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Published January 28, 2011, 12:00 AM

Odd ‘whatsits’ made for farm, kitchen use

Unfamiliar objects used by our ancestors continue to confuse and amuse today’s collectors. “Whatsits” were a popular subject on television shows.

By: Terry Kovel, INFORUM

Unfamiliar objects used by our ancestors continue to confuse and amuse today’s collectors. “Whatsits” were a popular subject on television shows. We identified buggy-whip holders, eyeglasses for chickens to prevent them from pecking each other, even a spring-loaded candle that was attached to a clock and lit the fireplace each morning.

Most unidentified whatsits were made for kitchen or farm use. One item that came in many shapes was the chicken waterer, still used today in a modern form. Early examples look like glass jars turned upside down over a shallow bowl of water, a sort of fountain for barnyard chickens. Marked pottery examples by short-lived factories bring good prices because of their rarity. Waterers by commercial factories that made many of these odd objects sell for $100 to $200.


Q: My mom died in July, and I’m trying to sort through some of her belongings. One of the items I’m trying to price, possibly for sale, is her hutch. Printed inside the drawers are the words “Rockingham Temple Stuart Colonial Modern Dinette.” I believe it is maple, and it’s like new. I looked online and saw prices as low as $50 and as high as $650. Can you help out in any way, either by suggesting a price range or telling me where I might find some information?

A: Temple Stuart Furniture was founded in Baldwinville, Mass., in 1904. Rockingham is one of the lines it made. The company was bought by a Canadian company, Roxton Temple Stuart Ltd. of Waterloo, Quebec, in about 1987. Your mother’s hutch would sell for about $200 to $300.


Q: Have you heard of a California pottery company called California Cleminsons Galagray? When I was married 50 years ago, an aunt gave me a set of the pottery’s dishes as a wedding present. The dishes are marked with those words. I would like to know more about the set.

A: George and Betty Cleminson founded a pottery called Californian Clay in 1941. Betty was the designer, and George handled the business end. They worked in their garage in Monterey Park, Calif., and later moved to a larger facility in El Monte, Calif. The company name was changed to California Cleminsons in 1943. Dinnerware, kitchenware and decorative items were made at the factory. Galagray is the pattern name of your dishes. Most Cleminsons pieces are marked. The pottery closed in 1963.


Q: Is there any interest in vintage dental things? My brother recently retired as a dentist. He has several pieces of furniture and equipment that belonged to an associate who retired when he was over 90 years old. He has a gray wood laboratory cabinet marked “American Cabinet Co.,” an old sterilizer that resembles a dishwasher, some old hand instruments and many old bottles of chemical supplies. If there are collectors of such things, how can I contact them?

A: Dental instruments, old bottles and dental cabinets are very collectible. American Cabinet Co. was founded in Two Rivers, Wis., in the early 1900s. Talk to local antiques dealers to find out who sells “technology.” Cabinets with drawers sell well. Prices can be found – for free – on our website, Kovels.com.

The first dental furniture sold under the American Cabinet Co. name was designed by Dr. E.J. Soik, a dentist, and Harry C. Growen, a Hamilton Co. bookkeeper, in 1896. The cabinets were made by Hamilton Co., a furniture maker. The name “American Cabinet Company” is being used by a different company today and is not related to the company that made dental cabinets. The sterilizer is not as collectible and is of low value, but some instruments sell for more than $100 apiece.


Q: I saw a vase made by Ferock listed in an auction. Can you tell me something about the maker?

A: Pottery stamped “Ferock” was made by Frank Ferrell (sometimes spelled Ferrel), who had a studio in Zanesville, Ohio, in the early 20th century. He used clay from the North Dakota School of Mines. Ferrell worked as a designer and modeler for several Zanesville potteries, including Weller (1897-1905), J.B. Owens, Peters and Reed, and Roseville. He was art director at Roseville from 1918 to 1954. During that period, he designed all of its lines, including “Ferella,” a line named after him.


Tip

Sniff your old photograph album. If it smells, it probably is made of vinyl or some other material that can harm photos. Don’t use it. Buy a new album.


Current prices

Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.

  • Holt Howard hippie salt and pepper shakers, girl holding peace-sign necklace, boy with long hair playing guitar, label, 3½ inches, $22.

  • Squirt-bottle topper, “Switch to Squirt, Never an After-Thirst,” die-cut, smiling Squirt boy pouring bottle of soda, plaid background, 1955, 7½ by 10 inches, $85.


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.

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