Technology is the feature of today’s What’s It Worth?
Webster defines technology as “The application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry.”
One of the technologies — stoneware — dates back to the 1400s in Europe and in this country to the years before the American Revolution. The other of our readers’ objects is less than 100 years old, but was a technological revolution in its day.
Q. This jug was plowed up from a field in Illinois at least seventy years ago, probably longer. I have had this piece of stoneware for fifty years and would like to find any history. It is about 14 inches high and, other than the blue swirls, there aren't any other markings that I can see. Would appreciate any information that you might be able to give me. Thank you — Phyllis in Stanfield, Ore.
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A. Developed in what is now Germany in the 15th century, by about 1720 salt glazed stoneware jugs and crocks were also being made in Philadelphia.
By the mid-1800s, the technology of how to mold, glaze and fire the pieces at very high temperatures had moved to Illinois, where a number of different companies were active.
Many of these firms marked their wares with the name of the pottery and locations. Some used only cobalt blue decorations. Without a name, it is difficult if not impossible to identify the factory from the decoration.
And, just because the crock was found in an Illinois field doesn’t mean it was made in Illinois. Like all antiques, stoneware items “have legs.” That is, as peopled moved around the country, many possessions went with them. It could be this piece was made just about anywhere in the Midwest.
That said, this three gallon jug is a very nice example which seems to have minimal damage.
Value is almost always directly related to the blue decoration - with early, fancy designs commanding the highest prices.
This would be fairly priced in the $100 to $150 range.
Q. My grandma and I are curious about the worth of this machine. My grandma found it at a second hand store years ago. We believe it is a 1941 model and it was called a book keeping machine. We know it had to have been used by a local business here in Kennewick. We think this is a fascinating machine and hope you might find it interesting too. Thank you for your time. We enjoy you articles. — Julie & Joyce in Kennewick
A. This fascinating office machine was state of the art when Burrough’s introduced it to the market.
First, a little corporate history. Burrough’s started in 1886 as the American Arithometer Company, formed to market the adding machine invented by William S. Burroughs, a bank clerk in Auburn, N.Y.
He worked over the course of several years to develop what he felt would be a banker’s dream — the adding machine — which turned out, at first, to be a great idea nobody seemed to want.
The challenge was to convince banks and other businesses they needed this new technology. Sales were very slow at first, but as bankers — Burroughs’ primary customers — started to see the advantages of the newfangled machine, more and more were sold.
American Arithometer became Burroughs Adding Machine Company in 1905 — named to honor the inventor, who had died in 1898.
Burroughs didn’t live long enough to see his machines begin to dominate a rapidly growing industry. By World War II, Burroughs was the largest company of its kind in America.
Innovations fueled a stream of ever-changing and new models of adding machines, typewriters, check protectors, bookkeeping machines and finally, computers.
This machine - and there are examples of many Burroughs’ models held by museums and even the Smithsonian — was one in that continuing evolution and development of the complete office machine.
Burroughs’ patent department keep track of the various models — there were hundreds — and the way machines were identified over the years varied. The model numbers changed constantly as innovations were added and sometimes the machine included style, class or series numbers or any combination of those marks.
This model likely does date to around the time of World War II and would be of most interest to a museum or specialist collector. If in perfect working condition, it may be worth $100, perhaps a bit more, but a buyer could be hard to find.