewriters are hard to sell, but some are wanted by collectors. The Early Typewriter Collectors’ Association ( is a club and publication for collectors of old typewriters. L.C. Smith & Bros. Typewriter Co. was founded in 1903 by Lyman C. Smith and his three brothers in Syracuse, N.Y. The company’s first typewriter, model No. 2, was introduced in 1904, a year before No. 1 was offered for sale. The company merged with Corona Typewriter Co. in 1925 to become L.C. Smith & Corona Typewriter Co. To find the age of your typewriter, you need to know the serial number. L.C. Smith serial numbers and production dates are listed on The Typewriter Database ( We could have helped more if you had sent pictures of the typewriter and any marks.

Q I’d like some information about a pitcher and washbowl made by Edward Clarke. It’s marked on the bottom with two touching shields. The words “Edward Clarke, Tunstall, Trade Mark, Stone China” are above the shields and “Stone China” below.

A Edward Clarke made earthenware and white ironstone at Phoenix Works in Tunstall, England, from about 1865 to 1877. That’s when your pitcher and washbowl were made. After that Edward Clarke worked at potteries in Longport and Burslem. Your pitcher and washbowl probably were part of a commode set that included a soap dish, chamber pot and other items. Before there was indoor plumbing, a commode set or chamber set was kept in the bedroom and emptied each morning.

Tip: When polishing the metal hardware on old chests of drawers, get a piece of stiff paper and slide it under the brass plate. This will protect the wood near the brass.

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