Published: December 6, 2022
Review & Photos by Rick Russack
MARLBOROUGH, MASS. – For the last 35 years or more, collectors and dealers have gathered in Marlborough for the annual Gurley Antique Show’s Thanksgiving Sunday Antique Show; during the last five or six years, Rachel and Josh Gurley have continued the tradition begun by their mother, Nan Gurley. When Rachel was asked how far back the show – which took place November 27 – goes, she said, “so long I can’t remember.”
Sometimes you can feel the excitement building as buyers start lining up a half hour before opening. This was one of those times, and once the show opened, the aisles quickly filled.
Several dealers were added to the mix, which veers heavily to Americana, but not exclusively. And, since the show is only a few weeks before Christmas, decorations for that holiday were offered by numerous dealers. Some had nothing but that, others included holiday items with their merchandise. Bev Weir-Longacre, Marlborough, N.H., specializes in Christmas items and she took a few minutes to discuss the state of that market with Antiques and The Arts Weekly.
“Personally, I’m finding the market is strong for all things Christmas, especially since I’ve started using the Internet for selling. Once a month, I send an email to those who have signed up for my Christmas Flyer sales. I started these monthly flyers when the Covid restrictions hit. The flyers include six to eight good items. I’ve done about 16, and every month I’ll sell anywhere from one item to everything on the list. There’s only been one month that I didn’t sell anything. It’s a nice supplement to the rest of our business. Christmas collectors are a well-organized group of dedicated people. There’s a national organization, Golden Glow of Christmas Past, that has about 2,000 members. They send out a well-done magazine six times a year and they hold a national convention that’s really well attended. That keeps the interest up all year long. Their last convention was in Chicago in July and it was their 42nd. It was a five-day event with all kinds of activities. Everyone can afford Christmas collectibles; some ornaments might sell for less than five dollars and those who want to spend more can. Most of the things were made in Germany. They have a long tradition of celebrating this holiday, as do other European countries.”
Longacre had a selection in her booth, as did Tom Jewett and Butch Berdan, Tommy Thompson, Pantry Box Antiques and others.
As you would expect at a Gurley show, there was a broad selection of Nineteenth Century woodenware. One of the most eye-catching was a large, deep, maple burl bowl in the booth of Marion Pollo, Holliston, Mass., who said that he thought it was made by the Huron (Wyandot) people. With open carved handles, it was longer than 28 inches and was priced $3,300. Brett Cabral, Salem, N.H., had a table full of painted boxes and buckets. Rona Andrews, Worcester, Mass., had several painted bowls, priced around $500 and a burl one priced at $1,700.
Early furniture was available from several dealers. Peter Eaton had a Dunlap candlestand and explained that the shape of the post, the spade foot and the method of attaching the top to the post, were indicative of the Dunlap workshops. He was asking $3,800. Eaton also had a long red pine pew “from an old country church on Nantucket,” which he had priced at $2,400. Other dealers readily shared their knowledge as well. Jason Hietala, Lancaster, Mass., had at least five highboys and chests-on-chests, including an Eighteenth Century example he attributed to Jonathan Dunlap based on construction details. Hietala discussed how he determines whether red-painted surfaces are original or have been retouched, explaining that he checks drawer edges and dovetails for traces of red. “Oxblood red paint was expensive in the Eighteenth Century and would have been very carefully applied. By the Nineteenth Century, it was much less expensive, so if I see red on drawer sides or dovetails, that’s a sign it may have been repainted or touched up.”
Hietala had a carved maple and cherry highboy with unusual brasses, that each had an engraved monogram “FW.” Hietala said that the initials were those of Anna Fairweather and Charles Whiting and indicated that the piece may have been made for their wedding. Bayberry Antiques, Rockland, Mass., had a Queen Anne two-over-two chest in old – but not original – red paint priced $1,395, and Rick Fuller Primitives, South Royalton, Vt., had a Wallace Nutting trestle table listed at $450.
Not all the furniture at the show was American. Jon Rider, Essex, Mass., had a circa 1790-1800 three-drawer chest from northern Europe he was asking $4,500 for, and Greg Hamilton, Stone Block Antiques, Vergennes, Vt., had a Seventeenth Century Spanish vargueno. Al Benting, Benting and Jarvis, Barrington, N.H., had a circa 1650 English walnut slant front desk among several early American pieces.
Several dealers offered early ceramics. Joy Hanes, Hanes and Ruskin Antiques, Niantic, Conn., had a table full of English creamware, Prattware, transfer decorated children’s mugs and more. Townsend, Mass., dealer Diane Halpern had a Delft puzzle jug priced at $1,700, noting that it had some repairs. Michael Weinberg, West Pelham Antiques, Pelham, Mass., had an unusual coiled Prattware pipe with a snake-like body. Most often the head of these would have been a snake’s head but this example had a head in the form of a duck’s head holding the pipe. It had some repairs and was marked $595. He also had a selection of early Delft and English ceramics. Mario Gauthier, Manchester, N.H., had a colorful selection of reasonably priced majolica, ranging from $25 to $70.
The wide selection of folk art offered by several dealers was not a suprise. Jewett-Berdan Antiques, New Castle, Maine, had paint-decorated boxes; a colorful, large, hooked rug with a red and green floral pattern; and what it is probably safe to say, one of the very best Black cloth doll that you’ll for a very long time. She had lace-trimmed hair, a fluffy hat, two layers of clothing, white around the pupils of her eyes, white teeth and she held a piece of white lace. Tom Jewett said they had found it in Pennsylvania, and he thought it may have been made to be exhibited at a fair or some other competition. “I call it a piece of sculpture. I don’t call it a doll and it’s the best one we’ve ever had.” It was priced $4,200. Their booth also had some items with out-of-the-ordinary “make-do” repairs, including a circa 1840 redware mug that had been made in Kendrick, Maine, identifiable by the distinctive glaze. Berdan said redware from Kendrick is rare and the make-do repair was exceptional; they were asking $3,800.
Dennis Raleigh and Phyllis Sommer, Dennis Raleigh Antiques and Pumpkin Patch Antiques, Searsport, Maine, had an uncommon John Haley Bellamy carving. Most familiar are the carved eagles Bellamy produced; less common are the other objects he carved. Raleigh and Sommer had a small folding wall shelf, about 20 inches tall, with a Masonic motif for which they were asking $895.
Oliver Garland, Falmouth, Mass., had a relief carved pine panel that was especially appropriate to the season. In the background was a farm scene with animals; in the foreground was a family of three and a very large tom turkey with the tail in full display. There were bunches of grapes and other foliage. Garland believed it to be European or possibly American and was asking $1,400.
A piece of folk art that moved around at the show was a circa 1960 life-sized carving of a heron to which that term could apply. It came in with Jon Rider, then flew to the booth of Gurley Antiques, where it was priced $1,250, and then landed in the booth of Mike and Lucinda Seward before taking off again, going home with a Massachusetts dealer who asked not to be identified. A couple of days later, the dealer told us that after he bought it, two other people asked him how much he wanted for it. Presumably, there’s at least one more flight in this bird’s future.
After the show, Rachel Gurley was very enthusiastic about the way it went. “The crowd was large, and they stayed all day. We sold well throughout the day and other exhibitors also did. I know there was one thing that sold in the $5,000 range. Many of our dealers saved stuff for this show and you could tell. Much of the merchandise had never been out before. We had people from Maine, New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and it really was like the old days. You could feel the excitement. Josh and I are really pleased.”
For additional information, www.gurleyantiqueshows.com, Rachel 207-396-4255 or Josh 207-229-0403.
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