Purpose of 20th-century gadgets lost to time

Terry Kovel
Antique tools can be interesting collectibles. This gadget, a mechanical rope twister, has a patent date of 1901.

Early 20th-century farms and households had many unusual appliances with identities and purposes that have been lost to time.

Look at this device with toothed wheels and a hand crank that sold for $266 at Conestoga Auction Company in Pennsylvania. Is it a kitchen gadget – perhaps a fruit or vegetable peeler? Some kind of grinder or chopper? In fact, it's a mechanical rope twister. 

In the early 1900s, farmers made their own rope. Most people buy it ready-made today. The buyer probably intended to keep this rope twister as an antique instead of using it as a tool. But someone crafty, curious or very dedicated to "do-it-yourself" can buy modern, usable rope twisters or kits online.  

Question: I bought a vase shaped like a goose at a garage sale 20 years ago for 25 cents. It's about 12 inches tall and the back is open like a vase. It's marked "HB Quimper." It looks hand painted. What can you tell me about it and what, if anything, is it worth? 

Answer:: It's worth more than 25 cents. Pottery was made by three different factories in Quimper, France, beginning in the late 17th century. Pierre Bousquet founded the first factory in 1708. It became the HB Factory (Hubaudiere-Bousquet) in 1782, after Antoine de la Hubaudiere became the factory manager.

HB merged with two other factories in 1968. After more changes in ownership, the factory became Henriot-Quimper in 2011. Variations of the HB Quimper mark were used from 1895 to 1984. Your goose vase with an open back is a planter. One sold recently for $40, although some sellers are asking higher prices.

Q: My mother had an original Tiffany Dragonfly lamp in mint condition. Can you tell me what it might be worth? We need to sell it. 

A: Authentic Tiffany lamps can sell for several thousand dollars. Some have sold for over $100,000 and a few for over a million dollars. Many fakes, reproductions and "Tiffany style" lamps sell for less than $100.

The Dragonfly lampshade was designed by Clara Driscoll (1861-1944), a woman who worked in the glass-cutting department at Tiffany. She won a bronze medal for her design at the 1900 Paris Exhibition. Tiffany made the Dragonfly lamp in several different colors, shapes and sizes. Your mother's lamp would have to be seen by an expert to determine if it's an authentic Tiffany or just a good "Tiffany style" lamp.  

Q: I have an old, framed print with three women in period clothing. It says "La Mode Illustree" below the figures. The artist is Heloise Leloir, and it was made in 1870. Can you tell me anything about the print and is it valuable?

A: La Mode Illustree was a successful French fashion magazine in the late 1800s. It was known internationally and was the most popular fashion magazine in the world. Heloise Leloir was the magazine's well-known fashion illustrator and a painter.

Many of her illustrations for the magazine were made into collectible prints, like yours. Leloir also illustrated the famous novels The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo. Some of her original illustrations are in the permanent collections of museums. Framed prints similar to yours have recently sold for $12 to $20. 

Q: My grandparents were married in 1908. Four generations of my family have lived in the same house. We recently discovered a box of silverware stored in a dry attic corner and wrapped in newspaper. After polishing it, we can see some are marked "Wm Rogers Mfg. Co, Original Rogers" and some "1847 Rogers Bros." What are they worth? 

A: There were several silver companies named Rogers in Connecticut and Massachusetts in the 1800s. At least three were named Rogers Brothers and eight were named William Rogers. Some of them joined with other silver manufacturers to form International Silver Co. in Meriden, Connecticut, in 1898.

The name "1847 Rogers" was a trademark used beginning in 1862. It continued to be used by International Silver Co. into the 20th century. Your silver flatware is silver plate. Silver shouldn't be wrapped in old newspapers. The ink will react with the metal and can remove the silver plating. Silver plated flatware does not sell well. A fork or spoon might sell as part of a set for less than $5.

TIP: Don't use rubber gloves when washing figurines with protruding arms and legs. The gloves may snag and cause damage.

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. Questions that are answered will appear in Kovels Publications. 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. 

Steuben, centerpiece bowl, Pomona green, blown glass, flared lip, applied black rim, round foot, ground pontil base, early 20th century, 5 ½ x 12 inches, $60.

Animation art, cel, Iron Man, flying, with background, signed, Tom Tataranowicz, Marvel, 1990s, 10 ¼ x 14 inches, $125.

Silver plate, samovar, dome lid, finial, chased, repousse, flowers, leaves, lion's mask and ring handles, hexagonal base, paw feet, Sheffield, England, Victorian, 28 inches, $245.

Toy, car, Flivver Model T, coupe, Model 210-B, pressed steel, black, red spoke wheels, white rims, decal on bottom, repainted exterior, Buddy-L, 1920s, 11 ½ inches, $575.

Furniture, desk, Baroque, walnut, marquetry panels, slant front, serpentine, three drawers, brass escutcheon & drop pulls, lock, key, Germany, 18th century, 38 x 34 x 21 ½ inches, $675.

Paper, ticket, Woodstock Music and Art Fair, black print, red numbers, unused, $7.00, Sat. Aug. 16 & Sun. Aug. 17, 1969, 2 x 5 inches, pair, $775.

Clothing, pocket, patchwork, brown binding and ties, white backing, blue opening, New England, 19th century, 12 ½ x 10 inches, $820.

Porcelain, brush holder, Famille Rose, tiger, head turned, roaring, mountain scenery, painted, characters on reverse, artist's seals, Chinese, 7 ½ x 8 inches, $985.

Daum glass vase, forest scene, green and gray trees, yellow ground, cameo cut, shouldered, footed, signed "Daum Nancy" with Cross of Lorraine, c. 1900, 16 ½ inches, $1,080.

Textile, rug, Navajo, yellow ground, flowers, birds, red and black serrated borders, attributed to Ason Ti Yellowhair, 1968, 126 ½ x 76 ½ inches, $3,075.