Victorian American furniture includes a number of different styles
Many authors define American Victorian furniture in terms of one of the many design types used from 1840 to 1900, but all of them are Victorian. Federal furniture was going out of favor and the heavy square look with straight backs, hard seats, black wood and fabrics and perhaps gold trim was being replaced by ornate carvings possible because of the jigsaw. Variations in designs continued until Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts appeared during the 20th century. There was the Gothic Revival style, inspired by church chairs and stained-glass windows; Rococo Revival featuring scrolls, flowers, leaves and shapes possible because of the first laminated wood; and the even larger and fancier Renaissance Revival. And there even was a Greco-Egyptian Revival with sphinx heads, obelisks and hieroglyphics. By 1900, the Eastlake period based on simpler designs used by Midwestern furniture factories ended the Victorian era. Most expensive today are Renaissance Revival pieces by famous makers like John Henry Belter, Herter Brothers and Alexander Roux, all from New York.
Q: Is there an easy way to date Coca- Cola trays? I know there are a lot of copies.
A: Original trays are decorated with women dressed in the clothing of the day. Dresses, hats and hairdos are a good clue. The trays also often picture celebrities of the day. The shape of the tin tray has changed. The first ones, from 1897 to 1910 were round. Next came ovals from 1910 to 1921. The trays were always rectangular after that. Reproductions were first made during the 1970s.
Q: I have my mother’s Bye-Lo doll and wonder what the value might be. She is 12 inches long with a bisque head, cloth body, cloth feet and celluloid hands, which are in excellent condition with no cracks. There is a voice box in the body, but it doesn’t work. She has open-and-close eyes and painted eyelashes, hair and lips. The back of the head is marked “1923 by Grace S. Putnam, Made in Germany.” Who was Grace Putnam? It doesn’t sound like a German name.
A: Grace Storey Putnam (1877-1947) was a California sculptor who modeled Bye-Lo Baby’s features based on those of a three-day old baby she visited in a nearby hospital. She received her first copyright in 1922. After trying several manufacturers, she took her designs to George Borgfeldt & Co. in New York City and they became the sole licensee. Putnam intended the dolls to have cloth bodies, but gave Borgfeldt permission to use their “stock bodies.” Dolls that cried were made by 1926. Bye-Lo Baby dolls were sold until about 1952. You didn’t send a picture and the value of your doll depends on its condition, head and body type, size, and age. Some Bye-Lo Babies sell for a few hundred dollars and others for over $1,000.
Tip: Wash silver before you clean it with polish. The washing will remove gritty dust particles that will scratch the silver.
— Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer questions sent to the column. Write to Kovels, Florida Weekly, King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803.