Published: September 6, 2022
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Jeffery S. Evans & Associates
MOUNT CRAWFORD, VA. – The annual summer calendar of auctions would be incomplete without a late August event at Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates (JSEA), and the firm did not disappoint, hosting two sessions of various owners Americana on Thursday and Saturday, August 25 and 27, with a single-owner sale – the collection of the late dealer Eddie Tatum – on Friday, August 26. Exactly 1,706 lots were offered and with only about 75 lots passing from the podium, the sale saw a sell-through rate of more than 95 percent. We did not give vice president and Americana department head, Will Kimbrough, much time to catch his breath after the sale when we called him for comment.
“Tatum was definitely the star of the weekend. It’s another example of the power of the single owner collection as a format for maximizing value at auction. It was diverse, with great North Carolina furniture – one of the best collections of North Carolina furniture we’ve ever had – pottery, historical material, bottles and marbles. The seller – his daughter – wanted the sale on the weekend and we did not want it to compete with the other material in the sale.”
“We were very pleased with how the various owners sale did. I thought the advertising was a little soft – it seems like the advertising market is specializing – gas, oil, beer and whiskey did well while the traditional beverage category has flattened a bit. Bikes did great, and historical material did really well.”
If one sorted all the offerings by prices realized, most of the top dozen were from the Tatum collection. Marking the apex of the sale at $23,085 was a circa 1880 tin advertising sign for Salem, N.C., furniture maker, A.C. Vogler that featured bold lettering and graphics that included furniture and a horse-drawn hearse. It sold to a North Carolina collector, underbid by an institution bidding on the phone.
Of the North Carolina furniture in Tatum’s collection, Kimbrough noted that much of it was made in the Piedmont area; collectors recognized the quality and rarity of many of the pieces and bid accordingly. Bringing $21,870 from a North Carolina collector on an absentee bid was a Queen Anne walnut work table by Johannes Krause (Salem, N.C., 1742-1807) that had been published by John Bivins Jr, in the May 1976 MESDA Journal in his article, “Baroque Elements in North Carolina Moravian Furniture.” The table relates to several, all from the Krause shop, recorded at MESDA. According to Kimbrough, there are very few surviving examples of Queen Anne-style furniture produced in the “back country” in the Eighteenth Century.
Great rarity of form and condition were two aspects of a Chippendale walnut high chest of drawers from the Piggott School in Chatham County, N.C., which brought $14,580, nearly doubling its high estimate. Demonstrating Quaker influence and dating to circa 1810, it was another piece that had been published, this time by June Lucas in her article, “The Early Furniture of North Carolina’s Cane Creek Settlement,” which was published in the 2016 edition of American Furniture. It will be returning to North Carolina, to a collector in Randolph County.
Another piece of Piedmont-made furniture from Tatum’s collection that will be returning to the state is a paint-decorated poplar and yellow pine blanket chest that sold within estimate, for $9,720. Related to a group of blanket chests with histories in Stanly and Cabarrus Counties, the Germanic influence on this chest is seen in its robust proportions, exposed joinery and restrained decorative scheme.
North Carolina bidders also prevailed on some of Tatum’s other Piedmont furniture, including a painted yellow pine dish dresser or tavern cupboard ($8,330) and a Chippendale walnut diminutive corner cupboard ($5,355).
In a collection of standouts, glass was a dominant category in Tatum’s collection. Kimbrough said JSEA had displayed many of his pieces in June, when the firm sold Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century glass; several of the bidders who participated in that sale returned to compete in the Tatum auction. The top-selling piece of glass from Tatum’s collection was a General Taylor / Fells Point portrait and historical flask, probably from the Baltimore Glass Works, Baltimore, Md., circa 1840-60, which was in an exceptionally rare puce color. Undamaged and with no wear, it achieved the sale’s third highest price of $19,040 and sold to a New England glass collector who was bidding online through JSEA’s online platform.
A collector from the Midwest paid $8,925 for a rare brilliant emerald green blown molded hexagonal Gothic or cathedral pickle jar that bore the mark of Elias H. Van Benschoten of New York City. Not only was the color of importance but so was its size, measuring 11¾ inches tall overall.
One of the arguably rarest items in the sale was a Moravian folk art doll, made in the fourth quarter Nineteenth Century that had initially proved to a puzzle for Kimbrough. He contacted Joanna Brown at Old Salem, who told him it had been made by “Elizabeth (Emma Louisa) Chitty (1849-1919), a pioneering doll maker and creator of the rare doll known as “Miss Chitty.” She was an instructor of needlework and mathematics at the Salem Academy and was instrumental in the design of the original “Maggie-Bessie doll,” the iconic doll made by Old Salem Moravian sisters Margaret Gertrude Pfohl (Maggie) and Caroline Elizabeth Pfohl (Bessie). After a heated bidding battle between a folk art doll collector in the room who was competing against a private collector from North Carolina bidding on the phone. In the end, the former prevailed to take it for $13,365.
A group of three folk art Black dolls that had provenance to a private Virginia collection sold to a trade buyer on the phone for $4,111, more than eight times the lot’s high estimate.
One of the sale’s most important discoveries, however, did not come from the Tatum Collection but rather a family in Plains Mill, Va., who are direct descendants of Siram Henkel. A copperplate engraving of the Reverend Paul Henkel, father of Lutheran ministry in the South, and Elizabeth Henkel of New Market, Shenandoah County, Va., measured 4-7/8 by 7 inches and dated to circa 1825. Its significance lies in it being the only original strike JSEA was able to locate. It sold to a Virginia institution for $7,735, many multiples of its estimate.
Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates will conduct a variety auction on September 23, an auction of early American pattern glass ending September 26 and the paperweight collection of Ben Fields, Fort Worth, Texas, on October 13 alongside fine and decorative arts October 14-15. The firm’s Americana sale will likely take place November 17-19.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For information, www.jeffreysevans.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or 540-434-3939.
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