WELLINGTON, FLA.— Eric Norman Shrubsole, who arrived in the United States as a journeyman antiques dealer from England in 1936 and built the family firm into a foremost purveyor of antique English and American silver and jewelry, died Friday, January 30, at his winter home in Florida. Long a dynamic presence on 57th Street in Manhattan, he was 102. His death was confirmed by Timothy H. Martin, who succeeded his stepfather as president of S.J. Shrubsole in 2003.
The eldest son of Lillian and Sidney J. Shrubsole, Eric Shrubsole was born in London in 1912, the year his father left his apprenticeship with silversmith C.S. Harris to start S.J. Shrubsole. With little patience for school, Eric Shrubsole joined his father’s company at 14, learning the craft of silversmithing along with the art of identifying antique English silver, which S.J. Shrubsole bought and sold.
In 1936, Sidney and Eric Shrubsole decided to open a branch of the family business in New York City. Eric came to the United States with trunks full of old silver along with letters of introduction to customers, retail stores and museum directors across the country. The young dealer spent the rest of the year driving across the country, laying the foundations for his shop, located on 57th Street since its inception.
Known for his technical knowledge, taste, salesmanship and occasionally ribald humor, Eric Shrubsole was a ubiquitous presence in the antique silver field, exhibiting at shows, delivering lectures and advising museums and private collectors. He bought and sold many of the greatest pieces of silver ever made, says Tim Martin. His clients included H.F. du Pont, William Randolph Hearst, the Duke of Windsor and Katharine Hepburn, to name a few. Groucho Marx, on being told that everything in Mr Shrubsole’s shop was antique and English, pointed his cigar at the Brooklyn-born porter and asked, “Even him?”
Quick witted and full of fun, Shrubsole remained a vital presence in the trade well into his nineties. A recent introduction to his annual catalog read: “Hurry in! The items in the catalog are like me: unique, in great condition for their age, and probably won’t be around very long!”
Shrubsole was an influential and much-loved member of the community of Millbrook, N.Y., where he spent much of his time in recent years. He was a major contributor to the Eric N. Shrubsole Center for Speech and Physical Rehabilitation at Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and a devoted member of St Peter’s Lithgow Church in Millbrook, where a memorial service is planned for April.
Shrubsole’s first wife, Winnie, died in 1984. He is survived by his second wife, Karin, and his stepsons Christopher and Timothy Martin.