Published: April 28, 2020
Folk art dealer David Schorsch got his start in the business by helping his mother, the late Marjorie “Peggy” Schorsch at the tender age of 12. As Mother’s Day approached, Antiques & The Arts Weekly reached out to Schorsch for some of his memories of his mother to describe, in his own words, the impact she had, not only on him, but on the field of Americana.
How did your mother get her start dealing antiques?
Although my mother was first exposed to collecting by her mother, a devotee of Irish beleek porcelain, her introduction to Americana came in the early 1960s in the homes of friends and neighbors in suburban Philadelphia. Others in this circle included my aunt and uncle (Irvin and Anita Schorsch), and the Johnsons (Joan and Vic). They shared an appreciation of American history and recognized that genuine antiques were comparably priced, with new factory-made furnishings that lacked character were disposable and had no intrinsic value. As a collector, my mother had inherently good taste and intuitive abilities in her selecting process. From time to time, she helped locate special pieces sought by friends. My mother became an antique dealer in 1975 when our family moved from Pennsylvania to Connecticut, working as a consultant and private dealer. She was most proud of selling “The Situation of America 1848” to Ralph Esmerian in 1984, now one of the treasures in the collection of the American Folk Art Museum Art.
Did she have an opinion about being a woman in what was then an even more male-dominated field than it is now?
My mother was inspired and encouraged by the example of other female dealers and enjoyed friendships with Yvonne Allen, Avis Gardiner, Cora Ginsburg, Judy Lennet, Florene Maine, Barbara Pollack, Marguerite Riordan and Gail Savage. Regretfully, many professional women of that era had to endure behavior that would not be tolerated today.
How old were you when you first started working with her? What were some of your earliest jobs?
I began working in her first shop in Greenwich when I was 12 and did just about everything associated with the business except bookkeeping and driving the van. Looking back on it now, as a father of a 21-year-old daughter, I realize what a remarkable relationship we had. She recognized and encouraged my interest and welcomed my help and input and always valued my opinions and observations about antiques as an equal.
What was the best piece of advice your mother gave you?
1. To always put the interests of the client first.
2. Trust your own instincts.
3. If you conclude that a piece is truly a best of kind, go for it with everything you have.
4. Treat everyone in the way you would want to be treated in return.
If she were still alive today, how would she adjust to the market in the current pandemic era? What would she say about it?
My mother would probably be better accustomed to dealing with the current pandemic and economic situation from her own life experiences. She was born in 1930 in Philadelphia, just 90 days after the stock market crash and her father was a stockbroker. Can you imagine being a stockbroker in the 1930s? Like many from that stoic generation, she never discussed any hardships from her childhood. Her only sibling, an older brother Eddie, was afflicted with polio, which paralyzed one of his legs and made it slightly shorter than the other. This made him “4-F” and ineligible for service in World War II, but uncle Eddie refused to be considered handicapped and aggressively fought and lobbied until he gained admittance into the Marines and served in the Pacific. My mother and her family were tough and resilient and would meet the challenges of our current circumstances.
Do you have a piece that your mother gave you that you’d never sell? What makes it so special?
My most prized gift from my mother is her copy of the book, Thoughts on the Kentucky Rifle in its Golden Age, which was personally autographed to her by its author, the legendary Joe Kindig Jr, gifted to her on a visit to his shop in York, Penn., and inscribed “To Peggy Schorsch / You have something on the ball my dear. Joe Kindig Jr.” To me, it’s priceless.
Do you have a favorite memory you can share with us?
I have too many wonderful antique memories of my mother to pick just one. Anyone who knows me has heard countless Peggy stories, Peggy-isms and anecdotes. On a daily basis I feel a very real connection to her through objects and recollections. I felt her strongest presence at the Esmerian sale in 2014. Each and every piece that she had obtained for Ralph was imbued with her personality and brought back a flood of memories reflecting her taste, commentary, enthusiasm, tenacity and guts, and the many triumphant adventures we shared and the characters we met in our journey. I wish she could have been there to experience the excitement of that once in a lifetime auction, and the complete affirmation of her judgment that it provided.
-By Madelia Hickman Ring
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