Antiques & Collecting: Centennial souvenirs came in many forms

Nations, like people, have special parties and observances to celebrate birthdays and other successes. In 1876, the United States celebrated its 100th birthday with the Centennial Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia. It started on May 10 of that year. The exhibition celebrated the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

There have been many other exhibitions and fairs, and some collectors specialize in souvenirs, posters and even pieces of buildings or exhibits from these important national events. Medals, photographs, postcards, even sugar packets and other special food-related items have been saved, as well as toys, books and clothing from the fairs, and they sell easily today. The Centennial items are easy to spot from the logos that were used over and over at the fair.

Many items, like this red cloth bandanna, had pictures of presidents Washington and Grant, images of some of the exhibition buildings and of course, the official name of the event. One well-known furniture company made a group of tables and other furniture with special inlay trim. They included a symbol in a circle for each of the four major industries in the country and the dates 1776-1876. The furniture today sells for more than $1,000 a piece. But a less expensive souvenir, this bandanna, sold at Conestoga Auction Co. this year for only $71. It can be stitched to a piece of unbleached muslin and framed as a picture (the stitching can be removed leaving it in nearly perfect shape), or it can be dry mounted and framed.

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Q: We are cleaning out my grandparents’ house, and I found a 22-inch-high dark green vase. It has “Louwelsa” curved above the name “Weller.” Any idea what it is worth?

A: What you have is a Weller Pottery umbrella stand. Weller Pottery started in 1872 in Fultonham, Ohio, moving to Zanesville, Ohio, in 1882. By 1915, Weller Pottery was the largest art pottery in the world. Pottery lines included Louwelsa, Eocean, Dickens Ware and Sicardo. Weller closed in 1948. An umbrella stand in good condition sells between $600 and $800, depending on its color, design and condition.

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Q: We bought a Drexel dining-room table and six chairs in the 1960s. The style is midcentury modern, but the chairs have unusual backs with spindles that are flattened about two-thirds of the way up. The table is 60 inches by 29 inches by 40 inches and has two leaves. It’s stamped underneath with “Drexel Declaration, 850-330-37, 2/61.” I’ve heard midcentury modern furniture is popular again. What is this set worth?

A: Drexel Furniture Co. began making moderately priced oak furniture in North Carolina in 1903. Higher-end furniture was made beginning in the 1930s. In the 1950s, Drexel began buying other companies, including the Heritage Furniture Co. The company name became Drexel Enterprises, Inc., in 1960 and was changed to Drexel Heritage Co. in 1968. After changes in ownership, Drexel became part of Authentic Brands Group in 2020. Drexel’s Declaration line was designed by Stewart MacDougall and Kipp Stewart in the late 1950s. It was made of walnut with a choice of white porcelain or brass pulls on drawers. The line has the spare look of Danish modern, but the dining chairs are inspired by Shaker furniture. The numbers stamped on your table include the model number and indicate it was made in February 1961. Midcentury modern furniture is popular again, and pieces sell for high prices. A Drexel Declaration table and six chairs are worth about $1,000 to $1,500.


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