Published: August 19, 2003
– People would kill to be first in the door at the New Hampshire Antiques Show, and that is only a mild exaggeration.
Stephen Score should know. He was struck by a car outside the Center of New Hampshire Holiday Inn, where the expo got underway for three days on August 7.
Bruised and shaken but otherwise unhurt, the Boston dealer and his wife, Eleanor, forged ahead, among the hundreds of driven buyers who surged through the double glass doors of the convention center at 10 am on Thursday.
“We’re ecstatic with results so far,” chairman Terri Steingrebe said Friday afternoon. “Many people have told me that it’s their best show ever.”
Magic being magic, it is hard to calculate the spell that the New Hampshire Antiques Show, now in its 46th year, casts. Much of its enduring appeal can be ascribed to the show’s 65 exhibitors, all members of the New Hampshire Antique Dealers Association. Where others promise, they deliver, stocking their booths with fresh, honest, unusual examples of country American furniture, folk art and accessories, much of it moderately priced and tucked away months before the show.
Attendance figures were not yet available early on August 9, but all indications pointed to a banner show.
“I do the gate money, and there is quite a lot of it,” exhibitor Don Piatt said from his home Saturday morning, before leaving to join his wife Gail, the fair’s assistant chairman, at the show. “Eyeballing the cash, I’d say we’re ahead.”
After writing slips for two blue blanket chests, a chintz quilt and other treasures, the Piatts had returned to Contoocook, N.H., to replenish their stock.
An hour after opening on Thursday, Massachusetts dealer Pam Boynton was wrapping up a small Nantucket basket for New York collector Eric Maffei. For most exhibitors, the Boyntons included, the New Hampshire Antiques Show gets going the moment they load in on Wednesday and reaches a crescendo around noon on Thursday.
“It’s our tradition to bring in fresh merchandise on Thursday, before the show opens,” said Cheryl Scott, whose booth was never without a crowd from the moment the Hillsborough, N.H., dealers arrived. A snapshot at opening would have showed a Massachusetts Queen Anne walnut side chair, $4,700; a Chippendale six-drawer maple chest, $8,500; and a Massachusetts Chippendale walnut slant front desk with a fan carved interior.
Thomas Longacre was another exhibitor who cleaned up. He sold his most arresting rdf_Description, a large red Louis Nathanson cigar sign painted with the profile portrait of a gypsy woman, $4,300; a Windsor settee; a primitive oil on board portrait of a gentleman; a sheet metal dachshund weathervane; and a hooked rung.
Hardly before the first coffee break, Phil and Jane Workman parted with a step back pewter cupboard in red paint; garden antiquarian Kate Alex wrote up a limestone compote of fruit and several floral decorated mirrors; Portsmouth, N.H., dealer Constance Greer said adieu to a pair of fancy painted Federal armchairs and a primitive decoy; Jim and Judy Milne tagged a rooster weathervane and a blue step back cupboard; and Linda Whittemore ticketed a corner cupboard and blanket chest, among other rdf_Descriptions.
“It’s been amazing,” acknowledged Steve Corrigan. Stephen-Douglas’s back wall was a papered over version of the Bermuda Triangle. One high ticket rdf_Description after the next — including a primitive portrait attributed to John Usher Parsons of Maine and an 1807 painted tavern sign for the L. Wood Coffee House — disappeared from the spot.
“I love that red hat box,” roving shopper Ron Bourgeault was overheard to say as he passed the Stephen-Douglas display. As everyone knows, Bourgeault was a New Hampshire show dealer long before he even thought of being an auctioneer.
Sold effortlessly, the red hat box was just one of dozens of boxes, carriers, baskets and miniature chests in every size, shape and color that turned up at the fair. Massachusetts dealers Don Walters and Mary Benisek featured a rare Albany, N.Y., volunteer fireman’s band box. Circa 1835, it was $14,500. Another hat box, blue and a rotund 21 inches in diameter, appeared at Estelle M. Glavey. The Ipswich, N.H., dealer exhibited it with a cherry Hepplewhite high chest of drawers, $5,500, labeled as the property of Mary Lyon, founder of Mount Holyoke College.
Hunting exquisite pieces of New Hampshire furniture is one of the NHADA show’s chief pleasures. Peter Sawyer and Scott Bassett of Exeter, N.H., featured a tall-case clock by Levi Hutchins of Concord, N.H., $22,000, along with two one-drawer Sheraton stands with turret corners and reeded legs. The more dramatic of the two, from central New Hampshire and in original red paint, was snapped up shortly after opening.
Yarmouth Port, Mass., dealers Suzanne Courcier and Robert Wilkins offered a rare Canterbury, N.H., Shaker sewing desk, $25,000, along with a beautiful set of early Nineteenth Century New England step down Windsor side chairs, painted in a cream ground with green, yellow and black decoration, $19,500.
Notable pieces of finished furniture included, at Wayne Pratt Antiques, an assembled set of six Queen Anne Boston or Newport side chairs; the Allen Family of Newburyport bonnet-top high chest of drawers, $157,000; and a Boston blockfront kneehole bureau table, circa 1760, price on request
Clearly made by the same individual, two nearly identical Sheraton bow front chests with ivory escutcheons were $5,200 at Ferguson & D’Arruda, Swansea, Mass. Betty Willis featured an Eighteenth Century Pennsylvania walnut Dutch cupboard, $16,000. Merrimack, N.H., dealer Jeannine Dobbs priced her early Eighteenth Century gate leg table $20,000.
Candlewick Antiques of Milford, N.H., sold a classic Vermont cherry graduated four-drawer chest, $5,950, with inlays, two-board top and French feet. Buyers were quick to seize a tiger maple six-legged drop leaf table, $4,800, at Craig and Nancy Cheney, Newark, Ohio.
Connecticut dealer Lewis Scranton offered a New Hampshire lift top, two-drawer blanket chest in lively red and black paint. Other painted furniture, for which the New Hampshire Antiques Show is perhaps best known, included a small two-piece corner cupboard in splashy orange and red paint, at Jef and Terri Steingrebe, New London, N.H.; a pair of painted Queen Anne chairs, $975, at Michael Whittemore, South Woodstock, Conn.; and a grain painted cannonball bed, probably from South Paris, Maine, $7,500, at Yankee Smuggler, Richmond, N.H.
There were two Riley Whiting tall clocks in painted cases on the floor. Rindge, N.H., dealer Sandy Jacobs sold hers. Still available, Russ and Karen Goldberger’s was $13,500.
Classical met county in the booth of Newton, N.H., dealer Steven Rowe, who sold a Nineteenth Century settee, $2,600, with pineapple carvings, and a low-slung Victorian club chair with carved dog’s head terminals, $4,400.
Of primitive portraits, there were plenty. Walters/Benisek unveiled a portrait of a literate looking Nineteenth Century woman with books by H.K. Goodman of Vermont, $32,500. Dublin, N.H., dealer Nancy Sevatson’s oil on canvas portrait of child with a wheel and rattle against a landscape background was $19,000. And Meryl Weiss of American Classics, Canaan, N.H., combined a vibrant picture of a lavishly dressed young woman by Samuel P. Howes, $8,800, with several school girl watercolors, including a pair of early Nineteenth Century fantasy scenes of Lake Champlain, Vt., $7,500.
A selection of framed, Eighteenth Century prints at Hollis Brodrick, Portsmouth, N.H., included a fascinating plan of Philadelphia, $2,850, dated 1777 and showing the locations of homes of such prominent families as the Whartons and the Cadwaladers.
“We think they were salesman’s samples,” Russ Goldberger said of the pair of small, cast-iron whippets, $19,500, that he sold almost immediately. The 40-pound examples are attributed to Fiske and date to about 1875. Other notable sales of folk art included a boldly carved eagle from Ohio, marked $38,500 at Walters/Benisek.
Ron and Penny Dionne’s vibrant display played two geometric hooked rugs against three weathervanes, among them a ram; a banner with weathered verdigris patina, $3,500; and a Jewel rooster, $25,000. The Connecticut dealers sold the ram vane, a sawbuck table; a painting, and a hanging cupboard, among other rdf_Descriptions.
Hawks Nest Antiques of Hinesburg, Vt., featured a Cushing 44-inch cow weathervane, 1868, $75,000; and a Colonel Patchen 38-inch Harris vane, $11,000.
“They were meant to impress onlookers with America’s wealth and might,” Paul DeCoste said of two robustly carved circa 1830 ship’s gangway boards, one decorated with an eagle, the other with a cornucopia full of coins. The West Newbury, Mass., dealer also offered a rare Nantucket desk and bookcase once owned by pioneering nautical antiques dealer Sam Lowe of Boston.
Barbara Ardizone of Salisbury, Conn., mounted three carved and painted Odd Fellows relics with superb salmon paint accented with gilt and black. The group included an eternal flame, $850; ram’s horns, $1,800; and a quiver, $6,900.
Among the most spectacular textiles on the floor was a Nineteenth Century New England hooked runner from the Gloucester, Mass., area. The inventive pictorial rug is composed of 27 panels, some depicting life in a small New England village. Maine dealer Newsom and Berdan was asking $45,000 for the exceptional, 21-foot-long piece.
“I’d read about them but I’d never seen one,” Linda Tate said of the New Hampshire weft-loop coverlet on her wall. It was woven by Hannah Wilson in 1852 for Cordelia T. Downing of Farmington, N.H. “There are related coverlets at the Shelburne Museum, the Henry Ford Museum and the Wadsworth Atheneum,” said the Sambornton, N.H., dealer, who was asking $2,200 for the rare piece.
Coverlet maven Melinda Zonger’s colorful selection was highlighted by a Palmyra, N.Y., example woven by James Van Ness for Mary Sayles. The $3,500 double weave in blue and white was emblazoned with American eagles, shields and, appropriately, the New Hampshire show’s logo, beehives.
As a preeminent venue for Americana, very little slips into the New Hampshire Antiques Show that is nonnative. Notable exceptions were found at Cara Antiques, where Langhorne, Penn., dealers Constance and Richard Aranosian arrayed English and Dutch pottery by Moorcroft, Gouda, Clarice Cliff and others. Highlights included a Minton India vase, $9,500, a Grecian figure with a book centerpiece, $20,000, and a George Jones bee skep, $15,500.
Many visitors incorrectly assumed that Dennis and Dad had replaced Pennsylvania dealer Bea Cohen, known for her colorful spongeware and spatterware.
“Both Bea Cohen and Bill Lewan were ill. We’re hoping that they’ll both be back next year,” Terri Steingrebe said of the only two longtime exhibitors not present this time.
The New Hampshire Antiques Show represents the hard work of literally dozens of people, seasoned professionals who regard their once-a-year project as a labor of love. No wonder the buying public returns that love.
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