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posted: 11/2/2013 5:51 AM

Wedgewood stove may cook up higher price in California

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  • In some markets this Wedgewood stove from the 1920s is still hot.

    In some markets this Wedgewood stove from the 1920s is still hot.
    SHNS photo courtesy Joe Rosson and Helaine Fendelm

By Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson

Q. Attached is a photo of my Wedgewood stove. It was used by my mother until the 1970s and is in working order. For the past 15 years, it has been a decoration in our kitchen -- until we remodeled. With the exception of a porcelain flaw (front right corner), and a nick on the oven door, it is in great shape. Any information would be appreciated.

A. The term "Wedgewood" brings to mind the great English ceramics manufacturer -- except that company spells its name "Wedgwood" without the "e." In any event, the only similarities between these companies, other than their names, is that both are known for quality products.

James Graham was born in Ontario, Canada, but moved to Newark, Calif. He reportedly opened his first foundry in 1882 but had some difficulty getting his products to market because of the lack of good transportation facilities.

Graham's factory was located at the end of a narrow-gauge railroad. He worked on the railroad to keep it open -- and to keep raw material coming in and finished products going out. His first stoves were fueled by wood and coal. Graham's company is said to have been the first stove manufacturer on the West Coast.

Graham died in 1902 (some sources say it was 1898), and his sons took over the business, introducing the Wedgewood line in either 1910 or 1919. The available information is confusing and contradictory.

References state that the company's peak years were in the 1940s, but production continued well into the 1950s. All this is very vague, but genuine Wedgewood stoves are desirable to collectors and individuals who want to use them in modern, vintage-looking kitchens.

The letter writer did not say how she knows her piece is a genuine Wedgewood. It should be marked on a tin plate, located on the top center of the back. Also if the stove has a clock, look for small letters around the bottom of the dial identifying it as an authentic Wedgewood.

Paper labels on the stove's back or bottom should give the company's name, "James Graham Foundry," or a later name, "James Graham Manufacturing Co." A nameplate that usually appears on the oven door sometimes is missing.

The family seems to believe this stove was made in the 1920s, and we think this is a reasonable supposition. We wish we knew how long it is, and exactly what its various components are. It looks like it has double ovens, a griddle and a range top.

The value of these Wedgewood stoves depends on the condition (this one has some unsightly enamel loss), its color (white is rather bland, and we have seen examples with red or lavender accents that catch a buyer's attention), and where it is located for sale (California seems to be best).

This example may be worth around $950 with some similar examples pushing toward the $2,000 range. In California, we have heard reports that prices on the stoves can range from $7,000 to $10,000. We are not sure we believe it.

• Contact Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson at Treasures in Your Attic, P.O. Box 18350, Knoxville, TN 37928.

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