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Terry and Kim Kovel, Published January 17 2014

Kovels: Walking canes once part of fashionable attire

Canes were used not only to aid in walking, but also as part of European and American fashionable dress in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Many canes had an extra function, too. Some held swords, guns, flasks, telescopes, cameras, fans, seats, perfume, poison, drugs or hidden papers. Many had silver, gold or jeweled handles or even handles that were modeled heads of presidential candidates. Elegant but fragile handles were made of porcelain.

In the late 19th century, the famous Meissen porcelain factory in Germany made elaborate cane handles that look like small figurines. They were shaped to be easy to hold and carried, but would break if dropped or hit.

Few of these cane handles have survived, and they often are sold without the cane shaft. A three-quarter figure of a woman extending into a curved cane handle was auctioned by Cowan’s Auctions of Cincinnati in October 2013. The handle, with Meissen’s blue crossed-swords mark inside, sold for $800.

Q: I own an old wooden desk with a flip-down top hiding several pigeonholes. A paper sticker on the back reads “Maddox Tables.” Please tell me something about the maker and the desk’s value.

A: Maddox Table Co. was founded in Jamestown, N.Y., in 1898 by English immigrant William Maddox. He had invented several furniture-making and finishing machines before he started his own company.

The company made tables, desks, secretaries and other case furniture. The company was sold in 1919 and again in 1978. It closed in the mid-1980s. Your desk, if in good condition, is worth $400 or so.

Q: I have an 8-by-10-inch painting by A.E. Hayes. I have been told that it’s an example of “tin foil art.” It’s in a very old frame and the back is sealed with old tape. If I remove the tape, I’m likely to ruin the painting. Can you tell me how this painting was done?

A: Your painting is a piece of “tinsel art,” which is a form of reverse-painting on glass. It was popular from about 1850 to 1890. Most tinsel paintings were of flowers. The painting was done in reverse order. Flowers or other foreground details were painted on the glass first and then the background was painted.

Pieces of crumpled foil were added to unpainted parts of the picture. Then the picture was framed with the clear glass in front, the foil in the back. The picture was backed with cloth or paper and sealed with a piece of cardboard or thin wood.

When the painting was hung, the foil glimmered in the glow of candlelight or gas light. Most tinsel pictures were done by young women for their own homes. Perhaps A.E. Hayes was one of these women. Good early tinsel paintings sell for $100 to $500, depending on size, subject and condition.

Q: I inherited an old cider press from my uncle. Stenciling on it reads, “The Higganum Mfg. Corporation Manufacturers, Higganum, Conn., USA.” It still works. We made cider with it the other day. Can you tell me anything about its history and value?

A: Higganum Manufacturing Co. was founded by brothers George and Thomas Clark in 1867. The company made cider mills, wine presses, lard presses, wagon jacks and agricultural equipment. It was incorporated by about 1880.

In 1892, the company was renamed Clark Cutaway Harrow, after its most successful product. Several of the factory buildings burned down in 1914, but the company continued to operate for several more years. The rest of the property was sold in 1942. Your cider press was probably made in about 1880, before the company name was changed. Value: About $100.

Q: When I was a young boy, my grandfather gave me a violin he said was very valuable because it was a genuine “Mittenwald.” Stamped inside the instrument it reads, “Joan Carol Kloz, in Mittenwald, An. 1788.” I searched the Internet and found that Johann Carol Klotz (1709-1769) was a violin maker in Mittenwald. However, the names are spelled differently on my violin and the date doesn’t fit. What do you think? Is this a valuable violin?

A: Millions of violins supposedly made by famous German makers are fakes made in the early 1900s. Authentic old violins are very rare. Several members of the Klotz family made violins in Mittenwald, which has been known for its violin makers since the late 17th century. The date on your violin is a problem since Joan (Johann) died in 1769.

To find out if your violin is authentic, first show it to a professional violinist and ask if it appears to be a fine old violin. Then have a reputable musical instrument dealer or appraiser look at it. You will have to pay for an appraisal, but authentic old violins made by members of the Klotz family are rare and sell for thousands of dollars.

Tip: From 1954 to 1963, an American radio had a small triangle or circle on the dial between the 6 and 7 and 12 and 16. It was a Civil Defense mark.

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


Kim and Terry Kovel answer 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 other Kovel forum. We cannot guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The amount of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.