Published: February 21, 2017
Review and Photos by Rick Russack
HAMPTON, N.H. — On February 4, Harvey Webber, a third-generation dealer/auctioneer, conducted a sale that combined material that had been collected by his parents with several interesting consignments. The sale included numerous pieces of clean Victorian furniture, art glass, hand painted porcelains, lighting fixtures and clocks.
Webber is regarded as an expert on clocks; he repairs them and has acted as auctioneer for auctions held in conjunction with the annual meetings of the National Watch and Clock Collectors group. The sale had about 75 bidders in the audience and an active internet along with phone and absentee bidders.
The business was started in the 1950s by Harvey Webber’s grandfather, Hymie, who was born in Nova Scotia. It was continued by his father, known to many as Bobby, and Harvey expects it to continue. Hymie often returned to Canada, knocking on doors and buying, among other things, many hooked rugs. Several of the rugs were sold to an old-time Ipswich, Mass., dealer, Ralph Burnham, who, in turn, sold many to Henry Sleeper. Sleeper’s unique home in Gloucester, Mass., named Beauport, is owned by Historic New England and is open to the public.
Sleeper’s sense of style had a major impact on collector friends of his, including Henry Francis du Pont and Ima Hogg. Hymie Webber, in addition to knocking on doors in Canada, made frequent buying trips to England, bringing back crates full of Staffordshire figures, bird’s-eye maple frames, brass candlesticks, etc. Harvey’s father worked in the family business during the summers. In 1955, Hymie hired 8-year-old Ron Bourgeault, who had walked in asking for job, which turned out to be dusting furniture and waiting on elderly retail customers. Webber took care of the dealers himself.
Hymie died in 1960 while on a buying trip in Spain and Bobby took over the business. He continued the buying trips to Europe, and while in Wales, met Edith, the woman who would become his wife. She was the daughter of an antiques dealer who had done business with Hymie for years. They settled in Hampton and soon had twins: Harvey and Harlan.
Bobby continued in the business and developed a passion for clocks, music boxes and other mechanical antiques, which he passed on to his son Harvey. He exhibited at clock shows and antiques shows, such as the old Diane Wendy show at the New York Coliseum (demolished in 2000), where he shared a booth with Bourgeault. Bobby’s passion for clocks extended to the hope that he could help save and restore a clock that had been in the tower of the Odd Fellows building in his hometown of Hampton. When that building burned, he salvaged as many pieces of the clock as possible, and stored them in a barn.
Health issues prevented him from restoring the clock, but in November 2016 restoration was completed and the clock bears a plaque remembering Webber, who along with others, were responsible for the completion of the project.
As mentioned earlier, several of the items in the auction had been collected by Harvey’s parents. One of those items brought one of the stronger prices of the day. It was a 16-piece Austrian porcelain monkey band, made by the firm of Scheibe Alsbach, circa 1890–1910. Twelve of the figures were perfect, but four had been damaged when a road construction project knocked them off their shelf. The damaged pieces were present and the set sold for $1,620.
Another family piece that brought back memories for Webber was a 7-inch Meissen figure of young girl with her doll. As he was selling it, Webber said he and his brother used it as football, throwing it back and forth. It achieved $1,020. While selling a serpentine gold painted cheval mirror, Webber recalled that it was one of the reproductions his father sold for $475 during the 1970s. It brought $180 here. Bringing the top price of the sale was a six-piece Gorham silver tea set in the Chantilly Grand pattern. Weighing about 230 troy ounces, the set achieved $5,040.
Both Harvey and his father loved clocks and there were several in this sale, including three “ripple” shelf clocks. A Gothic “onion top” ripple clock made by Brewster and Ingraham realized $1,140. Another, by J.C. Brown, earned $690. As he was selling these clocks, Webber said, “My father loved ripple clocks. He was particular to get excellent examples. If you want a nice ripple clock, the ones my father collected are worth having. I’ll hate to see these go — they were like members of the family.” While selling a steeple clock with a brass spring for $360, Webber commented, “They only used brass springs for a short time. They broke too quickly and steel was used in place of the brass ones.”
Most of the clean Victorian furniture sold to dealers in the room or on the phone. “As good as it gets” read the catalog description of a marble top étagère with a carved and pierced crest, cutout shelf supports, a carved frieze and more. It sold to a phone bidder for $1,080 and the same buyer bought the next piece, a walnut triple-door bookcase, more than 9 feet tall, for $1,500. An Eastlake double-door walnut bookcase, with a marble shelf, went for $1,020. The dealer in the room who purchased this piece also bought the matching pair of single-door bookcases for $1,320. All three pieces retained their original finish. A rosewood marble topped, turtle-shaped center table earned $720.
Webber had a number of other interesting things. A painted leather fire bucket dated 1806 sold for $690, and an early surgeon’s kit in a brass-trimmed case achieved $390. The latter included a saw, scissors, knives and other brutal-looking instruments. It was made by Tiemann of New York and included an 1870s stereo view of a surgeon at work. The company has been in business since 1826 and Webber described this set as “pre-Civil War.” An uncommon 1896 Parker Brothers The Prisoner of Zenda board game, in good condition, with playing pieces, brought $270. An upright Polyphon music box that uses 15½-inch discs finished at $1,200, going to a phone bidder.
Having been a friend of the Webber family for more than 60 years, Ron Bourgeault was helpful with the biographical information for this article, as he walked down memory lane.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
Webber conducts periodic unreserved, uncataloged sales. For more information, call 603-926-3349.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm