Hall Trees Were Perfect for a Rainy Day : Dripping Umbrellas and Bad-Weather Gear Have Long Had a Place of Their Own


The “mud room” is the 1990s solution to the problem of where to place a dripping umbrella, coat or hat. In the 1860s, the hall tree was the answer. Every house had a front entranceway and many had a center hall. High ceilings were popular because, as the hot air rose, the height helped to keep the house cool.

The 6- to 9-foot-high hall tree, placed near the front door, was designed to stand flat against the wall. It held the clothes and accessories needed for bad weather. Hooks for coats were at the top.

There was a mirror in the center, a bench that stored boots and an umbrella, and a cane stand at the bottom. Some hall trees included a glove drawer or a high shelf for hats. Hall trees came in all Victorian styles, including Gothic Revival and Renaissance Gothic, and later in the Mission or Arts and Crafts styles. Most were made of wood, but a few were cast iron.

In the West, useful wood and horns were chosen as hooks. The large hall tree went out of style when lower ceilings and smaller homes became popular. The hall tree is so functional that it is still in use in many homes.

Victorian examples or modern copies are available, but designers of the 1940s and later ignored the form, and modern hall trees are unknown. They have been replaced by closets, hat racks and hooks.



Question: I have seen a lot of yo-yos in toy stores this year. I have an old one that is made of wood. It has the name of an insurance company on the side. Is it worth more than a new, plastic yo-yo?


Answer: Your wooden yo-yo was made as an advertising promotion for an insurance company. It probably dates from the 1960s. It would sell today for the same price as a new yo-yo--about $5.

The origin of the yo-yo can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians. The modern toy was invented by the Filipinos in the 1920s (the word “yo-yo” means “to come back”). Advertising yo-yos were being made by the 1930s, but the most valuable are the 1930s yo-yos made for Coca-Cola.


Q: My cylinder-shaped earthenware vase has been handed down through several generations. It is 4 inches tall and 2 3/4 inches in diameter. The vase looks like a tree trunk with decorations of leaves and vines. The fancy raised mark on the bottom shows two eagles holding a crown over a shield, two ribbons and two circles.

There are two initials inside the shield, but I can see only the letter B on the second one. Can you tell me who made the vase and how old it is?


A: Your vase was made sometime between 1842 and 1869 by Villeroy & Boch. They were pottery manufacturers in Mettlach, Germany. The company is best known for making Mettlach steins.


Q: I have an aqua glass ink bottle unlike any I have ever seen. It is 3 inches in diameter and just under 2 inches tall. The bottle sides gently slope toward the neck, and the neck and lip appear to be hand-formed. The bottle is embossed with “Union Ink Co., Springfield, Mass.” Is this a rare bottle?


A: Your bottle was made in the late 19th century to hold either ink or mucilage, a vegetable-based, gooey liquid adhesive. Most large ink makers of the time also made mucilage, and Union Ink Co. bought bottles like yours to hold either product.

Mucilage bottles are the same size and shape as some ink bottles, but mucilage bottles were made of only aqua or clear glass. Glass ink bottles were made in a wide variety of colors. Early pontilled mucilage bottles are relatively rare. Bottles made later, like yours, were blown-in-mold with an applied lip. They are more common.


Q: You wrote about an Indiana company that makes gift ware from Lucite blocks. The Lucite is carved inside into shapes like flowers, and then the flowers are painted. I read somewhere that the idea for this kind of giftware originated in my hometown of Seattle. Do you know anything about this?


A: Lucite is a DuPont brand name that since 1937 has referred to polymethyl methacrylate. It is a clear acrylic plastic. A Seattle artist named James Wilbur Wood (1921-92) is credited by some with being the first to internally carve Lucite. He made paperweights, necklaces, pins, earrings, key chains and other gift items.

During the 1940s, Wood was helped by two other Seattle men who dyed and polished the carved Lucite items, then sold them to a wholesaler. Later, Wood and his family did all the production work; others marketed the giftware.

For a listing of helpful books and publications, include a self-addressed, stamped (55 cents) envelope to Kovels, Los Angeles Times, King Features Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York, NY 10017.


Current Prices

Figures are recorded from antique shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.

* “Welcome Back Kotter” card game, 1976, $40.

* Goodrich Tires June 1909 calendar/ink blotter, pictures Arab with camel, palm trees, whitewall tire circles date, 4 by 6 1/2 inches, $55.

* “ ‘Gone With the Wind’ Southern Recipe” book, Scarlett O’Hara on cover, 50 pages, $60.

* Washington & Taylor glass flask, The Father of Our Country, aquamarine, Dyottville Glassworks, Phila., circa 1845, 8 1/4 inches, $75.

* George the Drummer Boy toy, windup, tin lithograph, stationary eyes, Marx, 1930s, 9 inches, $120.

* Gorham sterling silver punch ladle, St. Cloud pattern, broad handle with shell, scroll and acanthus design, circa 1885, 13 1/2 inches, $655.

* Silk on linen needlework sampler, by Mary Caeside, 1846, titled “The Happy Man,” prolific script, tree of life, with Adam and Eve, American, 27 by 24 inches, $1,100.

* Bennington pottery poodle, carrying basket of flowers in mouth, mottled brown glaze, coleslaw mane, front legs and tail, 8 1/2 by 9 1/2 inches, $2,900.

* Pennsylvania drop-leaf table, walnut, oblong top, arched skirt, cabriole legs, circa 1760, 57 by 41 1/2 inches, $3,250.