Advertise in Print | Subscriptions
Published December 02, 2011, 12:00 AM

Kovels Antiques: Authentic Shaker furniture prices have come down

The Shakers are a religious group that came to America from England in 1774 led by Mother Ann Lee. The group grew until there were 18 Shaker communities in the eastern part of the country.

By: By Terry Kovel, INFORUM

The Shakers are a religious group that came to America from England in 1774 led by Mother Ann Lee. The group grew until there were 18 Shaker communities in the eastern part of the country.

Some of the communities made furniture that was sold to outsiders. The Shakers’ religious beliefs required that their designs be undecorated, so their furniture was made with slender-shaped spindles, woven seats and legs without a separate foot. No veneer was used, and turned wooden knobs, not metal ones, were used as hardware.

In 1970, Shaker furniture was featured in the U.S. Pavilion at Expo 70, the World’s Fair in Japan, and the old but very modern-looking furniture became popular with collectors. There are only a relatively small number of authentic Shaker-made pieces of furniture, so prices went up for a long time. But they have come down a little in the past few years. Today an average chair sells for about $700 to $900.


Q: I have a hanging lamp that reads “Patent Feb. 28th, 1905, B & H.” The globe is decorated with lilies of the valley and is 13½ inches in diameter. We would like to know who made this lamp.

A: Your lamp was made in the early 1900s by Bradley & Hubbard Manufacturing Co. of Meriden, Conn. Nathaniel Bradley, William Bradley and Walter Hubbard founded Bradley & Hubbard in 1854. At first the company made clocks, sewing machines and call bells. Other products were gradually introduced, and by the 1860s, it was making kerosene lamps. The company was reorganized as Bradley and Hubbard Manufacturing Co. in 1875. It made clocks, andirons, iron, brass and other metalwork. Bradley & Hubbard held several lamp patents. The Feb. 28, 1905, patent on your lamp refers to a wick raiser for central-draft lamps. The company became a division of the Charles Parker Co. in 1940. Production of Bradley & Hubbard lamps ceased in the early 1950s, and the company’s buildings were torn down in 1973.


Q: I have had an old gas iron for a long time. It got its gas fuel from a hose on the wall in our apartment in Poland. I use it as a doorstop because it’s so heavy. There are no markings on it. Can you give me more information about it?

A: Before 1850, irons had to be heated on a stove or in a fireplace. Charcoal-burning irons were invented in the early 1850s. Gas irons were invented in about 1860. Some, like yours, have a rubber or metal tube that could be connected to a gas light jet or gas canister. Others had tanks that could be filled with gasoline, kerosene, alcohol or another fuel and then ignited. One early manufacturer of natural-gas irons advertised that its irons could be heated in four minutes. Keep using your iron as a doorstop. Do not try to heat it. We hear that some have exploded.


Q: Why is there a mirror on my inkstand?

A: Inkstands, common desk accessories in the 18th and 19th centuries, held a container for ink, a pen tray or holder and other items needed for writing letters. Some had a candleholder and a pounce holder or sander for fixing the ink. The candle could be used to light the page, but it was also used to melt the wax that sealed the envelopes. We’ve seen traveling inkwells with hinged mirrored lids, and recently we’ve seen some inkstands with mirrors. While travelers may have used the mirror to check their appearance, we’re not sure why some inkstands have mirrors. A mirror does increase the light a candle throws, but there may be other reasons. Perhaps our readers have other suggestions.


Q: We have an oriental folding fan given to us by a relative in Italy who was an international antiques dealer. Unfortunately, he died before we could ask him anything about the fan. We would like to know when it was made and what it’s worth. It has silvered and pierced ivory sticks and silvered ivory guards (edges). The leaf is decorated with flowers and birds.

A: Your fan was more than likely not made in Asia. The description you give matches closely the types of fans made in France, Italy or England at the end of the 18th century or the beginning of the 19th. Fans with floral designs are not as valuable as those decorated with scenes, but your fan could still be worth close to $300. The value also depends on its condition and the material the leaf is made of (the leaf is the fabric or paper that forms the upper part of a folding fan).


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.

Tags: