Unusual Vintage Hatboxes in Demand

By Ralph; Kovel, Terry | The Florida Times Union, August 14, 1999 | Go to article overview
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Unusual Vintage Hatboxes in Demand


Ralph, Kovel, Terry, The Florida Times Union


Hats were an important fashion accessory in centuries past. Women's hats were big, and they had veils, feathers and trim that needed special care.

A hat would be stored in a special box or kept on a stand. In the 17th and 18th centuries, men's hats were large and expensive, so they were also stored in hat cases, which were often made of leather. The tricorn hat was popular in the 18th century, and the hat cases and boxes were made in the appropriate three-cornered shape.

Women kept their hats in bandboxes. The oval boxes were usually made of ash, pine or another flexible wood, or even cardboard. The boxes were often covered with specially designed wallpaper or painted designs. By the late 19th century, stores furnished a hatbox with a large man's or woman's hat. Some were octagonal, some were rectangular and some were made in unusual shapes. There was even a form-fitting box that held a top hat. In the 1920s, hats were smaller and hat stands became popular for storage of hats in closets or bedrooms.

A stand could look like a stylized woman's head, a stick with a rounded top or an unusual animal form, like a stork or a cat. Other unusual hat stands were made to be used in the millinery section of a department store. Collectors search for unusual hatboxes and hat stands, but most of these are in demand by the many collectors of vintage hats.

Q: My mahogany rocking chair has been in our family for years. The chair back is oval with very fancy carving. The ends of the arms are carved to look like animal heads. I can read "Hubbard Eldredge" on a faded sticker that's stuck to the bottom of the chair. Can you tell me who made the chair and how old it is?

A: Your chair was made by Hubbard, Eldredge & Miller of Rochester, N.Y. It probably dates from between 1910 and the early 1920s.

Q: Forty years ago, my aunt gave me an unusual pottery piece she called a "toper's jug." It has a simple design on one side and two large, parallel indentations on the other. My aunt told me that "toper" means "drunkard," and that the jug was shaped so that a drinker could lie down with the jug on his chest and the spout at his mouth. The highgloss glaze on the jug is dark brown. Can you confirm what my aunt said? Value?

A: Strange stories are often told about antiques. Your pottery piece is a foot warmer, not a drinking jug. It was made at the Fenton Pottery in Bennington, Vt., between 1847 and 1858. A foot warmer was filled with hot water or hot sand and placed under the covers to keep a sleeper's feet warm through the night. Your foot warmer has two indentations for feet. The dark-brown glaze is called Rockingham. Your foot warmer would sell for $300 to $500.

Q: My husband bought an unusual tray at a yard sale. It has a wood frame and a central design of a tropical seaside scene. The scene is made from pieces of butterfly wings. On the back of the tray, there are two stickers and an impressed mark in Portuguese. The words in the mark include an address in Brazil.

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