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Published August 26, 2011, 12:00 AM

Kovels Antiques: Nursery rhyme was inspired by yarn winder

What’s a weasel? It’s an animal, of course, but in some parts of Montana you might put weasels on your ice cream – because some Montanans call M&Ms “weasels.” And in the 1700s, when the nursery rhyme “Pop Goes the Weasel” was composed, everyone knew the “weasel” of the title referred to a yarn winder.

By: By Terry Kovel, INFORUM

What’s a weasel? It’s an animal, of course, but in some parts of Montana you might put weasels on your ice cream – because some Montanans call M&Ms “weasels.” And in the 1700s, when the nursery rhyme “Pop Goes the Weasel” was composed, everyone knew the “weasel” of the title referred to a yarn winder.

In the past, when women would spin and weave at home, they used special tools. After the wool was spun, it was wound by hand on a niddy-noddy or with the help of a yarn winder. The winder looked like a post on a footed platform. Attached to the post’s side was a wheel of four or five “arms.” If the wheel turned once, it had wound a set amount of wool, usually a yard. Each time the wheel turned, a wooden counter would move a notch until it hit a final peg and made a loud “pop.” As the nursery rhyme said, “Pop goes the weasel.” Today, a weasel (wool winder) can cost anywhere from $30 to $500.


Q: A tag on the inside of my piano says, “Clarendon Piano Co., Serial No. 87434.” Any information on age?

A: Because you know the maker and serial number of your piano, you can find its approximate age by checking the well-known “Pierce Piano Atlas.” The 12th edition of the atlas was published in 2009. It lists piano makers alphabetically, with dates and serial numbers if available. Clarendon Piano Co. of Rockford, Ill., was in business from 1903 until 1930, when it was taken over by Haddorff Piano Co. Haddorff continued to make pianos using the Clarendon name until 1960. The serial number on your piano indicates that the piano was made in 1919.


Q: My doll is at least 100 years old. On her back are the words, “109-15, Dep, Germany, Handwerck.” She is 29 inches tall and has her original hair. What can you tell me about this doll?

A: Your doll was made by the Heinrich Handwerck Doll Co., founded in Gotha, Germany, in 1876. The “109-15” is the mold number of the doll. “Dep” indicates that a trademark was registered at the local district court. A doll like yours in excellent condition could sell for close to $1,000.


Q: My brother had a stringed instrument that looks like a zither but is called a Pianolin. It says “Patent pending. Sold by our Advertisers only, Price $35, The Pianolin Co., New Troy, Mich.” It has no date on it. Can you tell me anything about it? My brother died several years ago, and I don’t know anything about the instrument.

A: The Pianolin was invented in about 1930 by Henry C. Marx. The name is a combination of “piano” and “violin.” The instrument has two sets of strings, one that’s played with a bow and a smaller set that’s strummed. The pianolike “keyboard” indicates the melody notes. Marx, a concert violinist and music teacher, sold musical instruments door to door before founding the Marxochime Colony in New Troy in 1927. He and his son, Charles, invented several unusual instruments, including the Pianolin, Pianoette, Banjolin, Hawaii-Phone, Mandolin-Uke, Marx Piano Harp, Violin Uke and a guitar with only one string. Pianolas can be found marked either “Pianolin Co.” or “Marxochime Colony” and with the location New Tory, Mich., or Mount Pleasant, Iowa. There are very few people who buy these unusual instruments, so prices are low, under $100.


Q: I have four teaspoons from the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. Each spoon pictures a building on the fairgrounds. The four I have are the General Exhibits Group, the Administration Building, East View of Administration Building and Fort Dearborn. Are these of any value?

A: The 1933 Chicago World’s Fair was called the Century of Progress International Exposition. It celebrated the centennial of the city of Chicago and the advances in technology made during that century. The motto of the fair was “Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Adapts.” It opened in May 1933 and closed the following November. It was so successful that it reopened in May 1934 and closed at the end of October that year. World’s Fair souvenirs from all fairs are collected. Souvenir spoons sell for $30-$40 each.


Tip

Don’t store foods or beverages in crystal bowls or bottles for long periods of time. Acidic juice, vinegar and alcoholic beverages will leach out the lead in the glass. It is unhealthy to drink the liquid.


For more information about antiques and collectibles and free price information, visit Kovel’s Web site, 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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