Fine furniture, back in style Antiques: Mirrored dressing tables, popularized in the 19th century, have become collectibles.

April 13, 1997|By Ralph Kovel and Terry Kovel | Ralph Kovel and Terry Kovel,KING FEATURES SYNDICATE

A dressing table in the bedroom was an 18th-century idea, but the concept was expanded in the 19th century. A mirror was added to the back of the table about 1800, and small top drawers were made to hold toiletries and valuables.

The mirror-topped table remained in fashion for big rooms, but small bedrooms required less furniture. The table became a chest of drawers to store additional clothing.

The Empire-style dresser was made from 1820 to 1850, with several overhanging top drawers. It seems that the designer, after seeing a dressing table, squeezed some extra drawers under the table in the space between the legs.

Other features of an Empire dresser were round brass handles, carved "lion paw" feet and a mirror on posts that could be adjusted.

Empire dressers with mirrors usually were made with mahogany veneer. They are among the bargains in antiques today. Most are reasonably priced, from $500 to $1,000.

I'm an amateur potter, and recently I came across a discussion about "bean pots" on the Internet. How were bean pots used? How were they made? Can you help?

Internet users tend to be younger than 50 and so probably are not familiar with home-cooked baked beans.

The Puritans of New England liked baked beans because the dish was easy to keep warm in the fireplace -- before serving on the Sabbath.

Making beans at home requires the correct bean pot and cooking time. The beans must bake in a 250-degree oven for six to eight hours. They should always be covered with some liquid while cooking.

Most New England baked beans are made from beans, salt pork, dry mustard, pepper, salt, an onion and molasses.

The traditional bean pot is shaped to enhance the cooking. It bulges out in the middle. Its mouth is wide enough to allow one to spoon out the beans but small enough to limit the number of beans exposed to the air.

Many pots have lids and small handles. The traditional bean pot was made of a porous clay that often was covered with a glaze. It has thick walls to hold the heat.

It is possible to assemble a collection of American bean pots made in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Many pots have the traditional light and dark brown glaze or are made of unglazed redware. Some pots were made with colored glazes -- usually yellow or green. Some even had blue speckles or flowers.

The historical society in my town has a piece of equipment we were told was a potato planter. It evidently was pulled by horses. Is there any way you can tell how old it is?

Potato planting was done manually until the late 1800s. The earliest horse-drawn potato planter was patented in 1857.

In 1870, a planter was made that impaled potatoes with forks attached to a revolving disc, then dropped them to the ground through a chute. The front of that planter made a furrow, and the rear covered it over with dirt.

At the end of the century, the forks were replaced by a pincher arrangement.

My neighbor insists that she has some contemporary-style clear glass with colored trim made by Fenton. I don't believe her. Can you help?

In 1982 and 1983, the Fenton Art Glass Co. of Williamstown, W.Va., made a line of contemporary glass designed by Swedish designer Katja. The line did not sell well and was soon dropped.

The Katja pieces don't have Fenton's usual mark, but use the combined initials K and F inside an oval.

There were 19 items in the line, including bottles, bowls, cylinders and vases. All were made in crystal and accented with a band of blue, hickory, aquamarine or flame. Current prices range from $35 to $125.

I have a painted plaster statue of Abraham Lincoln and two other men. The title is "Council of War." Is it valuable?

John Rogers statues were made between 1859 and 1892. The original bronzes were used as molds to make painted plaster figures to be sold at low prices. The scene shows a seated President Lincoln reading a map with Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton standing behind him.

In one version, Stanton is wiping his glasses. In another, he's holding them in one hand with his other arm at his side. The glasses-wiping version is more common and dates from 1873. The other version was made earlier.

Rogers statues sell for $500 or more, depending on condition. Don't repaint a Rogers figure, because new paint lowers the value.

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

Pub Date: 4/13/97

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