The major furniture styles used in the United States have names, some for royalty, others for talented designers and cabinetmakers. But by the 1900s, furniture was named for styles of art. Starting in the 1600s, there was Pilgrim, William and Mary (English king and queen); Queen Anne (also English royalty); Chippendale (Thomas Chippendale, an English cabinetmaker); and American Federal, which included the American designs and pieces similar to Sheraton and Hepplewhite (Thomas Sheraton and George Hepplewhite, English cabinetmakers).
By the 1800s, furniture was designed and named for political changes, including Empire, Victorian and many revival styles that copied earlier ones. The 1900s had Mission (also called Arts and Crafts), Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Mid-Century Modern and Modern (also called Contemporary). The United States had many other less-important design influences, and these were named for the countries that inspired them: Japan, Egypt, the Shakers and even what is called Moorish style, a mixture of Turkish, Spanish and Arabian designs.
Decorators today like to have an “accent piece” in a plain contemporary room — something that is unique or at least very unfamiliar. Recently a pair of Moorish chairs were in an auction in New Orleans. They were made in the unfamiliar style and were carved, ebonized and had mother-of-pearl inlay. The backs were pierced with scrolled crests, and seat fronts that looked like small picket fences. The pair of unusual chairs was estimated at $1,200 to $1,800.
Q: In the early 1950s, I paid 25 cents each for small boxes of playing cards that have been printed only on the picture side. They are blank on the other. I traded them with other girls. I still have many of the cards. I just took them to a licensed appraiser and he had never seen any before. I need the value. Can you help?
A: You and I are smarter than the appraiser. Trading cards were a popular pastime in the 1940s and ‘50s just as sports cards are today. I remember getting the jokers from all the decks of cards used by my mother’s bridge game to trade with other girls. Since there is little to no interest in this activity today, there is almost no one to buy the cards. There are several playing-card clubs that meet, have printed publications and collect old playing cards, some going back 100 years. Members might be interested, but it depends on what the printed side looks like.
Q: Help me find information on my mother’s dishes. The name of the company is Vanity Fair Dinnerware, and the pattern is Nancy Lee. The dishes have pink and blue flowers on the edge and gold trim. My parents were married in 1938 and these were a wedding gift. I’d like to fill in the set. Can you help?
A: The maker of your dishes is hard to find, although the dishes in Nancy Lee pattern are available online from matching services and shops that advertise on the major shopping sites. One site suggests they were made by Canonsburg Pottery in Pennsylvania, where it was open from 1909-78. We found a vegetable bowl with imperfections marked down 50 percent to $16. Vanity Fair might be a name used on dishes made for a special customer like a store to sell or to use as a promotion gift.
Q: My son bought a Knights of Pythias ceremonial sword and scabbard at an estate sale several years ago and gave it to me in the 1970s. The handle is black leather with some gold wrap. A helmeted head with a lion on top is at the end of the hand. The shield has “U” and “R” with a lily between them. “FCB” is on the blade cover with a figure of Hercules below it. The blade is in beautiful condition and silver with gilt paint designs. It says “The E.R. Armstrong Co., Detroit, Mich.” near the hilt. It’s 39 inches long. I’m downsizing, and I wonder if it has any value.
A: The Order of Knights of Pythias is a fraternal organization founded in 1864 in Washington, D.C. It was the first fraternal organization chartered by Congress. The letters “FCB” stand for “Friendship, Charity, Benevolence,” the motto of the Knights of Pythias. “U” and “R” stand for “Uniform Rank,” a uniformed group that was formed in 1878 and marched in parades and processions. The lily was the symbol of the Uniformed Rank. The U.R. was removed as an official branch of the Knights of Pythias after 1950. There were different swords for different ranks. The end with a knight’s head and a lion on top (the pommel) indicates you have a sword for a Sir Knight E.A. Armstrong Co., which was a manufacturer of military equipment and regalia for fraternal organizations in Detroit. The value of the sword is $250.
Q: I bought a Roseville pedestal in the Moss pattern for $8 at a Goodwill store and I’m trying to get an idea of its worth.
A: Roseville Pottery Co. was in business from 1890 to 1954. It started in Roseville, Ohio. Another plant was opened in Zanesville, Ohio, in 1898. Moss pattern was introduced in 1936 and was made in Coral, Russet and Sapphire. A Moss pedestal with matching jardiniere would sell for about $800 to $1,000. Pedestals without the jardiniere don’t sell well and are worth under $200.
Tip: After cleaning the brasses on a piece of furniture, wax the metal to help prevent tarnish.
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