Step up to bed!

This is not a chair. It opens into a set of steps to help you get into a high bed. Stair Galleries offered it at an auction with an estimate of $2,000 to $3,000.

Did you know someone invented a self-making bed? It requires special covers and sheets, but with the push of a button, they curl up into the “made” position. Quite an improvement from the first known bed, 77,000 years ago, when the whole family slept on one thick pile of plants.

The ancient Egyptians had a raised wooden bed with cushions and sheets. By Roman times, there were low metal beds with feather or straw mattresses. But by the 15th century, beds were important. They were on a frame with four posters high off the floor, so they could use heavy drapes to enclose the bed to keep out cold air and bugs. Beds were so high that a stepstool was needed to climb on top. The mattress was a bag of hay, which probably explains why going to bed was called “hitting the hay.”

Bedrooms also became more important. They were used for meetings. And not only family, but also servants, slept in the room, some under the bed on a mat. The idea of privacy came by the 18th century, when the bed had a metal frame and a cotton-stuffed mattress and only one or two people slept in it. The 19th century saw more changes. The posts were lowered, so a step stool wasn’t needed. The footboard was smaller, and the smaller frame held metal box springs. The 1960s introduced the foam mattress and once again, the bed was easier to get into. The antique chair step stool can still be found at auctions. These Federal bird’s-eye maple steps, made in New England, were estimated at $2,000 to $3,000 at a Stair Galleries sale.

I have a ceramic bride and groom that was from the top of either my grandmother’s or great-grandmother’s wedding cake. The bride is wearing a fabric dress with sleeves and a full-length wide skirt. The groom is in a fabric tuxedo with a narrow collar. Can you suggest a date?

In the 17th century, wedding pie was served in England. It was made with oysters and strange ingredients likes cocks’ combs. The guests had to eat the pie or be thought rude and encouraged bad luck. By the 19th century, the cake was a status symbol, the larger and taller the cake, the higher the social standing. Most were made of tiers of fruit cake. Queen Victoria had a white cake that matched her white lace dress in 1840. Only the rich could afford the refined white sugar needed for the cake.

But the start of the modern cake was in 1882, at the wedding of Prince Leopold. It was all edible. Earlier cakes used wooden supports to hold the cake layers and a topper. Later cake toppers were made of papier-mache, celluloid, even fabric. Look at the dress style on your topper. Dresses reflect the date — a short flapper dress in the 1920s, tight bridal gowns in the 1930s and 1940s, and sleeveless or strapless dresses by the 2000s. The men wore tails in the 1930s or military uniforms in the 1940s in the United States. Many other costumes and cakes were used in other parts of the world.

I’m a volunteer at Habitat for Humanity in Milwaukee. We received a donation of six U.A.W. Harley-Davidson pins from the 1940s, two from 1942, and one each from 1943, 1944, 1946, 1947, and one pin from the Harley-Davidson 1952 National Dealers Sales Conference. They have a little rust on the backs. If you could give me a ballpark estimate on what they would be worth, I’d appreciate it. All proceeds are going to support our mission.

U.A.W. stands for United Auto Workers, whose members assembled both cars and motorcycles such as the famous Harley-Davidson, which was first produced in 1903. Until about 30 years ago, dues-paying union members would wear their pins proudly to show their allegiance to their local union. Your pins are a triple whammy, of interest to Harley-Davidson enthusiasts, pin collectors and those interested in U.A.W. memorabilia. Sold as singles, some recent prices include $197 for a 1940 Harley-Davidson U.A.W. FOA Local 209 pin, and $335 for a 1952 Sales Conference pin.

I own a framed set of four Winnie the Pooh limited edition stamps illustrating the four seasons. The frame is 17 1/2 inches by 17 1/2 inches. The stamps are approximately 4 inches by 5 inches. Attached to the front is a metal placard with the name and production year (1998). It has a Certificate of Authenticity. I was wondering how much it is worth.

Your Disney Winnie the Pooh Four Seasons Limited Edition is a collection of four original 1998 United States postage stamps, each featuring Winnie the Pooh and his friends in a different season. Recent for-sale prices, also with certificates of authenticity, range from $16 to $40.

I have a pair of lamps with porcelain figures at the base. One is a colonial woman and the other a colonial man. They are marked on the bottom with two flowers with stems forming an “X” and the letters “J & C” between the stems. Three initials and the date “July 8, 1908” are written in red below the mark. Can you tell me who made these lamps and how old they are?

This mark was used by the Jaeger & Co., a company in business in Marktredwitz, Bavaria, Germany, from 1898 until 1979. This mark was used between 1898 and 1923, but the hand-painted date is your best clue to age. The three initials are probably those of the decorator. The company was sold in 1979 and the factory closed in 1986.

Silver-sterling punch bowl, repousse flowers & leaves on top half, banded rims, footed bowl, 12 footed cups, ladle, S. Kirk & Son, bowl 7 x 14 inches, set, $6,150.

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