Victorian women carried flowers in effort to ward off diseases

Tim Kovel and Kerry Kovel
Cowles Syndicate
A tussie mussie is a flower holder popular in the late 19th century. It was filled with fresh flowers to be sniffed during an evening to cover the unpleasant smells of poor sanitation.

Is it a tussie mussie, a bouquetiere, a porte-bouquet, a nosegay or a posey holder?

This funnel-shaped metal object was a fashionable accessory with an important purpose. In medieval times, the streets smelled from garbage, horses, other animals and lack of toilets. Women carried small bouquets of herbs and spices to cover the foul odors that they thought carried diseases. 

By Victorian times, the bouquets were bunches of sweet-smelling flowers or tussies. The stems were kept moist in damp moss and they were named tussie mussies. They were held by the long handle, just under the ladies' noses. Some were made with chains and a ring that went on a finger to hold the tussie mussie, and others were made to pin to the waistband when the lady had to use her hands to climb out of a carriage.

This tussie mussie is made with a chain and a tripod stand that folds up. The 4 1/2-inch flower-holding cone is made of hinged, engraved silver with wrigglework flowers. It was made around 1875. It sold with two others for $1,188 at a New Orleans auction.

Question: I still have a doll from my favorite cartoon, "Jem and the Holograms" from about 1985. Is it rare? 

Answer: "Jem and the Holograms" was an American animated series that mixed science fiction with adventure and a bit of romance about a 1980s "Glam" all-girl rock band led by a girl named Jem. The Glam dolls and accessories by Hasbro with big hair, edgy wardrobes and glittery glam-rock makeup were popular from 1985 to 1988, when Hasbro stopped making them. The dolls were taller than Barbie with more realistic body proportions. Recently, the cartoons have been airing on cable TV and Netflix, renewing interest in Jem.

Q: I bought the prettiest, horn-shaped, pale-green planter at a thrift store recently. It is marked "Weller Pottery" on the bottom. What is the story behind it? 

A: Samuel Augustus Weller started his own pottery business in 1872 in Fultonham, Ohio, making stoneware jars and clay flowerpots. In 1882, he moved his company to Zanesville, Ohio. By 1888, he was making art pottery. By 1915, Samuel Weller had established Weller Pottery as the world's largest art pottery company with pieces in the arts and crafts, art nouveau, art deco and modernism styles. Weller Pottery closed in 1948. Your horn-shaped planter vase is common and seen frequently in thrift stores and antiques malls for $10 to $20.  

Q: We bought a thread sewing cabinet from a local drugstore when it went out of business. It has five drawers with hanging pulls. "George A. Clark, Sole Agent," "Spool Cotton, O.N.T., on white spools" is printed on the drawers, one line on each drawer. We'd like to know more about it, its age and possible value. 

A: Several members of the Clark family were involved in making and selling cotton thread for home use. Patrick Clark developed a three-ply cotton thread, a cheaper alternative to silk thread. He began making the thread in 1812 in Paisley, Scotland. A descendant, George A. Clark, immigrated to the U.S. in 1856 and acted as an agent for the company. George and his brother, William, built a thread mill in Newark, N.J., in 1864. It became Clark Thread Company. 

George developed a six-cord thread for use with sewing machines. It was trademarked "O.N.T.," for "Our New Thread." The company merged with J&P Coats in 1952 to become Coats & Clark. Spinrite, a company with headquarters in Listowel, Ontario, Canada, bought part of Coats & Clark in January 2019. It continues to make Coats & Clark thread. The rest of the company, now called Coats, makes industrial thread. 

Spool cabinets were display cases used in dry goods stores in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Your spool cabinet was made before 1873, when George Clark died. Most Clark spool cabinets have six drawers with red glass fronts, not black, and the word "Clark's" at the top. The value of your spool cabinet with only five drawers is under $300. 

Q: I bought a Pierre Hautot print at a yard sale about a year ago. It shows a little girl holding her doll and a little boy watering a tree. Written below is "Ce Que C'est Pratique." On the back it reads "Georges Redon, French, 1869-1943" and "Galerie Pierre Hautot, Paris, France." Printed on the back is "DH606." The picture is 11 inches high and 18 inches wide. I'd like to know if it's authentic. 

A: The picture is by Georges Redon, a French painter, engraver and lithographer. Pierre Hautot is the gallery that sold it. It's part of a Naughties series of engravings of children Redon made in the 1920s. The French words translate as "It is so convenient." This picture was made in 1928 and has been reproduced many times. A charcoal and pastel sketch sold for $255, but prints, not originals, have sold for $15 to $30.

The picture can't be judged an original from a photograph. Some museums have special days for the public to bring in art to be authenticated, but they will not estimate the price.

TIP: Don't put these items in the dishwasher: wooden cutting boards, good china with added overglaze decoration like gold trim, gold-plated silver ware, cast iron pans and anything repaired with glue. The heat can cause damage. 

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer readers' questions sent to the column. Send a letter with one question describing the size, material (glass, pottery) and what you know about the item. Include only two pictures, the object and a closeup of any marks or damage. Be sure your name and return address are included. By sending a question, you give full permission for use in any Kovel product. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We do not guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. Questions that are answered will appear in Kovels Publications. Write to Kovels, (Name of this newspaper), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803 or email us at