« Continue Browsing

e-mail article Print     e-mail article E-mail

By Terry Kovel, Published June 29 2012

Kovels Antiques: America’s symbols varied and evolving

Many figures have been used through the years to represent America. The earliest was the Indian Queen, who was the European symbol for North America from about 1570 to 1776.

The attractive American Indian woman was represented in figurines and textiles. In 1776, her looks changed to a younger Indian Queen, who remained popular until about 1815.

There was also Miss Liberty, a woman who wore the French cap that represented liberty, and Miss Columbia, similar to Miss Liberty but wearing a tiara and standing near a flag and eagle. They are both seen in paintings as early as the 1770s, but Miss Liberty soon lost favor.

Columbia remained a symbol into the 1860s, when she lost out to Uncle Sam. He was invented in 1812 and is the most important and enduring representative of the United States. Legend says that during the War of 1812, Samuel Wilson, a meatpacker, stamped meat packages for soldiers with the letters “U.S.” for United States. Folks joked that the meat came from “Uncle Sam,” and soon the tall, thin man with white hair and beard, top hat and striped pants was created and seen in political cartoons, ads, packaging and even toys. He is still a favorite.

Q: My mother has a Little Red Riding Hood mechanical bank. It has Grandma in bed and Little Red Riding Hood sitting on the bed. If you pull the lever, Grandma’s head comes up and reveals the Big Bad Wolf’s face underneath. It you put a penny in, Red Riding Hood’s head tilts back as if she is startled. The bank is marked “Red Riding Hood” on the side just below her skirt. On the bottom, below Grandma’s head, are the words “Bits and Pieces.” The paint and condition are excellent. We would like to know if it’s a reproduction or an antique and what its value is.

A: The antique Little Red Riding Hood mechanical bank does not have a maker’s mark but is thought to have been made by W.S. Reed Toy Co., which was founded by William Reed in Leominister, Mass., in 1876. The company was known for its wooden toys.

Reed made three different mechanical banks in the 1880s: Old Lady in the Shoe (patented in 1883), Girl in Victorian Chair and Little Red Riding Hood. The Little Red Riding Hood bank came in three variations, with a blue, green or yellow bedspread. The company became Whitney-Reed Co. in 1898.

Your bank is marked “Bits and Pieces,” the name of a company in Lawrenceburg, Ind., that sells reproduction mechanical banks, puzzles and other gift items. The original banks sells for more than $30,000. Bits and Pieces sells reproduction banks for about $25 to $35, but the Red Riding Hood bank is no longer listed on the company’s website.

Q: My antique clothes iron has a little fuel tank attached to the front end. The top of the iron is marked “Sunshine” on one side and “Pat Pending, Made in the USA” on the other. The iron is 7½ inches long. Please tell me what type of fuel it burned, when it was made and what it’s worth.

A: The manufacturer of your Sunshine iron is unknown, but it’s not hard to find the model at flea markets. Sunshine irons date from the early 1900s and burned gasoline. Other liquid-fuel irons burned kerosene, alcohol or liquefied natural gas. Irons that burned liquid fuel were a big improvement over irons that burned coal, which produced smoke and soot. Your iron is worth $75 to $100 if it’s in good condition.

Q: I got a pressed-glass toothpick holder from my grandmother. She told me it’s in the Crocus pattern and that she’s had it for a long time. Can you tell me something about this pattern? Is the toothpick holder valuable?

A: Your pattern is probably “Croesus,” a pattern first made by the Riverside Glass Co. of Wellsburg, W.Va., in 1897. Riverside Glass Co. was founded in 1879 and closed in 1907. The pattern features

C-scrolls separated by crosshatching and fan shapes. It was first made in amethyst, emerald green or clear glass, with or without gold trim. Several different tableware items were made, including a butter dish, pitcher, salt and pepper shakers, sugar and creamer, toothpick holder and other serving pieces.

The National Glass Co. made Croesus at the McKee factory from about 1907 to 1917. Reproductions have been made since the early 1970s. The toothpick holder was one of the first items reproduced. The value of your Croesus toothpick holder is about $35.

For more information about antiques and collectibles and free price information, visit Kovel’s website, www.kovels.com

Kovel answers as many questions as possible through the column. By sending a letter with a question, you give full permission for use in the column or any Kovel forum. We cannot guarantee the return of any photograph, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The volume of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovel, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St.,

New York, NY 10019.