- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Creative cabinetmakers have enjoyed making dual-purpose furniture for centuries. A desk with a drawer that opens to become a bed, a chair that can be flipped to become library steps or bed steps, a table with a top that flips up to become the back of a bench, and other clever examples were made by the 18th century. There even was an 1866 patent for a piano that opened up to be a “bedroom” with a bed and chest of drawers. An 1883 combination sofa and bathtub is our favorite.

Children’s furniture was a special challenge. A Victorian folding chair that could become a stroller, rocker, carriage or highchair is often found today. In the mid-19th century, an English mahogany child’s chair was made with a tablelike stand. Together, the parts made a highchair. Apart, they were a small chair and table the right size for a child. It sold recently in New Orleans for $1,998.

The chair-into-steps and the child’s convertible stroller are ideas that are still in use, but we doubt any new bathtub-sofas are being made.

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Before the 15th century, a bride was given a simple iron ring, if any ring at all. In 1477, Archduke Maximilian of Austria gave a diamond engagement ring to Mary of Burgundy. The idea spread, but engagement rings were made with many different stones and decorated bands for many centuries.

Diamonds were found in Africa in 1870, and the large supply made the price drop. The well-to-do, not just royalty, could afford diamond engagement rings. In 1866, the prong-mounted diamond ring by Tiffany & Co. was the ring to have. In the 1900s, new tools enabled jewelry makers to create elaborate decorations, including pierced filigree and graining. Platinum and white gold replaced yellow gold in popularity. Old and new style rings are still made. Many recent rings are very plain and use gold, platinum or even steel as the band.

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You have a very collectible toy that Kenton Hardware Manufacturing Co. introduced in 1932. Kenton was founded in Kenton, Ohio, in 1890 to make locks. Within a few years, it began making toys.

Kenton made four cement mixers using the brand name Jaeger, referring to the Jaeger Machine Co. of Columbus, Ohio. The two models with rubber tires, including yours and a smaller model, date from about 1940. World War II stopped production at Kenton because metal was needed for munitions, not toys, and Kenton closed in 1952.

If your toy has not been repainted and is in excellent condition, it could be worth $500 or more.

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Your “chest of drawers” is probably a piece of 19th-century office furniture called a “paper file” or “flat file.” It was made by Jacob Hartman but used a filing drawer mechanism with an 1888 patent owned by Schlight & Field Co. The mechanism held papers down in the drawers, which could tip so it was easier to find the papers you needed.

Antique office furniture is popular with collectors. Paper files the size of yours in excellent condition can sell for $400 or more.

COWLES SYNDICATE

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