Photos and Review by Greg Smith
YORK, PENN. – It was a full house at Melvin “Butch” Arion’s 170th Original Semi-Annual York Antiques Show and Sale as 98 dealers packed into Memorial Hall East to placate the desires of a long line of patrons who queued at the door for the 10 am opening on February 2. Trailing antiques week in New York City by only one week, a certain fatigue could have been expected and understood from both buyers and sellers, but instead the show floor boasted a youthful skip with color and flair splashed across the booth walls amid a wide variety of historical material.
“It was a good show,” said Arion, speaking with Antiques and The Arts Weekly following the show. “Friday and Saturday were tremendous. Attendance was up and people told me it was the best-looking show that I’ve ever had.”
And when Sunday rolled around – Superbowl Sunday – which pitted the New England Patriots against the hometown favorite Philadelphia Eagles, Arion heard the grumbling dealers/football fans yearning for a two-day show. But it was not enough, and likely will never be enough, to get Arion to change his dates. “I wouldn’t want to trade my Friday attendance for anything and I’m not ready to give up Sunday,” he affirmed. “Record it.”
And that seems to be the mantra of Arion’s longtime steady show: an unfazed display of quality antiques that has not, and will not, be changing anytime soon.
“I think formal and painted furniture and folk art sold well,” he said. And indeed, the show had plenty of it. The booths were speckled with examples of historical ephemera, early American ceramics, formal and country painted furniture, folk art portraits, Americana objects, hooked rugs, jewelry, American Indian textiles, treenware, weathervanes, fine art and so much more.
Amid the wonderful palette of country paint at Saltbox Antiques, Sugarloaf, Penn., dealer Sarah Yenkevich was excited to be offering an assortment of Eighteenth Century American Colonial cooking tools. “I just love the earliness, to think that’s what they used to make their meals, that’s incredible,” she said, pointing out the trivets, ladles, pot holders, serrated trammels and more. Yenkevich’s affinity for iron is in her blood and can be traced back generations in her family. Though unbeknownst to her when she began dealing in antiques and later revealed through her own research, the dealer’s family, freshly settled after immigrating to the United States, worked in the early foundries and ironworks, producing the same sort of tools that she sells today.
“That’s great isn’t it?” were the first words out of James Grievo’s mouth when he caught this reporter admiring the New London County chest on chest in his booth. Dating to 1740-60 and with provenance to Wayne Pratt, the fine fan carved central top drawer and the glowing tiger maple grain combined to make the piece a real showstopper.
Jewett-Berdan, Newcastle, Maine, featured a figure of a lady that was carved by Boston’s Skillen brothers. Circa 1810 and off a building in Rhode Island, the carved lady held her flowing dress in one hand and covered her chest with the other. The dealers also featured a graphic hooked rug, with bright reds amid earth tones and whites, with a dog at center surrounded by pinwheels and tied in with birds and flowers along the edges. It was found in Pennsylvania and dated to 1880.
Two pieces of Abraham Lincoln-related ephemera were on show in the booth of Neverbird Antiques, Surrey, Va. The dealer featured a piece of the black crepe that covered Lincoln’s bier in the Capitol Rotunda, its authenticity testified by an accompanying written note from General R.W. Whitaker. The note read, “This crepe was taken from President Lincoln’s bier at Capitol Rotunda in 1865 by an officer who was on duty there, and given to me,” with his signature appearing beneath. Right below it on the wall was a pardon, handwritten by Lincoln, that was to free a Confederate prisoner of war after he took the Oath of Allegiances as per Lincoln’s December 8, 1863, proclamation.
New Oxford, Penn., dealer Kelly Kinzle featured a Mahantongo hanging cupboard in the center of his booth. Unadorned and in original condition with a red painted frame and green painted door with four glass panes above a single drawer, the piece was illustrated in Reed’s Decorated Furniture of the Mahantongo Valley and was exhibited at Bucknell University as part of the “Mahantongo Valley Furniture” exhibition in 1987. Kinzle said, “The region is real collectible and rare, it just doesn’t show up. This is the third hanging cupboard known and it’s been known for 50 years.”
A horse and groom weathervane from A.L. Jewell & Co., was in the booth of Michael Whittemore Antiques & Folk Art, Punta Gorda, Fla. Circa 1865, the example had traces of the early stenciling and was only the second that Whittemore had ever owned. Rising up behind it was a Rufus Cole paint decorated clock from the Mohawk Valley, N.Y. “He was a prolific paint decorator,” Whittemore said, pointing to the grain simulation. The wooden works were from Plymouth, Conn., maker Silas Hoadley.
This edition saw a robust 50 percent increase in antique toy dealers, meaning the standing two, Pat & Rich Garthoeffner and Don and Betty Jo Heim, welcomed the addition of dealer Michael Gunselman to the floor. When the Heims were asked how toy sales had been, they joked, “We tell other toy dealers that it’s terrible. Don’t come.” But their smiles gave away their real sentiments, and they always do well at this show. In addition to their venerable selection of mechanical banks, the Heims exhibited a teal Buddy L pressed steel riding bus from the mid-1920s with excellent paint all around. The riders were built strong and heavy to withstand the sort of abuse only a child could inflict upon their toys, but Don lifted that bus up like it was made of air before plopping it down in my arms to feel the full weight. I can now attest, as can the many surviving toys themselves, that Buddy Ls were surely built to last.
James and Nancy Glazer brought two folk painted artworks from Lawrence W. Ladd, also known as the Utica Master. A portfolio of Ladd’s works was discovered at Utica Academy in the 1920s and the artist has since garnered academic attention, largely for the panoramic scenes that he completed that were hinged between pages to form a longer image. The Glazers exhibited two Ladd works, both watercolors on paper, one depicting the high-rising red brick Victorian Utica Academy building, and the other a bustling scene at the train station for the London and Northern Express, a fast-moving image that showed a mob of passengers, luggage carts and families engaged in the transitional chaos that these sorts of terminals usually inspire.
Within the opening minutes of the fair, Stephen Corrigan and Douglas Jackman of Stephen-Douglas Antiques, Rockingham, Vt., were tag-teaming their first sale. Stephen wrote the receipt and Doug carefully wrapped the 8-inch-high carved and painted horse and small pierced tin lantern that sold to the same buyer. The duo brought a smattering of Americana and folk art, but found particular interest in an oblong melonwood tea caddy from the Eighteenth century with wide and finely carved ribbing. The piece, whose form Doug had never seen before, resembled a sort of primitive football, which seemed appropriate for Superbowl weekend.
An oak 1720 Philadelphia wainscot chair was found front and center in the booth of John Chaski Antiques, Lewes, Del. While more modestly priced than the Mansfield-Merriam wainscot chair that brought $375,000 at Sotheby’s the week prior, Chaski’s chair was a sure shot for one of the finest examples of pilgrim furniture at the show. In folk portraits, the dealer featured a husband and wife duo that were attributed to the hand of New York and Ohio artist Milton H. Hopkins.
Mo Wajselfish of Leatherwood Antiques, Sandwich, Mass., felt good about a carved Norwegian fishing trophy on his wall. The 3-foot-long salmon, carved with a detailed open-mouth face, gills and fins, was a remnant from a time when Americans would book fishing trips in Norway. Instead of bringing home the actual trophy, the fishermen would release the fish and their guides would replace the trophy catches with carved wood replacements, their weight tacked in or carved into the side.
At the end of our conversation with Arion, we briefly pondered the future of the antiques business and the shows in York. “Maybe I’ll sell the show,” Arion said with a laugh. “No, I’m only kidding. That’s what Jim Burk used to say to get people riled up. And then he’d be back next year, strong as ever.”
The show will return September 21-23. For information, www.theoriginalyorkantiquesshow.com or 302-875-5326.