Victorian furniture designers took some of their ideas from the past. They based many of their designs on those from Egypt, France and Greece. Parts of the designs were taken from many sources. French-looking porcelain plaques, bronze Egyptian sphinx heads, satyrs, lion masks and elaborate carvings were used on chairs and tables.
One unusual set of furniture that was probably made in Philadelphia about 1865 looks as if it were inspired by ancient Assyria. Strange carved griffins held the arms. Other creatures were part of the decoration on the chair back and legs. The chairs were possibly made by Allen & Brother, a Philadelphia firm that exhibited even more elaborate pieces at the Centennial in 1876.
It's a bird that bobs
Question: I just found a very strange toy that my mother says dates from the 1950s. It is a glass "bird."
The body is a clear glass that is part-way filled with red liquid. It is suspended between tall metal legs that form a stand. The bird's head is made of a fuzzy material and has a feather at the top. There is also a feather tail.
Mother remembers that it moved. We can't figure out exactly what it did. Can you help?
Answer: Wet the bird's beak and place it near a glass of water so it can bob up and down into the water.
The red liquid will rise and fall, forcing the bird to re-place its beak in the water. There is a chemical inside the body that reacts to the temperature. The water cools the head. After a few minutes, when the head dries out, the bird moves again.
The toy was known by several names. Most of them were boxed as "Peace Birds."
They were popular in the 1950s and '60s, but the chemical and the easily breakable glass made them dangerous toys for children.
A New York Knickerbocker
Question: My silver cut-out bowl with a china insert is marked "Knickerbocker Silver Company." Where was it made?
Answer: Knickerbocker made silver-plated pieces in Port Jervis, N.Y. The company was in business from 1896 to about 1935.
A long-lasting gift
Question: My milk pitcher is burgundy and white. It has a scene of men, women, a dog and a picnic basket, a castle and a river. The bottom of the pitcher says "Yonquin, Royal Staffordshire, Clarice Cliff."
It was a wedding gift 60 years ago. I'd like to know more about it.
Answer: Royal Staffordshire Pottery was a name used by Arthur J. Wilkinson of Burslem, England. Clarice Cliff was an important ceramics designer who worked at several factories.
The mark on your piece dates from 1930.
Flipping the lid
Question: I just found a Coca-Cola metal top with a tab that says "Lift-top." When was that sort of top used?
I am a collector and have never seen one before.
Answer: A Lift-Top Coca-Cola bottle was tested in 1964 in Chicago and in Portland, Ore. The customers seemed to like the easy-to-open bottle, but the carbonation was poor. It may have been the cap, or children playing with the unsold bottles at the store. The top was discontinued in 1965.
Question: I have a glass bowl that looks as if it was made from two pieces of glass that makes a sandwich, with a piece of lace on the inside. It is signed Walter. I think it is about 50 years old.
I wonder if you have any idea as to who Walter is.
Answer: Edwin D. Walter has been making glass like yours since 1948. He calls it "doilie" glass. Pieces were made for a company in Tennessee in the 1970s. Two pieces of window glass were laminated together with a decoration in between.
Other examples pictured flowers, leaves or geometric patterns.
Such glass is beginning to interest collectors.
Goofus glass vase, cockatoo, 12-1/2 inches: $85.
Van Briggle vase, Mountain Craig brown, 1920s, 4 1/2 inches: $95.
Stork Club compact, 1940s: $110.
Beverly Hillbillies card game, Milton Bradley, Jumbo Co. of Holland, 1965, box: $145.
Doll, Madame Alexander, Winnie Walker, box, 18 inches: $290.
Sampler, floral, Sarah Ann Locock, age 9 years, framed, 17 by 15 inches: $990.
Desk, Gustav Stickley, two drawers, gallery, paneled sides, 35X40 inches: $1,450.
Decoy, Redhead Drake, hollow, Thomas Chambers, 1920: $1,825.
Rolex watch, Daytona, stainless steel, chronograph, 1960s: $6,500.
Elvis Presley's 1953 Hume High School yearbook, 1953: $8,625.
Send questions to: Antiques, Ralph and Terry Kovel, c/o the Times, P.O. Box 22900, Beachwood, Ohio 44122. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column.