Published: December 8, 2020
Review and Photos by Rick Russack
MANCHESTER, N.H. – Speaking to Rachel Gurley a week before the November 29 annual Thanksgiving show, she said close to 70 exhibitors were signed up to exhibit. By the day of the show, that number was down to 50, largely due to uncertainties about the Covid-19 virus. In the days leading up to the event, Massachusetts had tightened travel restrictions, and Manchester, the site of the show, was considered a “red zone” in New Hampshire, though the state has among the lowest number of cases in the country.
The show is a Thanksgiving weekend tradition in New England and the Gurley family has been producing it for more than 35 years, first by Nan Gurley and now by two of her children, Rachel and Josh, both of whom helped their mother when they were youngsters. Not surprisingly, they have a strong commitment to the show. In previous years, it had been conducted in Marlborough, Mass., but due to Covid restrictions, that was not possible this year. The show was moved to the Double-Tree Hotel in Manchester, the longtime site of the August New Hampshire Antiques Show. It was a good decision since most, if not all, were familiar with the facility.
As the exhibitor list shrunk, the floor plan for the show was continually redesigned with the final layout providing for larger booths and additional space between them. That worked well, everyone wore masks and the layout made the required social distancing practical. It was a sunny late fall day, and the pre-show line of attendees was able to be outdoors, allowing friends the opportunity to chat with friends. So, while it’s accurate to say some stayed home, many were there.
Gurley shows are known for offering a wide selection of Americana, from the Eighteenth Century and, these days, to the Twentieth Century. That means buyers will find early furniture, early English ceramics, delft, silver, early lighting, painted woodenware, decoys, baskets, hooked rugs, quilts, etc. But many dealers also bring a selection of other interesting items, and this time you could find an early clockwork weather recording instrument, firearms, dolls, holiday items, an early German child’s theatre, Asian items and mid-Twentieth Century works. Much of the material in this show was fresh to the market. While discussing items with several dealers, we repeatedly heard, “I just got that last week” or “I got that yesterday.” Bob Foley said of a large drum, “That came out an of attic just the other day.”
One of the more unusual items at the show, although you couldn’t say unique, was a Nineteenth Century weather recording instrument made by Julien P. Friez, Baltimore, Md., and labeled “Belfort Meteorological Observatory.” It was made in the late 1800s, with complicated clockwork mechanisms designed to record barometric pressure and an anemometer graph recorder, which measures and records wind direction, velocity, sunshine and rainfall. The base was cast iron and the case was glass, so the entire mechanism could be seen. There was an identifying label on the bottom. Friez came to the United States in the 1870s. In 1876 he moved to Baltimore and named his factory Belfort in honor of a battle in the Franco-Prussian war, according to www.barometersonline.biz. The company is still in existence today and provides meteorological measuring devices to the US government. Firehouse Antiques, Galena, Md., priced it at $3,900.
You couldn’t help but notice the amount of mocha on the floor. Both Don Heller, Portland, Maine, and Bill Kelly, Limington, Maine, each had about a dozen pieces. Heller said the price range of his ran from a low of $300 to a high of $3,000. Hooked rugs and penny rugs were in the booths of Stephen Score, Boston, and Perkins & Menson, Townsend, Mass. Martha Perkins priced a colorful example with birds at $225. Early lighting devices were in several booths. Josh Farrin, Randolph, Maine, had an unusual candleholder priced at $350 and E.S. Eldridge, Willamantic, Conn., had a group of four wooden lanterns priced at $65 each. They may not have been as old as they looked but it was a nice group.
Selections of early delft were in the booths of Linda DeCoste, West Newbury, Mass., Ross Levett, Thomaston, Maine, and others. There were numerous adverting signs. Don Heller priced an unusual drug store sign at $300. Doc Engine and Jim Laskey, Holliston, Mass., had several, as did Rachel Gurley. Hilary Nolan, Falmouth, Mass., had a selection of decoys, many from the Cape. Mike and Lucinda Seward, among other things, had a swan decoy priced at $850.
Discussing the show with Rachel Gurley the day after it took place, she said that she and Josh believed they had a good showing. “Our attendance was down from the traditional Thanksgiving weekend show. No surprise there. We had about 200 buyers and that was less than half of what we’ve had other years. But they were serious buyers. Sales continued right up until the end of the show. A $1,000 sculpture was sold a half an hour before the show ended. Some dealers told us they had very good show, and others said it was good. I didn’t hear any complain. We wanted to provide an outlet for our dealers at the end of the season. They’ve supported us for so long and we wanted to help give them a little boost if we could. I know some made last-minute decisions that they didn’t feel safe due to the virus, and we respect that decision. Most of those guys have been with us for years. Josh and I, even as we were getting cancellations, decided to stick with our regular advertising budget even as we could see we’d have fewer people. And I want to say a big ‘thank you’ to the New Hampshire Antiques Dealers Association, who hold their show in this space. They were very helpful and supportive. They helped us with floor plans, parking and unloading plans and they answered all of our questions quickly. Tommy Thompson, Bev and Tom Longacre, Melissa Alden, all were really helpful. I’m hopeful that we can return to Marlboro next year for Thanksgiving, but we’re discussing using this facility for other dates. The staff here have been good to work with, the city police were easy to work with and all of that made our job easier. We’re thinking about doing an outdoor show as soon as New England weather will let us, and we hope to be able to get back to our regular Boxboro shows as soon as possible. We’re planning for those now.”
For additional information, 207-396-4255, 207-229-0403 or www.gurleyantiqueshows.com.
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