Learn the many names and types of quilts

November 2022

ANTIQUE DETECTIVE

Learn the many names and types of quilts

by Anne Gilbert

Collecting Quilts

In 1996, when I began researching for my book, “Collecting Quilts,” I quickly realized that research is a must. Would you recognize a Kapa, Crazy quilt, or a Trapunto quilt if you came across one at a rummage or estate sale? What about an Amish quilt? These are but a few of the many names that describe the techniques used in quilt-making. With prices for some of the more unusual antique and vintage quilts ranging over $1,000, it is worth the time spent to research the many books and museum collections on the subject. Consider the once-humble “Crazy quilt.” For many years examples never made it to major auction houses. Not so today if the designs and materials contain historical or unusual motifs.

Historically, one of the earliest forms of quilting that began in 14th-century Italy found its way to America by the 18th century. This technique was used here from 1800 through the Civil War. Two layers of cloth were stitched together with a design. A signature of a family member made them more important. Popular motifs were flowers and vines; when used with batting stuffing in the largest design, areas it had a “quilted” look. Popular motifs were flowers and vines.

 

An antique Crazy quilt

An antique Crazy quilt

An antique Crazy quilt, Lancaster, PA. (image courtesy of Wegetlabor)

Clues

Album quilts

Album quilts are among the most expensive and rare. The name “album” was taken from the then-popular hobby of putting mementos into scrapbooks. The album quilt used the same idea as cloth squares. Each of the squares had a central motif such as an animal or flowering tree. Other objects for the squares used identifiable buildings, religious motifs, and overall geometric forms. What also makes them so special is the intricate piecing and appliqué work. For album bridal quilts, the stitches were almost invisible. Each square was supposedly made by a different friend of the bride and autographed by the maker in India ink.

Crazy quilts

Crazy quilts are a good example of unusual quilt names. They were based on the fact that they originally had no fixed design when first made in the American Colonies. As cloth became more available in the Colonies, the Crazy quilt became a thing of the past. In the 1870s, when the Crazy quilt technique was revived, it was totally different and used such fabrics as velvet, cotton, wool, and silk as well as plush, satin and linen. The name was also changed to “Crazy Patch Quilt.” Each colorful block was hand-sewn onto a backing of coarsely woven material. Once sewn together, they were connected by fancy stitches in variously colored threads. Advertisements or pictures printed on satin and woven silk political badges were made, as well as embroidered flowers, insects, and names.

 

Amish quilts

Amish quilts are defined by their use of large geometric designs and dark backgrounds, as are Mennonite quilts. Printed fabrics were rarely used. Amish crib quilts can be expensive not only because not many were made, but few have survived.

Log Cabin quilts

Log Cabin quilts are easily recognized since part of their designs always resembles the logs once stacked in pioneer homes. As such, they are symbolic of the actual log cabins. The center square is usually red, representing the placement of a fireplace or hearth. They were popular in the late 19th century.

Show quilts

Show quilts can also be Crazy or Log Cabin quilts. They were made in those styles, but strictly for display and of silk. Popular patterns such as the “Star of Bethlehem” was created as silk show quilts. 

Hawaiian (Kapa) quilts

Hawaiian (Kapa) quilts are a spinoff from missionaries’ patchwork quilts. They were made of two whole pieces of material and appliquéd in a free-style island motif, usually a single color on white. Pattern designs included breadfruit, turtles, ferns, crescent moon, and baskets of flowers.

Patriotic or Freedom quilts

Patriotic or Freedom quilts always surfaced in times of war or surrounding some historical such as the 1876 Centennial. They used such symbols as the Stars and Stripes, American heroes, and statesmen. The most popular symbol was the American bald eagle.

Many quilters commemorating the 1976 Bicentennial use the eagle as their primary motif. They are popular with contemporary collectors.

Anne Gilbert has been self-syndicating the ANTIQUE DETECTIVE to such papers as the Chicago Sun-Times and the Miami Herald since 1983.
She has authored nine books on antiques, collectibles, and art and appeared on national TV.
She has done appraisals for museums and private individuals.

American dolls follow fashions and historical changes

October 2022

ANTIQUE DETECTIVE

American dolls follow fashions and historical changes

by Anne Gilbert

You are in for some surprises if you think you know all about dolls. The following facts can help you be a doll detective. They can also help you from being ripped off and buying fakes and reproductions.

Historically, dolls weren’t originally made for children but for religious rituals in ancient countries around the world. They were made of clay, stone, wood, bone, ivory and wax. However, by the 1590s, dolls were being made in European countries for royalty and the wealthy. They were carved of the native woods from those countries.

In Germany, clay dolls were being made in the 13th century. Wooden dolls were made from the 15th century. At that time, dolls for poor children in Germany and Holland were simply made crude, cheap, peg wooden dolls. Nativity scene displays in Italy featured elaborately costumed dolls.

Carved wooden dolls were made until the 19th century, when they were combined with other materials such as wax, leather and porcelain. The bodies were increasingly made of other materials such as leather, wax and porcelain. Dolls’ brown glass eyes probably were used until the reign of Queen Victoria, whose eyes were blue.

In early 19th century America, popular china and bisque dolls came from Germany since they were sold cheaply. However, the average Americans made their own dolls from available materials such as rags, straw and cornhusks until the Civil War. There were even heads made of apples. They were given facial expressions on their faces by pinching the surface when the apples began to shrink.
Elegantly dressed fashion dolls made of bisque and porcelain became popular around the world and in America by the mid-19th century. During that time, they represented adults. Baby and child-like dolls didn’t make an appearance until the 1850s. Boy dolls were a rarity. The personality doll became trendy.

The 1860s are considered the Golden Age for dolls. Dramatic changes were made in materials and even their action. Thomas Edison made a talking doll in the 1890s, and more than 500 were sold.

The first known American patent for a papier mache doll head was issued to Ludwig Greiner of Philadelphia during the 1860s. The doll had other uses than as a toy. In the hollow of her head, she smuggled morphine and quinine across the border during the Civil War.

Personality dolls became trendy after the Civil War — General Ulysses S. Grant and actress dolls among them.
Handmade rag dolls reflected the regions of their makers. Hundreds were made by Native Americans. They often depicted white settlers and were dressed in buckskin.

African-American dolls became popular after the Civil War. In the late 1890s, dolls depicting all races made their appearance in America and Europe.

Big changes were made in doll making in the 20th century with the invention of polymer and plastic. They were inexpensive to make and could be mass-produced and were durable. This opened up the adult collector market. The American Character Doll Co., founded in 1919, created a new concept of dolls. They were the first to produce and mass market rubber dolls. Among the most popular were “Tiny Tears” and “Sweet Sue.”

 

 

Learning the ABCs, graphite, and watercolour

Transgender Barbie by Mattel

An In keeping with current trends, here’s the latest from Mattel: Transgender Barbie. (photo provided by the author)

 

For children, celebrity and character dolls were a new possibility. Shirley Temple dolls were and still are collected along with Disney character dolls.Shirley Temple dolls were so popular that originals were faked and reproduced. The originals were made by the “Ideal” Doll Co.” These days an original could sell to a collector for $650 or more.

The first Barbie doll created a whole new market for children and collectors in 1959. At the same time, action figures for boys entered the doll market. Also in 1959, Mattel created its Tribute Collection. It consisted of “celebrities and visionaries” whose “incredible contributions have helped and impact culture.” Actress Lucille Ball was made in the actress category.

CLUES: Reproductions of early fashion dolls continue to find buyers. Authentic examples cost hundreds of dollars. However, the big doll news this year is Mattel’s
introduction of the first transgender doll, designed after actress Laverne Cox, as part of the Barbie Tribute collection. The current price is $45.

 

Anne Gilbert has been self-syndicating the ANTIQUE DETECTIVE to such papers as the Chicago Sun-Times and the Miami Herald since 1983.
She has authored nine books on antiques, collectibles, and art and appeared on national TV.
She has done appraisals for museums and private individuals.

American patriotic-themed objects still popular with today’s collectors, artisans

September 2022

ANTIQUE DETECTIVE

American patriotic-themed objects still popular with today’s collectors, artisans

by Anne Gilbert

Collecting fads may come and go,­ but items decorated with historic American subjects still attract a new generation of current collectors. While scrolling the Internet I discovered there is also a new generation of folk artists using the American flag as a motif. One reason for collector interest is the diversity of categories ranging from Native American beadwork and whiskey flasks to carvings, furniture and textiles. The subjects include the stars and stripes, the Great Seal, bald eagle and historic American founding fathers and military leaders.

Historically, the eagle appeared in ancient Greece and Rome on coins, medals and gems, often with a palm branch in its talons and on the standards of Roman legions. Fast forward to 1777, when it appeared on a New York token of lead or brass. American history on cloth began that same year of the revolution, possibly with a silk kerchief depicting George Washington as commander-in-chief of the Continental army.

While many examples of all historic categories are in museums, they often are available through dealers, auctions and estate sales. The problem is, most cost thousands of dollars. The good news is that quality reproductions of many pieces are considered serious collectibles. Prices are affordable. Also, many categories, such as whiskey flasks, small pieces of 18th- and early 19th-century wood furniture are not currently popular.

CLUES – The celebration of the American revolution in the 1920s and 1930s resulted in many reproductions. Determining authentic early pieces requires research of materials and artisan techniques. For example, early cabinets and desks were made to stand against the wall. The backs were unfinished. Reproductions have finished backs.

Many unusual objects dating to the American Revolution may sit in family attics and basements, awaiting discovery. Would you recognize an example of scherenschnitte? This paper cutting art form came to America from Germany during the American Revolution. Examples depicted the American eagle and other symbols of liberty. A dealer price could be more than $2,000.

Old stoneware jugs and crocks with patriotic symbols depicted in blue paint became popular collectibles in the 1960s. This resulted in reproductions. These days, 19th-century examples are sold at specialized auctions like Crocker Farms for $1,000 or more. However, there are still discoveries being made on renovated farmlands. The same goes for glass whiskey bottles and flasks with engraved portraits of American presidents, the flag and shields. Reproductions were made in the early 20th century and are seriously collected.

Early 19th century American cabinet makers were quick to capitalize on growing, post-revolution patriotic fervor. Magnificent highboys were topped with gilt and wood carved figural eagles and flags as well as carved busts of George Washington. Other cabinet pieces were inlaid with varied veneer wood inlays of eagles and American shields. 

Learning the ABCs, graphite, and watercolour

Native American Beaded Bag

A Native American beaded bag with flag motif.
(Image courtesy of eBay)

 

Elegant, large girandole mirrors with gilt or brass frames were topped with figural eagles. They have never stopped being reproduced. Age can be determined by the thickness of the glass. Early glass was thin; modern is thick.

Even humble wood butter and cookie molds had patriotic subjects and have been heavily reproduced. However, they are modestly priced.

Probably the most unexpected patriotic objects are the beaded bags made by Native Americans. The women of the Lakota tribe began using the American flag and other icons in their beadwork, beginning in the late 19th century. Stripped of their land and much of their tribal heritage, it was their way to communicate their new relationship with the United States. Beaded flag images were used on a variety of items, including bags, knife sheafs and shirts. Early examples can be priced from $600 and up.

 

Anne Gilbert has been self-syndicating the ANTIQUE DETECTIVE to such papers as the Chicago Sun-Times and the Miami Herald since 1983.
She has authored nine books on antiques, collectibles, and art and appeared on national TV.
She has done appraisals for museums and private individuals.

Early Americans saved family history with decorative Frakturs

August 2022

ANTIQUE DETECTIVE

Early Americans saved family history with decorative Frakturs

by Anne Gilbert

Frakturs show family history in pictures

These days when we get a printed birth or marriage certificate, we put the document in a drawer or bank document box. It was a far different matter back in the early 18th century. There was no bureau of vital statistics. The result was the appearance of documents called “Frakturs” by the German Americans who immigrated to America at the time. They settled around Berks County, NY, and Lancaster PA (and later, to York County, NY). Their colorfully illustrated documents were framed and hung on the wall.

Frakturs are now considered an art form. When examples recently came to a Pooks and Pooks June auction, price results ranged from $2,000 to $7,000. They were from the collection of Donald and Patricia Herr. Many are in museum collections in America and around the world as folk art.

Historically, the first Fraktur typefaces originated in Germany in the early 16th century. The word “fraktur” refers to the broken appearance of the Gothic or Old English style of printing. The correct pronunciation is “frock-tour.” The first examples were horizontal and later became vertical.

In America, the immigrants continued the German tradition of making Frakturs. Highly ornamental, hand-drawn and colored, they were done by the educated members of the community, which included schoolmasters, clergymen or itinerant artists. The schoolmaster had to do legal papers of births, baptisms and marriages.

Their illustrations came from a variety of sources such as textile pattern books from European countries. Also popular were illustrations of stylized birds and animals. Other subjects were adapted from heraldic drawings, including unicorns and mermaids. Many had elaborate borders with scroll work or bird wings. An unusual border depicting Adam and Eve was used on birth certificates by George Frederich Speyer (1714-1801).

Frakturs required skill just to make paper and create the proper illuminated inks, tints and dyes. Examples were not always signed. A signature by a known artist raises the value. Two important Pennsylvania Fraktur artists who signed were Henrich Lehn and David Herr. Their colorfully illustrated Frakturs can fetch $7,000 or more at auction.

Many Fraktur artists were itinerant. They often prepared their documents before traveling and created the artwork, leaving blank spaces to be filled in by the buyers. The results were framed and displayed. 

Learning the ABCs, graphite, and watercolour

A parrot image Fraktur by David Herr.

A parrot image Fraktur by David Herr.
(Image courtesy of Pook and Pook Auctions, Pennsylvania)

 

The invention of the printing press made the early Fraktur techniques almost obsolete. During the Victorian eras, colorful Frakturs were popular; however, some were still being created in the 1920s. There are many artists continuing the craft today.

CLUES: While usually angels were used on religious Frakturs, there was an exception. Berks County Fraktur artist David Peterman, who worked from the early 19th century to 1870, used figures of women. During the years, he changed their hairstyles and clothing to the fashion of the times.

To learn more about Fraktur and New York artists, check out books by June Lloyd, New York historian.

Anne Gilbert has been self-syndicating the ANTIQUE DETECTIVE to such papers as the Chicago Sun-Times and the Miami Herald since 1983.
She has authored nine books on antiques, collectibles, and art and appeared on national TV.
She has done appraisals for museums and private individuals.

Commemorative collectibles depict historical events

July 2022

ANTIQUE DETECTIVE

Commemorative collectibles depict historical events

by Anne Gilbert

Commemorative items for Collectors

The recent celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee has created many commemorative items for collectors. There are t-shirts, coffee mugs and cushion covers, to mention only a few.

Famous people from presidents to inventors and celebrities have been immortalized as collectible objects — George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Martin Luther King Jr. among them.

Historical events from battles to Charles Lindbergh’s solo, nonstop transatlantic flight to actors and musical groups have been and are being made by limited editions companies such as The Bradford Exchange. While early examples are mostly in museums, many still come up at auctions. Who knows how many are awaiting your discovery?

Historically, commemorative and jubilee souvenir items go back several hundreds of years. European and American history used plates, figurines and a variety of ceramics and glass to display political and cultural events and causes.

The earliest British Jubilee commemorative item is a Delftware plate made late in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in 1600. In 1680, a commemorative mug was made during the reign of Charles II.

Developments in manufacturing techniques allowing images and designs to be transferred to pottery in the early 19th century were created in 1760.  A Worcester pitcher was made commemorating the death of King George II. One side showed his likeness, the other one of his naval battles. A current price offering one is $9,000.       

Learning the ABCs, graphite, and watercolour

A souvenir cut paper rose depicting historic monuments.

A souvenir cut paper rose depicting historic monuments.
(Image courtesy of Museum City of New York)

Learning the ABCs, graphite, and watercolour

A George Washington pitcher

A George Washington pitcher. (Image courtesy of The Chipstone Foundation, Foxpoint, WI)

George Washington and Benjamin Franklin were two favorite subjects for Wedgewood potters in the 1800s. Franklin’s trip to England, when he received the Copley Award for his experiments on lighting and electricity, were honored by Stafford pottery figures.
Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 offered a variety of commemorative collectibles such as ceramics, woven silk pictures, wallpaper and pipes.

By the middle of the 19th century, important commercial events were happening, creating a growing market for commemorative items. The Crystal Palace’s “Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, London, England” (1851) was the first World’s Fair to exhibit items relating to culture and industry. It included a great diversity of souvenirs, with images ranging from medals to mugs and thimbles.

Not to be outdone, in America, New York City created “The Crystal Palace of Industry Works of All Nations” in 1853. Like the London version, it was made of iron and glass.

Unfortunately, the floor was made of pitch pine. Somehow it caught fire and burned to the ground on Oct. 5, 1858. Currier and Ives created a colorful print depicting firemen fighting the blaze.

The most interesting souvenir is known as “The Rose.” Made of a flat piece of cardboard, it opened again and again in the form of petals, each petal depicting a steel engraving of points of interest. When closed, it was in the form of a colorful full-blown rose. Hundreds were made and printed around the world.

The year 1893 marked the opening of the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The souvenirs depicted images of Christopher Columbus and various exhibition buildings and events.

Chicago’s World’s Fair in 1933 and New York’s World’s Fair in 1964 created many types of souvenirs still available and inexpensive. The Union Pacific exhibit handed out aluminum coins to promote the use of metal in their new trains.

Commemorative items often had a dark side. In Great Britain there was a serious Abolitionist movement beginning in 1783 to end slavery in the United Kingdom and the world. In 1833, an act of Parliament in most British Colonies was passed, freeing more than 800,000 enslaved Africans in the Caribbean, South Africa and Canada.

There were many abolitionists and an Abolitionist Society had created drawing of a black man in chains and the words, “Am I not a man and a brother?” Josiah Wedgwood, England’s most famous potter, convinced his friend, Thomas Clarkson, a member of the Society, to create a medallion that incorporated the image. It became the most famous portrayal of a black person in all of 18th-century art. A medallion was sent to Benjamin Franklin who was then president of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. The image was reproduced not only on crockery but fashionable objects from bracelets to being inlaid in gold on snuffboxes. The Wedgwood medallion is and was the most famous image of a black slave in all of 18th-century art.

Anne Gilbert has been self-syndicating the ANTIQUE DETECTIVE to such papers as the Chicago Sun-Times and the Miami Herald since 1983.
She has authored nine books on antiques, collectibles, and art and appeared on national TV.
She has done appraisals for museums and private individuals.