December 13, 2006
Puppets existed in the 1300s, but the only record of them is from some illustrations and stories. By the 16th-century, there were puppet shows similar to the later "Punch and Judy" shows. It was in the 18th-century that puppets became well-known. Some were made as caricatures of famous people and performed in shows with political messages.
Paper and cardboard were used to make the puppets. In the 19th-century, puppet shows became very popular, especially the slapstick "Punch and Judy" shows. Glove puppets — simple gloves with heads — were sometimes used. By the 1900s, puppets were made that represented the characters from old stories like "Hansel and Gretel," as well as modern puppets made to look like the Three Stooges, the Howdy Doody gang or even presidents.
One unusual pair of puppets were made to look like President John F. Kennedy and Premier Nikita Khrushchev. They probably date to 1962, when the American and Soviet leaders were exchanging notes about the Cuban Missile Crisis. These certainly are meant as toys for adults, not children.
Don't confuse marionettes and puppets. A puppet has a cloth body and a hollow head and is made to fit over a hand that moves it. A marionette is a type of puppet, but it is manipulated by strings.
Q: I can't seem to find out anything about the Northern Furniture Co. of Sheboygan, Wis. I have a chest of drawers that's marked with that name, the number 6826 and the year 1952.
A: Northern Furniture Co. manufactured upscale tables, bookcases, desks and other case furniture in Sheboygan from 1904 into the 1950s. The company's history dates back to 1881, when George B. Mattoon founded his Mattoon Manufacturing Co. in Sheboygan. The company's name was changed to Northern Furniture when Mattoon died, and it was purchased by an established Sheboygan family named Reiss in 1916. The company's name became R-Way Furniture (the "R" standing for Reiss) at some point, but the Northern Furniture brand name continued to be used for decades.
Q: I am hoping you can tell me something about a porcelain dinnerware set I bought in Oklahoma in the 1970s. The mark on the bottom reads "Coxon, Belleek" and, below that, "Boulevard."
A: Your dinnerware was made by Coxon Pottery of Wooster, Ohio, which was in business from about 1926 to 1930. Boulevard is the name of the pattern. Coxon Pottery was owned by brothers Fred and Edward Coxon and Edward's son, Edward Jr. Coxon Belleek is a thin, high-fired porcelain with a rich ivory tone. (In 1929 Belleek Pottery of Ireland won the legal right to use Belleek as a trademark; other firms can no longer use the capitalized word as part of their marks or advertising.) Replacement china services sell a single dinner plate in your pattern for about $45.
Q: I own a cameo-glass bud vase a little more than 4 inches high. It's signed "D'aurys." I am trying to find out where and when the vase was made and what it's worth. The only information I can find is that the glass carrying this signature was made by Hadelands Glassverks of Jevnaker, Norway.
A: "D'aurys" is a mark that confounded glass researchers for years. Your vase was not made in Norway. The most recent research indicates that the mark, deliberately chosen because it sounds French, was used on commercial cameo glass made between the two World Wars by Wilhelm Kralik Soehn, a Bohemian glassworks that operated in what is now Lenora, Czech Republic. Commercial cameo glass of that era was simpler than earlier handmade cameo glass. Designs, made in only two or three colors, required little or no handwork. Depending on the condition of your vase, it would sell for about $100.
Q: Please tell me the value of my sterling-silver baby cup. I can't make out the three-symbol mark on the bottom above the word "Sterling." The cup was given to my father by his employer, the H.J. Heinz Co., when I was born in 1932. The cup is engraved with my name and birth date and the words "by Howard Heinz."
A: While your cup isn't of great monetary value — perhaps $50 to $100 — you have an interesting piece of American corporate history. Howard Heinz (1877-1941) was the son of Henry Heinz, who founded the company. Howard took control in 1919, when his father died, and successfully led the company through the Depression. During his time as president of Heinz, the company built dining rooms, locker rooms, dressing rooms, auditoriums, roof gardens and a library for employees. He also scheduled company picnics and gave employees holiday gifts and baby gifts.
Tip: Wax on your antique metal candlesticks? Put the candlesticks in the freezer. After a few hours, the wax will easily flake off. If there is a large lump in the cup, run hot water on the sticks until it melts. Do not let water get into the hollow base.