Published: August 30, 2022
Review by Z.G. Burnett, Photos Courtesy Blanchard’s Auction Service
POTSDAM, N.Y. – Nature was calling with Blanchard’s Premier Adirondack Auction, conducted online on August 12. More than 650 lots of furniture, art, decorative furnishings and books were offered, mostly inspired by or directly from the outdoors and many from the auction house’s surrounding area. “We were very pleased with the auction,” said Kip Blanchard, owner and lead auctioneer. “We had about 900 registered bidders and a lot of activity.” This was evident as all but one of the lots sold, with customers from 15 to 20 different states and a few international buyers. While we were speaking with Blanchard, the office was packing up a Loetz vase that sold to an Austrian client for $2,760.
As promised by the sale’s title, there were enough lots of Adirondack furniture available to furnish more than a few cabin retreats. The top piece with this designation and in the sale overall was a Lake George Cabinet custom made in 2006 by Randy Holden for Elegantly Twisted Rustic Furniture of Norridgewock, Maine. The label listed its materials as manzanita root, bird’s-eye maple, birch bark, yellow birch, rock maple and mica. Acorns, walnuts, elk antlers and other small bits of forest decorated the piece. Blanchard’s had sold this cabinet before in 2018 to a collector in Fayetteville, N.C. Commissions like this can take years to complete and do not often come to auction, therefore, bidding for the piece was competitive and ultimately sold for $18,600 to a buyer in California.
Another well-known name in custom Adirondack work is R.W. Frenette of Tupper Lake, N.Y., whose guideboat was the second highest lot of the sale. At 15½ feet long, the boat was custom built with curly maple oars and a carved Wolf deck. Although the canoe sailed its whole life on Big Wolf Lake in the same town, it was in pristine condition and sold over its high estimate at $14,400. The guideboat came from a Lake Wolf consignor and will be returning to Tupper Lake with its new owner.
On a smaller scale and just behind the full-sized canoe was a salesman’s sample-sized canoe that attracted much interest, bid up to $12,000 through multiple phonelines. Believed to be made circa 1930 by a former employee of the Old Town Canoe Company of Old Town, Maine, the 42-inch-long canoe was originally purchased in that state. It was in excellent condition with original varnish and paint, and just a few minor paint chips appropriate to its age. The canoe went to a collector on Lake Winnipesauke, N.H.
There was a strong showing of Black Forest carving, including a coat tree and umbrella stand in the form of a bear and bear cub both grasping the trunk of a tree. The stand was 90 inches tall and came apart in three pieces, in very good condition, and achieved $10,200. Another Black Forest piece in the top lots was a massive carved mirror from the same era, carved with foxes, rabbits and game birds, which sold for $5,400 to a Clayton Island home in the Thousand Islands region in Ontario, Canada.
Quite a few lots by Barney Bellinger of Johnstown, N.Y., were among the top lots of the sale, including an extraordinary writing desk from a private collection in Red Lodge, Mont., that sold for $7,200. Made of Lodgepole pine burl from the Columbia River basin with a large eye curly maple top, the table also showed a hand-painted scene of the Shoshone River in Wyoming. Also from Bellinger was a root and twig wall shelf made of hickory, poplar and striped maple with a painting of the Jessup River in Lake Pleasant, N.Y., which achieved $4,920. A Bellinger sofa table made from oak and birch with a painted Adirondack guideboat scene bid to $4,320.
Unique in the sale, and perhaps in the world, a rare broadside from 1854 headlining an oration by Senator William Henry Seward (1801-1872) announced itself at $4,920. Seward would later become secretary of state under Abraham Lincoln, narrowly avoiding an assassination attempt on the same night the president was shot and negotiated the sale of Alaska from Russia to the United States. Printed in Batavia, Genesee County, N.Y., the large broadside also advertises a number of events, including a hot air balloon demonstration by John Wise (1808-1879). Wise was a celebrity aeronaut and balloonist in his day and made more than 400 flights during his lifetime but disappeared at age 71 while ballooning over Lake Michigan. The broadside was professionally conserved and framed, with minimal damage and replacements on the edges.
Perfect for those looking to instantly decorate a bedroom in their cabin, a four-piece bird’s-eye maple set by R.J. Horner & Co. collected $4,800. Founded in 1886 by Robert J. Horner in New York City, the brand is well-known among furniture collectors of this period. The set was in good condition with some refurbishment needed yet was still a great deal for quantity and quality.
The work of George Jaques of Keene Valley, N.Y., also appeared in the top lots of this sale, specifically an Adirondack desk and a pair of bookshelves that both sported birch bark veneer. The two-piece desk was made of repurposed pine with yellow birch legs and antler pulls. Decorated with a carved and painted trout crest by Triveri/Gannon, the desk was signed with a brass tag and sold for $4,320. The bookshelves were also made of repurposed pine and $3,840.
The top sculpture of the sale was a large bronze by Duane Scott titled “Rapture,” showing two bald eagles in mid-flight combat over a trout. The eagles retained their bronze finish, while the fish was polychrome and cold painted as a rainbow trout. Scott’s bronzes are cast in Florida using the lost wax method; this example is signed, numbered and sold well over its high estimate for $4,320.
Group lots of Adirondack-related books and ephemera were popular in the sale, many of which sold exponentially higher than their modest estimates. A 29-volume collection of highly detailed Adirondack logging journals and account ledgers dating from 1861 to 1920 across multiple types of businesses sold to the Adirondack Experience, The Museum on Blue Mountain Lake, for $3,840. Two lots of Adirondack hunting and trapping books sold for $2,340 ($50/100) and $1,500 ($40/80) with just 20 books between them, and a single record book from Warren County, N.Y., achieved $1,620. When asked about these high bids, Blanchard responded with a laugh, “We have no idea why! [Those were] a real surprise.”
Prices quoted with buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. Blanchard’s Two-Day Fishing Tackle & Sportsmen’s Auction is on November 4. For information, www.blanchardsauctionservice.com or 315-265-5070.
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