Today we’re off to a World’s Fair. Well, actually, we’re revisiting one of America’s most famous and successful international exhibitions and answering a reader’s question about a silk scarf bought by a relative who attended the fair in 1893.
And, if you fancy a small cup of tea, there is a question about a child’s teapot.
Q. This teapot is from a set I was gifted as a child back in the early 1950s. It was played with quite a lot, but the only piece that was ever broken was a cup, which was damaged in storage while I was away at college. The entire set is marked for Noritake China. What can you tell me about it and a possible value? — Terese in Kennewick
A. Noritake is probably Japan’s best-known and most widely distributed maker of dinnerware and fine porcelain china. They started more than a century ago. This set carries the green stamped mark for the Morimura family, founders of the company.
One of their products became famous in America in the early years of the 20th century. From 1916 through the ‘30s the Larkin Company used a Noritake pattern called “Azalea” as a premium for purchases of their soap. It was done on a coupon system. For instance, in 1927, it took a $4 Larkin coupon to get an Azalea cup and saucer.
Noritake made a child’s tea set in Azalea, as well as other sets in many different patterns.
This particular example features happy children, all colorfully depicted, involved in activities such as reading. The rather cartoon-like kids are Caucasian, so we can see this set was destined for export and not likely to have been sold in Japan. Unless, that is, it was bought by a visiting sailor or tourist to bring home.
The value of this set is slightly decreased by the damaged cup, but it would still bring $50 to $75. Contacting one of the large china replacement firms might turn up a new cup.
Q. My World’s Fair silk scarf has been in the family for a long time. It is from the Chicago fair of 1893. There are minor condition issues — it looks like the silk is just shredding away at some points. Can you tell me if this has much value? — Mary Lou in Kennewick
A. World’s Fairs — or “international expositions” as they are technically called — have brought many firsts to America and everywhere else.
Here’s a quick list of things that were rolled out at a World’s Fair.
Telephones were first seen at America’s first fair, the 1876 Centennial Expo in Philadelphia.
Chicago had the Ferris Wheel in 1904. The diesel engine was first started at the 1900 Paris fair.
The X-ray was unveiled in Buffalo in 1901. And television had been strictly a hobbyist’s thing until NBC televised President Roosevelt’s speech which opened New York’s 1939 fair.
And, lest we forget where some of our modern calories were first consumed, here are some fair food firsts.
Cracker Jack, Wrigley’s chewing gum and Aunt Jemima pancakes (with the real-life former slave Nancy Green playing the lead role) were tried in 1893 in Chicago.
Dr. Pepper, Puffed Wheat and the waffle cone were featured at the 1904 St. Louis. And Belgian waffles in 1964 in Seattle.
And my personal favorite, Yuki Bill’s Treats, a “grab stand” vendor who introduced Ukrainian sausages on a bun to fair-goers in Spokane in 1974.
OK, enough reminiscing. Here’s what’s up with the silk scarf.
You may have noticed that the scarf says the fair commemorated Columbus’ landing in America in 1492. That’s right.
The big Chicago fair was to mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus. You probably also know the White City — as the fair was also called — was in 1893. The explanation is simple. They were late.
Scarves such as this were popular souvenirs of the fair. There are quite a few out there not only because they were an inexpensive memento, but because it is estimated the fair was attended by 25 percent of the people who lived in America at the time.
In better condition, retail value might be as much as $50. In this case, maybe $10.
Silk is a natural fiber and can deteriorate over time. The damage is also called “shattering.” Not much can be done about it.
Terry K. Maurer, 15 year Senior Member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America, is a personal property appraiser in the Tri-Cities. For possible use in a future column, direct questions on your antiques and collectibles to What's It Worth? by e-mail email@example.com