Think back to the 18th century, and imagine the smells that must have existed in a society with little plumbing, no refrigeration for food and a tradition of infrequent bathing and laundering.
To mask the odors, homemade pomanders, powders, scented waters and potpourri were used. Concoctions of lavender, rosemary, sage, mint, garlic, wormwood, rue, cinnamon, clover and nutmeg were mixed with vinegar to create a fresh smell. The pungent liquids were kept in small enameled boxes, glass or ceramic urns and bottles. Tiny silver or gold boxes held sponges soaked in these liquids. Large containers of the mixtures were kept open in a room, and small ones were carried to be sniffed when needed.
By the 19th century, small porcelain bottles that looked like figurines -- perhaps a shepherdess or a gentleman -- were popular as scent holders. The figure's head was the stopper. Many of the major potteries, including Chelsea, Wedgwood, Jacob Petit, Sevres and Rockingham, created the small bottles, each less than 2 inches tall. Today they are prized by collectors of perfume bottles as well as those who admire the intricate designs of the porcelain makers.
Q: My Art Deco-style water pitcher is marked "Alamo Pottery Inc. San Antonio."
A: The Alamo Pottery worked in San Antonio about 1944 and worked until the 1950s. Their pottery was hand-thrown and had brightly colored glazes.
A 'faded' pitcher
Q: On a trip to England, my wife bought a 12-inch, rectangular Blue-Willow-pattern platter. The maker's name on the back is "J. and M.P. Bell and Company, Glasgow, Scotland." Instead of being bright-blue on white, the pattern is very pale blue and the background cream-colored. When was the platter made? Have the colors faded?
A: J. & M.P. Bell & Co. worked in Glasgow from 1842 to 1928. The company used the mark you describe from about 1850 to 1870. So your platter is about 150 years old. Blue-Willow-pattern china was first made in England in 1790 by Spode. Since then, it has been produced by countless other firms in Europe and the United States. The brightness and hue of the blue and white on Blue Willow varies. Your platter was made with a light-blue transfer design. It has not faded.
Chairs from Wisconsin
Q: A year ago, I bought a pair of upholstered wooden chairs at a yard sale. Under each seat is a tag that reads "Phoenix Chair Co., Largest Chair Factory in the World Under One Roof."
A: The Phoenix Chair Co. worked in Sheboygan, Wis., from about 1880 to 1929. The company made chairs like yours and also breakfast sets, dining-room suites, stools, rocking chairs and highchairs. It specialized in oak reproductions of Victorian styles.
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