Settee cradles allowed baby to rest next to caretaker

Antiques & Collecting

At first, the long rocking settee with a strange fence protecting half the seat seems odd. Why place a fence on an elaborately decorated settee that looks as if it belongs in a living room? The settee is a furniture form that dates to the 1810s.

It seems to be a lengthened Windsor or Hitchcock chair, all wood with spindles, curved arms and stretchers. Some look as if the rockers had been added.

But paintings and ads explain the use and furniture historians call it a “settee-cradle.” The baby’s caretaker or nurse sat on the bench with the baby lying on a pillow on the seat, safe because the rails kept the infant from rolling off.

It was decorated to be seen in an important place in the house, probably near the fireplace to keep warm in the winter. Some of the pieces had a long fence that left little room for the adult caretaker.

A rocking settee-bench with a faux maple paint decoration and a plank seat sold at a Neal Auction recently for $976. Some of the benches have brought close to $2,000.

Q: I read your column and I am interested in selling my antique Lafayette fruit jar. Your website lists it as worth $4,950. Do you purchase items? If not, do you know a good resource to list this item for sale?

A: We checked the picture you sent, then our “Kovels Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide 2018” book, the Kovels’ online price guide, our many newspaper articles, etc., and finally found the price you quoted.

In 2014, we wrote about an aqua Lafayette fruit jar sold at a Norman Heckler bottle auction for $4,950. However, prices have changed.

You made a very common error. “Almost” is not good enough when pricing some things, especially bottles. Color is important, and so is the wording, size and its top. Clear jars are common; colors are rare.

Lafayette quarts are worth far less than the rare pints.

There are about 14 versions of Lafayette bottles listed in the fruit jar bottle guides, and each has its own price range.

There are also several types of tops. Your bottle is a clear quart. The $4,950 bottle is an aqua pint. Clear quarts retail for $100 to $250. Try going to bottle shows or bottle auctions in person or view them online to see values. Talk to some collectors.

And remember, an auction charges the seller a fee, often as much as 25 percent, and you have other costs like shipping and packing the bottle and taxes.

We identify the source of the pictures in our price book and anything else we write and list the addresses of major auction houses at the end of our price book.

Q: I am trying to find a price for a Weller Mammy syrup jar. It was priced at $595 in 1998. How do I find out what it is worth today?

A: Weller Pottery was founded in Fultonham, Ohio, in 1872 and moved to Zanesville, Ohio, in 1882. The pottery closed in 1948. The Mammy line was made for Aunt Jemima Mills, the makers of Aunt Jemima pancake flour, in the 1930s.

A complete set of the Mammy line includes a teapot, sugar with cover, creamer, syrup pitcher, batter bowl and cookie jar.

The Mammy character was first used as a trademark by the R.T. Davis Milling Co. in 1893. In 1913, the company was renamed Aunt Jemima Mills. Quaker Oats Co. bought the brand in 1926, and registered the trademark in 1937. Aunt Jemima’s image has changed over the years, and a modern woman is now pictured on the packaging.

The stereotypical Mammy character on these pieces is no longer popular, and prices for the syrup pitcher have dropped to about $50 to $100.

Q: What is Russel Wright’s Oceana?

A: Russel Wright (1904-76) was an American designer of domestic and industrial wares. He designed dinnerware in modern shapes, glassware, furniture, radios, interiors and other items in ceramics, glass, wood, aluminum and other metals.

Almost everything he designed is marked with his signature as part of the mark. Oceana is a line of woodenware in freeform shapes with ocean themes designed by Wright and made by Klise Manufacturing Co. of Grand Rapids, Michigan, beginning about 1935.

The line was not very popular, and production stopped in 1940. Wright designed a later line made by Klise in the 1950s. Pieces sell for high prices today. An olivewood Oceana bowl, 33 by 20 by 10 inches, sold for over $2,000.