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Winding yarn, with a 'pop goes the weasel'

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.

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>Q: You recently wrote about a Harry Roseland print used as a premium for Knox gelatin in the early 1900s. I must have the original, though, because mine is painted on canvas and dated 1901. What do you think?

A: You do not have the original by American painter Harry Roseland (1866-1950). The original is said to have belonged to Charles B. Knox (1855-1908), who founded the Knox Gelatine Co. in Johnstown, N.Y., in 1891. What you have is one of a limited number of prints distributed to Knox customers as premiums. They were printed on a canvaslike material, not on paper. The prints are valuable. They sell for $200-$400 if they're in good shape.

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>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. The serial number on your piano indicates that the piano was made in 1919.

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>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.

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