Bennington Churn Brings $34,500 At Douglas Auctioneers

Auctioneer Douglas Bilodeau with the rare Bennington churn that sold for $34,500.

SOUTH DEERFIELD, MASS. — “It walked through the front door,” proclaimed auctioneer Douglas Bilodeau with a broad smile across his whiskered face. Bilodeau, the namesake and principal of Douglas Auctioneers, was referring to a rare Bennington stoneware churn that was profusely decorated with an expansive building, a picket fence, lots of foliage, a big tree and an unproportionately large American flag flying atop of the folky scene that crossed the block on July 19.

“A guy walked through the door and asked me if we sold stoneware,” related Bilodeau. “I told him that we did, and that pieces with eagles and flags did really well. He came back the next day and dropped the piece off. I wasn’t here when he left it, but when I got back and saw it, I said ‘Wow.”’ Bilodeau’s reaction was echoed repeatedly as stoneware and folk art collectors caught wind of the piece.

Probably the best piece of Bennington stoneware to have surfaced in many years, the crock created quite a stir. Damage became a concern for many, others saw past that, however, and recognized the rare 4-gallon churn as a masterpiece of American folk art. The dark blue cobalt decoration was executed in the best of the Bennington style and the decoration boldly filled the entire front of the piece, extending virtually from handle to handle.

Staining across the front of the churn was less of an issue than the extensive cracks, some old and some that appeared more recent, all of which was unfortunately extending through the left side of the decoration.

The auction house reported calls from all across the country. “Bidding was spirited,” claimed the auctioneer who opened the lot for bidding at $5,000. Four telephone bidders were active, along with a couple in the gallery, reported the auctioneer. Bidding came from the gallery for quite a while and then it went to the phones. “One phone bidder kept jumping the bid,” reported the auctioneer, “but he didn’t get it.” The rare stoneware churn ultimately hammered down to a different phone bidder for $34,500.

The auction featured the longtime estate of the Tuckerman family of Amherst, Mass., whose family also intertwined with the Clarks. In the 1960s, an auction of Tuckerman items was conducted by Bill Hubbard when the family moved to a smaller home. Tuckerman family items, such as Gilbert Stuart paintings and Paul Revere silver, were also gifted to Boston museums.

Items from the Tuckerman estate included a set of Windsor chairs branded “E. Tracy” that had been featured in a 1936 article on the maker in Antiques Magazine. The set of five bowbacks had been refinished at some point in time and were in need of minor repairs. The group sold for $1,610. Two armchairs from the same group had significant damage and sold for $230.

A nice Chippendale serpentine front, four-drawer chest sold at $2,300, a miniature slant front desk went out at $690, a Tuckerman family gold snuff box realized $1,035, an early watercolor of Edward Tuckerman fetched $1,150, and the Tuckerman family bed smoother made of ivory with a silver crest realized $977.

A bargain was a nice Chippendale slant front desk with fan carving that sold at $747.

A large Howard marble face clock was one of a collection that was sold; it brought $2,070 despite a cracked face. A Simon Willard banjo clock went out at $747.

Prices include the premium charged.

For additional information about this auction or the sales conducted weekly at Douglas Auctioneers, 413-665-2877 or www.douglasauctioneers.com.

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