Published: November 16, 2021
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack, Additional Photos Courtesy Withington Auctions
HILLSBOROUGH, N.H. – Dick Withington, once upon a time, was probably New Hampshire’s best-known auctioneer, having started his company in 1949. His New Hampshire auctioneer’s license number was 1. He died in 2007 but the business continues. The current iteration is a partnership of five: Larry Leizure and his wife Marcia, Ken Labnon, Gary Yeaton and Mike Reopel. Larry and his wife had worked for Withington for a number of years, and in 2005 the husband-and-wife team bought the company from Withington, at the time concentrating on antique doll auctions, while also conducting antiques auctions. Dick Withington continued to work for the new company until his passing.
The new partnership will expand the business and will conduct four to eight doll auctions annually, as they have in the past, and six to eight auctions annually of antiques. Ken Labnon has been an auctioneer for 50 years and is well-known to New Hampshire dealers and collectors. Gary Yeaton has been dealing in early American furniture for nearly 50 years and has a gallery in Concord, N.H. Mike Reopel, a collector and auctioneer, has a special interest in New Hampshire furniture, White Mountains paintings, rare books and early documents. The November 6 auction was the team’s second and their first involvement with internet bidding through LiveAuctioneers.
There were about 40 bidders in the gallery, dealers and collectors, and they bought heavily. Internet, absentee and phone bids took care of the rest. The sale included a good collection of early maps, furniture, clocks, rare Liverpool jugs, paintings and other interesting Americana. Their first online sale went off without a hitch, grossing $252,000.
Three of the highest priced items were early American maps, all of which were in good condition and all from a New York collection. Topping the sale was a 1766 first edition of the map titled A Plan of the City of New York and its Environs to Greenwich on the North or Hudson River…survey’d in the Winter, 1766. It is known as the “Montresor Plan” for the military engineer who created it.
The map was ordered by British general Thomas Gage, in charge of the British troops in New York. Gage was concerned about residents’ unrest over newly imposed taxes. This map was the first to detail the lower end of the island of Manhattan, going as far north as Greenwich Village (today certainly not considered a northern part of the island.) The map also included New York harbor and the surrounding islands. Gage ordered that the map be prepared as secretly as possible, and historians do not consider it to be completely accurate, due to the conditions under which it was prepared. It was updated in 1775 and used extensively by British troops during the Revolutionary War. Few copies of the 1766 edition exist and this one sold for $36,000.
The map collection also included a 1711 copy of prolific map-maker Hermann Moll’s A New and Exact Map of the Dominions of the King of Great Britain on ye Continent of North America, which sold for $9,000. The map, also known as the “Beaver Map” for its illustration of dozens of beavers carrying logs on their shoulders, is an important reference for the ongoing dispute between England and France concerning just where the border between their North American colonies was located. This map portrays the English viewpoint. In addition to the maps, the collection included two rare Currier and Ives prints of New York City. A colored bird’s-eye view, published in 1876 before the Statue of Liberty was erected, sold for $7,800.
The second highest price of the day, $22,800, was earned by a Effingham Embree tall case clock, circa 1790, in a fine Federal period mahogany inlaid case, the maker of which is unknown. Embree worked just after the Revolutionary War. This clock had an eagle inlay above the dial, original finials and a moon phase dial. His clocks are in several museums and the White House.
The selection of Liverpool jugs included two that sold for $4,500 each. Dennis Berard, Dennis and Dad Antiques, Fitzwilliam, N.H., bought several, including a rare one depicting Thomas Jefferson, which was one of the $4,500 examples. Berard said that Historical Staffordshire: An Illustrated Check List by David and Linda Arman, published in the 1970s, is still a useful guide to rarity. “Although prices are not close to what Dave and Linda published, the books are still very useful,” said Berard. “If they valued a jug highly, say for $20,000, while others were priced far less, you can judge the relative scarcity of a particular jug.” A George Washington jug was the other to bring $4,500, while “Success to America” with a pictorial scene of John Adams as president on one side and a 1783 map on the other side earned $3,000. A jug depicting James Madison brought a little less, $2,880, and there were several others, all with scenes of historical interest.
The selection of American furniture included some rare pieces; some did well, and some, as too often happens these days, fell short. A circa 1825 Baltimore marble-top pier table did well, finishing at $7,800. The table was attributed, according to the catalog, to John Needles, and said, “This outstanding pier table is of a unique design created by one of Baltimore’s finest cabinetmakers of the neoclassical period, John Needles. It dates to circa 1825. Note the ebonized treatment of the ball feet and various turnings and edges which contrasts with the mahogany wood. The original marble top shows the chisel marks where it was trimmed to exactly fit the frame. There is an almost exact duplicate pier table with a John Needles label in the collection of the Centre Hill Manor Museum in Petersburg, Va.” A set of four Federal mahogany dining chairs with carved eagle back splats, possibly from the workshop of Duncan Phyfe, realized $4,500. An Eighteenth Century Rhode Island mahogany Chippendale card table with a serpentine front, corner brackets, molded legs and a small, secret drawer in the back brought $1,680. A cherry block front, three-drawer chest by Eldred Wheeler was in fine condition and seemed reasonable, earning $1,440.
There were a number of portraits of prominent early American historical figures. A circa 1820-30 portrait of George Washington, based on the Gilbert Stuart work, and in its original frame, realized $4,200. A circa 1930 portrait of Alexander Hamilton, painted by George Tompkin, brought the highest price, $11,400. Not many portraits of Hamilton, the first secretary of the treasury, exist, and this one had an exhibition label from the Lyman Allyn Museum in Connecticut. The catalog suggests that the painting may have been commissioned by the Lyman Allyn for its 1932 opening. Richard Thorner, a Manchester, N.H., dealer in historical memorabilia, bought a portrait identified on its stretcher as being James Fenimore Cooper. Thorner said he believes it might be the earliest portrait of Cooper. It was done by French artist Tony Johannet (1803-1852). Cooper lived in Paris from 1826 to 1830 where Johannet worked as an illustrator of books. He illustrated the first French editions of some of Cooper’s works, as he did for other authors. The painting sold well under the estimate, going out for $600.
A few days after the sale, Ken Labnon, who handled the podium duties, said the partners were pleased with the sale. “We had a good sale and the gross, about a quarter of a million dollars, was fine. I was really happy to be back selling. I thought I’d retire after the 50 years I was with the Bill Smith organization, but this opportunity came along and I wanted to do it. I had a wonderful career with the Smith company and I’ve no regrets. I usually sold faster in the old days, but the internet slows us down a bit. But it was a good day.”
Mike Reopel said, “We’re rebuilding the company, and this was really a pleasing beginning. We have a good team and our next sale, December 29, will have some exceptional stuff, including about 30 samplers, some good mocha and a good lighting collection.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For more information, www.withingtonauction.com or 603-478-3232
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
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