Victorian imitation stove flatters medieval tech

Terry and Kim Kovel
Cowles Syndicate

Despite the technological and manufacturing advancements of the 19th century, many artists of the time looked to the past for inspiration. Visual artists developed the Pre-Raphaelite style. Architecture and decorative arts had the Gothic Revival.

While it started earlier in England, the Gothic Revival lasted from about 1840 until 1860 in America. Buildings and furniture were decorated with towers, pointed arches, tracery and other features borrowed from medieval castles and cathedrals.

Of course, imitating medieval style didn't mean sticking to medieval technology. Homes in the Middle Ages would have been heated by hearths, but the Victorian era had more efficient and effective ways.

This cast-iron wood stove kept a 19th-century room warm. Its embossed designs, especially the rows of pointed arches on its sides, were meant to evoke medieval architecture.

Cast-iron stoves were being made about 1728, and cast iron became popular for furniture in the mid-1800s. This box-shaped Victorian wood stove sold at a Conestoga auction for $354. The designs embossed on its front, back and sides show the decorative potential for cast iron and provide an example of Gothic Revival style. There is a row of pointed arches, also known as the Gothic arch, on each side. As arguably the most distinctive feature of Gothic architecture, this arch was often incorporated into Gothic Revival designs.

Question: I inherited a Drexel bedroom set that was originally purchased in the very late 1950s or early 1960s and I'm trying to identify and price it. The set includes a long dresser with mirror, small dresser with "cupboards" on top, full-length mirror, nightstand and headboard, all in a cream color.

Answer: Drexel Furniture Co. was founded in Drexel, N.C., in 1903. It made high-quality furniture in several styles. The company was sold in 1968 and the brand became Drexel Heritage Furniture Company. It was rebranded as Drexel in 2017. Some Drexel furniture is stamped on the back or bottom with the name, date and kind of wood. Drexel's midcentury modern furniture is popular. A five-piece Drexel bedroom suite in the "Declaration" line with a headboard, dresser, tall chest and two nightstands sold recently for $2,423 including buyer's premium.

Q: We're getting rid of some old toys that belonged to our kids now that our grandchildren are too old to play with them. We have a white truck in excellent condition in its original box. Printed on the box is "John Deere Dealer Tilt Bed Truck," "Ertl Toys" and "No. 594." What is this worth?

A: Fred Ertl founded his toy company in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1945. The first die-cast John Deere toy, a replica of John Deere's "Model A" tractor, was made in 1952. Ertl has made replicas of farm tractors, implements and other farm equipment made by John Deere and other companies since then. The Ertl factory moved to Dyersville, Iowa, in 1959. Ertl has been part of Tomy, a company in Japan, since 2011. John Deere toys are made to scale in several sizes. Your tilt bed truck is 1/16th scale, which means an inch of the toy represents 16 inches on the real truck. The toys were originally sold by John Deere farm equipment dealers. A No. 594 tilt bed truck in very good condition sells for about $90. In the original box, it sells for about $130.

Q: My kids all have character lunch boxes. When I was in elementary school, everyone had lunch boxes with their favorite cartoon character, movie or band. When did they start making these and are old ones valuable?

A: The first character lunch box was made in 1950 when one was marketed with the cowboy movie star Hopalong Cassidy. The fictional hero walked with a limp in books, movies and television. Aladdin Industries was the first company to produce a lunch box and thermos with a licensed character. More than 60,000 Hopalong Cassidy lunch boxes were sold in the first year, starting the character lunch box craze that continues to this day. Vintage metal lunch boxes recently have been selling for $200 to $775.

TIP: Don't wax a piece of furniture that has not been cleaned in the past year.

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