Americana, Pure & Simple, Remains Watchword At Tolland Antiques Show

TOLLAND, CONN. — New York City’s Americana Week pulled out of town in late January, but for those still hankering for country antiques, pure and simple, the Tolland Antiques Show, which this year followed the New York event by running on February 9, served up ample collections of Americana, highlighted by its usual mix of country primitives, painted and brown antique furniture, folky textiles and yards of “original surface and paint.” Presented in two large spaces within the Tolland Middle School — a gymnasium and cafeteria — the show is hosted by the Tolland Historical Society, and proceeds benefit the society’s operation and upkeep of the historic Daniel Benton Homestead, the Old Tolland County Jail and Museum and the Old Tolland County Court House.

Society president and show director Kathy Bach, who has managed the event for 23 years, makes no excuses for the show’s bias. Out of 65 exhibitors this year, she said only three were new to the show. “Dealers who come to the Tolland show know what sells. It’s early Americana. If it’s not, they take it home,” she said. A Sunday-only show, with early buying at 8:30 is tough on the body, she added. “We had a solid gate, with good attendance between 8:30 and 2 [pm] when the kitchen closes. Dealers seemed please. We work for them to be happy.”

This year’s event, the 48th annual show, turned in — as is usual these days — mixed sales results, with some dealers doing extraordinarily well and others not so well. Epitomizing the former was Michael Rouillard of Quiet Corner Antiques, who had set up his booth toward the front left of the cafeteria entrance. “We must have had the right mixture of items, with sales from across the board,” he said after the show. “We try to bring fresh merchandise that is well priced and the dealers and retailers alike seem to be very actively buying.”

Some of Quite Corner’s many sales included Bristol County, Mass., redware, many pieces of painted treen, wall boxes, paintings and “the most fabulous 1830 dated game board,” said Rouillard. “We had considerable interest in a pair of stepback cupboards and after-show sales of redware.”

Jan and John Maggs of Conway, Mass., specialize in early furniture, especially oak, paintings and smalls. Standouts at this show included an English oak bible box, circa 1670, with carving on the face and remnants of the original snipe hinges; a pair of English tall brass candlesticks with sand cast bases from the early Eighteenth Century; and a large oak gate leg table with strongly turned posts and good color. It was English, dated 1690 with a later top. The Maggses paired dark furniture with artwork, including a pair of signed oil on canvas landscape paintings by contemporary artist Dennis Sheehan (b 1950).

A folksy game board, a Nineteenth Century Nantucket basket, an iron rooster doorstop, early redware and a collection of Nineteenth Century spice boxes, one of which was Shaker, in various sizes made a pleasing tableau in the booth of Lindsey-Woolsey Antiques, a collective effort owned by Judy Robertson, Noank Conn., and Kathy Olson, Middle Haddam, Conn.

From Nashua, N.H., Ken and Robin Pike brought a vibrant mounted Pennsylvania crib quilt of red and yellow stars, a large wallpaper box, circa 1830, depicting “End of the Hunt” and a winsome hooked rug of a white dog in repose. In a corner of their booth stood a tall construction of Nineteenth Century alphabet blocks lithographed with a host of fairy tale characters.

It was not a puzzle jug but a puzzling jug that grabbed one’s attention in the booth of dealer Nancy Cummings from Swanzey, N.H. Why, if the cream colored piece was a jug, was its entire surface riddled with small holes? Her reply, “It’s a leaching jug, rare, probably late Nineteenth Century.” She said she was unsure of its original specific use, but the holes, made at the time of manufacture, were pushed into the wet clay for some kind of distillation process, perhaps making soap from lye and ashes.

Also rare was a revolving plant stand seen in the booth of Randi Ona. The Wayne, N.J., dealer used the three-tier stand in early green paint, with circular graduated tiers measuring 30, 18 and 8 inches in diameter and standing 34½ inches high as a showcase for three Nineteenth Century cloth rag dolls. A crusty architectural remnant on view was a carved Georgian fan in original sage green paint, and she also offered a tavern table with Hepplewhite legs and one drawer, circa 1840, featuring a pine top with breadboard ends, 42¼ by 31¼ by 25 inches.

A good story always elevates an antique piece above just being pure merchandise. And there was a good one to be found in the booth of Stuart Magdefrau of Ellington, Conn. Admiring a metal “Tolland” sign in his booth during setup, show director Kathy Bach’s eyes were drawn to a four-drawer chest beneath it. She experienced a sense of deja-vu at its oval brasses because they seemed identical to ones that she had seen on another piece of furniture in the home of her husband’s family, which had been built by his great-great grandfather on Ellington Green. Turns out that Magdefrau’s 1820s Hepplewhite-style had come out of that estate. And now it has been brought back into the “family,” as Bach purchased it from the dealer. For his part, Magdefrau said the show “went well.” He also sold a mechanical bank, a tea caddy, mocha, frames and prints, among other items.

“I thought the early-buy was more quiet than usual, but after 10 am the crowd got a lot better,” reported Wallingford, Conn., dealer Jane Wargo, who with husband Phil created an eye-catching display at the show that included a large ash splint basket from the early Twentieth Century, a similarly dated ash splint apple basket, a pair of ladder back chairs in original red paint, early to mid-Nineteenth Century and probably from New England. There was also an interesting pen and ink drawing of a train dated 1892. “It was busy for a few hours and then quieted down by about 2 pm. My show was better than the previous two years,” she continued. “I sold a very nice Nineteenth Century game board in original paint, a small size Stevens Plains, Maine, painted trunk, a Nineteenth Century oak scrub box, two marble boards with marbles and several other accessories.”

Ron Chambers Antiques, Higganum, Conn., always brings a stellar selection of English and American pewter, and notable this year was a rare English quart tankard with unusual casting on the top of its handle. “I have heard of only one other like it in a Pennsylvania collection,” remarked Chambers. An English Britannia tea set on offer was rare for its pewter from a hard-surface formula manufacturing process that made it shine like silver. The three-piece set comprised teapot, sugar and creamer. A large platter from Middletown, Conn., maker Jahiel Johnson, circa 1815–19, was an additional standout in the booth.

Those wondering where the term “getting black-balled” originated needed to look no further than John’s display. The Yorktown Heights, N.Y., dealer, who specializes in lemon gold frames, early furniture, paintings and other smalls, was displaying a ballot box from around 1870 that came with a set of marble-size white and black balls, that would be dropped, according to one’s convictions, through a round opening and fall into a pull-out drawer for displaying the results.

For additional information, www.tollandhistorical.org or 860-870-9599.

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