Published: August 12, 2003
– Mechanicsburg stands in the shadow of the site of the northernmost Confederate advance. Robert E. Lee, marching to his fateful meeting with Union forces, sent cavalry on a scouting mission to this area. Southwest of Mechanicsburg, there would soon be 51,000 casualties on the hallowed grounds of Gettysburg.
Some 30 to 40 years before this turning point in the Civil War, itinerant artist and reputed physician Jacob Maentel (1763-1863) would paint a three-year-old boy holding a butterfly in front of the child’s farm near Mechanicsburg. And on Saturday, June 7, some 376 bidders took up arms, so to speak, 40 miles west of that town at Conestoga Auction, readying themselves for another battle, this time over the poignant and innocent 93/4- by 73/4-inch (image size) watercolor drawing attributed to Maentel.
Leaving no doubt as to provenance, a detailed note on the back of the drawing indicates that the young boy’s name was John Martin Titzel, the son of Christian and Polly Titzel. Also stated is his age, as well as the location of the family farm where young Titzel was standing — Shiremanstown Road.
With six phone lines vying for ownership, bidding opened at $5,000. The competition quickly escalated to the selling price of $24,750. The successful buyer, in the gallery, was a collector/dealer from Lancaster County, Penn.
As it turns out, this watercolor was a well-traveled work. It was sold in October 2001 at Sotheby’s New York Important Americana Auction for $16,800. Making the approximately 200-mile trip from Manhattan back to the Lancaster area suggests that Thomas Wolfe was wrong: You can go home again, at least if your name is John Martin Titzel.
For those unable to obtain the top lot of the day, there was still plenty to choose from in the 642-lot Americana auction that included frakturs, Ellingers, redware, spatterware, pewter, copperware, furniture and folk art.
Despite its small dimensions (31/4- by 2-inch image size), another hand stamped watercolor also captured the attention of the bidders. Attributed to David Bixler (Lancaster County, active from 1828-64), this rare drawing was of a young boy outfitted in military attire and holding a flower in his right hand and a sword in his left. With interest from the floor and the phones, it sold for $13,200. A watercolor of a prancing yellow stag that was signed by David Bixler (4- by 31/4-inch image size) was purchased for $7,150.
Executed in outstanding colors, a watercolor drawing of a bird perched on a tulip with provenance connecting the work to Lancaster County schoolmaster David Frey (1759-1841) sold for $2,640. A rare hand drawn and colored birth and baptismal certificate dated 1820 and attributed to Friederich Kuster (active 1811-1822) exchanged hands at $3,300. Another, signed “H.A. 1842,” also fetched $3,300.
A D.Y. Ellinger watercolor on paper with bird, floral, geometric and heart motifs in its original paint decorated frame and signed on the back “Love D.Y. Ellinger” fondly went to a new owner for $3,520. Securing the same funds was a D.Y. Ellinger watercolor of a pelican with chicks in a nest and a floral and foliate decoration.
The second strongest seller of the day came from the furniture category. Fetching $20,900 was a mid-Nineteenth Century blue and grain paint decorated softwood two-door wardrobe (721/2 inches high by 501/2 inches wide by 22 inches deep) with molded cornice and paneled doors, stiles and sides. A Lancaster County (Ephrata area) Chippendale walnut schrank sold for $12,650. A southeastern Pennsylvania softwood paint decorated dower chest with the name Sara Hendrickson and dated 1797 was acquired for $7,700. A rare walnut kas form spice cabinet extracted $4,620 from the winning bidder.
Very satisfied with the outcome of the sale and noting the diversified buying crowd, owner and auctioneer Jeff DeHart was also right on the money when he commented that American signed copper sold well. A late Eighteenth Century Pennsylvania copper one-gallon sauce pan with its original lid, tubular handle with heart-shaped copper riveted tab base and dovetailed seam construction that was also signed “John.Lay, York” had all the right ingredients to bring $14,300. A rare, three-gallon copper gooseneck spout tea kettle signed “John Getz” (circa 1780-1841) went to a phone bidder for $9,350.
Other metals also made their mark. A seven-inch-high, dome-top pewter tankard with faint touch marks of Henry Will (New York & Albany, 1761-1793) was purchased by a phone bidder for $17,600. Also going to a successful phone bidder for $4,840 was a pewter chalice touch marked in the bowl and base, “T.B.” (Timothy Brigden, Albany, N.Y., circa 1816-1819).
A Pennsylvania early to mid-Nineteenth Century toleware coffee pot with gooseneck spout, C-scroll handle and dome hinged lid, decorated with floral, fruit and foliate designs, left the gallery at $4,675. A five-inch-high brass, copper and wrought iron betty lamp signed “P.D. 1854” (Peter Derr, Berks County, Penn.) lit up the gallery at $2,750.
Some small size furniture brought supersize prices. A Pennsylvania Nineteenth Century miniature paint decorated settee (163/4 inches high by 26 inches long by 91/2 inches deep) that was signed in pencil under the seat “John Sweeny, Archbald, PA” was finalized at $12,100. A 91/2-inch-high Pennsylvania Nineteenth Century balloon back rocking chair with original red paint and period butterfly, bird and floral decals sold to the same floor bidder for $3,575.
There were stars in the spatterware category, too. A green and blue rainbow spatter 11-piece child’s tea set, consisting of a teapot, covered sugar, creamer and four handleless cups and saucers, will set a new table for $7,700. Also child-size was a very rare green spatter red bird pattern cup and saucer that took off at $4,620. High value for a higher education piece, a blue spatter red school house pattern paneled plate went to a knowledgeable bidder for $5,225. Selling for $3,080 was a red and green rainbow spatter thistle pattern miniature sugar bowl.
Satisfying the sweet tooth of redware bidders was a mottled glazed swirl form cake mold by John Bell, Waynesboro, Penn. It went to a phone bidder for $5,170. Despite some losses, a Pennsylvania redware presentation planter with Sgraffito floral and foliate decoration and signed “Grabella R. Grier, 1833” sold for $4,180. Purchased for $3,630 was a redware plate with a coggle wheel edge and a yellow and green criss-cross squiggle line decoration on an orange glazed ground. A rare redware flask with Sgraffito decoration realized $2,860.
Bidding was also aggressive on wooden butter prints. One successful purchaser made the car trip from Alabama to attend the sale. A large, two-piece deeply carved and sanded pineapple butter print was welcomed into a new home for $1,650. An unsanded, half circular, two-piece butter print with sawtooth heart along with a floral and foliate carved design and a gadrooned carved border sold for $1,540. A two-piece song bird print with foliate and star highlights reached a high note of $1,320.
For $4,400 you could have owned a paint decorated tulip poplar box attributed to Joseph Lehn, Lancaster Co., Penn. (circa 1849-1892). Bringing $3,300 was a gaudy Dutch single rose pattern dome-top coffeepot. A red ground Heriz pattern room-size rug measuring 8’3″ by 11’8″ sold for $2,860. A Moyer (Harrisburg, Penn.) two-gallon cobalt blue crock with a tulip decoration was purchased for $1,485. The top lot in the agateware category was a green and white cream pail with a bail handle. It sold for $1,540.
Prices reported include a ten percent buyer’s premium.
Conestoga Auction Company runs sales every Tuesday at their facility in Manheim.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm