Published: August 6, 2019
As the lines start to form at the door for each show in Antiques Week in New Hampshire, managers and dealers know they can always count on a group of familiar faces to lead the charge. The Early Early Birds, as it were. A group of collectors who consistently grace the front of the line, having staked their spot in the queue earlier than the rest. The group consists of the same folks, year after year, and has become a tradition among these passionate showgoers. Less a bragging right and more of a quiet, early morning get-together among like-minded friends, they are drawn to the opening bell in their ears, the sight of an untouched show and the joy of the hunt. We sat down with Scott Cook, a reliable presence among this group, to find out more about this tradition and what it means to him.
When was the first time you remember going to the New Hampshire shows?
The first time I remember going to the New Hampshire shows was in 1977. I came to Cape Cod to study plein air painting with Henry Hensche who had been Charles Hawthorne’s assistant. I heard about the New Hampshire Antiques Week and though I had been an antiques collector for some years already, I was quite the rookie for these shows. I remember arriving later in the day oblivious to the early morning lines of the enthusiasts. My first New Hampshire Antiques Show purchase was a sampler from Jeanine Dobbs.
Are the folks at the front always familiar faces? Who has come and gone over the years?
Yes, almost always it is the same people who arrive early. There are the “early early” birds and the early birds one might say. Terri and Steve Tushingham, Stephen Stout, Bob Strauss and a number of other dedicated enthusiastic collectors are there. Michael Kellogg was the longtime first in line at the New Hampshire Antiques Show. Then I guess I acquired the torch, sometimes shared with Terry. I especially miss Howard Roth at that show, one of our fellow early friends in line. An advanced collector and bright lawyer, Howard always defended us with the hotel staff, who could sometimes be less than congenial to our devoted presence. We felt secure with Howard on board with us.
I think everyone wants to know if there are any line cutter tales?
Yes, unfortunately there are true stories about cutting in line. Of course for those of us who wait long hours, this is really frowned upon. Their sneaky practices usually center around bathroom requests to get in the door shortly before a show opens, casually moving up the line to converse with friends, or simply crowding the door at opening ignoring the line. Reputations develop, and some outspoken collectors are not shy about announcing and blasting the culprits on the spot!
How early do you have to be there to be first?
I thought you might ask! Well…it is different for each show. There is an unspoken understanding among the devoted early line waiters that this remains a secret. Anyone of course can wait early but when one pays one’s dues with the long waits, it is agreed to keep this information among the clan. Besides, who wants to be ridiculed for our crazy marathons! However, being first or close to first really only gives one the advantage of hurrying in to see the untouched offerings from two or three dealers. After this the crowds have rushed in, scrambling over the show floor. But what fun we’ve had with the expectancy and anticipation!
Is the club organized? Do you have tasks? Someone brings coffee, another the doughnuts?
Not an organized club, just a friendly brotherhood and sisterhood of respected camaraderie, one might say; courteous, helpful spirit. Differing collecting interests among us but a common goal of excitement to try for first chance on the wonderful offerings. Interesting and fun conversations over the hours range from antiques to life to gossip!
Has the process of the line changed at all since you’ve been doing it?
About the same, I’d say. Some shows are more disciplined in handling the crowds in line and most people are really very appreciative of this careful organization. Karen DiSaia’s show wins the blue ribbon in this regard.
What’s the impetus for it, what keeps you coming back?
I guess there are several motivating factors. First, being first in line or near the front doesn’t necessarily equate with being among the deepest pocket collectors that day or the biggest buyers in general. But showing up early does indicate a passion and appreciation for the arts and antiques. For me this passion does not really signify a materialistic interest but a heartfelt appreciation for the innocence, gentleness, beauty, soulfulness and endearment of the creative process and the respect for age and the preservation of the objects.
It is also for me about the childlike wonder of a treasure hunt. It is glorious excitement akin to a flutter of butterflies, to walk into a lovely show and for those first few seconds seeing a spectacular array of offerings, unobstructed by bustling crowds…even for these brief moments. And to experience the fun of the first opportunity to possibly choose a special, heartwarming item.
How many things would you say you’ve bought from New Hampshire over the last four decades?
I would say the list is long, but so many of my purchases have been very small objects. Possibly items many might feel are rather insignificant. As much as I appreciate the finest pristine American furniture, surface and form, wonderful folk art, I am quite happy now to find a dear pair of early doll-size hand knit striped woolen mittens, with one crafted larger than the other!
Tell me about your favorite purchase through the years at New Hampshire.
With past careers of teaching children’s art at a Quaker school in Philadelphia, illustrating children’s books, being a painter, sculptor and professional gardener, plus a love of period textiles…all stirred into the melting pot of antiques…my interests are many, but my main focus has been fine American cloth dolls and animals. To me, the best examples in these categories represent the most sensitive of art forms.
My favorite purchase was ten years ago from Kathy Schoemer. Dealers at the show were asked to keep one item under wraps until the opening. Being a longtime customer of hers, I somehow got wind of a quite wonderful late Nineteenth Century cloth dog she had planned to feature in this way. Truly unique, he just has the most endearing presence and finest form of any I have ever seen. Perhaps this is the reason that Kathy, with her superb taste, felt so strongly about him and the reason he had lived for so long in the personal collection of Fred Hansen, former curator of Independence Hall; then for 27 years in the dealer Victor Weinblatt’s collection. He always answered, as he still does, to the name Farfel.
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