New Pickle Castor FrameBy Mark Chervenka
New Pickle Castor Frames
New pickle castors are available throughout the antiques market. The new frame in Fig. 1 with a new cut overlay insert has sold for as much as $660 on eBay. The same new castor frame with a new Daisy and Button vaseline glass insert sold for $225.
Despite its impressive looks, the frame in (Fig. 1) and several other styles of frames have been reproduced for years. In this article, we'll discuss the most common reproduction pickle castor frames and the typical new inserts with which they are usually paired.
Authentic period pickle castors were at their height of popularity during the last quarter of the 19th century to shortly before World War I, about 1875-1910. The typical form is a removable glass jar held in a metal frame. The glass was pressed, cut, colored or some type of art glass. Any of the various types could have cold painted or enameled decoration.
The vast majority of the metal frames were silver plated. Many of the silver manufacturers bought inserts from glass companies and sold the completed castor– frame and insert– through their catalogs of silver plated goods or showrooms.
Prices for originals averaged from about $1 to a high of around $10. In 1908, Sears Roebuck retailed a pressed glass insert in a triple-plated frame for $1.10. An enamel decorated ruby glass inverted thumbprint insert in a plated frame by Adelphi Silver Plate Company in 1890 cost $6 wholesale. A 1900 catalog of Lapp & Flersheim in 1900 offered a cut glass insert in quadruple plated frame for $5.00.
Old frames were almost always made up of several or more separate pieces of metal soldered together. Once assembled, the entire frame would be plated. The majority of old frames, 90-95%, are marked with the name of the silver plate manufacturer such as Meriden, Pairpoint, Wilcox, etc., stamped in the base. However, the absence of a factory name by itself does not prove a frame is new.
Glass inserts were rarely signed or marked with factory or studio names. Some better pieces, such as Mt. Washington glass, for example, may have painted shape numbers but rarely any other mark. The presence or absence of a mark on the glass insert is no guarantee of age.
Pickle castor reproductions go back at least to the 1960s. The first such new sets ACRN could document were sold by L.G. Wright Glass Company. Former Wright sales representative W.C. "Red" Roetteis told ACRN that Wright sold the new frames from the 1960s through about 1990 when the frames were discontinued. AA Importing, a reproduction wholesale firm, also carried pickle castor frames and inserts dating back to at least the early 1970s.
Although we show these earlier frames here, they are no longer available to the best of our knowledge. The only new frames we could confirm are currently being made are the two styles shown in Figs. 1 & 2. Details of these current new frames are shown in close up in (Figs. 5-8).
Both Wright and AA sold their inserts and frames as sets and as separate pieces. This means buyers must be particularly alert to mixed and "married" castor sets (new inserts with genuinely old frames and genuinely old inserts in new frames). In fact, there are probably many more new/old mixed sets in the market than complete new sets. That's why both frame and insert should each be examined very carefully and treated as separate individual items.
We have divided our discussion between frames and inserts according to manufacturer. A brief look at reproduction tongs appears at the end of the article.
Wright's pre-1990 frames came in at least three styles of frame tops: 1) a pierced scroll and floral pattern in a flat top (Fig. 9); 2) a pierced scroll and floral pattern in an arched top (Fig. 10); and, 3) a slightly curved top with larger flowers only (Fig. 11). The top design in (Fig. 9) is the same version being produced today.
All the bases are the same except for the style shown in (Fig. 10). All bases in both styles were offered with or without feet. Frames in (Figs. 9 and 10) are shown without feet; (Fig. 11) is shown with feet. Over the years, Wright's catalogs showed various patterns of decorative feet on these earlier frames. The currently available frame made in the earlier Wright style (Fig. 2) has larger feet with a plain undecorated surface.
Three different lids were offered in the earlier Wright castor sets: a figural eagle finial, a Fleur-de-lis finial, and an open loop (Figs. 5-7). The eagle and Fleur-de-lis lids were the most common and shown most frequently in Wright catalogs. The eagle finial is the same style currently being reproduced (Fig. 2).
AA Importing Frames
AA offered at least two designs of reproduction frames beginning in the early 1970s. The most common has the singing birds top and four columns around the base as shown in (Fig. 1). There are clusters of grapes molded into the top of the lid and the finial is a grape leaf and cluster of grapes.
This reproduction frame and lid has been made almost continuously since at least 1972 and perhaps earlier. It is still currently available and now widely offered with new glass inserts.
This particular style can be detected by the use of Phillips head screws used to attach the columns to the base (Fig. 7). Joints in original castor frames are virtually always soldered; any screws in a silver plated pickle are cause for suspicion, especially a Phillips head which is a relatively modern development.
The current four-column frame comes from the wholesaler with a bright, silver finish showing mirrorlike reflections. Even if replated, genuine old silverplate rarely has such a mirrorlike surface finish.
About the same time the four-column base was introduced, AA also made what was listed in the catalog as a "Mechanical Pickle Castor Set" (Fig. 12). When the handle was pushed towards the back, the castor lid would automatically tilt back, opening the glass insert. This frame is identified by a square base mounted on scroll feet. On each side of the base is a central medallion with a human head and shoulders portrait with birds on left and right sides. The bands holding the insert and the metal castor lid are decorated with a paisley type pattern.
The mechanical frame appeared in AA catalogs from the early 1970s until 1981. However, as with other AA products, many items were available in AA showrooms before and after they were shown in the AA catalogs.
The most common and least expensive inserts for the 1960s-1990 Wright frames were a pressed glass Daisy and Button pattern and Mirror and Roses pattern. Both were available in many colors before 1990. Wholesale prices were $12.50-$15 depending on color and finish. These two new inserts are the ones currently seen most frequently with the two new frames in (Figs. 1 & 2).
Molds for both of these inserts were purchased by Rosso Wholesale Glass at the Wright closeout auction in May of 1999. Fortunately, both pieces are marked in the base with the Rosso logo, a capital letter R inside a keystone. Unfortunately, the Rosso mark is very faint and hard to see particularly in the Daisy and Button piece because of the pattern. Either insert, regardless of color, with that mark could not possibly be earlier than the year 2000.
There is another clue that the Daisy and Button piece is wrong. If you look at the top rim (Fig. 13), you'll see it is scalloped. That's because the shape is actually a spoon holder. Top rims on original castor insert are virtually always flat. Saw teeth, scallops or other decorative effects in the glass would get broken and chipped by the metal castor lid.
Here's a list of LG Wright pickle castor inserts patterns: Thumbprint, Daisy and Fern, Mirror and Rose, Daisy and Button, Maize, Dot (opalescent thumbprint), Swirl, Beaded Curtain and Wild Rose decoration usually on Wright's Peach Blow. Typical examples are shown in (Fig. 15). None of Wright's pickle jar glass inserts are permanently marked.
Wright Glass never made any of its glass; it only owned the molds. All production was jobbed out to factories such as Fenton, Summit, Fostoria, Imperial, Mosser, Viking and others.
Wright's glass was produced in both old original molds and new molds Wright had made to resemble old patterns. All the jars in opalescent patterns, thumbprint and Peach Blow blanks, for example, are all identical in shape because they were made from the same straight-sided cylindrical mold. Although there are old patterns similar to these, they were not made in this shape for castor inserts. Beaded Curtain and Maize are new Wright patterns loosely based on the general appearance of two old patterns.
While Wright inserts were mostly limited to a relatively small number of molds, reproduction inserts sold by AA showed considerable variation over the years. So much so, it is hard to summarize all the styles made. The AA insert most frequently found in the market in new frames or mixed in with genuinely old frames is a cut to clear overlay style. A relatively simple floral pattern is cut through an overlay of either ruby, cranberry or cobalt blue. The most common other AA inserts are clear glass with cut patterns, a Nailsea loop-type pattern and an inverted thumbprint pattern in various colors.
AA insert shapes are generally more similar to original inserts than Wright shapes. Most AA inserts, for example, have a shallow shoulder around the top while Wright's shapes are straight cylinders. All of the AA Importing inserts ACRN could document had a smooth top rim; none had a scalloped rim like the Wright Daisy and Button spoonholder shape.
Reproduction castor tongs, like the reproduction frames, have changed very little over the years. Tongs sold by AA in the early 1970s are the very same style available in the year 2000 (Fig. 20).
Tongs sold with Wright castors show more variation. The basic hand-shaped tips have remained the same over the years (Fig. 21) but earlier versions have had various shields, emblems and other ornaments attached midway up the handle.
Both styles of new tongs are frequently mixed with genuinely old frames and inserts.
Mixed and Married Pieces
Castor sets made up of mixed and married parts are often harder to detect than all new sets. Here are a few suggestions.
First, pick up the tongs and go through the motions of taking a pickle from the insert. If all parts are original, you shouldn't have any problems. Can you remove the lid easily or is it jammed on the insert or far too loose? Can the lid be passed easily through the frame? Is there room between the top of the insert and the top of the frame to reach in with the tongs or has too large an insert placed in a small frame? Does the metal lid match the frame? Virtually all original lid finials repeat some major design theme of the frame. Finally, do all the pieces look balanced and complement each other–does everything appear to be the right proportion and simply look well together?
Some may argue that the earlier reproduction pickle castors, particularly Wright's, are collectible for their own merits. That decision, and what price to pay, is up to the buyer. But don't confuse late 20th century copies with Victorian originals.