Published: August 26, 2015
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack
Additional Photos Courtesy of Skinner Inc
MARLBOROUGH, MASS. — To say that Skinner’s August 8–9 Americana sale was a success would be an understatement. It was a very strong sale. The Herbert E. Green collection of Sandwich glass was, according to many, the best glass collection to be offered in decades. The Ellie Hoover Walker (1924–2015) collection of Pennsylvania decorative arts drew buyers from several states. The key to the success of those two collections was color — rare colors in Sandwich glass and bright colors for the Pennsylvania material. Several classic cars in running condition started the day, bringing good prices. Along the way, scrimshaw and marine arts drew competitive bidding, Liverpool jugs and other creamware did well, American furniture brought good prices and the same held true throughout the sale. Several phone lines were in use and quite often competed against one another, and Internet bidders were often successful.
The first six lots on the first day were classic cars. Two cars each sold for $17,200. One was a 1930 Ford Model A roadster in running condition and the other a bright red 1987 Mercedes Benz 560SL with a removable hard top. It had a current inspection sticker and was ready to go.
Herbert E. Green Collection
Following the cars came more than $205,000 worth of Sandwich glass from the Herbert E. Green collection. Green was living in Providence, R.I., when the collection was assembled and its existence was virtually unknown to present-day dealers and collectors. He had been buying in the 1960s, and the glass was on display only once, for a brief time in the 1960s at the Sandwich Glass Museum. The collection had been packed away since 1980, when Green died. It was of little interest to the next generations of his family. Green had kept records that show from whom he purchased each piece and it is obvious that he was dealing with the major glass dealers of the mid-Twentieth Century: Abraham and May, G.L. Tilden, Louis Lyons, D.B. Neal and others.
Some was purchased at Richard Bourne auctions in the 1960s. Gary Stradling, a well-known authority on American glass, told Antiques and The Arts Weekly, “He had some very rare stuff. There hasn’t been a collection like this sold in decades.” Stradling said that Green had been buying before “my time” and he was unaware of the collection. Before the sale, Stephen Fletcher, Skinner’s executive vice president, told Antiques and The Arts Weekly that this was the finest collection of Sandwich glass to come to market in his memory, and that Green had bought based on color and not form.
Stradling bought the rarest lot in the collection — a pair of marbleized blue tulip vases for which he paid $23,370. He said he was delighted with his purchase, explaining that only one other example of the technique is known and that is in the Corning Museum of Glass. Marbleized, or slag glass, became popular in the late Nineteenth Century but these tulip vases were made 30 or 40 years earlier. Stradling believed that the marbleized examples from Sandwich were simply the result of two batches of glass accidentally being mixed and since the result was attractive, they were sold along with all the other glass made that day. Collector/dealer Mike George from New Boston, N.H., who was successful on several colorful lots, told Antiques and The Arts Weekly, “It’s nice to know there are still some great collections out there.”
Color also determined the selling prices of much of the glass in the collection. A light green tulip vase sold for $4,920, and a dark blue one brought $5,843. A dark amber tulip vase fetched $2,706, and a dark blue/green vase made $2,214. Hue was also a key factor as a pair of light green loop pattern lamps earned $11,070 and a pair of jade-green star and punty lamps made $4,305. The bargains of the day were examples in canary yellow, and clambroth and blue. A lot of four canary yellow candlesticks brought only $431, and a small pair of yellow candlesticks sold for $308. Stradling said that the reason canary yellow pieces do not fetch the high prices is that a lot of it was made. He said, “Sandwich had a factory that made nothing but yellow.”
Ellie Hoover Walker Collection
The second day of the sale included the much-anticipated Ellie Hoover Walker collection of Pennsylvania German decorative arts and New England furniture. As with the Sandwich glass, objects with great color brought great prices. Anticipated to be the lead item of the sale was her Berks County dower chest and it was. The Eighteenth Century chest was well decorated, with mustard yellow panels of intertwining tulips on the top and front, painted balusters on the corners, decorated panels on the sides and a double dentil molding over the base. On an ogee bracket base with apparently original brasses on the three drawers, it was in fine condition.
The chest is illustrated in Monroe Fabian’s The Pennsylvania German Decorated Chest. A copy of Fabian’s book was included with the chest — it is inscribed to Ellie and says that her chest is one of his favorites. Ellie bought the chest from Ginsberg and Levy, in New York, in the 1950s or 1960s and their label is in one of the drawers. It was not the type of furniture the firm was known for at the time and Ellie found it in their basement. Pat Bell, Olde Hope Antiques, bidding for a client, took it for $159,900.
A phone bidder bought the second highest priced lot of the day. It was a very crisp, bright yellow two-drawer stand with red painted flowers on the drawer fronts. Made in Norway, Maine, circa 1820–30, one could say that it proves the value of antiques as investments. Its final selling price was $116,850. Bill Samaha told Antiques and The Arts Weekly that it had originally been bought by his mother at a flea market in Augusta, Maine, probably in the 1950s, and that she paid $17 for it. After her death in 1966, it was sold to Ellie Hoover Walker, and Samaha said he believes that the price was about $400. John Hoover, Ellie’s son, said that the stand had been in the guest bedroom of the family home. “It had a lamp and other stuff on it,” he recalled.
Another winner was an outstanding decorated pine trinket box made by Jacob Weber, Lancaster County, Penn. Painted blue, it had a sliding lid, initialed in red “LW,” and was decorated with yellow tulips with red, white and green leaves and a three-story house. Estimated to bring $15,000, it achieved $44,280. Only six boxes with sliding lids are known to have been made by Weber.
Walker was an active and well-known dealer and collector. She traveled to shows in the eastern part of the United States. She lived in Ohio but had also lived on Cape Cod, and her collections included antiques from both areas. Her son John told Antiques and The Arts Weekly that his mother started collecting in the 1950s when she bought a home in North Canton, Ohio, that needed restoration. The contractor suggested that she buy antiques for the house, saying that “they’re cheaper than new stuff.”
The family later moved to Hudson, Ohio, into an 1830s house. John recalled that his mother had Rufus Porter-style murals painted on the walls. Her second husband was also a collector when they met, with an interest in maps ands ceramics. A Navy captain, according to Fletcher, he commanded a battleship during the Vietnam war. John Hoover said that the children were allowed to sit on and handle all the antiques. He also said, as many family members of antiques dealers might, that he never knew what his mother might sell out of the house. “If the price was right, it was gone,” he said.
Walker’s collection of fraktur was select and drew bids from the room, the phones and the Internet. Several pieces sold for five figures. Leading the group was a colorful Lancaster County fraktur, done for Elizabeth Schowalter, April 7, 1838. It had yellow, green and red birds over an inscribed heart. Pennsylvania dealer Phil Bradley, in the room and bidding for a client, paid $27,060 for it. A Bucks County example, circa 1825, depicted a woman in a red dress holding a parrot. It was signed “E.K. 1825” and was in an old red frame. Collector Brett Robbins bought this one for $11,685 and also took home other fine examples. A birth certificate fraktur by Daniel Peterman, circa 1826, commemorated the birth of John Widman to Leon Hart Widman and his wife, Catharina. The central script was flanked by women dressed in long gowns, holding flowers, one with birds, both standing on clouds. It was signed “Made by Daniel Peterman, Paradise Township, York County, Pennsylvania.” It earned $14,760. from a phone bidder.
Another lot that was expected to do well was a carved and painted hanging spice chest. It had a pencil inscription on the back “Manufactured by S.L. Plank, 3 miles South east of Allenstown, Penn. Price 1.25. Presented to Jacob and Lydia by Father and Mother Samuel and Catherine.” It had a scroll-carved backsplash, divided interior, two drawers and was decorated with birds and floral designs. It sold to Phil Bradley, bidding for a client, at $58,425.
Also anticipated to do well was Walker’s collection of spatterware. She had some rare patterns, and the most sought-after were the rainbow pieces. A large octagonal platter with three-color rainbow decoration sold for $11,685. Another large platter, this one with a purple and black border with red and blue tulip decoration, brought $5,535. A yellow covered sugar with red thistle decoration finished up at $984, and a yellow creamer with red cockscomb decoration fetched $1,722. Phil Bradley thought the prices were strong but wondered what might have happened had the spatter been sold in Pennsylvania.
Marine arts included several paintings, scrimshaw and whaling artifacts. A large oil on canvas painting depicting an American ship-of-the-line in New York Harbor may have been intended to commemorate some special event. There appeared to be numerous dignitaries onboard and Castle Williams is visible in the background. Unsigned, it went out for $61,500. Another unsigned ship’s portrait, showing the packet ship Emerald off Liverpool, brought $33,210. Antonio Jacobsen’s portrait of the five-masted vessel Governor Ames, signed and dated 1906, made $14,760. A sailor-made whalebone swift with an engraved mounting bracket and turned finial reached $3,321. A scrimshaw whale’s tooth decorated with an eagle surmounting a geometric monument, with a three-masted ship on the reverse, went out at $4,674.
After the sale, Stephen Fletcher told Antiques and The Arts Weekly, “Offering good property with good provenance during Antiques Week in New Hampshire works well for our consigners, clients and for us. We appreciate the collectors, fine dealers and friends who purchased at this auction and contributed to its success. We saw some old-fashioned Americana enthusiasm!”
It was the kind of sale where everyone went home happy. One could continue to discuss numerous other fine items, but a visit to Skinner’s website will show all the material. All prices include the buyer’s premium. For more information, www.skinnerinc.com or 508-970-3000.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm