Q & A with Harry Rinker: Ignatz Mouse Cartoon, Hawthorn Crock, Dill’s tobacco Tin

QUESTION: I own a copy of “Railroad Rhythm,” an 8 millimeter cartoon in an “Official Cartoons” box. I believe the mouse is an early version of the Steamboat Willie Mickey Mouse. The only place I have seen this cartoon is when it was played on an old reel-to-reel projector in our house. It is old. I do not know how old it is, definitely pre-World War II. Could this be Disney’s very first cartoon?

– T, via e-mail

ANSWER: The mouse in question is Ignatz, not Mickey. Could Ignatz have inspired Walt? Legend says no. Walt’s inspiration was a pet mouse.

George Herriman created “Krazy Kat,” a cartoon strip that first appeared in the New York Evening Journal on Oct. 13, 1913. Krazy Kat did appear as a supporting character in an earlier Herriman cartoon strip entitled “The Family Upstairs.”

“Krazy Kat” takes place in Coconino County, Ariz., home of the famed Painted Desert. The strip has three principal characters: Krazy Kat, Ignatz Mouse and Offissa Bull Pupp. Krazy Kat loves Ignatz, who despises him. When Ignatz tosses bricks at Krazy Kat’s head, he interprets this as a sign of love. Krazy Kat’s love of Ignatz Mouse is complicated by the fact that Ignatz is married and has three children.

Herriman’s creativity, both visually and verbally, has led cartoon strip contemporaries and scholars to consider it one of the first “serious” art cartoons. Poet e.e. cummings admired the strip and wrote the introduction to the first book of published strips.

“Railroad Rhythm,” a Krazy Kat short cartoon feature, premiered in 1937. Krazy Kat is the owner of a small railroad line that is threatened by the arrival of a new railroad line featuring a streamliner. When Krazy Kat conducts a daring rescue, he receives a large reward that allows him to buy his own streamliner.

The showing of 8 mm and 16 mm commercial cartoon and movie shorts at home was extremely popular from the late 1930s through the mid-1950s. When I was 6 or 7 and living with my Prosser grandparents on High Street in Bethlehem, Pa., I remember visiting an elderly couple who delighted in showing these films to neighborhood youngsters.

Today, the boxes in which the films came are more collected than the films. The boxes feature an image of the lead characters or the stable of characters from the studio. The acetate film is often brittle and dried out to the point where it can no longer be played. All these shorts are now available on DVDs or multiple Internet sites.

Although a childhood treasure, the value of your film is minimal; somewhere between $5 and $8 dollars.


QUESTION: I acquired a stoneware crock, flowerpot or small chamber pot. I am not certain which. It has a top diameter of 8 ½ inches and stands 7 ½ inches high. It is marked “M.P. CO / Hawthorn, PA.” What do I have and what is it worth.

— C, Lehigh Valley, e-mail

ANSWER: The picture attached to your e-mail allowed me to identify your crock as a product of the Hawthorn Pottery Company, located in Hawthorn in Pa.’s Redbank Valley.

Our ancestors were not always as careful as they should have been. The individual stenciling the initials on the crock either did not place the stencil properly or smeared the “H” as he removed it, thus creating what appears to be an “M.” The correct initial is “H.P. CO.”

W. T. Putney and E. A. Hamilton opened a pottery in Hawthorn (known at the time as New Millville) in 1894, purchasing land and equipment from George Alabaster, a potter in New Bethlehem. Red Bank Creek was an excellent source of “potter’s clay.”

The pottery prospered, eventually becoming the Hawthorn Pottery Company. The railroad built a siding to the company’s plant to facilitate shipping. An office was opened in the Bissell Block in Pittsburgh. American Clay Products Company of Zanesville, Ohio, bought the company in the early 1920s, ceasing operations in 1928.

The company made crocks ranging in size from one to 15 gallons and jugs from a ½ gallon to five gallons. The utilitarian pottery was used for beverage and food preservation and storage. The stoneware body had a light gray color. All pieces are stencil marked with either “Hawthorn Pottery / Hawthorn, PA” or “H.P. CO. / Hawthorn, PA.” Larger pieces featured a number indicating the capacity complemented by a decorative marking such as an arrowhead.

In addition to crocks and jugs, Hawthorn also made pitchers, umbrella stands, and water coolers. Novelty and specialty pieces include small animals. Reclining lion pieces are the most desirable to collectors.

Collector interest in Hawthorn pieces is strongest in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. There your crock has a value between $45 and $60. Elsewhere, its value is around $30.


QUESTION: I acquired a J. C. Dills Best Cut Plug lithograph tobacco tin in a box lot I bought at an auction. The tin has an image of a pretty girl on the left and text on the right of the lid. The background color is a pale yellow. What can you tell me about it?

– J., Macungie, Pa.

ANSWER: The following is excerpted from Garland Pollard’s “History of Dill’s Best and Dill’s Pipe Cleaners,” posted on January 7, 2010 on the Web site brandlandusa.com:

“J. G. Dill was once a great Virginia tobacco company, known worldwide for its Dill’s best pipe tobacco. While as far as we know the tobacco brand Dill’s does not survive, Dill’s Premium Pipe Cleaners, known for their yellow and red package, do live on.

“J. G. Dill, mostly a maker of pipe tobaccos, gradually lost favor as Americans largely quit smoking pipes. At some point it became a part of U.S. Tobacco… The 1946 trademark application for Dill’s Best from U.S. Tobacco points to the first use of the Dill’s Best name in 1885, though other packages say 1848. Dill also made a nautical-feeling brand called Look Out cut plug, and had sister brands like the cigarette called Sano (an early low tar), as well as Tweed and Model… For a time, the brand sponsored network television, including the live NBC show called ‘Martin Kane, Private Eye’…

“Dill’s was the creation of the Richmond brothers J. D. and Adolph Dill, who created Dill’s Best according to ‘The Entrepreneurs: Explorations Within the American Tradition’ by Robert Sobel….

Lithograph tobacco tins were one of the “hot” advertising/food collectible categories during the 1980s and early 1990s. Collector interest has waned considerably. The average age of collectors now exceeds 60 and is rapidly approaching 65. Based on an Amazon.com search, no new reference or price guides have been published since the mid-1990s.

Researching your tin, I discovered listings for several styles of lithograph tins, including a basic flat pocket tin and a 1930s vertical pocket tin featuring a bust portrait of a pretty lady in a circle in the center. A circular wooden box with a colorful lithograph text label for J. G. Dills “Lunch” tobacco was offered for sale for $65.

Your tin, assuming it is in very good or better condition, has a value between $35 and $45.


QUESTION: My father-in-law, who worked for the L & N Railroad, found an old saxophone in a railroad station in 1948. The keys are mother of pearl. It is marked “Perfection / Made in the USA / Bruno, N.Y.” Does it have any value?

– DB, Monroe, Ga.


ANSWER: Saxophones come in five basic sizes—soprano, alto, C melody (no longer made), tenor and baritone. There are bass saxophones, but they are difficult to find. Alto and tenor saxophones are the most common. Since you do not provide a size, I am going to assume your instrument is a tenor.

According to Chuck Hollocker, player and collector of saxophones in the Dallas area, your Perfection is a “stencil” saxophone, i.e., one made by a major company, for sale by a music store or specialty supplier. Separate brand names also were used to compete regionally. Conn made the Perfection stencil brand. In addition to Conn, Buescher, Holton, Martin, Selmar and York also produced stencil brands.

Condition and playability are the two keys to valuing any musical instrument. Condition covers the instrument’s finish and lack of damage or rust to the metal. Playability relates to the mechanical parts, pads and overall sound.

Reuse value is the primary value for most musical instruments. While some instruments are of interest to collectors, most are purchased by individuals wanting an instrument that is “cheaper than new.” Hence, one of the fast ways to determine the value of a used musical instrument is to use one-third the equivalent price of a similar new instrument.

Un-restored or in “as found” condition, your Perfection saxophone is worth between $75 and $100. I found an identical example on eBay with a “Buy It Now” price of $400.

Fully restored and playable, your Perfection saxophone is worth between $250 and $300.


Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out his Web site.

You can listen and participate in Harry’s antiques-and-collectibles radio call-in show “Whatcha Got?” on Sunday mornings between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Eastern Time. It streams live on the Genesis Communications Network.

“Sell, Keep Or Toss? How To Downsize A Home, Settle An Estate, And Appraise Personal Property” (House of Collectibles, an imprint of the Random House Information Group), Harry’s latest book, is available at your favorite bookstore and via Harry’s Web site: http://www.harryrinker.com.

Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the 20th century. Selected queries will be answered on this site. Harry cannot provide personal answers. Photos and other material submitted cannot be returned. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 22 Stillwater Circle, Brookfield, CT 06804. You can e-mail your questions to harrylrinker@aol.com. Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered. Please indicate that these are questions for WorthPoint.

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