Q: I recently purchased a floor lamp from a friend. Through the patent I was able to learn that the design was created by Ernest Klopfstein, who assigned it to Woodruff and Edwards of Elgin, Illinois. I know the company made coffee mills that are valuable. Is this lamp valuable also?
A: Elgin, Illinois., is perhaps best known for its watches, which were made by the Elgin National Watch Co. But many other products were made in this town, located about 35 miles northwest of Chicago.
Companies in Elgin made malted milk, voting machines, opera house seats, miniature trains, chewing gum (with the brand names “Elgin Heart,” “Elgin Pride” and “Grasshopper”). The oddest product made in Elgin was probably “renovated butter,” a pre-margarine consumable that took rancid butter, reconditioned it and resold it.
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Elgin also was famous for its windmills and coffee mills that were initially made by the C. H. Woodruff foundry and, after 1900, by Woodruff and Edwards.
The C. H. Woodruff foundry began in 1867 as a bicycle manufacturer. After bicycles, the foundry moved on to the making of school furniture, but in 1889 Woodruff started manufacturing coffee mills for hotels, restaurants and grocery stores. These varied in size from floor models that could be as much as 68 1/2 inches tall and weigh hundreds of pounds, to store countertop examples that were considerably smaller. Household models also were available but these were about a foot tall and weighed approximately 20 pounds.
The value of these devices depends on their size, condition and rarity. A floor model #10 recently (April, 2014) sold at auction for $5,000, but it was in original working condition. Other examples of the #10 sell for as little as $400 to $1,000 at auction, but many Woodruff and Edwards coffee mills can sell at auction for $100 or just a bit more.
The foundry facilities were destroyed by fire in 1917, but Woodruff and Edwards was reopened within three years by its employees. Woodruff and Edward, which started as C. H. Woodruff, was closed in 1990 and torn down by a wrecking ball.
Ernest Klopfsteir, the designer of the floor lamp in today’s question, was born in Hungary in 1883. The patent for this cast iron floor lamp with marble insert was registered in December 1927 and assigned to Woodruff and Edwards, just as K. B. indicated.
The elaborate design of this lamp with its pierced dome base, beaded twist column pole and dramatic shade arm (the photo is too small to see all the details of the design) is very European in taste but there is no question that stylistically it is very much in the form of the late 1920s to early 1930s.
It would have been nice if this lamp had an original or appropriate vintage shade, but it is a style and type of lamp that is prized today. For insurance replacement value this Woodruff and Edwards lamp should be valued in the $300 to $400 range, but K. B. should make sure if she is going to use this lighting device that it be rewired by a professional so it does not cause a fire.
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