Kitchen tools sped up fall harvesting chores

Terry Kovel
This 19th century apple peeler, painted green, has a flat plank base and a crank handle. It sold for $649. This early apple peeler is very rare because of the fragile all-wood construction.

Between 1803 and 1900, approximately 250 U.S. patents were filed for designs of apple peelers. One of the first designs was in the late 1700s. 

Apples were a major crop in the U.S., and the evolution of kitchen tools like apple peelers significantly sped up fall harvesting chores.

Apple peelers were taken to neighbors' houses for annual "paring bees," where men operated the hand-cranked machines, and women completed the finer work of quartering, slicing and stringing the apples for drying. Dried apple slices were stored in bags and used to make applesauce or pies or for other culinary uses throughout the winter season. 

Apple paring bees not only served a vital function to harvest food but were also popular social events. An unmarried man or woman would toss apple peelings over their left shoulder and try to see if they formed the initials of a future spouse.

Question: I was given a 32-inch Uneeda "walking doll" for my birthday when I was about 4 years old. She's made of hard plastic, has stiff, movable arms and legs, blue sleep eyes and a blond wig. The back of her neck is marked "3176 M E," (copyright symbol) "Uneeda Doll Company Inc., MCMLXXVI." If you hold the doll's hand and move her slightly from side to side, she will "walk" alongside you. There is an oddly shaped recessed area in her back that's about 3 1/2 inches long and 2 inches wide. What is this for? 

Answer: Uneeda Doll Company was founded in 1917 in Brooklyn, New York. The company made thousands of moderately priced dolls and copied dolls made by other makers.

Although stiff-legged dolls like yours were sometimes called "walking dolls," the first doll that actually "walked" was Baby First Step, made by Mattel beginning in 1964. A battery-operated motor in the doll's body made it walk or roller skate. A compartment in the doll's back held the batteries. The recessed area in your doll's back may have been meant to hold batteries, but it doesn't look like this model was made with battery-operated movement.

The Roman numerals on your doll indicate it was made in 1976. Most dolls like yours were made in Taiwan then, but yours was made in the United States. The company changed ownership several times. It became Uneeda Doll Co., Ltd. in 1996 and is now headquartered in Henderson, North Carolina.  

Q: Did Tiffany ever make desk sets? I think I own one. It's made of glass set in a patterned metal. My parents believe it is from the 1920s. What is it worth? 

A: Louis Comfort Tiffany, best known for his leaded-glass lampshades, windows and iridescent art glass, founded Tiffany Glass & Decorating Company in Corona, New York, in 1892. It became Tiffany Studios in 1902.

The company made desk sets in over 15 different patterns. Sets had at least nine pieces, including inkstands, pen trays, paper racks, paper knives, rocker blotters, memo-pad holders, stamp boxes, blotter ends and calendars. Bookends, paperweights, lamps, picture frames, thermometers and other pieces were included in some larger sets. 

Fake "Tiffany" pieces have been made. If pieces are marked "Tiffany Studios New York" in raised letters in a depressed rectangular area, or are just marked "Tiffany," they are fakes. Authentic Tiffany desk sets made between about 1900 and 1919 are impressed or die-stamped "Tiffany Studios New York," and each piece is impressed with a different model number.

Desk sets in the Pine Needle pattern, which has 12 pieces, have auctioned for $2,800 to $4,200. A set with just six pieces sold recently for $1,500.

Q: Do old tin toys have any value? My dad was born on a small farm in 1916 and rarely had any store-bought toys, but he had a windup tin car that goes into a garage and a tin airplane. The airplane has a grooved wheel that would make it roll down a string tied between two objects. The plane is missing part of its tail piece. There is no maker's name on either toy. I don't want to sell them, but I'd like to know if they are valuable. 

A: Tin toys were made in the United States, Germany, France and England beginning in the early 1800s. The "Golden Age" of tin toys was from about 1865 to 1914. The first lithographed tin toy cars were made about 1900, a few years after automobiles became more common than horse-drawn carriages. Cars that replicated real model cars were made by 1930.

Tin toys were made in Japan after the end of World War II. Many were made from scrap tin from beer cans discarded by American soldiers. Others were made in factories from sheet metal. Old tin toys are collectible if they are in good condition. Windup toys and other toys that move bring the highest prices. Some sell for over $100, and a few sell for over $1,000.  

Note: A few months ago, we wrote that Lane cedar chests made before 1987 have old style locks that can latch shut and trap a child inside. The lock should be removed or replaced. A reader wrote to tell us he bought a 1940 Lane cedar chest 20 years ago and found that the company will supply replacement safety locks, latches and keys at no cost. You can contact the company at 

TIP: Marble will eventually react to rain and deteriorate. Keep marble ornaments out of the rain and frost.

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. 

Hurricane lamp, milk glass, globe shade, painted multicolor flowers, brass mounts, Victorian, electrified, 17 ½ inches, $63.

Bottle, flask, Kossuth and tree, calabash, aqua, applied lip, punty, c. 1850, 10 ½ inches, $89.

Toy, car, Aston Martin, green body, black wheels, die-cast metal, No. 53, Matchbox series, box, Moko Lesney    $214.

Trade card, Punch & Judy Mechanical Bank, multicolor illustration, Keith, Benham & Dezendorf, Chicago, Ill., Courier Lith. Co., Buffalo, N.Y., c. 1884, 5 ½ x 3 ½ inches, $344.

Chair, library, mahogany, red upholstery, barrel back, round seat, revolves, straight legs, casters, arms, Continental, 19th century, 33 x 25 ½ x 28 inches, $382.

Clock, glass, round clear case, small dial, pate-de-verre frog and leaf finial, two pate-de-verre frog supports on base, green, signed, Daum France, 11 inches, $407.

Silver tea set, doll's, pear shape teapot, hinged lid, sugar and creamer, four cups and saucers, round tray, scalloped rim, marked, Venezia, Venice, 5 ¾ inch tray, $531.

Doll, Mattel, Talking Barbie, blond, real eyelashes, bendable legs, orange swimsuit, lace jacket, pull string, does not talk, box, 1969, $649.

Stoneware jug, blue, green, light brown, center panel with incised deer, white beaded borders, geometric bands, blue green handle, silver hinged lid, art nouveau, Hannah Barlow, Doulton Lambeth, 19th century, 8 inches, $1,375.

Toy, pedal car, wood body, painted red, gold lettering, metal front plate and seat back, "Reliance" on front, front end crank with clicker, early 20th century, 23 x 36 inches, $1,875.