SOLID WOOD, HARD RESEARCH
Mahogany counting table adds up to $4,000
We acquired this desk in 1975 for $180 from a used furniture store in Ottawa. Moving it into our office, we soon realized it had some peculiarities, for instance the diametre of various parts of the legs differ on each leg. I also found a stamp inside a top drawer that says, “Manufactured by Stephen Smith No. 51 & 53 Cornhill, Boston.” Armed with this information, I discovered there was a Stephen Smith (1805-1875) in Boston who was a cabinetmaker and apparently the inventor of the roll-top desk. I also found a copy of an old advertising poster that shows our desk in the picture and it’s identified as a piano sitting desk. It’s 137 centimetres wide, 65 cm deep and 124 cm high to the top of the cabinets. I should point out that I started stripping the upper part of the desk soon after I bought it, then stopped. NORMAND,
With all this research what do you need me for?
Actually, it’s great to see you’ve taken the time to do some homework. This was originally made as a commercial piece, not for home use, although anything goes nowadays and it’s sure handy for filing with all those compartments and drawers.
Your advertising poster and a trade card I also found indicate Smith made bank, office and counting room furniture (for counting election ballots).
As for Smith being the inventor of the roll-top, well, I’m not so sure about that. According to my research, someone else held the first patent for the roll-top, although Smith’s company was exhibiting a roll-top in 1881.
Your desk, which appears to be mahogany, has unfortunately been devalued by the refinishing. I’d suggest you restore the top finish to match the bottom finish, not the other way around. As for the legs being different; this is not unusual since they were turned by hand and the naked eye was the judge of size.
Knowing the maker of any piece of furniture always adds value, es- pecially with U.S.-made pieces since Americans are especially keen about provenance. As is, I think your desk is worth about $4,000. Q: This plate belonged to my grandparents. My grandfather told us it had survived the great Miramichi fire of 1825 in New Brunswick. It’s about 27 by 20 centimetres. A:
This is a piece of Victorian majolica pottery, probably made in England but possibly the United States. Majolica is brightly coloured, relief-moulded pottery. The earliest majolica was developed by Minton in England in the 1850s. This piece dates to the 1890s and is likely a cake or bread plate. Majolica pottery became extremely popular over the years and the ANDREW,
Miramichi, N.B. Germans and French also jumped on the manufacturing bandwagon to try to capture their own market share. This isn’t a rare piece of majolica, but it’s a nice example and it’s worth about $125. Q:
This pottery moustache cup has been in my family as long as I can remember and I’m 85. It was given to my father by his father. The story is as follows: When Sadler’s Pottery first started in Stoke-on-Trent, England, three cups where made and given to each of three sons. There are three scenes on it: two depict pub scenes and the third appears to be Roman or Egyptian. The handle is a stylized canine. NOEL,
Bobcaygeon, Ont. A:
This isn’t a moustache cup; it’s a salt glaze stoneware pottery ale mug, which helps to explains two of the three scenes on it. Check out the silly old “toper” who’s spilled his entire pitcher of ale on the floor. A toper is someone who drinks to excess. The thing is, this mug isn’t made by any of the Sadler Pottery companies (there were several). It’s a piece of advertising made by an unknown maker for a business known as R. & S. Sadler. The production and distribution of useful advertising pieces was common practice by many makers through the 1800s and into the 1900s. Sporting, hunt- ing and humorous pub images were often the featured scenes. If this is in near perfect condition, this nice old piece of advertising should be worth about $275. John Sewell is an antique and fine art appraiser. To submit an item, go to www.johnsewellantiques.ca. Please measure your piece, say when and how you got it, what you paid and list any identifying marks. A high-resolution jpeg photo must also be included.