You mentioned not stripping the paint off the base so as to keep it original, it was probably originally not painted and someone over the years painted it to cover up tarnish or make it match something else. How much metal was really painted in the late 1800's and if it was how much lead is in that paint?
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I don't know, if they went to the trouble of painting the entire stand then why wouldn't they have painted the brass top? Also the tank has a nice patina which I would think the stand would have had too. It may have been painted to match some decor but then I would think the top would have been painted as well.