Kovels Antiques: Stars provide clues to ages of collectiblesFlag Day was first celebrated on June 14, 1889, in a public school in Fredonia, Wis. The teacher thought the pupils should celebrate the 112th anniversary of the official adoption of the Stars and Stripes.
By: Terry Kovel, INFORUM
Flag Day was first celebrated on June 14, 1889, in a public school in Fredonia, Wis. The teacher thought the pupils should celebrate the 112th anniversary of the official adoption of the Stars and Stripes.
The idea of a birthday for the flag caught the attention of the public, and the idea spread. By 1891 there was a celebration at the Betsy Ross house in Philadelphia, and soon laws were being passed in many states that asked that the flag be flown on all public buildings. Finally, after nearly 60 years, Flag Day became official when President Harry Truman signed the Act of Congress that made June 14 National Flag Day.
The stars and stripes flag used today is the latest of many designs. There have been 28 different U.S. flags. Each has used red and white stripes and stars, one for each state. Three versions of the flag had the stars in a circle, and three had the stars forming a large six-pointed star. Decorations on textiles and porcelain almost always picture the flag of the year they were made. So try to count the stars, then look up when there were that many states. It should give you an idea of the age of your collectible. A 19th-century copper weathervane, 29 by 18 inches, had a figure of Liberty holding a large flag with 13 painted stars in a circle. That was the design used in 1777-78 and again in 1865-1867. The weathervane was made in about 1867, probably in Waltham, Mass. But many smaller items, including toys, had small flags and only a small space for a design, so often there were only a few stars, even less than 13, so it’s not a legal flag and is no help in determining a manufacturing date.
Q: My grandparents left me a silk scarf, 24½ by 15½ inches. There’s an American flag in the middle with 45 stars, and around the wide edge there are various symbols, including circles, stars, diamonds and triangles. At the bottom are the words “G.A.R. Encampment, Chicago, Aug. 1900.” What is it all about, and is it worth anything?
A: Your scarf is a souvenir from the Grand Army of the Republic gathering in Chicago on Aug. 29-30, 1900. At that point, there were 45 U.S. states, which is the reason your scarf’s flag has 45 stars. The GAR was a fraternal organization whose members had served in the Union Army during the Civil War. In 1900, more than 275,000 Union veterans were still alive. The symbols on your scarf were those used by the GAR, and they were often reproduced on GAR souvenirs. A scarf like yours auctioned a few years ago for $192. Yours would sell today for about the same price if it’s in excellent condition.
Q: My family’s old pink vase is marked “Cauldon England” and “Bailey, Banks & Biddle Co., Philadelphia.” It has gold handles, gold around the base and gold trim around the rim. How old is it?
A: The mark Cauldon England on your vase was used from 1905 to 1920 by Cauldon Ltd., a pottery in England’s Staffordshire area. The gold trim was used at the same time. The Bailey, Banks & Biddle mark refers to the store that originally sold the vase. The famous store was founded in Philadelphia in 1832 and went bankrupt last year, but it recently reorganized and opened a few new stores.
Q: I have a silver matchbox-holder ashtray from the Furness Bermuda Line. It has a crest with the name of the line plus a flag with the letter “F” on it. On the bottom it says, “Triple Deposit Mappin & Webb’s Prince’s Plate, London & Sheffield,” and therea crest with the letter “I” inside. Any information would be appreciated.
A: The Furness Bermuda Line, operated by Furness Withy, transported passengers between New York and Bermuda beginning in 1919. Bermuda was a popular destination for travelers from the United States during Prohibition because alcohol was available on the island. The company ended its passenger service in 1966 but is in business today operating cargo ships and bulk carriers. Members of the Mappin family have been making silver in Sheffield, England, since 1810, but the name “Mappin & Webb” was not used until 1863. “Prince’s Plate” was a line of silver plates. The company is known to have used date codes and some collectors think the letter in the crest is a date code. The Sheffield factory closed in 1971, and Mappin & Webb became part of Sears Holding Ltd.
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