Antiques & Collectibles: Origins of heirloom desk and chair differ

Working chairs made by Heywood Brothers & Wakefield Co. between 1897 and 1921 in excellent condition with original caned seats are selling for $250 to $375. Prices for pristine desks are as high as $900, examples with condition issues bring $350 to $500.

Question: Attached is a photo of my heirloom furniture made by the Heywood-Wakefield Co. The chair's metal movement mechanism is marked "H.B. & W. Co. xy" but the desk, which has a detachable cabinet top with plastic door inset, is not marked. Information including age and values is appreciated. - C.D.

Answer: Founded in 1826, Heywood Brothers of Gardner, Mass., originally made wooden chairs and the Wakefield Co. was established in 1855 as an importer of rattan from the Orient. The companies, eventually prominent producers of wicker and rattan furniture, merged in 1897 as Heywood Brothers & Wakefield Co., a name changed to Heywood-Wakefield Co. in 1921.

Identification embossed on your chair's movement appliance indicates the piece was made by H.B. & W. Co. between 1897 and 1921. Advertised as a rotary desk chair, it swivels, can be raised or lowered, frequently was made from oak or elm and had a hand-caned seat. Such chairs presently sell for $250 to $375 when in excellent working and overall condition, including original caned seat. Examples with mechanical problems or replaced seats can be purchased for $125 to $200.

Latest Video

Your unmarked desk typifies French Art Nouveau Period ladies' writing tables or desks made in France, England and the U.S. from the late 1800s to 1915. Such pieces often feature one or a pair of small cupboards or curio cabinets with glass or mirrored doors and your cabinet's glass may have been broken and replaced. Usually fashioned from mahogany, walnut or maple, the desks often have leather tops or writing inserts. Asking prices for pristine desks are as high as $900 while some with condition issues bring $350 to $500.

Question: My grandfather, an obstetrician, had a colored 7 1/2- by 12 3/4 -inch metal picture hanging in his office until he retired. It shows an old-fashioned doctor with his case and an umbrella hurrying toward a house. His figure casts the shadow of a stork on the path ahead of him. The picture is marked "Copyright 1915 A.B. St. Louis Mo." and a message to doctors signed by "Dr. Stork" is on its back. Please tell me what you can about this art. - W.L., Brigantine

Answer: The self-framed chromolithograph you describe is a 1915 advertising piece sent to doctors by St. Louis, Mo., brewery, Anheuser-Busch Inc. The message printed on the cardboard back of such tin wall decorations is an invitation from "Dr. Stork" encouraging physicians to enter a promotional contest associated with the company's Malt-Nutrine product.

Incorporated in 1870 by partners Eberhard Anheuser (1805-1890) and his son-in-law Adolphus Busch (1839-1913), Anheuser-Busch Brewery began producing its 2 percent alcohol Malt-Nutrine in 1896. Recommended for nursing mothers, the tonic's benefits were based on an old wives' tale advocating beer as a lactation stimulant. Soon the product was offered to pregnant women and small children. During Prohibition (1920-1933) when the company's popular Budweiser beer was unavailable, individuals portrayed in Anheuser-Busch Malt-Nutrine ads included hardworking men, socializing women and athletes, all enjoying the "as delicious as it is healthful" tonic ballyhooed as a digestion, sleep and appetite aid until production ceased in 1942.

Your piece may interest physicians as well as folks who collect old advertising items or beer memorabilia. Although current asking prices for such pictures are as high as $400, many in good condition have been purchased for $75 or less during the past several years.

Alyce Hand Benham is an antiques broker, appraiser and estate-liquidation specialist. Send questions to: Alyce Benham, Life section, The Press of Atlantic City, 1000 W. Washington Ave., Pleasantville, N.J. 08232. Email:

Letters may be used in future columns but cannot be answered individually, and photos cannot be returned.

Recommended for you

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.