China painting was an important artistic talent in past centuries. Although single color transfer designs were developed and used by the late 1700s, they lacked the color and graceful lines that were possible if the ceramic was decorated by hand. Today, the work of exceptional painters brings much higher prices than other pieces by the same factory. Shirayamadani (1865-1948) was a Japanese artist at Rookwood Pottery in Cincinnati. Rudolph T. Lux (1815-1868) decorated white porcelain with portraits ordered by important politicians and businessmen in New Orleans, and William Powell (working 1900 to 1950) was famous for painting English birds on porcelains made by Royal Worcester. In the first part of the 1900s, painting ceramics was a hobby and sometimes a job of talented housewives. There were magazines like Keramic Studio, published by Adelaide Alsop Robineau that featured pictures and instructions and even furnished patterns. Large makers of dinnerware and decorative porcelains often had a team of young women who put patterns on plates or sometimes, painted original landscapes or floral designs. A Royal Worcester vase from the early 1900s was decorated with a picture of wetlands and two egrets in soft colors and gilded trim. It is marked with the green “Royal Worcester England” mark and the initials “WHB.” It also is signed “W. Powell” by the painter. The 12ø-inch-tall vase sold in 2015 for $1,180.
Q: Is a scrapbook filled with valentines from the 1920s worth anything? It’s so old the pages are crumbling.
A: Most old valentines sell for $1 to $10 depending on design, rarity and condition. If the valentines are glued to the pages, they are worth even less. Those with moving parts sell for more.
Q: I have a small wash table with a metal tag on it that reads “The Ross Table Wash-Stand, Patented, Manufactured by Forest City Furniture Co., Rockford, Ill.” It has a hinged lid with a mirror on the inside of the lid and compartments to hold things. There is a shelf below. When was this made and what it might be worth?
A: Forest City Furniture Co. was in business in Rockford from 1869 to 1919. L.P. Ross was granted a patent for a “combined wash stand and table” in 1886. The compartments in the washstand are meant to hold the bowl and pitcher, and there is a removable compartment for waste water. The shelf holds soap and towels. Your washstand is worth about $400.
Tip: Phillips screws were introduced in the 1920s, a good clue to dating furniture. But remember, sometimes old screws have been replaced with newer ones.
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