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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (12/2005) AMP (11/2005) AMP (01/2006)   Vol. 39 December 2005 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the December 2005 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question While searching at a New Mexico railroad depot, I found this "Good for One Drink or Cigar" brass token from the "Exchange Saloon, 24th St., Ogden, Utah, Jos. L. Carlson, Prop." Any information you can give me would be a great help.

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Answer I don't know if Joseph L. Carlson is the man who put the "den" in Ogden, but I can tell you that he ran the Exchange Saloon there, at 359 24th Street, from 1903 until 1914. In 1915 it became the Exchange Bar, and new owners D. E. Hopkins and Carl Rogers operated it until 1917. The token is actually bimetallic and had a six-pointed aluminum star in the center. It's a scarce piece and if complete would retail for $100-135; without the star, about 50% less.

Our thanks to Utah Trade Tokens author Bob Campbell for his generous assistance on this item.


Question On one of my detecting trips to parks and construction sites in southern Wisconsin, I dug this 1-5/8" brass tag which reads, "REPUBLICAN HOUSE - 34 - C. F. KLETSCH, PROP'R." The back is blank. I have been unable to find out anything about it but am hoping that you can.

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Answer The Republican House- a name which no doubt found great favor among all of the G.O.P. persuasion- was a hotel at 3rd and Kilbourn in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It opened in 1884, and its original proprietor was Charles F. Kletsch. Perhaps its greatest claim to fame is as the birthplace of professional baseball's American League, which was officially incorporated there in Room 185 on the night of March 5, 1900. Your find could be either a baggage claim tag, typically slotted or fob-like, or a room key tag, although those are more often holed. Hotel tags dating from the turn of the last century commonly command $25-50, and a Milwaukee collector might offer even more for this one.


Question Over the years, I've collected quite a few keys, but this one is by far the most fascinating. As you can see, its length can be varied, and it disassembles into three parts. A dealer once described it as a "coffin key," but I've never seen or heard anything else about it. Can you identify it?

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Answer A coffin key? Trust me... that dealer was gravely mistaken. The truth is, it's a pocket-door key. A pocket door is one which slides in and out of a wall instead of swinging on hinges. A popular feature in Victorian architecture, many were installed in pairs which met in the middle, closing a wide doorway or passage between, say, a parlor and dining room, or adjoining bedrooms. When the doors were open, only their edges could be seen. Pocket-door keys were made to remain in the lock when the door was open, and had a folding bow &/or an adjustable-length shank. Most are unmarked, but I suspect that yours may have been made by the Corbin Lock Company of New Britain, Connecticut sometime in the 1880s (or made for Corbin by Francis Keil & Son, Inc. of New York City). If not, another likely manufacturer would be the Norwalk Lock Company of Norwalk, Connecticut. Their unusual designs give these keys a good deal of appeal, and prices range from $12-15 on up to $35-50 for scarcer types.


Question I believe that this old pin may have something to do with the New York Central Railroad during the late 1800s or early 1900s. The back is marked "The Whitehead & Hoag Co., Newark, NJ" and also has a partially illegible patent date and number. I would be interested in any details you can provide concerning it.

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Answer It's the hanger from a badge worn by a New York member/delegate at a Christian Endeavor (C. E.) convention around 100 years ago. Since it was made by Whitehead & Hoag, the earliest possible date would be 1892. When new, the badge would have had an imprinted silk ribbon suspended from the lower pin or bar on the reverse. Begun by the Rev. Francis Clark on February 2, 1881, C. E. is said to be the oldest and largest Christian youth organization in the world, and its many societies are generally sponsored by individual churches, who determine specific teachings and activities at the local level. C. E. pins, buttons, and badges tend to fetch modest amounts- usually well under $20, depending on age, design, condition, etc.- and even though it's still an attractive example, without its ribbon this hanger is definitely at a disadvantage.


Question During a hunt at an old Hudson Bay site in Ontario, I came up with a gold ring, a musketball, and then something that no one has yet identified- this odd-shaped, thin copper object stamped with a feather or leaf and "BIISINAI." Can you identify it?

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Answer Well, it may not ring any bells, but it's certainly not unheard of! What you've got is a flattened Biisinai jingle cone. Curled or twisted into a cone-like shape, these bits of metal are then crimped onto the fringes of jingle dresses worn by Native Americans. Biisinai's Jingles & Designs, located in Wikwemikong, Ontario, reportedly manufactures copper and silver jingle cones, as well as embroidered jingle dresses and various other authentic regalia items. Sold and worn by the hundreds, single jingle cones are worth maybe 15-25¢ apiece.


Question A friend of mine recently recovered this "J. T. A. C. H TEXAS" button in Weatherford, Texas. I think it's a cadet button. Can you give us any info on it?

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Answer It's from John Tarleton Agricultural College in Stephenville, Texas, and is probably around 60-80 years old. Founded in 1899 as John Tarleton College, the institution was renamed in 1917 by the state legislature, who added the word Agricultural. In 1949 it became Tarleton State College, and today is known as Tarleton State University. Value of the button? About $15.


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