Question: I have been collecting old cut-glass candlesticks for years and recently was given a ceramic set by someone who did not know my specialty. A friend who examined the gift suggested I ask you about it. The gift consists of two matched figurines of standing women, each about 8 inches high with closed eyes and folded hands. Each wears a long, pink old-fashioned dress and a long white apron inscribed with a prayer. Both are marked with a silver foil “Enesco” tag. Anything you can tell me about this set and its maker will be very much appreciated. — R.H., Bordentown
Answer: Your gift is a set of Kitchen Prayer Ladies candle holders, part of an extensive kitchen novelties line made from 1956 through the 1960s and distributed by Enesco, an importing company located in Elk Grove, Illinois. Originally the importing division of N. Shure Company, Enesco later spun off and enjoyed many successful years with the Precious Moments porcelain figure line.
Kitchen Prayer Ladies are part of Enesco’s “Mother in the Kitchen” figure series. All pieces are designed around “Mother,” a ceramic figure wearing a pink or blue dress covered with a long white apron printed with a short prayer.
Some Kitchen Prayer Ladies are a bank, canister set, cookie jar, egg timer, mug, picture frame, spoon rest, planter, salt & pepper shakers, soap dish, sprinkler bottle, string and napkin holders, vases and your candle holders.
Listed among today’s favorite collectibles, many of yesterday’s kitchen accessories are finding new homes. Collectors search for favorite Kitchen Prayer Ladies with an original foil Enesco label and no chips, cracks, hairlines or repairs.
A set of candle holders like yours, valued at $95 to $110 in 1997, sold for $248.50 this year.
Question: Not too long ago, I bought a number of kitchen items at a neighborhood house sale held several months after the owner died. Among the purchases was a chrome penguin ice bucket like one my grandmother owned and used in the 1950s and 1960s. It is 8 inches high, 8 inches in diameter with wood side handles and lid knob and is decorated with a parade of embossed penguins around its top. I know these ice buckets were popular collectibles some years ago and would appreciate information about them and their present status. — L.J., Glassboro
Answer: Your have described the West Bend Penguin Hot and Cold Server, a favorite household accessory made by West Bend Aluminum Company at West Bend, Wisconsin. Founded in 1911 by a group of Wisconsin businessmen headed by Barnhardt C. Siegler, the factory produced small metal appliances that included the first drip coffee maker. The firm’s name was changed to West Bend Company in 1961.
West Bend’s Aluminum Penquin Hot and Cold Server with wood trim, initially patented in 1941 and again in 1944, was designed by West Bend employee Alfred F. Ramsthal and later updated by R. N. Kirchner. Throughout its history, the server’s name has been associated with its embossed band of parading penguins.
Production stopped during World War II and returned in the 1950s, when the server was also offered in chrome and stainless steel with wood or plastic handles.
Although frequently described as an ice bucket, the penguin server was advertised as a party piece that could be used to keep hot dishes hot as well as frozen deserts and ice cream frozen. From the 1940s through the 1960s, it often was considered a necessity at cocktail parties, buffets, barbecues and picnics.
Popular with folks who reminisce about their family and childhoods, many Penguin Hot and Cold Servers are passed down as treasured heirlooms or searched for at collectibles markets.
Buyers look for a like-new, functional server with its original rubber seal intact. Although most present asking prices range from $20 to $60, many servers can be purchased for $30 to $40. Chrome-plated models in excellent condition often bring $50 to $95.
Alyce Hand Benham is an antiques broker, appraiser and estate-liquidation specialist. Send questions to: Alyce Benham, Living section, The Press of Atlantic City, 1000 W. Washington Ave., Pleasantville, NJ 08232. Email: treasuresby email@example.com. Letters may be used in future columns but cannot be answered individually, and photos cannot be returned.