Burning whale oil for 19th century lighting

Terry Kovel
This unusual light, a Lucerne whale oil lamp, is made of brass and is silver plated. It gives the light from a small burning flame. The unusual shape coaxed a bid of $242. 

Many 18th-century lamps used oil to get light. If whale oil was not available, the lamps could use olive oil. The oil was kept in a reservoir, usually metal, that had three or four burners with wicks. Several were needed to get enough light.

A group of these lamps also had reflectors on a pole, usually shaped like a moth with spread wings. The pole held the needed tools, wick cutters, wick picks and snuffing caps, and could raise and lower the reflector to direct the light. Many were made of brass to withstand heat, and silver was added for decoration where it would not melt.

This late-19th-century silver-plated lamp that burned fat has it all — a silver-plated reflector brass pole, tools, moth reflector and a finial.
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Q: I have an oval coffee table that has an inset and deeply carved top with a scene of a cherub surrounded by an elongated egg-and-dart border. The carving is covered with beveled glass and two handles, and it lifts off to use as a tray. The table has cabriole legs and four scrolled trestle supports that come together in the middle with an urn finial. The people who owned the table were from Romania. Can you tell me anything about it?
A: Tables like this are meant as chair side or cocktail tables. Most were from the 1920s and 1930s and carved in Germany or Austria but not marked. They sell from $125 to $275. Tables like yours with a more elaborate carving can sell up to about $600.
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Q: I have a 1967 Barbie and Ken wedding set in the original unopened (but not perfect) box. It was made by Mattel. How do I get information on the value of this set, and how could I sell it? 
A: Quite a few Barbie bride dolls have been made since Barbie was introduced in 1959. Your wedding set is the 1964-1965 Barbie Wedding Party Gift Set (No. 1017) by Mattel. It is a set of four dolls dressed in wedding finery, which originally sold from about $14 to $20. The set includes a bubble-cut Barbie doll (with blond, brunette or titian hair) in the outfit called "Bride's Dream" (No. 947); a painted-head Ken doll (in blond or brunette) in "Tuxedo" (No. 7897); a Midge doll (with brunette or red hair) in "Orange Blossom" (No. 987); and a Skipper doll (with blond, brunette or red hair) in "Flower Girl" (No. 1904). The set came with a wire stand for each doll and a pillow with a wedding ring on it, which was exclusive to this set. Many Barbie and friends gift sets were offered between 1960 and 1974. Some were department-store exclusives. When found "mint in the box," they are some of the priciest and hardest-to-find Barbie items. Theriault's, an auction company in Annapolis, Maryland, specializes in auctioning dolls and often sells Barbie and accessories. A wedding set like yours sold at Theriault's for $1,100 in 2009.
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Q: I have an old fire hydrant from A.J. Morse & Son called The Invincible Nozzle. On the top it says "1900 The Log Pile Nozzle." It's made of brass with a copper nozzle. Would a collector want to buy it?
A: Yes. Andrew J. Morse founded a company in Boston in 1837. The company made diving equipment. After it became A.J. Morse & Son in 1864, fire nozzles and pipes, diving helmets and equipment, and soda fountains were made. Morse held several patents for nozzles. The Log Pile Nozzle was invented to prevent and control fires in large piles of logs. The design of the Invincible Nozzle was patented on July 31, 1900. It could regulate the flow of water under any pressure, and could deliver up to 10,000 gallons of water per minute. The nozzles could be mounted on aerial ladders, firewagons, fireboats, water towers and other structures. A system of sprayers and nozzles could be set up to keep the logs wet so fire didn't break out in the hot summer months. The company was sold in 1940. Few fire nozzles are offered for sale, but there are collections of all kinds of fire apparatus, including fire engines.
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Q: I have a pitcher and bowl marked "T.A. McNicol" under an upside-down horseshoe. The only mark I can find in records is T.A. McNicol with "American" under it. Are they the same company but different time periods? I can't find the mark anywhere with the horseshoe. Can you help?
A: T.A. McNicol Pottery Co. was founded in East Liverpool, Ohio, in 1913 when Thomas McNicol, Miles Bennett and Thomas Cannon bought the former Globe Pottery Co. building. The pottery made semi-vitreous dinnerware and toilet ware. Later, it made hotel ware. The company went out of business in 1929. A mark with the word "American" was used around 1924. The mark on your pitcher and bowl was used on semi-vitreous china from 1913 to about 1925. Your pitcher and bowl are part of a wash set. The bowl is the washbasin.
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Q: How can I get an artifact from the 1906 San Francisco fire appraised? I have some coins that melted in the fire following the San Francisco earthquake. My grandfather found them on Geary Street near Taylor Street. Is it something a museum might be interested in?
A: The first shocks from the San Francisco earthquake were at 5:12 a.m. on April 18, 1906. After the quake, fires broke out. The fires burned for four days and caused more damage than the earthquake. Some people set fire to their homes, so they could collect the insurance, since insurance didn't cover damage from earthquakes. Over 80 percent of the city's buildings were destroyed by the quake and the fire that followed it. The California Historical Society is in San Francisco and might be interested in the coins. You can get contact information from its website: The provenance seems to be just family, so the museum may not be interested, but it might be able to tell you someone to contact.
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Tip: Look behind all hanging pictures once a year to be sure there are no insect nests, dust or loose wires.
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Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer questions sent to the column. By sending a letter with a question and a picture, you give full permission for use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The amount of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, (Name of this newspaper), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.
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Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions. 
Cut-glass compote, hob star, strawberry diamond and fan and geometrics, teardrop stem, signed, J. Hoare, 7 1/4 x 6 1/2 inches, $50.
Redware inkwell, ribbed, mottled manganese glaze, two holes, oval shape, 1850, 1 1/2 x 2 3/4 x 4 inches, $220.
Nakara humidor, mauve, blue floral, beaded white, marked, C.F. Monroe, 5 1/2 x 4 inches, $300.
Kutani vase, urn shape, open handles, chickens, herons, flowers, landscapes, 1800s, 8 x 18 1/4 inches, $305.
Loetz vase, papillon genre, oil spot, amber glass ground, mounted handles, signed, 11 x 8 inches, $740.
Tiffany glass vase, flower form, ribbed body, gold, amber, rose iridescent, signed L.C. Tiffany, favrile, 10 x 4 inches, $750.
Quezal vase, flower form, green and gold, ivory ground, ruffled top, signed, 8 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches, $940.
Bookcase, open, carved, stripped pine, two shelves, turned twist and twist columns, late 1800s, 88 1/2 x 58 x 31 1/2 inches, $1,190.
Marblehead vase, dragonfly, green matte glaze, impressed mark, Hannah Tutt, 6 x 3 1/4 inches, $4,375.
Advertising tray, Goebel's Beer & Porter, blue and white, enamel, brass rim, 12 inches, $5,430.
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