Patent models are miniature works of art

Antiques and collecting

To get a patent on a new invention, it was necessary, from 1836 to 1880, to make an actual model to present to the U.S. Patent Office. Several hundred thousand models were eventually stored with the government. In 1907, 1,061 models were given to the Smithsonian Institution, 3,000 models were sold for a total of $62.18, and the rest remained in storage.

In an economy move in 1925, more models were sold. The Smithsonian took another 2,500, museums took 2,600, and 50,000 were sold for $1,550. The remaining 125,000 crates were sold, unopened, for $6,540. That collection was bought and sold several times. In 1942, it was purchased by O. Rundle Gilbert, an antiques auctioneer, for a little more than $13,000, including overdue storage charges.

Current prices are recorded from antique shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.Red Wing dinnerware gravy boat with cover, Bob White pattern, 1950s, $70.Keystone wood-block village No. 718, 16 paper-on-wood buildings, trees, sidewalks, bank, church, c. 1950, box, $175.Dykes Dairy milk bottle, Warren/Youngstown, Pa., round, pyroglaze, "United States is a Sound Investment, Buy War Bonds & Stamps," quart, $75.Coca-Cola advertising tray, rectangular form, shows soda jerk, American Art Works, dated 1927, 13 1/4 x 10 1/2 inches, $345.Needlework panel, silk on silk, landscape scene, green, brown, yellow, white and black, "The handiwork of Miss Chloe, a school teacher, born in Abington, now Rockland, Mass., in 1786," 18 1/4 x 20 1/4 inches, $385.Marionettes, cowboy and cowgirl, painted composition heads, carved wooden hands and feet, felt hats, gingham dress with lace collar, vest, chaps and cotton shirt, c. 1920s, 20 inches, $395.Louis Vuitton steamer trunk, wood slats, black metal fittings over cloth-covered wood body, original handles, original cloth interior, 2 lift-out trays, c.1910, 13 x 31 1/2 x 19 1/2 inches, $675.Steuben jade-and-alabaster glass fan vase, ribbed body, knobbed, disk foot, Corning, N.Y., c. 1920, 6 inches, $800.Hermhs black crocodile afternoon bag, rounded fold-over flaps, rolled top handle, rope-twist gilt-metal clasp, knot form, labeled, 1950s, $1,035.Stepback cupboard, poplar and white pine, mustard paint design, turned columns, 2 doors, 6 panes, turned feet, 1850, 87 x 52 x 22 1/2 inches, $3,290.

There was a series of auctions of the collection in 1973, and single patent models have been sold through antiques auctions and shops ever since. Each model is part of the history of the United States. Collectors today like to buy a model related to their special interest, like a bottle closure for a bottle collector or a barber's chair for a shaving-mug collector.

The model for brass tilters on a Shaker chair, made by a Shaker from New Lebanon, N.Y., in 1852, auctioned for $17,000. The models are small works of art, carefully made miniatures of a quality not often found today. Each is tagged with the name of the inventor, the date and the patent information.

Q: The old sofa bed I just purchased has an original sticker inside the back that reads, "Toledo Parlor Furniture Co. Thorobed, patented April 18, 1911." Another label has a picture of the sofa bed and the words, "A perfect sofabed and wardrobe called Thorobed." The sides and top of the sofa are oak, the arms are curved and the seat is upholstered. The back of the sofa opens to reveal a storage area. Is this the first sofa bed ever made?

A: Convertible beds -- beds hidden inside other forms of furniture -- date back to at least the 1600s. Sofa beds and other multipurpose furniture designs became especially popular after 1850 and were made by many American companies. U.S. patents were granted for a "convertible bedroom piano" and a "combined sofa and bathtub." The Toledo Parlor Furniture Co., located on City Park Ave. and Dorr St. in Toledo, Ohio, made reproduction upholstered furniture, including "davenport beds," from about 1900 to 1929.

Q: My large, covered butter dish is made of green glass with gold decoration. It is 6 inches tall and 7 inches in diameter. I was told that it is a piece of Depression Glass in a pattern called "Minnie Kamm Double Gold Arches." Can you tell me if this is correct? When and where was the dish made, and what is it worth?

A: Your butter dish is older than Depression-era glass. It is pressed glass and was made about 1898 by the Riverside Glass Works of Wellsburgh, W.Va. Riverside called the pattern "No. 492."

Minnie Watson Kamm wrote a series of books on pressed glass in the 1950s. She called the pattern of your dish "Double Arch." It has since been named "Empress" by collectors. Riverside made the pattern in clear and emerald-green. The green was plain or gilt. A green, covered butter dish is valued at $100.

Q: My washboard is marked "The Columbus Washboard Company." What can you tell me about the company?

A: The Columbus Washboard Co. started business in Columbus, Ohio, in 1895. The company was purchased by new owners in 1926. It was making more than a million washboards a year by 1941. The early boards had metal rubbing surfaces, while later models used glass.

Improved washing machines lowered the demand for washboards, and by the 1970s most were being sold to decorators and craft shops to enhance the "country look." The company was sold in 1999 and moved to Logan, Ohio. It is still in business and is the oldest washboard company in the United States.

Q: Can you help us identify our stuffed toy? It looks like a big mouse with a long tail. It's black-and-white, about a foot tall, and it's wearing red shorts. The copyright mark on the tail reads, "Paul Terry." Next to it is the word "Kiko" in an oval. The toy is at least 50 years old.

A: Your stuffed animal is "Kiko the Kangaroo." He was an animated character in a 1936 Terrytoons cartoon short titled "Farmer Al Falfa's Prize Package." Paul Terry (1887-1971) founded Terrytoons, an animation studio, in 1930. The New York studio produced low-budget, low-quality animated shorts for movie theaters during the 1930s and '40s, and later for television.

The Terrytoons characters that became famous were Mighty Mouse, introduced in 1942, and Heckle and Jeckle, who debuted in 1946. Terry sold his studio to CBS in 1955. The studio closed in 1968.


If you have a serious flood, be sure to have the power to your house turned off before you wade into the water. If you must turn off the power, wear rubber boots and dry rubber gloves. Stand on a wooden chair or ladder and use a broom handle to flip the main switch.

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