Lighting century's pathway Antiques: No lamp is too strange for collectors, who especially like the floor models.

September 01, 1996|By Ralph Kovel and Terry Kovel | Ralph Kovel and Terry Kovel,KING FEATURES SYNDICATE

Electric lamps were first made in the late 19th century. At first they were designed to look like candlesticks or kerosene lamps.

With the advent of electric lamps, lighting changed rapidly. People placed table lamps in many parts of a room. They used light bulbs with higher wattage that gave off more heat -- which meant that new types of lampshades and lamps were needed.

In the 1950s, unusual lamps became the rage, and strange shapes that don't appear to be lamps continue to be used.

Fifties designers liked lamps with humorous figural bases. There were even statues of hula dancers with grass skirts or crouching panthers with eyes that would light up. One of our favorites was a huge, plastic light-bulb-shaped lamp that hid several real bulbs.

Lamps from the 1960s included the still-popular lava lamp, which features a moving, bubbling, glowing mass.

Lamps have been made to resemble glowing rocks, football helmets, rolls of paper, cubes and abstract sculpture.

Floor lamps, which came into use in the 1920s, went out of style by the 1950s and came back in modern sculptural shapes by the 1960s.

No lamp is too strange, too kitschy or too abstract to be ignored by collectors. Prices for all types, especially the floor lamps, are rising.

We bought a small, old piano marked with the name "Sterling" and the number 4972. What can you tell me about it?

The Sterling Piano Co. was founded in 1866 in Derby, Conn. The company made pianos and organs under several names. It is now Aeolian. The number on your piano dates it from 1885 to 1890.

I saved my "Man Walks on the Moon" mug. It was from the Miami Herald in celebration of the first moon landing. Is it worth anything?

Your black-and-white mug with a reproduction of that day's newspaper on it sells for $10 to $15 in excellent condition. Don't put it in a dishwasher. The decorations could wear off.

My neighbor gave me a "made in Japan" figurine of a woman in a black dress with an apron. The base says, "Early Harvey Girl." What can you tell me about it?

Fred Harvey opened his first restaurant in Topeka, Kan., in 1876. The Englishman's idea was to make railway travelers' dining experience more pleasant. His restaurant was unlike the many dirty depot spots that served bad food. Harvey's restaurants were clean and formal and served fine food.

As Harvey opened more restaurants along the railroads in the West, he hired "young women of good character" as waitresses. The "Harvey Girls" lived in chaperoned quarters.

Your figurine probably was made to mark the 75th anniversary of the restaurants in 1951.

The Kovels welcome letters and answer as many as possible through the column. Write to Kovels, The Baltimore Sun, King Features Syndicate Inc., 235 E. 45th St., New York, N.Y. 10017.

Pub Date: 9/01/96

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