Odd Fellow shelf a unique connection to community

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel
Cowles Syndicate
This carved shelf brought $2,500 at New Haven Auctions. Decorations and symbols associated with the Odd Fellows add to its appeal.

Secret societies are, by their nature, mysteries to people who aren't part of them. But other people are aware of their symbols. This carved wooden shelf is decorated with symbols of the Odd Fellows. It features three chain links, representing the society's values of friendship, love and truth.

Other symbols have more general, familiar meanings. The heart-in-hand is a symbol for benevolence that is often associated with the Odd Fellows but not used exclusively by them. The All-Seeing Eye, sun and globe carry meanings of universal spirit. And the hourglass, scythe, skull and crossbones are well-known symbols of mortality. 

The Odd Fellows is believed to have originated in medieval trade guilds, with "odd fellow" meaning someone who did odd jobs for a living. They did charitable work in their communities and provided financial assistance among members. 

At one point, the Odd Fellows was the largest secret society in the U.S., but membership dropped during the Great Depression, when fewer people could afford to pay dues. Famous members included actor Charlie Chaplin, aviator Charles Lindbergh and multiple U.S. presidents, first ladies and political figures, including Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Question: I have a miniature black cardboard Stetson hat box. It came with a tiny black plastic Stetson hat. The hat measures 3 inches by 1 3/4 inches. Why is Stetson so popular? Is this a toy, and does it have any value? 

Answer: Stetson, the American hat company, has been making hats since 1865. At one time it was the largest hat brand in the world. Stetson is credited with making the first cowboy hat with a wide brim, more suitable to wear in the frontier of the American West. Miniature hats and boxes were used as samples by salesman in the mid-20th century. They also advertised the brand. A hat and box similar to yours recently sold for $25.

Q: My mother had an old oil lamp sitting on the kitchen table. It did not have the original chimney, but she was able to find another one that fit. The top globe is also missing. The bottom globe has four raised lion heads with biblical or desert scenes between them. I saw one very similar to ours in an antique shop, and the price was $600! Could mine be this valuable? 

A: Oil lamps continue to be sought by collectors. The late 19th-century lamps were renamed "Gone with the Wind" lamps when they were used as set decorations in the 1939 movie. This style of oil lamp has two shades or globes with a chimney in between. Many have been modified for use as electrical lamps. Your lamp only has the bottom globe. Complete lamps that are similar to yours have recently sold for $75 to $275.

Q: I was given a Tresseman & Vogt bowl. It belonged to a friend's great grandmother. I believe it is in the Arts and Crafts style. The mark on the bottom reads "T&V, Limoges, France" and is signed "M. Brown." I am unable to tell what the marks mean. Can you provide any information, including its value? 

A: Tresseman & Vogt had factories in Limoges, France, where they produced whiteware (blank porcelain). They exported Limoges porcelain to the U.S. and distributed porcelain through their New York office. Pieces could be decorated in the T&V factories or sent to a professional decorating studio, a department store or china painting school to be decorated by amateur artists. The marks pictured on your bowl indicate it was made between 1907 and 1919. "M. Brown" was likely an amateur artist. American Limoges pieces hand-decorated and signed by amateur artists have recently sold for about $200 to $900.

Q: Do old sewing machines have any value? I have an old White treadle sewing machine that has a metal plaque with the serial number "FR2450697." Can you tell me how old it is and what it might be worth? 

A: Thomas White began making sewing machines in Templeton, Massachusetts, in 1858. He moved to Cleveland in 1866 and founded White Mfg. Co. It became White Sewing Machine Co. in 1876. The letters "FR" in the serial number indicate your sewing machine is the White Family Rotary model, which was introduced in the 1890s, and the numbers indicate it was made between 1914 and 1916. Electric sewing machines became popular in the 1920s. The company became White Consolidated Industries in 1964. After several changes, White's sewing machine line became part of the Swedish company Husqvarna Viking in 2006. White sewing machines are no longer made. Only a few old sewing machines sell for $100 or more. Most sell for $50 or less.

TIP: Store vintage textiles flat or roll them. Don't fold. It makes creases.

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, (Farm Forum), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803 or email us at collectorsgallery@kovels.com.