Metal Buttons

Before the days of radio, television and computers, political candidates spread their vote-seeking messages with reports in newspapers, printed literature, banners, stickpins, bandanas, ribbons and even cigar boxes, ceramic figurines and tableware, sewing supplies and more. Metal buttons were used by the mid-1800s and printed celluloid buttons were created in 1896. Less-expensive metal tabs and even paper stickers are now used. Studies show the candidate with the best slogan wins more often than his or her opponent. Successful slogans have been “borrowed” and used by other later politicians. “A clean sweep” represented by a man sweeping the globe to get rid of opponents is seen for candidates in elections in Russia and India in the 1800s. Brooms, dustpans and whisk brooms were popular symbols used on buttons and printed ads in the 1888 presidential campaign of Grover Cleveland vs. Benjamin Harrison (Cleveland lost), but the actual printed words of the slogan do not appear very often. Vintage campaign collectibles are often missed because the emblem’s meaning has been forgotten. A pair of metal buttons shaped like whisk brooms held pictures of two unfamiliar older men. They were presidential candidates Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison. The pins sold together at a Hakes auction for just $209. There were more recent buttons, including “Clean Sweep” (Alf Landon, 1936) and “Clean House” (Thomas Dewey, 1944 and 1948).

Q: Can you tell me something about the Neponset linoleum rugs made by Bird & Son? When were they made?

A: The company traces its beginning to 1795, when founder George Bird owned a paper mill in Massachusetts. The mill was moved a couple of times, ending up on the banks of the Neponset River in South Dedham in 1817. Bird bought the Neponset Paper Co. in East Walpole, Massachusetts, in 1838 and they merged. By the early 1900s, the company was making floor covering, roofing, waterproof paper, wallboard, paper boxes, special papers and other products. In 1920, it began making Neponset rugs, which were printed rugs with a felt base and wax backing. The wax kept the rugs from sticking to the floor. The rugs were made in different designs and sizes, and they were inexpensive, easy-to-clean, mothproof, stainproof and waterproof. In 1922, new Neponset rugs sold for $7.75 to $17.25. Bird’s floor covering division was sold to New London Mills, Inc. in 1963. Bird’s Neponset rugs are no longer made.

Q: My mom was given an amber glass plate with the words “Where are you going my pretty maid” and “See-saw Margery Daw” around the rim. The plate is divided into three sections and has a girl carrying a pail in one section, a boy in another, and the two of them on a seesaw in the largest section. What is it worth?

A: Your dish is part of a children’s set called Nursery Rhyme pattern, sold by representatives of Tiara Exclusives of Dunkirk, Indiana, at home parties between 1970 and 1998. Some of the glass was made by Indiana Glass Company until it closed in 1989. Fenton Art Glass and L.E. Smith Glass Co. also made glass for Tiara. This pattern was made in several colors, including amber, amethyst, blue, pink and clear. Plates, bowls, mugs, pitchers and tumblers were made. Amber sectioned plates like yours sell for about $10 to $12.

Q: I recently purchased a vet practice that was established in 1956. I’m trying to get a valuation on some antique equipment, including an old X-ray unit. Can you help?

A: Large pieces of outdated medical equipment are hard to sell. Collectors look for antique medical items or things that are rare, unusual or have some special history. You can try contacting a medical museum, but an X-ray unit from the 1950s probably is not old enough to be of interest to collectors. If the machine is in good condition, you might be able to donate it to a charity that accepts used equipment or to a company that recycles used machines. An X-ray machine must be disposed of properly. The X-ray generating tube requires special handling. You should contact a company that handles medical waste and dangerous parts.

Q: I inherited a modern-looking glazed earthenware charger that’s marked on the bottom with the letter “F” and a sideways “W.” It’s about 16 inches in diameter. Can you tell me who made it, approximately how old it is and what it might be worth?

A: Perhaps it was made by ceramist Frans Wildenhain (1905-1980). He used this mark. He was born in Leipzig, Germany, and trained at the Bauhaus School in Weimar. Wildenhain moved to the Netherlands in 1933 and emigrated to the United States after World War II. He worked at the Pond Farm workshops in California first, and then left to help found the School of American Craftsman at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. He taught ceramics there from 1950 to 1970. His pieces sell for hundreds to thousands of dollars. His first wife, Marguerite Wildenhain (1896-1985), also was a famous potter.

Tip: Don’t clean badly tarnished pewter with lye unless you are aware of the physical dangers involved. The pewter won’t be hurt, but you might be.

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.


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.

Advertising, playing cards, Edison Mazda, Egypt, 1922 calendar girl, on front, full deck, 3 7/8 x 2 3/4 inches, $50.

Photography, daguerreotype, seated man, top hat, cigar, stamped Whitehurst, c. 1850, 4 1/4 x 3 1/4 inches, $70.

Coca-Cola tip tray, 1909, exhibition girl, blue dress, summer night scene, 6 1/4 x 4 1/2 inches, $270.

Thermometer, cop, directing traffic, mirrored, Corsall Bros. truck lines, 1940-50s, 22 1/4 x 12 inches, $483.

Cash register, National, Haussner stag bar, brass, oak, pointing hand, multicolor keys, 22 1/2 x 20 inches, $620.

Ivory, parasol handle, field workers, leaves, flowers, continental, 11 1/2 inches, $690.

Rookwood, vase, double vellum, blue, daisies, flowers, Kataro Shirayamadani, 1932, 6 1/4 x 5 inches, $880.

Chair, F. Gehry, wiggle, corrugated cardboard, fiberboard edging, Germany, 2000, 34 x 14 1/2 inches, pair, $3,000.

Satsuma vase, Buddha, immortals, saints, scrolling dragon, gold, white, blue, handles, 15 1/2 inches, $5,250.

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