Q: I have a plate with a glazed stamp on it that has the word “Trade” under two flags. Some of the letters are worn off but there is a letter “A” in the top left corner. The stamp is white and purple. Can you tell me who the maker is?
A: This mark was used by A.A. Vantine & Co., an import company founded by Ashley Abraham Vantine in New York City about 1870. The company, which called itself “The Oriental Store,” imported clothing, jewelry, perfume, pottery, toys, decorative items, and a variety of other things from Japan and China. Oriental rugs were imported from Turkey. Vantine’s eventually had branches in several cities and at least two factories in Japan. The company was in business until about 1951. This mark has a letter “A” in both top corners, a letter “V” in the bottom left corner, and “& Co” in the bottom right corner. The crossed flags are the Japanese flag and the Imperial Chinese flag, with the Turkish crescent moon and star between them. The company was bought by Arnold Rothstein, a mob drug dealer, in the 1920s. Because Vantine was well-known as an import business, customs officials didn’t search shipments to them thoroughly. It was a perfect front for smuggling operations.