Published: April 24, 2007
When the 10-year-old Terrance A. Walker bought his first antique more than three decades ago, a piece of Flow Blue pottery for $20, he set in motion a prolific career as a picker of Canadian Maritime country antiques and folk art that has made him one of the most respected regional figures in the business. Along the way this son of a picker gathered an impressive personal collection, of which he says, “Even when times got hard, if a treasure came up, I felt compelled to put it in my collection, to keep it for what I thought would be the long haul.”
The long haul lasted 37 years and when Walker decided to sell his personal collection, which encompassed a wide range of one-of-a-kind handmade articles from Canada’s Maritime provinces, he turned to his longtime mentor, auctioneer, fellow picker and dealer, author and artist Chris Huntington. Huntington, however, had called what he thought then was his last sale in August 2004 and suggested that Walker sell his collection then. Walker, who said he had always hoped that Huntington would auction his collection, was not ready to break up his collection at that point.
Two years later, Walker decided he was ready to sell and even though Huntington claimed to be retired, he turned out to be ready as well. The collection was ultimately sold by Huntington in two sessions, the first in August 2006 and the remainder March 3.
Walker, who has an indisputably good eye, is also blessed with a fine memory. He can recall exactly where each piece was acquired. Huntington is equally attentive.
It is easy to see why Walker gravitated to Huntington, who came to antiques after a postcollege stint as curator of the museum at Colby College. Like Walker, Huntington began collecting before he was out of school. As the son of an artist on one side of the family and a bunch of bankers on the other, Huntington inherited a fine aesthetic and financial acumen, a combination that has stood him in good stead throughout his career.
Walker’s collection brought fine fresh material to market and was chockablock with high spots. Maritime provincial dealers and collectors were out in force. Only two American dealers were present; one from Maine, the other from Massachusetts.
The highest price was a record: An 1813 Mi’kmaq oval bride’s box found in Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia, that was chip carved in rolling circular patterns, sold for $34,650 to a collector. The box measured 16 by 10¾ by 7 inches and was decorated with copper wire affixed with forged nails. Walker said after the sale that he had seen 20 or 30 such boxes over the years, but this one was “far and away the very best.” It is the first one with a documented date. A similar chip carved example sold seven or eight years ago for $2,750.
A Nova Scotia dealer paid $15,750 for an exceptional early Nineteenth Century pine corner cabinet with a barrel back that had double doors with 16 lights whose mullions aligned perfectly with the interior shelves. The outside of the cabinet had been given a coat of brown paint over the original blue, but the interior retained the blue. The piece was found in Mulgrave, N.S., near the Cape Breton causeway.
An early Nineteenth Century pine armoire constructed with forged nails and made with two paneled doors, an inside drawer and an interior shelf retained the original finish and sold for $1,050. It was said to have come from Quebec to Prince Edward Island and was used in a convent to store nun’s habits.
A pair of wall murals on pine board were salvaged from an early abandoned house in Titusville, New Brunswick, fetched $8,400. One, dating from about 1800, depicted a white house along a river. The other is a lake scene with a castle, a cottage, a steeple, grazing sheep and a man rowing.
Walker gathered an impressive array of two dozen stands with one, two and three drawers that brought prices beginning at $750. The most interesting of these was a circa 1825 mahogany example with two drawers that realized $5,725. The stand was attributed to Thomas Nisbet of Saint John, N.B., and had double string inlay, cockbeaded drawers and brass surrounds on the keyholes. The Scotland-born Nisbet was one of Canada’s best known cabinetmakers.
A one-drawer pine stand with sponge, sunburst and fan decoration had a two-board top, pictured in Canadian Country Furniture, 1675‱950 by Michael S. Bird, was found in Cumberland County and sold for $3,150.
A selection of wall boxes piqued interest and a two-tier example sold to a New Brunswick museum for $5,775, and a circa 1800 two-tier pine example in old brownish-yellow paint over the original red went for $2,730.
A Newfoundland sailor-made oval covered chip carved and painted dome-top hat or document box sold for $3,938. Such boxes are called hat boxes in Newfoundland even though they are not big enough to accommodate a hat.
A Newfoundland oval hat box with three rounded fingers and held together by sailor’s thread and wood pegs sold for $840.
A Shaker box in blue paint sold for $1,575 to an American dealer on the phone. A round pantry box with a bail handle and in untouched blue paint was a bargain when it realized a modest $420.
A covered box painted with a red, white and blue compass with a center star sold for $1,050.
A late Eighteenth Century early shoe foot chair table with one drawer with forged nails had old white paint over the original red was found in Tusket, N.S., and sold for $3,675.
A 26-inch-round table embellished all over with sea shells, acorns, seeds and glass shards with a centered embossed paper valentine with two doves sold for $2,415. The table was made around 1900, probably as a gift, and was found in Pictou County, N.S.
A scrimshaw powder horn decorated with 13 sailing vessels was signed and dated “Niaan P. Saac, August 31 AD 1808” and realized $3,413. Saac is said to have been the light keeper at St Martin’s, N.B.
A 31-inch hand forged rush light attracted lots of attention for its unusual height and delicately formed legs and it realized $2,940. It came from North Sidney on Cape Breton. Only a few pairs of cast iron bulldog-form andirons were made at a New Brunswick foundry in about 1900; they made $1,575.
Among Walker’s game boards, a circa 1880 Parcheesi board in the original green, red, black and yellow paint went for $2,520 and a checkerboard with brass trim drew $1,208.
One of Walker’s favorite pieces in the collection was a small (8½ by 6½ inches) but meticulously rendered oil on beaver board view of the Newfoundland fishing village, Quidi Vidi as it was in 1938; it brought $1,785. The painting was signed “Qidi Vidi NF/T.B. Harwood” and was found on the east coast of Newfoundland.
A mid-Twentieth Century carved plaque within an ornately carved frame around an image of a country church by Canadian folk artist Hudson Langille brought $315. It was found in Wallace in Cumberland County, N.S.
A set of six Canadian Windsor rod back chairs that Walker said were in mint condition, “the best I’d ever seen,” drew $4,988 from a Nova Scotia dealer. They were found in Caledonia, Guysborough County, N.S.
A Loyalist Windsor chair with bent arms and a saddle seat sold for $4,200. The chair, which was made around 1790 in the Saint John area, had been painted brown over the original robin’s-egg blue. Another Loyalist armchair with a curved back and a step down back splat came from the Saint John River Valley and brought $1,260. A Chippendale birch or maple side chair made in the late Eighteenth Century was distinguished by a heart cutout on the back splat sold for $2,310.
An early Twentieth Century armchair made for a sporting lodge was encrusted with tamarack branch collars and garnered $1,470.
When the bidding on a white crocheted chair, one of only 12 made in about 1970 by folk artist Albert Lohnes of West Berlin in Lunenburg County and depicting his own home in cobalt blue, opened at $1,000 and no one bid, it passed. Walker will donate it to a Nova Scotia museum. A similar example is in the Smithsonian Institution.
An exceptional carved stool with a birdcage frame in old red brown paint over the original and visible red, and a carpet cover was made around 1800. Walker had it from a descendant of a black Loyalist family in Saint John, N.B. It brought $3,150 from the New Brunswick Museum. An unusual mid-Nineteenth Century round tilt top table with square nails and pegged joints had three legs set into a circular base, which may have allowed it to be used aboard ship. Found near Antigonish, N.S., it fetched $735.
Two pictorial Ohio hooked stair runners made with country scenes and animal figures alternating with geometric diamond panels were made in Ohio in 1918. They may have been one long runner at one time and brought a total of $1,728. Walker said he found them at Brimfield where he sets up every year. A hooked rug with double hearts, snowflake medallions and large red dots came from Guysborough County and sold for $1,575.
A 40-inch ventriloquist dummy wearing his original cowboy suit was made by J.C. Turner in the 1940s caused consternation in the Walker family when he was sent to the block. Walker had acquired him around the time his 10-year-old daughter Raeleigh was born and had woven him (he was called Howdy Doody) into bedtime stories about fairy princesses for his daughter.
Raeleigh was inconsolable when she learned that her friend was to be sold. When the bride’s box made $34,650, Raeleigh told her father he could buy Howdy back with that money, but not to pay over $20,000. When the dummy did come up, Walker told the story to the bidding audience and was able to buy Howdy back for $1.
An 18-inch early Twentieth Century one-of-a-kind American ventriloquist dummy with the original box was also sold, with it bringing $945.
A Mason merganser decoy with glass eyes and some repaint was a sound $2,100 and a pair of Cape Breton mergansers sold for $1,470.
A Newfoundland eider decoy carved from one piece of wood was found in Port aux Basques and sold to a Newfoundland museum for $840. By contrast, an eider decoy with a pegged head and four pellet shots was $210. It was found at Musquodoboit Harbour on the eastern shore of Nova Scotia.
A Nineteenth Century pine gamecock weathervane that came from the Lancaster, Penn., area, brought $945 and a medallion made for a ceiling, but never used, was carved from one piece of pine with a central circle with raised concentric circles and trefoils and retained the original red, white and black paint sold for $735.
Among a selection of lollipop butter prints was a double sided example decorated on one side with a tree amid foliage and a chip carved quatrefoil with leaves, found in Guysborough County, that realized $683.
A circa 1880 horse pull toy had lost its hide cover, its original tail and mane, which were replaced by very old white paint on the body and human hair. It also lost its wheels but the four holes were visible. Found in the Annapolis Valley, it realized $683. A carved parrot above an ashtray made around 1930 sold for $630.
A mid-Nineteenth Century birch clock shelf with square nails and carved scallops, scrolls and clover was found in Pictou County and sold for $2,205.
Walker, who is only 47, continues to collect and his eye remains unerring. The Flow Blue slop pail that he bought as a sharp-eyed 10-year-old sold for $184 this time out.
Collectors and dealers can only look forward to another Walker auction sometime in the future.
All prices quoted are in Canadian dollars and reflect the five percent buyer’s premium. For information, www.terrancewalker.com .
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