Published: August 22, 2023
Review & Photos By Laura Beach
MANCHESTER, N.H. — The market for Americana came roaring back in Manchester, where throngs gathered on August 9 and 10 for DiSaia Management’s annual Antiques in Manchester: The Collector’s Fair.
Cancelled in 2020 but building speed during the quasi-post-Covid years that followed, Antiques in Manchester this year was its former self, boasting long lines, enthusiastic crowds and many sales. Age has winnowed the ranks of Americana dealers and collectors, and a new constellation of social concerns may draw the broader public’s attention elsewhere, but having identified and developed excellent facilities at St Anselm College, show director Karen DiSaia has crafted a fair that hits all marks. Antiques in Manchester is diverse, interesting, well-managed and beautifully presented.
Roughly 60 exhibitors from the eastern half of the United States attracted visitors from around the country to this destination event. As exhibitor Al Katz remarked, “Antiques in Manchester has become a must-attend event for collectors at all levels because of its full spectrum of prices and quality. With so few shows remaining for folk art and Americana, New Hampshire is now a place to discover the very best.” The powerhouse dealer in American folk sculpture closed out the fair by selling a radiant Nineteenth Century carved and gilded sunburst trade sign made for the Sun Insurance Society of London. Katz recalled first seeing the sculpture many years ago in Woodard & Greenstein’s booth at New York’s Winter Show.
Folk art also made a strong showing at the Hill Gallery. Invited to the fair on short notice, Michigan dealer Tim Hill and his daughter, Maggie, arrayed, among other works, paintings by Ralph Fasanella (1914-1997). They illustrated the New York painter’s artistic development between 1947 and 1980.
Across the aisle, Maine dealers Don Heller and Kim Washam featured a pair of life-sized folk art figures of a man and woman. Little more is known about the polychromed carvings, successively owned by the noted dealers David Pottinger and Don Walters.
A large goat weathervane by Cushing & Co. sold to a New York collector who considered it “best-in-show,” revealed Pennsylvania dealer Joe Lodge, adding, “I am always pleased when I sell more than two dozen items. This Karen DiSaia-run show enabled me to do that.”
Dan and Karen Olson are pros at assembling inviting, highly saleable booths of high-country American furniture, paintings and accessories. The Newburgh, N.Y., dealers were again rewarded for their skills, selling a New Hampshire chest-on-chest, every candlestand they brought, a New England pine settle, an Eighteenth Century bowback Windsor armchair, baskets, a portrait attributed to Joseph Whiting Stock and much else. “We were still selling after the show closed on Thursday night,” Dan said.
A fixture of the New Hampshire shows for 50 years, Peter Eaton packed his 12-by-20-foot booth with choice specimens of early New England furniture. “I sold 14 things, including five pieces of furniture, and did more business in my shop in the days that followed. I also bought well. There are great deals in furniture out there,” said the Maine dealer, who wrote up a rare crossed-base candlestand, painted tall case clock, a pale blue blanket chest, a Dunlop candlestand, a ball-foot chest and two paintings. His companion, Lisa Tichy, a dealer mainly in textiles and decorative accessories, set up at the Deerfield Antiques Show on August 7 and contributed items of her own to Eaton’s display.
Eaton also sold four boxes, of which there was a bumper crop of notable examples in all sizes around the floor. Perhaps most charming was a schoolgirl-decorated box on original ball-turned feet, said to be from St Johnsbury, Vt., circa 1820-30, at Elliott and Grace Snyder. Sam Herrup featured a Federal mahogany lift-top valuables box in the form of a reeded-leg chest of drawers, probably North Shore, Mass., circa 1810-15. Pennsylvania dealer Robert Conrad offered a circa 1840 box, probably from New York, that was fancifully decorated with a circus-line of parading elephants.
“The show was great for us. We sold across all fields we had material in: five pieces of furniture; three pieces of needlework, both American and English; five rare, early ceramics; American folk art; and our usual sales of early metalwork, both brass and iron. There was a lot of interest in very early material, both American and European. I think dealers who had that material did very well,” said Grace Snyder.
John Keith Russell and his associate, Sarah Pineo-Margolis, could teach a master class in navigating the marketplace’s new normal, so effective have they been at nurturing renewed interest in Shaker artifacts. Fresh from the annual Shaker Weekend — this year hosted by Enfield Shaker Museum and devoted to the topic of boxes — the duo presented 38 oval boxes from the collection of Watt and Jan White. In all, Russell sold roughly 25 boxes from the 60, some from other sources, that he brought to the fair.
“It was the best show I’ve ever had,” Russell said afterwards. “Boxes were just a fraction of our business. We also sold a trestle table, dozens of smaller pieces, and two high chests, one of which never even made it onto the floor. We’ve worked hard on outreach, getting eyes on the material, to develop new collectors. But even longtime collectors are not done. They too love to search, discover, acquire. That is where the excitement is.”
“I had a number of good sales,” said Sam Herrup, ticking off a list that included two from a group of four circa 1805 Windsor comb-back side chairs bearing the mark of Abraham Shove, Berkley, Mass., and a harvest jug — attributed to Western New York makers Lorenzo Johnson or Alvin Wilcox, circa 1850 — whose luscious glaze was pale-mustard flecked with russet.
Brian Cullity’s many treasures included a rare presentation Sandwich glass lantern engraved with a locomotive and other details and inscribed “J.B. Tobey.” Tobey, a director of the Cape Cod Branch Railroad, accepted the lantern at the opening of the railroad roundhouse at the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company on May 26, 1848. “It was an excellent show for me,” the Sagamore, Mass., dealer told us. “Sales were especially strong in early ceramics, but I also sold some very good pieces of glass and folk art. Weary but happy!”
Serendipity was at play for Joy Hanes, who snapped up and later resold a large creamware charger fitted as a barometer. “I first bought it 20-25 years ago and sold it to a Newport, R.I., collector. I just stumbled upon it again, turning it over to find its Hanes & Ruskin label still affixed,” marveled the Connecticut dealer. “I resold it in Manchester to a collector who loves English pottery and knew that her husband would love this piece, too.”
“The opening of the show was very busy with much selling. We were busy on the second day when buyers came back from the other show,” reported Vermont dealer Norman Gronning, an admired source for early New England furniture.
“We sold our tiger maple tall chest and slant-front desk, plus two weathervanes, scrimshaw, paintings, rugs and smalls,” volunteered Connecticut dealer Bob Haneberg.
“I had my best second-day since I started doing the show eight years ago,” acknowledged Christopher Settle, a dealer in formal furniture from Newton, Mass., who wrote up an assembled pair of Philadelphia Chippendale mirrors attributed to Wayne and Biddle, a New York Sheraton server attributed to Phyfe and a New England serpentine-front Hepplewhite server.
“We made two post-show sales over the weekend and have been answering questions and fielding calls,” revealed Dave Hillier of Antiques Associates of West Townsend, which paired the oil on canvas “View of the Schuylkill County Almshouse Property in the Year 1811” by Ralph F. Reed, 1908, with a carved and joined sunflower chest attributed to Peter Blin, Wethersfield, Conn., 1670-1700.
“The strongest sellers for me this year were portrait miniatures. One museum-worthy piece that went to a private collector was an 1834 watercolor on ivory portrait of Major General Alexander Macomb, US Army, painted by Edward Brackett White (1806-1882),” said James L. Kochan, a scholarly dealer who specializes in military and marine art, artifacts and manuscripts. The Maine dealer had on hold a painting and a Federal-era, silver-hilted sword. He added, “I met some interesting collectors — well-read, historically focused and young — so that is encouraging for the future.”
Colette Donovan sold her showpiece, a circa 1820 quilt composed of 38,588 miniature calico triangles. Elsewhere, a medley of red and white quilts and a red and white coverlet animated a display at James Wm. Lowery Antiques.
Virginia dealer Bill Subjack of Neverbird Antiques arrayed historical Americana, from a ship’s register signed by Massachusetts Governor John Hancock in 1785 to a Pennsylvania draft authorization inked by Abraham Lincoln in 1863.
Roughly eight exhibitors were new to the show, among them Lancaster, Penn., dealer Dennis Erb, who delivered color in the form of miniatures with original surface and paint, early pantry boxes and baskets, and holiday antiques. Also new to the fair was veteran dealer Victor Weinblatt. The specialist in folk art signs noted, “Not a sufficient number of superlatives to describe The Collector’s Fair…DiSaia is a brilliant manager: gracious, even-handed, efficient, with a relaxed vision of friendliness and welcome for the show.” Among Weinblatt’s many sales was a massive 1850 plaster sculpture of three angels. “They looked out over my booth with a gaze of blessing until they too headed for the door.”
Weinblatt’s competition in the whimsey department included Leatherwood Antiques of Sandwich, Mass. Proprietor Mo Wasjelfish said, “The opening day of the show was not great for us but with our first sale we were in the black and we subsequently sold across our inventory — folk art, Vienna bronzes, hooked rugs and a weathervane.”
No Antiques Week in New Hampshire would be complete without a Doris Stauble arrangement, three fine examples of which Willow Springs of Rexford, N.Y., offered. Though Stauble died in 2007, her distinctive table-top compositions combining antique receptacles and sculptural fruit and flowers are easily spotted by those who know and love them and are a cheerful reminder of American Country style’s go-go years.
Let’s hear it for the business’ behind-the-scene heroes: art shipper Scott Cousins, builder Stacy Exposition Services, Green Tree Electrical Services and the other craftsmen and technicians who work long hours to make the magic happen.
“With shows from Maine to Nantucket and Newport, they were running during the last few weeks but stayed kind and upbeat. We couldn’t do it without them,” DiSaia said.
About this year’s event, the fair director concluded, “It was really nice seeing everyone. Each year has been better than the last since 2020. We’ve added a few younger exhibitors, which I’m really happy about. I will continue to seek them out, to keep things fresh, to get new ideas, to look at the show in different ways. I’m really pleased that a number of exhibitors told me they had their best show ever or since the 1990s. Good stuff sold everywhere, across the board. We gave out a ton of readmission tickets and I was happy to see they were used. Dealers did an amazing job presenting their material.”
DiSaia and the cast and crew of Antiques in Manchester deserve our gratitude. This talented ensemble gives shoppers great pleasure and provides a welcome boost to the business.
For more on Antiques in Manchester or DiSaia Management, go to www.disaiamanagement.com.
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