Meanings of words and symbols change over time

Farm Forum

Political slogans and pictures from the past can sometimes be confusing because modern times suggest a different meaning. In the 1900 U.S. presidential campaign, William McKinley used the slogans “Protection and Prosperity” and “Four more years of the full dinner pail.” His campaign often pictured a workman’s lunchbox as a symbol of jobs. One of his most famous buttons, if first seen today, would startle a 2013 voter. The button shows a strange boxlike container -the lunch pail of the day. Inside the pail is a building with smoke pouring from the smokestacks and the words: “Do you smoke? Yes, since 1896.” The smoking chimneys on the building represent work being done inside, just as the lunch pail means jobs. Today the smoke could be misinterpreted as pollution, and the answer given to “Do you smoke?” would suggest a health problem. The rare button sold for $1,948 at a recent Hake’s Auction. It’s a reminder that both language and symbols can change with time and events, so collectors should be careful not to interpret objects or words from the past through modern eyes.

Q My small electric mantel clock has a metal embossed design under the dial. The design includes a seaplane with a propeller that rotates when the clock is running. There’s also a sailing ship, a man standing near a tepee and the words “Polar Bird.” The case is Bakelite and like new. I can’t find a manufacturer’s name. Do you know who made it and what it’s worth today?

A A clock matching yours auctioned last year for $119. Clocks like it, with extra parts that move when the clock is running, are called “animated clocks.” Yours probably dates from the 1930s, the decade following Adm. Richard Byrd’s first flights to both the north and south poles. Some sources say the clock was manufactured by the New Jersey Clock Co. of Newark, N.J., with an electric motor made by the Hammond Clock Co. of Chicago. Others say it’s a Chronart clock, which may have been a trade name used by the New Jersey Clock Co.

Q I inherited a ceramic tile mural made up of 24 4-inch tiles. The tiles are not cemented together, but when laid out they picture a large sailing ship, two smaller sailboats and a lighthouse. One tile is signed “Pillsbury.” I think the tiles came from a pottery in Ohio. Any information and present value would be appreciated.

A Hester W. Pillsbury (1862-1951) was a decorator who worked at Roseville and Weller, both Ohio potteries. Roseville Pottery was organized in Roseville, Ohio, in 1890 and opened a plant in nearby Zanesville in 1898. Roseville made pottery until 1954. Weller Pottery started out in Fultonham, Ohio, moved to Zanesville in 1882 and closed in 1948. Hester Pillsbury began working in about 1904 and worked at Weller after 1918. A tile picture like yours, made up of 24 signed tiles, could be worth $1,000 or more.

Q I am interested in figuring out the value of a vintage Rolls Razor set called “The Traveler.” It includes a travel box and a razor with disassembled handles and other parts. The back of the razor says it’s “Made in England.”

A Rolls Razor, Ltd., of London was in business from the 1920s into the early 1950s. It made several razor models that used “permanent blades” rather than disposables. Rolls Razor sets were sold in the United States until the late 1940s by Charles Levin & Co. of New York City. Your Traveler set was not an early Rolls model. It probably dates from the 1930s. Rolls sets are easy to find at flea markets. But Traveler sets are not as common as some of the other sets. Your set might sell for $40 to $60 if it’s complete and in good condition.

Q I just bought a piece of Brooklin Pottery. I thought it was from New York but I am told it is Canadian. Do you know anything about it? Are there many popular collectibles from Canada that aren’t well known in the states?

A Of course. Collectors in the United States and Canada started looking at their own countries after soldiers saw all the antiques in Europe during World War II. The first books and publications about collecting in the United States concentrated on English porcelains and furniture, Georgian silver, prints, Staffordshire figures and Chippendale furniture that could have been made in many countries. American pieces were wanted by very few. Our trip to Eastern Canada from Ohio in the late 1950s was disappointing because we hoped to see Canadian things in antiques shops. We found a few in Nova Scotia selling early Canadian furniture, but shops in the large cities looked like ours -they were filled with mainly English or Asian pieces. But by the 1970s, Canadians had become interested in their own antiques and history and there were Canadian publications and shows. Brooklin Pottery was founded in 1952 by Theo and Susan Harlander. They had emigrated from Germany. Some of their best-known studio pottery is made with incised pictures of people and geometric designs in pale earthtones. The business was closed by 1987.

Tip: Don’t use water on turquoise objects or jewelry because water is destructive to turquoise. Instead, wipe turquoise with a microfiber cloth. Brush jewelry crevices that have become filled with debris.

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