The Latest and Most Whimsical Edition of Rhinebeck
By W.A. Demers
RHINEBECK, N.Y. — Spring comes in like a lion, and fall blusters in with bravado, but at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds, summer shoulders its way in quietly, somewhat whimsically, ever poised for opportunity. We are talking about Rhinebeck’s Summer Magic, of course, a one-day show that celebrated its fourth edition on July 27 with the second highest attendance since its inception, according to show promoter Jimi Barton.
“We had just over 5,000 attend the event, and a postshow survey of the dealers reveals that 77 percent of them posted good to excellent results,” said Barton.
While a few of the show’s more than 180 dealers reported a slower-than-usual morning with a significant pickup in activity in the late morning and afternoon, Barton had a perfectly good explanation for the lack of an early surge as at the fall and spring shows.
“There is a mindset that the summer show starts at 10 am, and despite the fact that both the promoters and dealers agreed that a 9-to-5 show gives the dealers a better opportunity to sell during this one-day event, people just don’t seem to realize that and show up at 10 am anyway.” Barton says he is not rethinking the 9 am to 5 pm format. “The magic is that it’s a one-day show, so if you see something you like, you have to make up your mind because it’s going to be gone at 5 pm. A lot of business gets done in the last hour.”
The effervescence of Rhinebeck’s summer show is also seen in the magical way very attractive booths seem to spring up overnight like mushrooms and pack-out quickly after the 5 pm closing announcement. That logistical sleight of hand is testament to a very hardworking, conscientious team under Barton’s direction and to the caliber of dealers themselves who realize that success at a one-day event — just like an open house — depends on location, presentation and price.
Praiseworthy Antiques from Guilford, N.Y., exemplified the attention to detail that goes into making an eye-catching display. They brought an Eighteenth Century tobacconist’s figure in the form of a snuff highlander, precursor of the cigar-store Indian, as well as a carnival-theme poster print block that made an interesting wall decoration. The biggest splash of color at Praiseworthy’s booth emanated from a funky set of six iron “Love” chairs from the 1960s with a wink and a nod to artist and sculptor Robert Indiana.
“Our spirit is Americana and midcentury modern,” said Doug Taylor, “and for this show we decided to bring whimsical things.” Hence, a wall decoration featuring Schaefer oversize pens from the late 1950s; a pair of unique twig “samplers” assembled in upstate New York in 1917 framed in shadow boxes; a large promotional Brunswick kingpin and hardware-turned-wall art in the form of a section of slat bedsprings from the mid-1850s.
“Summer Magic was pretty good for a one-day show; we did quite well,” said Praiseworthy’s John Lynch. He added that the big ticket rdf_Descriptions at their booth — the poster print block and “Love” chairs, for example — sold well to retail buyers. “The weather cooperated. It threatened rain early but cleared off nicely by afternoon,” he said.
Tim and Charlene Chambers of Missouri Plain Folk, Sikeston, Mo., at 2:30 pm on the day before “Summer Magic” opened were frantically trying to stretch the rdf_Descriptions they had brought to fill the booth space, thanks in large part to healthy presale activity.
“I’m pleased to say that our show was very good,” said Tim Chambers. “Although we are veterans of the spring and fall Rhinebeck Antiques Fairs, this is only our second year at the summer venue. Our approach both years has been to offer visual material that is easily understood and lends itself to impulse buying. This seems to work quite well, and this year we sold game boards, small painted country furniture and other objects, including trade signs and folk art. Being ‘Rhinebeck regulars,’ we do have repeat business from clients, but we also have the opportunity to see retail customers who might be in the area only during the summer. This allows us the chance to make new customers, which is what business is all about. Due to the efforts of Jimi and his staff, even for a one-day event, the show is a pleasant experience for exhibitors and shoppers alike.”
The Chambers brought a painted steel produce stand that had been procured from an early Twentieth Century grocery store and filled it with an eye-temping assortment of melons to capture the essence of summer; a pair of late Nineteenth Century Oddfellow gesso and painted columns; an interesting lodge piece in the form of an Indian ax out of Iowa carved from a single piece of pine; a pair of carved and polychrome bird walking sticks of Nebraska origin; and a wonderful pair of Mexican terra-cotta planters from the 1920s-30s covered with mosaic tiles and mirror glass from a St Louis estate. Adding to their eclectic collection was a “chair of many colors,” literally a wooden chair that advertised the range of enamel paints available from the Sargent paint company by having every rung, leg, seat and back painted a different color.
Mark Moody, Shohola, Penn., echoed the characterization of the Rhinebeck summer show as whimsical, more casual and low key. “I brought rdf_Descriptions that are less expensive, more fun and which speak for themselves,” said Moody. An example of a big piece of furniture that could be loved for its pure form was a double-vise, Nineteenth Century workbench of mortise and peg construction with an eight-foot maple top, pine base and sycamore drawer runners. Moody also brought a New York City subway sign for the old BMT line that he had found in Monticello, N.J., and an Indian Lake sign advertising “Lots For Sale,” circa 1940. An Eighteenth Century boot scraper was set off on the wall by a pure chestnut frame that was inscribed with the name of artist Margarita Gibbons (1906-1976) and the address of the Chelsea Hotel.
Martin Birnbaum of Birnbaum Antiques, Kiskatom, N.Y., although very excited about the collection of Lewis Smith art that he has assembled and despite strong interest and sales at the May Rhinebeck show, was a bit chagrined that the Smith drawings did not sell as strongly this time. Smith, who was born in 1907 and died in 1997, was an American, eccentric, self-taught artist, historian, collector and poet from Ohio who farmed for a living, meticulously documented his railroad travels and drew pictures on shopping bags and flattened cracker boxes. His subject material was female athletes, diner interiors, tractors and locomotives.
Showing Smith’s voluminous journals in which he recorded information about almost everything and wrote simple, heartfelt poetry, Birnbaum said the collection of materials he had brought to Rhinebeck represented just the tip of the iceberg of the output of the man who was quoted to have said, “I want the whole world in my head and still wear my own hat.”
“I’m feeling my way around here, but I think I owe it to Lewis Smith to continue offering this material,” said Birnbaum. As for the show, Birnbaum praised Jimi Barton as “the best show promoter in the United States,” without doubt characterizing the show’s organization and management as top-notch and extremely conscientious.
Summer Magic was the first Rhinebeck summer show for Bob Oestreicher of Moose America Antiques, Rangeley, Maine. He debuted with a booth that could have been a tableau from an Abercrombie & Fitch ad. The centerpiece was a vibrant quilt made to commemorate Charles Lindbergh’s famous solo transatlantic flight in 1927. The quilt featured alternating squares with a bright yellow “Spirit of St Louis” airplane.
“I have waited a long time to gain entry to the show, and was grateful for the invitation to exhibit,” Oestreicher said. “Although I didn’t set the world on fire, I look forward to participating again. All of the elements needed to have a good show, from an exhibitor’s perspective, were in place. However, neither dealers nor promoters can control the economy, the stock market, or provide long-term job stability for the buying public. These are tough times for our business, and it was apparent throughout most of the show.”
Oestreicher observed guarded enthusiasm from the retail crowd. “Most of my sales were in the $100 to $300 range. My big-ticket rdf_Descriptions did not move. As I was exhibiting by myself, I had a hard time walking the floor during the show, but it appeared that smaller rdf_Descriptions were selling, as opposed to furniture. I saw some great signs, weathervanes and folk art go out the door. I sold a pair of painted porch rockers to some restaurateurs from New York City. There seemed to be a real sense of family at this show, and a great mutual respect between management and the exhibitors. You don’t see that at a lot of shows, and it was refreshing.”
Carol Telfer and Larry Foster of Stratford, Ontario, were back after last summer’s record show with upbeat expectations for this year’s event. They brought a wonderful Connecticut crazy quilt with a nautical theme that had been crafted by a grandmother who was first mate on a sailing ship in the 1880s. A New England hand hooked rug with a floral center and bold geometric border, circa 1930, a late Nineteenth Century trade sign and a number of hooked rugs depicting the map of Newfoundland, polar bears and mallard ducks in flight over a marsh were among the rdf_Descriptions Telfer had brought.
Have economic factors had any impact on buying? “Well, it has picked up a bit after the pall following 9/11, but it is still not back to where it used to be,” she acknowledged. “However, I believe the market is still stable. People never stop buying antiques and collectibles.”
Sanford Levy and Charles Glasner of Jenkinstown Antiques, New Paltz, N.Y., were also keeping it light for the Rhinebeck event. “This is a great show, and we have been doing it for a long time,” said Levy. “The May show was more traditional, but we try to present a more playful image for the summer show.” Playful was front and center in their booth with a large mural panel from the 1880s depicting a languid courtesan smoking a hookah. The mural sold, along with furniture, stoneware, Hudson River prints and other rdf_Descriptions.
“The show was great for us,” concluded Sanford. “The gate was huge, crowds all day long, and we sold well across the board.” Whimsy was also on display in a grouping of Raggedy Ann dolls. A more traditional offering was a painting by an important artist, Julia Dillon (1834-1918), a noted floral painter from Kingston, N.Y. Also displayed was part of a recently purchased collection of shore birds and decoys.
Jean Beckwith of A. Beckwith Antiques, Pleasant Valley, N.Y., brought a mahogany four-drawer Sheraton chest with Sandwich glass pulls, circa 1830, in original condition as one of her larger rdf_Descriptions. Also for sale was a pair of Boston and Sandwich Glass Co. whale oil lamps on pressed bases, circa 1830-35. She said it was difficult to gauge whether the economy and public psychology had any effect on the show. “We did a show right after 9/11, and it was the best show we’d ever had,” she said. “This show went very well for us, and it seemed as if it was well-attended.”
Linda Kelly of Sporting Antiques, Roxbury, Conn., was at the summer show for the first time, although she has been a longtime participant at the spring and fall events. Kelly specializes in themes that celebrate horses and dogs. A couple of her standout rdf_Descriptions for Summer Magic included a European horse head; a signed horse and rider carving from the early 1900s; a carved fox head with glass eyes on a riding crop; a kilim rug with horse motif; a large bronze casting of race horse and jockey, signed L. Bonheur; and a French market sign in the form of a life-size cement bull’s head. “The question facing us at this show — and for the whole industry — is will people just come to look or will they come to look and buy?” she said.
William Lohrman, New Paltz, N.Y., struck patriotic Americana themes with a Nineteenth Century life-size carousel pig painted red, white and blue, and an 1890 Hirschel and Armitage wooden carousel horse in good paint. More traditional rdf_Descriptions included an early Nineteenth Century Hudson Valley pewter cupboard; a two-part cherry cupboard circa 1830 in original finish; tall case clock, circa 1820, from New York with original paint; a large metal urn and a blanket chest from about 1820.
Jaffe & Thurston from Warwarsing, N.Y., displayed a French Renaissance Revival tapestry measuring 61 by 41 inches from the second half of the Nineteenth Century; a Kenneth Frazier (1867-1949) oil on canvas landscape; a classic pedestal base mahogany games table from Boston, circa 1840; and an oil on canvas by Emily D.B. Hoystadt (1813-1983) titled “Blowing Up.” “I would say that it’s a very well run show, a very nice looking show that benefits from the tremendous effort put in by Jimi and the Rhinebeck staff,” said Diane Thurston.
Howard Graff of Colt Barn Antiques of Townshend, Vt., brought a door-faced cupboard; a cast-iron leg anvil nutcracker; cast-iron feeders with stone balls; a green Adirondack bent-twig rocker; a wooden chest, benches and stools, various hooked rugs ranging from $285 to $750 and numerous small collectibles such as iron bowls, animal figures, glassware and pottery. Illustrating how the show’s pace picked up in the afternoon, Graff recounted the tale of a couple that kept returning at intervals to check out the cupboard all the way up to 10 minutes before the show was to close.
“I told them that if they really wanted the piece, they had to act now, and when the husband said ‘Yes,’ I grabbed him and we ran back to the office to complete the sale and get the piece down to the truck,” said Graff. And when Graff returned at 5:05, a woman who had been standing patiently watching the prior transaction asked him if she could still buy a Heisey pitcher she had been admiring. “No problem,” he replied.
Patriotism was a prominent theme at Ken Kohn’s With All Due Ceremony from Elkins Park, Penn. A variety of vintage American flags took center stage along with carved wooden Indian heads, a huge metal canteen bearing the inscription “We all drank from the same canteen,” and two walls full of American wooden signs proclaiming everything from farm-fresh eggs to veterinary services, ice cream parlor fare and a post office. “The show went well for us,” recalls Kohn. “We mainly sold signs in the $300 to $900 range to collectors, dealers and individuals. While there was strong interest in the flags, we had no buys. I would agree that attendance was a little slow in the morning but picked up considerably by the afternoon.”
Jon Magoun of South Paris, Maine, had a display worthy of L.L. Bean with camp motif strongly in evidence. Presided over by a giant stuffed moose head was a chestnut and walnut armoire, vintage camp table, bookcase and a green bentwood rustic bench.
Ellen Katona and Bob Lutz of Greenwich, N.J., specialize in antiques of the early American community and folk art. For their first summer show they brought rdf_Descriptions that would appeal to a New York crowd enjoying a foray into the country. One of these was a trellis with strong geometric form in the shape of a pine tree. A Canadian pine and maple bench, a gate section with pickets from the 1940s and a model fishing dory were among the treasures to be swooped up by Manhattanites yearning for simple treasures. A more traditional offering was a miniature chest from Maine, circa 1850, featuring a stepped back design and made with mixed woods.
“We’re testing the waters a bit with this show and have geared ourselves for the buying public by bringing some moderately priced things,” said Katona. Although encouraged by preshow sales of four rdf_Descriptions, all smalls, that went quickly, Lutz reported that buying was somewhat hesitant. “Overall, we had a fair show. With the stock market problems and the overall economy faltering, I feel we are holding our own.,” said Lutz. “
Kay and Don Buck from Millington, N.J., followed the Americana theme with an Eighteenth Century dresser, circa 1760-80, in excellent form with a red painted surface; a stoneware pitcher 121/4 inches high and a stoneware crock with strong flower graphic attributed to Zipf Pottery. Also on display were a rare lead rabbit trade sign mounted on a wooden base, a circa 1850-70 burl bowl made of ash and a glass case filled with a carnival of small collectibles, from a stoneware spittoon to clown puppets, teddies and animal figures.
American Gothic Antiques, Hunter, N.Y., had an eclectic display featuring lots of lighting, including a classic bronze table lamp, a signed Pairpoint lamp, circa 1925, as well as chandeliers, hanging fixtures, standing lamps and iron and bronze sconces from the Victorian era.
Booth #715, aka Clifford A. Wallach, Brooklyn, N.Y., was a tramp art Hilton. Wallach, whose book Tramp Art, One Notch At A Time – The Craft, The Techniques and The Makers, describes this fascinating craft, had a bookcase, an art mantel with drawers, a frame with barometer, a medicine chest a starfish mirror pane and a three-door cabinet, all executed in the ways of the craft that was popular in America from the late 1870s until the 1940s. Tramp artists used thin wood from cigar boxes and crate wood — which under regulations of the time could not be reused once the cigars were sold — and with simple tools like pocketknives carved, notched and layered the materials into imaginative and labor-intensive folk art pieces.
“Sales at the show were okay. I did not sell my most expensive pieces and did not see any of my normal collectors,” said Wallach. “In the current climate, I think people are thinking more carefully before making a major purchase.” Wallach recounted one heart-warming anecdote from the show involving a young couple making their first purchase of tramp art. “They’d had some small rdf_Descriptions passed down to them from a grandmother, but this [a Crown of Thorns frame] was their first purchase. The young man was beaming when I put the piece in his hands.”
Looloo Design, Portsmouth, R.I., presented the world of old-fashioned bath fixtures, displaying an iron sink on pedestal legs; a sea-foam-green bathtub, sink and toilet trio — unusual because the set included matching towel bars and accessories — along with other vintage fixtures and scales. “We did well and are pretty happy,” said Web Wilson, who with wife Jill owns Looloo Design. “These shows generally draw more retail than wholesale, but I would say that most people there are looking for something to buy and they’re not afraid of seeing some fairly strong prices.”
East Meets West of Woodbury, Conn., which specializes in Americana, brought antique quilts, blankets, braided and hooked rugs and Nineteenth Century painted furniture. Among the treasures: a Harrington Fitzgerald (1847-1930) seascape; a running horse weathervane and a large 1860s log cabin quilt of small piece silk. “We sold the gamut of folk art, textiles and painted furniture,” said owner Lewis Kester. “A lot of the rdf_Descriptions were fresh finds for us, such as the Fitzgerald painting, which came out of a home in New York City, and the running horse weathervane from Vermont.”
Antiques HoH from Hastings on Hudson, N.Y., played the carnival theme with a carnival wheel of fortune from the Nineteenth Century made of a wooden bicycle wheel; three carved panels from the 1905 Parker Brothers circus from a wagon previously owned by the Ringling Museum; a tavern table with a single board top and square stretches, circa 1800; a variety of hooked rugs with American scenes; a ventriloquist’s dummy found near Buffalo, N.Y., circa 1890; a sheet metal rooster vane made by a Pennsylvanian blacksmith in the late Nineteenth Century and shooting gallery targets in the shape of a goat and a duck.
Van Deusen House from Hurley, N.Y., displayed an Aladdin lamp, “Corinthian” pattern 1935-36, white moonstone art glass font with black moonstone art glass base. They also showcased a pair of late Victorian chairs made of maple-stained mahogany with burl panels and stick and ball decoration. A small early pine cupboard with original H hinges offered wide shelves inside. Also for sale was a variety of antique tools, such as chisels, files, wood planes, weights and rulers, as well as old scales, glass bottles, tramp art frames, posters, china, glassware and wire baskets.
Scott Filar from mad parade, Chicago, was here for the third time and reported good momentum around the show. “The summer crowd is different and this is a one-day show. We brought a spattering of crowd-pleasers, carnival stuff and very graphic rdf_Descriptions from the later 1950s and pop-Americana,” he said. Among the rdf_Descriptions were tattoo photos, a Martha Chase hospital doll circa 1910 that was used for training in turn-of-the-century hospitals, a series of correspondence course fashion plates and a tramp art shadow box in white. One of his most interesting sales was a pair of museum display “caveman” skulls that he had mounted on individual bases. In terms of trends, he said, “I see a real leaning towards pop culture that transcends kitschiness, not just limited to the midcentury but rdf_Descriptions from the 1940s, especially carnival and circus archetypes.”
Antique American from Paducah, Ky., displayed a cherry Sheraton chest with a block front in original condition, circa 1980. Found in eastern Pennsylvania, the piece had chestnut as the secondary wood and featured tall, delicate legs. A smaller Sheraton four-drawer chest from about 1820 was minus its pulls and was constructed with cherry and maple. Other rdf_Descriptions included an unusual carved umbrella; a clown found in central Illinois used in a dry goods store in the 1930s; a large wooden key from 1952 advertising “Congres International Manchester, N.H.,” and four camp chairs with bark seats found in northern Pennsylvania.
From Here to Antiquity from Bethany, Conn., brought a number of fresh finds from estate sales, including “Indian in the Moonlight,” a large romantic landscape by DeWitt Clinton Boutelle (1817-1884); an oil on canvas painting, “At the Docks” by George A. Picken (1898-1971), the well-noted New York artist known for painting WPA themes and for his etchings. Other rdf_Descriptions included Eighteenth-Century and Shaker bonnets, a Calash folding bonnet from the late Eighteenth Century as well as a number of funky 1950s lamps. “Jimi’s done a wonderful job with this show,” said Dave Smernoff. “It offers a great diversity, appealing to both the beginning collector to the experienced collector. Jimi and the whole Rhinebeck staff constantly go out of their way to improve it year after year so that both shoppers and dealers walk away happy.”
Lynn Worden of Worden American Antiques, Burr Oak, Mich., was equally enthusiastic. “This is always a good show,” she said. Known for an unusual assortment of folk art, industrial, garden, metal and architectural rdf_Descriptions, Worden’s summer show highlights included a cement mailbox from the 1930s (good for discouraging mailbox vandals); an Acanthus leaf cement urn in old white paint; a galvanized tin chicken feeder resurrected as a planter; a bentwood lounge chair with cast-iron adjustments and flip-up headrest; a trio of large wrought iron rings procured from an Amish farm in Indiana and an Amish draft horse fly catcher.
On the horizon for Barton and crew is the Rhinebeck Fall Antiques Fair on October 12-13 featuring 200 dealers from around the United States and Canada. Dealers and visitors alike can count on an event that will run ever so smoothly, again underlining the reputation for which Barton and his talented, hardworking team have gained legendary status in the industry.
For information, 845-876-1989 or www.rhinebeckantiquesfair.com.