Rug making becomes an art form by 1940

Terry Kovel
This hooked rug with a picture of the continental United States has the name of the recipient and the date on the back. It brought $469 at Cowan's Auctions.

No one is sure who made the first hooked rugs, but most historians think it was the Vikings. We do know that in the early 19th century, floormats were made in the United States from 9-inch-long pieces of yarn leftover from machines that made rugs. 

The first rugs to interest U.S. collectors were made at Grenfell Mission, a philanthropic organization founded in 1892 to help residents of Labrador and Newfoundland, Canada. In the 1920s and '30s, they developed a cottage industry to make and sell handicrafts. Items included knitted goods and hooked rugs from donated dyed silk stockings, and later flannelette, wool and burlap.

The rugs had artists' scenes of Labrador and were sold in retail shops in the U.S. and England. Grenfell rugs are now prized by collectors. 

By 1940, rug making had become an art form, not just a job for the poor. Artists and amateurs made hooked rugs to use or sell. This hooked rug pictures a map of the United States. On the back it reads, "For Peter Stone on his 5th birthday Nov. 10, 1940, with Carlo's love." Perfect provenance. It sold at a Cowan's auction for $469.

Question: We're trying to find a replacement milk glass shade for a pole lamp. The shade is embossed with flower blossoms in circles. It chipped and we haven't been able to find a replacement. Can you help? 

Answer: Go to local lighting stores to see if they can help. If they don't have anything similar in stock, you may be able to order something from one of their catalogs. You can find other places that offer replacement parts for lamps by searching the Business Directory on ( or by searching online for replacement milk glass globes. You probably won't find one exactly like yours, but you may find something similar that will work. 

Q: I adore my blue Currier & Ives dish set. Over the years, I have collected about 20 plates, bowls, serving platters, a gravy boat and everything in between. Recently, I've noticed pink Currier & Ives sets online and in antiques shops. Is it rare? 

A: Currier & Ives dinnerware was made by the Royal China Co. in Sebring, Ohio, from 1934 to 1986. The most popular of the company's more than 1,400 dinnerware patterns was the blue and white Currier & Ives. It pictured a copy of a print by Nathaniel Currier and James Merritt Ives, successful American printmakers from the late 1800s.

Other Currier & Ives pattern colors were pink, green, brown, black and multicolor. Royal China sold the dinnerware through retail department stores and catalog mail order houses. In the 1950s, A&P stores distributed the Currier & Ives pattern in pink, blue or green.

The Homer Laughlin China Co. in West Virginia and the English Adams company also made Currier & Ives patterns, but most collectors prefer Royal. The dishes are popular, and prices seem to be climbing a little in antiques stores. You usually see the blue and white dishes, but the pink is not rare.

Q: I was cleaning my mother's closet and found a storage bin of Coach purses from the 1980s and 1990s. Most are like new and still have the Coach tag. Are vintage Coach purses worth anything? 

A: Coach began in 1941 as a family operated business in Manhattan named "Gail Leather Products." Five years later, the six artisans who handcrafted men's wallets were joined by leatherwork manufacturers Miles and Lillian Cahn.

Miles loved the durability and flexibility of the leather used to make baseball gloves. Lillian suggested they use that same baseball leather to make handbags and the first Coach line was created.

The Cahns bought the Coach company in 1961. In 1985, the company was sold to Sara Lee Corporation, which divested it in 2000.

After a few more rebrandings, Coach celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2021. In the late 1970s, Coach items were seen as "affordable luxury." A tote purse was a mainstay of Coach bags for years.

A brown leather business carryall tote, similar in color to the original baseball glove tanned leather, was listed in Kovels Antiques & Collectibles 2022 Price Guide for $98. A vintage glove tanned leather satchel in the style of the Cahns' first line of handbags sold for $86.

Q: I found an old serving tray in a resale shop that caught my eye. It is handpainted with flowers and leaves. There is a lot of gold detail. It looks old. The saleswoman said it was toleware. What is that?

A: Toleware is painted tinware, usually with a black varnished background and designs painted on by hand or stenciled. It is correct to call any painted tin-plated sheet metal "painted tin." Tin was painted to protect it from rust as well as to make it attractive. Toleware made before the 19th century was often called japanned ware.

The designs were sometimes inspired by Japanese lacquer ware. Toleware prices depend on the design and whether there is rust or paint loss. It is very popular today and a tray can sell for $200 or more. There is also toleware with a red background.

TIP: Don't shake dirt out of a small rug. The whipping action will break small fibers and loosen the knots. You can put it face down on clean snow. It will remove dust and dirt.

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer readers' questions sent to the column. Send a letter with one question describing the size, material (glass, pottery) and what you know about the item. Include only two pictures, the object and a closeup of any marks or damage. Be sure your name and return address are included.  Write to Kovels, (Name of this newspaper), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803 or email us at


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. 

Glass decanter, Kluck Kluck, blue, shaped sides, short cylindrical neck, flattened rim, clear and blue stopper, Holmegaard, 1960s, 10 1/4 x 3 3/8 inches, $85. 

Clothing, dress, burnout velvet, dark brown over sheer, V-neck, long sleeves, black band with knot around bust, ruched and pleated fall detail, label, "Oscar de la Renta," size 10, 58 inches, $125. 

Doll, Mary Hoyer, Amish girl, hard plastic, sleep eyes, brunette hair, blue dress, white apron, pleated bonnet, original box with inserts, 1950s, 14 inches, $240. 

Barometer, stick form, George III style, mahogany, painted scroll work, arched top, side-by-side thermometer and barometer, 38 x 6 inches, $315. 

Quilt, applique, floral, 16 small flower pots each with one large and four small stylized tulips, pink and green on white ground, 82 x 76 inches, $400. 

Furniture, cabinet, fruitwood, rectangular top with canted corners, three side-by-side drawers over two paneled doors, brass pulls and escutcheons, plinth base, France, 1800s, 37 5/8 x 50 1/2 x 24 inches. $625. 

Jewelry, pin and earrings, trembler, layered brass flowers, domed moonstone cabochon centers, dangling filigree brass beads with moonstone ends, Joseff of Hollywood, pin 6 x 3 inches, earrings 2 1/2 inches, $935. 

Toy, seesaw with rocking clowns, painted cast iron, two clowns with hinged arms and hips, rocking action makes marble roll from one clown to the other, Muller & Kadeder, Germany, 8 1/2 inches, $1,110. 

Chinese Export covered vase, Rose Medallion, painted indoor scenes with figures, butterflies, fruit and floral borders, gilt accents, baluster form, gilt mask handles, domed lid with molded foo dog finial, 20 x 8 3/4 inches, pair, $1,260. 

Clock, tall case, Queen Anne, japanned oak, sarcophagus top, crown and putti spandrels, waisted case, arched door, brass and silvered dial, date opening, eight-day movement, pendulum, dial signed "Jonathan March / London," 1700s, 98 inches, $4,095.