Published: February 19, 2002
DOWNINGTOWN, PENN. – Antiques dealer Philip H. Bradley died Friday, February 2. Mr Bradley was born in Morehead, Ky., in 1921, to the late Samuel and Clara Bradley. He and his mother, a musician and collector of glass, later moved to the Philadelphia area.
Mr Bradley established his first antiques shop at home in 1950, which he called The Jug House, later moving to a shop on Route 30 in Downingtown.
Mr Bradley’s shop at 1101 East Lancaster Avenue will continue to operate under the management of his son, Philip W. Bradley.
Mr Bradley had exhibited at the Philadelphia Antiques Show since its inception 41 years ago. For about 30 years, he also exhibited at the Delaware Antiques Show. Although he exhibited at many other shows over the years, these were his favorites, and his mainstays.
Mr Bradley was one of the largest volume dealers in the field, specializing first in early glass, and soon after in early furniture and accessories of the Delaware Valley. Of his shop, a Pennsylvania collector recently noted, “If you wait long enough, you can find anything you want at Phil Bradley’s shop.” It was just this breadth of subjects for which he became so renowned.
Mr Bradley was a member of the prestigious Antiques Dealers’ Association of America and the Antiques Council, and passed on his knowledge of antiques to many dealers who are still in the trade. Informally known as “Bradley University,” he turned out into the world of antiques Elizabeth Matlat, Ben Baker, Skip Chalfant, Dale Hunt, Dick Worth, Chris Rebello and John Nye, not to mention his own son.
Mr Bradley sold to collectors including Henry Francis du Pont, and also had dealings with a range of dealers from Israel Sack to Joe Kindig, Jr, to David Stockwell. Charles Montgomery of the Winterthur Museum, often brought his students to the shop as an important counterpoint study to the museum world, an experience that is still memorable to Winterthur director and alumna Leslie Greene Bowman (Class of 1980).
In a recent interview with Antiques and The Arts Weekly, Philip W. Bradley said about his father’s business, “My father was a dealer’s dealer. He handled a broad range of goods. He often sold things for a small profit and was very successful in the volume of business that he did.”
He continued, “The dealers were always looking to see what he bought. He was very much a force in the market as much for the things he underbid as for the things he bought. My father always remained abreast of the market, which was always shifting. One of the things that I will miss about my father is the broad range of his knowledge, his appreciation, his pursuits and his purchases.”
Laura Beach, contributing editor to Antiques and The Arts Weekly said, “Phil Bradley was a quiet man who spoke volumes in his self-effacing approach to buying and selling antiques. Ever cordial but never forward, he was, in his prime, a fixture at auction houses along the Eastern seaboard.
“He traveled so much that one marveled not only at his endurance but at his uncanny ability to be anywhere fine antique furniture was to be sold. Often he sat near the front of the salesroom, stooped over his catalog from start until finish, rising occasionally, and then only to return to his seat with a sandwich or coffee.
“Leaving a sale, his van was usually loaded to the brim. Clearly,” she continued, “he had an avid following, as his capacity seemed undiminished from one sale to the next.”
Skip Chalfant, of H.L. Chalfant Antiques, West Chester, Penn., said of his former teacher/employer and long-time friend, “I could say 100 things about Phil. His shop was an invaluable place to work. It changed my life. He was a true Southern gentleman.”
A Quaker memorial service was held Saturday, February 16, at the Central Presbyterian Church in Downingtown. Many of Mr Bradley’s colleagues, including dealers, clients and museum curators, traveled from New England, New York, Delaware and all parts of Pennsylvania to attend the service.
Mr Bradley is survived his wife of 51 years, Frances; three children, Philip of Coatesville, Penn., Mark of Upper Darby, Penn. and Virginia of Frisco, Colo.; and three grandchildren.
Donations in his memory may be made to the Department of American Decorative Arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art, PO Box 1747, Philadelphia, PA, 19101.
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