Korean medicine cabinets make elegant homes for collections

Farm Forum

Korean medicine dates back thousands of years. Sharp bone needles once used for acupuncture have been unearthed in Korea. But it was not until the end of the 19th century that doctors in the United States and other parts of Asia began to consider using the unfamiliar medical methods of another country. Koreans practicing medicine 600 years ago used herbs and other natural substances, like ground deer horn or insects. These “medicines” were stored in large cabinets with many small drawers. The herbs were mixed with other substances and administered as salves, drinks, washes or even aromatic environments. While American physicians treated a person’s symptoms, Koreans treated a patient’s emotions. In recent years, American doctors have begun prescribing meditation, heat, aromatherapy, acupuncture or Asian herbs along with antibiotics and painkillers. And the herbs often are stored in new wooden cabinets. Korean medicine chest drawers are marked with a Korean letter or word. Collectors often use them to hold small objects, like political buttons, coins or marbles. The chests are treated like expensive furniture and are kept in the hall or living room. A Korean medicine cabinet made of jujube wood sold for $1,778 at a recent Skinner auction in Boston. The 20th-century cabinet, about 5 feet tall and 4 1/2 feet wide, has 96 drawers.

Q I’d like some information about a rotary egg beater that I bought at an estate sale. It’s 5 1/2 inches long and has a wooden handle. The wheel is marked with the letters “A & J” in a triangle, “Pat. Oct. 9, 1923,” and “Made in U.S.A.” Can you tell me if it has any value?

A The patent was issued to Charles E. Kail of Binghamton, N.Y., assignor to A & J Manufacturing Co. of Binghamton. Kail’s patent was for “new and useful improvements in egg beaters.” He claimed his design made egg beaters more durable and less expensive to manufacture. A & J Manufacturing Co., founded in 1909, was bought by the Edward Katzinger Co. in 1929. Your eggbeater was made in the 1920s. Value today: $25 to $35.

Q I have a toy metal drum major that was given to my brother about 75 years ago. On the back it reads “No. 27 Drum Major, Made by Wolverine Supply & Mfg. Co., Pittsburgh, Pa.” Is this toy worth anything?

A Yes. Several versions of your toy, with the drum major’s jacket in different colors, were made by the Wolverine Supply and Manufacturing Co. Wind up the boy, and he beats his drum. The patent for the drummer boy was granted to Howard N. Barnum of Cleveland. He assigned the patent to Wolverine in 1932. Wolverine was founded in Pittsburgh in 1903. It became a subsidiary of Span Industries in the late 1950s, and its name was changed to Today’s Kids in the 1970s. The company is no longer in business. The value of your drummer boy depends on its condition and the color of the jacket. Auction prices range from $40 to $125.

Q I have a Lambert typewriter in a wooden case marked with the patent date, Oct. 21, 1884. It has a felt inkpad. Is it valuable?

A The Lambert Typewriter Co. was located in New York City. Frank Lambert (1851-1937) immigrated to the United States from France in 1876. He worked on developing a “type writing machine” for 17 years before being granted a patent in 1884. The first Lambert typewriters were sold in 1902. They had a keyboard with an attached circular plate that was turned to print each letter. The keyboard on the earliest model could be turned in either direction to make letters that slanted like italics. The next model had a fixed keyboard and a shift key that made capital letters. Lambert made three typewriter models, and sold more than 8,000 in the three years they were made. The last Lambert typewriter was manufactured in 1904. After typewriters with movable type and qwerty keyboards were invented in about 1903, sales of “index” typewriters like Lambert’s declined, and Lambert’s machines were no longer made. At a sale that included other typewriters and vintage office equipment, your Lambert might sell for more than $1,000.

Q I have a white glass cup just under 4 inches high that has a picture of a log cabin on the side. The glass is also decorated with wording that reads, “General Grant’s log cabin built by him in 1854, St. Louis World’s Fair, 1904.” It also has a mark on the bottom and the words “Victoria, Carlsbad, Austria.”

A Many souvenir items picturing Ulysses S. Grant’s log cabin were sold at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. They commemorated the log cabin that Grant built in White Haven, Mo., in 1856. It was Grant’s first home, but his family lived there for only three months. The log cabin changed hands several times and was eventually bought by the C.F. Blanke Tea & Coffee Co., which moved it to the site of the company’s display at the St. Louis World’s Fair. In 1907 it was bought by August A. Busch and moved to its present site, about a mile from its original location. Your cup was made by “Victoria” Schmidt & Co. Porcelain Factory, which was founded in 1883.

Tip: Rubber bands will stain silver even through several layers of paper wrapping.

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