Every household had a person who could make, alter and mend clothing before the sewing machine was invented in 1842. Learning to darn, mend and make samplers was part of the education for girls rich enough to go to school in a city. So every family had a sewing basket or table with all of the needles, thread, scissors and other small items used when sewing. The main room of the house, near a fireplace or stove, often was the place chosen to keep the sewing supplies, and the wife did the sewing in the evening while chatting with her family. The sewing box was attractive, often a skillfully crafted wooden box or even a table with a lift top that opened to a bag that held fabrics. But sometimes the sewing box was imaginative, made in the shape of a house or covered in painted designs. At a 2015 auction, a decorated folk-art Victorian sewing box was offered for sale. The house-shaped box had a fabric-covered pin cushion in the center of the “roof,” which opened to expose a compartmented lift-out tray. The house had a brick foundation, front porch and windows with shutters. It was in a 20-by-2-inch “yard” with a picket fence. It looks like a dollhouse, so it must have been tempting for children to try to see inside. It sold for $3,075 at the Skinner sale in Boston.
Q: We got this personal Camel cigarettes tin ashtray from my husband’s aunt several years ago. We still have the original box it came in. His aunt came from a time when women couldn’t smoke in public and she had to sneak her cigarettes. What is it worth?
A: This portable tin Camel “cigarette case” is small enough to fit into a pocket or purse. When you push in the bottom of the box, the retractable ashtray slides out and the cigarette rest pops out. They sell online for about $6 to $12.
Q: I have a large cup with a handle that has writing and pictures on it. There is a poem on one side. On the other side is a bundle of wheat sheaves in a circle and the words “In God we trust, The Farmer’s Arms.” Four pictures of farm implements are around the circle. The cup is marked on the bottom “Adams, Est. 1657, England.” Is it old or valuable?
A: Your cup was made by William Adams and Sons, which was founded in Staffordshire, England, in 1769. The date in the mark refers to an earlier pottery founded by John Adams, a relative. William Adams and Sons became part of the Wedgwood Group in 1966. The name “Adams” was used on some items through 1998. This large cup is sometimes called a “mush cup” and sometimes just a large coffee cup. It was made in the late-19th or early 20th century, and sells today for about $30, double if there is a saucer.
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