Please be seated, comfortably Antiques: Easy chairs in the 18th century were designed for the elderly or infirm.

December 28, 1997|By Ralph Kovel and Terry Kovel | Ralph Kovel and Terry Kovel,KING FEATURES SYNDICATE

Even in the 18th century the elderly usually had the most comfortable chair in the house.

The wing chair or easy chair originally was used by those who were old or infirm. It was designed for comfort.

A large space was left in the lower part of the chair back and filled with horsehair, lining and feather cushions. The front of the frame between the legs also was padded. An elderly occupant of the chair actually was seated on a fabric sling holding the softest stuffings.

The easy chair usually was kept in the bedroom, not the front parlor.

Some of the chairs were upholstered with elaborate needlework. Wool, linen and patterned damask were used. Early listings of chairs mention woven fabrics such as harrateen and moreen.

Can you tell me anything about my seven-piece washstand set? There's a wash basin, large and small pitcher, soap dish and cover, brush vase and shaving mug. The pieces are white with pink and yellow roses and gold trim. There's a picture of a buffalo on the bottom of each piece, plus the words "Buffalo Pottery" and a number.

You have part of a Buffalo Pottery toilet set made sometime between 1905 and 1918. The number on the bottom is the year it was made.

Buffalo Pottery was founded in 1901 by the Larkin Soap Co. of Buffalo, N.Y. The firm made various dishes that could be given to customers in exchange for Larkin soap certificates. Original toilet sets were made with nine or 11 pieces. You are missing the chamber pot and cover from the nine-piece set. The 11-piece set also included a slop jar and cover.

Your seven-piece set is valued at $650.

We have a 42-inch-diameter round table with a very fancy carved base that spreads out to form four decorative legs. The table is more than 80 years old and has inlaid wood on the sides and top. How was this size table used?

You have a 19th-century "center table" made in the Renaissance Revival style popular in the United States.

Center tables generally stood in the middle of a room. A lamp sat in the center of the table or a chandelier hung over it.

I have an old cigarette lighter made of brass and covered with leather. On the bottom of the lighter are the words "Douglass Lighter Co., Pat. Oct. 12, 1926." Can you tell me anything about the company or the lighter?

The Douglass Lighter Co. made high-quality lighters in Menlo Park, Calif., during the 1920s. Douglass lighters ranged from common and inexpensive to elegant and expensive.

The cases came in sterling silver, silver plate, gold plate, 14-karat gold-filled, nickel plate, nickel or chromium-plated brass. Many of them had leather-covered cases.

The Douglass design for a semiautomatic swing arm makes the lighters favorites with collectors. A button on the lighter presses a heavy spring that flips the snuffer arm back, creating a spark.

Your lighter is worth about $50.

When did women first wear charm bracelets? I have one from the 1950s that I've begun wearing again.

Gold, silver and less-expensive-metal charm bracelets were introduced in the late 1800s.

Victorian women collected heart-shaped charms from their beaus and wore the charms on a bracelet.

By 1900, charms included many shapes, including shamrocks, bells, thimbles, religious symbols, club symbols, scissors, rings and animals.

There was a resurgence of interest during the 1930s. In the 1950s, charm bracelets could be bought assembled.

In the 1980s, collectors started shopping for vintage bracelets -- whether the vintage was 19th or 20th century.

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: 12/28/97

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